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Rise, Sister, Rise: "My Becoming is a Collective Effort"

Recently, a client & kindred spirit shared her journey with me and, in doing so,  reminded me that we never journey alone. In her note, she spoke of feeling drawn by the pull of many passions, and not knowing where to land first: how do we begin to heal ourselves and the world when so much is in need of healing? How do we know where to begin? 

And she spoke honestly about the arduous journey forward: how do we rise from our pasts and launch into our purposes, all the while finding personal and financial stability? 
But my favorite part of her letter was when she spoke of rising out of a collective consciousness: “I realized my becoming is a collective effort; it’s not just self-reflection that has helped me to realize my passions and desires, but the stories of other people that I’ve met along my journey, people like you."
And, I think, that's where we begin. We rise together, through and from each other, lifting each other up as we try to rise ourselves. It is messy and uncertain—and splendid. Here is my response to her, sent with love. I share this not because I have the answer, but because it is the conversing, the communing, that leads us there.
M.,

I must begin with a thank you. Thank you, first, for hearing me—for listening so deeply that you felt called to respond. That is a blessing and a gift to me, one I was longing for. Thank you, also, for sharing yourself with me, letting me see you as you are. You are bold in your authenticity, and also gentle, introspective, kind. 

I think one of the things I’ve been most longing for is the passion that comes from uniting with people on a deep, soul level. Connecting, communing, conversing. I want my soul, my spirit, my words to intertwine with someone else’s, many someone else’s. And, in doing so, I want us each to feel heard, seen, loved, accepted and, as you wrote, never alone. I think it begins with conversations like this, notes passed back and forth without expectation, but only love and sisterhood and seeking

I guess what I want to know is how do we co-create this together, this rising into passion, this call to live our purpose and leave not a physical footprint on the earth, but a lasting impact in its and our fellow beings’ hearts and souls? And, instead of seeing our multitude of passions as drawing us in too many directions, I want to see us as dynamic, as women who weave the threads together, or unite, as if by magic, the disparate parts to illuminate—everything, I guess. Yes, everything. 

Some of my favorite reminders of what to do in the face of a world that, too often, seems disconnected from the truth of our oneness come from women just like you, some whom I’ve met only through email. My friend Mikayla texted me shortly after the election: “I had some clarity this morning, as I often do on rainy days. I wanted to just remind you that although our world is in chaos and such divisions, I value you and our friendship. The next few years will be difficult, but without each other to consistently support one another - it will be much more difficult.” Amen.

And then there’s Melissa, one of the women I’ve only met through energy, who wrote to me, struggling to grasp the chain forward, to find the path to a better coexistence with all beings: “Individually, I can’t change the outcome of an election,” she realized. “But I can help people help each other. And, eventually, that will change the world.”

Like you, my becoming is a collective effort; it is the stories of all who have come before me and some who have arrived after. It is Alice Walker and Maya Angelou and the wise women who have risen centuries before me but whose presence is known, somehow. It is my grandmother, in spirit now, and my mother, and everyone I’ve ever made an oil for, and the men who have held me—and the ones who have not. It is my teachers, my spirit helpers, and the ones who post a few words on Instagram at just the right time for me to see them clearly—the messengers. It is you, of course, too. 

What I hear when I read your words, and when I read the energy between your words, is your strength. My gosh, how bright you burn—full of light and compassion and your own unique blend of brilliance and purpose. Already, you have transcended so much, you have lifted your entire family up with you, generations of ancestors rise as you rise. Your blossoming rebalances a past that wasn’t so balanced, it leaves peace where the energy was once unresolved. What I wish for your younger self is role models who told you your worth and taught you how to live it. You’ve had a harder path to pave, but now you get to be that role model you longed for. So nourish yourself, fill yourself, take care of you. Because you are leading the way now. 

Thank you for the blessings of your friendship and your note. You’ve touched me more than you know. Please continue to email me whenever you feel called. I am always here to listen, commune, and share. 

