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I Needed to Stop & Recalibrate

eyesOn January 18th in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had one of those somatic moments where my body vibrates and catches my attention. Often when I look back, it’s moments like that one that indicate my life is about to change. A friend and colleague was talking about the sabbatical she is on, her daily routine, the things she’s saying NO to, and the self-care she is prioritizing. My whole body shivered and bellowing within me I heard, “Is this what you need to do? Can you take 3-6 months to pause?

While the doubting parts of me quickly began discouraging such a dramatic and risky move, the questions didn’t surprise me. A couple days prior I had given a talk about “Living on Purpose” where I admitted to the group of 200 university students that my professional success these last four years has been at the expense of my own self-care and work-life balance. Could I really take 3-6 months to intentionally assess and re-balance my priorities? Could I afford such a shift? What about all of my responsibilities and people that were depending on me? Could I really make caring for me a priority?

Success Checklist

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I talked it over with friends and family, prayed on it, and by March 15th I had officially begun my process of Stopping & Recalibrating my priorities. I committed to living with greater health, more creativity and a clarified direction. I was fortunate to be supported by Mycelium in this decision, both financially and energetically.

It is a profound privilege to be able to take this time. I am deeply grateful. I feel that I deserve it. And I have faith that this gift to me will in turn serve others. Here’s more of the story about my process.

There were signs that this change was necessary:

  • I had lost touch with the vibrancy of my life force, life’s colorfulness had dimmed. I felt passionate about my work, but was going through the motions to accomplish what needed to get done. I felt drained even when the content inspired me.
  • I was exhausted and often wanting to sleep.
  • I noticed myself worrying about to-do’s I wasn’t getting to, tasks I hadn’t completed… but I wasn’t worrying about the fact that I hadn’t eaten a healthy meal or gotten up to go for a walk.
  • I hadn’t fully burnt out, but I was on the edge. I would take days to recover, get enough energy to be “back in the game,” but it wasn’t integrated. The renewal was temporary.
  • I was feeling called to a future that I didn’t yet have the spiritual, emotional and physical skills nor the community support to show up for. I needed to spend time focusing on personal practices, creative expression and growing relationships with myself, my spiritual family, and my community in order to show up for the chaos and complexity that I sense will be asked of me.

While I wasn’t certain that I needed to stop working, it was clear I had to stop being a producer for a few months. For me, a producer is someone who can see a big picture vision, articulate a strategy to bring it to life, and oversee the process of it coming to life with integrity. While I am good at this, for big projects it requires a huge amount of energy. Tracking all of the small and deep details of bringing Mycelium the organization to life with integrity while also launching transformative learning programs and tending to the relationships being cultivated required tremendous output. My self-care was frequently falling to the back seat with the wellbeing of the organization and the people we served in the front seat. I was not practicing what I preached. I was not modeling the type of leadership I believe in.

Spending Resources

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I recognized that my goal-oriented, product-focused, analytical and logistical brain space was dominating. It was overshadowing my nurturing, creative, emergent tendencies that are also very important to my authentic expression and well-being. I had to stop being at the center of initiatives, leading them forward. I needed time for an out breath from the 4 years I invested in co-founding Mycelium. I needed to focus on the personal, daily practices that keep ME centered in the work I do and life I live. I needed to strengthen my spiritual and emotional practices that deepen my faith and ability to navigate uncertainty and chaos. I needed to strengthen my physical body for more endurance and healthy living. I needed to rest. I needed to trust that even if this move felt irrational and incredibly privileged, it was essential for the long haul.

slow-down-300x200It’s been 7 weeks now. I am seeing and re-writing patterns in myself, forming new neural pathways, letting go of unserving habits and beliefs, grieving and celebrating. I am slowing down, tuning into my heart, and listening to what is really calling to me at this time. I am taking the time to heal and nourish myself. I am reconnecting with my family and community. I am reflecting on my life experiences. I am weaving new possibilities. I am learning how to be me… unapologetically.

While I still have a lot to learn, I am beyond grateful for this time and what has revealed itself so far. So many lessons about myself, my beliefs, my work in the world, the conditions that help or hinder me thriving, and the challenges and learning experiences from starting a social enterprise. I have slowed down, but I don’t believe I’ve fully stopped. I imagine this will be a lifelong lesson for me.

Future possibilities are just beginning to whisper. A warrior in me is being beckoned. Conditions for how I will operate in this next stage of my life are revealing themselves. The focus of my attention is getting clearer. A daily personal practice that can nourish and sustain me is taking shape. I am recalibrating my presence, my frequency, my focus, my expression, who I am in relation to the many parts of myself, who I am in relation to how I work in the world and the type of work I do, who I am in relation to how I engage relationships and cultivate family. I am healing and recalibrating.

