Friday, May 31, 2013

I wear a mask, no more

Three years ago today I wrote and posted my first blog for this site.

The theme; “I wear a thousand masks -- and all of them are me,” was apt at the time. Today, I don’t know how I would improve upon that motif.

Yet, though, even to myself I have incorporated “Anastasia the Storyteller,” sharing my stories behind that mask, into my sense of who I am in the world, a mystique still remains about me. Not only to myself, but to those who encounter me. Should they take the time to consider me, at all.
I wear a mask,
 no more.
And, how many are there in this fast-paced world we live in today who actually take the time and have the inclination to know anyone else beyond themselves, if that?

The tragedy is, of course, that, in part, a sense of self; a knowing of who one is in the world, is an interactive process.
Who I am and what I experience in you, the generic others of my life, shows me much about who I am now and can be in the future, the best course to follow on this life path of mine, as well as the not so productive and the lessons I need to learn in order to be whole with myself and the world I live in.

Some people know this, others seem to not understand it so well. “This” is about the art of leaning in; choosing to build bridges with others, wholesome and healthy that is the highest of life affirming ways.

I have a self; a definition of “I.” And, I have a sense of you, a personal awareness of you, as an individual, and of you as a part of the collective. What we are all doing here in this world, this walk we call life that, sometimes – and sometimes not – is consciously an earth walk with our souls, the essence of us that resides somewhere other than here on the physical plane.
Anyway, here I am three years to the day, after posting my first blog on this site, knowing that the process of writing for this blog site has prompted a growth spurt in me that would never have occurred otherwise; an ongoing, expanding sense of wholeness with all of life.

I am quite changed by the experience of writing this blog. And, I do hope I have contributed some to you, my readers, too.
I do not know how I got from there to here except for a few hints.

1.       I never, ever consciously avoid the dark in me, totally certain am I that the light is just beyond. (With you I might be a bit cautious like I am with my neighborhood snakes until I know what kind you are.)

2.      Leaning in, with the intent of building bridges with anyone and everyone I meet, is a rule of life for me.

3.      I was reluctant, even rigidly resistant, formerly, to embracing this way in years bygone; the committed path of leaning in as a rule, not the exception for a priveleged select few. Though I should have known that my dark side was having a hand in the game.

(More on this point in the future.)
The bottom line: Gratitude, for this precious life and the people in it who infuse my heart and mind abundantly with the light that, perhaps, I did not, formerly, see as well as I do now.
Thank you, my readers, for the adventure we have shared.

Happy Three Year Birthday, Anastasia The Storyteller!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Crossing the river

I am standing on one side of the river. You are on the other. Between us the water flows freely yet, also, between us lies a sea of differences and disappointments. Behind us, backing both the free flowing water and the sea of separation, are mountains that have stood for eons of time. They have seen war and peace. Yet still they stand.
Over time these mountains and rivers have heard the soft summer breeze as well as withstanding the turbulent, rushing waters of storms and floods, the ice floes of winter.

Still they hold their foundations.
At the joining point.

You and I are not quite so sturdy.

So I turn toward you, once more, in my sorrow, with tears in my eyes, but hope in my heart, imploring us once more to reach out for one another.
What will it take for us to cross the rivers that separate us now?

The essence of me is in you.  The essence of you is in me; the bright light of our humanness.
What will it take that we may seek to embrace this light in one another? Perhaps to come round next year, at this time; the next time Memorial Day, to steps taken toward one another, even baby ones, rather than being farther apart?

We are called at this time to remember our losses of wars, past and present.
What will it take for there to be war no more?

I am not enough of anything to effect major changes, even in the tides, by myself.
So I ask of you, what will it take for us to, at least, turn toward one another rather than pull back and cut off?

I pledge to do my part.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Making peace with the snakes

I am still a bit challenged by my encounter yesterday with the copperhead. Initially, I was able to bypass my incredulity at almost stumbling on it, doing what I imagine Dore of “Finding Nemo” to have advised; “just keep swimming.”
New Horizons perspectives
on relationships with snakes.

Well, I wasn’t swimming, anyway. I was walking so “Just keep walking, Anastasia” filled the bill. Besides I was also rubbing a huge and painful blister on my foot at the same time. I had that to consider, also, at the time.
I was pretty determined, however,  to complete my walk destination too; hot, humid day ahead, heart health, exercise commitments etc. etc. So I did just keep walking.

Then there was the notion that maybe it was a dead snake anyway. That brought some relief to my way of thinking though it didn’t take in much consideration for the snake.
Later, I told my friend, Gloria, about my encounter. She was all about getting me to see the meeting from the snake’s point of view which I was, totally, not into at the time. My next move being more in line with possible spiritual messages intended here. At the time I was still, calmly, in the mode that my meeting with the snake was not much of a deal.

