Contribution: Murat's Book

The following is a draft version of a brief story about how the ancient teachings of Abkhazia, as introduced by Murat Yagan, turned lead into gold for the New Horizons Support Network, Inc.
The excerpt, in final form, is extracted from Murat’s new book, Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe. The passage is on page 494 in the full text.

Doing Our Love (Final draft version )
by M. Anastasia Rosen-Jones and Susan deVeer

August 17, 2012

Only now as I look back carefully remembering, do I even begin understanding with any heightened sense, what meeting Murat Yagan has brought into my life and the non-profit organization, New Horizons Support Network, Inc. that I head.  Now, going on fourteen years after being introduced to Kebzeh, intent on sharing what Murat, the ancient teachings of the Abkhazians and the wonder that is Kebzeh community, do the threads of the tapestry begin to make a cohesive picture.

Only now with Sue deVeer, New Horizons’ Curriculum Development Director, and I doing our personal best to publicly offer up Murat’s dazzling “social game,” the “Bus Ride Story Adventure,” does the complexity come home to me - the magnitude of what has been and what is now and, the awe of what could be if we succeed at our mission.

And, only now do I begin to comprehend the intricacies of Murat’s bus ride story, along with its brilliance. Sue has eloquently edited the story, introduced by Murat in his “Building Up a KebzehCommunity” monograph. How starkly reminded we are of the subtleties of this story as we diligently prepare it for public consumption. The story, an imaginary travel adventure,introduces some of Kebzeh’s most fundamental principles for community living,couched for diplomacy in westernized words.

To me the community development and violence prevention consultant and coach of our team, falls the task of analyzing the many layers of meaning inherent in the story, reflecting them back to Sue as she formulates the next steps for our curriculum. My experience as a therapist who is enamored of group process serves us here, as we conscientiously work to refine and market our presentation of Murat’s teaching tale, now titled the “Bus Ride Story Adventure”.

The collaboration that has developed between Sue and me since we joined forces in November 2006 has brought us a gratifying sense of community respect, appreciation and progress, as we offer our “Cultural Mediation” model approach to interfaith as well as civic groups. The model is interwoven with Kebzeh principles as taught to us by Murat with a strong focus on the “Spectrum of Love.”

The primary objectives of the model as we describe them to others are aboutbuilding community unity. Our sub-text is about guiding participants to learn what to really do in order to successfully be with others, rather than obstructing the attainment of worthwhile goals. We know, full well, that we are introducing the “Spectrum Of Love” as learned through Murat here. We, also, are certain that the message embedded in our model is about guiding people to discover and understand synergy, altruism and the vibration that only love can generate. 

But we dare not use these words too often, lest we be written off and dismissed as “woo woo” folks or navel gazers. Because of this, sometimes we identify the “Spectrum of Love” using Murat’s terminology. Other times we use alternative words.  We cannot afford to sound too spiritual in the secular world and still invite the respect and impact we are after. Often we take pains to skirt unfamiliar terms altogether, simply describing these virtues as character attributes that move us beyond conflict in areas such as: “
interfaith disparity, racial separation, community differences, business partnership disputes, bipartisan political divisions, national/international conflict.”

As we are incorporating other teachings and philosophies into our “exceptional community” model (i.e. a secular term for Kebzeh community), we have many languages from which to draw.  Sometimes, for example, we use words from Sue’s background as a Quaker educator with a Master’s degree in Environmental Education and experiential learning and my training and experience as a psychotherapist, specializing in therapeutic community work, as well as my Orthodox/Conservative Jewish heritage. These are also elements entwined with the whole, having their own suitable expression. We use whatever language we think will get our message across.

Together and with our volunteers applying our Cultural Mediation approach, we guided the reconciliation of a volatile, deeply entrenched local Jewish/Muslim controversy and helped prevent the closing of a Methodist Church serving the homeless and addiction recovery community, assisting the congregation in raising over $200,000 through our community development guidance and training.

We have presented numerous, enthusiastically received “Conflict Resolution and Anger Management #101” programs for the UNESCO  Center for Peace Model United Nations camp for high school students from around the world. Our favorite and most festive event is the “(Almost) Annual Abkhazian Dinner.” In recent years, (2007. 2008, 2009 and 2012), the event has been offered on behalf of the annual Season For Non-Violence project, a world-wide commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., to rave reviews.

First presented in 2000 under our own sponsorship, our Abkhazian Dinner format invites guests to:

Participate in a community unity-building “group dialogue” before dinner. This year dialogue was sparked by introductory presentations by myself, Anastasia, and local guest, Mayor Deborah Burgoyne, on the theme of “Spirituality, Ethics and Politics.”

