Friday, December 24, 2010

What is peace?

-- if it is not the serenity, the stillness, the quiet in me that flows from me to you?

-- if it is not that same still place in you? -- if it is not this that multiplies again and again with others?

 What is peace, then; this, essentially, human quality called peace?

This holiday season, please help support our elegant solution fundraising campaign, (see our holiday LED specials) -- seeking ways to spread our light from one to another in small community settings – striving to create small “zones of peace” everywhere.

10% of the purchase price of Pearl LEDs
are donated to New Horizons projects.

Merry Christmas all,

From Anastasia

Friday, December 17, 2010

Small “Zones Of Peace Action Step #2

Pledge -- To make time, everyday, for personal renewal.

A common misperception about peace-building is the belief that peace action is all about “Doing.” That is not quite accurate!

Peace action is a lot about finding a healthy balance between action and non-action; between DOING and BEING.

Are you making room for a quiet time in your life each day?

Time for reflection, contemplation, introspection, prayer and or meditation?

Time to relax? Time to play? Time to just hang out with friends, family or other loved ones like a pet?

Look to leaders for role modeling such as Gandhi who devoted himself to non-action as an integral part of peace-action.

Have a happy, peaceful weekend wherever you are.

From Anastasia,
Temporarily snowed in up in the mountains

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Be The Peace You Wish There To Be

How do YOU build a small "zone of peace"?

Small “Zones Of Peace Action Step #1: Create small “zones of peace” everyday in everyway.

Step 1: Tip #3 of the day --

Be The Peace You Wish There To Be.

Shine your light and pass that light on.

Coming tomorrow --- how you can do your part to help New Horizons' Small "Zones of Peace" Project create "elegant solutions," locally and globally.

Plan to get involved.

Next look for --

Small “Zones Of Peace Action Step #2 (of 10) --

Coming Friday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How do YOU build small “zones of peace”?

Tip #2 of the day for -- Build your “zones of peace” from the inside out.

Remember our story about Brittany, the eleven year old (in 2006) who won our Small “Zones Of Peace” Essay Contest? Brittany was responding to our invitation to write an essay that would describe the meaning -- to her -- of the following quote Mahatma Gandhi from which our project, the Small “Zones of Peace” Project takes its name.

We do best to begin by carving out territories or zones of peace in our personal relations where violence and deceit won’t be used.”

Brittany told us that -- to her -- Gandhi’s quote suggested the following --

"I believe this quote to mean metaphorically that if you are angry, you could find a quiet place in (your) mind. In reality, it could mean that if two friends live near each other, and there was a park that was close to both of them, they could call the park a zone of peace."

What’s your plan for creating small "zones of peace" everyday, everywhere you go? And, how do you carry that plan out, day-by-day?
Soon we are going to be collecting your "Elegant Solution" stories for creating small "zones of peace" for our next essay contest -- to be posted on this blog.

Plan to get involved!

Pledge to consciously, actively build your small "zones of peace" (or keep on doing that) and tell us your stories about how you do it, successfully.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We Pledge ...

Small “Zones Of Peace Action Step #1:

Create small “zones of peace” everywhere you go, everyday in everyway.

TIP -- Be particularly invested in others of your choice who are making that same pledge. And, together, taking whatever actions appropriately go with that pledge!

Remember my stories about snakes and snakey behavior? Everyone that you encounter is not at the same degree of commitment or skill for doing the work of climbing the Mountain of Awe -- and -- building “zones of peace.”

Do your best wherever you go. Yet be particularly involved with those who make this pledge – “To create small “zones of peace” everyday in everyway.” As Dory, the fish in “Finding Nemo” repeated, again and again,

“Just keep swimming.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Pledge ....

On my honor, to do my best to uphold the values and principles I believe this country was founded on. In keeping with the values and principles of the New Horizons Small “Zones Of Peace” Project I do my best, each and every day, to help create small “zones of peace” wherever I go.

How about you? Is this a pledge you are living by each and every day?

Small “Zones Of Peace Action Step #1

Create small “zones of peace”  everywhere you go, everyday in everyway.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


WE are getting it together on the ground level.

And, WE are heading for "awe." The formula almost always remains the same – find the elegant solution by –

1. Thinking outside the box;

2. Looking for win-win solutions;

3. Keep on keeping on, talking and listening;

4. Reminding yourself that you live in a world of abundance, not scarcity.

A most unexpected – and – appreciated consultation with a visiting “expert brought the magic of living in this attitude sphere home to me yesterday out here at our remodeling-in-progress retreat center in the mountains. We are not as far ahead on our projects as we would like to be. With this needed and that needed, etc. etc., it can get a bit overwhelming at times.

