Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seeing Clearly: We Have A Choice

Wanting to fit in.  Being liked by everyone.  Having friends.  It seems this has been an early preoccupation of my life.  Maybe it still exists for some of us now that we are adults:  to belong.  I wonder if this is our primary occupation in life, how we choose to live our lives interconnected with others?

Navigating relationships has sometimes been difficult for me since I am fundamentally shy and introverted.  There seems to be so much uncertainty, so much left to the likes and dislikes of others.  I always wondered if there was a 'trick' to making friends, an initiation rite or test that had to be passed in order to be accepted.

Almost like when someone holds up a hand and asks how many fingers do you see?  Isn't the answer obvious?  Is this a trick question?  What does the person expect? 'Four fingers and a thumb' or 'Five fingers'?  Am I going to be judged by my answer?

How many fingers do you see?
I was worried in the fourth grade when I was sent to the Principal's Office for asking a friend what the teacher wrote on the blackboard.  I was confused when I found out I was not 'in trouble' but was asked to look at a chart and read the letters.  I was astonished when I tried on my first pair of prescription glasses and could see what others saw so clearly.  I was excited when I could see the blackboard so clearly.  But, then I was hurt and humiliated when the boys in my class called me 'Four Eyes', grabbed at my glasses, pushed me around to knock off the glasses.  I became the butt of jokes.  Was it wrong to be able to see?

People trying to help us... others hurting us.  There is a wide spectrum between these extremes, oftentimes based on how we see, experience, and understand the intentionality of the other person.  It seems that words and actions, conscious and unconscious, come in and out of focus as we listen and become more aware of Self and Other.

There are tools to help us see clearly

By practicing the Dialogue Skills, I am learning that I have a free choice in how I see and respond.  (See Dialogue San Diego posting of January 29, 2017 to review the Dialogue Skills.)  It is a matter of using these tools daily to slow down, notice and accept that my assumptions and interpretations may be blurring or hiding the facts.  This situation may require asking more questions before I respond.  Maybe I need to invite the other person to share her/his perspective.  Maybe there is no need to respond in the moment, but simply to listen and try to understand.

Our choice is whether or not we use these tools
to see clearly our family, friends, and coworkers
We have a choice in how we see our loved ones, co-workers, and friends.
  • Will we listen to advice that is meant to help?
  • Will we use the tools to see more clearly who we are, who others are, and how to remain in relationship?
  • Will we allow others to help us move through the dark and restrictive times of life?

May this week open up times to sit quietly, to listen to words of encouragement, to see more clearly, and to make a choice to trust!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hearing Dimly: Focusing Outwardly

Lay quietly... without moving... for 25 minutes... that's all I had to do.  Nothing more was asked of me.

I was in a sarcophagus-like tunnel of an MRI machine, the noisy whirring and clicking of the mechanism encircling my body.  Gradual loss of hearing in my left ear and tinnitus warranted this clinical imaging.  The doctors and specialists were searching for any detectable damage or explanation for not hearing clearly.

After just a few minutes of confinement, I wanted to wiggle my fingers and toes.  I needed to move!  It seemed so unnatural to lay quietly... not moving... for 25 minutes!  Then, I began worrying:  Would my nose begin to itch?  What would happen if I began coughing?  Did the nurse attach the contrast dye to the IV?  And I thought: I should have accepted the muscle relaxant!

Focus!  Breathe!   Lay quietly... without moving... for 25 minutes... that's all I had to do.

As the minutes ticked by, I marveled at the difficulty in focusing, even for such a brief time.  My body needed to move.   My mind wanted to give the okay: move; do something!  I worried about things that had not happened.  I wondered how much time was left.

MRI machine: imaging for better health
Lay quietly... without moving... that's all I had to do.

The platform began to move outward... the 25 minutes must be over!  Already?!  Nope... not yet.  The nurse attached the contrast dye to the IV... and I was soon returning to confinement... with a friendly reminder from the nurse:  lay quietly... without moving...

During this second half, I began to focus on the dialogue practice - how it can open us to similar experiences:
  • We are invited to notice when we hear dimly, reserving compassion for those times when we realize we are not listening.
  • We are invited to explore internal and external relationships - Self and Other, searching for ways to heal or improve.
  • We are invited to slow down, seeking contrasts between what is thought, felt, said, and done.
  • We are invited to examine what is binding us, moving outward from our inner confinements.
British Museum: inner wrappings, outer beauty

As I lay quietly, unmoving, a memory and an image came to mind.  The memory:  a friend and I had visited the Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum a few years ago.  The image: a mummy wrapped tightly, sitting next to its ornate burial sarcophagus.

How often do we lie wrapped up in our inner thoughts and worlds when outer expressions of beauty belie this confinement?  Maybe, if we open up to others by sharing our thoughts and feelings, explaining our thought processes -- followed by an invitation to sit silently and listen to a contrasting point of view, we could experience the  process of being released from confinement.