With lots of love and gratitude,

Ashley

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Why I Adopt—Inmates

*Image: A drawing sent to me from one of my "adopted" pen pals, Alicia, who is my age, a mother of two, and is incarcerated in Texas.

I discovered Adopt an Inmate on a whim that brought with it the weight of synchronicity and alignment. I had been led here—to wanting to converse with prison inmates—by reading. One book led into the other, from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy to Shaka Senghor’s Writing My Wrongs and even Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black. Slowly, as I read, I began to be moved by the injustice of the prison system, by the humanness of those who commit crimes and find themselves digging deep to survive behind bars, and by the urgency of change: we need to heal.

I am a healer by trade but I discovered, in these strangers navigating and narrating the prison system, a deep unsettling in the midst of us, of dis-ease. It is the core of our beings that needs to heal and the core of our society that needs to change, to find its way back to the way as many Native Peoples call the path of peace, balance, and belonging. We all have created this mess and we all must be part of its healing.

I also wanted to connect to inmates, particularly women in prison, because I believe they deserve to be heard. Because I believe they deserve to feel like they belong, to know they have support, community; to know they are loved. To know someone, many someones, believes in them. Regardless of who we are or what we’ve done, we all need and deserve this. 

To achieve a peaceful world, we must create and communicate peacefully. We must extend peace to see it returned. We must exist out of love, communion; the spirit of oneness. 

I am so grateful Adopt an Inmate has created a space for us to commune and heal. That they bring us, in our individuality, together as equals. That they allow humanity to transcend prison bars and prison walls. And that they are shining light on a system that is unjust, imbalanced; diseased. I’m honored that their work and the letters I share with my adoptees will not only, with any luck, give them hope and maybe even some joy, but that they will heal and teach me.

 

For every Face Oil sold, I donate $1 to Adopt an Inmate.

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The Way To Your Skin is Through Your Spirit

Lately, my skin has been feeling unruly. I’ve gotten little breakouts along my chin, which hasn’t happened in ages (and usually only happens when I’m feeling emotionally challenged. It’s definitely the “stress spot” for my skin). I recognize that our skin and our bodies simply reflect what’s going on in our lives—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and that we must honor all parts of our journey and how we look in every moment. Still, wanting to put my skincare knowledge to good use, I decided to whip out my bottle of organic lemongrass essential oil, and I applied that for a few nights on the breakouts along with my Ultimate Face Cream, which almost always does the trick.

And it did. Mostly. The little breakouts went away, but my skin still wasn’t feeling as radiant as usual, like it hadn’t fully reclaimed its peace and vitality.

You see, I’ve been dating a bit lately, trying out one man after another, which is unusual for me, to be so forward or to take on several people’s energy at once. It has been a tremendous experience in self-growth and awareness: I feel stronger, aware that I can get through whatever comes my way, and have been basking in the practice of repeatedly showing up in my authenticity. 

Still, it can feel overwhelming at times. And, with each man, though I may be drawn in by his creativity or his intelligence or the way he makes me feel in his presence, there’s one thing I keep bringing up that’s missing: I don’t feel nourished.

And I know that to attract a man who will nourish me, I must first nourish myself. So after a few weeks of dating and my skin still not doing its thing radiantly, I decided to approach the conundrum of my less than lusterless skin differently. This time, instead of thinking what my skin needs, I thought, “What does my soul desire?”

Of all the products I make, the only one I so rarely use is the Nourished Woman Face Oil. With its rich, luscious avocado oil, perfectly suited for dry skin, I worry that it’ll feel too thick for my more hydrated skin. But, this time around, I felt drawn to its energy and its scent and I wanted to use it like a mantra: each time I squeeze some of the oil onto my fingers tips and then massage it into my cheeks and my chin, I think to myself, “I am nourished.” And I repeat this mantra several times to myself as I lovingly grace my skin with the oil. 

And, you know what? A few nights later and my skin looks and feels more radiant. No skin is ever perfect, but I feel more nourished in body and spirit, and I know this nourishment is coming from me.

