Blog / Women's rights

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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You are already carrying everything you need . . .

Tonight, I received a custom oil request from a strong, spiritual, and intuitive woman. My goal, when I create these custom oils, is to create something that serves the skin and the soul, and so I ask each custom oil recipient to share the story of both her skin and her spirit.

Tonight’s recipient spoke of her heart: “I am having a hard time balancing opening up/being vulnerable with fears and anxieties about not being good enough, not accepting where I am at.” As I continued with her words, I found myself pulled in by a story of survival and endurance—she has survived and endured sexual assault and loss, with her story spiraling—“rippling” was the word she used—into tales of heartache and grief. 

So many of us have been there. Trauma of all kinds. Heartbreak. Fear. Doubt. So, when I read her words, I literally cried. 

I cried not because there’s sadness around what she speaks of, but because I felt her. Because she spoke so clearly and honestly and authentically, and because she trusted me with her heart and her story. And that last thing—the trust she placed in me by asking me to carry her spirit, even for just a moment as I consider her soul and her skin—was a tremendous gift to me.

Yes, sisters, I cried because I feel so blessed to be entrusted with the opportunity to hold her story in all its preciousness. I cried because now I get to learn what it’s like to hold out my hand and carry her spirit. Because now I get to know the responsibility of caring for someone else’s essence with love and gentleness and with the respect and safety it deserves. I feel there is no higher blessing for me, no greater calling. If this alone, the act of carrying with love, is all I do and all I learn, it is enough. 

And, so, what I want to say to her, whose name I will keep close to my heart, is thank you. Thank you not only for your trust in me but, through telling your story, for reminding me what a strong woman sounds like. A strong woman is not without obstacles or valleys; she is a woman who, when faced with challenges, opens up more. Who shares her story fearlessly, and who speaks in the language of love. You are so worthy, dear sister, of the inner ecstasy of finding joy in one’s own company, of feeling safe and strong in your body, and of your own self-care. 

May you be nourished. May you be free. May you blossom.

Photo Credit: Repeal Hyde Art Project

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The True Cost of Fast Fashion

 

The fashion industry is the world's second most polluting industry after oil, responsible for 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The fast fashion industry (think cheap, short-lasting, and synthetic fiber) is the biggest polluter of freshwater on the planet; is responsible for the destruction of 70 million trees every year, which are turned into fabrics like rayon; and accounts for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of worldwide insecticide use. 

Pesticide and insecticide use has been linked to an unmistakable rise in farmer deaths, neurological disabilities in children living along polluted waters (like the Ganges in India), and egregious violations of human rights and women's rights (80% of garment workers are women, many of whom are not paid a living wage or guaranteed safe working conditions). 

And, as we know when it comes to skincare, our skin is our largest organ. Cotton doused in pesticides, insecticides, and toxic dyes not only pollutes our earth, the source of all our food, but once it's turned into clothing and sits daily on our skin, it pollutes our bodies.

This is not ok. We need to start investing in high-quality, long-lasting clothing, instead of cheap throw-aways. And we need to hold our designers and retailers responsible: vote with your dollar, choosing companies that support a fair wage for workers (including children), safe working conditions, and a healthy planet.

To learn more, watch The True Cost movie (now streaming on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video).

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Beauty is not the shape or size of your body | Ashley Asti

Recently, I’ve been conversing with a woman with a beautiful spirit—she is a 26-year-old mother of two who is serving a seven-year sentence in prison in Texas. We’ve been writing letters to each other and her words are a constant reminder of our shared humanity. At 26, she is my age, only distanced by circumstance. Often, I imagine if I had grown up as she did without a sense of community, belonging, or opportunity—would my life look like hers?

The other day, she wrote to me with a thoughtful question: “What do you think?” she wrote, “Extreme beauty, personality or intelligence, which one do you feel will get you the furthest in life?” 

I wrote back,

“What a powerful question. For me, a beautiful person is someone who is authentic, who lives courageously as who they are. Who is honest, loving, and supportive. In that sense, a beautiful person will go far in fulfilling her potential in life. Intelligence is also very important and there are all types of intelligence, not just book smart. Intelligence also means trusting your gut, your intuition. It means a person who takes good care of themselves and their community. A person who leads with heart, not just head. We need beautiful, intelligent people in this world.”

Indeed, what I wanted her to know—and the reason I embarked on this quest to connect with her—was that we deserve to feel loved and accepted as we are. And the more we are ourselves, the more beautiful we are. Beauty does come from within.

---

The more I embrace this journey—the more I get to converse with women and men who are interested in compassionate skincare, healing, earth care, self care, and overcoming past pain—the more I want to share what I learn from them. 

