Stories about me!

I've been tagged and tickled by Chris and Christy to share 5 things you might not know about me. This invitation took me on a journey into old photo albums and journals.

When I was a little girl, I was a huge Willie Nelson and Neil Diamond fan. I used to love to sing, Mamas, Don't let your babies grow up to be cowgirls. Teach them to be lawyers and doctors. These were my lyrics, of course, not quite accurate. I had to adapt quickly when we moved to the new house in 1983 and the kids were NOT into Willie. I learned to love Michael Jackson... and we even started our own Michael Jackson fan club. I mean, we had to, we were special: We lived in Jackson's Creek. It must be a sign!!

I've always been a pretty observant and rational individual. I was also a very obedient child and so my parents took me everywhere (before my brother was born). I remember being around 4-years-old. I was sitting at a bar (I loved to do that, to flirt with the bartenders and get them to fill me up on Shirley Temples and tons of cherries). As I was sitting there I was observing my straw. I noticed that the circle of the straw seemed to be exactly the same size as the opening in my nose. Surely, if I can put this thing in my mouth and suck, I should be able to do the same with my nose... I mean it is the perfect size! I can still feel the burning of that experiment!

For a long time, acting was my thing. I was fortunate in that I had a supportive and inspiring teacher, Lynn Ellis (I think the link is her!). Acting definitely pushed my edges and challenged me to be more aware of how I show-up, move, speak, interact with others, etc. I auditioned for one comercial when I was in the 1st grade... and I got it! It was for Field's Hotdogs, a Tennessee based hotdog company. The scene was a family grilling out in the backyard, lip singing, I want a um-ditty um-ditty um-ditty um, a Fields Hotdog. I want a dog, a dog on a bun. A Field's Hotdog is the natural one. We would take HUGE bites of the hotdogs... and then move off camera where a woman was holding a tray for us to spit the bite out. We couldn't swallow them because the chemicals they put on them to make them glisten and to accentuate those beautiful black grilled lines were unhealthy! I got to bring my own clothes... they chose for me to wear this striped outfit! Oh, and a bonus was that something happened to the original filming so we had to do it again... which meant I got paid double! Later my brother became the actor in the family. Here we are at Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Every year my Aunt Mel and I would go to the circus. It looks like this year my brother was old enough to join us. Aren't we cute!

Perhaps it's a natural progression that in middle school and my first year of high school I was a cheerleader. I really loved cheering. I liked the idea of smiling a lot and trying to encourage enthusiasm and excitement in others. I enjoyed being a part of a squad of girls, sometimes engaging in unison and other times weaving together in dances and cheers. I loved building with shoulder stands and pyramids. What I hated about it all, however, was the stigma and the attitude that many of the girls had. It was a real dilemma for me in highschool. I enjoyed the sport but I didn't like the culture... do I try out or do I quit? I went with it for one more year (I had cheered 2 years in middle school) and then that was all I could take.

It's funny. While I was a cheerleader, I always felt like I wasn't a very good dancer. I couldn't keep time and wasn't coordinated enough to follow the routines as well as some of the other girls could. I created a story for myself that I wasn't a very good dancer. And yet, as I grew older, it became increasingly obvious to me that dancing is so essential to my soul. I love to dance!! It's just that following routines isn't my thing! I guess it might be a family tradition. Here's my grandmother getting down.

There you have 5 things about me that you might not have known. Here's a bonus, one thing that I imagine you do know about me... I LOVE people!! I think I always have and I hope I always will!

As for continuing this game. I'd like to invite my family to play. I'd love to hear some stories from my dad, Papa Hertz, Frank, Ryan and George (a male theme). What are 5 things that we might not know about you? Of course you don't have to have a blog to play, sharing in any way would be wonderful. And for those of you with blogs... I'd love to see some of your photo stories.
posted by ashley