Outward Journey: from confinement and darkness
to expansiveness and light
I survived the 25 minutes of laying quietly and not moving, but my journey is not finished.  It is time to wait patiently for the results, and then move toward treatment or acceptance.  And, a much deeper lesson was learned:

Sit quietly... not moving... and listen... anticipating that the confinement may be temporary... if I but hear and focus outwardly.

Questions to consider this week:
  • Where might I sit quietly, not moving, and listen?
  • How might I invite different points of views to be expressed, allowing new thoughts, ideas, and experiences to offer contrast to what I think and believe?
  • In what ways might I seek better relationships to improve my life?

May this journey from our inner bindings and confinement direct us to an outer expansiveness of beauty and healing in our lives!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Into -- or -- Spring in Two?

Recently, working in the garden and replanting hanging baskets, I heard a loud buzzing very near.  Thinking it was just another symptom of my life with tinnitus ('a perception of sound when no actual external noise is present'), I was surprised -- and almost fell off the ladder! -- when I noticed a huge swarm of bees circling above the house and a few yards away from me!

With tinnitus, I am learning that I can't always believe what I hear, but this afternoon was a little different!  The buzzing was real!

Group Mind or Hive Mind:
swarming around one way of thinking
With orange trees in our backyard, we are no stranger to swarming bees or the hives that are so quickly created.  On this beautiful Spring afternoon -- with so many sad and tragic stories in the news, my thoughts took an offbeat turn: buzzing distractions, hives, and truth.

For instance, I wonder about the Group Mind that seems to have taken hold around our political and societal polarities.  (The 'group mind' is sometimes referred to as the 'hive mind' which describes individuals linked together with no identity or free will.)  We think the same; we believe the same; and we stand firm against others who might keep us from our goal.

As the bees collectively sought direction, I wondered if the 'buzz' in my head was from tinnitus... or might it be caused by listening only to news sources or friends who think or react like I do?

In recent weeks we have witnessed extreme deliberations and tensions between our political representatives:  listening only to those who act or think the way they do; changing rules rather than seeking relationships that challenge growth and new ideas; going the way of the Majority instead of listening to the Wisdom of the Whole; and seeking Either-Or Solutions rather than desiring more options, a Third Way.  In other words, similar to my situation, has a systemic tinnitus blocked our leaders from hearing beyond their internal buzz?

Spring in Two: sitting together,
listening, and seeing a more expansive view
Spring offers us annual reminders:
  • To slow down and notice the new growth and beauty surrounding us.
  • To sit with friends, acquaintances, and strangers-no-longer, sharing new vistas.
  • To listen and soak in the warmth of developing relationships. 

Spring calls us away from the buzz of noise and distractions and moves us toward voices that respect individual thoughts.  Toward ideas encouraged and shared which will enliven us to think and grow.  Spring challenges us to seek the individual beauty of each flower and at the same time stand in awe at its contribution to the full landscape.

Spring Into: many individual blossoms,
but one landscape
Similarly, Dialogue practiced invites many voices to be heard, contributing to a Collective Consciousness which honors all aspects of the conversation and relationships.  It allows all ideas to be held lightly, with the goal of seeking -- not a majority or a consensus -- but Truth.

Are we ready to Spring Into this week?  Can we slow down first and Spring in Two relationships that value diverse thoughts and a wider vista of solutions?

Questions to consider
  • How will I seek the beauty in each person encountered?
  • Can I sit with each person and hear the Truth Revealed?
  • Where can I sense the warmth of coming together: conscious of Individual and One?

May we learn about and celebrate the many holy days and traditions of our diverse religions and cultures this season!  May we seek solutions that honor us all!  Blessings this Spring!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring: A Time of Action, Wonder, and Awaiting

Do you remember as a child the wonder of planting a seed and watching the dirt, waiting for  Life to poke its head above ground?  I've had that fascination all of my life!  And now that I am older, in late February of every year, we plant tiny seeds in peat pots, keeping them warm and watered in the house, waiting for the first signs of Spring sunshine and warmth before transplanting the young seedlings outdoors.  It is a ritual of hope, a sign of growth, and an expectation of future harvest.  Action.  Wonder.  Waiting.

The transition from Winter to Spring seems to draw on an inner desire or energy to awaken from dark and  silent months and move outward into a World Aroused.  Consider some of the seasonal phrases we use:  Spring cleaning... Spring into action... Spring forward... Spring fever.  These seem to draw on images of Action!

Springtime activity:  preparing seedlings

Spring is a time of activity: the bursting forth of new life; the wonder of growth in unexpected places; the renewed discovery of color and brightness.  As we grow older and have lived through these transitions many times, I wonder if  the newness and wonder have worn off?  In fact, instead of being present to this wonderful season, do we sometimes overlook the new growth and color surrounding us and anticipate the warm Summer months and the harvests Fall will bring?  How often do we actively look ahead... instead of Being Present to the Moment we are inhabiting?

