Ashley Davis, Uncharted Host

An introduction to Ashley Davis, host of UNCHARTED at Kalukanda House

"My life used to look and feel a lot different. Some might say I was ‘successful,’ that I was crushing it with a dream career and had achieved lifetimes by my mid-thirties. But I didn’t feel like it was enough at the time.

For years I shoved down discomfort, frustration, loneliness of being different from my peers, feeling like I was beating my head against a wall, screaming into an empty room, and the burnout of doing something I no longer 1000% believed in. Until I could not, and the voice within me became too loud to ignore.

I began to question my path and what had driven me thus far in my corporate persona of endless striving, self-inflicted pressure to be productive, always “busy,” over-achieving, ever a problem to solve, and a competitive greater impact to have, with an emphasis on my masculine business traits and a de-emphasis of (or let’s be real, I’d totally lost touch with my) feminine qualities and gifts.

I worried this predictable hamster wheel was all I would have to look back on.

As a Director of Corporate Responsibility (or sustainability, or impact, or whatever re-branding it is always going through), I spent 14 years crafting my ‘dream job,’ working up to my goal salary, challenging fashion’s capitalistic systems to operate in new ways, traveling to places and meeting people who expanded my heart and my thinking, while also feeling terrified to get on the plane each time and leave behind my ‘normal.’

It didn’t feel soul-on-fire good like a dream job of my own creation ‘should.’

As I began to question my life’s work’s value to me and to the world, I also began to question my sense of self - I identified strongly with my role, my achievements, my striving, my influencing change.

I wondered…

Who would I be without this work? Without these problems to solve? This world to ‘save’? What is it I REALLY care about? How do I want to contribute? How do I want to be feeling day to day?

The scary thing was, I didn’t know the answers. Or what I would do even if I did.

And the stunning question: What if I make no changes and keep living this way?

I knew something had to give and it would be up to me to make a change. My fear of the known and a predictable future replicating more of the same stress was beginning to outweigh my fear of the unknown.

Some alchemical circumstances began to facilitate a shift as soon as I admitted to myself that this beating myself up could not go on, and the change I wanted was my own responsibility to create.

Later that year two pivotal things happened.

In early 2018 I was accepted into a prestigious fellowship with The Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program called First Movers, for high achieving corporates who have a track record of driving change against resistance in their companies, and are creative about ways to influence impact outside their wheelhouse. Status quo shifters. I wasn’t alone anymore.

Mid-way through the fellowship, major kairos moment number two…

A creatively designed and fateful supply chain trip to Southeast Asia, specifically Sri Lanka.

I intuitively knew that by taking myself out of my comfort zone, visiting a non-work related country on my own, and trying some different experiences (surfing, and yoga for yoga vs fitness) I would gain clarity for the unknown I felt looming in my future.

An epiphany from that trip gave me the courage to course correct my path, and not live into the predictability I dreaded.

As I sat on the departure flight digesting that first two week encounter (I live in Sri Lanka half the year now and speak the native language, Sinhala) in my first-ever journal, a turquoise moleskin I still treasure, a shockingly simple - and at the same time confounding - ah-ha emerged.

What I now recognize as a radical embodied awakening.

While in Sri Lanka I had witnessed myself in joy. I felt joy, reminiscent of the childhood wonder and awe of playing in summertime coastal Maine tide pools as a little girl, or watching whales crest off the bow sailing, or jumping a horse over my first cross bars.

Whole body, this is me, kinda J O Y.

At that moment I realized how deeply unhappy I really was. How this was a remembered sense of joy (I have also come to recognize its close relative, freedom) long forgotten, and I hadn’t seen joy modeled as a value, or prioritized. That’s weekend fluff stuff, once homework is finished and bills are paid. Right?? Wrong.

In Sri Lanka I didn’t have to strive, achieve, win, or be a particular way. I could just be me, or begin to experience who that may be. I felt like I met for the first time - or remembered - the happiest, healthiest, most confident and free version of me. I felt a sense of homecoming.

