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15 Years of Writing Publicly

15 years ago when I started this weblog, the fact that I am easily amazed was more evident in an effervescent and silver-lining kind of way. As a 26 year-old school teacher, it felt totally appropriate at the lunch table one day when a 9-year old student looked up at me with wide eyes of knowing and exclaimed,  “Ashley, you need a tee shirt that says Easily Amazed!” I said, “You’re right!” as he had simply and clearly reflected back to me the passion and enthusiasm I had for life… and named this blog. I was quick to amazement in those days, awe tingling in my cells.

In addition to teaching at a Montessori school, I was in graduate school studying child-centered play therapy, school counseling, and transpersonal counseling. I was also having my own spiritual awakening (with all its own darkness and light) while being rather socially isolated living in Denton, Texas. Life was filled with reflection, depth, investigation, and I was in love with and curious about the unique expressions of being human, in awe of the living world, fascinated by our meaning-making, intelligence, and the unknowable, and excited by opportunities for connection and positive development.

Today, 15 years of life later, having followed the path of my calling and continued my inquiries into the ways of existence, I might say that I am more deeply committed … to truth, to healing, to justice, to love…. than easily amazed. My fierce commitment to seeing and healing from the truth has shifted my quick response from effervescent awe to a familiar feeling of heart-brake and bewilderment by the effectiveness and strategies of those who cause or perpetuate harm and inequality, and have been doing so for generations.

While my awe and reverence for life and the living world (which includes humans) and our interconnections is still a bright light within me, I definitely recognize that actively pursuing and facing truths that I was previously oblivious to has zapped out of me some of my effervesce… for now… and sharpened my ability to see more clearly what is going on around me. I trust that as I continue to wake up from the slumber that was socially granted to me along with my white skin and middle class socialization, as I re-ground and realize who I am, where I come from, and what it means to be responsible in this body and legacy I was born into and this purpose I am here to live, that as I root, my effervescence shines forth in new ways.

The other side to this anniversary that I want to mark is that today is also 15 years of my writing publicly. I remember the hesitancy when I decided to write a blog. What should I share? Who am I writing to? What is the line of what I share publicly, what is just for my own journaling, and what is for my intimate circle of relations? I know that at many stages of my life there were specific people in my mind who I wrote to. As I wrote, I would feel family members, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and people I didn’t know but whom I knew read my blog. I would imagine that I was writing to them personally, hoping that the time and effort I invested in bringing words to my perceptions and experiences would bring value to others in addition to myself.

In honor of this anniversary and journey of finding words that make visible the shapes and queries inside my head and heart, I want to thank some of the people who inspired and encouraged me in those earlier years. I have so much love and gratitude for the ways you helped me find confidence and commitment in writing — thank you, Chris Weaver, Thomas Arthur, Chris Corrigan, Christy Lee-Engel, Jeff Aiken, Meredith Krugel, Brandy George.

And thank you deeply from my heart to anyone who has read my words and let me know that you appreciate my writing voice.

 

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Processing: Who Does the Heavy Lifting

We sit in the chairs to get educated.

Attentive. Being a good student. Listening for what we can learn.
Giving up a whole day of our busy lives — because we know this is important.

Truths revealed. Layers of our privilege glaring before us, for us to see.
Asked again and again — where is your empathy?
Perhaps some words land in a particular way,
And we allow our hearts to break.
Shame, sorrow, rage, confusion.
We feel the tremble in our own bodies.
How can this be? This is not right.

And then what?
We go back to our homes. Back to our lives.
Perhaps we think about — What can I do? What will I do?
Perhaps we make commitments, tell others to hold us accountable.
We process what we’ve heard.
Perhaps the intensity of listening and actually hearing is too much and we run away,
escape into the comfort of our familiar, into the ease of our peace.

Meanwhile. For those for whom these realities are their every breathing moment reality —
Where is the rest? Where is the escape? Where is the return to “my life”? Who fills in when they need a pause?

The hustle continues. Trying to provide safe spaces for youth continues. Alternatives to the streets, the guns, the violence. Alternatives to the classrooms and the spaces for leisure, where adult and peer eyes look at these teenagers and young people and believe they are lesser, up to no good, not as smart, not on a path to a bright future, believe that their parents don’t care. Hustling to create alternatives to narrow views of what their future could be. Alternatives to always having to live in the hustle.

These leaders are providing opportunities for young people to experience the joys and pleasures that life can offer. The youth have an opportunity to feel someone who is glowing with pride and appreciation for their existence, for the unique humans that they are. The youth feel the hearts of those who believe in them, who sacrifice everything they have towards the hope of their brighter future. Youth get to experience opportunities to learn relevant life skills, to grow networks of people who want to lift one another up. They provide space for laughing. Dancing. Playing. Smiling.

And then the late night hours, morning news… 12-year-old killed, 18-year-old suffering from gunshot wounds. Futures pierced with the bullets of a moment’s reality. Hope for tomorrow disrupted by the corruption of today.

