Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fortunes of A Rich Community Life -- And -- The Treasures Money Can’t Buy

New Horizons’ Beloved community development mentor, Murat Yagan, emphasized again and again, that the main ingredients for a genuinely rich life must include a teacher, a teaching and a community.

But – most of all, Murat stressed that it is the having of a community; a group of like-minded individuals, working together, sharing values and ideals, and implementing these in a way that builds a common good that is singularly the most important.

I have wanted to write of my recent experience at a local event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It gave me a sense of an enriching community life.

I did comment briefly the following day. But there was much left unsaid. Yet that reference was a first for me. In that I was gratified.

Not being a particularly tech savvy person, writing a blog post from my smart phone was both daunting as well as abhorrent. 

But an intention to push through my resistance to publish a few limited words took hold as the experience was that significant for me.

So I wrote and told you that as “strangers in the night, we met and we” were strangers no more.

In some ways those few words said it all for me. Yet when I shared them with some others they seemed to have almost no meaning at all. Folks I later talked with who had also been present at the same celebration had been left almost totally unmoved by it.

On the other hand the small group of New Horizons volunteers and supporter who attended seemed to feel as inspired as I.

What is the deal then of an event being truly an “event” or coming off as a “non-event” for some for all its planning and promotion?

I inquired further, as I am wont to do in my Anastasia The Super Sleuth mode. Thus I came to be reminded that “substance” rather than “surface” is obviously the telling factor.

So how do we achieve this state of “substance” that allows people to walk away from an occasion with a feeling of value rather than its being inconsequential? And reach as many as possible in order to evoke that state, maximally?

These past few weeks my key volunteers and supporters have been putting forth a concerted effort to create a Coffee House Conversation On Race Relations that we hope will leave people with a feeling of abundance rather than emptiness.

For me, accustomed as I am to valuing a sense of community unity above most other things I felt inspired by the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. My experience that strangers came together, at least the ones in closest proximity to me, bonded in sharing designed to foster community building -- and -- did just that -- was awesome!

Building any bit more of a community feeling; a vibrational energy of unity and working well together, reinforces – in my mind -- Murat’s wisdom that of the three; a teacher, a teaching and a community, it is the community that is most essential.

I felt the “earth move” when I experienced the small morsel of community life we shared at that MLK event though the collective had had, no doubt, many teachers and many teachings to call their own.

For me that celebration was one that inspired, if only briefly, the force for growth and change that keeps people rich and healthy.

That is if you believe that rich and healthy might just be something other than that which money can buy; a priceless something!

I hope we are able to provide this for our participants at our coming Coffee House Conversation on Race Relations this Saturday.  Be sure and register for the event if you have not already.

We are intent on making some small difference in the way our possible society is in motion. 

We hope you will share this with us as a part of our expanding community of like-minded, forward thinking folks. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Strangers In The Night. We Met And We're Strangers No More.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is happy with us, today, if he looked down on us, last night as we celebrated his life.

I'm going to tell you about it later today or tomorrow when I've contemplated it further.

For now I will simply say this --

Frederick County Maryland, where New Horizons does most of its local activities; programs, projects, community involvement, presented the finest MLK event I have ever experienced because it made an impact on almost every person present; black, white, Has panic etc.

That's progress!

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Love Story Behind ----

The Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations

Instinctively I suspected Jack and I were moving into a beautiful beginning for our 2015 Possible Society In Motion Radio Shows when I sat down on Wednesday night to finish the first draft of our show script for Thursday night’s program.

But when the exuberance I was feeling prompted me to follow that up with writing a blog article at close to ten o’clock at night, I could feel the potentiality surging through my every body cell!

Ten o’clock!

Ten o’clock is quiet time for me! I have come to cherish that hour with a good book, the cozy warmth of a blazing fire in the hearth, a late night snack – and – any other things that feel gentle and calming.  

The intensity of modern day life has, by that hour, generally gotten to be a bit much for me.

But this night was different. I felt compelled to have my say and post it on the internet.  As if there was something important I genuinely needed to express.

Well, I was quite right about the show we were birthing.  There was something extra special about it.

Last night’s program titled “Leaning Into Conversations on Race Relations” was all and more than I had anticipated.

What made it so?  Storytelling -- from the heart is my guess.

Storytelling --as our chosn pathway last evening to creating a show rich in meaning and heart. It's a surefire way to build something special. Umm. That we did!

The centerfold was “My Love Story” that is the back story of New Horizons’ forthcoming Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations program.

