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Please Share Your Visions of an Inspiring Future

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I believe that another world is possible.
I believe that humans have the capacity to be more humane.
We are living in a time of profound injustice,
where human lives are constantly violated, and hate and violence is being amplified.
And yet, I still believe in the goodness in people’s hearts.

How do we tap into more of that goodness?
What are the anchors that help us stay centered in these times of chaos and destruction?

We’re all in this together.
Perhaps our radical imagination is an essential tool
to help us keep moving forward towards a more loving, humane and just world.

What do you see when you imagine a future that is inspiring and worth working towards?

Tomorrow I turn 40. To celebrate my birthday, I would love to receive some inspiration. Please leave a comment, send me a private message, a text, an email, or a phone call that offers a glimpse of a vision of the future that inspires you? Or share an image of how you and your community are already living a future now that inspires you? It could be one sentence or a few. It doesn’t have to be wise words, any image will be so appreciated… and perhaps will provide some inspiration for others. We must maintain the ability to dream beyond fear and divisiveness.

adrienne maree brown in her book Emergent Strategy is an inspiration to me in this realm and here are some of her words on this topic (with some slight edits/additions from me):

“How do we cultivate the muscle of radical imagination needed to dream together beyond fear?

In order to create a world that works for more people, for more life, we have to collaborate on the process of dreaming and visioning and implementing that world. We must imagine new worlds, a world beyond enemies, finding ways to coexist, celebrating our polycultural world, transforming the conditions that make injustice possible, growing an economy of relationships, a society of care and respect. The more people who cocreate the future, the more people whose concerns will be addressed from the foundational level in this world.

I suspect that is what many of you are up to, practicing futures together, practicing justice together, living into new stories. It is our right and responsibility to create a new world.”

What visions and images of a compassionate and just world do you see? What does liberation for all of us look like to you? How do we take care of one another? What does it look like when we see, learn from and appreciate one another? What are your images of how we share resources, how we make decisions together, how we care for children, the elderly, and other folks who are vulnerable? How do you see justice being centered? What art do you imagine that gives us visions for new life and new ways of being together? What are you already experiencing that is an expression of a future you’d like to see more of?

Thank you so much for sharing any of your images or visions. Together we are capable of magic.

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Asheville Youth Voices & Leadership

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.39.15 PMOur youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.

This is Asheville.

Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.

 

Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?

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May I Be a Worthy Servant

This past year I have written more online. I have used social media to ask the questions my heart ponders or frets over, share the news that crosses my path, and to articulate the ways I make meaning of the world around me. The responses from people reading my words have helped me see more clearly some of the ways I embody elements that Chani Nicholas speaks to in the Virgo call to service below. I am honored to be alive in this way and to show up and serve. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I always welcome feedback about ways I do below that are helpful/effective or not. May we amaze ourselves in the days to come as we recreate ourselves…

“You are our beloved nerd. Our expert. Our sincere seeker of the facts. The one who will ask the right questions. The one who can separate the truth from the rest of the information. You are discerning, unfazed by pomp and circumstance. You seek to understand the systems of nature we live within, looking for the beautiful, naturally occurring alchemy that uses every aspect of creation to recreate itself. You know nature’s efficiency. You know how to value the clean machine that is our earth. You know how to value the wisdom of the body. You teach us all manner of natural remedies. You know how to locate and remove what is unnecessary, toxic or ill-fitting. You know what is wrong with a thing because you know how to think critically about it and everything else.

This year we will need your compassionate critique. We will need your analysis. We will need your natural talent to deconstruct the ill-formed theories that have no place in a fair and just world. You are no fool and this year will have no shortage of foolish ideas. Bless us with your ability to cut them down to size with nothing but logic.

We need you to remind us that success isn’t about the applause we receive but about the quality of work we are able to produce in service of something greater than ourselves. You work for the sake of the work. You know what it is to be humble. To be wrong. To be worried about getting it done well. Help us to be thoughtful, concerned, hard-working citizens. Help us to remember that we will make mistakes so we might as well become dedicated students to the wisdom we most wish to embody.

In exchange, we will calm you when you feel like you need to fix everything. This situation is beyond broken. It is not your responsibility alone to figure out the whole mess. The future needs us all.”

 

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Weaving into the Tapestry

What do we hear when we listen to the center? What do we speak when we start from a place of stillness, listen to the stirrings of source, and speak to the center?

