Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Fire In My Soul

See that all-“bundled up for winter” being, sitting in the snow by a warm outdoor fire?

That be a cartoon ME.

And, the little guy? That be a cartoon of one of my three feral cats who will not let me any closer than in that cartoon -- unless I have food in my hands.

Poor things.

I know not where they live when they are not in my dog house trying to keep warm.

Sue and I have placed a pile of blankets out there for them. So far, so good.

(Animal rights advocates, please know that so far I have not found a safe way to capture these cats and get them spay/neutered. I can’t even get close enough to them in a safe way to know yet whether they be male or female. Capturing feral cats is not a strength of mine. Others who come up here that are adept at cat relationships, such as Sue, haven’t risked it either.)

Personally, I do much better dealing BIG CATS!

(i.e. I could go toe-to-toe with a “having made a decision to recover,” hard core addict or convict (under the right conditions, mind you)

than I can with these little cat guys. Like a lion tamer or exorcist.

One of the rules being mutual agreement to be vulnerable, seeking spiritual transcendence.

Many stories here to tell on this subject.

I just got back in from a shovel-fest with three of my kindly friends who made their way up here into the mountains to help dig my car out of the foot or so of snow that disabled most of us the past few days.

On the way back to the house I stopped at the sacred fire circle on this retreat center’s land where I also live. Buried in snow though it is, I thought, even a few minutes out there would help me some to find my way -- through meditation and contemplation -- to a new level of sanity that I am presently seeking.

I’ve been feeling frustrated to the max lately (particularly since the Arizona shooting a few weeks back.)

The mediocrity of our society – and – worse its potential for, not only subtle violence, but mortal violence is making me a bit crazy.

I know! I know! You feel it too!

On a small scale (under 100 or so folks at a time) I know how to do better, much better.

And, successfully guide vital community transformation.

(Like the ”awe” we, collectively, created at Centennial.)

Right conditions. Right people.

Totally opposite from our local Jewish/Muslim controversy. Almost everything wrong there for me. Many lessons. Win or learn. Name of the game.)

Before blindness the word was out around me that if “she (meaning me --- Marcia/Anastasia) can’t cure ‘em, nobody can.” 

I liked that skillfulness in me that came by way of the wonderful mentors I’ve had.

The old New Horizons Truth Or Dare Game is top of the line -- my best way to help.

And, it’s as viable now, I am coming to realize, as it was back then.

Now I know (I didn’t even a few days ago) that I want to go back to that old New Horizons Game (in a new way, of course). I miss that old part of me.

And, that old part of my life. Sometimes, we just need to go “home.” But – in a new way for the evolved me – and – the new conditions of our present circumstances (i.e. massive polarization throughout our country while at the same time we try to fight terrorism from outside forces.)

How dumb can you be?

Fighting inside your professed “zones of peace” when externally your very boundaries are threatened.

(Mental health problems are another issue here. But not unrelated.)

Yesterday the hunger for a neglected part of me – Game Master of the New Horizons Truth or Dare program) -- burst forth.

This is the me that knows the gratification -- actually the awe -- of community connectedness and synergy at its most supreme.

Exceptional people. Creating exceptional communities.

I am sooooo frustrated!

I do not know how to get from here to there so I can contribute my small part.

So, yesterday and today, I started sharing my burning frustrations and yearnings with a few friends.

You know what it got me?

Three caring, generous friends to help dig my snow buried car out from under.

Isn't that the cat's meow!

Tomorrow, perhaps, we chop wood. Carry water.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, Jami, Micki and husband.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Storytelling As A Path To Peace

I felt emotionally drained and vulnerable after I had written and posted my last blog.

I had publicly acknowledged parts of myself that seemed risky to make known. And, I wasn’t exactly sure I liked what I had done.

I had publicly confessed to traveling back and forth between two worlds; the physical and the spiritual. Not just on an occasional Sunday visitation or as a focus of my High Holidays.

I had put myself out on a limb. And, I was not quite certain how I liked that bare nakedness in public.

Once said (or in this case posted) I could not take it back. However, somehow, I did not experience myself, by virtue of this proclamation, as letting go of any one of the thousand masks I wear that are me.

I think the many months I have spent writing this blog, coupled with a multitude of behind-the-scenes conversations that ensued, regarding both the content and process of what I had put forth, has brought me to a point of public authenticity that I had lost by being blind.…

Perhaps I never had possessed this level of sincerity before at all. I had only imagined that I had.

Maybe I have made a choice by committing myself to doing this blog, far bolder that I had anticipated.

Strange, isn’t it to be a strong proponent of storytelling as a path to peace, and then find oneself caught up short in the process of storytelling?

One of my daughters, Lorrie -- (one of the half-dozen or so honorary kids I have) -- still loves for me to tell her stories though she is a grown adult woman – and – a mother herself. She even enjoys my reading her fairy tales from time to time. (I like it too when we do that.)

Up here in the mountains where I live (at the retreat center that is one major work in progress) my happiest times are storytelling times.

How is that the same or different than the storytelling I am doing on this blog?

Or, the storytelling we do in our primary Small “Zones of Peace” Conversations format?

I am not certain.

As I contemplate these questions, I am challengingly asking myself, How can I find the means here to tell the most important stories I have to offer as lessons in peace-building?

The stories that I have been struggling to write for posting here? Particularly the stories that prompted my writing this blog in the first place I have been struggling for months to tell these stories.

And, they still do not get told. I speak around them. But I never get to them.

Insight:  Maybe storytelling -- at least the way that I know to be profound for me -- the way I can best employ storytelling as a path to peace -- is not a performance that can be informative -- or entertaining -- in a blog kind of way.

