Sunday, January 31, 2016

Waiting Patiently: Anticipation and Wonder

I was not quite five years old when my family moved from Iowa to California.  Each summer my maternal grandparents would drive from Iowa to stay with our family: two weeks of childhood heaven - being spoiled by grandparents who had missed us the other 50 weeks of the year!  Each day was extraordinary: trips to the beach, the toy store, or Foster's Freeze for a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone; special treats like salt water taffy, Karmelkorn and fudgecicles; 3 or 4 lunches or dinners at a restaurant.  Our family had several birthdays during the summer months, so it seemed like one big party while they were in town!

On the day of their impending arrival, there was excitement almost akin to waiting for Christmas!  Time seemed to almost stand still.  "When will they arrive?" was a frequent question to my parents.  My brothers, sisters, and I would be ushered outside while Mom completed the tasks of readying the house.  We would sit on the street curb waiting to be the first to see their car come down our street: we could hardly contain ourselves!  The anticipation, the excitement, the joy - all were emotions brimming over!

It was easy to see and experience the feelings as they surfaced: the Inner spilling over into the Outer.

Möbius Strip: working the inner and outer
The Möbius Strip (mentioned in the December 13th posting) is an excellent symbol of the inner and outer work of Dialogue: a continual movement from inside the circle to outside, and then back inside.

 And Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference, mentioned in last week's blog, is a useful tool when working the Inner-Outer of the adult world.  It invites us to slow down, notice, and become aware of how we are filtering the vast array of information coming at us each day.  "Moving Down the Ladder" would allow us to check out our thoughts and feelings regarding specific situations or people:
  • What emotions am I having and why?
  • What conclusions and assumptions have I made?
  • What meanings have I added?
  • What facts have I focused on or filtered from all the facts that are available?
Ladders have high points which can be dangerous to our safety.  As we conduct our Inner and Outer work of noticing and "checking-out" what we are observing (i.e., asking the other person what she or he saw, heard, felt, and understood), we can move down from the high point of the Ladder to a point closer to the base of Reality, closer to what really happened.
Ladder of Inference, Chris Argyris (current view courtesy of Bread of Life Center)
Before my Dialogue journey began almost three years ago, I wondered at times where the child-like excitement and curiosity had gone?  I wondered when I had last sat on a curb waiting in anticipation for someone to arrive?

Now, when I choose to slow down and notice (my Inner journey) and I begin to engage with you (my Outer journey), I can see down the street of possibilities, anticipating what our lives would be like when we have time to get to know one another.

As this new week and month begins, the invitation is to reflect on where we can hold in wonder these unfolding possibilitiesWhere can we anticipate with a child-like wonder and joy the gifts of Self-and-Other-Together? 

Where?  Is it:
  • To hear another person's story - without interruption?
  • To look in wonder at what that person offers our world?
  • To accept and honor another perspective and truth?

May February be a month of Mystery Encountered, Energy Unleashed, and Awe Revealed!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Awareness and Compassion Transforming Our World

Have you ever noticed when telling a story, describing how your day went, discussing world events, or using words like dignity, respect, life, or love that the other person sees or imagines the situation quite differently?

Family Circus, created by Bill Keane (click on image to enlarge)
Chris Argyris, a Harvard business professor, concluded that no matter how educated and well-intentioned people were, people would continue to miss the mark.  His research and observations were instrumental in the fields of Organizational Development and Learning Organizations, and focused on business relationships and systems.  These lessons are just as applicable to personal situations as well.

Chris developed the Ladder of Inference as a framework to illustrate how quickly our minds take in and process information, and how easily humans make judgements based on this information.  Reality is immediately filtered through our five senses, taking in only a fraction of what is physically observable.  The filtering continues through our familial, cultural and learned experiences, plus other socially constructed realities.  Within milliseconds we have added assumptions and meanings, trying to categorize the situation (e.g., is there a threat?; is this similar to other situations I have encountered?).  This ability to quickly take in information and make decisions is our human condition, and what has allowed our species to survive!

Ladder of Inference, Chris Argyris (current view courtesy of Bread of Life Center)
Therefore, it may be virtually impossible to stop this process.  The invitation in Dialogue work is to slow down and become aware of what we are noticing.. or possibly, not noticing!

Exercises to begin noticing: next time when you are...
  • Standing in a grocery check-out line, look at the person in front of you. What did you notice?  Did you make any assumptions or conclusions about that person?  What were those assumptions?  How do you know those assumptions were accurate?
  • In the airport's security line, if you are given a chance to choose between two X-ray lines, why did you choose the lane you chose?  Was your decision based on the shorter line or on your observations of people in the two lines? What did you observe?  What did you conclude?
  • Driving to work, what are your thoughts and feelings?  What happens within you when you are stopped at a red light or encounter traffic congestion?  Do you go the speed limit?  Why or why not?  At the end of your work day, what are your thoughts and feelings then?
For this next week, jot down a few notes about what you have noticed... or not noticed. What comes to mind about this week's observations?

A special thanks to Baby Blues' creators Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott for their August 22, 2014 comic strip (  This may bring humor to some of the areas not noticed in our lives!

Baby Blues, August 22, 2014 (click on comic to enlarge)
Each new day I encounter my willingness - and my struggle - to slow down and notice.  Through this awareness, I have encountered:
  • A renewed curiosityabout myself - how I have been on auto-pilot so much of my life and am now beginning to see differently; about others - how there is so much I don't know about the people around me!
  • An understanding of compassion: for myself and others - seeing how our shared humanity is diverse, allowing a variety of experiences to coexist... when I remember!   Our daily encounters can be lifted and changed if we work together!
Together we can change the world: by noticing; by compassion
Let us be reminded of the inner and outer work that occurs when we become more aware and compassionate, encountering and exploring the Infinite Sacredness Within.

