Monday, August 31, 2015

Rediscovering The Lost Art of Conversation

Or how the contrasting of Dialogue and Debate turned potential antagonists back into traveling companions.

It’s been a bit challenging, fun and, already, certainly interesting for our developing Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call forum participants, Jack and myself to delve more deeply than previously into an understanding of how principles that, if observed, can empower us, collectively, to, at least, come close to what we have come to call “awe,” the definitive antithesis of polarization and conflict.

We borrowed the notion of aspiring for “awe” in our human affairs from New Horizons recently deceased community development mentor, Murat Yagan, as described in his last two books, Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Universal Science of Awe, Volumes I and II.

While Murat’s treatises introduce us to principles and practices that guide us to seek the bounty of awe from a perspective that primarily merges (hard) science and mysticism, “old” New Horizons placed us, originally, on this path based on foundations grounded in psychology and sociology.  Well, I guess, these are still compatible and, the latter two, psychology and sociology, even allowably considered science, of sorts, on their own, albeit “soft” sciences.

Here are the principles we have settled on for the adventure to “awe” we are presently creating. Building on these, our last Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call was a lively and delicious experience, I believe, as we tried our hand at mindfully applying them. Please do join us as we work together and continue to strive for this pinnacle that we call “awe.” It is a most heartening respite in the midst of all the upheaval and chaos typically surrounding us.

 For future reference, you can also find these principles listed at this link

Contrasting Dialogue and Debate
Courtesy of Everyday Democracy

Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward a common understanding.
Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.

In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
In debate, winning is the goal.

In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning, and find agreement. 
In debate, one listens to the other side, in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.

Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant’s point of view.
Debate affirms a participant’s own point of view.

Dialogue reveals assumptions for reevaluation.
Debate defends critique of the other position.

Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position.
Debate causes critique of the other position. 

Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
Debate defends one’s own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
Debate creates a closed-minded attitude, a determination to be right. 

In dialogue, one submits one’s best thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against the challenge to show that it is right.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs.
Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.

In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
In debate, one searches for glaring differences.

In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions.
In debate, one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other positions.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Talking About Politics, Race and Religion – Happily

How New Horizons programs and projects moved from snags to synergy in a span of weeks.

Never have I noticed and tracked so much rapid transition and integration at New Horizons as I have over the past few weeks.  Apparently our day has come, or has it?

Now getting ready to move into our ninth month since launching our Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations – and -- with the force of another election year already looming over us, imposing itself in our daily fare of incoming news, we are seemingly ripe for the change to which these past few weeks have drawn our attention.

But the awareness of major headway, sitting now on the threshold of our New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project, is only the beginning of this next phase. It is not the potentialities realized. For that much discipline, focus, determination, hard work and creativity are demanded and a great and good deal of community collaboration.  I must say, nonetheless, that I am ready for it all to happen, or nearly so.

The front story was a Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call forum Jack and I led, following our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show titled, “What if….?” That program’s design was intended to take the sumptuousness of the previous show, titled “Wild, Weird, Wonderful Ways To Rebuild Our Society,” to the next level of conversation;  awesomeness in human affairs. That program had left me soaring with inspiration on how to bring both science and mysticism into the applications of daily living,

But the conference call forum portion following “What if….?” did not come off. Instead we managed, by a hair, to only just avoid the pitfalls of a nasty polarized debate. Budding relationships potentially endangered by a tangle, not at all what we were after.

Thank goodness my longheld motto of Plan A, win-win, or Plan B, win-learn, got me through; win-learn it was!

The back story, for me, as the four blog articles linked below suggest, was that I, once again, wrote my way through the snag, built upon a range of personal contemplation as well as fruitful behind-the-scenes discussions, engaging others in helping me to define a more refined direction for our two conjoined programs, The Possible Society In Motion Radio Show and Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call.

The four articles that emerged, in chronological order, which might aid the interested reader in following the process that evolved are …
All this that is now unfolding day-by-day is such a wonderful opportunity for growing beyond one’s personal comfort zones in the midst of talking about politics, race and religion, incredibly challenging and potentially awe-inspiring.

You might just want to get yourself involved in this ongoing community development adventure that we are creating.  Take a next step by listening to last Thursday’s Possible Society In Motion Radio Show…..
Then join us for… 
bi-weekly on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m.

In both of these programs we will be introducing – and practicing the application of -- the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” way to talk about Politics, Race and Religion, a non-polarizing and a “feel good” way to converse about sensitive topics, or, at least, a “feel better” way.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Principles and Practices, Not Personalities

Sometimes I feel like I could just let out a loud bellow and scream. I get so exasperated with life by media, life by internet, life through celebrities – and politicians; a life that side rails true connectedness by the distancing we create from one another. 

Last Thursday evening’s Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call might have been one of those times.  We were, not quite consciously, heading ourselves into stormy weather, polarized discussion on the horizon; not the typically edifying conversation we generally have. 

We did, however, have a saving alternative; our dedicated group of participating contemporaries; like-minded when it comes to a devotion for ascending the potholes of human foibles rather than sinking into them. Politics was initially blamed for our breach. However, careful observation later revealed that there was more to it than warranted a mere blaming of politics.
Prompted by common sense I did my homework.

Next time in this forum, directly preceded by the New Horizons’ sponsored Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, I will be better prepared to guide this wonderful “ship of heroes” in a smoother sailing. 

I am grateful that I have a great team to work with  in this forum as our participants, as a group, are more invested in the community-building process by conversation we have been developing in this program, rather than “being right” or taking a solitary path.  It, sometimes, gets lonely recycling your thoughts and ideas all on your own; stagnation may sometimes be all you get for the effort.

