Sunday, June 27, 2010

"How" New Horizons Builds Small "Zones Of Peace"

If you were intent on building a small zone of peace,
"What" would you do?
“How” would you do it?
Brittany’s first prize winning comments about “what” a small “zone of peace” is are worth remembering (see our last posting). The first part of Brittany’s formula has to do with knowing how to take responsibility for one’s own anger and transform it within oneself into a state of peace. The second part implies that two people, both being similarly responsible in this way, can be together in a shared space – and – maintain a state of peace. Having spent some time with Brittany when we were conducting our 2006 art and essay contest, I feel assured that her “what” is a deep part of her. So much so that I believe that her “inner knowing” about building zones of peace has led her to seek out the “how.” (She was, after all, only eleven when last we met. Just beginning to explore the challenges of local and global peace.) The “how” of building zones of peace moves outward from peace within to a peace that is shared -- with all living beings; people, animals, the elements of nature and the environment. Brittany’s “what” is a great starting point for the adventure of any small zones of peace building project. We still, however, have a daunting task ahead of us to –
  • Know the day-to-day “how” of building small zones of peace, and;
  • Develop skill in maintaining these small zones of peace, once constructed.
Shared values (like-mindedness) and cooperation with others help us build foundations for a healthy community life. Groups of individuals that develop beyond these foundations into actually growing community life can become zones of peace when they, also, have:
  1. Sustainable practices for resolving conflict between members; and
  2. Skill at creating elegant solutions for solving the problems that arise in conflict areas.
At New Horizons -- we call individuals who function in this way – exceptional leaders. We call groups that function in this manner – exceptional communities. The New Horizons’ Small “Zones Of Peace” Project has created an intriguing model for training and empowering exceptional leaders (in our model "followers" are also demonstrating a kind of leadership) and developing exceptional communities. Our community development model and our personal commitments to functioning, individually and collectively, in this fashion are “how” we build small “zones of peace.” Think about it -- the "what" (of your vision) and the "how" (of your method) for building zones of peace. At least building small ones by thinking globally, acting locally, minute-by-minute. Nothing necessarily grand. Just "being" the peace you wish there to be. And, imagine! What more could you do today to build zones of peace everywhere you go? And how can you achieve this, day-by-day? Today, more than yesterday. Tomorrow, more than today. Send me your visions and viewpoints at Maybe it's even time for us to consider plans for our another art and essay contest. You might be our next first prize winner!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Small "Zone Of Peace" Can Be Anywhere

Mahatma Gandhi suggested -- "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." We asked kids, K -- 5 to tell us what this quote of Gandhi's meant to them. Brittany Wilson, a fifth grader and first prize winner in our Small "Zones Of Peace" Art And Essay Contest, told us her view.
"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."
The contest Brittany won first prize in was in 2006, I have never yet come upon a better, more succinct meaning. At least, not for the goals of the New Horizons Small "Zones Of Peace" Project. Anastasia From the mountains where I am endeavoring to build a small "zone of peace" with the ants that are attacking my hummingbird feeder.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Visiting Paul Kellett, a small “zones of peace” building mission

I barely know from day-to-day where our mission to build small “zones of peace” will take me/us next. Where it took Sue and I yesterday was a mostly gentle adventure worth sharing. “I want you to go see Paul Kellett with me one day this week,” Sue had suggested earlier. We made our plan, finally getting it together to show up there on Friday afternoon. First off, I was treated to a beautiful, hour long drive through the Catoctin Mountains into Pennsylvania, east of Frederick (the New Horizons' Habitat For Healing is west of Frederick on the way to Charles Town, WV). Upon arrival at Paul’s, we were greeted with our next delight, a tour of Paul and Lizzie’s amazing home and land. The property overlooks a gorgeous valley and mountainside view. The surrounding main house and buildings have either been remodeled or built mostly by hand by Paul and his helpers. The materials accumulated by him come from his many regular visits to “The Church of Holy Junk.” The whole of what they have created is awesome. Then, it was time for conversation. If you have noted anything much yet about how we foster our small “zones of peace” mission, you have no doubt realized that community (community meaning a group of any size, more than the two) conversation is a huge part of how we proceed. Give Sue and I any opportunity at all for conversations on peace-building and how we can achieve that end and we are ready to go. From church or synagogue board members to the local police chief or peace activists, from coffee shops to meeting podiums, we are, metaphorically, always dressed and eager for the next conversation. We simply love it! And we seem able, even adept, at encouraging the dialogue with others who are of like-mind; making peace a reality, thinking globally, acting locally. With Paul, we had an invigorating mental and verbal workout. And, I learned a few tips about how I can polish up my word skills to enhance the cause, helping conversation move from “snags to synergy.” (“Snags to Synergy” is topic number three in our “Coffee House Conversations Series” which I will be telling you about in future postings.) The grand finale of the day was donations galore from Paul to our Habitat For Healing Remodeling Project. We came away with Sue’s car trunk and back seat filled to capacity and a promise of being able to make a return trip for more after we update our next “Wish List.” Even a truckload of stuff if we want. What a day! Thank you so much Paul Kellett!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How the Small "Zones Of Peace" Project Began