I am reflecting on this process as best I can, and I know there is much more to harvest from this time. Thank you for reading about my journey. Please feel free to ask me questions if they arise for you, as they might help me better integrate what this time has been, what I’m learning and where I am right now.

And stay tuned as I share the seeds that are emerging!

sprouting-seed-micro-photography-hd-wallpaper-spring-nature-stock-photo

Image Sources: Eyes, Slow Down, Seed Sprouting

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Sequoia Prayer

MY SEQUOIA PRAYER

When I feel tiny, weak and trembling
Or pulled this way and that by swirls of change,
Too insignificant to be of service,
Too “uprooted” to hold my ground,
.     I pray my Sequoia prayer.

Sitting quietly, breathing normally, becoming centered in the present moment–
in this holy instant –
My mind’s eye gradually forms an image of a giant Sequoia.
My Sequoia prayer takes form in my heart and soul
As the image forms and fleshes out to fill my being.

Centuries-old roots so wide and deep they have become part of the earth.
Supporting enormous, gnarled trunk that soars into the sky,
Eternity wrinkles carved into its surface, holding character markings for the ages,
Thick, porous bark skin covering the body, letting the trunk breathe,
protecting it from the fires that must come to support its growth.
Green leaves gushing out the top, reaching to the heavens,
Nurturing birds and other beings, offering up limbs as if in prayer.

Awareness of God fills my soul.
Sequoia image fills my being.

Spreading
.     Down into the Earth,
.     Deep into the Soul,
.     Strong into the body,

Breathing calmly. sitting quietly, praying trustingly, becoming
.     Grounded in humanity,
.     Rooted in God,
.     Striving ever upward,

My Sequoia prayer fills my cells, my lungs, my heart, my brain,
my soul, my being.

.     With love, grace and light.
.     With joy and hope.

.     With the strength of God I need to go on! Thank you, God!

Amen

~Dr. Monteen Lucas From Women’s Uncommon Prayers, an Episcopal Women’s Prayer Guide

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Supporting Change Through Friendship and Compassion


Glyness Hernandez

Today I honor present and past teachers, visionaries, activists and leaders who have dedicated their brilliance and gifts to creating a world that works for all, opening opportunities in subtle and bold ways for freedom, equality, justice and healing.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At last year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Rally I was walking with a first grader I worked with. Suddenly he looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked, curious to discover the connection he had just made. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

He taught me such a simple lesson in that moment – friendship is at the heart of the work we do and efforts we make towards creating a world where all people may flourish. Every child has the right to reach their full potential and feel loved. Friendship and friendliness are powerful forces that we use to support one another in living our full potentials. We can extend care and compassion, invite intimacy and connect with one another in nourishing ways that leave us feeling loved, respected, appreciated and capable of being the beautiful and potent forces we are.

Today I also want to thank the extraordinary people in my life who care for me, encourage me and have given me so much practical help in my pursuit to become a leader in transforming the United States’ Education System. I applied to Harvard’s new program in Education Leadership last week and have been astonishingly humbled by the generosity, encouragement, feedback, belief and care that has been bestowed upon me and this journey I am on. Thank you to each of you who gave of yourselves to support me. Words fail to carry the weight of my gratitude.

All the conversations I’ve had since stepping into the application process have fiercely enlivened my belief that we can do this. We can make a difference and organize ourselves into action, facilitating the change that is necessary so the dreams of Dr. King and so many other compassionately active forces may come to fruition. Through our friendships, our willingness to drop barriers and open vulnerably to genuine connections with one another, we can create transformative change. I am awed by the people that I know, the work that you are doing, the lives that you are living and the hearts that you continuously touch. I am awed by the human power, the power of love that swells forth upon this Earth and the impact it has in so many subtle and complex ways. And I am eager to meet, connect with and learn from those I have not yet met. I see this beautiful tapstery of connections. We are weaving together the social fabric that supports the well-being and actualization of children on this Earth.

Every child (every person) has the right to feel loved and respected and valued for their contributions. We can create opportunities for children to feel safe and stay connected to their intelligence, creativity and inspiration, as well as their neurological impulse to learn and love. We can affect the future of our world by investing in the livelihood and well-being of our children and the social systems that impact their lives.

“With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the work I am called to do in service and in love. And I extend the deepest swells of gratitude to the dear friends who support me on this journey and to the many teachers and leaders who have paved the way for me and others who are on this path of living, learning and loving.

