Sunday, July 31, 2016

Vacation Dialogue: Lights, Ruins, Flowers, and Glasses

One of the filters that we seem to apply to ourselves and others is the duality of Optimism and Pessimism.  There are numerous personality tests and questions that draw our attention to a conclusion of how life is experienced: either with hope and optimism or with despair and pessimismHave you ever been shown a glass with water and been asked: "Is this glass half-full or half-empty?"

Is this glass half-full or half-empty?
Even though I usually answer the question - with hesitation, thinking I will be judged by my answer, I have noticed that there is a more basic reality than the question asked and the choices given.  After all, the facts are: there is a glass and there is water in the glass!  Why am I being asked to take sides, interpret, conclude or make a choice that seemingly projects my worldview?  It feels too confining when I am boxed in.  Do you feel that way too?

How would you describe these lights: on or off?
I pondered these questions on my recent vacation: looking at light fixtures at hotels we were passing through; being aware of time at a monastery in Belgium; soaking in the beauty of a garden in France; and having a beer with a friend.

Our Luxembourg hotel had an array of light globes hanging from the lobby ceiling.  Like glasses and water, we sometimes think of electricity in dualistic terms: are the lights On or Off?  But in this lobby each orb cast off different degrees of light due to the different designs of the globes.  If pushed into the duality presented, I would conclude that lights can only be On or Off, but really... what about dimmer switches that allow gradients of differentiation between being Fully-On or Fully-Off?!  The globe design and the controller switch affect the question and the answer!  In other words, why not ask a fuller question, moving away from duality?
Are you focused on past or future?
Touring the grounds of the Orval Abbey, we encountered the ruins of the earlier monastery and a wall separating us from the current monastery.  Placards described the monastic life, then and now, and how the earlier monasteries had been destroyed by several fires.  As I peered through one of the arches of the earlier monastery, my mind wandered: wondering about the monks of centuries-before, how different life may be now, and where our society is headed in terms of religion and spirituality.  The trees and landscape beyond the arch allowed me to glimpse briefly the continuity and overlapping natures of time: living in the present, reliving past memories, and imagining the future.  Where do we live most of the time: locked in our historical frame of reference; worried about the future; or in the present?

What splendor!  Now... and when not in bloom!
Cherbourg's Public Garden was ablaze with blooming azaleas and other spring-time plants.  Reflecting on this beauty, I wondered how often I might notice plants when they are in bloom but unconsciously dismiss them at other times of the year.  From this, I wondered how often I don't pay attention to the people around me?  I was reminded that beauty surrounds me each moment... if I would just notice!

Maybe our focus is on the glass, the beverage, and listening
Which brings me to the outdoor cafe in Delft, Belgium, enjoying a beer with a friend, and talking about the sites we had discovered that morning.  I don't know if we focused on whether our beer steins were half-empty or half-full!  Instead, we focused on the sacred container of friendship and the wonderful experiences poured into our lives!

I would offer a suggestion for this week's reflection:
  • Rather than focusing on the past or years-gone-by (half-empty); and,
  • Rather than imagining what the future might be (half-full); instead,
  • Let us focus on the presence of each other (the glass, the beverage, and the time with a loved one, colleague, or new acquaintance).
In the words of some of our friends around the world:

Cheers, Fisehatak, Gan bei , Kampai, L'Chaim, Na zdorovje, Prost, Santé, Salute, Salud, Skaal, Sláinte... as your week begins!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vacation Dialogue: Creative Ways to Keep Doors Open

Over the last several weeks I have been mulling over a creative moment experienced on vacation when the seas were rough and rocked our ship.  Being far from land, the churning waves with all of their natural power dangerously upset our fragile existence.  But more about that creative moment later!

Churning waves create danger, insecurity and drama.
Instead, let's focus first on those times when churning waves or drama upset our day-to-day lives!  You know those times: when someone - or maybe, you  - have created a wake of misunderstanding, chaos, or confused feelings.  Recall and compassionately consider one of those times.

Maybe doors were closed, barred against others entering, and kept family members, friends or colleagues from connectingMaybe something was said or not saidMaybe it was an action whose meaning was assumed or interpretedFor me, those times churn on as I try to figure out what happened and what my role may have been.

