Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections On Being A Part of The Problem or A Part of The Solution


I ended 2014 with a commitment to being a part of the solution in 2015, regarding the intensifying race, police and community relations problems such as had just recently, then, escalated, in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.   I knew that my organization, New Horizons, and myself had the expertise to help in some ways so certainly we should.

Looking back on that time, now, I can see that the community successes that built for New Horizons and myself out of that intent must have had a lot to do with my motivation seeming to be of Divine guidance, infused with love as well as practicality. 

You can almost always trust Source to get you where you should be if your motives are pure.

Now here it is again, New Year’s Eve, and I am, as usual, drawn to taking one of those periodic personal inventories that help make the cycles of my life so profoundly meaningful and beautiful.

So what do I see, especially at this point in time when eye surgery has made the very ordinary, though not so ordinary act of “seeing” so profound for me?

I think the article I just posted on the  “Year End Assessment” of New Horizons Coffee House Conversations Project sums up where I stand today, professionally, especially the latter parts where I summarize the work yet to be done in the days ahead, if true social change is to be achieved.

But that doesn’t say anything much about what all this means to me, personally. Or what that which I laid out there indicates about my personal commitments for the year ahead.  

2016 promises to be a big one for me; in some ways that I can imagine and in other ways completely unimaginable. And, then, of course, who can truly read the future? Not I for sure. Yet we do have some inklings about what lies ahead, if we are wise, born of experience, and if we trust our intuition and instincts.

What I imagine lying ahead for me, personally, and for which I feel trepidation though I know I will lean into it rather than my old way of pulling back from the adventure – is – that I will more and more pick up my old ways of being “Game Master of the Truth or Dare Game.” But do that in very new ways; most particularly in mainstream community life.

The challenge for me is enormous. Speaking truth to power is the emblem of our "Game". But doing this in a protected, counterculture, therapeutic community such as "old" New Horizons had established was so much easier. At least there the rules for proceeding were agreed upon and abided by everyone or else you lost your membership.

The mainstream, on the other hand, can be so much more vicious. There are almost no agreed upon practices or ground rules for effectively dealing with the "subtle violence" that proliferates in epidemic proportions, day-to-day, out of the discounting, denial and lies of our culutre. A total free-for-all exists and it can be emotionally, psychologically -- and -- even physically deadly such as driving teens to suicide from tauntings and hurtful internet exposures. 

Subtle violence is far from subtle, especially when you are the target!

Being judged by others for speaking truth to power – and – then punished by ostracism, for example, is also a high cost that I, like most others, experience from time to time. It hurts, no matter how adept you become at managing the assaults. And, I have not yet developed a tough enough skin to be able to always respond with grace to such hurtfulness while both holding my ground with respect for who I know me to be as I, also, lean in to others, seeking common ground.

That is if the others would have the courage and commitment to seek common ground with me rather than polarize, separate and retaliate for hurts they might feel at my hands but not yet have the skill and experience that I (and New Horizons) do to heal such woundings.

Oh dear, the conflict potential is so painful and scary; so scary for me I almost want to run for cover, especially as so few truly know, through experience, the snags to synergy way, the pathway to awe.

But I’m gonna do it anyway; speak truth to power, keep reaching for dialogue over debate, stay focused on learning rather than defending and head for awe  -- even if it gets me in trouble and hurts on the way (and I do it imperfectly)!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bill Cosby Takes The Cake!


Having been severely traumatized by the sexual abuse of my first husband; a sordid experience  still remaining, to this day, bizarrely unsettled, I have followed the Bill Cosby sex scandal closely.

I take heart at the unrelenting courage of the women who have come forth to confront this serial rapist who hides behind his money, power, gender and status in an attempt to make fools of them.

Carefully and generally quietly,  I watch – and – I wait,  wishing and hoping.

Maybe – someday – it will be my turn to make public what has so long been hidden and secret; the cover ups and lies enforced by threats of punishment of which I have already had far more than my fair share.

But today I must speak out just a bit; Mr. Cosby purports to give failing eye sight, including the very same eye disease, keratoconus, I have for his felonious behavior!

Come on now, Bill Cosby (and Camille, your enabler), you take the cake for BLINDNESS of a more devious nature;  out and out lies, twisting reality to suit your guile, making small what must truly be BIG here, the damage you have inflicted on untold others!

Keratoconus is a disease of the cornea. You have a disease of the soul!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Is Hysterical Blindness? And Is The U.S.A Suffering From It?


Part II: Is Seeing Or Not Solely A Medical Question?

Hysterical blindness, in the annals of psychology is also catagorized as a type of conversion reaction or disorder, meaning that symptoms displayed of a neurological dysfunction, such as blindness,  are not consistent with any organic cause. In particular, it is thought that these symptoms arise in response to stressful situations affecting an individual’s mental health. 

The term "conversion" has its origins in Freud's doctrine that anxiety, fear or traumatic episodes can be "converted" into physical symptoms. Though hysterical reactions have previously been thought to have vanished from the west in the 20th century, some research has suggested they are as common as ever. 

What has changed, however, is the name change; hysteria to conversion reaction or disorder. And, the shift from this problem, somehow, being endemic to women only as indicative of our inferiorities.

Personally, I can attest to the presence of fear, trauma and stress being converted into blindness. I have lived with this circumstance, episodes diagnosed as hysterical blindness, since the onset of an initial trauma when I was eight years old.  

But more about my story another time. Here I am most interested in creating a conversation about the parallels between physical blindness, particularly of a hysterical nature, and the discounting, denial and lying that is rampant throughout our society; a situation I consider to be akin to hysterical blindness throughout the masses of our society.

(I will also take up these three prongs, discounting, denial and lying, as the means of avoiding true reality and clarity at another time.)

(Yet, it strikes me as so incredibly beautiful that movements like the Black Lives Matter effort are actively fighting these systematic dismissals of reality daily with their protests. Bravo! Let their efforts of speaking truth to power make a difference; a big one and soon.)

The following excerpt picked up from another blog site that is no longer active illustrates some of what I wish to illuminate on the subject at hand here. I found myself rather amused at this anecdote, recounted by Dr. Sanity, a Board Certified Psychiatrist, from the case history of a patient. 

The anecdote makes one of the many points I wish to address regarding our politics and their relation to hysterical blindness.  As this piece was written in 2005, I see much about it that relates to politicians in general, not just Democrats or Republicans.  I offer it here in the service of creating the conversations I wish to encourage about hysterical blindness being very much alive – and – viral in our United States politics and society at this point in time.

By Dr. Sanity, regarding a patient diagnosed as suffering from hysterical blindness (i.e. a conversion episode).
Barbara, I submit to you, is a perfect metaphor for the Democratic Party of the 21st Century. Like Barbara, they have had a rude psychological shock, stumbled, and become blind to the serious events happening in the world around them. They feel they have been deceived and lied to --betrayed even--and have chosen to direct their rage against President Bush, the symbol of all the evil in the world. By doing so, they don't have to focus on the real evil --the horrific attacks of 9/11. They appear to be sublimely indifferent to the reality around them and choose to focus on events and incidents that are trivial in comparison. Like Barbara, their world is falling apart, but all they can do is close their eyes to it and focus ("displace") their anger onto a convenient target whose election was a blow to their narcissism.  
(In treatment} …Barbara slowly became well again. In psychotherapy, we focused on trying to get her to "see" what she really couldn't bear to face--…. she had to develop the necessary maturity to cope with the new reality of her world--to "see" it for what it was. And somewhere along that difficult psychological path, her vision returned.
I sincerely hope that the Democrats are able to negotiate that same path. 
What do you think of my premise (which I will steadfastly stand by regardless) that the dysfunction of our country is, in part, symptomatic of a hysterical blindness?

At least consider my logic and engage with me in dialogue on this critical issue.

Thanks,

From Anastasia, healing well from eye surgery so far.

Is Seeing Or Not Solely A Medical Question?


Now many years after the fact I can look back at the first hint I had that there was possibly more to my vision problems than that which simple, though not simple at all, medical diagnosis could account for.

The year was 1978. I had just recently remarried. This time to my one true love, Michael, who brought into our marriage a supreme devotion to not only me, but to my two children, not his own. Our dream wedding was not long past. And I should have been fully wrapped up in enjoying my new  married life.

On some levels this was how it was. However, a dark cloud hung over my otherwise sunny days in the form of what was soon to be diagnosed at the world renowned Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute as hysterical blindness.

It is this topic; hysterical blindness, and its implications as well as how understanding these is relevant to an examination of the ills of society and its politics that I wish to take up now. The subject I am offering here is complex, generically. It is also inordinately complicated and sensitive for me personally.

Nonetheless at this time of the correspondence of another year’s ending and my just having had my seventh cornea transplant less than two weeks ago, I feel myself desirous of discussing this topic and its relevance to many issues, including above all, the combined agendas of New Horizons and myself as they relate to our Coffee House Conversations Project.

Because of the many facets involved in this discussion and my intent that what I am sharing here make some difference, albeit even a limited one, I am committing myself to presenting my online readers with a series of articles on the subject of whether or not seeing or not is solely a medical question.  

And, if it is not, as I will be intending to open your eyes to considering, what then?

Do you or do you not have the courage I have developed to face what may be, heretofore, the unexplored terrain in yourself and your associates of seeing beyond the physical realm– and – take the consequences of both on the earthly and spiritual levels?

It is quite a mighty trip!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Running Toward The Light


I am running, running now -- toward the Light. The Light! The Light!

It is a miracle. Moment by moment, it seems almost, there is more Light coming into my diseased eye, now healing from its last round of Darkness.

