Out There

Amshatar MonroeTry the unrelenting work of one American lady.

Through the ages, in every corner of the world, people have paused to put tools aside, stand with others, celebrate the cycles of the earth and skies, contend with the mystery, and humbly honor the Creator with elegantly structured expressions of what we could not otherwise ever hope to express.

Then, not long ago, we moved by the billions, from ancient rhythms in farming, survival, and awareness, to modern life, where so many of these sacred rites have faded into faint distorted memories of elders’ memories, and out of the weave of everyday life.

But here among us in this tool-busy world is someone who did not forget.

For over 30 years, Amshatar Ololodi Monroe has been bringing people of highly diverse cultures very much together—in retreats, conferences, rituals, seminars, ceremony, workshops, coachings, great conversation, and other events—and empowering them to excavate, understand, restore, preserve, participate in, and celebrate universal traditions of our elders and ancestors.

Her work is about the earth-based spirituality found in indigenous cultures. It reveals, among many other things, that the ancient ways still run deeply through all modern spiritual paths, and that universal points of connection include (to name a few) invocation, prayer, song, honoring of elders, drumming and rhythmic sound, music, circle-gathering, and recognition of One God in a myriad of forms. And it speaks to the awakened and awakening among us, stewards of our blessed planet, from prominent leaders and wealthy business owners to quiet laborers and silenced prisoners, as we hammer out the patterns of human life in every possible way.

Amshatar (pronounced “am-sha-TAIR”) brings to our communities not just immense knowledge, a lifetime of motivating experience, and a sort of grandmotherly love, affection, and understanding, but also a lightness of spirit that is so comforting, participants say they find themselves able to imagine living possibilities with fresh insights and to dialogue with other people from new perspectives. Beginnings are often created that can be profoundly life-altering.

It was, in fact, during a ceremony based on ancient African tradition that Amshatar herself experienced one of her own first awakenings. Afterward, conscious of it for the first time, she accepted the spiritual charge that’s been given to her—of bringing together diverse people, on diverse paths, to embrace, in ancient traditional ways, our seeming differences and honor, connect, and celebrate “the One-ness of Common-Unity.”

Amshatar Ololodi Monroe

“I’m most pleased with myself when I am, in some way, an agent for bringing divergent parts to the whole, to the Circle.”

Among other love-leading deeds, Amshatar embraces every path to and sincere interpretation of what might be called divine essence or “the Word.” She has practiced the spiritual practices of the modern and pre-European Americas, Africa, Europe, and the Middle-East; discipled under such Sanskrit-sourced disciplines as transcendental meditation, yoga, and breath mastery; cultivated and inspired traditional African and Native American spiritual culture and spirituality; and internalized the soul-full teachings of both traditional and non-denominational Christian ministries—starting with the sounds, wisdom, and spirit of the Baptist church she and her brothers grew up in in Washington, D.C.

Her musician parents grew up in that church too, became deacons of its music program, and filled the loving, worshipful Monroe home with an endless stream of musical guests. And that’s when the daughter of this large loving family started “wondering what I could actually do so the Circle might be Unbroken.” Tapping her foot, clapping her hands, and singing along in her Sunday dresses, this little girl was already consciously thinking about how to build bridges across canyons that sometimes appear to divide people. Classmates remember her as “the ‘mender’” who would bring everyone together on one “team”—at the rec center or playground, in clubs and cliques in high school, and especially with the kids who might have been least likely to get along.

Which was a perfect foundation for later earning a B.A. in Business Management and an M.A. in Arts Management from The American University, training and experience she applied for years as a cultural and events specialist in Washington, D.C. and Georgia. For over 20 years after that, she was producer/manager of arts and special events, and providing professional services in non-profit and academic executive management positions.

