Sunday, February 28, 2016

Vulnerability, Choice and Emergence

I have noticed recently that it is so easy to return to autopilot, those ways so ingrained and reactions so familiar!  All I have to do is read the morning newspaper or watch the news and political debates!  The negativity and fear emanating from these media outlets do not inspire me to dialogue!  Instead, I find that my inclination is to retreat and focus inwardprotecting myself from being hurt by a dangerous world.

In stark contrast, a few months ago while at the Mercy Center in Burlingame, I was walking around the beautiful and serene gardens and came across their labyrinth.  I am attracted to these structures: they have become for me symbols of journey and choice.
  • Am I willing to search inward for a Goal yet unknown?
  • Will I accept vulnerability over resistance and strength in order to learn and grow?
  • Can I slow down enough to seek new choices and opportunities rather than run ahead with my initial reactions?

Life is a Labyrinth (Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA)
As I struggle with turning off my Autopilot-Reactive-Self, I return to simple reminders that I have planted throughout my daily life.  On my computer desktop, I have used an electronic post-it application to call attention to: slowing down; asking how I want to show up; remembering to hold lightly who I am and how I encounter others; and developing a resource list of curiosity questions, like "Tell me more..."

And, instead of my "smart phone" running my life, I have added timely reminders to slow down, notice, and engage the world anew.  These positive alarms chime in and become a way for me to practice the dialogue skills throughout the day.

Computer Post-Its: dialogue reminders

Though I confess that I still stumble along this labyrinthian life, I know through dialogue colleagues, family and friends that I am cared for and loved.  The strength of love draws me to vulnerability and choice, to demonstrate my love and goodwill by inwardly and outwardly taking care of myself and others.  And with compassion, I move on with a desire to improve and practice anew, to choose differently.

Double-Loop Learning = Creating Choice Points

Exercising my will and desire to choose how to engage the world, I sense an emergence of a New Self from the darkness and confines of the cocoon that protected me in earlier years.  The delicate and vulnerable New Self must allow time for the sun to dry the wings; and the tentative flexing of the wings to strengthen and prepare for the journey ahead is likened to the dialogue reminders and practicing that allow a new reality to transpire.

Have you noticed there are many art forms which remind us that we can become something new?  We don't have to settle for the negativity, the fear, and the focus on death that pervades our world.  Instead, maybe we are called to become works of art that inspire others to set off on their own journeys of growth and renewal!

Art mimics reality: beauty created
Let us move into the Spring months ahead and pay attention to the butterflies and art forms that we encounter: symbols of new life and resurrection over the past.

Taking encouragement from this new month's name, may we march forward and become aware of buds, blossoms and new creation that is bursting forth around us!

Let us choose to do good!
Larry Gardepie

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Cause, Effect, Choice and Vulnerability

The previous four blogs introduced us to Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference, an invitation to slow down, notice, and understand the various compartments where we may have boxed in ourselves and others.  The filters, SCRs (socially constructed realities), and selective noticing limit the information we take in and they impact the interactions we have with others.

Our new understanding or awareness extends this invitation. Through curiosity, questions, and dialogue we are invited into compassion for self and other - the ability to "hold lightly" what is said, observed, understood, and felt.  Ever so slowly we move from our cramped cells into an expanded view of the Reality Surrounding by listening to how others experienced and understood the same events.

Nautilus shell with its expanding chambers
Argyris also describes the process many of us use to encounter and problem solve our world, Single-Loop Learning.  This is the "Cause-Effect" method used in our scientifically-minded world.  An example: when it becomes dark, we go to the light switch and turn on the electricity.  Let there be light!

This Cause-Effect method is very efficient and effective.  But oftentimes, we live life on autopilot.  That is, we get used to turning on the light switch when we want light, never looking at other possibilitiesWe assume that we can use this same SIngle-Loop Learning method for every situation.  What happens, though, when we come across a more complex situation that isn't so readily solved?

Single-Loop Learning = Cause-Effect Thinking

Slowing down and noticing that our automated re-actions (repeated actions) aren't addressing the situation allows us the possibility that other approaches could be taken.  Reviewing our inner constructs (decisions, meaning, assumptions, and filters) opens new doors.  This is Double-Loop Learning: the ability to learn from what is working and what is not working; and when not working, to review the inner constructs and find new opportunities.

In essence, checking out our assumptions and filters while being in dialogue with others introduces a "choice point" - the ability to respond instead of react, the potential to look at other options and solutions.

Double-Loop Learning = Creating Choice Points

The image that comes to mind is one of the Potter and the Clay: the molding and reforming of an object or image that is in the mind of the Inspired.  The potter's hands become covered with the clay as the intimate and vulnerable process of creation unfolds.  The two cannot be separated from this creative process.

In like manner, the Ladder and Double-Loop Learning produces within us a realization, a moment, to engage one with another in the process of being co-creators.

Creating delicately: drawing forth whom we are to become
 The questions to consider this week:
  • Where am I noticing that I have boxed in myself and others?
  • When am I on autopilot - anticipating and reacting to the people around me?  What new approaches can I take?
  • Will I see and notice the love and compassion that surrounds me - and that I can offer others, especially where we may differ?