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Woa ~ Pure Excitement

A little boy’s pure excitement, a dash of astonishment with a tinge of fear… ahhh, the emotional smorgasbord that accompanies making contact with something new and unknown.

Thanks Thomas for this link and for the contagious awe that it’s left me with… and hopefully you too!

~ ~ ~ ~

And after posting this I saw that this is my 600th post here at Easily Amazed… and today also happens to be the 6th birthday of Easily Amazed. Woa! Wow!

All I can feel is that little boy saying, “Can I touch it?” with excitement and desire and then feeling his fear of what is it? and answering his own question with “no!”

That’s very similar to my journey of writing here. So often I feel the strong impulse to share something deep from my heart or right at the edges of my thinking. I bubble with excitement at the challenge to put words to these sensations and thoughts and at the opportunity to share my experiences or perceptions with others. And then when the publishing time comes I will often feel a hesitation and What am I doing? Can I really share this? Does this make any sense? Unlike the little boy, I do touch it. I press publish and a little part of me grows just a wee bit more as a result of putting myself out there!

Thank you, Easily Amazed, for giving me the opportunity to open into this world of writing. Thank you soooo much to everyone out there who reads this. Your presence has been significant and influential in my development… I sincerely mean that. The comments I’ve received over the years, the conversations with people who read this webl, the inspiration that provokes many of the postings, and all my curiosity about those that are here reading but have never let me know that you are… it’s a fascinating and wonderful experience to feel the life that circulates around this website!!

And special thank you to Thomas who has been an emotional, intellectual and super-special editorial support these last few years. Seriously, I ask him to read over so much of what I write and he’s so gracious about giving me helpful feedback. Thank you!

Happy Birthday Easily Amazed… Woa… Wow!!

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All Swirled Into One


To be honest, I am often fascinated by my experience of being alive. As in, easily amazed! So I guess this time right now of living in the process of so many major life transitions is no exception. And yet, it’s definitely new for me. I wish I could easily put words to the nuances and extreme spectrum of feelings and experiences I’m having. I can’t do it easily, but I will give it a try!

As a whole, I feel like I’m living many different lives all swirled into one. They blur in and out of each other, overlapping, building upon, disappearing and re-emerging. It’s an exhilarating party of experiences. The old joining with the new, familiar and unfamiliar, light and dark… it’s very exciting.

And then at other times all the parts don’t feel like one life at all. They become compartmentalized. For a moment I’ll only be able to feel one thread. Intellectually I know that the others are still there, but a feeling of anxiety will narrow my perception.

It feels like a dance between harmony and chaos. In the frames of chaos, while they feel aggravating and invasive, I get to see the specifics of that particular thread that is holding me down or confining me. Like a mirror that has shattered into many fragments. I get to rest in one shard and notice the details of what it looks and feels like. What is being reflected back to me? I learn its uniqueness. And during the melodic phases it all spins together, the colors blending, creating a new beauty that is birthed from all the connections.

In my heart and body, this all plays out through a huge spectrum of emotions that I feel, that catch me, control me, tickle me and invite me to pay attention. Sometimes the pace at which I swing from one end of the feeling spectrum to the other is fascinating. I’ll fly in open-ended freedom sparkling with possibility, promise and potential. Confidence glowing through me. Excitement adding pep to my step. Joy twinkling out the corner of my eye and life wrapping me in an inner smile.

And then suddenly that openness is abruptly punctuated with a barreling thud of doubt and anxiety. Mischievously those contracting emotions creep into my skin and bones, throbbing through my heart and thoughts in unexpected moments. They burrow into my eye brows, yank at my heart, tug me down, spin me into confusion, agitation, uhggg, huh?, and not quite right. A shot of insecurity is injected into my blood stream. Without knowing it, I begin to take myself, my life, my experiences oh-so SERIOUSLY!! (and fortunately, even when all of this is going on, there is a steady constant of content. Of trust. Of knowing that it’s all just right.) And yet… I’m feeling the effects of taking myself so-very seriously!!

and then…
ack-a-lacka- splack
spiff, pooof, a wac wac

{shake, shake, shake, shake}

My love for life comes funneling back

The journey feels a bit like an amusement park. Riding the rides, roller coasters flying up and down, tumbling this way and that. Pure joy and passion is the ground where I stand and yet underneath there is an intermittent thrum of fear that surfaces, mumbling rhythms of ‘you’re not doing it right’… Continuously inviting me to slow down. Notice what’s happening. Accept. Love what-is. Rest in stillness. And before I know it, I’ve moved onto the next ride!