Of course, there were a whole lot of other things going on in my life yesterday too. The snake being only one little piece, or so I thought.
But then this morning I felt somewhat compelled to check in with Sue on my snake meeting experience. I knew she would have a perspective; my dear spirit sister and collaborator, her full identification actually being that of “Quaker Sue,” veteran ninth grade school teacher, environmental educator, Quaker camp director, now living on her own mountain acreage etc.

“Sue,” said I. “You know I almost stepped on a copperhead yesterday. And I’m not quite sure what to make of that. (She had, by then, already read my blog story from yesterday.) Have you any idea how I should best “hold” that experience?”
(From my limited experience, Quakers are all about “holding”things, you see. And, Sue, both educator and mystic as she is, can always be counted on to help me “see” the bigger picture of things.)
“Additionally, said I, “I’m a bit uncomfortable about taking my next mountain road walk, not certain about what I should do the next time I meet a poisonous snake.”
“Do!! said Sue, sounding as though I had bitten her instead of a snake being the issue here.
“When I go out and about where snakes might be, I, first, open my heart and talk to the snakes. I tell them what I want, which is for us to lovingly and respectfully share our common space. And, then, I ask them to work with me on that. So I haven’t ever encountered a snake problem.”

Sue, as you can see, is always about consensus, even with a snake.
But, apparently, I still have a good bit to learn about this practice, especially getting things together between the earth plane and Great Spirit, or whoever, or whatever, is in charge of this organization.  It was, actually, all about the earth and spirit connection message, as you can see, after all.

So back to the drawing board go I, humbled, by my meeting with that snake, reflecting upon the notion that I had been talking about making peace with snakes a good while back. Maybe it is time for me to review my earlier thoughts on the subject, further.
Especially as the concept of “leaning in” versus adversarialism is about to take center stage, beginning tonight on our Possible Society In Motion show.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A snake crossed my path, again, today

I saw a snake last week, also; a benign black snake. But this was a copperhead, no less. And big it was too! 

In fact I almost tripped over it through no fault of its own.

New Horizons'
snake bite protection
One immediate lesson came right away; I better be more careful, now, on my daily (or intended “daily”) mountain road walks. How had I managed to minimize this necessity, I wondered?

Lucky me, I have truly been being protected; on earth and in the heavens these past many years. I walked this mountain road for the eight years of my being blind and recovering without a single snake incident though I could barely distinguish, then, between the earth sides of the road and the blacktop of the road itself, except by using my foot to tell me where I was putting it.

Ouch! I could have mis-stepped just like today.
More than twenty years, total, I’ve been walking this road without almost ever (ever???) seeing a live, deadly snake. Obviously, I’ve been a bit over-confident and lucky, I’d say. 
I had no escape plan in place for this eventuality; snakes lurking by the side of the road (or right in the middle), now become real. Oh dear!

Quickly leaping past my reptilian friend/foe I was out of its path in a heartbeat, telling myself, hopefully, that it was a dead snake -- or I well might have been.
At least for my sake I hoped that it was.

But no, when I passed its way again, it was long gone. Of course, that meant snake alive!
Relieved and pondering my good fortune at having been spared (I mean I actually almost stepped right down on it.), my next endeavor was an immediate consideration of how to safely proceed on future walks.

Rewind, fast forward, whose house could I run to if a snake was to decide to come after me rather than continue on its slithery way? Run faster than the snake and hope to hitch a ride back home?
One thing, for sure, I best learn, immediately, to watch where I’m walking, survey the broader landscape, use my eyes, now that I have them, to take heed of the ground as well as the trees and the sky.

Returning home, safely, my mind was next called to consider the spiritual meaning of my encounter, this day, with that snake.  Of course, google is the obvious source for all things wise, mysterious or otherwise of interest. So search I did.
However, here I found nothing definitive of the snake as a messenger other than “Watch where you’re going, Anastasia!”

Apparently the snake as symbol has a smorgasbord of so many interpretations from the Garden of Eden forward to now that I can almost take my pick of any of these and make a teachable story for myself in any direction I like. Not as simple as a deer crossing one’s path as a symbol of gentleness.
I will continue pondering that piece of my life in the mountains; the animal symbol of things, as another adventure in living today.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I didn’t quit before the miracle

OMG!! I think it is here!
Springtime looks to have truly come for me and New Horizons’ Harpers Ferry Retreat Center.

I listen carefully to the birds chirping back and forth outside my open bedroom windows, gaze at the trees, now bushy and freshly green with new growth.
I am all of these. They are me.