This event has allowed us to not only present our model as an effective and comprehensive community bridge building initiative, but has also allowed us to showcase the importance of what Murat has contributed in bringing the ancient traditions of Abkhazian Kebzeh out into the world. We hope others will appreciate what he has given us, philosophically, as well as in terms of practical applications for solving many of our contemporary human problems.

Videos of Murat, one especially produced in 2000 for Anastasia and New Horizons in addition to the recent 2012 video, “A Profile of Murat Yagan,” are also shown at these events. Visual effects, the stories of others involved with Kebzeh and music, make it possible for us to introduce the atmosphere and tone of Kebzeh community and to more vividly celebrate Murat and Maisie, who we dearly love.

We have introduced these principles to an adolescent summer camp and our local minister’s association. Overall, we have contributed innovative programs focusing on overcoming areas of polarization and developing strengthened local community bonds as a pathway to global peace. 

While we are prepared to present our model to any group that is a suitable match to sponsor us, still our impact has been limited. We are not willing to settle for this as we are certain of the treasure trove we are carrying and know it belongs out in the greater world - not only on “False Creek,” but on the seven seas and as far away as the seven wonders of the world.

This year the program we have found to be our most singularly rewarding, our “(Almost) Annual Abkhazian Dinner,” somehow opened a magical doorway to a fresh approach to presenting and marketing the gift that is our Cultural Mediation model with Kebzeh at its base. (As of this writing we are still assessing the “somehow.”)

Emerging out of this scrumptious event, including the colorful and delicious array of dishes (and Sue’s best shot at cooking Abkhazian), our “Bus Ride Story Adventure” was birthed, presented as the centerpiece of the event, heightening what has always been a wonderfully successful occasion since its first presentation in 2000. A YouTube video is currently in the blueprint stage to make what we created that day well known. This will be our first deliberate foray into the worldwide market.  We want the world to know what we know of Abkhazia, Murat and Kebzeh life and application.

I can feel the “awe” of all that is unfolding after more than a decade of “trying” to carry this message out to the world. Now we believe we have got it!  It is only a matter of persistence and patience until the abundance we have contributed will return to us.

As Sue and I prime ourselves to bring Murat’s carefully crafted adventure story into the full public domain, our mission often times feels daunting. For this is no simple task. Sharing the gifts Murat has brought with the conventional world, we yearn for it to be well-received and respected rather than carelessly dismissed. I have been at it close to fourteen years and it has always been an uphill battle.

Murat brought the certainty into my life that intentionally co-creating “awe” is within the realm of the possible within our worldwide communities. A corollary is Murat’s well-grounded belief that “violence can be obsolete”. The potential is there. The ingredients live in each and every one of us should we choose to nurture their growth and development. Yet the realization of such perspectives challenges us all.

All of this and more comes of what Murat, the teachings of Kebzeh and Kebzeh community has brought into my life and that of my organization. Our present products are the two major initiatives; the Small “Zones of Peace” Project and the “Possible Human, Possible Society Study”. While both projects are strongly interwoven with our personal and professional perspectives, at their core they are very much grounded, guided and lifted by Murat, Kebzeh and Kebzeh community. Carrying these forth into the mainstream as we intend is a daunting task that we face each and every day.

The miracle is that this all began at a precise moment when the future of our organization and I were challenged more than at any other time. The short story version of my personal adventure behind the scenes at New Horizons is included in the account that follows.

In the spring, 1999, a friend of some duration aptly pointed out that the teachings of Kebzeh, as Murat depicted them in his monograph, “Building Up a Kebzeh Community,” might, in fact, have a correspondence with that which our organization had already been doing - teaching participants the art of community building. This was to be truly prophetic. What has come of it for me, personally, has been life changing almost in the realm of miraculous.

At the time of my friend’s urging, I had recently lost my eyesight (September, 1998). This circumstance had not only dramatically altered my personal plans but also those of New Horizons as well. As founder and director of the non-profit, I am also the designated captain of the organizational ship, steering us through, what at the time, was a bit of a storm.

Additionally, I was just coming through a great deal of stress in my family life unrelated, perhaps and perhaps not, to losing my eyesight. Fortunately for me, though I had lost my eyesight, I never lost my “vision” nor the vision that I would soon gratefully embrace, that came through Murat and his devoted followers. Nor had I lost the determination to live my life well and passionately that has always pressed me to aim high and excel.

New Horizons Support Network, Inc., that I head, responded eagerly to “Building Up a Kebzeh Community” when first introduced to it in the spring, 1999. It was simply second nature for us, the next “right step” so to speak. Nonetheless, at first glance, if a spiritual path is the current main attraction of these teachings, our community-building efforts might have seemed like an oddity. We were rather quite differently intentioned from a traditional Kebzeh community as Murat tells us of it.