Of course, this is only the beginning: nourishing yourself extends far beyond your skin. But I wanted to share this experience with you because it’s a reminder that how we treat our skin is intimately linked to how we care for and feel in our spirits. Our minds, bodies, and spirits are innately and wondrously connected, and all we have to do is listen and trust in them to lead the way. 

So, the next time your skin is not radiating the way you’d like it to, think not, “What can I do to make myself look better?” but rather, “What is my heart calling for?” And then do your best to offer what your heart most desires to yourself. 

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Nourish Your Heart - Rose Geranium Meditation

This is a full-body meditation, drawing your breath and the essence of self-love, self-compassion, and self-care from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.

Length: 13 minutes of peace & love

Instructions:

Get comfortable in a seated position or lying down. As you listen, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and find your own flow.

This meditation is best paired with rose geranium essential oil, or any other essential oil of the heart, like rose, rosewood, neroli, geranium, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, palmarosa, or chamomile. 

My favorite way to do this meditation is to put one of these heart-centered oils in your diffuser, allowing its scent and essence to envelop you as you listen, tune into your body, and breathe deeply.

You may also put a drop of rose geranium (or another heart oil) on the bottoms of your feet, your wrists, or your temples, or you can simply put the oil in its bottle up to your nose and breathe in. 

Create a Ritual with ASHLEY ASTI oils:

Lastly, if you want to create a ritual of self-love with this meditation, listen to the meditation after applying the Neroli & Rose Body Oil, Warrioress Breast Oil, or misting your face with the Green Tea or Neroli Face Mists. The Luminous Woman, Nourished Woman, Wise Woman, and Peaceful Woman Face Oils also provide a soothing, nourishing complement to this meditation, as they all contain essential oils that support and balance your heart chakra.

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Valentine's Day + What's In My Diffuser

As I work, writing and connecting with many of you through email today, I wanted to honor the energy of self-love, compassion, and divine femininity. 

I use essential oils daily on my skin, but I also like to breathe them in, delighting in their aroma and basking in their nourishing and healing frequencies through my essential oil diffuser. 

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, I’ve put a special blend of oils in my diffuser: organic neroli, frankincense, blue chamomile, lavender, and rose geranium.

Essential oils have the power to influence us mind, body, and spirit. Here’s why I’ve chosen this blend. I welcome you to try it on your own, in a diffuser or by placing a drop or two on your pillow or bedsheets tonight. You may select all or just one or two of the oils that most resonate with you:

Rose Geranium

Rose Geranium is an oil of the heart, bringing the essence of self-love and self-care. Whether you wear it on your skin or diffuse it into the air, its energy helps shift you into a heart-centered place, innately reminding you to act from your heart, not just your head. Rose geranium’s essence can also move you into a space of uplift when there’s sadness or disappointment, or peace when there’s worry. 

Frankincense

Frankincense nourishes your spirituality and enhances your insight and intuition. Even our ancestors, our sister creators of long ago, called upon frankincense to remove negative influences in the body, aura, and surrounding environment. It also fuels the fire of your solar plexus, bringing that strong and bold energy of confidence. I wanted today to be a day of strength, of moving into my purpose and into love more fully. 

Blue Chamomile

When I put a drop of blue chamomile up against my nose, I feel peace on a personal and global level. In color theory, its blue color balances the heat, intensity, anger, and aggression of red. Light blue, the color of the blue chamomile oil, is linked with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness. It is a color of peace, of flowing oceans, of wisdom, confidence, faith, and the heavens. 

In the language of chakras, blue opens you to communication, self-expression, self-truth. My wish, when I wear or diffuse this oil, is that I’m supported in knowing and fully expressing who I am and what gifts I bring.

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most cleansing essential oils—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I wanted to use today to support me in releasing what no longer serves me. Lavender honors our bodies and spirits by helping us release tension. And for those who may be struggling with past trauma, its essence also offers freedom from shame and uplift in moments of sadness. 