Now -- with the weather growing chillier day-by-day, I’ve been more than a bit concerned at times about my house-part of our retreat center. Given the sky high chimney repair estimate offered to get our wood burning stoves safely functioning, I have been doing my best lately to surrender to the notion that I might be living one step above camping out this winter; a tiny spec just above survival.

But -- just in the nick of time, “knight in shining armor,” Sue’s husband, Paul, a former plumber, arrived on the scene. With a gift of generously donating his time and talents to providing us with a detailed assessment of what needs to be done to winterize the dwelling that houses both me and our main meeting room out here.

Paul came bearing gifts of much needed advice on this, that and the other thing (i.e. particularly about plumbing and how to keep our water pipes warm and from bursting with our stoves (our main source of heat) not usable right now). For the far-reaches of my still recovering Jewish American Princess turned mountain woman mind, the whole of what he was suggesting was, indeed, quite daunting though his wisdom was scrumptious.

Yet, simply having Paul’s presence out here was a victory all by itself. Having spousal support for what one does is almost always a good thing don’tcha think? Particularly having man-type guidance for a remodeling project that some days relies soley on Sue’s hard work, commitment and knowledge and our shared “girly” tool box. At times, I am barely any help at all. However, I do own up to being able to make a hardy contribution with the chain saw when I’ve got a working stove that can burn the products of my labors.

Paul’s visit was truly a victory for our mission on so many levels. Most of all (not to minimize the expertise) his presence in being with us.

Thank you, Paul!

Thank you so much for your TIME and your TALENT. (And, couldn’t I please just make you a bowl of my grandmother’s special chicken soup recipe to show my appreciation – as well as my regrets for borrowing your wife at times you would really prefer her to be using her time otherwise.)

Another victory for my challenged, I can-barely-change-a-light bulb mind was the extensive blueprint Sue and I hammered out, co-creatively, on how best for us to proceed with our remodeling over the coming, possibly harsh months ahead.

The result of all this bounty -- I was delightfully surprised, after yesterday’s challenging, mind-stretching endeavors, I woke up happy and empowered; my house was bathed in toasty, warmth that yesterday I would not have known how to create on the limited resources with which we are presently operating.

Thanks to Paul’s guidance to make a few immediate changes and Sue’s hard work, generosity, wisdom and committment to furthering this project, we had – hopefully -- found some immediate, not- going-to-kill-us-with-the-electric-company "elegant solutions."

Still in all I would welcome a cozy, fireside chat out here as soon as possible.

From Anastasia
In the mountains where it is getting chillier and chillier

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who’s Walking The Walk?

Well, it’s pretty much official in all voting precincts now; the winners and the losers. And what the “talking heads” think about it all. Them – and the Monday morning quarterbacks.

But it’s not really all that newsy when you think about it. When you’re playing a win-lose game, it’s all pretty much the same in the end; there will be winners and there will be losers. The former will do certain unsurprising things as will the latter.

So what’s new? What is most predictable is that there will be a lot of “them- ing;” – my new word for finger pointing. And, not nearly enough “me-ing” -- another new verb I offer the English language, particularly as spoken in the United States. Gloria, my best day-by-day critic and purveyor of inspiration, offers another suggestion, “How about “US-ing?” she quipped this morning.

Almost everyone around recognizes we are in a crisis here in the U.S.A.. A crisis we had hoped might be turned to the good by Obama. Even those of us, like myself, who were too jaded by Washington politics to put much faith in a change of administration.

I, for one, would have been joyfully surprised, if he could have pulled it off. Nonetheless, to date this has been a pie in the sky dream; Obama as another Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The let down brings to my mind an old ‘70s tee shirt I wore until it was practically in shreds: It read – “I have abandoned my search for reality and am now looking for a good fantasy.”

Joking aside, I know – “not know about, but know it,” to borrow an expressed stance of Murat’s -- that lying somewhere between reality and imagination, there are realistic models abounding that can get us to peace. Win-win ways of living life on this planet. Lots of folks (including myself and my supporters) have been developing, polishing and re-polishing them for decades.

Many of these models even have thousands of years of people living in peace (relatively) behind them. As does the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” model. The New Horizons Small “Zones Of Peace” Project has one to offer that’s been evolving for close to forty years.

And, that doesn’t even begin counting in the teacher and mentors that came before it. I promise that our model “works, if you work it.” I know because I have lived it. Not nearly enough, however. Or, with enough people. But enough to know that peace, day-by-day can be a win-win reality.

Have you got a peace action model that works? And, the leadership, support – and – commitment to guide it? Tell us about it here, if you do.


Put your money where your mouth is. No more “them-ing.” And, “me-ing” isn’t enough!

Not even your prayers, solitary or communal, are enough. The call now is for action; people together action – grassroots action, small "zones of peace: action. We cannot rely on our leadership! Isn't that the reality as you know it?
Let’s go for the “us-ing.” We, the “silent majority,” have no need to remain silent, complaining or passive. Sue and I – and – our friends and supporters are now moving into action through our New Horizons Small “Zones Of Peace” approach.