The invitation this week it to take a risk, become vulnerable, and hold one another with compassion.

Let us turn off the autopilot and experience the Clay-of-Creation! 

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sacredness through Flowers, Hearts, and New Seasons

Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference invites us to slow down and notice what information we have taken in; how we have filtered facts through our familial, cultural, educational and socially constructed lenses; and how we have added assumptions and meanings.  These steps are so ingrained in us that we may not be aware or even question what is happening.

As we gain new awareness, we are called to "hold lightly" what we are noticing.  Instead of beating up or chastising ourselves and others for mistakes made or misunderstandings held, we are welcomed into new moments of clarity and curiositySlowing down and wondering invites us to consider:
  • Maybe there is another explanation for what I heard or saw.
  • Maybe there are other choices I did not consider in this situation.
  • Maybe that person is not "out to get me."

Ladder of Inference, Chris Argyris (current view courtesy of Bread of Life Center)

The Möbius Strip mentioned in earlier blogs is a symbol of the inner and outer work that occurs when we slow down; when we sit in wonder and awe; when we examine our thoughts, words, and actions; and when we decide on a new response.

Möbius Strip: working the inner and outer
For me, the experience of slowing down and wondering about a new reality is akin to holding the last days of Winter (cold, dark, short days) gently, realizing that Spring days are arriving soon, and planning for new activities in the season ahead.

It is as if the hope of this new season draws us out of despair.  New beginnings, new growth, and new life will be arriving soon!

Can this actually be May? (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
Mindful noticing (awareness) and nonviolence toward self and others (compassion) draws forth this hope, this rebirth.  I can see the world in a new way.  I can plan my activities differently.  I can choose hope and life over fear and despair.

February in San Diego (an El Niño year!)
As I noticed the hearts and flowers for sale in the stores these past few weeks, I wondered about the rest of the year:
  • How do I show my love and support to those around me - all year long?
  • What would it take to plant seeds of trust rather than fear and doubt?
  • Where can I believe in a season of hope and life?  
Möbius Heart: choosing compassion
As we bring 'heart-work" into our cities this week, let us be like Julia in the story of St. Valentine: "Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night?  I pray that I might see?  I want to see everything that you've told me about!"  Blind since birth, it was through Valentinus' instruction, tutelage, and prayers that Julia began to see and experience her world anew.

Hearts in San Francisco (Union Square)
And so together, as we notice and hold lightly and as we plant our hearts around home and work environments this week, may we seek what is real and hopeful in the season dawning.  After all, we can choose to see anew!

From your Valentine this special day and week,

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Building A New View: Removing Blocks to Misunderstandings

Have you noticed how quickly assumptions are made about what we have seen or heard?!!  It is as if there is an on-call Reporter or Story Teller in our heads making up a tale about the other person or the circumstances!

The Ladder of Inference is one tool that helps us slow down this inner chatter and to check out the details of the story being told.
  • What did the person ACTUALLY say, and why did I assume...?
  • How did the person ACTUALLY look at me, and what internal tape became activated? 
  • Why did I respond with anger or frustration when my supervisor gave this assignment, and what does this work ACTUALLY mean?
Ladder of Inference, Chris Argyris (current view courtesy of Bread of Life Center)
The Ladder reminds me that my view is one of many views.  For instance, when I look at a structure made of building blocks, I will have a view based on where I am standing or what I am focusing on.

Building a New View: Looks like I see the whole, right?
If I were to move slightly to the right or to the left, I may gain a different perspective.  The new view may give me a depth I did not see originally.  I cannot take in all perspectives by remaining in one place.

If I move to the side, I begin to see more depth
Dialogue work invites us to move around and realize there may be different ways of looking at a situation.  Noticing where I am standing on the Ladder of Inference has a similar invitation: to notice where I began; to move down the Ladder to understand what occurred along the way up the Ladder; and to be in conversation with the other person or people: what are you experiencing?

But even a side view limits what I can see in front...
Depending on how we are looking at the block structure, we may also notice other things about ourselves:
  • What distracts us (e.g., why is there a fish on the cloth?)
  • Where is there misalignment, something we may consider "wrong" (e.g., did you notice the blocks are not straight?)
  • What dominates (e.g., is the focus on the colored or non-colored blocks?)
And moving to a top view means I cannot see front, back or sides!
The Ladder invites us to consider that our view -- so long held -- might be one-view-of-many.  

And thus, a question arises: am I looking at the situation a little skewed?  By seeing other perspectives, maybe we will gain depth and a new understanding.  This may not mean changing our position or view, simply gaining an understanding of a possible alternative explanation.

Does this mean I have a skewed view?
Whether beginning at the top of the Ladder or with a fixed Structure-of-My-Views, maybe we are called this week to start anew.

Here are the blocks: let's build together a society where all views and perspectives are valid; where the placement of the blocks is at our joint discretion; and where the goal is understanding.

The invitation is to begin building together!

Happy building this new week!

Larry Gardepie