Hour by hour my vision seems to get brighter and brighter. 

Sometimes almost moment by moment, growing clarity comes into my sight, my vision field expanding, expanding. 

OMG! 

I am so grateful, so happy. 

The brightness is beautiful!

I feel such gratitude for the gentle hands and advanced medical technology that has brought me this miracle.

And – in my meditations this morning I wonder with frustration and great sorrow in my heart how and why it is that SEEING all that there is to be SEEN – the most complete truth of truths, the whole reality of reality, as close as one can see of it – can be anything but top priority -- glorious, freedom.

Seeing all became a death defying challenge for me at eight years old. My mentally disturbed mother put a curse on my innocent self to not see what I saw. Forever after “my seeing” what she did not want me to see became a threat to her, punishable by the prospect of my death.  No wonder ordinary seeing has been such an ordeal for me.

I fought this wicked curse – always; a battle to the finish, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically.  And, I am winning, am I not? Seeing is my biggest victory, my highest reward.

So here I am now, blessed and in AWE!

Like an astronaut high above the earth, I can see and it is glorious! 

Please celebrate with me. 

Join me please in seeing ALL there is to see. Hold back nothing!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reflections


A dear friend wrote back from my sending out a link yesterday for my blog article titled “I Felt the Hand of G-d.”  She wanted to pass on to me the following –

“You may not agree, but I believe, based on old testament scripture, any symbol with one eye is demonic; it is not of God.”

Ouch! Oh dear! Had the seemingly simple act of my telling of the wonder I experienced during my corneal transplant surgery set off another round of “snags” in my life? Darn! Am I never going to “do” my “being” perfectly enough for the love I love to give and receive?

What was preferred, now that I reflect back on my actions of writing, posting and sending, was to invite a gathering of Beloved human souls to be with me as I celebrate my regaining vision. The kind of being together that becomes synergy; the adding up of one plus one that is more than one, bringing us to the edge of “awe, if not directly in it.

Ouch, instead instinctively I felt myself retreat from my friend’s appraisal of the Hamsa icon I had used to represent my extraordinary surgery experience. It seems my sharing had brought challenge back rather than out and out unity, or so I thought at first.

But I no longer like that way of reacting/responding; the withdraw, pull back, “I’m outta here” mode. 

So, now, being the good student that I am, even of my own wisdom, I did the kind of thing I am more likely to do these days; I pushed myself forward to “lean in” toward my friend, defining me while reaching out to her with a yearning for a higher order of connection than I had imagined possible in my former days with my former ways.

Soon I found words, rather than silence, to express my views, envisioning that I was taking this action at the risk of possible chastisement from her.  

Surprise of surprises; do you know what I got?

A kindly response from her.  How about that!

She felt no offense at my using that icon. She had only offered me a different view than the one I had chosen to support my selection of the amulet, Hamsa; protecting me from criticism from those more apt to truly judge my choice than she.

(The Hamsa, according to Wikipedia, is now embraced by Jews and Muslims alike as a sign of protection, originating in many societies, throughout history, to provide defense against the evil eye.}

Just goes to show me, one more time, that: 1. We all still have a long way to go in learning to make room in our lives for our different cultures, faiths, viewpoints etc.; and 2. “Leaning in,” dialogue rather than debate and moving from snags to synergy have greater potentials for creating the peace, unity and, yes, even love, that can best guide us out of our human troubles than do their alternatives; pulling away, debate and conflict (yukk all the way to supreme polarization and violence).

What hopeful and heartwarming thoughts to consider. 

What a beautiful vision to SEE on this Monday before Christmas as my new cornea continues bringing me ever increasing Light.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I Felt The Hand Of G-d


And, now, three days later I have already begun to see out of my blind eye; the one that had the cornea with its final demise in 2011.

This actually did happen on Thursday afternoon at Johns Hopkins when my ophthalmologist, Dr. John Gottsch, assisted by his Fellow, Dr. Katelyn Earls, and a wonderful surgical team replaced my damaged cornea with a fresh new one. I was awake for it all and I feel quite certain of what I felt and saw though I am not sure everyone would agree that they, too, saw what I saw.

Oh well!

Now I am posing a new, next challenge to myself for my unfolding adventure of living my life; discovering how I can carry forth and live this blessing I experienced on the operating table, every day, all day, everywhere?

I don’t know yet how to do this. But the marvel is that I can already see the fingers of my hand moving and colors and doorways; still hazy but obviously present.  

OMG!

At the time of my last cornea transplant, April 2002, which was number six and all those before it, the healing and the aftermath were excruciating and tiring. I felt horrible pain and do not remember regaining vision for as long as one year.

But today, only seventy-two hours after surgery I feel great, no pain and remarkable sight for this distance. I feel superb and I am blessed for certain.

Now I must learn some new ways of "seeing" in the world, especially my little corner in it.

