Friday, January 31, 2014

Balancing extremes

OMG! Harsh weather conditions; nights and days of single digit temperatures, heavy snowfalls, icy roadways, power outages for tens of thousands everywhere. Out here in the mountains, dwindling wood supplies. A winter so bitter cold we would hope to forget it.  I know I would. What a month January, 2014 has been!

Certainly puts things in perspective, when you think about it. Where is the room for arrogance when students are stuck in schools, cars stranded this way and that for hours as Georgia and Alabama endured this past week?

Out here we’ve gone through so much wood already, we’ve taken to cutting and hauling in logs that are only half dry.  As you can imagine they do not burn well at all.

On the surface, there may not seem to be an easy correlation between these harsh winter days and the profound quote of Helen Keller that Jack, my radio show co-host, brought onto last week’s program. At least, as far as you might be thinking.

Nonetheless, as I braved the single digit temperature outside my door a few days ago, determined to not let my main heat source burn down to its final embers, I was reminded of our last show’s discussion.  I have reflected numerous times since on Helen Keller’s words --

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  
…noticing, intermittently, the frequency, in day-to-day life, of the seemingly ordinary efforts within which, with a studied eye, one can see merit.

Jack told a wonderfully, heart-warming tale of a personal occurrence of this nature from his own life on our last show, “Honoring the Great and the Small.” I look forward to revisiting it on our next program. His story truly had merit; a small action that was both great and noble within its context.

While not exactly great and noble on any scale, I certainly did feel brave when I set out, no matter how far I needed to go into the woods, to find some kindling the other day. Especially since most everything around here was buried under significant snow and ice. 

Then, today, I pledged to be kind and gentle to me and all others to balance the extreme harshness of the days past. And I did it although I was frequently tempted into overdrive; phone calls and internet distractions and what not, that might have been BIG great and noble.

By day’s end, I felt as if I had balanced off the harshness of this week’s earlier days. That meant something, don’t cha think? Just goes to show you.

Anyway, I sure am glad January ends tonight!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Honoring the great and the small

Long time coming!

Tonight on the Possible Society In Motion Radio Show that Jack Slattery, my co-host, and I do, approximately bi-weekly for the present, I am, at last, going to do something I have been longing – and needing -- to do for years.

I am going to, more publicly than ever, take off the mask I wear that conceals the place Murat Yagan and the ancient traditions, called Kebzeh, play in my life and that of New Horizons.  Tonight’s Possible Society In Motion Radio Show will begin introducing the “great and the small” of Murat Yagan as I/we have been unable to do until now.
Why this is so in his passing rather than his life, is a mystery to me.

Do you know why? I don’t yet.

I, also, don’t know how impactful this program will seem to others who may listen in. I don’t even know how satisfied I will be with the on-air outcome, even for myself. But I do know that no matter the effect, whatever is achieved by tonight’s show will be a rite of passage for me.

At this moment, more than ever before, except for New Horizons’ (Almost) Annual Abkhazian Dinners, I will, tonight, be/feel on my way to presenting what this blog site was intended to be, in the first place;
A personal and professional blog exploring the vision behind the New Horizons ZOP and how it reflects my (Anastasia’s) journey from blindness to recovery.
Up until now, without bringing the “great and the small” of what Murat has brought into my life and guided New Horizons to be, as it istoday, you, our readers and listeners, were only getting part of the story.

I don’t know how that happened, or why. But it has been. Maybe it was simply “beshert” (Yiddish for destiny). However, I am about to change that.

Tonight is the beginning! I will, always, be able to track back to this beginning. But there will be no end.

Sooooo -- I hope you will listen in to Jack and I this evening, and our friend, Gloria Livingston, for this important show, “Honoring the great and the small.” And, then join us for our Possible Society In Motion Conversations Forum on the conference call portion following the show.

That’s where the real deal peace buddy conversation takes place!

Can’t fit our program time slot into your schedule tonight? Well, then listen to the podcast.

