Sunday, March 27, 2016

Caves, Exploration, New Vistas: Invitations for Discovery

I remember as a child and a teen the enjoyment of exploration and discovery!  My family would take day trips or go camping around the Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz counties.  Family time = exploration time!  One of the places I enjoyed was Pinnacles National Park which extended over two of the counties.  It was a place to visibly see the effects of the San Andreas fault, how a portion of the geographical terrain was being moved northward.

The joys, though, were in the talus caves, caves formed by boulders.  Some of the caverns were quite deep, but my parents and my five siblings would venture as far down as it was safe.  As we moved away from the dry, arid exterior to a cool, dark interior, I found the harmony of inner and outer observations as wonderful as the balance of the rocks overhead!

Obstacles to our journey (Pinnacles National Monument)
Today, as I continue the inner journey of self-discovery balanced with the outer exploration of relationships, I marvel at the lessons revealed through the entrances to both worlds: inner and outer secrets balanced by unexpected beauty.

If we pay attention, the external vistas invite us outward:
  • Am I willing to listen to and see your perspective?
  • Can I move beyond the boulders that  stand in my way?
  • Will I venture both inward and outward to expand the world that may limit me with an either-or fork in the path?
Beauty beckons us outward (BTM Dezignz)
At times, it is true, we may need to dwell in our cave-dwellings - for security and protection, for self-reflection and discovery.  But, the richness of Other is encountered as we move beyond the walls that surround us.  Welcoming people into our dwelling place, and accepting their invitation into their world allows new vistas and viewpoints to be experienced.  (It's almost like taking the exit off the freeway to stop at the View Point or Camera Spot!)
 Choosing where to live (Bandelier Cliff Dwellings)
As we move into these Spring months to celebrate the emergence of life, we are invited to release old ways and ideas and to resurrect (awaken, breathe new life, energize, enkindle, make whole) our relationship with the people and world around us.

Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego
Taking a long loving look at the real (contemplative noticing) and Double-Loop Learning (slowing down to create a pause, a choice pointare two ways to search out the beauty balanced between both Self and Other.

Möbius Strip: infinitely working internal and external
Reflective practices this week:
  • Seek and hold lightly the internal boulders that have created our Dwelling Past.
  • Take courage to ask others what they see and what boulders they are encountering.
  • Move together past these boulders and toward a new landscape.
Drawn to the world outside, together (La Ventana Cave, Puerto Rico)

Enjoy the Caves and Vistas that greet you this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Caves, Shells, and Cocoons: Moving Out of Darkness

I had an interesting insight this past week.  While attending a panel discussion on Muslim Voices Against Extremism, I witnessed a number of audience members camouflaging what seemed like opinions and biases in the form of questions.  Some questions sounded accusatory, not exploratory; seemed to attack Muslim beliefs, rather than seeking understanding; and sought to lay blame, instead of opening dialogue.  I felt embarrassed - and guilty!

What was interesting and insightful?  I found that what stirred within me was anger at "these short-sighted people" who became vocal during the Q&A session.  I instantly labeled the Questioner as being extreme in their views: not creating an environment of dialogue, but universally attributing extremist views to Islamic teachings.

As I explored my thoughts and reactions, I became aware of my own extremist thoughts and reactions: anger; labeling; not listening to another view; not wanting to know about another way of seeing a situation!  Questions I pondered:
  • How often do I label people because their beliefs differ from my own?
  • How often do I view the world through my own narrow lenses and definitions?
  • When do I feel confined by the darkness of my assumptions, opinions, and life story?
Is there an opening where we can see anew?
The importance of this self-exploration is the awareness that we are human and can be trapped by the shells of family, culture, education... or our own lack of education!  Noticing knee-jerk reactions and realizing that we have a choice in how to respond to people with differing experiences and worldviews begins the process of breaking through, seeing beyond, these shells that protect and separate us.

We are not alone when we break out of our shells!
In this Spring season and during these holy days celebrated by many peoples and religions, we encounter a number of images and symbols that portray new and transformed life.  A dynamic and contemplative dialogue draws forth renewal as we take a long, loving look at the real.

This long and loving look invites us to collectively exam our interactions between Self and Others... and Self among OthersI am learning each day how difficult this internal transformation is, the awareness and examination of extreme views that bind me and hinder me from the journey that requires us to be in relationship.  Patience is important for all of us as we test our wings!

What new beauty awaits us when we emerge?
These images of Springtime and holiness inspire us along this journey: we may not have arrived... yet... but the exploration of the beauty that surrounds us encourages movement  away from our own versions of extremism, to accept the reality of who we are now, and to willingly move forward to whom we will become together.

I believe that we are called to move away from the views that separate us to a way of life that we both can accept.  The beauty is when we are all part of the landscape, respecting the differences brought to the overall view of Creation.

Spring Flowers (Goco Center for Aesthetics)
A final thought for this week: have you noticed that even at times when life seems dark or uncertain, there are areas where our being tries to focus on light and color?  The darkness and lightness, the void and the color, contrast one with the other.  It is as if we are called to seek brightness and color rather than remain in the darkness and shadowsAnd, as we notice the light, the darkness fades and the colors become more vibrant.