Thank you everyone for your kind support.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Coffee House Conversations And A Year of Leaning In Lessons


Love – and the leaning in that goes with it (or comes of it) by nature, can teach us almost more than anything else. 


A wise old saying from the I Ching, ancient oracle of Taoism, reminds me, again and again, that whereas an end may never be realized, we are often able to trace back to the beginning of a given circumstance. 
Love taught me a
lot this year.


With this understanding in mind I have long appreciated that my Jewish upbringing has so well attuned me to pay attention to cycles; of a year, of certain periods of growth, to journeys and adventures, as well as the cycles inherent in significant endeavors, especially those of an anticipated long term.

The Jewish High Holidays call Jews to review the year past with a studied eye and an open mind and heart to guide one in making amends and fresh starts where needed.  The traditional New Year of the Gregorian Calendar, as followed by Western cultures, also invites out this kind of appraisal with an emphasis on making resolutions to pave a path to personal betterment.

I have noticed, however, that the seeking of individual and relationship improvement, or perhaps even weight loss and financial gain, are not necessarily the only aspects to evaluate at these peak times, nor is a definitive action plan necessarily called for.  Sometimes, I have come to see, standing back from a situation to simply gain perspective on a given circumstance or set of conditions is enough; a time for merely taking inventory of what one has gained, or lost or possibly learned.

I began 2015 with a love story on my mind that soon became the Coffee House Conversations Project. You can hear the story and the many levels of significance it had for me on my podcast titled “Leaning Into Conversations on Race Relations: A Love Story."  This morning, as 2015 nears its end, I revisited the tale I told on my Possible Society In Motion Radio Show with the added flavoring of input from my co-host, Jack Slattery.

I don’t know what I specifically hoped to find. But certainly I was looking to it as a means of tracing back to something from the beginnings of the New Horizons Coffee House Conversations project I had designed along with my collaborator of all things, Sue deVeer. I believe I have a wish to discover something new in reviewing the initial stages; a yearning, perhaps, to uncover something previously unrevealed or not quite as vivid yet as might be valuable. 

Valuable for what, I hear myself asking myself as I write this. No immediate answer offers itself. So I sit and ponder what I am seeking. Possibly I am seeking objective perspectives that I was “too close to the forest to see the trees” back then, as we presented Coffee House Conversation event after event, and I am hoping for inner guidance to help me know where to go next, sometime in the future.

For now, I think I will just let my answer hang awhile, allowing new insights to come to me as “I do nothing and everything gets done,” as the sagacity of the ancient stones known as Runes suggests, lighting my way with guidance from the Great Beyond.

One thing I am certain of from this past year of Coffee House Conversations, nine presented in all, with many new faces and friends brought into my life and back story adventures experienced, love played an enormous role for me in it all. Also I am wondering, did love play a part, large or small, for the others who shared the adventures we had?

Following my own advice about leaning in to others, especially those who are at least a shade different than me in race, ethnicity or values otherwise, I have learned a great deal by following the prescriptions of my home brewed medicine. I do hope that others are with me in this.

With the holiday season unfolding and an extensive break time ahead for me, well-earned and designated into next year, I am going to take the time now to do a lot of standing back to discover just exactly what it is I have learned this past year that has perhaps been more momentous for me than any other since 1998 when I lost my eyesight. 

Though I can’t quite understand “how” or even begin to tell you “what” I’ve learned in the process –eventually I will, at least part of it.


This much I do know, always in my heart
it is for the "kinder," the next generation
that fuels my determination and my passion.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sometimes You Just Need To Pause, Reflect and Celebrate

Thanksgiving is such a time.  The turkey that got away is doing it too!

My Thanksgiving this year was that kind of day for me; a day of peace, love, gratitude and celebration. I hope yours was that way too.

The turkey’s special day was followed soon after by Jack, my radio show co-host, and I doing a special program, marking the pinnacle that has been reached so far of New Horizons, almost one year old, Coffee House Conversations Project.

Of course, since I am the blueprint designer of the project (i.e. the “Mom” that birthed the project) I take a particular pride in what we have accomplished. Paying attention to the fact, last year at this time, that we were not doing enough for our community in the areas of race, community and police relations with the abundance we have, we got on board and now have, a new “baby” who is making folks smile.

And, my oh my how she has grown in just this one year!

You may recall, if you have been following our blogs that our Coffee House Conversations Project began as a love story as all babies should. You can hear my tale of it here, Leaning Into Conversations On Race Relations: A Love Story.

For those who have already listened to the podcast from yesterday’s show titled “Citizens and Police In Conversation: A Promising First Step,” it goes along with a newborn now becoming a toddler that our baby is taking its first steps. But my oh my what a walk this looks to be.

Check out our podcast for the show, Citizens and Police In Conversation: A Promising First StepJoin our celebration that the tragedies of Ferguson, Missouri prompted us to aim our sights a good bit higher than they were last year at this time. In the midst of commemorating the losses, we are also able to appreciate that out of the darkness has come a bit more light, if only a little.