Maybe real storytelling -- for me -- is an intimate experience and exchange of real people speaking to one another, face-to-face, in a space that has been made Safe.

It cannot be replicated on the internet. Not now or ever!

So until we are able to meet, person-to-person in real time, I guess I am stuck with my struggling to tell my very important tales -- with their meritorious peace-building lessons; my stories behind – “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard;” “The Pastors, Two Ministries, One Church and My Experience of Awe;” the two maps to peace that are the bedrock of my life and my work. I do not see any easy alternatives.

Maybe there are none. Nonetheless, limited as the internet is -- what I have discovered for myself by telling my stories here is this:

1. After a bit more than six months writing this blog, I no longer feel like I am doing much wearing of masks – here or elsewhere.

2. I am much less a hermit now than I was when I was blind (and before when I was intent (1988 – 1988) on my almost ceaseless book deadlines) – and – I really do like the way this feels. And, I did come clean about my being a former anti-Semitic, recovering Jewish American Princess and I love the peace within myself and in the world I am experiencing around me because of it; and

3. I have learned a great deal from reminding myself of the words of Dore, the fish in “Finding Nemo,” – “Just keep swimming.”

So I hope my revelations here do not put me in too much hot water.

Storytelling as one of my paths to peace is working for me.

While, perhaps. you are out there are playing it safe?

With the thousand masks you wear? All of which are you.

Could this be true?

Limited as this internet is for real people, building real peace, in real time, I will do my best to keep my committment to "swimming," writing, hiking or whatever.

So far, so good. Storytelling is a path to peace for me.

From Anastasia, the Storyteller
In the mountains on a snowy January day

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Being Blind Made A Shaman Of Me

Being blind made a shaman of me; a person who has learned to travel back and forth between two worlds; the physical world and the mystical or spiritual.

The New Horizons’ Small “Zones of Peace” Project as I designed it with the collaboration of my colleague, Sue deVeer, evolved its format because of this ability of mine.

Losing my eyesight and being visually impaired for five years (1998 – 2006) was traumatic.

It was also transformative.

I consciously chose this path of transformation for two reasons.

First, it came naturally to me. And, secondly, it was the only way I could find to survive the ordeal and its associated consequences.

Once my vision was restored (with contact lenses I now have 20/25 in one eye and 20/45 in the other) through the medical miracles of seven eye surgeries, it then took me another five or so years to, again, learn to navigate the “normal” world.

One thing that made my return particularly dramatic was that I lost my eyesight before “9/11” and returned after it. The world I SAW when I returned was, thus, very changed.

Still an extended time of severe vision impairment would, no doubt, present anyone with an experience like that of Rip Van Winkle, asleep for twenty years -- an inordinate challenge.

Recovery from extended blindness is very difficult in many ways.  The movie At First Sight, a true story based on an essay by noted neurologist Oliver Sacks, starring Val Kilmer, poignantly depicts some of the most common struggles.  These challenges are strongly exacerbated as their are almost no professional guides for managing the trauma of having restored eyesight, after extended blindness, as very few people, to date, have recovered from extended such as this. Medical advances in the area of vision restoration after extended blindness are still in their infancy.

In fact, statistics indicate that better than one-third of those who have had their sight restored after a period of extended blindness, walk with their eyes closed and/or elect to sit in the dark.

Why this circumstance is so -- is complex!

And, more than worthy of multiple in depth conversations.

The whole of the subject; blindness and severe vision impairment, is a wide-ranging topic from both physical and psychological perspectives.

My friend, Sarah Blake, who has spent most of her life blind (with several episodes of being able to see) has surveyed the subject matter and delineated much that can be useful to the lay person. Check out Sarah’s web site at: for revealing details on a variety of issues, including family and social concerns, the blind person’s self-perception etc. and more.

Sarah is now an ordained minister, working specifically with the disabled. She has been a crucial support for me as I’ve moved through my own vision recovery process. Her knowledge base and the wisdom she imparted to me as I traveled the rocky path of what is essentially a no-man’s land; transitioning between the unseeing to the seeing, has almost been life saving at times. It was truly a case of “the blind leading the blind.”

In this situation it worked marvelously. This was especially so as Sarah knowledge and skill as a guide is rare. There are almost no agencies or trained counselors anywhere in the world that one can approach with the very desperate plea –

’Help me recover (emotionally and psychologically) from blindness. Help me regain the losses I have accrued and find a place for myself in the normal world.”

Sarah, however, could and did generously guide me at times. Counseling, guidance and support in the area of recovery from extended blindness is a whole new, uncharted territory.

It has not been developed yet as, worldwide, recovery is still a relatively rare and unusual occurrence, still only in its infancy, medically.

What I brought back from my own personal experience, based on how I chose to handle my traumatic loss of sight, is the distinctive capacity to know how to traverse this recovery terrain (particularly as I am also a trained and experienced psychotherapist) as well as a unique slant on peace-building. Likely made more so because of the circumstances of “911.”

A gift was bestowed on me that came to me of abilities I developed through losing and regaining my eyesight. I now have the capacity to travel back and forth with ease between two worlds, the physical and the spiritual. And to, also, be a bridge for others between them

If you visit the New Horizons’ Small Zones of Peace” blog site and follow the line of reasoning presented through it, you will likely see this traveling of mine back and forth between two worlds, reflected in the philosophy underlying what is offered there. The capacity to visualize the peace we humans could create is truly a gift I received from my ordeal.

You will also see on this blog site how this perpetual journeying of mine has brought me to SEE things rather differently in general.

A few of key words to note on both blog sites are:

awe and my reference to snakes or snakey behaviors as challenges to the building of peace.

Both words particularly depict this constant traveling of mine. And, how this resource of mine can best serve. To be continued ...