And again — who is present to deal with the trauma as it is unfolding. Who feels the response-ability, the obligation to be part of the solution. And who sits civilly. In our chairs. Listening. Emotion-filled, but paralyzed in our bodies. How long have we been sitting in our chairs, at our desk, running errands, staying busy… and yet…

Today, July 1st, 2018, in Asheville, North Carolina — People of Color are absolutely disproportionately carrying the weight of leading actual change in this city. They are absolutely doing the majority of the heavy lifting to bring about more safety, fairness, justice and morality in our city. They are doing the physical and emotional labor of caring for one another in a city that is ready and willing to leave people to suffer and even die rather than actually change. They are creating spaces where we — liberal white women, progressive white men, social change oriented white folks — sit civilly, listen, and perhaps even feel. Sometimes we see that we are needed and we step in with them. Usually, if we get involved, we hang around the edges or yell loudly in inappropriate places. There are too few of us who get our hands dirty, follow their lead, and use our own deep listening and discernment to recognize what is helpful and what is more harmful.

Is today the day that one more person sees that our own life and freedom and peace and comfort is actually bound to the life and freedom and peace and comfort of others? Is today the day that more of us feel the obligation to be a part of the solutions instead of sitting by silently, or only speaking up on facebook or twitter or showing up at a rally once every few months?

It is summer time. Violent crime is on the rise in this city. Police officers can harass and beat residents on camera and still be found as innocent. Community leaders are busting their asses to try and create different realities, to try and find solutions, while being the ones leading the efforts to implement those solutions AND educate the rest of us about why what they are doing is essential and necessary. Meanwhile, they work fulltime jobs and care for their own immediate and extended families.

Are we ready to get organized as a city and make significant changes that cultivate greater care and support for one another and assertively address the oppressive and discriminatory systems that are in place?

Those who are vulnerable because of the racist, classist, and oppressive systems that this country is built up need all of us to be involved. Those of us that are privileged, detached from our capacities to empathize and connect with a greater whole and humanity, our well-being requires our involvement too.

The local is the regional is the national is the global. We can build strong networks of mutual support, resilience, and evolutionary action. There is a unique role that we each have to play. This is a massive puzzle, a huge ecosystem, and each of us have something different to contribute — what’s yours to do? What’s yours to contribute?

For me, in this moment, I had to write. The urgency to want to act and yet not clear what will best serve finds an outlet in words. And with these words is prayer, my own effort to extend my hand in a gesture of “please join me”, a prayer that perhaps one person reading will feel a new spark in their heart that says  — “Yes. I’m ready now. Let’s get to work. I will be part of the change.” And prayers for peace to those that are suffering, courage and protection for those that are leading towards different realities, and prayers for the web of our connections to strengthen so that we may be collectively more effective.

And to keep it vulnerable and transparent, today I also sit with my own personal conflict — my emotions are swept by this reality and so I’m not as available to loved ones today in the ways that I had planned to be. I’m preparing for 6 days away with family, and yet I feel that organizing and activation is so needed right now. I’m nervous about the time away when I’ll feel this need to pretend to enjoy this particular holiday season that makes me cringe… and yet the loved ones gathering mean the world to me. And I’m sitting with my white woman tendencies that feel an urgency to act — like I should be doing more now.

Breathing. Prayer. One step at a time. And LISTENING DEEPLY — to the spiritual guidance that I receive and to the guidance from those I am in community with. This is why I invest in growing strong and trusting relationships.

Thank you for reading.

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Solutions: Listen to the Stories. Invest.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.42.53 AMSolutions: Listen to the stories of those who are most impacted by inequity. Invest in organizations that are informed by and lead by those who are most impacted.

In Asheville: Word on the Street/La Voz de los Jovenes is one of those organizations.

“I’ve been wanting a place where youth can just be themselves,” said 14-year-old Serenity Lewis

“It’s kinda helping youth of color get their voice out within the community. We’ve all noticed there’s a problem, and we want to go at it and fix it, or try to.” – Quantasia Williams, 18 years old

Listen to this segment about them on public radio.

 

 

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Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

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Earthseed Series with adrienne maree brown

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 10.07.02 PMSo much goodness in this podcast about Octavia Butler, her books, particularly the Earthseed Series, Emergent Strategy and fierce guidance for liberation movement work. Continued gratitude to Adrienne Maree Brown.

Key Questions in the podcast:

  • Who was Octavia Butler?
  • What are the lessons of Acorn, the post-apocalyptic community that was created in Parables?
  • What does it mean to shape chaos?
  • How do these books teach us about resilience? survival? Love?
  • What can people do to practice radical compassion and empathy?
  • What does it mean to practice humility and create space for everyone when it might also mean that we let in potentially harmful people?
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Taking a Knee

“Protest is a right and frequently a positive game changer in our short history.” ~Paul Cooper

My dad sharing his thoughts with his local paper

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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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