Blessings to you this new season of Spring (Northern Hemisphere):  may the colors and new life of this season transform you!  And for friends below the equator, as you enter your Fall months, enjoy the transitions that await you!

In all seasons, let us seek the transformations that will invite color and lightness!
Larry Gardepie

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Human Transcendence - Going Beyond: the Freedom to Choose

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong?  (Maybe I shouldn't ask that question at the beginning of the week... sorry!)

My brother emailed me a photo of a 50-lane Beijing traffic jam, which quickly put my situation back into focus:  Okay, maybe my day wasn't THAT bad!

Beijing Motorway (50 lanes): now this is a traffic jam!
But, what about those times when I think "lightning can't strike twice."  I always wonder, "But maybe it can strike twice... or maybe the situation can get worse!"  (I wonder if I have a pessimistic side that anticipates problems?)

Lightning and Golden Gate Bridge (Darvin Atkeson)
I also recall times when I felt so trapped in my own arguments and patterns of thinking that I couldn't find a way out!  Though nautilus shells are pretty from the outside, can you imagine being confined to one of the earlier or smaller chambers and never seeing future possibilities, never experiencing enough room to grow?  I assume that you have lived within these human or societal limitations as well.

There have been times when life has been so challenging that it seemed "the world" was against my every thought and action.  In fact, five years ago this week I left a former employer because options were limited and nothing was "going my way."

Are you trapped in your chambers of thinking and seeing?

Dialogue work has allowed me a chance to ask a different set of questions and to seek other answers.  Being in dialogue with you helps draw forth curiosity about one another and our varied experiences. 

Instead of focusing so much on me and my situation, I am beginning to see a wider view of life:
  • What are you experiencing and thinking, and why?
  • How are you seeing the situation?
  • What are your struggles and choices?
Hoping to see beyond the boundaries and limits!
Humanity has a remarkable ability to adapt; that is, when we choose to see beyond the moment and into a more transcendent view of life, choice, and future.

In other words, I can choose to notice others and be curious about their life experiences.  Through this awareness, I can become more compassionate towards myself and others.  I can see and accept that we impact one another and are interdependent.  We can experience creative freedom by listening to and understanding other ideas, viewpoints, and worldviews.  Dialogue transforms You and Me into We.

Dynamic Dialogue: Ways of Being (courtesy of Bread of Life Center)

The steps that have enabled glimpses of this change:
  • Slowing down, and noticing how I react: my autopilot initial reaction.
  • Slowing down, and checking out assumptions and meanings I have attached to another person.
  • Slowing down, and checking out other opportunities - with you!
  • Choosing to be in relationship and responding in a new way!

Double Loop Learning: pausing and creating a Choice-Point
This internal self-reflection and self-engagement with long held beliefs and this external engagement and reflection with others poses a new question for us this week:

Wouldn't we rather do this internal/external work than sit in another 50-lane traffic jam or be hit by lightning again? 

Möbius Strip: infinitely working internal and external

We know how these stories go!  This week let's choose to learn a new way to engage and be present!

Here's hoping that we have fewer jams, strikes, and confining chambers!  Let's choose to go beyond!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Emergence: Adding Color to Life!

Living in coastal Southern California, it is easy to forget that there are four seasons!  Friends in other parts of the country and world remind me of the beauty they experience in the fall and winter seasons.
Winter Wonderland
I wonder: do they, like me,ever lose the perspective of seeing the world in all of its beauty?  It seems that the autopilot which governs so much of our human existence in the 21st century filters out the color of the landscapes of our lives.  We tend to flatten our life perspective to a dualistic vision of right-wrong, left-right, conservative-progressive, truth-lie and trust-mistrust, losing the other perspectives that enrich who we are and who we are called to become.

While there is beauty in mono-vision...
So, the question for all us - no matter where we live and what our circumstances: how do we bring back the brilliance and wonder of our lives and the world we cohabit?  Can we see the beauty in the flower bursting forth with its awe-inspiring message of creation, drawing us into its delicate petals and short lifespan?  Can we watch in wonder as a child learns to walk and talk, mimicking the adult world we have become so accustomed?  Can we be inspired by triumphs and mistakes that mark learning and journey?

Yes, there may be other buds waiting to open, the future beckoning us forward, but can we sit in wonder at what is present, and celebrate Now?

...let us seek to experience the fullness of who we are!
Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference and Double-Loop Learning (click on links for earlier posts) provide tools for us to slow down and notice what is happening internally and externally.  We are offered moments - choice points - which invite us to consider the assumptions and meanings we have attached to the situations we encounter.  Instead of remaining on autopilot and reacting from a mono- or dual-vision, we have the opportunity to talk through other perspectives with the people around us, people in our local community or linked throughout the world!

Double-Loop Learning provides a "choice point"

This season calls us to open ourselves to reflection:  the winter months are ending and warmer days draw forth life from fertile soil.  The waiting has ended, and life is emerging anew!

Notice and enjoy the growth and life, internal and external
There is life in all seasons: let us search for it and become aware of Beauty in all of its hues!

Blessings on this new week of discovery!

Larry Gardepie