Saturday, September 24, 2016

A New Day Dawns: Where Do I Begin?

During a recent Dialogue Learning Group meeting, Bob, an artist, used the image of a blank canvas to help us reflect on how we individually approach lifeDiscussion ranged from intimidation of the emptiness, fear of the unknown, anticipation and excitement of the creative process, and becoming in tune with the emergent image and energy.  Bob's invitation was to touch that intimidation, fear, anticipation...  and begin with a single dot!

How would you respond to a blank canvas?  Would you approach the emptiness in silence?  Would you desire a plan before you began?  Would you wait for inspiration to emerge? 

Or, in the waiting, could you begin with one dot, not knowing what would happen next?

White Canvas: artist and art (Art in Chicago, 2014)

Each day dawns as a fresh Canvas of PossibilitiesSimilar to Bob's question, how do you enter this new day:
  • With images from yesterday... or a blank slate?
  • With the same fear, intimidation, or excitement of starting a new project?
  • With low energy and lack of focus?
  • With wonder and awe?

At times, we may encounter all of these emotions and thoughts interwoven into our expectations of this Day Awakening!  Bob's reflective process provided time to become aware of self, to hold lightly and become compassionate of thoughts and feelings, and to focus on the creative moment of beginning, placing that First Dot or First Mark on the BlanknessOur silence and reflection starts the process of becoming Co-creator of these 1,440 Minutes, the Daily Canvas that is unfolding.
Beginning with one dot, possibilities reach outward!
Rather than live in the fear of beginning, placing that first dot on the canvas of the day will open possibilities that are interconnected with the next marks of inspiration.  It is as if that first dot begins an unveiling of the Mystery-Within: a portrait of Self.

As the next steps of the day move outward, the patterns of noticing, seeking Sacred Worth in the Created, allows the Outward-Mystery to reveal itself through Other.

Mystery of the Heart: creating together
( Heart Love)
Our daily canvas takes on new hues as we work together to understand the Mystery-Revealed.  Red Cheevers, at last week's Dialogue Retreat, reminded us that even as we learn about Self and share these gifts with Others, we will continue to encounter the Mystery-Not-Revealed.  Each of us are Sacred Mystery: as our lives unfold and we think we understand ourselves and the people closest to us, we begin to realize that there is so much more unknown.

Creating intricate designs: working together
 A new day dawns: where do I begin?  This week, as we begin each day, let us:
  • Sit quietly in front of the Day Awakening;
  • Notice how we want to approach this day;
  • Listen, imagine; and,
  • Begin with a single dot!
May the waiting and wondering invite the Emergent Mystery to unfold.  May we move forward with freedom to accept the unfinished masterpieces we may someday become.

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A New Day Dawns: Awakening Awareness

One early morning on a working trip in Portland (OR), I was walking along the river with a friend and work colleague.  The downtown area had its moments of quiet, but it also reverberated with the bangs, clangs, and noises of a city awakening: workers gathering yesterday's refuse; delivering today's supplies; and cleaning showroom windows and sidewalks.  Noises climbed skyward from the foundations of the buildings.

As we walked, the morning's light reflected on the river, and the cityscape sparkled with the day's first rays.  Messy, beautiful; noisy, stillness; solitude, connection.  New replacing old.

Portland Sunrise (Mark Toal Photography)
Just imagine: a new day dawns for each one of us as we climb out of yesterday's events, and try once more to become awakened and refreshed by this day's beginning:  letting go of what lingers; seeking to be renewed; hoping for energy to flow through this day.

Enjoying refreshing waters (The Oregonian)
What tools, though, do we consciously use when we seem alone and forgotten: one, among many; each seeking dreams so individual?  Do we look away: from the longing within and the desired interconnection with others?  Or, are we frozen in the statue-like stories of yesterday?

Homelessness: Looking Away (Homeless Poem, Ida Brandão)

As I walked silently along with my friend and work colleague, we began to dialogue about what was important to us: family and friends; frustrations and heaviness; hopes and dreams.