Neroli

I associate neroli with shakti energy—that divine, feminine, creative energy. It is deeply sensual, soothing, and has the energy of fertility. I wanted neroli to signal for me the energy of loving fully, especially of loving myself, and being fertile in spirit—when you use it, may your intuition be nurtured and fed by this divine feminine oil, allowing you to bloom! Neroli also supports us in alleviating exhaustion, restoring our vital reserves and leaving room for self-nourishment. 

 

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When Self-Care Meets Spiritual Practice

Before I created my skincare line, I did lots of research: I explored each oil, I studied mind-body-spirit integration and holistic nutrition because what we put on our bodies and in our bodies mutually affects us on physical and energetic levels. I researched and experimented, starting with myself, and gradually extended the circle of willing participants to my family and friends. But, now, when I create a new product or a custom oil, I rely mostly on that small voice within me, the intuitive guide that resides in my body and connects me to source. I listen to my body as I smell each aroma and take in the energetic essence of each essential oil and I’m guided by this one question: how does this oil or combination of oils make me feel? 

I believe the best work we do is channeled, inspired. It moves through us and connects us to our original purpose, why we are here. 

When I created this line, I used deeply spiritual language to describe it: I spoke about the essence of the feminine and the goddess. About our skin being the medium through which we experience the world and how that made caring for our skin an intimate and urgent need. About being embodied and valuing the transcendence the body makes possible. Because our spirituality or our consciousness is rooted in our bodies. It does not end there, of course, but it resides there, it finds its footing. We commune with each other and the world through our bodies and when we dance and sing and move, our bodies become an expression of our souls. 

And I am writing this today because I want to return there, to that place of describing skin nourishment as a spiritual practice. As part of a ritual of self-love and celebration. 

Because, to me, my skincare line feels homeless when it’s not rooted in the deeper poetry of heart and soul and body. It feels uprooted, and I cannot serve you—body or spirit—without two feet firmly on the ground. Without feeling grounded in the richness of our ancestors, our earth, and the wisdom of the whole: body, mind, and soul are all integrated. 

As many of you know, I have a pen pal, Britney, who is incarcerated in Texas. As she does most weeks, she sent me a prayer the other day and, on the bottom, included a quote: “Don’t forget in darkness what God told you in the light.” This is my remembrance, a return to what lights me up.

Let’s reclaim the light together, the light of our bodies and beings. Because you are so worthy of this love and nourishment; may you shower it upon yourself with absolute freedom. And may you delight in tending to your body because pleasure is your birthright. 

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The Truth About Aluminum in Your Deodorant

Aluminum is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimers, yet it's found in almost every deodorant and antiperspirant at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Here's what you need to know about it and how to avoid it—in under 1 minute.

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When the Earth's Pain Becomes Heart Pain

This morning, feeling an impenetrable sadness, I decided to write a letter to it to set it free.

Dear sadness,

What destroys me most is the way we treat each other and the earth. It’s as if we’re anti-life, the destruction of our home—our living, breathing earth—is so great. Why can’t we remember that this one earth is all we’ve got: when we destroy it, we’re never getting it back. I cannot fathom this stupidity, because that’s what it is: blindness, deafness. It is unthinking, unfeeling. We are so disconnected from source that we cannot see that we are sealing our own destruction. When we steal from the earth, we steal from ourselves: another drop of liveliness, of vitality and health gone.

Our lives are at stake and we’re plowing ahead for profits, I guess. Does no one realize that this is a betrayal of our profits, a pillaging of our treasure? Instead, what we’ve created—and continue to blindly sow—is the greatest act of mass fratricide.

We’re killing our brothers and our sisters and our mother, Earth, too.

 

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Conversations with Friends: Denise Correll

I recently sat down with Denise Correll, a kind-hearted friend and founder of The Grateful Messenger, who always leads with compassion and humor. I’ve edited our conversation down to this, a homily on what to do in the face of fear. 

 

My conversation with Denise opened with a sense of mutual seeking: do you feel what I’m feeling? 

 A few minutes in and several “mmhm’s” and “yeses” later, I said, “I feel like you’re confirming so many things, and as much as they’re hard and challenging, it also makes me feel better: someone else understands, someone else feels this! And I’m not crazy.” 