I hope you will listen to this very special program. And allow yourself to consider, if you have not already, that leaning in to anyone and everyone we can to support the people of this country – and ourselves – to reverse the polarizing trends currently infecting us, is truly an act of love; for ourselves, for those who are feeling apart, unheard or unacknowledged and for the freedoms this democratic country we love is based upon.

I am so gratified by the show Jack and I produced last night. Today I am still feeling full from the joy and thankfulness that program brought me. It gave me the gift of discovering in the telling of “My Love Story” just how much the love of sharing with others can lift me, heart and soul.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations, Frederick, Maryland

Dublin Roasters Coffee Frederick, Maryland
Saturday, January 31
(also March 21, April 18, May 16 and June 20)
2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Reserve early! Space is limited.

For Details and Reservations, Contact: Anastasia Rosen-Jones
Email: HarpersFerryNH@aol.com Cell: 240.409.5347 

Is your group, organization or community polarized?

Characteristics of cultural polarization include:
Emotional barriers
Defensiveness, anger, blame
Withdrawal, avoidance, collusion
Communication Breakdown
Seeing the “other” as an enemy

Examples of cultural polarization:
Interfaith disparity
Racial separation
Community differences
Bipartisan political divisions
National/international conflict

Polarization does not need to be a way of life!

Conversation can be your style!

That’s the “Zones of Peace” way -- 

the exceptional way, the life as art way. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Overcoming The Polarization Of ……. Everything

Taking our show on the road

Among the things we have to offer, today, is one of our handout pieces on the –

Characteristics of Polarization
(Scroll to the bottom, if you wish to bypass my chit chat.)

As of today, our Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations project has moved into full steam ahead. Thanks to a key leaders planning discussion of last night.

Of course, carrying this project forth, successfully, is going to depend a great deal on New Horizons’ abilities to overcome the ubiquitous polarization that pervades our society and politics on every level. 

Even the most dedicated and seasoned activists will, on occasion, fall short of the aim. So we do expect a few bumps and bruises along the way.

However, in the three years we have been working on our Possible Human, Possible Society Study our eyes have been opened, wide, to the scope -- and the pettiness -- of our country’s polarization.

And, with close to forty years of working to develop and sustain thriving communities behind us, we believe we’ve got some expertise and a medicine bag full of health-giving potions to help remedy some of the dis-ease we’ve been finding.

Several of our most profound findings have been these –
  • Better than 90% of interviewees have no significant relationships beyond their like-minded groups.
  • Better than 90% of interviewees are unmotivated to interact with others beyond these groups.
  • Better than 90% of those interviewed believe they are powerless or lack the skills or other resources to impact our national social and political crises.
Since awareness of a problem is an essential starting point for putting things aright, I keep trying to draw our readers’ attention to these items. They stand at so much of the base of what ails America today. 

I am not certain, however, that the significance these hold is being truly grasped yet.

I would like it better if it was. However, sometimes one must keep telling and telling and telling until the message hits home which eventually it will.

Since it is time, now, for us to take our collection of accrued knowledge, gathered through our study and our many years of programs and project, out and onto the road, I believe progress is in the making.

This means we will be meeting with more and more people directly – and – providing opportunities through workshops, seminars, discussions groups and public speaking engagements to assist folks in enhancing all kinds of community development and violence prevention tools; people-relating, communications and conflict resolution skills for starters.

Our Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations project is where we will begin on this next leg of our overall mission;  being builders of small “zones of peace” wherever we go.

This is a very joyful plan for New Horizons for 2015.

To get the project launched, I thought today  it might serve our intentions to share this one piece, extracted from our planned program for January 31, that helps clarify some of the most prominent features of the presence of polarization wherever it exists.

What are the characteristics of polarization?
  • Emotional barriers;
  • Defensiveness;
  • Communication breakdown;
  • Seeing the “other” as enemies;
  • Anger, blame, criticism;
  • Conflict, withdrawal, avoidance, collusion, secrets, aggression, violence – WAR!
Anastasia The Super Sleuth Says –

You might expand your consciousness by taking a pause for ten minutes or so in your busy day, today, to ask yourself where these characteristics of polarization symptoms are active in your life and relationships.

And, remember you are always welcome to contact me at: SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com to share your experiences and insights or ask for my guidance on whatever you are reading here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Violence and Deceit”: The Other Side Of The Coin

I’ve spoken recently about learning and teaching people the “what not to do” way of social interacting, as I learned it from my mentor, Martin G. Groder, M.D. and correspondingly the “what to do” way from my more recent mentor, Murat Yagan.