I had a vision twelve years ago after I lost my eyesight. The vision came to me as a result of meeting a remarkable man, Murat Yagan, and the message he carried with him that shaped what has, now, become New Horizons Small "Small" Zones of Peace Project.

(Visit the web site of "old" New Horizons for a press release on this story. And, visit Anastasia, The Storyteller to find further background history articles on the story of how that vision became the Small "Zones Of Peace" Project.)

Briefly, the story is that prior to my going blind I had been a psychotherapist specializing in doing therapeutic community work to treat relationship and personality addictions. If I could ever regain my ability to work again, after having lost my eyesight, I vowed I would take the therapeutic community model I had developed, as a therapist, and apply it to creating small “zones of peace” within healthy, mainstream populations.

My area of focus would be colleges and universities, intentional communities and neighborhoods. Making "violence obsolete" would be the goal beginning on the most accessibl small group level such as campus dorms.

I don't presently recall which steps preceded which actions, chronologically, of what would become this project as it is today. However, I do know that meeting Murat Yagan and being guided by him shaped that vision into the elegant model that it is.

How can you beat the inspiring teachings of an ancient community-oriented culture whose stories still endure and are more relevant than ever, after 26,000 years?

And, a teacher such as Murat who in 2002 received Abkhazia's highest cultural award, the medal of Honour and Glory?)

When I began to work again in 2003 (it took me until 2006 to be able to fully return to work), my first target project was at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

That project was an initiative that focused attention on campus-wide "subtle violence" among students. It particularly addressed multi-cultural problems that were plaguing Shepherd at the time. It was not, however, until 2006 that the small “zones of peace” vision actually began to take hold.

An unexpected situation arose at that time. My role as the local president of a national Jewish women’s organization placed me in the center of a local Jewish/Muslim controversy. With the support of my volunteer team that was already developing at that time, we worked behind the scenes to reconcile the conflict.

Today, that same volunteer team is growing. We have to date successfully contributed to other local issues of polarization. We have also conducted conflict resolution and anger management training for the UNESCO Center For Peace model United Nations camp for the past few years.

Now, I am back to work and back to writing, my real love – and -- we are looking forward to expanding our elegant community development and conversations model into regional and national activities.

From the mountain where it is raining today

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Volunteer Opportunities

The Small “Zones of Peace” Project Core Volunteer Team builds the glow that synergy produces by selecting volunteers who are like-minded about certain values. Some of the values or character attributes we pay most attention to include – Compassion for oneself and others, the ability to be grateful and show it, patience, kindness, accountability, altruism (an attitude of "one for all and all for one"), generosity, good manners, skillful management of anger, sincerity and straightforwardness. We are looking for people who value these qualities in themselves and others enough to keep expanding their development. Continuing to develop these in oneself – and – holding them in esteem in our relationships are essential building blocks of small “zones of peace.” Not everyone chooses to qualify. It truly is a choice each one of us can make. If you are interested in becoming a Small “Zones Of Peace” Project Core Volunteer, the following positions are presently available. If you would like to join our volunteer team and have an idea for your participation that is not listed, please be sure to suggest it. Creative suggestions are a welcome contribution that we will gratefully consider. The following volunteer positions are presently open:
  1. Assistant to aid me, Anastasia, in developing and managing a volunteer corp and fundraising projects. Minimum of four hours per week are needed. Position is long-term. May include bi-weekly meetings. A qualified assistant should have experience with online networking and some experience with Excel. Good organization and phone skills are essential. Majority of work can be done from home.
  2. Community outreach project volunteers
  3. Conversation facilitators for UNESCO Center of Peace, model United Nations Camp, July. (Minimum of six -- eight training sessions).