The Possible Society In Motion Radio Show is about to become a teaching series.  And, you won’t want to miss the opportunities it affords you; past, present and future! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My/Our Beloved Teacher, Murat Yagan: A Tribute

Murat Yagan, my Beloved spiritual teacher and New Horizons’ community development mentor, passed away on December 19. He left behind a rich legacy.

Murat Yagan 1915 -- 2013
In his passing, as in his life, Murat showed all of us who called ourselves his “students” a certain and highly disciplined pathway to Divine connection. With patience and persistence he guided us as to how we might live abundantly, individually and collectively, with or without material riches. At its foundation his legacy is one that is as earthbound and practical as it has been lofty in the learning.
The earthbound and practical were always prime agendas for New Horizons. Through New Horizons’ relationship with Murat and his community of students in Vernon, B.C., this organization that I founded and direct advanced its capacity as an, already impactful, community development approach. Originally focusing on overcoming relationship and personality addictions, with Murat’s tutelage, we evolved a non-chemical addiction treatment model into a broad-application, community development and violence prevention model.

We moved beyond solving problems, handling, at times, the worst tendencies such as domestic violence and threatened suicides and homicides, to reaching for possibilities. We shifted our priorities from treating co-dependency problems to guiding individuals and groups to the higher planes of human attainment.  

Training in community unity-building and conversation skills replaced Inner Child and trauma work with collective problem solving skills. Overcoming cultural divisions; interfaith disparity, racial separation, civic and political differences, as well as national and international cultural bridge-building, became our focus.

For me, personally, however, given the circumstances of my blindness, at the time Murat came into our lives, spiritual development was critical, if not primary. Blind, I was living in the realm of the seriously challenged.  An advanced spiritual life, as Murat taught it, based on his Abkhazian heritage, within the framework of a healthy community life suited me as an extraordinary gift. Most significantly, within Kebzeh community I could be a student rather than a teacher; a much needed respite at this time in my life.

The story of how these riches came to be realized can be found at this link, as excerpted from Murat’s most recent book, Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe, Volume II. We hope you will read this contribution of our’s to Murat’s final book. And, draw inspiration from it so that you can share with us the adventure to the collective potential, now, awaiting us. New Horizons’ blog site is, additionally, abundant in articles and guidance on how to apply the principles we derived from Murat’s teachings to everyday life.

We are pledged, now, along with our many Kebzeh sisters and brothers, world-wide, to honor Murat’s life by following his example, daring, fearlessly, to embrace our fullest human potential. Diane Wilson, one of Murat’s closest and most devoted students, expressed this shared commitment, thus –

….one day you (meaning Murat) will say with joy, "These are the seeds I planted and they have claimed their birthright*!"

(According to Murat, Kebzeh tradition equates “birthright” with “fullest human potential.”)

Our promise is made. The riches of the inheritance provided.

Now, how are we to realize this grand potential? 

According to Murat and the traditions of his Abkhazian heritage, I believe we will need to live it, to dance it to create it.

When I ask myself how to do this, I am reminded of Murat’s “Seven Ways To Knowledge." I will begin looking here for answers to my query. Then go on to wherever else I can find them.  

The answers will reveal themselves, if I stay open to them, I trust.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Visioning and re-visioning

New Year’s Day, 2014

The sun shines brightly, today, out here on the mountain, the last snowfall melted away, the air cold and brisk, anticipating the next wintery mix set to arrive tomorrow. Today, however, it will warm-up enough for an afternoon walk with my friend, Linda. “Yippee,” she texted me, a few minutes ago. Soon we will be off on a mountain road hike.

How happy this is for us, a few hours into our New Year, 2014!

Privately, there is still time for my personal reflections before we set off, time for me to continue that annual check-in with myself, begun when the sun rose this morning on a new year. Somewhat like a Jiffy Lube visit for my car.

Time, still, to continue an annual review, ushered in by the New Year. Time to check-in, briefly, on the condition of this vehicle I am driving that is my body, mind and spirit, transporting me through this life I am, now, living. And, sort out, in my mind, where we should be heading; destinations being important for me. Perhaps, too important, I sometimes think.