Letting Go, Passing Away and Coming Together

A few nights ago while I was at the coast in LaPush, sinking into a powerful place during a time of deep change, learning from the raging winds, enormous waves, wisdom of the land, and lessons of community, I had a powerful dream. While I was writing the dream the next morning, I felt my friend, Finn Voldtofte, very strongly and very close. Since being together at the gathering on Bowen Island, Finn has been mentoring me and I believe many others in a process of letting go. Prior to being connected to a resperator and being held in sleep, Finn knew that the work he was doing was soul work, having to do with setting himself free at a soul level. He asked that all people assisting him in this difficult time set him completely free. This invitation created a wave of collective intention that very palpably ran through Finn's vaste local and global community. I sense that we have all been on a deep journey as we hold this space with and for Finn and as we ourselves surrender to letting go and setting free. This dream touches many places in my own life and development (such that I'm a little embarrassed to be sharing it here). I think that it also touches on themes emerging at a global and universal level too. I am very grateful to Finn who has been mentoring me and helping me to deepen my sense and understanding of this process in so many ways.
Dec. 20 Last night’s dream:

There is a small child, maybe 2. She keeps coming to me and telling me exactly what she needs. She’s very connected. Very clear about what needs to happen. Very strong willed. Not pushy, not aggressive but very assertive. She is clear as to what must happen and I am her confident and the adult that can help her with her needs. She has been preparing the ground with this one particular woman. The time comes that she is ready to go to the woman and surrender… to be given over to, fully adopted and cared for by this woman. She is ready to be born anew, arriving as a child with a mother… being a part of a unit, connected to a family.

She comes to the woman… more as an infant than a toddler. The woman is aware of the divinity that this child embodies and knows the high task of companioning her through this passage. There are 4 of us surrounded around the small body of this child and yet energetically, there a HUGE expanse of presence between us. The child is in a deep sleep, coma-like. It is clear that she is going through intense struggle. It is unclear as to whether her life will survive. There is some fear within the adults… to see this innocent child in such a state helplessness, tinkering so close to the edge of death. And yet, she is there with a huge amount of presence.

There are two adults on each side, one below at her feet and me above her head. Her arms are crossed upon her chest. My hands rest upon her hands, my legs cradling her head and shoulders. The other women are showing up powerfully. The woman who is the new mother is across from me. She is actually not below at the feet but is holding the child. I feel now that the child is in both of our laps with her head resting in my lap, my hands upon her hands and heart and she is really cradled by her new mother. The other two women are essential in holding the container together… in creating a dense space where time stands still and we hold our full attention, being together. Holding space. Letting go. Supporting. Encouraging. Granting permission. Breathing.

I feel some of the fear of the other women. This child seems so vulnerable and in such ‘bad shape’. I reassure them that the child who had been guiding me up until this point was extremely powerful… filled with a huge amount of determination and understanding. She walked consciously to this point and it is our opportunity to be with her consciously, accepting and surrendering to the letting go that is happening now.
Yesterday I found out that Finn passed away a couple of nights ago. I feel so blessed to have been able to know, connect with, learn from and love such an inspiring human. We met at an Evolutionary Salon where I was touched on a non-personal level by his wisdom and experience. He continually guided and invited deep connection with the presence of the magic in the middle, not through instruction and lecture, but experientially in the ways he engaged with himself and the group. I also had the opportunity to learn from him and with him through facilitating together on the final day. After the salon we connected some online.

It was at the gathering on Bowen and the time since then, however, that it became (and is becoming) clear to me what a profound teacher he is to me. Now isn't the time for putting this part into words, but I want to honor it.

I breathe deeply as tears well in my eyes... A seagull flies above the trees out my window... My heart and soul honor with deep grace and gratitude the life of Finn... A huge grin leaps upon my face... My heart and soul celebrate the life that continues to thrive as the being that was Finn continues to inspire, guide and love.

I give thanks to Finn and to Martin Ehrensvärd and Tina Ranløv, Finn's close friend and wife, who have not only showed up in unimaginably powerful ways but who also continue to share the wisdom and growth with this broader community. I leave you with words from Tina as she shared the news of Finn's passing and invites each of us into a calling:
It has been and it is to me a lifegiving process and I feel in me and the people close around me a call from life to grow, to share, to evolve, to come together, to ask for help.

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posted by ashley


A Couple of Questions

A couple of questions:

Do others out there feel my thoughts towards them when they are so very present with me and yet have failed to make it into concrete forms? I am absolutely LOVING reading the 5 things I might not know about many of you and yet I've failed to sprinkle your comment boxes with the words. Thank you so much for sharing of yourselves... and thank you Christy and Chris for inviting me into the play... it's been cooking me and will come soon!

