Sunday, December 27, 2015

Anticipating the New Year: Silencing the MMQ Within

Support (səˈpôrt/):  bear all or part of the weight of; hold up.

Mistake (məˈstāk/):  an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.

Learning (ˈlərniNG/):  the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.
Super Bowl XLIX: Butler picks off Wilson (click on link)
How often this past year have I engaged the internal "Monday Morning Quarterback" (MMQ):  I cannot believe I did that!  What was I thinking?  I botched that situation!

It seems that I try to prevent mistakes with a false sense of being perfect and then bash myself when I am being human and vulnerable!  There are countless instances where people's mistakes become headline news - AND - where I headline my own failings (at least in my own mind!).

The challenge: slow down; hold lightly - becoming compassionate and tender with Self and Others; and learn from these vulnerable moments.  The decision or action - and even these MMQ moments! - become part of the journey towards understanding. 

Mistakes - Support - Learning
One of the dialogue skills (the "rules"to develop a Model II nondefended learning stance articulated by Chris Argyris) is the ability to support making mistakes in the service of learning.

Questions to consider this week:

  • Do I focus on the "mistake" rather than the "lesson learned"?
  • Do I create a "teeter totter" that rewards one over the other?
  • Am I willing to look at the whole: the ability to hold both Mistake and Lesson in a creative tension, allowing a balance between vulnerability and growth?

When I look at the whole, I begin to see the word Support that creates an environment which accepts human vulnerability, silences the MMQ, and celebrates the learning.

Cheers to the New Year, as we make mistakes, as we learn, and as we support one another!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Noticing Your Impact: It Happens... Now What?

Busyness seems to be a fact of our modern lives!  So, too, is the impact we have on one another.  But, are we even aware of those moments when we impact others?

Our impact may be anywhere from small and short-term to huge and long-termIt may be conscious and intended or it may occur through missteps and misunderstandings.  It may even lie unnoticed for days, weeks, or years until memories are stirred and our Present becomes impacted by the Past.

Just think how a smile, acknowledging someone as we pass by, or stopping by a colleague's work space to give thanks for work well-done may be all it takes to brighten someone's day.  Impact happens!

I have become aware of how my family and my role in the family continues to impact how I react or respond to situations today, decades after leaving the "family nest"!!

As we enter this final week of holiday busyness, I am reminded of earlier Christmases with my family.  The memories, mostly positive and powerful, seem to linger off-stage as I prepare for this year's celebration.  I wonder how much I am willing to acknowledge these memories, allowing the Past to have its time and place... but then becoming more Present to the here and now.

Maybe the gift we can give each other this year is our Presence: to acknowledge the past joys and pains; to become aware of the present moment; and to decide how we want to positively impact those around us.  Sometimes impact just happens, but I am learning that I have a choice in many of the situations that occur.

Slowing down, giving others the present moment, and receiving them as they come are all choices I can make!

Questions to consider this week:
  • Past:  what memories am I bringing into this holiday season?
  • Present:  how can I slow down and notice my impact - with the past that I am remembering and on the present that I am unwrapping?
  • Future:  what expectations do I have of myself and others as we gather together? 

The invitation this week is to impact another person POSITIVELY!  May we be surprised with the Sacred Gift of Presence!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reflections on Our Inner Journeys and Outward Relationships

Have you ever hoped that your life would follow a Straight Path, with a defined Start and Finish, moving forward with no interruptions or distractions from your goals?  Or have you ever found yourself competing for limited resources or proving your worth over another?

As a runner, I learned to listen for and anticipate the starting gun, the ability to jump ahead and gain advantage over my competitors.  I wonder if this is any different than the Cause-Effect or Single-Loop Learning that is so ingrained in how we respond to various situations: start, race toward action (reaction), and finish at the planned or expected ending point?

Straight: Start - End
Life is filled with cycles, though - whether we experience those through Nature, seasons, or relearning what we thought we understood from earlier stages in our lives.

By taking the two ends of a straight line, we form a Circle - a line with no ends.  This opens us to the possibility of re-visiting and re-discovering.

But a circle also has an inside and an outside, an inner and an outer edge.  As I move inward, to notice how I am responding to a situation, I may not always be aware of what is occurring outside my inner circle.  In some ways, the circle may trap me into an Either-Or thinking style, cycling through past thoughts and earlier solutions, and not seeing other possibilities.