My lilies and I,both,
made it through the
"endless winter."
The earth is very alive and so am I!
The standstill--ness of what seemed to be chilly days without end, where I saw little evidence of my life being in motion, beyond mere survival, appear to be passing away.

Accepting my powerlessness to do anything more than submit, surrender, even sacrifice every long held dream I ever had, obstacles seemingly blocking each hard won step I took, try as I might to surmount them.
Faith seemed to be all I had, a belief in visions, held firm in my mind, praying determinedly they would not melt into the Disney-like adventures that once filled my adolescent days.  Rather that I, like the words suggested in the“Rose,” could be the seed that lying “far beneath winter’s snow would, in the springtime, become the rose.”

Now, I SEE evidence all around me that truly my springtime has come,.
People, especially my loyal, hardworking volunteer sisterhood of Leslie and Sue; so much the providers of the substantiation, the builders of concrete proof of the resurrection of me, fully alive, once more, on this land. Painters of cheerful new walls, cheery with color, landscaping outdoors, guiders of our unfolding progress toward the realizing of dreams. New Horizons Retreat Center, active again.

Can this all be true, unfolding before my eyes?
Yum. Makes my heart sing, my eyes pop with wonder at the sight!

Yesterday as Chris, our handyman, and I paused for a break, working together to re-energize this land, a five or six foot black snake showed up, displaying its sleek, shiny self. I thought it a symbol of my need to shed and release the old skin – fear -- that has encased me these many past winters. And, to remember that beyond my ordinary sight I have, all these many years of stillness, been protected by unseen entities; some on ground level, others quite beyond. A black snake, thus, need not be scary. It has its job as I have mine.
Time to let go of the old and let in the springtime. OMG!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Turbulent Times

New Horizons, the non-profit organization I head is definitely moving forward, now, toward fulfilling the dreams for which we came into being; first as a counseling center in 1980. Then as a therapeutic community in 1985, more specifically, in 1995, as a non-profit organization intent on teaching and implementing the treatment model we had developed. By that point, our successes with guiding both personal and communal transformation had established a worthy reputation for us, allowing us to open our doors, at that time, as a training center and healing sanctuary up here in the mountains, just above Harpers Ferry.

Summer Solstice week-end, 2013, we are intent on, officially, opening these doors, once more, to do that which we came to do on this beautiful land of our’s. It has probably been fifteen long years since we had such a celebration.

The dream house hasn’t yet materialized here. Will it or won’t it? Who knows? Rather I have learned to let go of dreams. Yet not let go of them at all. Maybe the shift is that we are doing better at letting go of the notion that I, Anastasia, have some kind of inordinate capacity to control the master plan of anything and can, thus, assist others in doing the same. I, certainly, have come, personally, to accept this as reality, expanding in the process my sensibilities on how to sidestep others imposing that grandiose role upon me.

There have been wonderful times, here, for New Horizons in the past. And, there have been those that were inordinately trying. The latter, primarily, arising out of my term of blindness and recovery from the ordeal (1998 – 2006).

But it wasn’t until recently, however, that it became apparent that whatever the ups and downs facing us, the reengagement we were seeking with mainstream life, when I/we began to take our place in what had become of our country after “911,” was that there was so much for us to do, far and beyond the boundaries of our signature programs; all interconnected with therapeutic community projects.

Today there is no book publication launching planned, as was in the offing when I lost my eyesight in 1998. The furniture is worn and shabby; the landscaping very much in need of tending. And, me the Executive Director, while ever grateful and joyful beyond words to have been granted my eyesight, once again,  am sometimes weary of how steep and how hard has been the ascent out my darkness and into the light.
Destiny seems to call us now; New Horizons and myself, to move beyond the limits of therapeutic community work into an engagement with our greater society. “thinking globally, acting locally.” This is no time to pull back now.

No longer is New Horizons to limit itself to the treating of relationship and personality addictions, especially as it becomes increasingly clear that the peoples of most of our planet earth are driven by excessive survival imperatives; the essence of the non-ingested chemical addictions we had been treating formerly, anyway.
Today the name of our game is “Lean in to the light and learn the art of transcending separation; from self, from others, from all that is embodied in the Great Creation.

These are turbulent times.  And who is to know whether or not a warrior woman, such as I, is genuinely too world weary to continue the climb upward to the high steppes of human existence, or simply just complaining, like far too many others are wont to do these days, rather than seeing this precious time as a challenging but magnificent opportunity; evolutionary motion now in high gear, in these –
Turbulent times.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The good news is….