The second question... Is the spread of this meme being tracked? It could be such fun to have a wikipedia page with links to all the various posts and even seeing the shape of the network. I don't know how to do that... so I just put the question out there.
posted by ashley


Learnings From a Gathering of Hosts

I offer to you a woven tapestry of some of my notes and immediate learnings from a gathering of hosts on Bowen Island in November and learnings as they continue to emerge while I integrate back into daily life!
Recognizing what one wants to play with in service to the whole. Maintaining connection with that which one is fully present with and allowing immediate experiences of clarity to inform action.
Learning my place
At the closing circle I spoke that I am still learning and feeling my way into this hosting work, listening to see how it fits with my current commitments and action in the world. Chris asked me to share what emerges in this learning. Since ‘this experiment’ began, I have been more conscious of the doing-oriented areas of my life that are informed by hosting, holding, inviting and harvesting skills. I have started to see with more discernment projects where I can bring more of these capacities to life. I am more consciously carrying a hosting resonance and pay close attention to when and where I feel that vibration resonating in relation to my involvements. As I am starting to feel my circles of love-in-action overlap, I am learning about and inquiring into the mutual space.

Circling back to the learning mentioned in green above, I recognize that hosting is one way I play in service to the whole. I am practicing maintaining connection with what is fully present in my life, allowing my experiences of clarity to inform my action, and taking note as the practice of hosting shows up in new ways in relationship to old forms and structures that were already present.

Holding an intention for clarity and embracing the presence of stuckness, hurt or pain. Not with the intention to fix it, make it go away, deny it, but with a dedication to clarity and knowing that as this is what is present, this is where the energy is. Be with the energy and stay open and aligned with clarity. This requires a willingness to submit and release into the process being given.

A new relationship with clarity emerged for me in our time together and continues to deeply inform me – of where I am aligned and holding an intention for clarity and where I fall into old habits of trying to fix, make happen, define knowing, etc.

Some questions that have emerged: How do I currently listen to guidance? How do I notice the presence of divine guidance? What does a space of clarity feel like for me and how then do I move into wise action? What is my current process for this practice? How do I manifest this pattern?

A collection of relationships working in trust, out of commitment to and love for one another. How quickly can our gifts and talents configure to give to the world?

Feeling a vibrating vibrance illuminating our need for connection, contact and sustained support.

One learning that emerged for me was recognizing the value in (and possible need for) exploring concrete practices which bring attention to the ways we deepen connection with and presencing of those that are not physically present but are in so many other ways with us. Those being other people currently living, ancestors, loved ones who’ve passed away, future generations, Spirit, God, animals, the land, un-seeable essences, etc. How do we bring more form (form possibly just meaning collective consciousness) to the web of support that holds us and the work that we are doing?
posted by ashley


The World Needs Women's Attention & Vision

"The world is desperately in need of women's attention and vision, but we are so preoccupied, so dangerously distracted...I wrote this play so that women would stop fixing their bodies and start fixing the planet." Eve Ensler
posted by ashley


Giving and Receiving Gratitude: Whale Rescued

Heart touching article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a humpback whale that was freed by divers from a tangle of crab trap lines near the Farallon Islands. The whale nudged its rescuers and flapped around in what marine experts said was a rare and remarkable encounter.
The 45- to 50-foot female humpback, estimated to weigh 50 tons, was on the humpbacks' usual migratory route between the Northern California coast and Baja California when it became entangled in the nylon ropes that link crab pots.

Team members realized the only way to save the endangered leviathan was to dive into the water and cut the ropes.

It was a very risky maneuver, Stoudt said, because the mere flip of a humpback's massive tail can kill a man.

"I was the first diver in the water, and my heart sank when I saw all the lines wrapped around it," said Moskito, a 40-year-old Pleasanton resident who works with "Great White Adventures," a cage-diving outfit that contracts with Menigoz. "I really didn't think we were going to be able to save it."

Moskito said about 20 crab-pot ropes, which are 240 feet long with weights every 60 feet, were wrapped around the animal. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the tail, the back and the left front flipper, and there was a line in the whale's mouth.

The crab pot lines were cinched so tight, Moskito said, that the rope was digging into the animal's blubber and leaving visible cuts.

