Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hidden Behind Our Masks: It’s About The Humanity

Barely a day goes by that I am without conscious intent to stop hiding behind a mask. I wear a thousand of them and all of them are me. Each and every day I do my best to present the authentic me. Try as I might, succeeding better and better as my skill improves, still I more frequently than not miss the mark, aware that what I have presented is still not the full, true, straightforward, heart-connected me.

In her article entitled “We need to stop masking our pain,” Whitney Houston’s friend, Terrie M. Williams, laments her dear one’s passing. A whole world of family, friends and fans mourned the loss. Whitney was gone, leaving untold lessons behind for all who loved her, including those who were feeding off of a talent and beauty that masked great pain. But there was not enough of some unknown something to save this exemplary womanhood, this magical potion of gifted and seemingly blessed humanity, Williams continues. So now she is gone.

Ms. Williams offers solace from her own experiences with an especial emphasis on the healing of her weekly appointments with her therapist, identifying this as her lifeline. It was with this brand of consolation that she lost me though the title of her article warning that we need to “stop masking the pain” engaged me at my deepest level. I take issue with this, the dependency on a paid professional for a person’s most significant human connection.

Unfortunately, too often that is all the humanity there is available, not because we need more highly trained personnel, but rather, we need more who are adept at simply being human. Even the privileged are stuck with the lack of human beings, simply knowing the art of being human. So we wear our masks, pretending that our surface is what we are when truly beneath that surface dwells someone who is confused, often even suffering greatly.

I ended almost a quarter of a century as a psychotherapist in 1998 when I lost my eyesight. But I was heading in that direction anyway when the licensing in my state for professional counselors changed, just months before. Though it would not have taken much in the way of paperwork to ensure my “grandfathering in” of that officialdom, a prolonged resistance to participating in the process, already in motion, deterred my efforts.

In the years since, I have, not infrequently, thought of writing a pamphlet on the hundred or more reasons I do not want to do therapy anymore. Among these is my criticism of a society, such as our’s, that seeks to rely on paid professionals for the essentials of humanity; human connectedness, unmasked and vulnerable. But right now we are stuck, as a consequence of our various systems with the same old, same old; the power and money brokers controlling the flow of this commodity to those who might even be most in need of it.

Yes, I was burned out. And, yes the insurance coverage game, heralding in the PPOs and the HMOs, was putting a snag in the offering of these services, as I had been trained and come to know them. But there were several other important reasons behind my procrastination. I may address them at a later time. Nonetheless, a third reason seems to have come, over the years, to matter most to me.

Therapeutic community work opened my eyes to the essential need for everyone to have access to skill-based, even artful, caring and compassion from others without it having to be paid human contact, i.e. professional counseling or psychotherapy. Running a therapeutic community is the work I did for most of my twenty-five years plus as a psychotherapist. I cannot imagine anything that could ever be more gratifying, for me, than being a part of people transforming their own lives, individually and collectively, and then being able to pass their abundance on to others. The Twelve Step people do it, how about the rest of us?

By the time I lost my eyesight, I had already stopped wanting to work with the problems I saw. I no longer had the heart, nor the energy, to work with the worst case scenarios; adult wounds of child abuse, relationship addictions and domestic violence issues. Actually, as a provider I, personally, needed more of the community connectedness I was building for others.

Yet it was still a few years into my term of blindness and recovery from blindness (1998 – 2006) before I came to realize that what I wanted instead was to use the skills I had developed in my years as a therapist to find new and improved ways by which to make our society a better place to live, lifting up the most likely to contribute, believing that, then, they would pass on their bounty to others. Though providing this, as it has turned out, has been a rough road to hoe, especially with the financial burdens being blind brought into my life, nothing could ever be more fulfilling for me.

What brought my leanings in this new direction to its heights was my meeting with Murat Yagan in the first year after I lost my eyesight. It was Murat who brought the certainty into my life that we can, intentionally, co-create that sense of awe in our communities that can make a difference to people in all walks of life wherever they are, worldwide. We do have the essentials to support the well being of one another and save many more lives than we now allow ourselves to consider. If we will stretch our humanity beyond the constraints too many of us are putting on the simplest aspects of it. Then the true unmasking can come forth; midnight at the masqueraders ball of humanity. What a celebration that would be!

