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Standing in My Truth

We turn into the park and I have this feeling something big is on it’s way in. These feelings have been bubbling to the surface all day. It’s hard to speak without crying but I have this sense that I am taken care of and that it’s time to drop the armor and allow myself to be seen.

The heat has been oppressive all weekend out in the desert and I have been welcoming it in with open arms. There is something about the quietness, the empty space, the prickly trees that reach out as far as the eye can see that holds me and allows me to expand at the same time. It’s like that feeling I get when I practice, when I stand in tadasana, mountain pose, just taking it all in. Feeling rooted while reaching up. Looking out into the vast nothingness that holds everything, contemplating what I stand for in this moment.

What do I stand for?

What really matters to me?

Out here I let myself go. I stop combing my hair. I don’t bother to put on concealer because I want to connect more to my Mother. I inherited her dark circles under my eyes whether I like them or not. And I don’t like them most days but out here in this heat I stop giving a fuck for just long enough to ask myself what I truly stand for.

Looking out into the muted desert land I decide it is time to really stand for something. I am not sure what that is right now but I know I’ve got to get my intentions into the fire soon and I hope that brings me some clarity.

Sitting on the warm rocks waiting for my turn to walk up to the fire and be witnessed by the folks I’ve been healing with for the last two days. The tears continue to leak out of my eyes and my friend calls my name. It’s time.

I stand up and walk towards the fire repeating the mantra in my head, ‘All in, All in, All in.’ My friend and I have been saying this to each other throughout weekend to make ourselves laugh and to remind us why we are out here in the first place. There is no such thing as half measures anymore when it comes to doing this powerful, transformative work. We’re all in.

All fucking in!

I fumble around for a minute, digging the dried corn out of my tight shorts to offer to this beautiful fire in front of me. I mutter my gratitude for everyone and for my amazement that I just found this community last year and then I share my intentions out loud.

Before I know it my teacher asks me to sing a song for the group. My mind goes white. I chant most mornings and have for years but in that moment I can’t think of anything, it’s like there is nothing there. I recall the first song I ever sang in front of people 5 years ago while leading a residency on the role of love in contemporary art in Canada. I sing the first verse and then everything goes white again. I can’t recall a single lyric, a single note. It’s just me without my armor in front of 30 people having no idea what I am doing.

The last time I felt that seen was over 7 years ago when I spoke at one of the oldest AA meetings in San Francisco. During that meeting I stood up at a podium and told over 200 people that my deepest source of shame was getting pregnant for the second time at 19 years old and not being able to stop using alcohol and drugs long enough to carry the baby to term.

All in.

All fucking in.

If you asked me what my biggest fears is aside from losing my brother or parents I would say being in front of people without my armor. Being seen not knowing the words to a song, being seen for being imperfect. Being seen for being myself.

That night I let it all go into the fire. I asked her to support me and celebrate that I finally figured out what I stand for.

I stand for myself.

I stand for believing that there is nothing outside of myself that is better than what is inside of me.

I stand for loving every aspect of myself, even the parts that are very challenging for me to accept.

I stand for learning to be my own best friend, for embracing my gifts and using my creative powers for good in this world.

I stand for walking the path of authenticity and illuminating the path for others when they need support.

I stand for not giving up no matter what because I am learning to trust that I am worth it.



  • Marlon

    I was in a cranial session from my sweet friend the other day and had this insistent reverberating thought after uncomfortable memories arose that “all beings deserve love”, over and over. It was easy in the moment to feel that love for others, for everyone I carried negative memory of, but I realized the insistence of the thought and the true bravery was to feel that I too, am worthy of love. That I am not any less than what is outside of me, and I can be loved and give love in turn.

    Reading this I feel you are waking up to your own power which is so terrifying and incredible and empowering!! To value yourself enough to be in your truth and be as you are, to offer yourself love and patience as you would offer others.

    So much love and thank you for everything you share, and for always inspiring me!!

    • ashley

      Hello Marlon, it is wonderful to hear from you. Wow! It sounds like such a powerful healing session. I am moved that you felt called to share this here it is such a powerful insight. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for being part of the community. You are right! The journey of waking up at a deeper level is amazing and scary, scary because with it comes more responsibility to step into it. The responsibility of asking for more of what I want out of life and being of service in an even greater capacity. Woo wee! It’s such a fun ride and I am thrilled we are in this together. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and thank you for being part of this conversation. Your words are life affirming and humbling. Lots of love. xoa

  • Ashley!
    You are so amazing! I’m so happy to have somewhat connected with you. You always say everything I’m thinking, but never know how I would say it, if I had to. I love hearing inspiring, real women, who are in recovery, speak the raw truth. It’s only been five years for me, but fuck, it has taken every bit, and a bunch more I’m sure, to find myself again. I never knew I had detached from myself so much, until I did get sober. When you are out there and to everyone else you have it together, It’s hard to come in to the rooms and get really raw, and find your true self.
    You also give me hope that I will find a really close knit of people that I connect with. My great friends all live other places. I’ve found a few in SB, but then you have a baby, and that changes the dynamics again too. lol. Life is fun though, and I really enjoy getting on your blog and reading all of your inspiring posts. You’re a good one!! xo

    • ashley

      Hey beauty! So lovely to hear from you! I totally relate to everything you shared. Getting to know ourselves is a very deep journey. Each year we let go and surrender in a new way, constantly changing, revealing more of who we are. Getting real is what it’s all about, always!
      I get that too about having friends all over. I’ve moved so much in my life that my closest friends live in other cities. I’ve been in LA 3.5 years and just now feel like I am starting to make close friends. It takes a while especially when you are not 20 and just hanging out all the time you know? We’re grown ups now and it’s a slower process but I too have no doubt you will find your tribe. I am very grateful we connected too. It is a joy following your life and I look forward to meeting in person one of these days. I know it will happen. Lots of love and happiest weekend to you sister! xoa

  • Katy

    sending love and light xxxxx

    • ashley

      Thank you dear Katy. Wishing you a beautiful weekend. Grateful you are here. xoa

  • Andrea

    your awesome. Stay strong

    • ashley

      Thank you for your thoughtful words Andrea. Lots of love. xoa

  • Ashley – it’s great to read this and be reminded of that moment, that terrifying time of knowing you have to just push forward or go home. Though it has been a while since I made it to a retreat like that, you describe that feeling of willingness so well that I realize how important it is to live that way all the time. Open, willing and even scared. But most importantly willing. Thank you.

    • ashley

      Hey Ann, it is wonderful to hear from you. Really enjoying getting to know you on our call. I am so grateful to be part of it. I love what you wrote about being that open all of the time. That came through for me very strongly over the weekend, keep taking the kind of risks that push me right to those edges, expanding beyond them more each time. And three cheers for willingness sometimes I feel that is the most important foundational piece of all. Wishing you a gorgeous week and looking forward to hearing you on Monday. Lots of love. xoa

  • Jennifer

    it is amazing the power and the energy in every word, and the way you explained it makes me feel stronger and with hope, i really admire your work and enjoy reading your blog, and recipes , all the best ; )

    • ashley

      Hey Jennifer!
      Thank you so much for your kind words, really happy you are here. May we have the courage to risk more in our lives and light the way for each other. Have a beautiful summer. xoa

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