And, consider this – your time, your talent and even your treasures, $$$ and otherwise, can help us grown bigger and bigger and bigger, placing you right in the midst of our Possible Society In Motion efforts.  (Details on how you can soon donate to our project are currently in production.)

Celebrate now with us – and – be an active part of a beautifully unfolding future for a “possible society in motion”, "our" possible society in motion.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

“Hang Together…” Or Else


Ben Franklin, around the signing of the Declaration of Independence, stated his well-remembered quote, “We must all hang together or most assuredly hang alone,” emphasizing that all must remain united and supportive of one another to ensure our freedom.

There are endless reasons for people to hang together. But so often we forget this or neglect to give it its due.  Then something tragic occurs such as what has happened in Paris this past weekend. 

Then we remember, at least for a little while, how very much we all need one another -- and the tragic price we can pay for divisiveness. 

As we face heartbreaking losses we cleave to one another, finding comfort and warmth in our human connectedness. All too soon, however, when our catastrophes recede, many, if not most of us, return to life as usual; the way it was before we were challenged in the heartrending way; too caught up and busy with our own, self-focused imperatives for others to matter.

When I was the local president of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) I experienced a heartrending controversy that tore Jews in my local area apart, at least initially the situation seemed to me to do that. Simultaneously I found alliances with Christians and other non-affiliated folks.

Actually, as I was to discover, as I waded my way through hip high resentments, power plays, secrets and collusions, distancing the hearts among many Jews in a town, not overly abundant in them, divisiveness was rife in this community. I was heartbroken at this realization as it became clearer and clearer to me. In fact, I believe that what I saw, how I interpreted it and what I felt at the time about the situation was an important turning point in my life.

I, too, had turned my back on others; of my faith heritage as well as many others. In fact, for more decades than I care to remember I became determinedly anti-Semitic. Even bleaching my hair blonde so as not to be identified as “one of them.” When I purposefully came back to my association with these “others” only to find Jew against Jew in the most petty of ways, my hard won dedication to going back turned my perspective of Jewish community and what it meant to me growing up on its head.

Today we see almost daily that people need to not “other” anyone, same or not same.  While people will, no doubt, find sustenance  most readily from likeminded others, we must ‘hang together” with “others” no matter who or what they are; the same or not.

There is much more to this story of mine; a tale of separation from others, the toll it took on me and the others, what my return has been like and how it has changed me – for the better. I will speak of it increasingly in the future as I believe that what I have learned in this specific area of my personal journey is well-worth the sharing for the lessons accrued.

Already my Exploring Your Dark Side blog site is becoming a platform for the treasures I have gained to be shared. I hope you will check it out, especially if “hanging together” means something to you – and – sometimes you don’t do it as well as you might.

Today, as my inner world plays an increasingly energetic and interactive role with my outer world and the world surrounding, close up and far away, what I have discovered as I made my way to this place of abundant unity and support merits sharing.

For today, however, I think it best to simply invite you, my loyal readers, to check out the most recent Possible Society In Motion Radio Show titled, “Why "Bother" With Community,” that Jack, my co-host, and I did last Thursday.  We made a beginning, but only a start, at digging into the countless obstacles and rewards of humanity, at its best, when people hang together. 

Especially when we can each appreciate that no other option can better serve us; in times of tragedy, loss, sorrow, joy and celebration!  

Today if we look to Paris we are reminded of this.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

George Barris Has Died: I Had Hoped He Would Be Immortal


George Barris, the world renowned custom car designer, best known as the creator of the Batmobile, has died. I read of his passing in the New York Times. As the headline announcing his demise sunk into my mind, a clunk hit my belly, my chest went thud and my heart ached. Next I heard my mind state, emphatically, that an era had ended for me with George’s passing; my childhood was finally over!

Now what could that possibly mean?
The model and color of my first car
George and my Dad customized for me.


Foolishness to the extreme you might think, especially considering I had not seen the man in over fifty years. But there it was anyway, the hit I hadn’t expected, bringing me to realize that I had been holding on to a belief – a wish?? deep down that George Barris would be immortal and live on forever. What an unanticipated surprise!

On the surface, of course, my reaction might seem strange. But no, George Barris had died, leaving me feeling bereft in unimagined ways. Today these unexpected emotions show up again as I set thoughts to paper.  Of course, the deepest part of the meaning is about my father and how George’s relationship to him altered the course of my life. Yet beyond that there is something more. These two men together; my father and George Barris, have shape the woman I have become.  Neither of them alone could have brewed what jointly they created in me.

For many years I have known this to be true. But today I am telling you too.

I realized immediately that my reactions to George’s death warranted some serious contemplation. Mainly, as I touched on in my blog article titled, “Whatever Happened To George Barris,” the greatest significance would seem to be about how George’s relationship to my father as business partners for a time in the 1950s impacted me.  But still there is more.

