What I learned about Facebook Politicking, Trauma and the Power of Thought

I was listening to a podcast this morning from Michael Neill and his guest Anita Morjanni on experiencing Heaven on Earth. She said something that was both intriguing and simple.

Creation is Heaven; Fear is Hell.”

It got me thinking…

Rarely do I engage in “Facebook Politicking” or political conversation in general. I’m almost proud to say I’ve only taken the bait 3 times in the past year. With the US election around the corner and the circus our political system has turned into, I would say that statistic is a win for any citizen of this country.

What I really want to share isn’t political but it will point to the root of all human divides. I also don’t intend for this post to be a vehicle for political debate but rather an expression of my experience and a recent insight into the tangled webs us humans so innocently and quickly weave for ourselves. I will warn you, this is a personal post but a message my soul wants to tell- so here it goes- please treat it with kindness.
I mentioned I took the political bait 3 times in the past year but I didn’t mention that all 3 times were with family members. While the latest one, is the one worth writing about, I’ve now come realize each conversation, each family debate, was founded in one common theme- FEAR. fearFear was the genesis of both sides, fear was the ruler, fear was the fuel- it so often is. Let me explain. Continue reading “What I learned about Facebook Politicking, Trauma and the Power of Thought”


                     Last week, I went from Executive Director to CEO of The Cypress Initiative. Sitting around the board table, we all joked about the change and the irrelevance of the title. We are still the same humble team, doing the same important work. But it’s funny how a title can bring a new level of consciousness to a position. It is my job to not only be the managing director of this organization that is doing life changing work, but also a leader to our extraordinarily, selfless team of people. With this new title, though nothing changed, it turned out to be the catalyst for some fresh thinking. I began to see my role with new eyes.
                At The Cypress Initiative we spend a lot of time talking about WHAT we do. Most everyone that knows of The Cypress Initiative, knows we work with teens through the S.P.A.R.K. Teen Mentoring Program. They may also know we work with adults as well. We coach them through life’s ups and downs and that those ups and downs come in all forms. Those that know us even better, may even know we train businesses and business teams on cultivating creative potential and innovation.  That is the WHAT!
                    At The Cypress Initiative we also spend a lot of time telling others about the HOW. How we work in schools throughout the year through the teaching of our S.P.A.R.K. Teen Mentoring program. They may know the basis of all of our programs is the simple teaching of the human experience. How we teach teens and adults alike, that they have this SPARK inside of themselves that will guide them to the fullness and fulfillment they seek. And a few may even know how we train others around the world to do this work in their communities as well. That is the HOW!
                     With some confidence I can say we communicate the WHAT and the HOW really well. But last week when one of our lead mentors walked in the office completely defeated by her day, it hit me like a mac truck.  We are completely missing the boat on the WHY. As an organization, we are failing to communicate what drives our highly engaged team to work every day.
our why               You see, this mentor had just left a class where she walked a group of teens through the grief of a new born baby’s death. A class filled with what most would label as “troubled teens” being forced to deal with a very adult situation. This incident wasn’t in the S.P.A.R.K. curriculum, it wasn’t part of our program.  Yet it is one of the many WHYs. It is why we push ourselves in the classroom each school day, regardless of the newest, most pressing academic outcome the teachers are being forced to achieve.
               But you might be surprised to know, it wasn’t the students our mentor was helping, that left her feeling defeated. It never is those kids we can reach. It was the two students that were missing that day.  It was the 15 year old sleeping in the hospital bed, who spent 9 months carrying a child in her womb only lose him hours after birth. It was the 14 year old who went missing just days after telling her teachers about the sexual abuse. It was those two that were supposed to be in her class that day, which left her feeling defeated.
                   As I looked at her tears, I felt her heart. I have been there too many times. I’ve felt that kind of helplessness more times than I wish to recount. I was instantly transported back to my days in the classroom and the reason after 15 years of non-profit work, I’m still here, still putting in the time.
I remembered the countless kids that came to school hungry or tired because they were working 2 or 3 jobs to support their family.
I remembered the girl who told me about her uncle pimping her out to other family members.
I remembered the child who told me that his mother was passed out drunk when he left the house that morning.
I remembered the boy who told the class he had to take care of his father with cancer only to later find out his father with cancer was really his mother with a cocaine habit.
I remembered working with two young girls who one day told me about the pornography parties their mother would have while they slept in the next room.
I remembered the child who found his mother frequently beaten by her boyfriend and was the caretaker of his younger siblings.
I remembered losing my brother-in-law to suicide and how in that act I almost lost my husband too.
I could keep remembering because the list of memories is infinite and the problems are deep and infectious in the family cycle. But I chose to stop remembering there because the first WHY is all I need.
                        Then, I began to think about why we don’t talk about the WHY very much. On one level the answer is simple- the stories hurt. If you have a pulse, you can’t help but to be touched. However, the real truth is you won’t hear many of them from The Cypress Initiative because many times the WHY isn’t our story to tell. It’s a fragile line between confidentiality and making others aware of what our youth are faced with every day. It’s the slow dance between casting light on the damaged covering instead of placing constant focus toward the SPARK inside. This SPARK that, though people will try to convince you otherwise, will never bare a scar.
                     The WHY at The Cypress Initiative is simple. We are all humans bearing our own crosses. As we become adults we connect to other humans and share our stories of resilience because at some level we see how this life thing works. We see we can go through our own hell and come out unscathed. But there is this fragile time somewhere between the innocence of being a child and the maturity of being an adult in which it really is useful to have someone help you #FindYourSpark.
That’s where we come in, that’s our WHY.
With Love,
Brooke Wheeldon-Reece
Chief Executive Officer
The Cypress Initiative
**We have set up a GoFundMe Account to help cover the cost of the funeral for the teen who lost her baby this past week. If you are able to donate any amount please CLICK HERE.