I have, however, become adept, over the years, at balancing and re-balancing. Like an auto mechanic rotating my tires. So, today, I am slowing my pace to check-in with myself, seeking to find the realistic and practical and wed these to my hopes and my dreams.

Immediately, I am reminded how grateful I am to be able to SEE this New Year with two eyes; the left eye seeing almost 20/20, the right one legally blind. Yet stable and clear enough for me, at least, to see my way to cross the road, provided the left one checks for traffic first.

I am incredibly happy, grateful and relieved for this sight of mine, so often threatened, since my junior year in college. That was when I was forewarned I’d be totally blind in six months. But I wasn’t for a long, long time. Yet one never knew.

The hereditary eye disease I have, keratoconus, frequently shows up around college age, placing all who have it on the track of a lifelong roller coaster ride; frequently interrupted hopes and dreams, projects incomplete. Through one’s thirties, the disease is prone to speed up development. By forty it may stop progressing entirely. That is how it was for me. Still keratoconus can be tricky.

Nonetheless, without conscious note, I am still inclined to take the sight I have for granted. I forget, temporarily, that I have given much of my time and energy over the past three months (October – January) to fighting for this eyesight of mine.

I am ready to rush into this day and the New Year ahead with great hopes and dreams, now that the holidays are almost past. I want to plan my next steps and the ones after that, as if 
I’ve had only a mild cold. No big deal. But it was a big deal; this fighting for my eyesight, once again, these past three months. With the situation righted, for now, I ask myself, how does one balance blindness potential. After all, it may or may not occur?

I am fine today, right? So, what is the proper perspective here -- for realities and practicalities -- for hopes and dreams?

I want to “get over it,” rush on to the next thing and the next. Instinctively, I want to put the ordeal and the threat it carried aside. That’s the pattern I followed throughout my twenties and early thirties. At that point, four cornea transplants, almost back to back, slowed me down, big time; four cornea transplants that, in my mind, brought only dark clouds to “rain on my parade.” As for a perspective that being blind, or not, can make a marked difference in one’s life, I was determined to ignore that!

Had I paused, as the situation necessitated, there might have been only one transplant, not four. But that is all water over the dam; lessons to be learned from past mistakes.

Now, as I reflect on those days past and what I’ve learned, sharing more and more of the tale that is “Hot Pants, Motorcycles and K Street,” it is almost certain that you, the reader, as well as me. the writer, will “see,” loud and clear, that my “Ms. Success by day, suicidal by night life” was, in part, profusely fueled by the denial I was living. That blindness was imminent, at any moment, had to be ignored. I believed survival demanded this of me. I would not pause! I had a life to live. And, a BIG one at that!

Anyway you cut it, keratoconus is one Hell of a burden for a twenty something! And, as for most of us, my life, at that point, had many other complications.

But dead center into these crises, I believed I had to grab it all, right then and there, lest life and opportunities pass me by. Today I know this view to be a core element of “urgency addiction;” the hurry up mentality that infects our society.

Washington ran on it, then, and still does now.  Denial and urgency run together on the D.C. fast track, minimizing the significance of an individual’s healthiest needs, human priorities horribly skewed. Blindness can take many forms.

Here, on the D.C. fast track upon which our nation’s politics roll, not seeing the essence of genuine human, baseline needs is the currency of day-to-day life.

This is a way devoid of the trees, fresh air, sunrise and sunset. In today’s world, as then, very few of the senses are touched on the Washington fast track scene by the sacredness of life such as the woodpeckers and cardinals, visiting my bird feeder, bring.

Over time, I learned to balance my priorities, then chose to live a quiet, country life, visiting the D.C. hub, only when necessary. Other former D.C. “fast trackers” also live nearby. I/we wouldn’t trade this life for a million dollars or more.

Now, there is no more “suicidal by night” for me.

I sleep really well. With balance and without urgency to drive me, I am still looking for hopes and dreams to be realized.