Have we encountered gates which separate us,
as if saying "Keep out"?
Stay with that event or memory.  Does it call forth:
  • Barbed words which still hurt?
  • Emotions of frustration, anger, confusion, or _________?
  • Feelings of loss and separation?
I wonder if those closed and gated memories remain in place to protect usI wonder if we sometimes have no energy to remove or reconcile the past barbs and taunts because the energy is used to keep our doors closed?

When have our words been barbed?
Are we telling others to "Stay away"?
Practicing Chris Argris' Dialogue Skills and being reminded of the Ladder of Inference allows us to see life and hope where there may only have been hardened walls.  It must be said: dialogue work is not easy!  There may not be quick solutions.  Instead, practicing how to listen to and understand another person may provide opportunities to build bridges over barbed history or reach through the gated walls.

Life holds on and Hope grows in unexpected places (Corfe, England)

So, back to the churning seas of my vacation.  The sliding door to our stateroom bathroom would slam open and shut with each powerful wave.  Sitting there doing nothing, I found myself getting more and more angry and disturbed with the relentless waves and the banging door.  After about 20 minutes of inaction, I pulled out my crochet needle and yarn and figured out a simple pattern that would hold the door open: one end being a loop to place over the bathroom door handle and the other end being straight which could be tied to the bathtub/shower handrail

Now, the door could be safely held open as the ship pitched and swayed.  When the door needed to be closed, the loop could be removed from the sliding door's handle.  A pause followed by a creative moment allowed my anger and frustration to ease.  The churning waves continued to provide drama for the next few days but I was no longer distracted by a slamming door!
A creative solution to hold a door open!
I have found that when I pause in my frustration, anger, or misunderstanding with another person, a creative freedom sometimes surfaces which allows calmer thoughts and solutions to prevail.

I assume there may be times that nothing can be done about a situation and the doors may need to remain shutBut, just maybe, there are times when calmer waters and light streaming through dark clouds, can help us to forget the churning waters, gated walls, and barbed words that have separated us.

A calm sea with distant horizons and streaming light
Questions to consider this week:
  • Are there barbed words that still entangle you?
  • Can you imagine a different way to respond... to these words, memories, or people?
  • Is there a creative way to slide and keep the door open... for just a moment or two? 
Let us pause... and consider our individual choice to bring creative solutions and peace to this week!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Vacation Dialogue: Experiencing P.C.

Think back on a time when you sensed that someone respected and honored you.  It may have been a family member, a friend, or a work colleague.  It may have been a stranger or a new acquaintance.  It may have been on a trip as you checked in or as you sought out help or directions?

Close your eyes and hold onto that memory.  Replay that moment.  What do you recall?  What did the person say or do?  How did it feel inside?  What was your response?  And, why do you remember this experience?

Hamilton, Bermuda: Signs of Familiarity and Friendship
On my recent travels, I encountered people and symbols in many countries which displayed signs of courtesy and respect, familiarity and friendship, dignity and honor.  One example was the "Sir" or "Thank You" between the waiter and diner at a restaurant: not staged or forced, but with sincerity and appreciation.  Another example occurred in Hamilton, Bermuda, when our tour guide, the City of Hamilton Town Crier, happened upon the local Anglican Bishop: there was a spontaneous embrace, smiles of recognition, and connection.

Weymouth, England: Signs of Recognition and Common History
When in Weymouth, we were surrounded by monuments commemorating moments in British history of people who had sacrificed their lives through service.  Even a sand carving of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was presented in a dignified manner that reminded Britons of their relationship with the royal family.

Luxembourg American Cemetery: Signs of Sacrifice
Moving through the countryside of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, we came across memorials and cemeteries which honored those who had sacrificed their lives for the common good.  The landscape around the headstones, respectful of the many faith traditions that came together to stop violence, was meticulously kept by two workers using clippers, cutting offending grass around thousands of individual monuments.  Quite a job, yes!  But prayerfully done... probably knowing that next week the same work needed to be done... and the week after that... and...
Oostende, Belgium: Signs of Remembrance
Touring the Atlantic Wall near Bruges, I came across the red poppies of Flanders Fields, the lasting symbol of death, life and remembrance - the sacrifices to stop tyranny and injustice, with the hope of bringing about peace and justice for all.

