Monday, July 30, 2012

Anastasia’s Story

I hadn’t thought to become a storyteller. I simply thought I had a story I ought to tell. In the process that which I held so close to my heart as to nearly make it invisible would be seen. In that, I believed, there could be benefit. Though I had not yet discerned, for sure, what that benefit might be. The year was 1979, just before New Year’s eve.

More than thirty years have passed since then. And, for all intents and purposes, I have, only recently and without too terribly much conscious purpose seeking to do so, now, become a storyteller. Simultaneously, the motivation for doing so has taken on a broader, more definitive purpose; storytelling is a path to peace. I didn’t know that back then. Only in recent years, after being blind and recovering from the challenge (1998 – 2006), has that fact become clear to me

Built-in to the beauty and grace of storytelling one finds a pathway to one’s own inner peace, relationship bonding and harmony, community unity building, insights into how we can find our ways, individually and collectively, to local and global peace.

So pull up your chair and sit down beside me at the setting of the sun. Or, maybe not on a chair, but out on a rock in front of a fire at New Horizon’s sacred fire circle where so much healing has taken place in the past. And, let us begin.

Perhaps, together we will discover the benefit, the why and the what of that which I set out to offer so long ago. When I was without the wisdom that has grown up inside of me, without understanding the power of simply telling and listening to stories.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back In The Day

Birthday Month Musings

Back in the days when I was a neophyte at finding the light in the darkness, as I had only just begun to see my own, my eyesight was as challenged as my psyche. I had a long way to go back then in learning to see the world, let alone myself, with the vista I have come to have.

Along the way, not only has the world changed dramatically, but so have I. And, while my eyesight is still a huge challenge for me, when it comes to seeing and dealing with the dark side of human nature I have become quite an artist and I am proud of it.

Among the most important lessons I have had to learn was how to see the dark in myself as well as in others. Then I had to learn how to confront that darkness, giving myself full range to understand it in both positive and negative terms. (I could write books about it all. And, actually I have.) Finally I have had to learn how to dance with the dark, doing my part to guide it to move to its higher potentials rather than being caught in its descent.

Looking back to the days when first I began on this journey of mine, out of the darkness into the light, I give praise to whatever it was that protected me from the worst of the dangers of the Washington, D.C. fast track that could have befallen me. But I was fortunate. Something in me and/or the blessings of some kind of inheritance of mine was already attuned to circumventing the myriad traps humans can set for one another in the “games people play.”

When I look back on those days, the most challenging being 1965 – 1973, when I was immersed in the D.C. fast track (and almost caught in its net), I am grateful beyond measure that the notorious fate of doomed damsels was averted by me. Perhaps it was that the intoxication of a Hollywood adolescence had seasoned me so well to flash that Washington power players did little more than challenge me to learn how to see through their gloss.

Teen-age years at the side of my beloved father might have opened my eyes to the cost one might pay for admittance to the courts of glamor and power. Raised in a small Ohio town of 2,500, he was at his best as a big fish in a small pond, never quite catching on to the dance and the dazzle of Tinsel Town well enough to fully make it his way.

Whatever it was that inured me to falling too far into the sink hole of the fast track game, I left it behind before too long, preferring to analyze and understand its darkness from the periphery rather than make it my own. The Washington, D.C. fast track is fraught with dangers for a naïve, vulnerable, well-built twenty something woman. And, I was certainly one of these. Excitement and drama can easily entice one into it. Especially when she begins to taste her own power and what it can begat, as I was already doing in my small way. (Tales for another day.)

But escape I did, rejoicing over the years at my standing back from Watergate, far enough to assess, understand and write about its lessons, using them to teach vulnerable others. Now when someone such as the woman, Vicky Triponey, who confronted Paterno, at last, gets her due in recognition and respect for her clarity and courage, I can applaud her as one of my kind, knowing full well the price she has had to pay for the effort.

I can, also, draw comfort and validation from such steadfastness in the face of undue pressure. I have done that numerous times this past week or so as I, once again, danced with the dark side in my own small New Horizons arena, disentangling us from the relatively benign Pretender Peace Buddy Pod that, at the very least, was more than the blemish it was for us. Corruption in a system is corrupt. No matter its size or import in the overall scheme of the day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lift Is The Gift

One cannot be content to crawl when one feels an instinct to soar. Helen Keller
A magnificent gift came to me last night as the sun readied itself to set on the official day of my birth -- day celebration. I had all but completed the highlights of the day’s festivities when an unexpected birthday gift of a lift came my way.