Through the vulnerability of sharing inner thoughts -- listening and hearing anew -- we began the day by seeking contact on a level that no one can take away, deliver, or clean-up.  It is up to us, individually and collectively, to respond to and protect these treasured beginnings

Dialogue -- sharing deeply, and listening -- allows us to open the day with the hope that someone is hearing, and has noticed.  And, as we move beyond these inaugural moments of the new day, it is imperative that we remain receptive to this openness and vulnerability with each person we meet.  We become the dialogue and connection that brings hope to others, allowing the first rays to radiate outward, creating a sparkle upon the cityscapes of our relationships.

The day dawns with an awakening awareness that we may not be alone after all: we are here for one another!

Questions to consider this week:
  • Gathering yesterday's refuseWhat concerns or fears am I carrying into this day
  • Delivering today's supplies:  What dreams and hopes do I have for this week?
  • Cleaning showroom windowsWhere might I become vulnerable?  How might I share my inner thoughts with another person?
  • Opening the walkwaysAre there times when I look away from another human being?  When have others not seen me?

May we take time this day and week to reflect on, share, and listen to what is important - the Self that is Other, and the Other that is Self!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Matter of Perspective: Whose Truth Do You See?

Have you ever encountered something that seems too good to be true?  Seen what appears to be a mirage or optical illusion?  Or were involved in a situation where a long-held value or truth came in conflict with another person's views?  It seems that one aspect of being human is to see the world from what is familiar.

Just think of when witnesses of an accident relate different details to the reporting officer:  the people were at the same scene, but their accounts differ on key information.  Each of us seems to filter on various and divergent perspectives: our minds trying to justify what it knows to be true with new reality or information!

An unusual view:  a matter of perspective
(Emirates 747 taking off from Schipol Airport, Amsterdam)
In an electronic age where so much information is collected and conveyed throughout the world, it is difficult sometimes to sift through and grasp what is true, valid, timely, and accurate.  Some people remember an earlier time when the pace was slower and it seemed that people could hold onto and live out time-honored values much easier than our current, ever-changing world!

And how about the oddity of living in the most technically interconnected world to date and yet how often we seem to misunderstand, miscommunicate, or not hear one another.  Our individualized experiences now seem to be one of infinite possibilities in the much larger Truth Puzzle.  There is more to choose from; there are more paths to consider.
Pluggers (by Gary Brookins), 11/17/16
Olivia, a dialogue colleague and friend, passed along the following image, "This is Truth."  Depending on where a person stands or where the light is projected, the same object may reveal different shadows.  Are not both shapes true?

Might both of our perspectives be true?
I believe that the practice of dialogue draws forth similar lessons:
  • As I notice and understand my own perspectives and values;
  • As I listen to another person's perspectives and values;
  • We might come to understand that together we are seeing what is True and what is Truth.
Journey: where will our paths lead?
A final image for this week: as I move along my individual path - at times  focused, straight, and narrow, am I missing the broader horizon that stretches beyond?  Holding lightly to each of our truths may lead us to a more expansive reality, a path that includes all we see!  Instead of conflicts over My Path or Your Path, my truth or yours, maybe the invitation is to exclaim: "Yes - all paths!"

Questions to consider this week:
  • What do I hold as important and uncompromising?
  • Where might I consider another person's experiences?
  • How might we journey together so we can share and respect the similarities and differences of our perspectives? 

Welcome to an exciting week of opportunity: moving from focus to expansiveness, from Either-Or to Both-And!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Symbols, Meaning, and Inquiry

Does your family celebrate birthdays and holidays?  Mine does!  In fact, my parents made sure that our birthdays were special: the "Birthday Girl" or "Birthday Boy" selected her or his favorite dinner, birthday cake, and ice cream.  When I was nearing my teen years, I asked for pumpkin pie instead of a birthday cake.  I recall that my brothers and sisters told me I could not have pie: "Mom asked what kind of cake you wanted.  Who ever heard of a 'birthday pie'?!"