Why am I focused on these symbols of sincere appreciation, familial connections, respectful dignity, and remembrance?  Having studied and practiced Dialogue skills these past several years, I am struggling with the incivility that seems to permeate our public discourse.  What is happening to us?

Royal Palace, Amsterdam: Signs of Justice
In fact, I had to look up "PC" when it was mentioned several times in the primary debates last Fall and Spring.  I didn't think the speakers were referring to Personal Computers!  Instead, I assumed by context that the reference was to Political CorrectnessI had a different definition in mind, a definition centered on decency and respectful treatment toward all.  I found it important to check out my definition with other sources.

One definition I found:  "Political Correctness is the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."  One person I talked to mentioned Sacred Worth and Value.  Another, mentioned kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. 

In recalling the memories of when I was treated with respect or the symbols I encountered on vacation, I wondered if maybe it is time to transform how we imagine PC.  Maybe we are really talking about those moments when there is a Personal Connection:
  • When there is a moment where we get beyond the filters that separate us;
  • When there is a moment where we see similarity in our human condition; and
  • When there is a moment where we climb down our Ladders of Inferences to understand the basic elements that bring us together.
    (Click on link to be reminded of the Ladder of Inference.)
My prayer this week is that we recall our memories of when someone respected and honored us, that we hold onto that feeling inside, and that we learn to respond in a manner that provides Personal Connection with those around.


Larry Gardepie

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vacation Dialogue: Learning When to Ctrl-Alt-Del

I often wonder what affect I have on my work environment, my loved ones and friends, or the world in generalDo I offer moments of sympathy, consolation, and peace in turbulent times?  Do I extend warmth and comfort in times of distress?  Do I bring calm and happiness into other lives?  Or, is there a wake of drama and turmoil when I leave the room?

What is left behind?  Are the waters left churning in your wake?
While outside Zeebrugge (Belgium) last month, I came across an ancient tree that was leaning over, supported by wooden poles.  As I took in this scene, I pondered on  the assumptions and conclusions I make about a situationHow often do my assumptions support the filters I create and hold onto... about this culture or ethnic group; this region of the country or world; this political candidate or party...?  The list can be quite extensive when we consider the many ways we interact with the worldWould my worldview fall apart if these filters (supports) were removed?

Are you needing support to stay rooted in the past?
During the tour, our guide mentioned that she had been leading groups throughout Europe for over 25 years.  In talking with her about how she balances home-family life with being on the road so much, her answer was very short: she found it important to delete.  This seemed to be an odd expression or thought, so I pursued the conversation.  She explained that when she returns home from a trip, she hits the Delete Key: that is, she does not bring home any work issues, and she does not restart the relationship with her husband where it left off before that trip.  She tries to stay in the moment, forgetting the history of hurt feelings or misunderstood conversations.  Instead, when she returns home, she listens and responds with where her husband is at that moment.  She realizes that in the few weeks that they were apart each of them has changed and is no longer the person left behind.

The Key to letting go is learning when to Ctrl-Alt-Del.
Hitting the Delete Key reminded me of something PC users are probably familiar with:  the Control, Alt, and Delete Keys.  That is, when used in combination, these Keys allow a user to lock or shut down the computer, move into the Task Manager, or select a number of other options.

In listening to Simone's advice, I wondered how often I might use the Delete or the combined Ctrl-Alt-Del Keys.

  • If I become aware that I am controlling a situation (Ctrl), do I look for alternative (Alt) explanations and outcomes?
  • If I am aware that I am paying attention to "This is how it has always been done" or "This is just how the person is," am I willing to identify and delete these historical filters and assumptions (Del) that may be limiting our interactions and dialogue?
In other words, the wake of turmoil and distress may be changed to one of connected relationships by listening to these controlling moments when history trumps presence or when one way dominates other options or solutions.
    Today's KeyWhat is your goal when interacting with others?
    What would happen if you and I became more aware of each of these Key-Elements of our lives:
    • The Controlling natures that we both may exhibit?
    • The times we may limit alternative solutions and ways of being?
    • The moments when we may pause and choose to Delete the past hurts and misunderstandings? 
    Would the world be any better by Deleting, starting over, and realizing that the future is of our own choosing?  I would like to try!  How about you? 

    A new week has begunWhat Keys will we use in these 10,080 minutes to unlock our future together?

    Larry Gardepie