The day I realized the girl I was sure I was, wasn’t real.


People create these pictures of their personality and then live in them like they are made of cement. On the surface, it seems harmless. In business, many times, it begins with personality assessments and it’s a starting point for fine tuning strengths and minimizing weaknesses. However, what I’ve noticed about myself and others I’ve coached is that over the years, these personalities create boundaries and those boundaries create restrictions on human potential. Then, innocently, we go on living for years in the make believe shells of who we think we are and we forget we are the ones who created this shell to begin with.

Here is a personal example:

I’m going to be 35 in a few days and I’ve spent the majority of my 35 years knowing a few things for certain about myself.

  1. I’m an introvert
  2. I only like to exercise in the morning

Like layers of concrete that could never wear- these were things I knew to be true to my personality.


I’ve always been connected to this idea that I’m an introvert and if you know anything about introverts, you know they gain energy by being alone and expend energy when in groups. Knowing this, I’ve lived in this pattern:

Being around and engaged with people all day = extreme exhaustion, many times followed by headaches and fatigue.

Back in March, I was attending a leadership conference and something profound happened in my world. I noticed that I came home each night with the same question-smiley-face-858907amount of energy as I left the house with that morning. Surrounded by all of those people, for hours at a time, I still had energy! What?!?!? I was in such a state of shock,  I had no other choice but to reflect.

What was different about this week?  I was completely engaged with all of my peers, ALL DAY LONG, and still completely energized when I got home?

It was that day I realized, the girl I thought I was, wasn’t real.

Prior to the understanding that my thoughts create my experience of my reality, I would spend an extraordinary amount of time inside my head when around my peers. I would say, up until recently, I would do this unknowingly. I would think about things like: how quiet I was, if I should speak up, if I should share my ideas, if my ideas are good ideas…you get the point. However, this particular week, I was able to be in the room, present in each moment and it turns out it wasn’t exhausting at all. In fact, it left me energized. I wasn’t any louder. I certainly wasn’t the most outgoing in the room. But I was me – my authentic self and I was in my element. Except I was in the element I have always labeled “way out of my comfort zone”. When I looked back, I realized the only thing that separated me from being my usual, introverted self, was my lack of thinking. Instead of thinking, I was in the moment and the moment was good! Ideas were flowing and my peers even commented on how when I spoke, what I had to say was important.

That may not feel like a big deal for some people, but for me it was huge.Behind-The-Scenes It was like a handicap I always thought was a part of my being, suddenly lifted. It literally felt like the screen came up right in front of me and I could see the cameras, actors and set. At some point in my life, I created a shy person, labeled her an introvert, and began building walls of impossibility around her.

My insight from that week was this: Being quiet to hear my inner guide is of quality- being quiet out of fear or angst is exhausting. I’m not an introvert- I just have introverted thoughts sometimes.

So this happened in March- I had it! I was onto the game of life and my full human potential was at my fingertips. Nothing was going to hold me back!

Fast forward to last Friday night. As I was leaving my house to go on my evening jog, I realized I had begun an exercise regimen, in the evening, and was enjoying it! Wait a minute???? Remember the 2nd thing on my list of things I know to be true about myself? I spent the last year, not exercising because I didn’t have time in the morning anymore.

“I hate exercising at night” I thought to myself as I smiled on my way out the door…it happened again, another piece of concrete dissolved as quickly as it formed. After all, it was never real to begin with.

How much of your human potential is limited by things you know to be “true” about your personality?

Please leave a comment and let me know!

-Brooke Wheeldon-Reece





Sabbatical from Doing Good!


Have you ever felt worn thin from doing a lot for others? Have you ever tried thinking of how to help someone with a problem when it seems they aren’t thinking for themselves? How about when it seems like that person is always looking to you for the solution?

Many times, we become really busy being the solution for others- always offering advice or extending ourselves, when they truly have other options. As a result, we are innocently delaying them from finding the best solution for themselves. Read how our Community Program Coordinator, Helen, discovered just that.



“These last four years, I have been on a mission to be there for everyone else but forgetting to be there for myself. Then one day I found myself having a headache, which is something I rarely have, and it hit me!



Suddenly, I had an insight: it is time for a well-deserved rest in order to be a healthier version of myself. For the past few months, I have been on this “Sabbatical from doing good” as I like to call it. Does that mean I have stopped doing all things good? No! I’ve simply realized that it’s okay to say no sometimes and I don’t have to be the solution to everyone else’s problems. Since I had this insight, I have had more energy, I have not had any headaches and my body is well rested. I continue to do good deeds but always keeping my wellbeing intact. Since I’ve stopped answering my phone with every ring, I’ve found that by the time I do return calls, the caller has usually found their own solution.”