What I vividly remember is Mom asking me why I wanted pumpkin pie.  I told her that I have always liked pie more than cake, and that since my birthday is in November, pumpkin pie seemed appropriate.  That year, and many years after, Mom made sure I had "birthday pie." 

What symbols and meanings have you or your family created around birthdays, holidays or other celebrations?
Celebrating familial and cultural traditions
Flash forward about 20 years:  when I was the assistant director in Human Resources, a supervisor wanted to talk through a departmental issue.  In order to recognize each employee in her department, the supervisor began celebrating birthdays.  As the conversation progressed, she told me that one of her employees was adamant that she did not want her birthday celebrated.  The supervisor felt strongly that everyone should be treated and recognized equally.  Without a good reason, the supervisor planned to move forward and celebrate that person's birthday.

The employee then came to me, very upset about not having her wishes honored.  The employee shared her story: birthdays were reminders of painful moments in her family.  I called the supervisor, and maintaining confidentiality, I explained the importance of respecting each employee's wish. 

How do you handle situations when another person does not honor a symbol that is important to you or understand the meaning you have attached to it?  What happens if that person has an equally understandable meaning for the same symbol?

Listening: memories and symbols may be different
Practicing dialogue requires that we are actively engaged in the process - not in the sense of talking, filling in the emptiness, making assumptions and creating our own meaning.  Instead, dialogue requires:
  • Actively noticing:  becoming aware of self and others; and,
  • Asking questions:  seeking understanding and shared meaning. 

The Ladder of Inference as a dialogue tool helps us pay attention to our immediate reactions and emotions.  In many instances, our emotions indicate that we may be higher up the rungs of the Ladder, and thus, further removed from the facts of the situation (found at the base of the Ladder).  Once we are aware that our emotions and reactions have kicked in, we may want to slow down and ask:
  • What cultural or familial filters (symbols and meanings) have I added to the situation?
  •  What assumptions and conclusions have I made?

Just think: the further up a ladder you go, the more precarious is the footing!  In fact, most ladders have a sign near the top rung: Caution!
Have you seen something different?
Were you looking the other way?
It seems that the stories and meanings that people have attributed to Colin Kaepernick sitting or kneeling during the national anthem have taken on a life of their own!  People's reactions have been swift, varied, and sometimes extreme.  Since so much of our information comes from printed, electronic and social media, it is difficult to actually dialogue with the sources of the symbols and meanings.  After all, how many of us have had the opportunity to actually meet and talk with Colin, asking him what his actions meant or hearing about his pain?  It seems we make conclusions based on...?

One printed story impressed me, thoughthe reporter met with Colin and asked him, "Why?"  And, when the reporter wrote his story, he simply described the encounter, the question, and Colin's answer - in Colin's own words.  The reporter let the symbol and its meaning sit, to be read and reflected upon.  No judging, no additional interpretations or meanings.

Web of Inclusion: we are all interconnected
In the case of the birthday cake:  I experienced a mother asking me a question, and listening to my response.  In the case of the department birthday celebration:  I had the opportunity to ask the questions, and listen to the supervisor's and employee's answers.  In the case of media stories:  where and when might we ask our questions, and how do we listen?

Dialogue - active participation.  By asking questions.  By listening, with compassion.  By accepting another person's symbols and the meanings attached.  By actively reflecting on what stirs within when symbols and meanings are different.  By engaging non-judgmentally in a conversation that values each deeply-held belief.  No person and experience of life is devalued: each person is engaged.  Dialogue - active interconnection.

This week, as we listen to the sources where we gather information, we have the opportunity to practice by using the following:
  • I notice... and I wonder...  (What questions come to mind?)
  • I am aware... and I assume...  (What meanings have I attached?)
  • I would like to check in...  (What other possibilities are present?)
    • What is the motivation?
    • What is the intent?
    • Why is this important? 

May this week allow opportunities to actively practice: noticing, listening, and reflecting on those times when another person experiences life differently.

Larry Gardepie