That clunk in my belly, my chest going thud and my heart aching at his passing show me that the gifts of George’s life, as I briefly shared it and how he thereafter was always in it, near or from afar, warrant a bit more exploration. So I will take time to do this now as my way of honoring a life that was so huge it could not but help impact on others; those around him and those, like myself, beyond any conscious knowing on his part.

Honoring the passing of an individual, no matter who they are or what they done with their lives, is a right and loving thing to do. This steadfast belief of mine, incorporated with my Jewish upbringing tells me to mourn one year for members of our family. And, indeed, George without being present became an important member of my family – for better or for worse.

Thus I am intent on giving myself over, according to custom, to paying tribute to this man, George Barris, who, in effect, changed the course of my life – and – gave great gifts to this world in both his art and his personhood.  

Judaism and psychology, my chosen professional field, aside perhaps pure instinct might alert me to the fact that if I have unfinished business with George Barris it would do me well to clear it. Perhaps this unfinished business; actually a debt I thought he owed me, is reason enough for my conscious reflection at this time of his passing. It’s not “nice” to hold grudges and this I do have for him, along with respect and admiration.

So here I go on another one of my mini-adventures of a lifetime, a next personal transformation escapade of mine. I will share this journey into the hidden recesses of my mind with you and let you know what I find.  

If nothing else, this venture on my part will provide you, my loyal readers, with one more person, me, who might advance your insight on the Dark Side/Survivor/Addict in action of which I am writing on my Exploring Your Dark Side: The Adventure of A Lifetime blog. 

Certainly a grudge, especially one held for so many decades as I have done with George Barris, comes only out of the Dark Side. Not let’s see, you and me, what we shall see. 

Perhaps when my adventure is done the reason I have needed for George Barris to be immortal for me will be revealed. But then is he not to be immortal just naturally through all he has contributed and left behind?

The good that a man, especially an artist of his magnitude, is always immortal somehow.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Monday Morning Meetings And The Growing Of An “Exceptional Community”


Meeting Monday Mornings at Dublin Roasters Coffee (1780 N. Market Street, Frederick, Maryland, noon to 2:00 p.m.)

Sponsored by New Horizons Support Network, Inc.

This morning, another Monday morning, had its high and lows. The high point was that I was relieved and happy to not need to quickly leave the warmth under my down comforter or the serenity of New Horizons’ Harper’s Ferry Retreat Center, up here in the mountains, during this first of winter’s cold snaps.  

I do love warmth and coziness, especially when the great outdoors are getting a bit chilly and I want the days to still be the lazy days of summer.

The low part was that I truly missed my Monday Morning Meeting in Frederick to which I am quickly becoming accustomed and enamored.  The abundance of synergy and goodwill that is growing there, almost to the point of calling it a vibration of love, is the main draw. 

Aligned with this is that this wonderful ambiance is interwoven with the task of building a working community project through New Horizons Coffee House Conversations Project; destination -- a community actively engaged in being a touch beyond ordinary, in our local community of Frederick, Maryland.

The Coffee House Conversations Planning Project, while still new and very tiny, is, indeed, becoming a growing community entity within our greater civic locale, dedicating itself to building a more “exceptional community” throughout Frederick County with as many people as will join with us through dialogue and pro-active social and political engagement.

The road to individual and collective transformation has many elements, “the most important one is having a community.Murat Yagan, New Horizons’ Beloved Community Development mentor, Murat Yagan (1915 – 2013), affirmed this message for New Horizons and myself, personally.  

However, I had already come to know this in my earliest days, having been born into a strong community-life that I naturally was drawn to replicate in various forms as an adult. How sad it is to me that the experience of this most essential aspect of healthy, balanced living is all too often overlooked in this day of high speed everything.  

My Beloved collaborator, Sue deVeer, a birthright Quaker. came to New Horizons in 2006 knowing the importance of community – and -with a great deal of skill and experience in building and sustaining it through Quaker Consensus Process.

Communities, particularly the “exceptional” kind, do require certain kinds of investments, all too frequently disregarded in today’s world, such as time, especially face time, an altruistic commitment to the wellbeing of others, determination to pursue the highest good, a defining aspect of a passion for excellence in human affairs  -- and -- patience.

Here is how I have described the “exceptional community,” contrasting it to the "ordinary" in my manuscript in progress, “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard.”

The following is excerpted from “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard,” (a manuscript in progress).