When I share my skincare line, I am inspired by so many people who bring new perspective to my work, who generously tell me how it feels to apply the oils and creams to their bodies, who open up about their stories of struggling against or embracing their bodies; of activism for the earth and what they’ve learned; of violence perpetrated against their sacred bodies and their journey to rediscover safety and peace. I created a compassionate (vegan) skincare line and have discovered, through my customers, why that really matters. I have learned about world peace and peace in our homes and our hearts. About pesticides on strawberries, about the sweetest spots for organic food and the best small farms and nature’s hideaways to visit. I’ve been blessed with community.

And it is this community that has taught me that beauty has nothing to do with the evenness of your skin tone, the shape or size of your body, the lines of wisdom that may grace your skin. 

This cannot be overstated. 

Because, through this community, I’ve also heard far too many stories that sound similar: en masse, we are experiencing a deep unease with our bodies, a sense of uncomfortableness and even shame about what our bodies look like, how they change, support life, grow wise. As the founder of a company in an industry that has, for so long, been troublingly intertwined with artifice and unrealistic, even false, images of beauty, it is my responsibility to listen to each of these stories, each of these journeys, and to support the speakers in being seen and heard.

I hear you.

I see you as you are.

And I accept you, totally. Unabashedly. You deserve to be loved as you are.

To honor the community that has created itself around me, offering me love and support, wisdom, and inspiration, I’ve changed the names of my face oils to reflect what I believe true beauty is: individuals who embody peace, wisdom, gentleness, and the fullness of pleasure.

The formulas remain the same, but their intentions shift. When you apply each oil, may you embody their new titles and much more. May you know that beauty is found in the way we live our lives.

Live courageously, peacefully, compassionately—beautifully.

With gratitude, always,

Ashley

Name Change Key

Avocado Everything Oil is now Nourished Woman Face Oil

Blue Chamomile Everything Oil is now Peaceful Woman Face Oil

Neroli & Rose Everything Oil is now Wise Woman Face Oil

Men’s Ultimate Face Oil is now Gentle Man Face Oil

 

Note on GIVING BACK

I “adopted” my pen pal through an organization called Adopt an Inmate. Their mission is to change and heal the prison system, beginning with seeing prisoners as the human beings they are.

$1 of every sale of our face oils goes to them. 

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Violence: We're Taking a Stand

 

Yesterday, I commented in a Facebook post on Donald Trump’s language, suggesting that as he eggs on his supporters’ violence, offering to pay the legal fees of those who commit crimes against protesters, and he spews, almost daily, his own threats of violence against an ever-growing list—from Clinton to Mexicans to the families of terrorists, he embodies something that is not only un-presidential, but dangerous.

 

“Someone needs to say that violence is wrong,” I wrote. “That violence doesn’t unite us, uplift us, protect us. Violence is destructive and ingrains its destructiveness into all of us.” 

 

I had been afraid to “get political” on my skincare line’s website or professional social media pages, but I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. In fact, I wanted to be clear, this is not a partisan issue. My statement on Trump was a mere example of the global pervasiveness of violence, examples which, sadly, we have a dizzying amount to choose from each day. 

 

“But this is not about Trump (or just about Trump),” I added, getting ready to lay out my larger, nonpartisan vision. “He simply provides one of an uncountable number of examples. . . . What we need to see is how violence preceded (and will succeed) Trump—it has infiltrated and pervaded our world for far too long . . . We must seek an end to violence’s ubiquity and we can do that only by peaceful means.”

 

After posting my comments on my business’s social media pages, I was excited: these were the conversations I wanted to be having. But there was still a momentary, lingering doubt: should I have mixed business with politics? Should I have mixed something so seemingly light and uncomplicated as organic skincare with the violence that permeates our world? 

 

And then it hit me: how could I not? 

 

I say that my skincare line is rooted in wellness, sustainability, and deep self-care. In other words, its mission is to spread compassion toward the earth and all the creatures that live upon it by insisting, over and over again, that we are one. Its mission is to lift everyone to the highest levels of health and wellbeing possible, because that is our birthright. And, finally, its mission to ensure that we feel loved, cared for, and supported. In other words, our mission is peace.  

 

Suddenly, it became clear to me: I had wanted to stay out of the fray, to exist above the gritty conversations about violence, about racial, gender, and sexual divides. About women’s rights, prisoners’ rights, corporate insolence that’s leading to the earth’s destruction. I had thought that my skincare line’s mission would be purer, clearer, if I avoided the truth of what’s surrounding us. I thought I should avoid the touchy political divides, the ones so hotly contested and debated on mainstream media’s airwaves that they build animosity and have led us to sayings about never discussing politics at dinner parties.