Perhaps our Bus Ride Story Adventure series can contribute to this effort by helping guide and train ordinary citizens, closer to the top of the ladder, to overcome their own areas of alienation and social divisiveness and thus free up human resources to provide more for this vast need. Not simply for the disadvantaged, but for those who simply want to be that possible human in a possible society and pass that on. Those seeking a depth, a breadth and a height of community connectedness that spells, not only the survival of beautiful and talented beings such as Whitney Houston who seemed to have everything, but somehow not enough of some unknown something still needed.

I do not pretend to know how to have saved this one life. However, I learned growing up from the elders of my heritage that to save one life is to save the world. I strongly believe that real people support, i.e. simply passing on the art, the skill and the wisdom of being human, with all the inherent challenges in today’s world is as critical in our times as it was in the past. God is not enough, but people with that Power could make a huge difference. At least so I believe.

More to come on the importance of building exceptional communities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Then There Is The Frustration

I feel such freedom when I experience my wholeness. Sharing the wholeness in me, then being understood and accepted, even supported in my fullness, can lift me right up to awe. Of course, this is not an experience unique to me. You and I know that it just grows out of our basic human nature; our yearning for what is sometimes an unknown something better than what we experience in the ordinary.

I had a Mountain of Awe high from this kind of experience recently; this being acknowledged and understood. It looked to be a genuine gesture and a promise to climb. Then it sank into the ordinary, maybe even a step below. A new friend of mine was quite adamant about my reading, at least, one quote from a favorite writer of her’s, Neale Donald Walsch. I thought/hoped she was, thus, a real walker of the talk. So I gave my heart away.

The quote follows here.

"How is it possible that 6.9 billion people can all claim to want the same thing (Peace, security, opportunity, prosperity, happiness, and love) and be singularly unable to get it"?

With this same friend the backsliding occurred. I felt such frustration and disappointment When it became clear, one more time, how it is possible for so many to say they want what sounds on the surface like the same things and yet be unable to achieve the satisfaction of this yearning, seemingly so likeminded. But not surprisingly there really are so many reasons we are unable to attain what we say we want with one another.

Not the least of these is simply an absence of skill in the art of being human at our best (i.e. the possible human in the possible society). This is some of where my heart and mind visited while I was on vacation; this disappointment and frustration that was already brewing. Thus New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project and our Possible Human, Possible Society Study came to a turning point that grew out of our Abkhazian Dinner event. Recognizing the absence of skill in encounters of diverse natures we saw emerging at the event, right in the midst of our offering to move beyond such limitations, Sue and I took serious heed as to what for us to do next, realizing that we do have a tried and true skill set.

What to do? What to do? Thus we came to a turning point. As I stated before

“We will never see the end of what began …. but we will always remember where our adventure originated.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Turning Points

I was trying to get all things New Horizons as well as myself up on our toes at our most recent Abkhazian Dinner. And, I/we would have been content enough with simply presenting as much as time would allow. However, as far as covering the bases we had in mind, we certainly achieved our ends; mission complete!
It was the lift that was
most important.

We were, nonetheless, without the foresight to predict that New Horizons has been lifted up to significant heights since our last Abkhazian Dinner. In the three years that has elapsed, the whole of the package of programs and projects that make up the New Horizons Support Network, Inc. has grown with a surprising and majestic leap into a brand new era.

Of course, the reasons behind such motion are not our’s alone. And, though the tangible results are still a long way off, the motion is visible now to those of us behind the scenes, particularly our board members. Yet what we are seeing is more truly about collective motion, people doing their part, now accelerating around us of which we are but a small piece.

Still Abkhazian Dinner event with its array of teachable moments, emerging from it, became a turning point for New Horizons. Event became process without our needing to do more than our planned presentation up against the backdrop of our Possible Human, Possible Society Study and a most interesting collection of attendees.

I cannot say it better than I did a few postings back, this year’s Abkhazian Dinner event has launched – “A rich and important process. Not just an event. We will never see the end of what began …. but we will always remember where our adventure originated.”