At the time we were introduced to Kebzeh, we were in the business of developing and running therapeutic communities specially designed as a strategy for overcoming relationship and personality addictions. Our original approach was based on a prison rehabilitation model, not unlike those that had been around for decades to rehabilitate the chemically addicted. The main distinction being that to qualify for our program, if participants had any history of chemical dependency or abuse, they needed to be chemical-free for a minimum of two to three years.

Ours was a healing program aimed at the high end of personal development. Even in 1999, our methodology was one that guided participants in the direction of personal and relationship transformation. Yet what was to be discovered through Murat and the mentoring of other Kebzeh Elders was to be far and above any objectives we could have formerly envisioned.

However up to the spring of 2000, Murat was still relatively unknown to us and us to him. That is until word of the “marriage” of New Horizons and Kebzeh came to his attention. Joan McIntyre was the messenger, introducing us to Murat through a New Horizons newsletter to which Murat responded as follows.

 “A couple of days ago I received a copy of “ The Voice of the New Horizons Support Network through Joan McIntrye, which I studied to my delight. I congratulate you for your efforts. ……

“I am pleased there are people like you around in spite of everything; you are a carrier of great love.

“In the package I was handed by Joan, there was also a: New Horizons Support Network donation form which I used to make a donation by fax.

“Yes! I am interested in details on how a New Horizons – Kebzeh Support – Study Group can be designed for my favorite organization.” Please contact me at the above day-time phone,” drew my attention. On this matter, I would like to tell you that I would be most interested in working in cooperation with you to design a program for that matter and conduct a presentation of it to any group of people, company, society, sports club, anything involved in any endeavor, etc., free of charge as a donation to New Horizons. If you deem this to be of value, please let me know.

My best wishes to you and yours.

All in love,

(Excerpt from Murat’s letter to Anastasia, July 22, 2000)

Needless to say, it was exciting for all of us at New Horizons to receive this loving and supportive communication. Exuberant that our mission had acknowledgement and affirmation from such a well-respected teacher as Murat, little did we have any idea of the adventure that now lay ahead.

Who could have known except, perhaps, Murat himself who met our audacity and presumptuousness with humbleness and generosity, that we had made a mail order marriage. We were in love and married already to what we knew of Kebzeh, based on Murat’s teachings, without having ever met the groom. But, of course, it could barely be more than infatuation. However, that was about to change. My life and that of my organization was now on our way to “awe,” shifting our focus from problems to possibilities.

The turning began the moment that I, legally blind, seeing only as through the haze of a waxed paper veil, “saw” Murat regally make his way down the wide expanse of a mansion staircase into the entranceway of an awaiting reception held in his honor. One of a select group of invited guests, I was prepared for a typically ordinary occasion; visiting dignitary, guests, reception, dinner, conversation.

However, when Murat came down that staircase, his majestic carriage far surpassing that of the physical structure he was descending, I was awestruck, my life changed. I, the student was ready.  Here was my teacher. I was committed for life. And, since I was the captain of our organizational ship, what was to be altered in me would guide New Horizons’ manifestations of itself and its various missions from this time forward.

The question might now be posed, did this marriage of social science and mysticism find us or did we find it?

Today our therapeutic community program has become a community development and violence prevention training program that we call Cultural Mediation. We describe it as “based on an intriguing organizational paradigm for empowering exceptional leaders and developing exceptional communities.” The philosophical and practical components are deeply rooted in Kebzeh. Our design, based on the “old” New Horizons therapeutic community model and what we have adopted from Kebzeh, is a marriage of social science and mysticism, now still happily married after more than a decade.

The guidance and inspiration we have received from Murat and Kebzeh lifts us, as well as our clients, to notice the “what to do” within ourselves and with one another – and – the “what not to do” that comes of our working with the human virtues of the Spectrum of Love. As a non-profit organization, as well as a training approach, New Horizons has now learned the art of reaching for awe as a vehicle for organizational excellence.

With this as a context, aiming high for possibilities rather than being mired in problems, individual or collective, the message New Horizons does its utmost to carry out into whatever community (i.e. ordinary community) we are in contact with is that how people treat one another makes a substantial difference in all that we do, including politics. The objectives of our Possible Human, Possible Society Study, now in progress through December 31, 2015, reflect this paradigm.

We now know that the application of the seemingly simple formula, based on the Spectrum of Love, when diligently practiced and interwoven with other Kebzeh principles, can bring any group or organization to the higher planes of human undertakings, be they individual or collective. Spirituality, ethics and politics can work together. Murat and Kebzeh community are living models of this.

Each time we present our programs, we are vividly reminded that people are eager to find out what we know and can offer that leads to the higher planes of human attainment, beyond tensions, conflicts and polarization.