The mid 1990’s is when the scope of her work expanded. She started researching the primary and indigenous origins of humanity’s spiritual history. That led, inevitably perhaps, to a deep relationship with the eight-thousand-year-old, now-international Yoruba religion. In West Africa, the United States, and elsewhere, Amshatar learned much about the origin and substance of the many variations of Yoruba around the world, became one of its 100-million members, and was initiated as a Yoruba priest. She says, “I’m deeply grateful for these shoulders I’m so blessed to stand on.”

In 1997, Amshatar founded a company called SACRED SPACE: Where Indigenous Paths Meet, to educate and bring people together at the four cardinal times of the year—the solstices and equinoxes—and at other cyclical points. The events and activities of SACRED SPACE were the primary result of her efforts at that time to fulfill her spiritual charge.

“I remember my mother often saying: ‘Small minds talk about people. Mediocre minds talk about things. Great minds talk about ideas.’

I would add: Enlightened minds envision, strategize, and co-create evolutionary shifts in consciousness!”

–Amshatar Monroe

In 1998, she was awarded a fellowship from the Fetzer Institute, a research organization in Michigan that “advances love and forgiveness as powerful forces that can transform the human condition.” This opportunity (she has called it “an unquestionable gift from God”) allowed her to further her inner work of spirit and her outer work of service, and required that she undertake what sages of all times know is the most challenging human undertaking of all: authentic introspection. With an open and humble heart, she stepped into this very demanding inquiry. The unexpected magic she encountered and the greater expansion of her already masterfully diverse lessons and teachers became a pivotal point in her growth and development. It transformed her view of the magnitude, significance, and interrelatedness of the work she is called to do—for others, and for the endless journey of self-inquiry and understanding that true leaders never stop pursuing.

In the 1970s, she founded a community-based non-profit organization in Atlanta, Georgia, called L.O.V.E., Inc. (Light, Oneness, Vitality, and Energy) through which she led a number of retreats and community gatherings that fostered health, healing, and spiritual cultivation. One of the members of her Board of Directors, Rev. Randolph Wilkinson (now an honored ancestor), told her, “Someday, this work you’re doing will especially be for women!”

No one knew at that technologically-dawning time how that might come to be, but in 2008, she launched Women of Spirit Online. This refreshingly unique “online sanctuary” is a foundation by which its founder extends and will be further extending her vision of Common-Unity by means of sound healing, video, inspirational products, a forum, educational articles, a network for youth, and sacred invocation. It includes exceptionally beautiful original music and downloadable audio recordings that are superb.

And she is blessed to have created a bridge to the future as a proud woman, mother, and grandmother of a beautiful daughter and “four precious angel-baby girls.” This bridge just might be the one that gives her the most pride and gratitude of all.

Today, Amshatar is teacher, speaker, scholar, author, panel-member, priest, producer, and humble off-stage community leader. But what happens at the personally-designed events she’s been known to call “gatherings” can’t always be delivered in the form of lesson, lecture, book, presentation, sermon, performance, or speech. They have to be experienced, just as they’ve been experienced by indigenous communities all over the world for thousands of years. Miraculously, and in-person.

As was, perhaps, the way you came upon this invitation to step into the now steadily growing Circle.

From someone who did not forget.

 

WomenOfSpiritOnline.com.

 

 

Easy WordPress WYSIWYG Theme Generator.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Naturally, I want a blog. So I get a WordPress account and…

Well, welcome to another new universe. Heavy case of get-a-new-electronic-thing-syndrome where the user manual weighs more than the device and you have to read and understand it even though it won’t count toward a degree of any kind. Not even one as worthless as my Master’s.

 An entire year goes by and I still don’t have a blog. But content and ideas are piling up, and life is racing by. So I buckle down and start tangling with WordPress. No fun. I can’t find a theme that really fits. I don’t know how to change them. Sick of researching every little thing I want to do. How to get my own graphic in the header. How to  change the name of a category. Change the font-size of all the headings. Make the dang thing look right.