I realized it was only me standing in my own way, holding myself back with habitual patterns of fear while the keys to my self-made cage were in my pocket.

On the flight home, I accepted a gentle invitation from my curiosity and intuition: How might I begin to live in and create from a closer alignment of my purpose and values? To be honest, at the time I didn’t even really have an idea of what that meant.

I recognized my agency in getting to choose to create my life differently, walk an unprescribed path in a new way and stand for and in my values every day. While feeling good.

I learned to get curious with my fears, hold compassion for my inner negative narratives, take responsibility for what was mine and not more, kept listening to the gravitational pull to do something new, and I began working with new mentors, coaches, and guides.

A combination of somatic practices, fostering a powerful intuition, and returning to those places geographically and within me that bring me alive has been the most powerful compass in this journey.

I now spend abundant time in connection with the natural world and her wild creatures, in wonder, practicing awareness, presence, witnessing, and sensing as I retrain my nervous system and neural pathways to trust myself, to embrace ease, and to be a human Being over human-doing.

Being in the wonder of nature, like no walls in Sri Lanka or beach days humming to snails growing up, reminds me I can choose not to be habituated to, or normalize, an anxious life, need to be certain, or way of being that society, conditioning, or toxic and competitive status quo systems have told me are the only ones of value, and therefore subscribing is the only way I am enough, worthy, valued. What BS, hey?

It’s a lot easier to grasp that concept with our intellect than actually change our way of being. Humans really don’t like change, and it doesn’t come naturally. Or does it? Nature, wildlife, somatic and heart centered coaches, mentors, and other guides have been my greatest allies in breaking free from habitual ways of thinking and doing that have kept me blocked or stuck. I have come to remember - and embrace - my more natural state, essence, and inner radiance.

This to me is Purpose. Freedom. The ease of knowing who I am and what it is to feel, give, receive and be in Presence.

Now I work in partnership with three of my favorite things in order to champion inner sustainability and support other change leaders through soulful evolutions and transitions small and large with more ease: an alchemical combination of Sri Lanka and curated experiential travel co-facilitated by the local community and diverse natural landscape (read more about the approach here on Forbes), animals, nature, and the outdoors as inspiration and reflections of true self in new ways, and third, I’ve always been a bookworm…Poetry is a steady part of my toolkit to evoke new ways of thinking and seeing ourselves, and so the world.

A final provocation, a lesson from my first trip to Sri Lanka that I’ve tattooed on my body in the symbol of an endangered sea turtle to regularly remind myself when I inevitably forget: Hemitah, hemitah, slowly slowly in Sinhala. Go slowly. Be wary of urgency’s seduction. Spend generous solo time in stillness as one of the most potent canals to your courageous becoming.

Mary Oliver, Pico Iyer, David Whyte, John O’Donohue, Mark Nepo, Oriah Mountain Dreamer…I have many favorite poets, but when this Rumi quote found me years ago it changed my perspective on impact work through business built within archaic and patriarchal systems, and paved the way for being an empowered coach, seeing myself and others as already whole and capable.

‘Yesterday I was clever, I wanted to save the world. Today I am wise, I am changing myself.’

I hold space, coach, facilitate, and design intentional experiences in ways that light my soul on fire and invite others to courageously feel and fuel their flame and follow it too because I believe remembering and sensing our true nature is how we build trust in - and knowing of - our full potential and freedom, and supports us in beginning to solve the intractable problems of the world that cannot be changed with the same historical approach"

Ashley is based in Maine and North Carolina, USA with her husband and childhood best friend, Blake, their two Maine coon cats and dog, Zulu. She spends large parts of each year in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Be supported by Ashley: In addition to 1:1 soulful self development coaching and group facilitation for pioneering leaders and changemakers, Ashley offers an annual May retreat in Sri Lanka, called UNCHARTED (hosted at Kalukanda House), as well as travel and experiential based boutique containers for awareness building and personal growth, and equine-facilitated learning to facilitate powerful self inquiry and discovery for navigating transition and the unknown with more ease and alignment.

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