Oh, my. Oh, my.

Still lamenting, off and on, the losses our Pretender Peace Buddy Pod affair produced, yet graciously embracing the gifts; teachable moments, augmented maturity and all that, along came tangible evidence that the Divine does work in mysterious ways.

The gift that was a lift!

The last thing I had scheduled for my birth-day, already filled with surprises and delights, was to do one more Possible Human, Possible Society Study phone interview. (Who schedules anything on a birth-day, I had asked myself, wondering at the scheduling? However, after all, this study is almost completely birthed of my heart and soul. What more can I say?)

The man to be interviewed was already on board from several previous talks and had already proven himself to truly be “a person of interest” for the mission of our study. I was genuinely eager to talk to him. And we had had difficulty meeting up earlier this week, as originally arranged. Still it was my big celebration day. So?? Therefore??

It was important. Make time for it, I would. Thus it came to pass that I conscientiously showed up for the interview, matching the commitment of my interviewee. Between watching the sunset (my favorite part of the day) and that last little piece of steak left over from Tuesday’s pre-BIG day lunch with my collaborator and spirit sister, Sue, for a final birthday repast, I believe I allowed in the most perfect gift I could have had on this day, by accident.

I got a gift of a lift! For who I am, what I believe and what I hold most dear, the accrued losses, emerging out of our Abkhazian Dinner incident, did take their toll on me, leaving me, at times, feeling a bit worn, longing for “real deal” peace builders. Possible humans, truly doing the work to build a possible society, at least, as I hold them to be in my, very occasionally, biased perspective. (The Pretender Peace Buddy Pod affair was, indeed, such an occasion.)

So you know what happened at the setting of the sun on my main day? I got a lift as a gift, watching the sunset while interviewing a man who could well be our next Annual Peace Buddy Award Winner. I needed this lift. It came just at the right moment. As New Horizons, now, moves forward toward our next Bus Ride Story Adventure rehearsal and our annual board meeting.

I am, thus, renewed. My level of inspiration uplifted, as I begin preparing my end of responsibilities for these events in motion. It is important that I be inspired, as I am the captain of this ship. And, our board, soon, will review the progress of our study, making ready to soon send it forth (January 1, 2013) on its second full year and its second one hundred participants. All in all I needed this most beautiful birth –day gift.

This morning as I came awake into my day, taking as usual my time to pray, I felt the lift inside of me that signals me, shaman/spiritual warrior, that I have become, taking flight. Up and off earth level, my spirit soaring as it is meant to do.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Art of Seeing

Birthdays are beautiful most of the time. But then there was the one when we lost my toddler son on the beach and spent most of my birthday looking for him. Of course, I was totally desperate inside. Could my beautiful baby with the platinum blonde curls have walked himself right into the drowning water; one of a mother’s worst fears? Many hours later we found him, as you might have known, happily building sand castles with other toddlers he had discovered, wandering away from us.

That was the birthday, after finding my lost child, I discovered that I could and might need to celebrate my birthday for a month to properly mark it. One day could never cover all the downs and the ups that an annual commemoration – and – a review of one’s life to date -- might merit. So it began for me. Thus, today, the official day of remembrance for my birth, here I am on my main “honoring of Me —day,” as well as my most particular day to see where I need to clean up my act in the coming year ahead. 

Still I am under no obligation to see it all today. I do have my thirty days, if I need.

Seeing, you know, is of particular significance for me. This past year, alone, has had me, repeatedly, in and out of blindness (in my right eye). In the past few weeks there has been almost more blindness than sight. However, given that I have come to see my vision challenges to be, not only physical, but spiritual, I had to, again, ask myself what was this eye of mine signaling for me to see that, perhaps, I was somehow resisting.