How about you? Anastasia In the mountains on a chilly, dreary day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Morning After (Election Day)

Goodness gracious, I'm glad all that hostile, combative, intense polarizing is over. At least for today.

Now everybody, or a lot of people, want to make nice. Can we, at least, catch our breath.

For my part, holding onto an intention to reach the peak of that Mountain of Awe – and – getting it together on ground level have been far from simple tasks for me these past few months.

Oh, my! Oh, my!

The NYC mosque controversy and mid-term elections were enough to fog up my window on community development as well as my visionary proclivities. As captain of this ship of fools, if that’s what we be -- (I don’t think so, but sometimes I wondered in my moments of feeling at a loss for direction these past few months) -- -- yesterday’s election results, creepy as the whole pre-election ordeal was, gave us what we have needed out here to come up with a worthy plan for our next best efforts.

Elegant solutions won again where we are, at least, for one more round.

We’ve -- my first mate, Sue and I -- found the clearing through which to blaze our next peace action trail. I'd been hunting, but WE've got it now, I believe. Stay tuned in.

More to follow. I will keep you posted as developments unfold. From Anastasia
In the mountains ,as the days grow shorter and the temperature colder. Brrr.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting It Together On Ground Level

I was stuck, again. Momentarily at a standstill, an ordinary part of life’s perpetual cycling that does not feel particularly uplifting. And, certainly one that our quick speed, high tech world judges to be a negative. I could not get off the ground, a particularly frustrating state of affairs.

The situation was especially exasperating because it came about due to my aborting my most recent endeavor to, once again, climb the Mountain of Awe. A peak I have become accustomed to attaining in recent years -- with some effort. Since it was by choice that I return to ground level, you might have thought I was going to enjoy the return.

Not so. Not so!

I was intent on returning to ground level only long enough to retrieve my right arm, co-conspirator in building small “zones of peace, Sue deVeer who I have yet to formally introduce, a failing on my part I intend to soon remedy. Right away one can see the error in this kind of thinking.

While the purpose of the aborted climb, if you recall, had the seemingly, wholly altruistic purpose of my collaborating with Sue on behalf of New Horizons Small “Zones Of Peace” Project’s main mission: to build small “zones of peace” everywhere, I felt great loss. But loss of what? Was it simply a loss of control? Or was there more to it than that?

Nonetheless, thinking -- worse, even believing -- that one is in control of anything, even the certain outcome of one’s own decisions has almost always got to be suspect. Nonetheless, it seemed rather straightforward at the time. I was ostensibly searching for an answer to my quest of what I and “we” might contribute to reconciling the brouhaha of the so-called “NYC mosque” episode.

Given that Sue and I, originally, had come together to reconcile our local “Jewish/Muslim Controversy” of 2006 – with a significant modicum of success, I might add -- and, given Sue’s pledge (“Quaker Sue” in some of our circles) to help the American/Muslim community – and – my, now being an out-of –the-closet, returning to my tribe, Russian/Jewish, American/Jewess, it seemed reasonable in mid-August – and – our history together, albeit a relatively short one, that we could contribute something positive to this effort.

Perhaps, even offer our community peace-building model and its, now, customary experience of awe with accompanying elegant solutions, if we could be so blessed. Of course, my best-laid plans did not work. Most significantly, life-altering changes in Sue’s life were brewing (none of it bad, but irrelevant here), making it next to impossible for me to progress with her.

Yet, I – born and bred to make executive decisions, just could not find a way to proceed without her. What frustration!

Good news now!

As of yesterday, I and we are more or less back on track. More to come. Maybe, even later today. Stay posted for our new developments in building small “zones of peace” – and – how --

We believe you can join with us!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Update: What Is Mine? What Is Ours?

For an update on this topic, please visit --

Anastasia The Storyteller at --

L'shana tova -- "May you be inscribed in the book of the Lord for a good year." It is the eve of the Jewish New Year and I am celebrating as I have not done in decades! More to come!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Is Mine To Do? What is Ours?

New Horizons Small "Zones of Peace" Update

Campfire Conversations -- ground level?

Coffee House Conversations? Or, what??

I felt an urgency beginning toward the end of last week when the escalating controversy over the NYC mosque (and the pressures of near and dear loved ones) reached me, high up in the hills.

At a point energy vibrations were not ample for communication. What I needed most was to return home (ground level) -- and talk to my "right arm," board member, steering committee chairperson, spirit sister -- and -- more, Sue deVeer.

She has been a teacher in guiding me to become increasingly adept at the art of finding elegant solutions. "Quaker Sue" as we sometimes call her has -- probably because of her Quaker upbringing -- an amazing capacity for finding the way to elegant solutions. She truly deserves credit for showing me the way, again and again.