 

But this is not politics. This is deeper than that. On my website, I write, “We will change the world through wellness—body, mind, and spirit.” But there cannot be wellness without peace. There cannot be wellness without equal rights. There cannot be wellness when sexual violence has become inextricable with war and when it’s invading our homes to the point where one in three women globally experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner: how can there be peace if women—and men, who, though less frequently, still notably and unacceptably experience this same violence—do not feel safe? 

 

I also know that discussing this, getting into these grittier, nuanced conversations, animates me. There is no joy in the violence that erupts across our globe, including in our own homes, but there is passion: I am passionate that this is not ok. I’m impassioned because I believe we can and must change this. I feel passionate that the simple act of writing about what I see, what I hear, what I read is part of my purpose.

 

I set out to create my skincare line because I believed in change: I’ve always wanted it to be more than products, to be about a mission, an ethic. I wanted it to uplift those who used it or encountered it. I wanted it to be a medium for my voice and the voices of those around the globe who deserve to be heard. I wanted it to be a movement.

 

I make no promises of what will come next, because I do not know. But I ask you to join me in these conversations. I want to know what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, what matters to you. I want you to help me tap into another perspective, to make me think. I want to be surprised and continually utter, “I hadn’t thought of that before!”

 

And we have the power to move the conversation from the pages of ASHLEY ASTI to our everyday lives, to bring the discussions to our friends. To show that friendship runs deep, to show that friendship means getting vulnerable, opening up about everything we’re hesitant to talk about. Friendship is about creating a safe space to be heard.

 

Talking can be a revolutionary act. Will you join me?

 

Email me at byashleyasti@gmail.com with what matters to you.

 

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Lessons in Motherhood from Mother Earth


Vicki cuddling with her son at one month.

“I often describe what I do as caring for the hearts and spirits of mamas, which absolutely includes Mama Earth,” Vicki Rivard told me over a recent email. Vicki is a mama, earth warrior, healer, advocate, and writer whose work honors women: their voices, their courage, their strength, their pain, their wellness. It seems she has stepped outside of time and reached the universal spirit of the feminine, offering wisdom that is as deep, expansive, and compassionate as it is relevant and applicable. 

The following is an interview I asked her to join me in where she merges her experiences with Mama Earth and motherhood, calling on our mystical earth to guide her own journey with her son.

Q: What was your mother like when you were a child? Are you like her?

A: When I think of my mom, these are the first words that come to mind: Simplicity. Finding joy in the small things. Appreciation for nature and her gifts (like rainbows - my mom loves rainbows). Strength. Generosity. And an attitude of, "don't sweat the small stuff - and it's all small stuff."

Growing up, I always thought my mom and I were very different - she liked numbers, I liked words; she liked Math, I liked English; she wanted to travel in Canada, I dreamt of traveling abroad - but, now that I'm older (and, especially, now that I'm a mother myself), I see that we are more alike than I realized. (I, too, run outside every time there is a rainbow.)

Q: You told me, “I believe that in order to heal the world, we must heal ourselves and that in order to heal ourselves, we must heal the world. What has your own experience of creating and sustaining life taught you about the earth’s role as mother and creator?

A: The Earth is our Mother, period. She gives and gives and gives and keeps on giving, asking for very little in return. She gives us air to breathe and water to drink and plants to nourish and sustain us. She keeps us alive. But she cannot keep giving forever, without her resources being replenished. 

Like the human mother who gives without question or hesitation, she can give until she is in a state of total depletion. She (the human mother and the Earth Mother) needs to be cared for, too. She needs to feel loved, too. She is more than happy to give - she takes great pleasure in giving - but she needs to rest, sometimes, too.  

Q: Maya Angelou says love doesn’t possess, it doesn’t cling. Love says, ‘I want to be near you, I want to hold you, to touch you, but, wherever you are, I love you.' To your child, you wrote: “I pray that . . . you remember that I am your mother and that, for a short time, your tiny heart beat inside my body, filling me up with the most radiant light, and we were magic together.” What have pregnancy and motherhood taught you about possession—about holding on and letting go?

A: I didn't understood the real meaning of letting go until I was pregnant, gave birth to my son, and became a mom. I mean, I understood the meaning, in heart and mind, but now I understand it in my body. The understanding has stitched itself into my bones.

The whole process of pregnancy is about letting go - letting go of expectation, of worry, of fear and, most importantly, of control. As women, we can eat well and exercise well and do all of the "right things" but we cannot control whether or not we will conceive in a given month, we cannot control whether or not our growing baby is growing as he/she should and developing well, we cannot control when our contractions will start and labour will begin, we cannot control anything! We simply must care for ourselves, as best as we can, and trust in the unseen forces of this world - call it God, call it Magic, call it Universal Wisdom - to help us conceive and grow and eventually birth a tiny human. It's wild!