Last week I was blessed to be a part of a unique gathering hosted by the Heart of the Healer Foundation, Speaking to the Center: The Great Remembering.

As a facilitator/moderator, during the morning session I listened to the words of these loving souls who wanted to share pieces of their hearts and minds. Little nuggets of language, wisdom and invitation moved through my ears, mind, heart and into the pen perched upon my pad. After they each spoke and a brief stretch break, I offered a Woven Poem, a collective storytelling in the prose of words as a weaving of the wisdom they shared. And now I share this poem with you.

The following is a Collective Poem from the words of Grandmother Red Leaf, Peter Kingsley, Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Michael Johnson, Howard Hanger, Jeff Schmitt & Mz Imani. Woven by Ashley Cooper.

Weaving into the tapestry

Simple humans

We are whole

We are grateful

Things that remember themselves

are not forgotten

When channeled or directed…

She works miracles

Everything has to have water to live

Help us to touch the spirit of the Earth again

The Earth is a spider web

Connections are a very important part

of how we live every single day

Things are as they should be –

even when it’s a hard realization

We have manufactured a spiritual light

It’s ungrounded – it’s unrooted

The darkness outside

The coldness

The empty space

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

It’s not enough any more

There is a sacred root of western civilization

Alethia – truth – unforgetting

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream.

How many of us came here to remember

We have so many fantasies, my friends

We have our own original instructions -

We need to look for them

Go back to our roots

What is the result of our forgetfulness?

The current degradation of our environment

The dislocation of our society

A sleep walking culture

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

Catch a glimmering awakening,

in the spark of an eye, in the presence

It’s a void, it’s empty, it’s scary

I bow to the living waters

Find peace within

I am not different from the other

Self and other are one and the same

I choose to be in the world

To share my rituals, my ceremonies, my love

Recognizing the beauty and grace

of the courageous who decided to remember

Re-member – as a global human family

Unification. Wholeness. Non-dual consciousness

Allow Spirit and the great originating mystery

to unfold with its entire expression

Deep gratitude

Deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart

Without the kindness of all these living beings and ancestors

we would not have the kindness of life and the gift of all these problems

We need to continue awakening

We need to act

We need to act now

to solve or out grow these problems

Each of us here can play a role

and we have to

We are all a part of this experience

of life

And it might be possible that we can have a good time, too

Take a few longer, deeper breathes

Bring awareness into your body

Feel your heart

It’s all about perspective

Look at the world from your dogs eyes

I have a slightly different view

… And then there’s integration

Oh my gosh – even though I used to think I had total knowledge, I don’t

I only have one pebble

Awaken to your own happiness

You can lift other people up to be happy too

Hey good looking, you’re looking good

It would behoove us to not take ourselves so seriously

Return to the child

The pre-socialized little being

Please, pant with me

Wag your tail

Show that gratitude

This world needs our medicine

This world needs our science now

Visual Impressions were created live by Kara Brown at the event.

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My Heart Echoed His Heart

If You Really Pay Attention
by Paula Underwood

When I was a little bitty kiddy, about five, my Dad began a process … anytime somebody came and said something to us, my dad would say, “You remember what he said, honey girl?” I would tell my father what the person said until I got so good at it that I could repeat verbatim even long presentations of what the person had said.

And he did this all the time.

Finally, one day there was this old gentleman, Richard Thompson. I still remember his name, he lived across the street. And every time my Dad started to mow the lawn, there came Mr. Thompson. And so I would stand out there.

Dad says, “You might come and listen to this man, honey girl. He’s pretty interesting.” And so I listened to him, and then my dad would say, “What did you hear him say?” And I would tell him.

Well, eventually I was repeating all the stories he liked to share with my dad verbatim. I knew them all by heart.

And my Dad says, “You’re getting pretty good at that. But did you hear his heart?” And I thought, what? So I went around for days with my ear to people’s chest trying to hear their hearts.

Finally my Dad created another learning situation for me by asking my mother to read an article from the newspaper. He says “Well, I guess if you want to understand that article, you have to read between the lines.”

I thought, “Oh, read between the lines. Hear between the words.”

So the next time I listened to Mr. Thompson’s stories, I tried to listen between the words. My Dad said, “I know you know his story, but did you hear his heart?” And I said, “Yes. He is very lonely and comes and shares his memories with you again and again because he’s asking you to keep him company in his memories.”