However, Sue, as it happens, was off at a Sufi retreat (Sufis = a mystical arm of Islam), nestled in a mystical cocoon of Muslims. And, I really needed to talk to her -- to help me find my own elegant solutions in the midst of chaos.

Yesterday, we were both "home." Me back from a temporarily aborted attempt to climb to the peak of the Mountain of Awe, she from the Sufi retreat.

In conversation, contemplation, email communication, internet exploring etc. Sue -- the co-architect of the Small "Zones of Peace" Conversations model -- and I set out, each in our own way to discover how "we" can best serve to aid the reconciliation efforts of the NYC mosque controversy; some thinking global, acting local time again, perhaps.

Together, we had guided the reconciliation in Frederick, Maryland (2006); me on the front lines, Sue, along with other of our volunteers, backing me up.

I was at that point involved in a heated local Jewish/Muslim controversy in dual roles; Executive Director of our non-profit and the local chapter president of a national Jewish women's social action group that refused to take any action at all regarding the conflict.

Out of my/our efforts the reconciliation occurred (Frederick News Post, November ..., 2006) and local celebrations between Jews, Muslims and Christians took place (Frederick News Post, December ..., 2006). This was the foundation for the development of our rewardingly successful "Coffee House Conversations" format -- and -- the basis for my manuscript in progress, "The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard."

By day's end, yesterday, our first step had emerged on how we might find a way to serve current circumstance. For starters -- Sue will be returning to the Sufi retreat center next week. (Serendipitiously she had left her tent there.) And, I am to go with her.

I feel a bit scared as I have almost never had any contact with Muslims -- and -- I am, as you know, of Jewish heritage. Now I will be surrounded for at least a day and, perhaps, a night by Muslims.

Will they want to kill me? Torture me? Eat me alive?

Hopefully what will occur is some kind of bridge building dialogue. We are already moving in the direction of planning for that.

I trust Sue, implicitly. So I will go. And, keep you posted.

Irreconcilable differences are not an option.

I must do my part now to lean in to the challenge.

Not turn my back when there must be, at least, something I can contribute.

Or, take the time now to go mountain climbing, even the Mountain of Awe, though its messages stay with me always.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chaos On Ground Level Aborts Climb

The message of altruism Altrusim (defined) – The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. All for one, one for all.

By the evening of “Day 2” of our intended climb to the peak of the Mountain of Awe, we had not yet gone far enough off the beaten track that we were without contact from home. As it was, obviously, not by television, radio, internet or cell voice or text, you can be certain the messages that are prompting our return; the aborting of our climb, were received by energy vibration Loud and clear (a bit fuzzy at first), the message got through.

As we readied for our first full day of ascent, “Day 3,” vibrations of an energetic nature signaled that we were needed at home. There was trouble back there; a struggle at hand. It was not the proper time to climb the Mountain Of Awe. It was not going to be possible to succeed at this particular moment. At least not in the way anticipated. Not impossible, but not easy to climb when all around at home there is chaos.

Alerted, I knew right away the NYC mosque was a central worry. Yet only one of various hot spots that are somehow my personal concern. (My companion climbers will, of course, need to assess their priorities for when we return). “Irreconcilable differences."  Polarization regarding the mosque!

Personally, I could not let that one go. Is part of the message I am receiving that this is to be the higher form, perhaps the highest, replicating “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard”? New Horizons Small “Zones Of Peace” Project must be a part of that solution! We’ve been conscientiously in training for four years to assist this problem’s resolution. Is it time, perhaps, for my manuscript in progress, “The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard” to be completed? And offered as part of that solution?

I/we have certainly developed a good bit of expertise in that area these past four years. Somewhere there are elegant solutions. I do not have any other than to take from that which I already know. This polarization simply cannot be allowed to remain an irreconcilable issue! I know that I am a part of a whole. Therefore there is something I can do.

For now, I just know that I must return home. If there is nothing else for me to do, then I must simply BE still. And, BE home. “Awe” must be found at home. There is to be no climb for the time being.

Anastasia, needing to go for my almost daily mountain road walk -- and -- chill!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Campfire Conversation – Day 2

The “real” conversation begins – introducing “Campfire Conversations.”

Ok. Now that we’ve got all that emergency preparedness stuff out of the way; snake bite protection kit, boundaries, rules, limits and the necessities of food, shelter, candy bars and so forth -- and -- dinner is cooking over there on that cookstove, let’s get down to the real deal; how we gonna’ make it to the top.

How we gonna’ make our best possible opportunities of climbing this mountain together our realities?