Helen Neal-Ali

Helen brushed on a key point “I don’t have to be the solution to everyone else’s problems.”

You see, sometimes when we figure out a problem for others, we may actually be hindering them, instead of helping them. We all have natural wisdom inside. If you are busy being everyone’s solution, then you aren’t allowing their natural wisdom to kick in and be their own solution.

We aren’t suggesting people shouldn’t help other people. After all, that’s the foundation of The Cypress Initiative. We are simply suggesting your “help” may, in fact, be a contribution rather than a solution.  Sometimes, no matter how logical or obvious it seems to you, your solution won’t succeed because it wasn’t meant for your creation. The person you are trying to help has this natural spark that will come forward when their personal thinking is given space. It’s a human thing- we all have it. By stepping back and allowing their natural wisdom to create the solution that was meant for their problem, you are providing the greatest gift you can give.

Let us know what you think of this by leaving a comment. Share with us if this helps you in any way!

Wishing you all love and lots of amazement,

The Cypress Initiative




Highway of Thought

If you are new to our community, you may have asked yourself: What exactly does The Cypress Initiative do? Or you may have read that our mission is to cultivate human potential, but wondered why we say we do it one thought at a time.

When uncovering human potential, one of the first things we teach people is that our thoughts make up our reality and that there is always a new, fresh, thought waiting to give us a whole new experience of life or an entirely new realization of our potential.

Here’s a quick example of how I describe this to our student’s in our S.P.A.R.K. Teen Mentoring Program.

Imagine your head is like a highway. Your just chugging right along, when you come up to an exit sign. Now picture that exit sign as a thought in your head. We all have different types of thoughts constantly, all day long. Just like we can’t control which exit signs are on the highway, we can’t control which thoughts pop up in our head.

Here is what a typical 5 minutes in my mind look like…..

thought bubbles

Seem familiar? This is what we all go through, different thoughts that pop up all day long. If we imagine our head as a vast highway and each exit as a different thought, we can see how many choices we have each day. We can choose what exit we want to take or we can choose to stay on the highway, allowing the exits to pass by.

Say I come up to the exit “I feel fat” and begin to think about the number on the scale or the way my jeans fit this morning. When I begin thinking about the “I feel fat” exit, I know I’m headed right off the highway toward a journey to insecurity. That’s because right off that exit there are a variety of “roads” that I can go down; Upset Lane, Mad Drive, Self-conscious Avenue, etc. Sound like a fun trip to go on? Not so much. Yet, innocently, I’ve found myself on this path more than once.

However, say I come up to the “I feel fat” exit and instead of getting off just because it was there, I let it pass by. Letting the exit pass by provides me the opportunity to wait for an exit I want to take, like “my kids are the best”. Getting off at “my kids are the best” allows me to travel down roads that are fun and exciting. So my reality becomes just that, fun and exciting, giving me an entirely new experience.

Most of us have gotten off on a wrong exit when traveling. Maybe some people more than others, (ummmm me!). But what eventually happens? We just re-route and get back on the highway. So yes, you may start out your morning getting off on the wrong exit, but isn’t it refreshing to know that you can always reroute, get back on the highway and go to another exit? The beauty of the highway is there are always new exits popping up to discover.

When you come to truly understand you can’t control the exits (only have positive thoughts) but you don’t have to get off at each one, it tends to makes life more enjoyable and not so serious all the time.

Hope that helps you! Comment and let me know what you think about this, I’d love to know!  Have questions about it? I’d love to answer them.

-Ashley Hunt





Meet our Staff

Wondering who is behind all that is amazing with The Cypress Initiative? Well wonder no more! Here is a little about our staff.

Brooke Wheeldon-Reece-


Brooke is The Cypress Initiative’s Executive Director. As the Executive Director, Brooke oversees daily operations and acts as lead Business Trainer and Personal Coach. Since coming to The Initiative, she has trained with Chip and Jan Chipman, Judith Sedgeman, Dr. Dicken Bettinger, Dr. Aaron Turner, Sara Murre, and is currently enrolled in Michael Neill’s Supercoach Academy. Brooke earned her B.A. in Interpersonal Communications and her M.B.A. in Marketing. Continue reading “Meet our Staff”

Welcome to The Cypress Initiative Family

The Cypress Initiative Logo

The words of Robert Burns come to mind when I reflect on the past year at The Initiative.


When I took the position of Executive Director in February of 2014, I had serious high hopes, with simultaneous, intense reservations -all wrapped up in a well devised plan of action. But what I came to learn through the first year is the need for a plan is only a need created within myself and that plan had little relevance to what would actually occur. The only true practice I had to maintain, to carry this organization forward, was to keep taking the next step. So that’s what I learned to do, listen quietly and take the next step. I couldn’t have planned a story so beautiful and I am certain it’s only the beginning. Continue reading “Welcome to The Cypress Initiative Family”