Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW

  •  Are you living with passion and purpose?
  • Have the strains of loss, stress, or conflict sapped the joy from your life?

Ashley Davis Bush can help you.   She offers articles, videos, books, and one-on-one counseling (via phone, Skype, or in-person) to help you experience a deeper, more satisfying life.

Ashley is a psychotherapist, Huffington Post blogger, a self-help author, and radio personality with over 25 years of professional experience. Ashley believes that each of life’s challenges offers us opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.  Ashley is passionate about providing simple, specific tools to help deepen and enrich your life, starting today.

Latest Blog Posts:

When Life Dishes Out the Unexpected – and it Always Does

Once upon a time there was a land where the people expected to find love, prosperity, and happiness . . . always.  They expected good luck and good fortune and were bitterly disappointed when the unexpected occurred.  The problem was that the unexpected did occur . . . always.

Guess what?  We live in that land of uncertainty.  We all have our story of what ‘should’ happen in the future.  For some, part of that story might be to find love, to do purposeful work, to have children, to stay healthy, and to live long.  Many things will happen as planned, but many other things will not.

I have lived for half a century, counseled people for half of that time, and these are just a few of the unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted aspects of life with which I’ve seen people wrestle:

  • Divorce
  • Clinical Depression
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Death of a Child
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Being gay
  • Infidelity
  • Disabled Child
  • Bankruptcy
  • Substance abuse
  • Imprisonment
  • Car accidents

Almost every person alive has something in their life that they didn’t want, didn’t expect, and wished to be otherwise.  This runs the gambit from having a headcold during the holidays to visiting a spouse’s grave on their wedding anniversary.  Unplanned circumstances are part of life.

The rule of life seems to be curve balls and 180 degree turns.  The question is not “Will something happen that I don’t expect?’ The question is “How will I handle the unexpected?”

The wise and wonderful Byron Katie (author of “Loving What Is”) says that when you wage war with reality, you lose.  Every time.

Here are 3 strategies to accepting the unacceptable, to learning to live with every ‘inconvenient’ truth that shows up in your life.

  1. Intention – Every morning when you wake up, say out loud, “I will be open to anything and everything that arises today.”  Create an intention to be resilient, to be the person who rolls with the punches.
  2. Attention – You have a choice in what you notice.  Do you focus exclusively on the fact that you’re in an emergency room at 3am or do you notice that you’ve got excellent medical care, a kind nursing staff, and supportive friends?  Place your attention on what is going well and what you are grateful for.  Turn the flashlight of your attention on the good parts of your life, even during hard times.
  3. No tension – You will suffer less to the degree that you drop your resistance to what already ‘is’.  Resist it and you will suffer more.  So work on acceptance, acceptance, and acceptance.  Whenever you come in contact with water (the shower, the bathroom sink, a water fountain), say to yourself, “I go with the flow.”

Use these three guidelines to help you flow freely with the things that pop into your life without warning.  In fact, the next time the unexpected occurs, say out loud, “Ah yes, I’ve been expecting you.”

Are You A River or A Lake?

Life, like a river, can at times be rushing, wild, and swift.  You can have days, years, even decades that resemble the high intensity energy of a river.

Yet, life can also be like a lake — calm, spacious, and still.  Sometimes it takes an illness or a vacation before life’s waters calm and allow for a spacious silence.  Or sometimes life simply plateaus into a measured pattern of easy days that spread uneventfully over weeks and months.

However, if the stillness of the lake seems far away, if you’re in perpetual river mode, then I would suggest that you find ways to bring quiet moments into your river life.  Here are three ways to create spacious snippets every day:

Stop and breathe – the breath is an easy key to lake life because it’s always with you.  However, most of us breathe shallowly and unconsciously.  Take a moment to breathe in deeply from the belly.  Expand your rib cage and let breath rise up all the way into your collar bones.  Exhale equally as deeply, pulling your stomach back to your spine to expel the air from your body.

Stop and listen – Close your eyes for a moment and listen to the life around you.  Do you hear man-made sounds (people, car horns, doors closing) or nature sounds (dogs barking, birds chirping, wind in the trees)?  Listen and note how many sounds you can identify.

Stop and see – Spend a few moments examining an object in detail.  Look at something that you see often but don’t really take the time to look at.  Notice how the longer you look at an object, the more details you become aware.

Life has certain natural rhythms and cyclesThe river energy can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Injecting moments of lake time will keep you from getting flooded.

Life after Death

Saying goodbye last year to my sweet furry friend, Hickory, was heartbreaking.  My constant companion of 15 years, he was with me as I raised and launched my children.  He followed me as I lived with one husband and then with another.  He sat on the floor beside me in my office, befriending my clients.  And then, he went to the Rainbow Bridge and my heart began to ache.

Some friends asked if I would get another dog and if so, when.  Others expressed their understanding that I might never want to own a dog again.  A friend said, “Personally, I couldn’t survive the loss of another pet.”  In fact, I’ve heard many people imply that they don’t have the heart to love again knowing that they will suffer the pain of loss.

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Or, is the price tag of loss too costly?

For me, love is well worth the pain of loss.  I strive to live from a place of love and not from a place of fear.  The purpose of my life is not to avoid pain; it’s to love and be loved.  I know that I was immeasurably enriched by loving Hickory, even as I must grieve him.

What does all of this mean?  It means that I have a new dog!  My new canine companion, Cody, is an 8 year old rescue dog.  Yes, he will break my heart.  But in the meantime, he will open it.  And I’m reminded that it’s not just about my heart and my life – it’s about his too.  Together, we will grow, love, and eventually reunite on the Rainbow Bridge.

Requiem

Requiem . . . Latin for “rest.”  It comforts me to imagine a resting place of heavenly peace for all those whom we have loved and lost;  a place where they are granted a peace so sublime that there is no fear, no anxiety, no depression, no pain, no financial woes, no worries.  In this place there is an abiding peace that passeth all understanding.

From the “Pie Jesu” of Faure’s Requiem Mass I sing these words: “O blessed Jesus, in thy mercy grant them rest, grant them everlasting rest.”  When I sing, I imagine the spirits of so many who have departed this world.  I think of the loved ones of my clients.  I think of the people I read about in the newspapers.  I think of friends and relatives that have come and gone on the planet.

When I imagine my loved ones at rest, I think of them as vibrant and happy.  I imagine them freed from the confines of their worldly circumstances.  

Death may seem scary, but Rest seems quite wonderful.  May all our dear ones who are no longer on this planet rest in the deepest peace.

Be Curious, Not Furious

Curiosity may have killed the cat but it will  do wonders for your relationship.  The next time your partner, colleague, teenager, parent, or annoying friend does something that triggers your anger, stop . . . breathe . . . and be curious.  Take these three steps away from conflict.

1. Defuse your defensiveness.

Think to yourself: 

I wonder why they’re saying that?

I wonder why they’re behaving that way?

I wonder if they’re suffering?

I wonder what pain is under their anger?

2. Turn the flashlight to yourself.  

Think to yourself:

I wonder why I’m feeling so agitated?

I wonder why I want to behave defensively?

I wonder if I’m suffering?

I wonder what pain is under my anger?

3. Then cultivate a sense of curiosity.

Think to yourself:

I wonder how we can get out of this mess?

I wonder if we can grow together through this?

I wonder if we’ll ever have perspective on this conflict?

I wonder what they’re teaching me?

I wonder what I’m learning?