Commonly held views of a “community” define it as “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and are bound together by various interests, characteristics and values they hold in common.   
A definition of community that is more exceptional, however, holds that a true community has several other distinct characteristics. These qualities carry the normally-held view of a community forward into an extraordinary form; New Horizons call this the exceptional community 
One characteristic of the exceptional community is that the members are particularly like-minded regarding the necessity for resolving conflicts in ways that represent social justice in a superlative fashion. A second is that they function synergistically. The presence of these two attributes*; like-mindedness and synergy, separates the exceptional community from all other communities.  
To the extent that members not only share common values, interests and characteristics (i.e. like-mindedness) in a particular locality and under one government, but also consistently seek to function synergistically, they set themselves on a course of evolving. Evolving as a group can be the basis for producing an “exceptional community.” 
The exceptional community is a thriving, healthy system that makes every possible attempt to maintain harmony and peace. In the exceptional community, violence could, someday, even become obsolete because the conditions that foster violence become unnecessary. 
In today’s world the exceptional community is an important model for creating a “culture of prevention,” a significant deterrent to the proliferation of violence. (The Tunisian Dialogue Quartet is an example of this.)
The Coffee House Conversations Planning Project Team is becoming an emerging “exceptional community.” Here is an invitation for your participation in it, even in short, periodic visits and in small ways.

There is room and work for everyone. 

No effort is too small or insignificant to make a difference in this endeavor.

We need YOU! We need everyone!

For details and registration, contact: 
Anastasia 240.409.5347
Email: HarpersFerryNH@aol.com

New Horizons is a 501 C 3 non-profit educational organization 
Cash contributions are welcomed to support this project!

*Regarding like-mindedness and synergy – I have come to realize that in communities of diversity, like-mindedness can be uncomplicated in building and sustaining an exceptional community if shared values regarding social justice and conflict resolution are agreed upon.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How About A National Dialogue (Quartet or a Sextet or even a Polyhedron “Dialogue” or something) in the U.S.A.?


Let’s you and I make music! We can do it! 

I’m soooo excited! Being, as I am, a person given to a dedication to “think global, act local” as a mantra, what could possibly elevate both the rational and visionary/mystical parts of my mind as high as they are these days? 

Allow me to tell you what did it!

The Nobel Peace Prize being given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet! The name alone of the awardee sends shots of joy up and down my spine! Yippee!

Especially that this prize was awarded while New Horizons is almost totally immersed, 24/7, in our own local Coffee House Conversations Project, built on the same basic principles (at least as far as we understand); dialogue  and consensus as viable pathways to large-scale civic problem-solving. 

I tell you I got myself soooo excited by these delightful turns of events; the local and global – I found myself unable to sleep for too many nights; one stint was four out of ten nights. OMG!

Jack, my radio show co-host on our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, and I took up the topic of “How About A National Dialogue Quartet In The U.S.A?” because of this wonderful Nobel Peace Prize on our last program. And, I think we made a good start at considering the possibilities and the obstacles for our country.

One of the most frustrating hindrances that Jack suggested is that Americans aren’t in enough trouble to take up a project such as this. Could this be enough to really deter us?

Now that’s a sad state of affairs if I ever heard one; we have to go to violence and a total governing chaos to try something, which to me – and a good number of others, seems so logical and almost simple, but not easy!

Nonetheless I think Jack and I had a worthwhile discussion on this topic on our show, opening the way for more on the same and beyond.  After all, our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show began as a dialogue forum for overcoming the polarization running through our society and politics. 

Isn’t this, a Nobel Peace Prize for a “National Dialogue Quartet,” a sign of a time, the one we are living in now, that we, even America, just might be able to accommodate happenings such as a real “national” dialogue that involves large-scale engagement in our country, ushering in dramatic social and political transformation?

I can see that happening – in my mind’s eye; the eye in me that learned, while I was blind, to see beyond the mundane.

Check out our discussion for yourself on podcast. Perhaps it will get your own self so excited that you won’t be able to keep from joining us for our next Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 7:00 p.m. General details here, specific ones to come on the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project blog site.

In the meantime, I , will do my best to discuss here why you, too, should be as excited as I am about this wonderful international turn of events; a Nobel Peace Prize for people talking to one another enough to make a difference.

Yeah, Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet!

Bravo!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Groundswell of the Grassroots and The Nature Of Awe


Try explaining or describing the nature of awe to the ordinary person and what do you get?

Blank stares!

But talk about awe with someone who has been there, personally and with others, and what you get instead is a “real” conversation.

Wow! I have some of these “awestruck” friends in my life. They can, in a heartbeat, generate a conversation like this with me, even on the nature of awe!

So when I had the opportunity this morning to have a bit of a coffee/tea break with one of these friends, I got back even more awe.

Nancy is my friend’s name. She began as my acupuncturist but after a few years of working together, discovering in the process that we really like each other and have a handful of things in common, like understanding the nature of awe, more or less, we can speak of such things rather easily. 

Nancy and I had a break time telephone chat this morning in which I found myself “trying” to tell her about Monday’s Coffee House Conversations Volunteer Planning Meeting. And the awe I experienced in it. And how that meeting was, for me, in its tiny way, like the awe for some folks of seeing the Pope.

(Which, for me, is like the awe of being with Murat, leaving me so moved as to be almost speechless).

