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.

Anastasia,
Doing her best to climb the Mountain of Awe.*

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