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.


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. 


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


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.  


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.