Do you see what we see?

More to come.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This Place In My Life

Reflections Upon Returning From A Vacation

I have reached a place in my life where I absolutely know that traveling with OTHERS to AWE is not only so much more fun than by myself, but totally possible with untold numbers of people. So I am always on the lookout for these OTHERS.

On the other hand, these days, I think that many people are not feeling as encouraged as I am about finding these OTHERS. Either they don’t want to take the trouble to look more persistently for them (Who has time these days to make much effort in this direction anyway, right?), are carrying too much resentment and hurt from the past to open new doorways or are just plain too scared to risk the ups and downs of the process New Horizons calls Climbing the Mountain of Awe.

Anyway, if you are allowing me to be one of your OTHERS I thank you wholeheartedly. I/we, the members of New Horizons’ Board of Directors, are truly committed to this objective that we call Climbing the Mountain of Awe (i.e. building “exceptional community”). We have been learning and developing better and better ways to do this with others since 1976! And, we’ve got it down to a formula; a co-created formula (i.e always a work in progress).

The only obstacle we seem to have not yet overcome is that our Trip-Tik asks us to, occasionally, get down in the dirt with others and do that within certain parameters, in a nice clean way. Lots of people say they want to be community with one another but they don’t want there to be any guidelines, boundaries or rules for the building. But, exceptional community-building needs a bit of structuire so this lack seems a bit like anarchy to us, albeit on a small scale, "neighborly" basis.

As for my take on the absence in this area, allow me to say only this: I haven’t yet seen or heard of any enduring configurations that were successfully put together without some kind of blueprint or inherited guidelines, albeit even minimal ones. (Take a look at the Sphinx or Stonehenge, for example, or the whole universe. Something or somebody or whatever had/has some kind of plan, dontcha think? And, certainly one that is far beyond any one of our limited perspectives though we may be assigned to take up the role of tour guide from time to time.)

We want to travel with you. And, we do have a definitive map (not of our own making by far, yet with a significant amount that we’ve contributed in our close to thirty-five years of experience of trial by fire. So we hope you will take time to get on board and travel with us with our well-worn, time-worn map. Destination = AWE!

Friday, May 18, 2012


It’s intriguing when insight begins to dawn. It can feel like a blessing, especially when one has been wandering around a bit foggy in the realm of clarity as I have, particularly regarding where I went for my vacation; a not insignificant hiatus for me. Ah, there it is, I said to myself.

Yum! There it is; the clarity, the insight, right before one’s eyes; just a speck beyond “on purpose” seeing until that moment when more is revealed, at last.

Such delight is with me now. Almost two months after New Horizons wonderfully successful Abkhazian Dinner event on behalf of our local Season For Non-Violence. I needed a vacation after that though it did not come about for almost a month. With a taste of traditional Abkhazian food, setting the tone for the dinner portion, a real feast was enjoyed. Abkhazian chicken made by my Beloved collaborator, Sue deVeer, highlighted the menu alongside delicacies brought by our guests. Nonetheless, the real feast for us, was the mixing and mingling of local folks as well as those from a bit father away.

Up against the backdrop of our program, the food and the colorful combination of attendees, the event was a near perfect experience for our organization and hopefully, for our guests. This was our seventh (or so) Abkhazian Dinner and our fourth on behalf of the Season For Non-Violence. We look forward to many more of the same. Named our (Almost) Annual Abkhazian Dinner, we have been presenting these dinners since 2000. obviously, missing a few years here and there.

If perfection was our aim, it was “almost” that. Then there were the teachable moments! Ah, teachable moments; the gift and the challenge of event organizers and presenters. This event was no different. Behind the scenes, there were a few moments to be remembered. I am so grateful for these as for “almost” the first time since I lost my eyesight (1998), I lead our organization through an event and beyond into an adventure.

A rich and important process. Not just an event. We will never see the end of what began at this year’s Abkhazian Dinner but we will always remember where our adventure originated.

More to come!

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Feel Such Freedom When ---

what I see from my up high shaman’s view of the world can be applied with some practical benefit on ground level. And, even better, have my practical application received with respect. When I can take what has been vividly apparent to me but not so readily obvious to others and say, “Look here, do you now see what I see?” And, they, or, at least one or more “theys” says “Yes. I see it too.”