The New Horizons’ Small “Zones of Peace” Project (in addition to the behind the scenes coaching and consulting I do with key leaders) has a four series conversations’ format that covers the basics. The basic series (which can be compressed or expanded) are as follows:
  • Conversation #1 -- Discovering the essence of the “exceptional community”
  • Conversations #2 -- From snags to synergy in the “exceptional community” – exploring polarization and moving beyond it.
  • Conversations #3 -- How do exceptional people build “exceptional communities”.
  • Conversations #4 -- Where do we go from here? An action plan for our “exceptional community”.
I have the intention to take you through the steps of these individual conversations here on this blog in the format of our “Campfire Conversations.” I can’t promise you how quickly each one can be posted, discussed etc. However, I can pledge to lay them out for you as thoroughly and quickly as is reasonable.

Actually, believe it or not, I have been guiding us here for months. It has taken all those other previous postings to bring us to a this place that in a workshop I might have presented in the first ten minutes with a Power Point (which is essentially what I/we did at the UNESCO model UN camp for the past three summers).

Such are the limitations of the internet. However, I do hope you will take what is to be offered here to share with your friends and family. Doing that could make a difference. At least, you might have some added fun and connection.

Campfire Conversations – Day 1

In the heat of present controversy on all things Muslim.
From Anastasia who is, among other things, an American Jew.

If we are to seriously set our intentions on heading toward the peak of the Mountain Of Awe – metaphorically or in real time -- there are a few things I need from you – whoever you are. Without them I’m not going, at least not with you up close - and/or, perhaps, not without other parties - to help us through to the elegance.

I know it's there, the elegance, but maybe we cannot get beyond an introductory level; an arm’s length engagement, without a little help from our friends. I’ve grown weary of the effort of simply talking about building “zones of peace,” small or large. I want to live the peace and get on with the climb.

Personal integrity – accountability -- is the issue along with caring and compassion. Why would I bother to travel with you, or even talk with you – except at arm’s length, if I cannot trust these in you?

But I want to go. I want to go with you. I want to go with everyone. I know what it’s like to reach awe and achieve that with others.

Not I know about it. I know it! 

I know what it’s ike to build, live and thrive in a “zone of peace.” I grew up with it as a child. ("The Middle East Crisis In Our Backyard," Frederick News Post, June 14, 2008.) I co-created it in the New Horizons therapeutic community programs for a period of close to twenty-five years. I’ve experienced it elsewhere, albeit in ways that, ultimately, fell short.
Awe flows in naturally when you do the work of crossing any significant part of the great divide separating one human from another, even briefly. Then it falls away again, but we can get up and climb, heading once more for that same peak on the Mountain of Awe.

In the heat of today’s controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, will someone – anyone – please reassure me that you are intent on heading for the same peak as I am? And be sure to include your reassurance that, no matter what, you will not give up on conversation in the long haul, even if many breaks in dialogue occur on the way.

There is no other way if we are to survive than get beyond the conversation and move forward on the climb. Please assure me that you will “walk your talk,” as long as we do it fairly, person by person, one at a time, until the few are the many. If that doesn’t work, what then?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Happens Next?
Moving From Snags To Synergy

Developing artistry in finding “elegant solutions.”

Snags to synergy again and again.

“We” – our formerly enchanted snake, now released from the spell cast upon it, and I discovered our first “elegant solution” when we elected to converse with one another after the snake bite incident.

That was a big deal, you know. (Please keep this fundamental solution, conversing, in mind and you can assume I did eventually get my turn.) His turn -- releasing him from enchantment. Mine -- allowing me to speak of and, thus, more readily than otherwise -- heal my pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually. All was well.

So our story makes the point that – mow we have a beginning, the snake and I. We know how to talk to one another. As long as this liberated prince continues to do "the next right thing" and, I do the same which includes conversing fairly to make our way through any obstacles we are likely to reach that peak of the Mountain of Awe, sooner or later. (Remember Brittany’s story on how a “zone of peace” can be anywhere?)

If we set out to reach that peak and run into snags – and -- at least, keep learning as we set our sights on climbing higher and higher, success should be ours for the taking. There it is: the art of finding “elegant solutions."

Conversing is crucial, along with learning new ways to look at things and thinking outside the box.

Working through snags to get to the synergy (synergy = a "high step above cooperation").

Simple. But not easy. Right? This adventure, the ascent of the Mountain of Awe, is – in good measure about doing "the next right thing" and traveling with those who do the same; carrying forth essential values of:

“An enemy is someone whose story you haven’t yet heard.”

1. Being wholly committed to the journey.

2. Being committed to caring and compassionate authenticity – and – accountablility.

3. Welcoming the authenticity and accountability of others (when offered caringly and compassionately).

4. Seeking elegant solutions to whatever obstacles present themselves.

5. Striving to do the goodly thing. (or as AA folks say, “do the next right thing”) We don’t have to be the same on much else if can agree on these points; be like-minded about the fundamental ways to "be" with one another in peace and in conflict.