What would happen this Spring if we were to slow down and recapture the wonder and joy of the awakening world?  Would we reclaim the childlike excitement of seeing baby leaves emerging from crusty bark or dark soil, and realize that we too can move beyond our hurried brusqueness and re-experience the newness and growth in unexpected ways?  Spring invites us to recall Wonder!

Springtime wonder:  seeing anew
As a friend and I were walking around our neighborhood recently, we noticed the flowering plants and trees that were erupting in color.  After years of drought, the abundance of this winter's rain transformed once thirsty and barren yards into colorfully painted portraits we had forgotten.  The years of rationing water renewed an appreciation for the display arrayed around us.  It was not a time to anticipate or worry about the future: it was a time of Noticing and Awaiting!

Springtime awaiting: being present to Beauty

I have found that Dialogue also exhibits these springtime elements of Action, Wonder, and A-Waiting.  Let me share a few questions I have been pondering this past week:
  • How do I know when my Dialogue practice is too full of Action?
  • Where could I allow a sense of Wonder or Curiosity to develop?
  • How might I slow down and Await Mystery to be revealed?

This Spring I have been learning that beauty emerges when these elements of Action, Wonder and Awaiting are balanced.  And, when balanced, Dialogue awakens us to a Real Emergence of Self and Other!  Dialogue becomes a call to look outward and beyond Self, poking our head and heart out of the dark, fertile soil of Self to see Another World beckoning. 

If we focus only on the new growth within and forget to look up and around, we may miss the complete picture:  becoming totally AWARE that I cannot be Whole without You.
  • Action
  • Wonder
  • Awaiting
  • Real
  • Emergence

Spring: A Time to Look Beyond Self

May these Spring days allow us to dialogue in ways that plant seeds of discovery and to await patiently the Wonder that will emerge!

Larry Gardepie

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ourstory: Lessons from the Silly Strings of Life

As a child growing up, there were many ways to interact with my neighborhood friends... and to learn some of life's lessons along the way...
  • Kick the Can - seeking to be winners
  • Members Only Clubs - identifying who was In and who was Out
  • Building Forts - imagining adventure and protecting what is important
  • Hide and Seek - learning when to be invisible and how to find the hidden
  • Capture the Flag - working to become a Team
  • Tag - deciding who was 'It'
  • Red Light / Green Light - paying attention to signals given 

These, and many other outdoor activities, tested our young bodies, our spirits, and our imagination.  They helped us expend an overabundance of energy, and kept us occupied and out of our parents' hair!

But, did you ever play with Silly String?  And, did you know that Silly String was an accidental invention?  This concoction that propels a plastic 'string' from an aerosol can at many parties and weddings was intended to be a 'foamable resinous composition' to create an instant cast for a broken/sprained leg or arm. 

Think about this the next time you're engaged in a mock battle as the various colored strings intersect in the air and create layered rainbows on the objects where they land.  Silly String's original purpose was to heal.  It does this -- okay, maybe not in the way it was intended!  Consider the laughter, good humor, and smiles that erupt when colorful strings dance and cross from one person to another!

Mock Battles: laughter, color, and silliness fill the air
(Click link to read about the History of Silly String)

As with any game, challenge, or mock battle, there is an ending and a time to clean up.  With Silly String, the clean up can sometimes be daunting:  the dried strands of string sticks to the objects, breaks apart, and flies away in the wind.  Sometimes, it resembles the muddiness of Life: those times when relationships have bumps and motives are questioned.

I wonder about Ourstory ('Our Story') - the collection of events, interactions, conversations, and disagreements that crisscross our lives.  Oftentimes, the patterns are beautiful; sometimes, we become entangled in a mess of misunderstanding.  Even an intended  playful comment can land flat, sticking or flying away with unintended consequences that are hard to clean up.

Are there instances in your life where Baggage Carried no longer seems needed and helpful?  Maybe hurtful memories seem to stick, weigh you down, and are no longer colorful?

Silly String:  Self Portrait  (Andrew Crooks Art)
As I continue to practice the Dynamic Dialogue stances:
  • [Awareness]  I notice that I might not be able to unravel the stories I have created, heard, or passed along.
  • [Compassion]  With the responsibility of identifying and owning these stories, I hold lightly the damage I might have caused myself and others.
  • [Interdependence]  We become interconnected when we listen and try to understand one another.
  • [Creative Freedom]  We have opportunities to respond in new and exciting ways.

In other words, the mess we have created with the silly string of events interwoven in Ourstory, is not the end

We may not be able to unravel or clean up the past.  Rather, we are invited to clear out one  small area for Conscious, Sacred, Creative Togetherness.  Silly String engagements may still come at us, but we have a choice in how to participate and learn.  I believe it is time to learn to play anew!

Silly String Madness (GentleRainInBlue)

Questions to consider this week:
  • What games did you play as a child?
  • Which ones were favorites?  Which ones did you dislike?  Why?
  • What lessons carry forward in your life right now?

May we anticipate encounters with Loved Ones, Colleagues, and Friends this week -- enjoying the healing intertwining of Lives and the Colorfulness we add to one another!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting