Ash Johns answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


Oh, that's such a great question, Phil, thanks for inviting me to share this story. So the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for me, and with me, was believe me, was believe what I was experiencing, what I was expressing, and the perspective in which I was coming from and experiencing what I was experiencing. So to give an actual story of when this happened — because it has happened more than once, I'm grateful for that — is I was co-facilitating a retreat for women in Mexico. It was a retreat really designed to unlock your creativity and bring you back into our ability to create things, through our spirit, through our soul, through our dreams, and our imagination. And it was amazing because we had all these women from different walks of life there, those who were of Mexican descent of Latin origin or ethnicity, myself being Black American, those who identified as white, it was just a bunch of different kinds of women coming together, all for the sake of spirituality, creativity, gathering, and a nice little weekend long retreat.

And so as we got to the lands in Tulum, Mexico, we settled into this beautiful property, I mean, it's just so incredible. It's in the jungle, there's no straight lines, everything is curvy, and just, there's literally footpaths that they put concrete or cement down, but it goes around a tree or around a plant, so that just honors the natural foliage and the energy of the place, which I really appreciated. The pools were all this beautiful aqua blue, and they had co-accommodations, which was kind of like dorm life that they call the beehive, where you kind of come together... and just a well-thought out retreat space.

And as we all got to the retreat space and started unpacking and getting to know each other and getting ready for the activities ahead of time, there was this weird energy that kept popping up for me. And I kept being like, Maybe that's just me, I'm just pushing it out of my mind, we're just getting here, but it just kept showing itself every time I came in contact with any of the... not facilitators, but the actual managers of the property. And I just kept brushing it away like, Oh, I'm not so fluent with my Spanish, maybe that's what's going on. But it just kept rubbing me wrong. And as we went across the days, I would go to the office to ask for different things that we needed for the retreat. We need extra blankets. Where are the bolsters? Who do we call for the taxis? We got some people who are leaving behind... just the little details of managing any type of retreat or hotel or excursion. And every single time I kept being met with this cold, hard disregarding, unattentive response from the property managers.

And I just started to get very frustrated and my spirit started to become very unsettled and disheartened, realizing that I was experiencing racism, realizing that bringing all these different walks of life together to connect with creativity and spirit and soul was in a place that actually wasn't. The people who were managing the place... even though the place had all of this amazing ancestral and beautiful jungle energy and the spirits of the land, we're excited that we were there... the managers of that facility were not on the same page and clearly had a different point of view and how they dealt with people of color.

And so I kept being like, Well, how am I going to navigate this? Because I'm partially responsible for holding space and energy and spirit for all these other women, yet I'm being hurt. I'm definitely being hurt. I kept thinking like, that's all right, we've experienced different things in life, this is not the first time, it won't be the last, let me just stay strong and move forward. Until we finished a session and activity, and another participant and I decided to go and get fresh coffees from the dining space. And when we got there, I asked for, I believe it was like a cappuccino or a latte or something, and the cafecita or the bartender, barista, that's the word I want to use, the barista. I was like, okay. But then again, she just directed her attention to the participant that was with me, who was also white of Jewish descent. And she's like, "Well, what do you want?" And she kind of just disregarded what I asked for and went straight to the other woman. And the other woman looked at me, and I said, "Do you see, I've been kind of talking about this." She's like, "Yeah, I see." And so that participant redirected the barista back to me and said, "Did you actually get what she asked for? Why are you treating her this way?" And I was saying, I was the one who was trying to be like, "Yeah, I'm not crazy, thanks, you believe me. I'm not weird here. This is an actual truth."

And through by having this white woman be an ally in that moment, I could feel the spirit of what was going on within me and in the interaction, she just completely came and was like, "No, you're not crazy, this is actually happening. This person just treated you differently and then turned to me as if it was going to be okay in front of me." So the barista decided to not make me a latte, but decided to instead, just give me a regular cup of coffee, and so then the participant was like, "This is not okay. And like, what's going on?" And I'm like, okay, we're really getting into it... and had to address it, address it with the actual owners of the retreat that I was co-facilitating and the manager. And once we spoke up about it, other participants on the retreat said that they had been feeling some similar things.

And it was just a moment of being like, wow, not only was it important for me to believe myself, but to have someone witness it and to feel me and to advocate is something that was very interesting. There were tears that came to my eyes when I thought about what would have happened if I stayed silent or if I didn't invite her to come with me to get coffee. And the ways that other people, not just myself would have been affected, and just how, again, kind it was for her to say, your feelings and what's happening matters to me as if it's happening to me myself, or to her herself.

It was a very, I don't know if we ever have those cultural experiences or wounds come to life in like sacred spaces. And if they do, which I know they do happen, do we ever give it space to be talked about or witnessed or healed or addressed? And that was a very kind moment; it was very healing for all of us. Well, maybe not the barista and the managers, but definitely for me and those who were participating on the retreat.

Ash Johns is a certified spiritual life coach, conscious business strategist, ancestral healer, speaker, creator of Spiritual BSchool, a community-focused program designed to help soul-seekers and visionary entrepreneurs do business better and in alignment with their soul's purpose. She is also the founder of Ancestral Healing Space, a community-serving platform living at the intersection of spiritual reclamation and social justice.

Serving as a bridge between humans and Spirit, Ash supports those on their journey of discovering (and living) their unique path to freedom while healing what she believes is our greatest recurring trauma as humans — surviving. Her work marries an extensive spiritual practice of ancestral healing with business savvy that guides entrepreneurs to realize their full potential and bring their conscious businesses into creation.

Her innovative and thought-provoking one-on-one and group coaching programs, courses, and seminars are highly coveted for those seeking to align with their inner wisdom. A young leader in the traditional art of ancestral healing, she connects to ancient philosophies and beings of the past to create a brighter future for generations to come.

Ash believes, “We can't truly move forward together as a people until we reconcile ancestral traumas and reclaim our ancient blessings, with courage and compassion.” Ash's work always ladders up to two things: freedom and abundance.

She holds an honors degree in advertising and entrepreneurial marketing from Murray State University, and is a certified Psychosynthesis Coach, Reiki Master, and Ritualist — and practices her Black American ancestral traditions and religion of Hoodoo.

Click here to visit Ash’s website.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 15: Shamanism Summit