So now the prince, who was once an enchanted snake, and I - and everyone else - intent on coming along on this journey are off to climb that Mountain of Awe like-minded as we are on these few items. Conversation, when there is something to say, is a fundamental principle that will hold things together.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Elegant Solutions #101, Lesson: What Happens Next?

Can everybody be transformed like my enchanted prince/snake?

Can the evils of the world really be transformed by “someone else” simply taking a second glance at another? Like joining up with Twitter and Facebook? We would be building small “zones of peace,” everywhere, right? Not so fast there!

Friend building; relationship building, community building takes time. We’ve only just begun. Magical releases from bondage aren’t the complete story. The task of overcoming human separation (i.e. polarization) is a long-term effort. No quick fixes.

Awe is not a pie in the sky! Awe comes as we cross the great divide that separates us and recognize the wonder of what we’ve accomplished. We become conscious of the wonder because it was a climb that took a good bit of sweat. So where do we go from here?

How about the snake listening to my story?

The story of what it was like for me to get bitten. The story of what it was like for me to risk a second look. The stories of my pain, as well as the ones about my healing. Who knows if each of us is truly a friend or foe before we’ve sat the whole night long telling our stories? Taken the time to break bread together and clean up the crumbs. Resolved the next conflict when it arises. An encounter in the woods that has the appearance of a turn to the good is not yet a strong bond.

A snake as a charmer does not build a world of peace.

Lesson: Careful observation, correct interpretation, practical application.

Use a bit of patience before jumping in with both feet.

Let’s see what happens next.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Elegant Solutions #101: A lesson on being observant

Scenario: Good Guys and Snakey Behavior
Lesson*: “Careful Observation, Correct Interpretation, Practical Application”
(* a key concept derived from -- "Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe" by Murat Yagan (pages 34 – 36). Courtesy The Kebzeh Foundation)
I got bitten by a snake. Ouch.
Though it wasn’t a deadly one, it hurt just the same.

The snake, himself, turned out to, not only be rather benign, but additionally quite a surprise.
Anyway I had on my hiking boots. That was some protection. Still a snake bite is a snake bite.
So I could not be too careful, especially up here in the mountains with emergency options limited.
Yet, I could not resist looking back on my snake – from afar.
Besides, if emergency measures were to be taken, I, at least, needed to be able to say what kind of snake had bitten me.

So I did look back.  And, it was a very sad snake I saw lying there in his spot.
Now I had been taken in before by sad looking faces.
You know the story – “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to do it.”
And, “Hey, I’m really a good guy. Give me another chance.”
I wasn’t about to be a cream puff and get taken in by that sad face.
He, nonetheless, beckoned to me. My glance at him engaged his eyes with mine.
And, my heart stirred a bit behind my mask of defense.
"Ridiculous," I immediately chided myself. Still, what if he really was sorry – and – guilty only of snakey behavior.
What if he wasn’t just an ordinary garden snake. Or, one of the dangerous ones, pretending to be a good guy; one that would bite a second time, if I doubled back and took another peek.
Then, as if by magic, the snake seemed to read my differing thoughts and spoke aloud.
“Please listen to me. I am not an ordinary garden-variety snake. Nor, am I am a deadly snake either, masquerading as a good guy snake to get you to come closer.
No! I am an enchanted prince. I bit you – you in particular-- to get your attention.
(Did you think I couldn’t have gone after that squirrel lying dead by that old oak tree over there?)
Please release me from my spell.
You could do it.
Just take a second look at who I really am.
That's all it will take. I truly am a prince.”
So I did. And, he truly turned out to be a prince.
After it was all over – and – I was, once again, safe at home, my snake bite almost healed, I remembered one of Murat’s messages and was glad I had taken a second look --
One of the keys to personal and collective transformation is “careful observation, correct interpretation and practical application.” "Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe" by Murat Yagan (pages 34 – 36)

I had learned a thing or two -- and -- my new friend, the snake, was free.

Lesson: Even a snake can take off its mask -- and -invite mine to come down too. That's how we can "all" reach the peak of the Mountain of Awe.

Doing her best to climb the Mountain of Awe.*

*Backpack outfitted with “snake bite protection” -- and -- a loving heart that opens wide.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Elegant Solutions: Climbing The Mountain of Awe

Elegant Solution (defined) – A solution to a life challenge that creates a sense of “awe.”
Thoughts for today from Anastasia who has few words for now.

Still regrouping after the UNESCO Center for Peace Model United Nations Camp.)

Check out -- Anastasia's -- "The Peace Activists Survival Handbook"

Elegant Solutions have special characteristics:
  • Elegant Solutions are those that are co-created by thinking outside the box.
  • Elegant Solutions always have a built in win-win outcome.
  • Elegant Slutions are based on seeking to understand, rather than to be understood.
  • Elegant Solutions are based on believing that there is no scarcity.
Snakes and Dark Side Warriors set up win-lose or lose-lose outcomes for situations. Be on the alert for “snakes” or snakey behaviors.