The design for our Possible Human, Possible Study, launched August 1, 2011, was strongly influenced by the leadership and community life practices and principles of Kebzeh, as we have learned them through Murat. The study which is being conducted will eventually include four hundred participants. It has the objective of discovering to what extent citizens of the United States (presently limited to those living within a one hundred mile radius of the Washington, D.C. White House) are intent, or not, in attaining these higher human realms.

Thus far, one of the major findings the study has shown is that the leadership style of Murat and the Ahmstas is what our nation of people are craving, leadership based on accountability to the masses, an overarching personal value system that can be relied upon, integrity, wisdom and compassion and, most significantly, the results that Kebzeh community models: unity, peace and harmony.

Willingly striving for these virtues in themselves, our interviewees are, typically, conscientious in their convictions though generally without viable role models or the community enhancement tools that can lead to the systemic changes for which they yearn.

Study participants, sharing their hopes and fears and dreams, led us in the spring of this year, 2012, to want to support their intentional progress and transformation. Knowing that Murat’s Bus Ride Story had been pivotal in achieving the transformation of the New Horizons community, we sought to present his beautiful teaching story to the public, hoping to attract more and more commitment from individuals to build community unity together, to collectively reach for our dreams in the realm of AWE, with our feet on the ground of our local communities and in pockets of community and family. 

The "Bus Ride Story Adventure" can guide, teach and inspire participants to work together to embody the Spectrum of Love human virtues and reconcile our differences whenever we fall short of this ideal. We are discovering that the single, greatest fulfillment for our participants that we offer, as taken from Murat’s translation of how exceptional communities (i.e. Kebzeh community) function, is to instruct our “travelers” on how to pack their travel bags with the essentials of exemplary human virtue and character.

The more challenging aspect is teaching that it is when the Spectrum of Love becomes, by consensus, the overarching value system and cultural standard of a group or organization, all members of a community striving, together, for harmony and well-being that systemic change can occur. A group, thus, becomes a real community, exceptional in every aspect.  This is the message behind New Horizons two initiatives, the Possible Human, Possible Society Study and the Small “Zones of Peace” Project that sponsors our Bus Ride Story Adventure.

July 29, 2012

By the side of Sue (and Paul’s) gently burbling trout stream, we spread out our notes, handout papers and chairs. An old stone wall behind us serves as a teachers’ desk while a great maple tree canopy shades us from the hot midday sun. The setting is picture perfect and we are well-prepared to offer our personal best.

This day, again, our Bus Ride Story Adventure moves forward, heading in the right direction to strengthen personal and communal well-being. So we set ourselves, optimistically and energetically, out on our course, presenting our program to a generously attentive audience. Still we do not sparkle, we do not shine. We have a well-worn map to the magic kingdom (Murat’s Chart of Ascension). We have traveled there many times before. But we have no magic wand to materialize it before us this day, not quite yet with our typical shine.

The right elements we have come to depend upon for our usual successes are served up. However, they don’t quite come together and crystallize into fairy dust as they have before. Somehow they are not yet arranged to best advantage.  So we come off a bit like a Chinese buffet with too much to eat, not quite yet an Abkhazian Dinner.

Thus Sue and I are reminded that we are still students of the science of universal awe, a long way away from the mastery of our teachers and guides.

At this time our whole planet is reverberating with violence, severe climate changes and economic crisis. Throughout the world, people everywhere need devoted, wise elders with the capacity to lead such as Murat embodies. These gifted teachers, not only guide and teach us lessons that we can learn only by standing next to them on a day-to-day basis, but provide “… a link between the far distant past and the present.” We need these teachers and we need their teachings, especially those that are derived from ancient and enduring principles, practices and wisdom. They light the path that can help lead us to worldwide systemic change.

We, who are younger, even only slightly, also, need to develop the art of “aleishweh,” an Abkhazian word for courtesy that we learned through Kebzeh. Those of Kebzeh community, living near Murat and Maisie in Vernon, B.C., exemplify this quality in the many ways they honor and care for Murat and Maisie. They also provide a working model for us who are farther away, geographically, to follow into the future that gives us inspiration and hope for a better world.

New Horizons and its board members are honored to have been granted the opportunity to receive so much from Murat, Maisie and Kebzeh community. If we have learned anything that we can pass on through our marriage to Kebzeh, it just might be how to be role models, ourselves, as exceptional leaders or teachers, followers or students, whatever the day calls for next. This would be enough.

Still, we will do our best to invite and actively engage people in our very “ordinary communities” to travel with us on our "Bus Ride Story Adventure,"destination awe!

M. Anastasia Rosen-Jones
Susan C. deVeer

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