So I came to today’s “trust the first thought that comes to mind” insight:

*The Abkhazian Dinner incident and its fallout truly brought a grievous loss to our organization; the loss of a great deal of time spent gathering data and building rapport with Possible Human, Possible Society Study participants and a stinging loss of beautiful connections with a particular group that seemed pregnant with possibilities to share with others of cherished hopes and dreams and visions. Perhaps it was this that I didn’t quite want to see wholly, as the impact began to unfold. Yet with the loss and the letting go came liberation and expanded clarity.

Perhaps it was all just as it must be; loss, liberation and expanded clarity going hand in hand. This, the art of seeing suggests to me. Would that such a spiritual insight could restore my lost eyesight.

*The Abkhazian Dinner was a wonderful event, nonetheless. And, few knew of the “incident.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

In The Scheme Of Things

In the ordinary scheme of things our Abkhazian Dinner incident might have been written off as just one more instance of the way things are. However, this was the Abkhazian Dinner, presented on behalf of the annual Season For Non-Violence, commemorating the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, the locale for our event was a Quaker Meeting House. Quakers, one must remember, stake their lives on the belief that violence/war is not the answer.

The necessary elements were, thus, present for what occurred to not be taken lightly. Several days after our Abkhazian Dinner, a guest called me to report that a brief, but traumatic, encounter had befallen her right in the midst of our beautiful event, leaving its sting. I knew right away that what she was reporting, though a short-lived incident, could not be disregarded. However, reported our guest, a lovely woman I had no reason to dismiss, was, at the moment, too upset to discuss what had happened.

As far as the principles of New Horizons go, the incident could not be simply ignored. After all, subtle violence is not so subtle, especially when you are the target. And, we had, quite pointedly and successfully, been protecting people from subtle violence since 1980, doing our best to guide them to do otherwise through many teachable moments.

I had staked my life, personally and professionally, on doing my best to put a stop to unseemly interpersonal interactions, especially violence, the subtle and the not so subtle. Still the means to do otherwise are not always simply and easily determined, particularly in the “subtle” department. Nonetheless, this, effort is, sometimes, a necessary precursor to the possible human building a possible society.

The situation suitably in motion, I thought, and myself amply fortified with a growing team of peace builders, I had no reason to doubt that all would be well. The woman would get back to me with details as soon as she felt able. In the meantime, she wanted to apprise me that something of an emotionally violent nature had occurred for her at our Abkhazian Dinner, the last place she’d have imagined.

Duly alerted, I reported the incident to my board of directors, told several others I knew I could trust, putting the matter on hold, pending further details. Given the composition of our group of attendees, study participants, local peace activists and a mix of supporters of the Season For Non-Violence, I believed that, collectively, whatever went awry would, of course, be set aright. This is the heart of community-building, right? All for one and one for all.

After about one month the woman came forth with her story, having no apparent agenda other than telling her story, being listened to and her distress acknowledged. We were grateful that this was all she needed for healing.

It might have ended there – and -- even better lifted us all to our higher selves, individually and collectively. But another chapter, related to the incident, began just as this one came to an end. And, here, more significantly, than the original incident itself, is what brought me, New Horizons and, especially, our Possible Human, Possible Society Study to a turning point. Another teachable moment.

To be continued.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Pretender Peace Buddy Pod

Have you not noticed, dear visitor, that where the subject of New Horizons’ “Turning Point” has been discussed that I have, more or less, seemed to be skirting an issue or two at the same time that I was acknowledging it?

Well, of course, I’ve been doing that. One more of my life’s values clarification quandaries was being brought to the fore, challenging me to upset my comfort zone just when I had gotten comfortable with it again. And, along with disturbing my comfort zone, another one of my masks was scheduling itself to move into take -off position on the giant runway of my life. That is, if I would allow to it go.

Well, it wasn’t that I wanted to continue my old game of hiding, it was more that I just wasn’t sure how best to proceed in a manner that would achieve the highest good. Actually, there is still that in me that, on occasion, must stretch myself to see what I see, say what I see and not cop out on my passion for truth.

Having just gotten off the phone, an hour or so ago, from a meeting with long term, “hard-nosed” board member, Lisa Boyer, preparatory to the convening of our annual board meeting. (Actually Lisa is one of the most patient, loving and compassionate people I have known.), I see that I must now come face-to-face with my shadow self, the people pleaser, and am called to move beyond its “dysfunctional” aspects to do the next right thing.