They sabotage the climb up the Mountain Of Awe -- and -- obstruct others from reaching the "Peak."

What should you do when you encounter snakes?

How do we turn "lose" into "win?"

Try "win-learn." and let that be your guide.*

Lessons, challenges.

Take our “Where Is Your Compassionate Warrior Hiding?” quiz.

Score yourself and see where your strengths and your weaknesses lie in being a part of the elegant solution. Do your best -- always -- to be a part of the solution, the most elegant one you can find!

* I learned about win-lose, win-win and win-learn from an ex-convict, now-deceased, Ken Windes, who became an internationally recognzed psychotherapist and clinical trainer, one of my own respected trainers.

Read his story, Walking Through The Walls. He was a master training of the "win-win" concept.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Awe" Defined

A quick note from Anastasia who is still resting up and integrating last Friday's experience at the UNESCO Center For Peace Model United Nations Camp, presenting "Conflict Resolution and Anger Management #101" for the third year in a row.

Our volunteer team was "awesome."

Synergy was the word and, we definitely did it, co-created it, had it!

With almost 70 participants from around the world; China, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Australia, South Korea and India, I am sure you will want to hear lots about it.

All the kids -- from so far away -- brought together into Hagerstown, Maryland, putting their minds and hearts together for peace. Awesome.

More to come.

However, me -- Anastasia -- is temporarily almost out of words for now. My word bank is presently overdrawn so I will be brief.

People becoming aware of this blog through introductions other than the internet are requesting my clarification of some of the terms I have been using.

Here are the definitions of those terms most requested -- our "Dictionary of Awe."

Awe = 1. an experience of personal, spiritual or collective transformation. 2. In individuals (with self or others), relationships, groups or communities, the moment or moments when separation is overcome and recognized for the wonder that it is.

The Mountain of Awe = 1. The place we climb, inside ourselves and with one another. in order to overcome separation.

Peak Of The Mountain of Awe = 1. The culminating moment or crescendo of the climb. You can truly feel the transformation.

Outfitting Your Backpack = 1. Preparing to intentionally climb the Mountain of Awe; deciding to be a dedicated peace-builder, no matter what!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Outfitting Your Backpack: "Snake Bite Protection"

If you have decided to go on this adventure to “awe,” you need to outfit your backpack.

And, remember this is an adventure for a lifetime.

So you must be prepared for all kinds of eventualities, including outsized emergency conditions.

Climbing the "Mountain of Awe," solo or with others, is very much like climbing any other big mountain. You’ve got be solidly geared up. You know you’re going to need rain gear, if you are hiking beyond a sunny day. And, of course, you will need food and water.

If you’ve any experience at all with the great outdoors, you will readily come up with your own list of staples. Your fun stuff too; cameras and books and a candy bar or more. Then there will be the emergency provisions. Just in case.

At the top of the list of emergency preparedness for the adventure to awe – which is synonymous with building small “zones of peace,” everywhere you go -- be prepared for snake bites.

These hills we will be climbing, such as the ones where I live, are home to the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Copperhead.

Dangerous snakes!

When you make a climb here, no matter how idealistic you are, you must keep your eyes open for these guys. Some can bite pretty bad!

Sue, my spirit sister on this adventure, likes to speak to the snakes. She thinks that suffices.

Me, I have my own strategies. Mostly I try to be observant and cautious where I walk. In fact, truth be told, I don’t actually physically hike these mountains where I live – solo. I’m just not adept enough at stepping over live snakes on my own.

Maybe the years have taught me to be observant with – what I consider to be a healthy dose of vigilance – not overly so – but responsibly.

And to travel in pairs, at least in risky territory -- though I really do enjoy my solitude.

I am great as part of a team in risky situations. I have much skill on my own. Yet, I know when I am best off walking in tandem with others.

Maneuvering around snakes is definitely one of those times for me.

When I am aware that I might be coming up on a snake, the reptilian kind or the “snakes” that are embodied in the “dark side” of humans, I generally ask for input from others who are wise so we can manage the challenge adroitly. I know we are after skillful management here. More than is ordinary.

Some snakes are actually quite harmless. Yet it is prudent to be conscious that a snake is not a butterfly, for example.

You, too, might need to develop this kind of adeptness, if you are going to excel as a peace-builder.

You might put the skill under the heading of “diplomacy.” Or, simply call it “snake bite protection." Murat might call it “doing love.”

We will explore this point at a later time; how being mindful that snakes do bite can be the same, or similar, to "doing love." The subject is quite complex.

Nonetheless, along the way on our climb, it will be important to develop skill in being observant of difficult or challenging people, places and things ("snake bite protection"). And, learn how to handle such critters or circumstances competently.