We have become a nation of speakers; intent on exercising our First Amendment rights, no matter what. But we don’t really say much that is of meaning commensurate to matching the quantity of words spewed forth in a given span of time.
Rather the high volume of words, these days, is somewhat like a volcanic eruption; hot, noisy with more than ample fallout and consequences and something we would have much preferred left still, if one stands back and looks at the event.

Much of what people say, these days, passes for news, no matter how trite.  A lot of this might even be called garbage which we should be wrapping up to throw out in what is left of actual paper-held words (i.e. newspapers, tabloids, high profile, celebrity-generated, tell all books and so forth). Small wonder so many are enamored of the internet; trash is quickly disposed of though it may be forever archived
As for me, personally, I like the sound of quiet, even when in shared space with others. The wind is one of my favorite sounds of silence, except when it is dangerously roaring.

Oh, well. Along with all the near empty words, more and more secrets are revealed these days; many of them dirty secrets that leave one wondering if you really wanted to know this or not. A body is hard pressed to hold onto secrets these days. I have a few myself I’ve been contemplating making public. To tell or not to tell is the question.
Just marvel at the magic that cyberspace and freedom of speech has brought us these days, now on a worldwide scale. It’s all quite intense and complex.

But is the quality of our lives truly enhanced?

Does all the information we imbibe truly nourish us any more than a diet Coke? Better yet; a cookie or a potato chip?
With maturity, one can’t help but wonder.

On my end, I am, without doubt, grateful for the serenity of New Horizons Harpers Ferry Retreat Center where we are, presently, working toward opening our doors, once more, to uplifting though still leisurely communal gatherings, before too long.
Here we can hunker down and get radical; “radical in America” being the coming together with others to take a pause, slow down and actually talk to one another and listen; storytelling being a viable pathway to overcoming the toxic polarization infecting our society so much of the time. (Thought credit of Mary Pipher in “Writing to change the world”)

First community building gathering scheduled for Saturday, June 22, 2013.

Details coming.
(By invitation only.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Leaning in, bridging differences

A new friend of mine visited over the weekend. It was a special occasion I had looked forward to for weeks. And, it came off wonderfully, especially given the duration of time we spent together, getting to know one another. However, after the fact, we hit a snag; a minor one I hoped.

Still, being a wizened veteran of relationships, both personal and professional, on every imaginable level, I thought to address the snag rather than sidestep it; small snags, having taught me in the past that they can either be readily mended or the fabric nonchalantly tossed aside only to show up later as a gaping hole.  Thus I chose, as I have been preaching of late, to lean into the obstacle, seemingly small, as it initially appeared, rather than minimize its presence.
I am glad I did!

Sameness is often what draws us, one to another. But matching sameness is not enough to consistently spur on our very human instinct to grow. From this standpoint, however, we seem to naturally seek the motion of stretching ourselves, encountering challenges in the expanding of our selves, integrating the new-found with the old, coming into balance, briefly pausing at this juncture. Then, somewhere along the way, becoming ready for the next similar cycle.
It is all in the nature of the game of human evolution. Not always easy but part of the process lest stagnation be our preference. Adventurer of life, lover of people, in general, and seeker of truth and clarity, my choice, of course, must be obvious here.

Lessons learned the hard way via decades of mystified friends left behind by a silence I knew not how to break, survivor of un-reconciled family cutoffs and disturbances, amiss for generations, I now know not to carry forth this form of dysfunction. Thus, speaking the truths of my mind and heart instead of the pettiness of withholding must now become the new standard for me.
With new clarity, my pledge to family, friends and community alike, has come to be one of developing artistry in leaning in. Becoming a builder of relationship bridges everywhere possible, is now my mission, and my obligation. No more competing with the Sphinx for the gold medal of silence keepers, will I be.

With trepidation and the clumsiness of a novice I did manage to lean in to my friend in an attempt to head off differences in our new and fragile bond.  Unwilling to allow our new friendship to grow in the direction of superficial goodwill with shades of buried antagonisms that might potentially derail it.  I hope I succeeded.

I did my best to be humble and vulnerable to help clear the way to a higher consciousness and unity. And, told and listened to a few anecdotes on either side, in the process of leaning in, to smooth our way to that place of synergy beyond potentials for polarization.
Ah, storytelling. It is always with us as a viable pathway to peace.

I am reassured, today, that clumsy as I may be as I learn to live my new way; developing artistry in leaning in rather than pulling back, words such as those attributed to, of all people, Mr. Rogers, are likely truths to live by –
“There isn’t anyone you cannot love/like once you’ve heard their story.”

Herein lies material for building bridges across the river of our differences; “storytelling is a pathway to peace;” a vehicle for leaning in.