Circle (connect the ends): Inner or Outer
If the ends of the straight line are twisted before joining, a new shape emerges:  the Möbius Strip.  Following along the inner edge eventually leads to the outer edge and then returns to the inner.  Like the circle, there is continuity, but with the Möbius Strip, we move towards integration.

Noticing what is happening within, combined with engaging the outer world, allows us to flow from one side to the other.  The challenge for us is to hold onto one integrated reality: the inner journey informs the outer relationships with others and the outer journey informs the inner relationship with self, essentially drawing us into Both-And thinking and solutions.  

As an introvert, I have found that I need to share my inner thoughts and feelings with others in order for us to journey together.  As I open up, unexpected and exciting results occur!

Möbius Strip (add a twist, connect): Inner and Outer
Dialogue may take place when one or more people open up and share the possibilities and potentials of each personNoticing how we experience our world in relationship with others and accepting what they observe, draws us into curiosity about and compassion for others.  

At our recent Community of Practice meeting, Anita noted that adding a second twist to the straight line before connecting the endpoints creates a Heart. 

I wonder if the first twist is the Integration of the inner and outer journeys, drawing us into deeper understanding, and the second twist is the Compassion we begin to experience for self and other?

Heart (adding a second twist): Inner and Outer, with Compassion

Thus, Straight-Line thinking of Start-End and Either-Or can be transformed into an infinite journey of Both-And newness, discovery, and heart-felt wonder when we allow our lives to be gently twisted and reshaped by one another.
Infinite Inner and Outer Journey (Möbius Revisited)

 Questions for this week:
  • Do you experience the world as competitive and heartless?
  • How do you primarily focus your time or energy - inward or outward?
  • Where can you add a slight "twist" in your encounter with others:
    • To listen more?
    • To ask more questions?
    • To share your thoughts and feelings?

May you encounter gentle and compassionate twists this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Noticing: Where is My Focus... Past, Present, or Future?

Recently, my computer played a trick on me: all of my emails disappeared!  I am sure all of us have had days like that - the wonders of modern technology!

Using my back-up files, I soon recovered the miscreant emails.  What surprised me is how many emails I had amassed over the past several years!  We are not talking about "a few emails."  I had over 15,000, dating back several years!

You might be wondering why I had saved so many emails.  That was a question I posed to myself, and I slowed down to listen to my answers.  In the past:
  • Some people mislaid emails I sent, so I saved outgoing emails so I could easily resend.
  • Some people misunderstood what I wrote, so I wanted to reread and clarify what I had emailed earlier.
  • Many emails contained topics of interest to me, so I would save those emails in order to some day reread or explore the topic further.
  • I would forget when friends and I had arranged to get together, so those emails helped me double-check the arrangements.
In reviewing these (and other more embarrassing) answers, I noticed that my Past was easily affecting my Present and was unfocusing my Future.  And, in fact, to be "right" or "correct" about my interpretation of the Past, I had organized my Present to catalog the Past; and my Future had become dependent upon both Past and Present remaining a certain way!

Question: How far away from the Present are my thoughts?
My colleagues in the Dialogue Practicum have heard me talk about "The Swirl," the image or action I use to describe my mind: competing thoughts, multiple options, different strategies... all swirling around in my thoughts and responses.

I noticed, though, that when I slowed down, I could feel The Swirl happening within.  There were so many ways I held onto and retained the Past and Future that my mind became a mixture of thoughts and feelings all vying for attention... and distracting me from the Present.

My mind sometimes swirls with all of the possibilities

On a really good day, I could organize or structure The Swirl so that it felt better and less distracting!  Continued studies with Dialogue challenged me to slow down even further and to ask another question:  Was I really staying in the Present when I was tending this Swirl?
Notice the 3-D nature of my organized swirl!

One of the more difficult lessons for me to realize was an ability to "hold lightly" this Swirl: moving away from defending my behaviors and reactions, and allowing compassion to interrupt The Swirl.
This is what The Swirl feels like when held lightly!

In those moments when I slow down, notice, and hold myself and others with compassion, the Swirl has less of a hold on the Past and the Present.  And the Future?  The Future reaches out and touches me and others in unexpected ways!

What has happened to the recovered emails?  They are still on the computer... taking up space... but they are no longer taking up my time or energy.  And now: new emails - once read and responded to - are no longer saved!