This challenge may, truly, bring out the best in you.

Perhaps it will be among your greatest lessons in climbing the Mountain of Awe.

And, watch out to not be a biting “snake” yourself, camouflaged as a “Compassionate Warrior.”

“Compassionate Warrior” is the name I give to the true to the down-to-the-core, good guy peace-builders.

However, we are not needing to be perfect.

For our adventure to “awe,” it is, totally, okay for you – or anyone else to have -- whatever degree of “good guy peace-builder” or “dark side” warrior you have in you, at this time.

We need only be mindful of our needing to learn the lessons that transform one to the other.

(Take the Where Is Your Compassionate Warrior Hiding? quiz. See how you rate.)

Exploring what this all means is also complex.

We will take it up -- in bits and pieces -- at a later time.

For starters, just be certain that you – and – those with whom you are traveling have the three essentials I laid out for you as my requirements for the adventure that I am guiding.
  1. A commitment to the adventure;
  2. A willingness to remove their masks;
  3. A willingness to accept you (and others) free of their masks
Meeting these requirements among fellow journeyers will get you through hard times in your efforts to build small "zones of peace," except where bullets, bombs and terrorists are concerned.

Remember, there are many serious problems, local as well as global, to be solved that may lie beyond the scope of the majority of any small "zones of peace" model.

Technologies and experts beyond what we might have are needed. Peace is not, only, your assignment or mine. Don't try to be a hero and fly solo.

If you think I am fussing about nothing, please know that I decided to forewarn you of all of this ("snake bite protection" and so forth) because so many people I speak to these days, especially those of high school and college age – and – young twenties -- are voicing their deepest heartfelt yearnings for peace, almost begging for the secret formula, as if there were a simple one.

As if they could just know that formula, the obstacles to peace could readily be overcome. If "awe" can be synonomous with peace, unity and harmony (which is how I am using it), we must be mindful of the demanding climb it takes to get there. Awe is a long-range plan.

No immediate gratification though sometimes a moment of "awe" will arise and keep you inspired. We must, also, remember that what is required to attain peace may not be, directly, in our hands.

It will truly "take a village" of mighty Compassionate Warriors, fighting with head and heart, over time.

So, be aware when embarking on this adventure to climb the "Mountain of Awe," that you know, also, when, where and how to call the park ranger.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preparing For The Adventure

Call it the adventure of a lifetime; a journey to “awe.”

It's a trek that teaches dedicated adventurers certain very precious human skills at the level of art for the effort. 

Among these are --
I volunteer to be your guide, if you will have me.

If you would like to employ my services, allow me to provide you with my view of how I see us proceeding; the framework and conditions for the trek, actually.

I have a map of an ascent to the top of this mountain; the one upon which I live, metaphorically.

The map I have is actually one of several combined; its early stages came to me by way of my mentor and official "golden goose," Martin G. Groder, M.D..  You can explore some of its components on my Exploring Your Dark Side: The Adventure of A Lifetime blog. The second  phase map came to me through New Horizons Community Development mentor and my personal one, Murat Yagan.

I am so grateful for how generously these Wise Elder teachers of mine have given to New Horizons and myself. They conscientiously paved the way for their wisdom and guidance to be passed on to me and to others with as much clarity as possible.  In their lifetimes each in their own ways became renowned for their adeptness at climbing this particular mountain of which I am speaking. In fact, each was known to have climbed much higher ones than this.

They were Wise Mountain Climbers, veterans of rugged ascents with many more years than I, of training -- and supervised skill development. I look to them for guidance.

Nonetheless, over time, willing as I have been as a student, I have also discovered my own particular pathways to climb to the top of this mountain.

After all, I have lived here for years now – and – have been up and down this particular mountain many times.

I should have a fairly well-tread path of my own, wouldn’t you agree?

In fact, my map for the descent is, equally, if not more important, than the one I have for the ascent.

My own wisdom, however, is simply that of experience – and – being a good student.
And, yes, I am also well-educated and professionally trained. That has helped enormously.

But, formal education only goes so far, you know.

It's life in the field that brings it all home.

If you would me have as your guide for this adventure, I ask only three things of you, by way of preparation.

Be mindful, however, I take each of these quite seriously –
  1. Commitment to the adventure;
  2. A willingness to take off whatever masks you are wearing; and
  3. A willingness to accept me without my mask.
Visit Anastasia The Storyteller for my perspectives on the last two.

Let me know if you are up for the hike.


P.S. Other well-experienced guides will be joining us.

They are each unique individuals (as is everyone else) who are, also, wonderfully "synergistic with me as a team.

Their wisdom equals my own -- and - -might even surpass it.

Yet, when it comes to building peace we are totally like-minded in our intent.

Look for their appearances in the near future.