Following through on this theme of duality; what not to do and what to do, I got to thinking about my last article, Gandhi’s Gift, and how Gandhi’s words have served as inspiration for the “new” New Horizons’ Small “Zones of Peace” Project (circa 2006).  (‘Old”New Horizons was formed in 1980.)

These musings got me to wondering about the other side of the coin; if not “violence and deceit,” what then?

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. 
Well what then, if not violence and deceit?

Next I pondered if not “polarization,” then what instead of this?

Violence and deceit, to be enacted, require a cutting off from caring, concern and connection. (Groder’s tale of the “Experiment Not To Do” as I recounted it on our new blog site, Exploring YourDark Side: The Adventure Of A Lifetime, illustrates cutting-off at the extreme.)

This past year I developed a formula as an antithesis for cutting-off that I named the “The Lean In Legacy Template.” As a formalized alternative to cutting-off it has come to be recognized, discussed and applied by my associates. These days they are more and more likely to realize that the simple prescription of “leaning in” serves as a remedy for the poison of toxic polarization.

(Of course, not all polarizing is toxic, nor is all withdrawal. Polarization can be healthy when it serves to illuminate divergent views, attitudes, perspectives and so forth – and – from this prompts creative solutions.)

As time goes on these associates of mine have also started to explore the actual mechanics of my “Lean In Legacy Template” more thoroughly.

This brought me to conversing with my collaborator, Sue, today about how a corollary to the “template” might be that --

Storytelling is an essential aspect of the richness and – sometimes, even wonder -- that“ leaning in” can create.  This is especially so if “leaning-in can be extended to its further reaches.

Sharing a few stories of our own as Sue and I generally do, we were both surprised we hadn’t realized before that the message of storytelling being a path to peace which I have written of numerous times on this site illustrates this sumptuousness and delight.

Another article I wrote, Hidden beneath our masks: It’s About The Humanity, following the death of Whitney Houston, helps articulate the abundance accrued by telling our stories, person to person.

Why hadn’t I remembered that one, written almost three years ago?

So Anastasia The Super Sleuth Says (reminding both myself and you) --

Find someone – anyone – and take a long enough pause in your rushing about, today or tomorrow, to hear someone else’s story and share one of your own.

Then notice how much your life is enhanced.

It’s so darn simple. Why hadn’t I realized it before?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gandhi’s Gift

Did you ever stop to wonder how New Horizons came to call its main project the Small “Zones of Peace” Project?  Or what that name means to me/us"

Here’s the back story.

When I was blind (and recovering from being blind, 1998 –2006) I had left behind a mess of papers.

Imagine waking up one morning and not being able to see; all of a sudden!

Imagine that event, also, being in the midst of having a book publishing deadline that you had been working on for ten very long years!
(Writing three books, not just one under the demands of one book contract – and – one contract monetary advance.)

You, too, might have had thousands – and I mean thousands – of pages strewn all over your living room as I did at the time!

Well – from seeing, living relatively normally and writing books under deadline you, too, might have had a mess that day as did I! And, of course, it couldn’t all organize and file itself.

Nonetheless, over the next years (1998 – 2006) I had a picture in my mind of a framed quote by Gandhi that was hanging or lying somewhere in my house. And, I had, thus, an image of the words on it that kept playing in my mind. 

Those words meant a lot to me, especially after 9/11.

When, at last, after seven eye surgeries I had regained my eyesight and was making headway healing from the emotional trauma of the experience, I started unpacking and sorting and filing those papers that had, in the interim, piled up on top of one another, again and again.

And, somehow, as a sighted life began to take root in me I wanted to find those framed words of Gandhi’s. Which I did by which time I had gotten around to thinking about what I wanted to do with my new life -- Gandhi’swords were “IT!

I wanted to be a builder of small “zones of peace.” 

Of course by this time I had gotten to know and “see” a whole advanced way of doing that. Thanks to the guidance and teachings of Murat Yagan! This is how New Horizons came to call the work I/we would do next -- the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project. 

That’s the story!

So now you keep watching and “see” what we/New Horizons is going to do next – and next – and next some more as that vision I/we held when I could not see, physically, grows with these words of Gandhi to inspire us.
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. Mahatma Gandhi
Also, perhaps in 2015 you will “see” how you can some ways in which to join us on our mission to build –

Small “Zones of Peace”

Happy New Year, 2015!

From Anastasia and the New Horizons Board of Directors and Volunteer Team

A "zone of peace" can be