In fact, I believe, the other participants and I yearn for the richness these discussions generate on a bi-weekly basis. (Perhaps you, too, have hungers of this nature. So you just might want to dial in and join us; Coffee House Conversations brought into your living room.)

In this particular segment, you can, nonetheless, hear us, well-meaning conversers, come close to embroiling ourselves in the fire of ordinary debate on its way to becoming polarizing.   We were, however, saved by the bell of “We are almost out of time,” pulling ourselves back from the precipice into a last few moments of detached observation.

Upon listening to the taped replay of the discussion, I could hear how we moved ourselves ever nearer and nearer to a plunge into the potential for darkness in ourselves and one another that we have repeatedly spoken against, adamantly. It didn’t take much.

For my part, one thing I learned, as the ship’s captain here, is that I need to take more responsibility to utilize my professional expertise in group dynamics, conflict resolution and community-building in order to be more conscious of the personal triggers in our discussions that can lead us into this kind of jumping off and do my part to keep us on course.

Among the most valued tools I have for averting snags of this nature in the future is a wonderful piece New Horizons has borrowed from one of our favorite community development resources, Everyday Democracy. We call it “Contrasting Dialogue and Debate.”  You can read our version at: Contrasting Dialogue and Debate.

Additionally, I need to take responsibility to see that we utilize the exceptional principles and practices suggested in this. Borrowing from Alcoholics Anonymous, I also need to do my part to make sure that I steer our discussions into exploring the basic principles behind potentially heated topics, such as religion and politics etc., that might arise through our discussions.  This too can be a guiding concept for avoiding communication breakdowns in the future.

AA has been stressing "principles rather than personalities" for many decades as a basic healing premise for the AA organizational operations. Just look at their track record for enhancing the lives of individuals and creating a sustainable community life through carefully designed principles and their related practices with this intent; "principles not personalities." Hopefully we do not need to only be recovering alcoholics in order to guide our own selves and to help one another to a similarly higher plane  of personal well–being and community unity.

Listening to the taped discussion helped me see that, if we are not alert, hot button subject can break down what might otherwise be fruitful exchange. And press us into territories that rob us of our precious time together. Once again I realize that it is the manner in which we discuss issues that brings tension, conflict, bitterness and resentment. Not the subject matter.  

Should you be interested in listening to our close encounter with a tiny bit of darkness, you can, by special arrangement, hear a recording of that particular Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call forum. Contact me, Anastasia at, to access to that discussion.

Better yet, join us for our next forum, Thursday evening August 27 at 7 p.m. Details at this link. The best alternatives do take some patience and practice. Yet some of us are making the time through our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call, even when it gets a bit rocky.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Price We Pay For Our Politics

“Argumentative” is what the call might be of  Thursday night’s Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call discussion. Slated to follow our online Possible Society In Motion Radio Show; debating and arguing, as we were beginning to do, was the direct antithesis of our intent. Our agenda was to produce  a community enhancement forum.
Not me! I don"t wanna be
like these guys!

This definitely was not it! Rather, this time, we were rife with polarization!

Whoops! “What is going on here,” asked one astute observer of the tangle we were creating.

Thus prompted I pulled myself out of the brewing antagonisms enveloping our discussion.  Using my rich community development – and – violence prevention skills, I might add, to determine my personal perspectives on what was happening, almost instinctively I became more an observer of the process we were in. Just enough to see we were headlong into the problem we’d been discussing since the very beginnings of our Possible Society In Motion Radio Show; polarization!

Yes indeed, there we were heading into the kind of morass we’d been intent on overcoming, serving up, in our discussion forum, the same as our daily fare of online and offline hype that our media sources feed us.

Having already established that our radio show and the conference call forum that follows it have a community development agenda it was an easy shift for our meeting group to take a pause in the heat of the battle we were engaging in, shifting, at once, into each one of us present being both observer and participant. We are that much of an exemplary group!

Almost immediately well-meaning voices rang out asserting that it was “Politics that did it to us! We must stay away from politics and religion! That much is clear!”

With equal immediacy I heard myself say, “Wait a minute. That’s not what New Horizons’ sponsored programs are about; limiting our freedom of speech, not on your life, not on a New York minute.  New Horizons follows the principle that anything and everything is gist for the proverbial mill. If transforming ourselves and our lives (and maybe the culture around us???) is our intent; lead into gold, all the way. And then some!”

So I asserted, “I, Anastasia, Chief of New Horizons and all that we do, will guide us to higher ground out of these choppy waters we are presently in.

Thus it came to be that soon our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call wound down, leaving each of us to consider what we thought about what had gone on here. And, me, especially, to contemplate the pit into which we had fallen and what I knew about avoiding it -- or at least transcending pitfalls such as the one into which we had inadvertently fallen. 

Certain of one thing, if no other; it was our own free will that had gotten us into the stew. And, if nothing else, it was going to be my free will that was going to lead us out; that – and – the willingness of the others to allow me to lead.

How very exciting!  What an opportunity!

I was – and – we were, likely, positioned to reach the higher ground; “awe” is what we call it at New Horizons!

Come along for the adventure, if you dare!  Discover with us, Jack and myself on the Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, along with our other discussion contributors, the challenges - - and the joys and “awe” of discovering how to talk about politics, religion, race and any other hot button topic without polarizing.

Anastasia knows the trail – and – you, too, already know a bunch of good stuff to add to the mix. So come along with us.

Next radio show and Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call, Thursday, August 27. Watch for details on this site and at New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project blog site and The Possible Society In Motion Radio Show.

We are intent on getting our monies worth for the “Price We Pay For Our Politics.”  Maybe this time around, "Election 2016," some of us can learn to, collectively, not allow ourselves to be victimized by it all!

Or should I say by "all" of them to whom we might otherwise fall prey; Donald Trump, Hillary, Bernie, the media and on and on ad nauseum.