We had the good fortune of connecting with Alisha Bashaw and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alisha, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
The value that matters most to me in life is kindness. It’s one of those values that can get a bad rap, and can so easily become synonymous with weakness. I have built a small soapbox around this misnomer! Kindness is not people-pleasing or passive communication or taking the easy way out of things, but rather a deep and profound calling to really listen to what would be the best case scenario for all parties. It is sometimes rooted in making tough decisions when they are unpopular for the sake of everyone’s humanity in the process or to protect the integrity of a situation. It is a choice that is fueled by other realmy-ness that, for me, challenges the status quo. It invites elevation of the way things are typically done for the potential of them being even better. Kindness in today’s world is often not taken seriously, and those who frequent it can be seen as doormats. Kindness, in my eyes, is anything but that. It is continual choice about how you want to show up in the world, and seeps into every interaction. Especially the interaction I have with myself. If I am kind with myself first, I can find ways to bring kindness to others. If I have a negative attitude toward myself, it is much easier to bring in negative feelings toward others. In kindness, there is no room for hate or bullying or jealousy. Just room for everyone to express themselves in their full humanity, differences in tact, with an understanding that difference is not bad or threatening or wrong, but actually beautiful and worth the work it takes to be able to show up kindly in all situations. It’s a seemingly quiet word or posture to the world that I find chock-full of wisdom, listening, and choice to interact with others as equals. And by doing that, it challenges stereotypes and the status quo. In that way, it is a subversive decision of action that removes us from just playing the game of life, and invites us to direct our own paths intentionally.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
After getting laid off from my first job post-undergraduate degree, I found myself working in a data entry job at a background check company to pay the bills. My degree was in technical journalism, and this, most certainly, was not that. Data entry work struggled to keep my attention, but I will always be grateful for what I learned about myself at that job. When I began to struggle with my daily numbers quota because of all of the inner-office message threads I had going with co-workers, it hit me hard that I was perhaps designed for more interactive work with others. I loved listening to people and to their stories, and I had lots of experience with that in my friendships throughout my life. It was then that I began to flirt with becoming a therapist, and my focus shifted from my inner-office message threads with co-workers to researching graduate school therapist programs. Neither of those options were data entry, which confirmed my decision to leave that particular field. Becoming a therapist has been a continual invitation into my own self-growth as well as showing up to be with people in theirs. During grad school, my parents got sick, and as I flew back and forth from school in Pittsburgh to be with them in Colorado, I learned how powerful presence can be. Witnessing and being with someone in their pain is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful gifts we can give one another. No fixing, no awkward platitudes to fill the space, but just a gentle reminder that we aren’t in this alone.
Animals are great at this. People, not so much. My draw toward equine-assisted therapy was born after attending a couple of groups as a client and recognizing that horses have so much presence to offer, as they live in the present moment only. There is no past, no future, no planning, no worries. Just the now. It was intoxicating and I wanted in. A colleague and friend guided me toward EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) to get certified in equine-assisted therapy, and I have not looked back since. Though finding a space and a horse of my own are still in the works, I have been lucky to work at several barns in the meantime and gotten to know several amazing horses that continue to give their presence to others on the regular. Horses are prey animals, despite their size, and are always on the lookout for who to trust and who may want to eat them. This makes them phenomenal at assessing their surroundings for safety. If they sense a threat, they will run the other way. When we as humans approach a horse, the horse is naturally gifted at sniffing out the level of threat or congruence they find in the person’s emotional, physical, and mental demeanor. This means, if I have a bad day, but am pretending I am fine when I am not, the horse can sense that I am not telling the truth of my story in that moment, and it will not want to engage with me because I am not being honest with how I am presenting myself. Fascinating, right? Horses invite us into our own awareness of the present moment in order to be with them in theirs, and to be honest about where we are at. They don’t mind whatever content we bring, just as long as it’s honest content. In this way, they are natural mirros for humans, and can provide presence to whatever emotion is present, as long as it is congruent in the human. You can imagine the magic that happens here in this setting. I have learned so much from them.
Noticing the powerful nature of presence inspired me to name my practice ‘The With Project’ in an effort to let folks know that they are not alone in any circumstance life may have for them. Though situations may vary, no one has to experience life solo, and there is space for it all. Their story is worth it, and needs to be told. Had my parents not gotten sick, I would not have had this perspective, and when they passed away five years after getting sick within a month and a half of each other, I was so glad that this was a lesson I was learning while they were still here and that I was able to soak in all of the time with them that I could. Intentionally. On purpose. Since then, my love for writing allowed me to write a book (Four Eyes: A Memoir of a Millennial Caregiver set to publish October 5, 2021 and available on Amazon!) about their story, and what it was like for them in their last five years on earth. My artisty comes out in my work, in my writing, in my love for singing, musical theater, and playing the guitar, and in my desire to continue to think outside of the box.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned, and continue to learn on the daily, is how to detach from outcome in all of life’s circumstances. My experience with my parents led me into a time of deep confusion and heartache. And, upon their deaths, they were able to donate their corneas to four adults in need of corneal transplants in order to improve their vision. This inspired me to get to know the world of organ donation, and to understand a layer of something I would never have been able to without my parents’ deaths. I may never understand why their deaths happened as they did on that timeline, but I can also recognize that had I not detached from outcome, I would have missed the miracle of organ donation and the gift that organ donation is for so many waiting for another chance at some aspect of life. Detaching from outcome of the stories of others, whether it is a client, a parent, a friend, a pet, a partner, or whoever, can bring me back to the heart of the present moment, and to being immensely grateful that I have it. Right here. Right now. Right next to the horses.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ooh, great question! There are so many amazing things to do and see here. Day one would definitely involve a trip to Casa Bonita, just to set the stage for their week. After making it through Black Bart’s cave unscathed, we would drive west into the Golden area or up I-70 a bit into the mountains to find a great spot to watch the sunset. After that, the week would include trips to Pablos’s coffee, The Denver Game Lounge for some board games and eats, The Denver Biscuit Company for brunch, the Stanley Marketplace for some fun shopping, and out to Boulder to Flatiron Springs Farm to visit some horse buddies. A trip to Breakfast King and Herbs and Arts would happen mid-week before spending the day walking and relaxing in City Park and Cheeseman Park. A day trip up to the hot springs in Idaho Springs would be a great get away, and some pepperoni, jalapeno, and cream cheese pizza from Sexy Pizza would make an appearance as well. In non-Covid times, a trip to the Buell Theater to see a show would be wonderful, followed by some karaoke at Family Karaoke. The Museum of Nature and Science would fill a day (or two), and perhaps a concert at Red Rocks could top off the week. After a walking tour of the murals of Rino and a visit to the Cat Cafe, of course.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am who I am today only because of the influences of so many amazing people, animals, books, and circumstances in my life. I want to shoutout to my parents, who taught me the importance of story, and that people are stories, too, if we learn to listen. This belief has shaped my career, my writing, and my love for others throughout my life.
Choose Kindness Sign: Choose Kindness Wall Sign By Ashland® | Michaels®