Awe = person to person
There have been quite a few powerful vistas seen from my shaman’s view as New Horizon’s Possible Human, Possible Society Study started moving into high gear last fall. 

However, try as I might, most of what I was seeing seemed difficult for others to grasp. Oh, a good many saw what I saw in a general way. Still the details and,, even more importantly, the mechanisms so obvious to me seemed almost totally obscure to the others.

It gets so frustrating, even quite discouraging. Sometimes I want to walk away from all the seeing and not being able to say and be understood, particularly with respect. Whether it is my inability to articulate, or someone else’s not understanding. But where is there to go?

Besides this yearning to connect being met is not so readily the general human condition, particularly in our westernized world. Rather we live in (or rather endure) an absence of comprehension by others. Yet we are battling hard to overcome this plight when we take a stand to ensure our First Amendment rights for freedom of speech.

I see it this way so I roundly chastised myself for an old habit of mine; bailing out on communication when it becomes difficult, noting that I have still, somewhat, that old proclivity to lack courage and endurance when choppy waters surface.

But lo and behold ten days ago, just when I had gone through another discouraging cycle of seeing and not being able to say, actually saying but not seemingly being understood and respectfully responded to, someone I admire immensely caught me by surprise. She bravely (for her too) notified me that she “got it” about a New Horizons matter of concern to Sue and I – and -- would as a result of my speaking up, take on a challenging and, thus, courageous responsibility on her end. 

Bravo said I, all aglow! More to come.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here I am again

But where is here? And where have I been, you might think to ask. I wonder myself where I’ve been while I’ve been vacationing in my own backyard. Certainly I did go somewhere while I mostly stayed home, putting my personal needs first, ahead of the seemingly, almost ceaseless demands of my work.

I got caught up on some things that needed catching up on. Like the dentist and paying a bit more attention to my diet, nutrition and exercise practices, making progress, getting them, once again, in a better routine. That felt really good.

So how did I mange, today, to pre-empt my mountain road walk to handle business calls? I’d better watch out that this pattern of pre-empting me, personally, does not continue to creep up, again, on me.

Vacationing, though my body pretty much remained on ground level, there was also the trekking up to my inner Mountain of Awe that is so much the hike and the destination always beckoning me forth. As infrequently as I, physically, left the mountain side upon which I live, for the ten days of my vacation, I know that still I traveled far and wide. Yet not surprisingly I cannot say where I’ve been.

However, as I unpack my hiking gear and settle in, again, until the next vacation, I see that I’ve brought many gifts back from my travels. I will share them as I, once again, find my place here on this blog and pick up my stride. What I can see of them, even at this surface level, is that I have returned with a bit more wisdom and clarity and a refreshed perspective on my personal approach to how I live my life and to what purpose. Vacations are meant to do just this.

Though my metaphorical bags are right now still piled in the heap I left them in when I first arrived home here on ground level from the vacation, there are a few things that I can now see with increased clarity. At the top of the list is that I am certain that I love to write though I have mixed feelings about deadlines. That sums up the fact that sometimes it is a challenge to write, yet my life feels a certain kind of emptiness when I don’t. Perhaps the most satisfying is when I have just finished a piece.

So on the heels of my vacation, once again, I am called to re-commit myself to those four blog articles I “should” be producing each week (or most of the time) for these two sites. And, I must also lovingly reassure myself and my board that I will do my best to accomplish this feat and if I’m lucky, with the best of my intentions, to, at least, write two.

As I know and so do they that I love to write, they are assured that whatever I do will be with the caring to which our organization is pledged. Truly, I believe my board members will tolerate this pace in me, as there is really no one else standing in line for my job. Lisa will, therefore, no doubt, continue to keep my “hit” numbers and content on her radar screen, yet cut me plenty of slack as her erstwhile but somewhat limited student. And, Sue will, meanwhile, still be ready to rejoice in whatever I offer. She so much just wants my voice to be heard. “Dayenu” whatever I do will be enough for her though she might like to see and/or hear my words out in the world a bit more frequently, perhaps.

More to come.