I was on a walk one morning after a particularly emotionally/energetically active and aggressive day. I had this feeling that I was disintegrating. I could feel the spaciousness in my body and cells. An airiness. Pieces breaking apart and disappearing, a field of emptiness present within me… as me. A peaceful calm. I felt how clearly the only thing that mattered was the step that I was taking. And the next step. And the next breath. Exactly what I was supposed to do was to take in, really savor, each moment and the environment around me and inside of me.

I then had the realization that I had no typical identity handles to hold onto. I don’t have the habits of being that generally help to shape my identity. In that moment I had no job or profession. No significant other. No home that was my own (I’m ‘boarding’ in another family’s house). No active community that I was tightly woven into. None of those typical outwardly obvious things that one might generally define themself by. I had me. I had life. And this step. And the next, and the next.

This recognition helped me open deeper into a breath of rest. Here it is. I’m living in the unknown. There is little habit or familiarity hinting at what might come in the next moment for me. There aren’t the usuals to predict or inform. And yet… there really still are. And here I am. Living what-is. Learning to love what-is in new ways. Continuously being reminded to be gentle with myself and to be patient.

That’s a sliver of my inner world.

Many photos are from my Flavors of Life album
Swinging in the Sky by McMorr
Roller Coaster Thrill by Carlos Lorenzo
Path – Should I follow? by Azzazello

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Celebrating Life

My soul is glowing with recognition, opening wide in awe and wonder and resting in familiarity as I experience Autumn emerging in the mountains of Appalachia. The leaves are changing with their bright life bursting forth, one last powerful hurrah before they let loose, releasing into the heart of winter. It’s such an honor to be here for this process. It invites in me to celebrate the exuberance of life and the beauty of change!

(ooh, the photos seem to lose their punchy color in these images. They are a bit better when you click on them… and if I played with them, they’d be even better… another time!)




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Writing, Writing She’s Everywhere!!

Hello Easily Amazed Friends,

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately in this intricate inter-net, inner-net world. Here’s a run down of where you can find more pieces of me, in case you’re interested!!

I’ve started an email newsletter. It is predominantly about social and emotional well-being for children, adults and groups. However, it’s Ashley-style so hopefully a balanced mix of practical information and practices along with opportunities to sink into the concepts and creatively imagine what might be possible. The newsletter began last month. You can read the first issue here. And the second issue that went out today here. If you like what you read, sign yourself up so that future editions are delivered to your very own email inbox!

This is a new website where I have agreed to be a guest writer. Here are some inspiring words from it’s founder, Yaffa Maritz, that will make it perfectly clear to you why I’ve agreed to participate.

“Imagine a world where people treat each other with compassion and differences are embraced. Curiosity, kindness, and creativity guide us and a fine balance is achieved between a healthy sense of individual self and thriving communities. This is not a utopia. Research already shows us that it can be achieved one kid at a time.

However, it requires what we are building here together; a thoughtful and intentional community of parents who will support each other through learning and growing and by engaging in mindful discussion, sharing relevant resources, and having discussions with professionals. Together it will create a momentum for a kinder and gentler presence in this precious world!”

I’ve been slowly updating my website, hopefully making it more expressive of both the heart and soul of who I am and the specific details of what I do. I probably should wait until I’m happy with all of the pages to point your eyes to it, but I’m not going to. Here it is! I’ve updated my bio. If you read it and have some feedback, please send it my way. Still to come is a more comprehensive explanation of Social Emotional Consulting. I also hope to update the Life Coaching and Family Coaching pages because with each client I work with, I learn more about the potency and potential that comes alive when we are in these kinds of relationships, working together to learn and grow. You can peek back at those in a couple of months!

Thomas is constantly playing with words and discovering all kinds of treasures that exist in words we look at all of the time. One of his favorites is repeating the word earth or heart over and over again. earthearthearthearthearthearth
Earth, heart, hearth, hear the art, ear all show up. I wanted a bumper sticker with this sentiment to put on my car as I journey through life. (I get that driving my car across country doesn’t exactly support this sentiment) We created a sticker and you too can buy one if you’d like at our Cafe Press store. Perhaps you can adhere yours without leaving little bubbles as I did (as seen in the picture!).

I think that’s it for new adventures. In case you weren’t aware, I also have a couple of other blogs that I don’t update nearly as frequently.

This one is completely geared towards relating with children, parents and educators.

This site is a compilation of different people sharing rituals they do to support healthy living. They’ve written about activities or behaviors they do regularly for the purpose of bringing value to their well-being. It only gets updated when someone shares a new ritual. Do you have one to add to the site? It could be anything.

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