Yes, there was an incident at the Abkhazian Dinner that has, to date, negatively impacted, particularly, upon New Horizons’ Possible Human, Possible Society Study. And, I have not been forthcoming about the incident. Nor the intense values clarification quandary it has brought to our organization behind the scenes. Holding back, however, has been, to the best of my intentions, an appropriate strategy meant to allow our board time and opportunity to find the path to the highest good for all concerned in the situation.

I thank you for your patience with our process and your compassion as we sought to find the means by which to best address and heal the situation. However, today I pledged to remove the masking I’ve been doing. I cannot do the revealing all at once that I/we hope will set our course aright. That will take time. But I am pledged, now, to clean up my people pleasing act and take the responsible steps that are my responsibility as executive director/captain of this ship.

Please keep coming back to read what will be revealed here (and on our other blog site) about the incident and New Horizons attempts to “walk the talk” we are talking as best we can, seeking the next right thing to do. The incident brought me/us to identify a “pretender peace buddy pod” in the midst of our Possible Human, Possible Society Study. And, I have pledged -- to myself and my board of directors -- to clean up my wimpy, people pleaser act in, as regards this incident, by the time of our coming annual board meeting, scheduled this year for August 11 or 12 (tba.)

What will that look like? I do not know.

But I do pledge, here and now, to do my best, regarding this situation, which Lisa tells me begins with telling the story back and forth between our two blogs in the service of sharing our related teachable moments. And do it in this most compassionate way that I can. May the highest good be our reward.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July: Birthday Celebrations and the Things I Didn’t Know

As soon as the calendar pages turn over to July a whole new vista comes into view for me; a gift derived from the practice of taking personal inventories several times during the year. July is one of my two main times. The other is the period of the Jewish High Holidays.

July is the month of my birthday and that of my husbands and my daughter’s, my uncle’s and the whole U.S.A. etc. etc. and the anniversary date of my father’s death. In Jewish observance, the death of a parent is commemorated with certain specific rituals. The month of July is not formally ordained, of course, but it always brings a time of reflection for me along with celebration.

For as long as I can remember, July events, beginning with July 4th, draw me to explore the age-old existential questions; who am I and what am I doing here. Have I done well in living my life this past year and how can I do better in the coming year? What have I done with my life and what is the Divine assignment I am to carry out in the year to come.

I am grateful that I have been given another year of sight, especially as last year it had, once again, been frightfully threatened, improved somewhat and is now, again, of concern. That was the single greatest blessing for me this past year. Having taken an eight year sabbatical (1998 – 2006) to be blind and recover from it, I made up my mind going through the recent challenge that vision loss would not, again, include a sabbatical from living my life to the fullest.

I accomplished what I was determined to do on this score. And, I definitely get high marks, again this past year, for my efforts to be the best I could and contribute the best I can to people and life in general around me. I also learned a lot from the things that came my way, unexpectedly.

Here are some of the things I didn’t know last year, as July began, with the study, surprisingly, being the springboard, for so much.

I didn’t know that my idea and design for the Possible Human, Possible Society would hit the high mark in terms of things that were interesting and thought provoking for the people participating in it.

I didn’t know that interviewees would have so much to say that was fresh, well-thought out and hopeful about where our lives are presently taking us, even if a bit blaming and critical of the “others” at times. (Actually I expected the latter and was delighted by the former.)

I didn’t know how much generosity of time, thought-ful and soul-ful cxpression the study would draw forth from participants.

I didn’t know that had it not been for the dedication of Murat and those most closely supporting him, I would not have had the audacity to even imagine that an actual possible human and a possible society were within the achievable realms of current consideration.

I didn’t know/realize (until after many long interview conversations and the Abkhazian Dinner) that it was because of Murat’s opening up the possibilities within reach, including a detailed map and guides on how to reach them, that the study came into being.

I didn’t know that our Abkhazian Dinner event, bringing New Horizons’ volunteers together with study participants and local peace activists, would be a turning point for the study and open my eyes to so much that had changed in me since losing my eyesight (1998).

I am grateful for this birthday month of mine and that I have lived to see another year with opportunities to be with loved one.

P.S. If you want to know, my birthday is exactly two weeks to the day after the fourth of July. That’s how I remember it??? Or is that perhaps the way I remember July 4th?