If interested email:

Each of our volunteers is encouraged to participate in Small "Zones Of Peace” training. We invite you to learn how to create “zones of peace” everywhere you go, using our community development and violence prevention model.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Volunteers Share Specific Like-Minded Values: Part II

There are stories and stories and more stories having to do with the relationship of our project (and myself) with Murat. And, the essential lessons learned thereof. They may be better presented on “Anastasia, The Storyteller” than here. It is too soon to tell how these two blogs will shape up, develop and interconnect.

However, reflecting on the inspiring Core Volunteers meeting held out here at our Harpers Ferry Retreat Center last Friday afternoon, I was reminded of several key subject areas; likemindedness and synergy, that New Horizons has worked hard to build into our model with the aid of Murat’s mentoring.

Not the "knowing about" these" as characteristics to embrace, but "knowing" them deep within ourselves and the critical need for their presence in our interactions with one another. Developing our "knowing" of these has changed us dramatically as a peace-building community over the past years. I wish I had photos to post of the four of us who attended that meeting.

You might even be able to see the glow the presence these characteristics of healthy community life create. Hopefully you know the experience many times over yourselves. The picture I’ve captured most vividly in my mind that I wish I could post looks like this, if you can allow it into your imagination.

Four of us, Sue, Sam, Kevin, a new college student, summer addition-only to our team, and myself are sitting at our sacred “fire circle” in the woods of our luscious property. Kevin and I are each sitting in the brightly colored hammocks I brought back last year from Ecuador.

Sue and Sam form a talking circle with us, sitting on old ratty chairs, relics from before the fire. On a huge rock, nearby (the immense picnic table Sam has donated is too cumbersome for the four of us to get down into the woods, at least for today) sits a tray with iced tea and brownies. We are comfortable among the trees, keeping the midday sun at bay.

In this setting the four of us move into our planning committee meeting. Where will the Small “Zones Of Peace” Project head during the months ahead of the coming quarter, July 1 – September 30? What we decide is not nearly as important as the process by which we develop our plan. We weave our ideas into a blueprint for the coming months – synergistically, a few giant steps beyond cooperation.

Murat describes synergy as the “fingers of one hand working together. I love the definition. It works so well when I am teaching our model. Peace is surrounding us as we meet on this luscious land Friday afternoon. Our working team is building and growing. We know we can look forward to the adventure ahead.

It is evident that our like-minded values on peace building will see us through our anticipated, rewarding projects; achieving our mission to build small “zones of peace” wherever we go; the fun and the challenges. We are assured by the glow our synergy creates. Polarization might be considered the antithesis of synergy.
Likemindedness and synergy are two essential characteristics that accompany the creation of and the sustaining of a small zone of peace.

Volunteer Opportunities With Small “Zones Of Peace” -- Coming next!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Volunteers Share Specific Like-Minded Values: Part I

There has been so much to share in laying down the foundations for this blog that one of the most essential building blocks of our project hasn’t even been mentioned; the contributions of Murat Yagan and the teachings and support he has provided to what our Small “Zones of Peace” Project has become –
A mission to guide individuals and groups to work together to co-create the highest levels of collective human involvement; abundant life with one another.
New Horizons Community Development
mentor,Murat Yagan and Anastasia
Paradoxically, on the new blog I began creating this past week, Murat’s contribution to our project was the number one posting! As well it should be everywhere that full credit is presented for the foundations upon which are program is so sturdily built.

Through Murat’s guidance -- which we began working with in 1999 -- New Horizons has become acutely aware that certain specific, personal values are essential to building the kinds of communities that best reflect our human potential.

We teach these to participants in our basic Coffee House Conversations Series. As Small “Zones Of Peace” Volunteers, we pledge to personally live by and model these principles everyday, individually and as we work together as a team.  Details on these values and how the Small “Zones Of Peace” model introduces them through our Coffee House Conversations Series will be topics on future postings.

The goals of each of the four introductory Coffee House Conversations as well as each of the values we present in our model (we focus on fourteen essentials, but there are many others that could be added) can be the subject of many future postings.

We hope you will actively participate in the online dialogues we introduce on these.