The process of labour itself is a whole other kind of letting go - a very, very physical kind. I actually called my contractions "expansions" because the word contraction makes me tighten up, while the word expansion encourages me to open, open, open and let it all go, which is what giving birth is all about.

And then there's actual motherhood, which is a continual exercise in letting go. Every day, every week, we reach new milestones and I have to let go a little more.  When baby starts sleeping a bit more and nursing a bit less, there is a letting go. When baby outgrows newborn clothes, there is a letting go. When baby transitions from co-sleeping to crib sleeping, there is a letting go. When baby starts eating solids, at around six months of age, and his poop changes, there is a letting go. It is never ending. I feel like I am in a constant state of mourning and rejoicing; of sadness and celebration. Motherhood is heartbreaking and heart-building at the exact same time.

Q: What is spirit?

(One of my favorite quotes on spirit is from theologist and earth warrior Elizabeth Johnson: “Spirit is the life that gives life. She is radiant life energy that, like wind, fire, and water, awakens and enlivens all things. . . . When things become damaged, the power to refresh them pours out from her.”)

A: I would absolutely agree with Ms. Johnson: Spirit is the life that gives life. 

I would add that she is the radiant life energy that never dies. Einstein proved that energy cannot die, it can only be transformed. To me, Spirit is that force that is always present, within us and without us, continually transforming the in-breath into the out-breath, the oak kernel into the oak tree, the collision of sperm and egg into the baby, the living body into the empty vessel. She is the consistent in a world of inconsistencies; the always there; the thing you feel when you are completely alone and, yet, not alone at all. 

Q: Finish the sentence:

I am an advocate for . . . Mama Earth. Women. Animals. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other natural paths to healing. PEACE.

I feel reverence for . . . the tiny, blue, water-marble floating in space that we call "home."

My body is . . . my soul home, for now. My body is also a lifemaker and lifegiver. She is very, very strong.

I feel a sense of urgency about . . . Whale and dolphin captivity. It needs to stop. 

I wish . . . that "success" was measured by how much love we give and how kind we are and how purposefully we live our lives, rather than by how much money we earn. The most successful people I know are those who earn very little money (and, as such, are not seen as successful by society at large) but who give of their time, their energy, their heart to causes that deeply matter to them - and who change the world by doing so. 

Our birthright is . . . love. 

Peace on earth is . . . choosing love over fear, again and again and again and again.

Motherhood is . . . everything. It is, simply, EVERYTHING. The most intense love, the most mind-numbing exhaustion, the most irrational fear, the most radiant joy, the most acute loneliness, the most extraordinary sisterhood. It is everything. It is the greatest adventure of my life. 

I, without a doubt, believe in . . . God.

Note: Vicki is currently in the process of launching her own healing practice called Mahina Medicine, which is geared toward the wellness of women, with a special focus on mothers. Mahina is one of the names of the Hawaiian Moon Goddess. And the Moon, as we know, has long been a symbol for womanhood and all of its cycles. Her goal, with this practice, is to offer a safe space for women to connect with their inner voice, to let go of shame, to rediscover courage, to forgive themselves, to heal their hearts, to reclaim their health, and to let their (moon)light shine, shine, shine.

Connect with Vicki on her blog: http://www.thewellnessway.blogspot.com

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The Holistic Healing Movement for Survivors of Domestic Violence

 

                                   *Art work by Molly Boeder Harris

 

I had the honor of interviewing Molly Boeder Harris, the founder of The Breathe Network and a survivor of sexual assault, and Tara Tonini, a Program Director at Exhale to Inhale and a survivor of intimate partner violence. As leaders in the anti-violence movement, these women are courageous reminders of the power of speaking our truth, telling our stories, and uniting with other survivors and allies.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 3 women in the US have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Every 9 seconds in the USA, a woman is assaulted or beaten.

Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.

More than 3 women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

And domestic violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness for families.

We must do more to support survivors, who are our sisters and brothers, friends, and daughters. And we must end this cycle. 

In this interview, Molly and Tara talk about the power of using trauma-informed, holistic healing modalities to support and empower survivors in ways that make them feel safe, heard, and whole.

I invite each of you to join us in the conversation, sharing your own stories or voices via Facebook, email, and Twitter (tweet me @ashley_asti).

Today's Guests

Molly Boeder Harris is the Founder and Executive Director of The Breathe Network, a nonprofit that connects survivors of sexual violence with sliding-scale, trauma-informed, holistic healing arts practitioners across the country. 

You can connect with Molly via thebreathenetwork.org or mollyboederharris.com.

Tweet Molly @MollyBoHa

Tara Tonini is a Program Director at Exhale to Inhale, a nonprofit that empowers survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through the grounding and healing practice of yoga. 

You can connect with Tara via exhaletoinhale.org or taratonini.com

Tweet Tara @exhale2inhale

Listen to the interview:

 

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