A photo of a Tibetan Buddhist nun and myself in the kora, or surrounding path, of the Dalai Lama's Temple in Dharmsala, India circa 2016.
The first blog article I am sharing in my new newsletter - The Moon Drop - I share with you a little about how I became a therapist and why I do what I do. I offer this with the intention that you may get to know me and understand where I am coming from as a person and in my profession as a psychotherapist.
I’ll take you right back to the beginning. Ever since I was a child, I loved to listen. You could find me at the ‘listening station’ in elementary school with a big puffy pair of 1980’s headphones listening to whatever sounds were on offer. During that same time in my life, for one whole year, while all the other kids got to change desks and rotate peers in our second grade class, I was assigned to sit beside the kid who had so much energy that he was disruptive because, according to teacher “he is calmer when he is around you.” I have been told many times in my life that I bring a sense of calm and I believe this is useful in my work of being in therapeutic process with clients.
Later in life, a psychologist tipped me off that I am a Highly Sensitive Person, someone who feels and perceives reality almost in technicolour, a quality that lends itself very well to my profession where I can sense a lot in a heightened way. All this, coupled with my desire and ability to go deep and be present with others made me, I think, a good candidate to work as a psychotherapist and incorporate my natural abilities into my professional life. Lastly, I tend to see people as countries, as places to explore and get to know on their own terms. When we visit a country we open our minds and hearts to what is there, learn the customs, stay open so that we can learn something and ultimately be expanded, cultured from this experience. This way of seeing people helps me to be present with others, curious and very interested.
In my mid-teens I naturally came upon the tradition of Buddhism and the more I learned, the thirstier I was to learn more. This unquenchable quest led me to complete my B.A. Honours in The History and Philosophy of Asian Religions and led me to a Master’s degree. My studies in Buddhism have introduced me to Meditation and Yoga and I began practicing both in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, eventually becoming a certified yoga teacher after eleven years of dedicated practice. I also spent time in Buddhist monasteries in the Laurentians in Canada, and in the redwood forests of California where I spent four months learning every day from monks, nuns and Lamas while trying to complete my thesis, which I did not finish. Instead I created an eco-fashion company of one-of-a-kind designs and went to fashion school. I incorporated Tibetan Buddhist chanting into my runway shows and Tibetan prayer flags into the garments. Essentially, I was wishing to convey through my colourful creative designs the spirit of nature, and the play of joy and luminosity through my designs.
A photo of one of my one-of-a-kind hand painted and hand made designs crafted with second hand / up cycled materials.
While teaching Yoga privately a client of mine suggested I book a session with his astrologer who promptly informed me that I was a natural therapist and also confirming that India, which was the country I had wanted to travel to since I was 18 years old was a place for great healing and learning for me, and I promptly went for 4 months, having one of the most important and blessed times of my life, studying Yoga in Goa and Mysore and then living in close proximity to the Dalai Lama’s temple.
Shortly after I returned to Canada, I moved to Toronto and began my studies as a psychotherapist while continuing to teach Yoga and haven’t looked back. As my path continued and I felt there was something more to add to my tool belt, a new teacher came into my life who just so happened to incorporate into her teachings the various fields that I had been studying for the last twenty or so years: energy medicine, Buddhism, and Transpersonal Psychology. She also held the keys to one very important field: Applied Shamanism which I have now been studying in depth for the last 4 years. Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings suffer and that humans in particular suffer due to three things: desire (or grasping), aversion (not wanting something) and misconception (understanding things through an unclear lens). Through my work in Applied Shamanism, I have been able to apply this way of understanding suffering into my work with my clients and it has enriched my life and my practice in a myriad of ways. Applied Shamanism and another modality called Depth Hypnosis developed by the same teacher, Dr. Isa Gucciardi, do the work of connecting people to their very own alignment, to the Wise part of themselves so that they may heal and re-pattern their own patterns of suffering with a little guidance from a facilitator.
Over the course of the pandemic I have completed several certificates through the Foundation of the Sacred Stream, a school for Consciousness Studies in Berkeley, California. Those certificates are: Advanced Depth Hypnosis Practitioner, Advanced Applied Shamanic Practitioner as well as a Certificate in Advanced Plant Medicine. These teachings have vastly enriched my life and I continue to share them in my practice with clients who connect with them.
While my studies and journeys certainly may appear to be outside the box to many, all in all my journeys to Buddhist monasteries, India, California for studies in Shamanism and more have taught me that when you follow your Heart it puts you on a kind of a track where others may not fully understand what you are doing, and you might not even logically understand what you are doing and yet there is something in your being that knows what you are doing. When you follow this feeling, or this knowing, it puts you right on to the cresting wave of the present moment so that you may live your most vibrant life and, I believe, ultimately be of service to others - it’s uncanny. A reminder to follow your heart, to leap and the net shall appear.
I hope that is piece of writing gives you a window into who I am, my journey so far and how I came to do what I do. It is a privilege and an honour to be witness to your sacred story and to walk alongside you as you journey home to your Self. Blessings all ways, Ashley.