At least 12 crab traps, weighing 90 pounds each, hung off the whale, the divers said. The combined weight was pulling the whale downward, forcing it to struggle mightily to keep its blow- hole out of the water.

Moskito and three other divers spent about an hour cutting the ropes with a special curved knife. The whale floated passively in the water the whole time, he said, giving off a strange kind of vibration.

"When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me," Moskito said. "It was an epic moment of my life."

When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in circles, according to the rescuers. Moskito said it swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one.

"It seemed kind of affectionate, like a dog that's happy to see you,'' Moskito said. "I never felt threatened. It was an amazing, unbelievable experience."

Whale experts say it's nice to think that the whale was thanking its rescuers, but nobody really knows what was on its mind.

"You hate to anthropomorphize too much, but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it," Menigoz said. "I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something that I will always remember. It was just too cool."

And the email circulating around (thank you Cathy) offers this blessing:
May you, and all those you love,
be so blessed and fortunate .
to be surrounded by people
who will help you get untangled
from the things that are binding you.

And, may you always know the joy
of giving and receiving gratitude.
posted by ashley


Paul Ely Smith, Handmade

A wonderful reveiw of Paul Ely Smith's new album, Handmade.
He makes of each performance an exercise in adaptive re-use, bending the sonic and melodic character of the taqsim to his own purposes and gifts, but allowing it to remain in the meditative space it’s always occupied. So while remaining true to the spirit of the taqsim, he makes it his own.

Not only has Paul synthesized tunes and styles from around the world to make a music unique unto himself, he’s also internalized the forms of those tunes. The result is music of an almost rough-cut simplicity that retains its freshness with repeated listening—yielding the kind of pleasure you might derive from viewing a finely crafted handmade rug.
I find Paul's music to be deeply moving. Listen to a couple of tracks and see what you think.
posted by ashley

Responding Consciously and Compassionately

Sharing with you a handout from a parenting group:

Love is a total commitment to helping ourselves and others realize our full potential. Love is having faith in and celebrating our own abilities and our children’s abilities.

“Most often it’s self-preoccupation that keeps us
from noticing what others need in the first place.”
~Daniel Goleman

We have to develop our own internal ability to notice both how we respond to a child’s actions and emotions and to notice what is going on with the child. Research says that what parents do when kids emotions are running hot can predict outcomes of the kids. So much is centered around how we feel about feelings.

As a parent said in a parenting group, “Basically it’s about us being conscious.”

Developing our own internal ability to respond compassionately:
  1. Notice what is happening. Notice another person is in need of attention, in need of help, or is in distress.
    • Being mindful, being present with this other person, staying connected to what is happening in this moment.
  2. Attune to the other. Feel with them.
    • This relates to having mindsight – being able to see the world from their perspective.
    • Listen to nonverbals – eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body posture, and timing and intensity of responses.
  3. Respond to the situation. Take action to help.
    • Have response flexibility. Don’t react to the situation but attune to what is going on, reflect upon the situation and intentionally choose your actions.
    • Communicate not just with words but with nonverbals as well. Be aware of your eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body posture, timing and intensity of responses.
Staying out of the way of a child’s learning:

It’s quite normal for parents to want their child not to be in distress. When this feeling is about to launch a parent into action, parents should ask themselves: Is this my problem or hers? If it is the parent’s problem, then take action to correct the problem. If it is the child’s problem, the healthy parent tolerates any distress the child feels, giving the child a respectful chance to learn. This distress is the child’s cue that he needs to pay attention. If the child doesn’t solve the problem, the parent can support the child’s ability to take action while not removing the stress. (How Much is enough? pgs. 176-177)

Resources: Interview in Tricycle magazine with Daniel Goleman (a must read!), Pareting from the Inside Out, Alexander Kjerulf, How Much is Enough?
posted by ashley


344 Daily Monster and Zefrank's The Show

344 Daily Monster

This is one of my new favorite sites, 344 Loves You. I imagine you all know that I'm a sucker for hanging around people that love me (even if it's only nonpersonal cyber love)! And then there is huge extra rewards as these short creative clips are rich entertainment and have provided me with tons of inspiration (found both in the monsters and in exploring 344's main website).

I found myself there thanks to a link at zefrank... His show, The Show, is another favorite video offfering (of a different flavor) that is great to watch.

posted by ashley

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