“Yeah,” she laughed. “It’s definitely the ‘I’m not crazy’ place.”

* 

There seemed no other place to begin, so I began our interview with the collective state of things: how are you feeling about the world right now?

She started her reply with the answer, with what’s at the root of the change we’re seeking: unity. “I think we’re trying to find each other,” she said. “We’re trying to find like-minded folks to get through this turmoil, but also to enjoy being here on the planet.” Change begins when unity rises from diversity and marches forward with the flag of love. 

The problem is that fear blocks out the light; fear walls us off from love. And we cannot come together positively if we’re acting from fear: “Everything’s so fear-based now,” she added. “And,” she paused to consider her next thought, “I hope this comes out right: I don’t . . . have the patience to spend time with people who are staying in the dark, fear-based place. I just don’t have the energy for it anymore.” 

She’s right. She didn’t say that out of harshness or antagonism, but truth. She was speaking the tenets of change, anticipating the playbook for collective action. No, we cannot afford to cede our optimism, our hope. This does not mean that we must falsely assume the journey is easy or that what’s ahead is not challenging or dark or uncertain—there is no blindness in this—but we must retain our resilience. It is our greatest asset.  

Still, there seems to be, at times, an unmitigated gulf between us which may leave us gasping for reprieve: how do we deal with this? How do we hope? “I think the polarity between dark and light is so extreme right now,” she said before feeding me the answer: “There’s something bigger at play now.”

Yes, that “something bigger” is where our resilience lies, where our trust finds its source. It’s when the battle feels so very large and consuming, when our anger and our sadness are at all-time highs, collectively, that we must know our own power: that we are on the precipice of change if only we become that change. Let us not grow weary in doing good. For in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

“I don’t know how we’re going to break through this,” she told me, “but I have the utmost faith that we are. . . . There’s a revived passion that I truly, in my heart-of-hearts, feel is the shift we’ve all been anticipating and waiting for.”

Yes, may faith be our mantra and may this knowingness—this knowingness from a place deep within our guts that we cannot see, only feel with the guiding force of intuition—lead us. 

And, like Denise, may we lead with love and with humor. Hard times require kindness, faith, and laughter. 

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Your Body Knows How You Feel

After I create each custom oil, I send the recipient a note describing her oil and how I created it with love to nourish her skin and spirit. I'm very lucky that, for a few days as I create each custom oil, I get to bask in her individual energy, reading her words about her own journey and her body. So, at the end of each note, I thank her for letting me spend time with her spirit and tell her what I wish for her, from my heart.

Here's one of those notes.

What I wish for you:

When you open the bottle and take in this oil’s fragrance and its energy, or you put a drop of two on your fingers and bring it up to your nose to apply to your skin, may you know how loved you are and how worthy you are of your own love. You are enough, you are beautiful and, in every moment, your higher self is there—grounded, peaceful, and connected to your heart.

Each custom oil I make is a surprise—not only to the woman who receives it but to me. I never quite know exactly what it’ll be until I create it. I loved this oil so much that I made extra for myself. So, on a personal note, I wanted to share with you that I connected to what you wrote about feeling out of balance emotionally, getting your hormone levels checked, and feeling at a loss. I have experienced the same thing and my skin broke out in rages. I got my hormone levels checked, changed my diet many, many times, did cleanses, etc. What I’ve learned about myself through all of this and about our magical bodies is that they listen. There are receptors throughout our entire bodies that literally create different chemical reactions based on our emotions. When we’re sad, they respond differently than when we’re joyous, let’s say. Our bodies are the signals to what’s going on in our emotional and spiritual lives. 

Telling you that, alone, is not the answer. It doesn’t magically make you feel calm or lift your very real stress or sadness. You are likely feeling all of those things for a very good reason. Just know that what you’re experiencing is actually as natural as it can get: your body is responding to you, uniquely. And know that you’re not alone on this journey. 

Sending you lots of love,

Ashley

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