Questions for this week:
  • Do you have areas in your life that swirl?
  • What image comes to mind when contemplating Your Swirl?
  • In what ways can you hold your Swirl lightly and with compassion?

May your week be filled with Compassion and Presence!
Larry Gardepie

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Noticing: The Art of Navigating the Waters of Our Lives

One of the Dialogue "stances" or "ways of being" is noticing, the ability to slow down and become aware of what is happening within and around ourselves.  When I first learned about this skill, I found myself drawn into a sense of wonder:  it seemed as if I had forgotten what it was like to "be present" and "in the moment."  Instead, I had accepted the illusion of social media and the smart devices that are so much a part of our world; and rather than being connected to others, I had become distracted and wasn't always curious about the lives of others.

When I do remember to slow down, check out what I notice, and ask questions to clarify what I have seen or heard, there seems to be a calmness and a shimmering lightness upon the waters which nourish my life.  And, there is a sharper focus to the relationships I have with myself and with others.

Over these past two years, I have noticed something else about myself:  I have a tendency sometimes to worry about the dark storm clouds that gather on the horizon or I become distracted by the white caps of the rough waters that surround me. 

I am learning that when I practice noticing and awareness in the calm waters, these skills come more readily as I move ahead.  The lessons I learn propel me forward and I no longer focus on the wake behind me.

As we begin this week's journey dawning before us, I would propose the following questions as guides:
  • What keeps me from slowing down and noticing?
  • When - or with whom - do I notice shimmering light or stormy darkness upon the waters of my life?  (What relationships are smooth or which are more turbulent?)
  • As I slow down and notice these relationships, how can I observe, listen, and ask questions to better understand the other person?

And, at the end of the day:
  • What did I do this day that created a difference?
  • Where did I bring energy and beauty into this world?

May your journey this week be full of new adventures!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Awareness: The Emergence of Gratitude

The reality that is present to us and in us:
     call it Being... Silence.
And the simple fact that by being attentive,
     by learning to listen
     (or recovering the natural capacity to listen)
we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness
     that it cannot be explained:
     the happiness of being at one with everything
     in that hidden ground of Love
     for which there can be no explanations...
May we all grow in grace and peace,
     and not neglect the silence that is printed
     in the centre of our being.
It will not fail us.

   - Thomas Merton

As I slow down and notice -- sometimes with my head in the clouds or my eyes on the forces of nature around me -- I experience the refreshing waters which cleanse my heart, mind, and soul of the "messiness" and complexities of daily life.

And in this stillness, I begin to experience a new life emerging: a delicate curiosity about the people and world around me.  As I stretch and continue to listen, I reach out and search for meaning and purpose in this life.  It is through this awareness that I also encounter you and notice your kindred searching: a world moving toward consciousness.  Together, we find happiness and gratitude  - giving thanks for stillness, for life, and for a new world of possibilities and hope.

 Questions for this week:
  • What brings happiness to your life?
  • How have you shown your gratitude?
  • In what ways have you chosen to notice?

May this season allow us to slow down and be grateful: for the messiness, the growth, the emergence; and for finding one another!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Key to Dialogue: Encountering the SWAV Within

Speaking of Dialogue, Gates and Keys (last week's post), I have come to realize that one of the keys to Dialogue is an awareness of SWAV.

I remember when I was seven years old, our second grade teacher was preparing my class for "First Holy Communion."  As young Roman Catholics, we were being taught about the "real presence" and to genuflect before the church tabernacle since "God lived in the church."  Being second graders we took everything so literally, and would wave to God or genuflect as we passed the church building on the way to school.

Our teacher, to further along our second grade "theology," reasoned that if God lives in each one of us, shouldn't we also be genuflecting to one another?  That was my first encounter with the concept of Sacred Worth and Value: the SWAV in each of us!

Cathedrale Saint Louis Versailles Tabernacle
As I grew older, I lost sight of this beautiful lesson of bowing or genuflecting to others.  Through my parents, my brothers, sisters, and I were taught to respect others - even those we may not like.  It was when I began hiking, camping, and running in the country that I encountered the Sacred in the world around us.  The majestic mountains, the delicate butterfly, the magical rainbow, the mystical reflections in the lakes and streams... all were writing a story in my heart of the Creator's goodness.  No longer was God limited to the church building!  Instead, I began to re-encounter God through the world and its diverse populations.

Grand Tetons in Spring (Jerry Singleton)
Now, as I try to practice Dialogue through the Contemplative Dialogue "stances" and the Dynamic Dialogue "ways of being," I am humbled by the daily projections and reflections of the Sacred Worth and Value in the people around me.  As I listen and become curious of our life stories, I recall the child-like wonder and desire to bow before you, thankful that our paths have crossed.  To complete the second grade concept of Sacred Mystery so many years ago by Sr. Ann Thomas, I am moved to joy about the SWAV Within - the Sacredness of you and me!  As we dialogue, we are reminded - and invited - to hold one another not only with respect but with an understanding of how special we are!

I end with a Hindu word, Namaste: "I bow to the divine in you"!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dialogue, Gates and Keys

Last month my Practicum cohort group met for a closing retreat, finishing our two year study program on dialogue.  Over these two years we journeyed along a path - learning dialogue skills and tools intended to help us as individuals and as members of a wider community to "lean in" and become more aware of Self and Other:  to listen beyond the words; to ask questions; and to check out assumptions and meanings.

As I reflect on the retreat and our two years together, I wonder how often I expect my life-path to be fairly straight and narrow, to move unhindered toward my goals or dreams?

Mercy Auburn Retreat Center

The Practicum journey took a few twists and turns.  As we learned to navigate this labyrinthine-maze, we learned to dialogue and listen to another person's truth; to trust and accept one another; and to create a safe environment to become curious, to stand in wonder, and to seek opportunities to meet shared goals.

Labyrinth, Mercy Auburn Retreat Center
One of the lessons I learned about myself is how difficult it was for me to sit in Silence - not the silence of meditation, prayer, or quiet.  It was when "silence" (a noun) seemed to be used "to silence" (a verb) another person.  I realized that I did not know how to respond to this type of silence, a silence which seemed to stop the journey or redirect the energy.

This discovery caused me to slow down and wonder how often Silence - or my assumptions behind the lack of response from another person - becomes a barrier that crosses my path, keeping me from achieving the goals or dreams that I see so clearly.

Mercy Auburn Retreat Center
I am learning that Dialogue allows Silence to coexist.  The locked barrier in front of me can become an opportunity to discover more about myself, the other person, and what is causing the silence.  It invites different responses: to accept the barrier; to not exact violence toward the person or the silence by climbing over the obstacle to insert (or assert) my will or goal; and to hold lightly the moment and the lessons to be learned.

In fact, the stances of Contemplative Dialogue (noticing or mindfulness; nondefended learning; and nonviolence) allow me to experience the sacredness of each moment and each person.  These stances can become the key that unlocks the barriers within me.

Archway of Keys, Parliament of World Religions
Questions for this week:
  • What goals do I want to achieve this week?
  • Am I willing to put these goals aside when I encounter a barrier?
  • What barriers am I experiencing?
  • Is there a Dialogue-key that is waiting to be discovered, opening the sacredness of this moment?

Let us journey together this week, practicing dialogue, and unlocking the barriers within!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A New Season, A New Beginning, A New Blog, and New Dialogues-To-Come!

As I walk among the people in Old Town San Diego today celebrating Dia de Los Muertos ("Day of the Dead"), I wonder how often I walk through this life without seeing the people around me, people living or dead.  Do I hear, see, and understand the depth and gift that each person brings to our world?  Do I ask questions to get to know the other person?  Am I curious about their lives or wonder what they are thinking or feeling?

A new season has begun: with rich colors; harvests from fruits of labor; and new ways to experience endings and beginnings.  I am reminded of a recent experience at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, where almost 10,000 people came together from throughout the world.  Tibetan monks were creating a sand "mandala" (circle or balance) to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama.  The monks patiently added, grain by grain, sands of many colors to slowly build a design intricate and beautiful.

 Each day of the conference, the mandala grew.  And, at the end of the fifth day, when their work was complete, the creation was swept away.  All is temporary!

A new season, a new beginning.  Are we ready to use the colors of this season to create a new life together?

As this new blog, Dialogue San Diego, takes shape, I invite your feedbook and thoughts.
  • What colors your lives?
  •  What is important to you?
  • What dialogues can we pursue to get to know one another?

May we respect the living and the dead - the endings and beginnings - in each of our lives!  And may the sands that are added by each of us build a new mandala of life, keeping in mind the temporary and sacred moments we have together!

Larry Gardepie