Ascent: Being There … Supporting Your Personal Evolution One Step at a Time

Connecting with the Power of Intention

March 2011
Be Smart:
The Worst of Times
… or Is It?

There is a Zen story about a man who was constantly mistaken about the true nature of events in his life.

See what you think:

A man with little money was miserable, thinking of himself as “unfortunate” because he had no horse. After helping a wealthy man, he was given a horse. “What good fortune. I’m blessed!” he said, smiling.

Weeks later, his only son was thrown from the horse and broke both legs.

“What horrible luck,” he wept.

Months later, the army conscripted all the young men from his village … except his convalescing son…and in a few weeks most of them were killed in battle.

“I’m the most fortunate man alive,” he shouted.

Have you lost your job?  People whose employers dumped them on the streets start their own successful businesses all the time. 

Have you lost someone? Grieving people, deepened in empathy, start charities and foundations, or simply adopt other hurting people, to lessen the tally of pain and loss in this world.

“Dumped” by a friend or lover? Now you’re free to explore your own dreams and goals… or just explore this amazing world. 

Never, never, ever believe that life’s down-turns are the final act.

Events, in themselves, are what they are. Events.

Life is always what you make it.


With Spring sun-energies in full force, you can almost sense every root-hair extending and every seed straining to release its potential.

Likewise, we each have a native potential — what we at Ascent call a core aspiration. And when we find it and move with it, we connect strongly with the life energy that empowers good mental, emotional, and physical health.

In the last newsletter, we recommended that you begin journaling to help you reconnect with core aspirations. Over time, journaling allows us to observe the creative ideas that continue to appear, like the first shoots of a new plant trying to sprout and grow.

One reader wrote, “By journaling, it became clear that I want to start my own business. I’m thinking in the area of child care, but I’m not sure about exactly what I want to do.”

Another writes, “I love to paint. But my work feels scattered. Like I haven’t found what I want to say or accomplish with my work. How do I find what that is?”

Another responded, “I want to start a charity to help orphans overseas - I admire philanthropists and would like to be seen as one. Is that what you mean?”

After honing in on what you love, the next part is to discover the outcome you want to achieve.

To be clear: We don’t mean the usual secondary outcomes that often leap to mind when we think of aspirations.

What’s a secondary outcome? Creating a business, for instance, to become “rich.” Becoming an artist to be “famous.” Starting a charity to be “admired.” Setting our sights on goals like these is a huge gamble, because they require the outer world to respond to us or recognize us in some way. Financial success, fame, and gaining others’ admiration are possible but not guaranteed outcomes.

Instead, focus on primary outcomes. “When I act, what do I want the desired outcome to be for one individual?”

For instance, a childcare business might focus on: giving a child a sense of safety and security during their first separation from mom and dad, or simply helping a child encounter some great early-learning experiences.

An artist might focus on capturing various aspects of being human, or of living in this world — aspiring to help their audience sense the richness of life or sort out its confusions, or simply to witness its strangely wonderful complexity.

Working toward this kind of focus helps in several ways: It moves our aspiration from the level of the grandiose daydream and grounds it to real life; and gives us goals that are attainable. It also helps us realize that our fulfillment comes from fulfilling a destiny that already lies coded within ourselves.

Does grounding ourselves in reality and the needs of other people mean we don’t also reach for the stars? Not at all. In fact, making your success focused, measurable, and connected to the fulfillment of others can bring both personal fulfillment and public success. For example:

A friend who’s successful in the entertainment world says, “It’s all about giving people permission to imagine new possibilities. When I‘m working on a film script I think, ‘If I can encourage one kid to use their imagination because they watched a film I worked on then I’ve done my real job. Maybe they’ll create the next generation of great films… or even the next important medical cure.’”

And a friend whose organization trains single moms in life-balancing and child-rearing skills says, “When I help lift the cares of the world from the shoulders of one young woman I feel like I’m serving all young mothers and their children. It’s an extraordinary feeling.”

Whether we experience “perfect health” or “success” or not, if we find the path of our core aspiration it will give us the one thing most of us are searching for — that is, the natural goodness of happiness and fulfillment.

This month: If you generally know what you like but can’t quite find your focus … continue to journal, asking yourself: What’s my intention? How do I want my work to effect even one person?

seed fire
It’s Your Life. Be there.


Ascent Author
Featured On

Author Shakta Kaur Khalsa, an internationally known yoga instructor, was featured recently on to discuss the subject of her newest book — parenting happy, radiant children.

Shakta attended Ascent’s Reston Writing Intensive Workshop, seeking Ascent’s mentoring support in the development of this, her third book.

Khalsa is the author of two previous books, The Keep It Simple Guide to Yoga (2001) and Yoga for Women (2002), both released by DK Publishing, Inc.

A frequent teacher at such internationally-respected venues as the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA, Khalsa has developed a yoga program for parents to use in guiding and training their children.

You can listen to her interview.



ABC’s Washington DC
Affiliate Features Ascent

WJLA-TV's Brandis Griffith with Ascent founder David Hazard

WJLA-TV 7, the ABC affiliate in Washington, DC, recently taped a short news-feature on Ascent’s 2011 Writing Program.

Brandis Griffith, a producer for WJLA, says she plans to use the feature as a tie-in to one of the station’s top-rated daytime programs, Oprah.

“Viewers who tune-in to watch Oprah enjoy seeing popular authors interviewed. And some of them, who may want to write books themselves, will be happy to learn that there is a ‘prep school for authors’ here in the DC area,” said Griffith.

Ascent’s program assists authors who are writing a range of writing projects, from memoirs, to adult and youth novels, to self-help and essay-oriented books.

Griffith interviewed David Hazard, founder of Ascent, during the Frederick, MD, Writing Intensive Workshop. “I was especially interested in the approach Ascent takes to training, focusing on the skills it takes to be a writer, as well as developing writing techniques.”

She also interviewed several of Ascent’s authors-in-training, including: Gary Bowers, a fine artist, who is writing a book of short stories to accompany a series of oil paintings; Dan Sheehan, an ex-Marine Cobra pilot detailing his two challenging tours of duty in Iraq; and Judy Chow, a memoirist writing about the challenges and humor of growing up Chinese in suburban America.

The Workshop, which was hosted by the Frederick Cultural Arts Center, took place in the center’s Black Box Theater, March 10 - 13.

Coming Soon:

Ascent’s Spring and Summer One-Day Writing Intensives and Retreats. Watch your email for dates.

Purpose is not something that is handed to you from above, but something you find by reaching back to those coming behind you.

~ Jeanne Marie Laskas