It just came out of me. In other words, my heart echoed his heart.

And when you can listen at that level, then you can hear not only the people. If you really pay attention, you can hear what the Universe is saying.

–Paula Underwood, clan mother of the Turtle clan, Iroquois nation

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This Little Seed of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine

Tick tock, fingers locked.
What to write?
How to talk?

a rhythm, a voice, a harmonizing force
fluency, disruption and curiosity, of course!

Ever since some point in my young life, I’ve identified with trees. Mom, dad, do you know when that started? They are my teachers when I need wisdom, friends when I long to experience belonging, mirrors when in a search for validation and reflection, support to rest upon and give my weight, and elders willing to make contact with me, hold me close, and shelter me from the rest of the world. The trees, they help me let go, they allow me to release from the habits and contractions, the mind looping and obsessing, the wondering and searching. They hold me still and steady and provide space for me to open — expanding, releasing into the essential beauty and oneness of this sacred moment, feeling connection with all of life, and grounding in the solid wonderment of me, of life. Thank you dear beings of wood, earth, soil, sun, water, rain, breath, fun.

A brief pause for an update on my life:

Change, change, everywhere

asking questions
listening to what’s here
recognizing aliveness
centeredness that’s clear…
and crumble, crumble, crashing it goes
breaking up perceptions
of clarity and form
scattering ideas and concepts
building a foundation for a future that’s near

following my heart
pause, pause, pause

listening for guidance
pause, pause, pause

thinking, scanning, action planning
pause
pause
pause

repeat

In March of 2002 this image peeked out of my subconscious and invited me home. While the drawing didn’t quite capture the beauty of the tree and the alive posturing of the young girl, I heard its song and my bodybeing felt the familiarity of that existence. At home and at peace I feel when tucked away in the base of a big solid tree. Protected. Free. Spirited. A pulsing life force emerging through grounded essence, connected to a web of existence, alive, as is, of service, here.

Right now there are many elements about what is next in my life that I don’t know. Where will I live? What will I do? As I listen and look for these answers, I continuously invite myself into deeper inquiry and discovery around the aspects of my being that I do know… or think I know!!

I am called to become rooted in purpose and place.

Which means… much inquiry (writing, drawing, visioning, thinking, dancing, talking, looping, dreaming) about what is the purpose I feel called to, what kind of place (what all is included in my idea of place) do I want to root and roost in?

And so this illustration by Terry Widener captured my attention with a bit of longing. Instead of actually rooting, could I just hang out in the roots? I know that I am being called from the place of hanging out inside the trees for respite and security, into the realm of being a tree… big, bold, beautifully being, breathing, bending in the breeze, beckoning others to believe. . . (believe in ourselves, believe in what’s possible, be with what-is)

There are two guiding questions that arrived for me a couple of nights ago… that are steering my listening right now and igniting much energy and excitement:

  1. What invitations would I love to receive? What could someone or someones invite me into that would be so evocative and affirming that my being would readily leap and say YES!, recognizing a soul’s calling, a place to step, a direction that might root what’s next?
  2. If I am a seed right now, what is in my seed? (am I a seed to become a strawberry plant, oak tree, lilac blossom, dandelion?) What is in my seed?

seeding at Rialto beach last month

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Children Keeping it Simple, Teaching Simplicity


A few inspiring comments from my teachers in simplicity, children.

  • I was participating in Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Rally this year with some of the faculty, students and parents from the school I work at. During the march one of our first graders looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

    (fyi: I host Friendship Groups, a class that all the students in the class participate in just like math or reading. The aim is to help students deepen their ability to connect with and understand themselves and others. It’s all about friendship… with ourselves, others and the world around us!)

  • During Obama’s presidential inauguration Rev. Joseph Lowery was talking about love,
    “And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.”

    I looked in front of me as a Kindergartner was staring down at his little hands, shaping them into a heart. That image summed up where my hope for our future lies… in love.

  • After the inauguration we hosted an Open Space with the 3rd graders. One child’s closing remarks, “I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.”
  • Words of wisdom that a 2nd grader told me over lunch one day that I am practicing and trying to better embody, “Just listen until your mind gets deeper and then you’ll understand.”

I am so grateful for all the gifts that are bestowed upon me by these wise humans who are so willing to share their world.

heart photo by samantha celera

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