Dialogue requires continual work inside and outside (See December 13 blog)

Cheers to the gifts that we will unwrap this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Holding Lightly: One Step Back, Two Forward, and Feathers

This past week I attended a workshop with a number of colleagues, who I am fortunate to also call "friends".  The facilitators were highly skilled in providing a safe learning environment for exploration and discovery.  The two days were positive, and yet very challenging... especially with what I learned about myself!

I had forgotten to "hold lightly" in relation to those inner tapes and images I have about myself!  It seemed as if I was replaying everything I had hoped I had forgotten: the doubts;  the accusations; the worries.  Community is wonderful, though!  Reminders from other participants helped me to realize that any transition period or new learning experience brings low awareness within myself and with others.

On my own, I had returned to -- and held onto -- the Person-I-Was, and forgot about the Person-I-Am or the Person-I-Am-Meant-To-Become.

Am I aware of when I am holding on?  And why?
It was through these friendly reminders that I returned to noticing our Sacred Worth and Value.

Awareness of self and others moves us to Compassion and Nonviolence: the ability to hold lightly and to cherish the gift that is so precious in our hands.  Every moment provides a choice to renew the commitment to stop the violence, the violence I do to myself and others.

Can I hold lightly to what is happening?
What was encouraging about this learning experience?  The movement away from "holding on" to "holding lightly" seemed quicker than in the past.  That is why Dialogue is a "practice" -- retraining ourselves to notice anew and learn about the people and world around us!  As days pass and the workshop recedes, I continue to process the "lessons learned" -- but in a spirit of accepting and letting go of the questions and doubts that hinder my growth.

Can I let go?
Awareness brings Choice.  For this week, let us ponder the following questions, seeking out new choices in how we respond:
  • When I encounter a person who has different values or views than mine, what am I holding onto and why?
  • In what ways can I hold lightly the positions I or others hold?
  • Am I aware of past tapes, stories, positions, or images that keep me separated and at odds with others?  And, am I willing to let go and reexamine these stories and positions?
Awareness brings choice: moving away from holding on toward letting go

I offer these thoughts.  Hold them lightly.  And let me know what you think!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Art of Asking Questions: The Fragile Nature of a Bubble

Do you remember as a child the magic of creating soap bubbles: exhaling softly as the bubble slowly expanded; being able to see through the bubble; and watching the bubble reshape itself as the sun reflected rainbow colors throughout?

"Bubble Man" (Sydney, Australia)
It seems that the very nature of Presence - leaning in and listening deeply to another person - is a delicate moment that is meant to be treasured in the same way: the child-like wonder as the gentle birth of this "Bubble of Presence" grows and reshapes itself.

The questions for this week:
  • How do I -- or how do we -- encourage deeper awareness in order to protect this moment as Presence emerges between us?
  • How do I -- or how do we -- hold lightly the wonder of this Moment, as Presence forms and reshapes itself once we have listened to and inquired about each others' experiences?
  • How do I -- or we -- allow this Bubble of Presence to be set free, no longer encumbered by my story but listening to the stories that we are sharing and becoming, watching as the delicate breezes of this Sacred Moment send our new Awareness heavenward?

Life above the Clouds
 The Art of Asking Questions becomes the ability to sense this emerging Presence -- the emergence of shared stories -- and the ability to inquire gently into what we see and hear, by what we think we understand and don't, and by what we seek to discover and anticipate.  There are no conclusions set or in place, only the Presence of Listening.

My experience of life grows as I seek to ask questions and as I learn to listen to your responses with a wonder and a freedom to finally hear.

Each day of this New Year becomes:
  • An invitation to cherish our individual bubbles (stories which are valuable but are sometimes used to protect), while
  • At the same time, choosing to ask questions which expand our awareness of another possibility, and
  • Marveling at the Bubble-We-Have-Become (Our Stories)... together!

What questions are bubbling in you to ask?

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Year's Wish: Noticing and Tending the Flame

A flame burns within each of us, shedding its light on the path ahead and warming us.  It may flicker when we waver in our values, but it grows brighter when we move toward the Person-Meant-To-Be.
An Individual Flame
At times when we neglect this flame, it may seem to go out.  At other times, when we over-stoke our own worth at the expense of others, a firestorm may leap out hurting those around us.

A Firestorm
The stances of Contemplative Dialogue (contemplative noticing or mindfulness; nondefended learning; and nonviolence) will help us cultivate and transform this inner flame into a life-giving force which awakens curiosity, compassion, and creativity.

A Flame Transformed
As we slow down and become aware (mindfulness), respond with a desire to understand and be understood (nondefended learning), and respond with compassion (nonviolence), we begin to realize the Sacred Worth and Value of All.  The individual flames now move together to create a fire that draws us together to celebrate Whom-We-Have-Become.

London 2012 Summer Olympics: Olympic Cauldron
Questions for this week:

  • How do I find my internal flame: flickering or well-tended?
  • In what ways am I nurturing the flames of Self and Others?
  • Where am I living the values and desires of my heart?
  • When am I listening to and encouraging the values and desires of others?

    A Heart On Fire

    May this New Year inspire a burning desire to do good, and borrowing the words of St. Francis: 
    • Not so much to be consoled, as to console;
    • To be understood, as to understand;
    • To be loved, as to love.

    Larry Gardepie