Only fireworks come to my mind as being as high and as bright as awe. Yet, being man made, they fall short of the awe of a baby’s birth, for example, or experiencing the purity and love of the Pope. Perhaps a perfect diamond, coming as it does from nature, might come close to the sparkle I feel inside, remembering and calling up the feelings of the precious moments of awe I have known. And, indeed, there have been many!

As I recounted my experience of that last volunteer meeting to Nancy, attuned and curious as she is, Nancy leaned in and probed that in me that had recently been to awe, attempting to understand more fully my experience of awe last Monday, connecting it with her own past moments of awe. 

Out of that exchange I had a grand surprise, accompanied by, once again, the wonderment of the well-lived facets of my own life, personally!

Trained as I am as a Certified Transactional Analyst to analyze interpersonal interactions, minute motion by motion, I was able to describe to Nancy (and amazingly to myself, too) some of the essential ingredients that brought the awe of that meeting to be; a simple formula, not easy to apply, learned from my dear friend, now deceased, Rabbi Edwin Friedman, noted systems analyst and author of Generation To Generation and A Failure of Nerve.

The formula has these three elements. I am convinced these three, applied consistently, can lead any one of us, as well as any group of well-intentioned folks out of the social messes of our day-to-day lives in to creating zones of peace wherever we go. So profound we can even experience awe!

Here is the formula. Apply it, transaction by transaction to how you reliably handle yourself, personally and interpersonally, and you will be more than half way up the Mountain of Awe – and – climbing. 
  1. Self definition,
  2. Investment in connection
  3. On-reactive presence 
(Fear not. I will bring these three elements to you attention again and again with explanations. Now that I’ve started.)

However, if it doesn’t seem clear to you how high you are climbing, applying this formula, in your own personal ascension, as well as the collective, contact me, Anastasia, The Super Sleuth. I will be your personal guide for climbing the Mountain of Awe and I will assist you in reaching that peak.

I am here to help!

Definitely more on this, especially as we head into the craziness of the coming election campaigns, in the midst of all the other craziness surrounding us in our society and politics.

It’s a wonder anybody can stay sane. Let alone reach awe!

But we can! I know I will -- and -- I know you can too!

Thus we become the "groundswell" of the grassroots, as Marilyn Ferguson suggested in the Aquarian Conspiracy, that can even topple that most exasperating of entities, our dysfunctional political machinery!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Cup Runneth Over!


I got to thinking this morning, after posting an announcement for tomorrow evening’s Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, that all of a sudden coffee/tea cups had become a symbol of something to me; something warm and cozy, relaxed and happy.

But what was that something?  I had not an inkling.

The notion started to form yesterday but I didn’t, actually, realize a significance to it until just a short while ago.

Then I wondered about this growing awareness. 

What was this something that coffee/tea cups were starting to mean to me?

As I often do I thought to tell my best friend, spirit sister, peace buddy/collaborator, Sue, about it.  She had a few spare moments so was willing to ponder the point at hand with me.

Always eager to explore meanings and symbols in the abstract, it didn’t take but a minute for her to be in the “game” with me.

A coffee/tea cup?

Now what could that mean to me, Anastasia? Did the damp and the dreariness of the day have a thing or two about it as a connection?

Not much I decided.

But, aha, there it was!

New Horizons’ sponsored forthcoming Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call, scheduled for tomorrow evening, Thursday, held the magnetism that was drawing my attention to the idea of a cup!

I had been in the process of posting an announcement for that event when my first awareness of a generic cup surfaced. The generic cup became something to me before it became a cup, specifically the one pictured above. 

I was developing a feeling, an emotion about cups. I had never had such before! But still what did the coffee/tea cup mean for me in that context?

I mused on the image.

Then there it was!

Coffee/tea cups had come to symbolize friendships, gatherings, community, relaxation, hanging out with folks, informality, sharing, inspiration, fun, expanded consciousness, camaraderie, new ideas, inspiration, collective ideals, “a possible society in motion.”

Got it! My cup runneth over! Then I saw it full.  Awesome!

There it is – the meaning of a cup for me had come to meaning human sustenance of the finest quality, in every imaginable color, shape and size -- cups, symbols of the people and what I share with them.

Over the past year coffee/tea cups (I don’t drink coffee, actually) have grown to represent the personal and interactive richness New Horizons’ Coffee House Conversations has brought into my life through the many friends, new and old, it has drawn together to share an intention to better ourselves in the company of like-minded others.

Now Jack Slattery, my Possible Society In Motion Radio Show co-host, and myself are striving to bring that same ambiance to our expanded format of Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call.  Yumm.

My heart is already warming to the occasion, my mind yearning for the inspiration that will come of the camaraderie.

Umm! Coffee and tea cups plus a bit of a Coffee House  Conversation right from our living rooms (or wherever)!

I am yearning for the good times. I hope you will be too. And that you will join us for the ambiance, if nothing else.

Here are the details.