I waste about three more weeks. Make some progress, but so slow I’m cancelling appointments and making enemies out of everybody I was hoping to someday show this blog off to. I decide to endure WordPress newbie Hell for one more week and if it doesn’t kill me, I’ll pay for help. I’m thinking maybe for $500, I can get something that isn’t embarrassing.

Then I discover this thing called Artisteer. The ads say it’s supposed to be a really easy way to make your own free WordPress themes. No coding. No PHP. But every review is good, which makes me particularly skeptical.

I decide to download the free trial version and give it a go.

Suddenly I’m in WordPress heaven. Really. It’s that big a difference. Everything is done with drop-down menus. That’s how you set the font, font size, headings, colors, background, custom graphics. And just about everything else. Some things I thought I couldn’t do were just on drop-down menus I couldn’t find.

Artisteer. A WordPress WYSIWYG Instant Theme Generator.

One definite drawback: as of June 3, 2010, it doesn’t have a way to make global changes for things that really should be globally changeable. Artisteer says that might be a feature in a future version. Sure hope so. In the meantime, when you want to change the type style of your headings, body text, bulleted lists, and etc., you have to do them all one-by-one. All the links, hovered links, and visited links too. Artisteer is wonderful, and when it saves so much time and increases quality so spectacularly, it’s really a big disappointment that so much time saved goes back into having to do all these head-achey tweaks one-by-one.

It has a suggestion feature, Artisteer’s true blog-in-one-hour (or less) machine. But I’ve never used it. As you click a button, it changes whichever elements of the theme you ask it to and serves up a new suggestion. You can conjure up zillions of them. And they can look pretty canned (don’t have to). Even so, the suggestion tool gets you used to how Artisteer works. And in about 15 minutes, you’re customizing a theme. Changing fonts, font size, font color, sidebar position, and colors and gradients of the menu bar and tabs. Down to every detail, like changing the color or width of borders of blocks in the sidebars. Inserting custom graphics (jpegs, gifs, etc.) into the header. Taking icons out and putting them in. Etc. Etc.

You do all this as, of course, you have an uncomfortable feeling that it’s not really going to work.

What you do is save the Artisteer file (artx) to your computer, and click a button to export it into zip format for installing into WordPress. After you upload it to WordPress by clicking Upload from Add New Theme and browsing to where you saved it on your computer, you activate it.

And once the theme’s done, you can concentrate on creating content.

You’ll be able to look at your blog — with the custom WordPress design you did all by yourself — in your browser.

I was also afraid I wouldn’t be able to use it with WordPress plugins. But, what do you know… They thought of that. My plugins and widgets all work perfectly. In fact, I emailed tech support a string of questions (some of which didn’t make sense because I asked them before I had the hang of Artisteer), and they answered them all within a few hours. They were even polite.

With a recent upgrade you can even add a Flash animation to your theme’s header

Here’s a link if you want to try it for free. If you don’t like it, you get your money back.

It’s is a complete WordPress WYSIWYG editor. Costs $49.

I like mine. I’m keeping it.

Other things you can do with Artisteer. 1) Design free WordPress themes, put thumbnails of the screenshots on a blog, and let your readers download them. 2) Quickly design a whole catalog of unique free WordPress designs to freshen up your blog, or give away entire free WordPress theme sets . 3) Link to blogs who use your WordPress designs.

It’s an instant WordPress WYSIWYG Theme Generator.

Oh, and besides being an excellent WordPress theme generator, there’s a more expensive version of Artisteer that’s a template-generator for Joomla and Drupal. But that’s a good subject for some other day. (Two or three years from now?)

Artisteer is a WordPress WYSIWYG that actually works.

Note: To make the zip file, choose Export.  Don’t attempt to upload the Artisteer artx file. It won’t work in WordPress.

A WordPress WYSIWYG editor. That works. Not free, but almost. $49. And a free trial (“money-back guarantee”). Thousands of dollars’ worth of saved time.

Artisteer - CMS Template Generator