Sunday, July 30, 2017

Stories We Create: Telling Who We Are (Part 2)

[Click here to read Part 1 of 'Stories We Create: Telling Who We Are'.]

Walking along surrounded by the Comic-Con crowd, we came across a person standing alone.  I don't know what movie or comic book character he was portraying, but I identified with him.  I noticed his outward appearance: shiny, an enigmatic expression pasted on his face, encased in an Outer-Shell Self.

It reminded me of the times I have protected myself by looking all put together, distancing myself from others, and planting a blank expression on my face... not wanting to be disappointed or hurt by any words or actions directed at me.

Stories We Tell: Insulating Self

A recent conversation with a co-worker and friend came to mind.  We were talking through some software design ideas and decisions.  My questions and thoughts seemed reasoned and appropriate to me.  But to my colleague, they may have become repetitious with misdirected conclusions.  He explained several times how current browser technology worked and why this new design must incorporate these options.  Our conversation seemed to go in circles, both of us becoming frustrated and irritated.  I could feel the outer shell going up as I crossed my arms and leaned back in my chair, physically disengaging from the discussion.

It wasn't until much later that I realized why I was 'locked into my story.'  I recalled an experience from long ago:  a memory surfaced of Dad saying, "Can't you get it through your head, You Knucklehead [me]?"

My friend's words may have been different, but the tone and the situation seemed to parallel that encounter with Dad:  circular questions and independent ideas expressed; shared frustration and irritation between us!

A memory and hurt from long ago -- insulated behind a hard exterior -- conjured up decades later!  I was faced with questions on how to move forward with my work mate:
  • Do I believe that I am a Knucklehead and don't get it?
  • Do I remain locked in to this past memory and feelings of inadequacy?
  • Do I share this childhood memory and its relationship to our misunderstanding? 

Stories We Tell: Caged In, with a View Outward
Using the dialogue skills of Noticing/Awareness and Non-Violence/Compassion, I realized I had several choices:
  • I no longer needed to accept the feelings nor the internal tapes that limited my self-understanding:  I am not a knucklehead or idiot!
  • I no longer needed to spiral downward with negative feelings:  it is okay for colleagues and friends to have distinct and differing positions.
  • I no longer needed to stay silent about stories that created who I am:  I can share the stories learned while growing up.
These realizations opened me to new possibilities: it was time to remove the insulated outer protections and to move outward.  The underlying choice: it was time to respond with Freedom!

Stories We Tell: Rising Above
I told my friend about these memories, how his fatherly tone had triggered these long-hidden childhood lessons, and how I did understand what he was saying the day before.  He immediately apologized, saying that he had been surprised by my response the day before, and in no way intended to hurt me.  I believe him... and I embrace the Lessons Learned:

  • Children learn from the adults around them... making conclusions based on young and limited experience.
  • Adults learn from reflection as new situations are encountered... earlier lessons are challenged and reshaped.
  • We have choices when memories are triggered...  be destroyed by the memory-landmine; notice the disturbance but reject any new insights; or accept with forgiveness and humility the choices to live an Inner-Core Self of freedom and growth.

Questions to consider:
  • What ways have you insulated yourself from family, friends, and colleagues?
  • Where might you feel caged in or trapped by cyclical irritation and arguments?
  • What memories come to mind associated with these insulated or trapped moments?
  • What choices might you make today to connect with others and move outward?
Another lesson I am learning:  Life is difficult at times!  It is difficult enough to understand ourselves, let alone others!  The Memory-Landmines help us to wake up, take notice, and rise above!

May this week bring moments of Awareness, Compassion, and Freedom!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stories We Create: Telling Who We Are (Part 1)

Comic-Con International draws over 130,000 people to San Diego each year.  A convention with its beginning in the basement of a local hotel (1970), now bursts out of the downtown convention center and through surrounding city blocks and neighborhoods.  Conventioneers, locals, and every superhero you can imagine comingle in this fun, festive, and energetic atmosphere.

Taking in the sites yesterday, I reflected on the many stories we create:
  • We meet heroes every day through parents, teachers, and work colleagues who sacrifice time and energy to make our world a better place.
  • We create positive change through our words and actions.
  • We dispel darkness and ignorance by choosing to live lives connected with others.

Do we recognize and acknowledge the heroes in our lives?

Stories We Create: We Become Heroes
(Heroes and Locals , Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego)
People who were dressed up -- in costumes -- posed for photos with others whose costumes may have been hidden or more internal:  stories we create about ourselves or others;  images we project or take on.

Are our daily lives as colorful and uninhibited when we clothe ourselves in these inner fictions?

Walking along, a friend noticed a costumed character walking by an evangelist who was sharing his message of repentance and hope.  I didn't get a photo of the costumed character but I did capture the religious message.  Without commenting on the message or the messenger, I wondered:

What message do we proclaim about another person's Sacred Worth and Value?

Stories We Create: Messages Shared
(Evangelist, Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade, San Diego)

Activity bursting from the convention center must cross over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade before it reaches the Gaslamp Quarter and other downtown neighborhoods.  The Promenade is a walkway lined with grass, trees, water, and fountains, interspersed with quotes from Dr. King and various sculptures capturing the Civil Rights Movement.

Through the nonviolent sharing of diverse stories, hope and freedom were opened for all citizens.  The chains of enslaved minds were revealed; the costumes and stories were exposed.  I wondered:
  • What stories are we chained to, stories told and retold for too many years?
  • Can our dialogue practices break us free from costumed stories put on unwillingly?

Stories We Create: Chained to the Story
(Breaking the Chains, sculture by Melvin Edwards;
Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade, San Diego)
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr:

"Along the way of life, Someone must have sense enough and morality enough
to cut off the chain of hate.  This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives." 

May this week allow us to break from conventional bonds that keep us from becoming heroes to one another!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Airport Musings: Welcoming Neighbors

Waiting at the airport to board a flight provides time to catch up on emails, text friends, read... and observe the nature of A People in Transition.  There is always a vast array of people to watch: adults with children struggling to catch up; older couples dressed up, representing a bygone era of more formal travel attire; younger people in relaxed clothing, displaying the changes in our world; people carrying a variety of baggage.  People in transition... moving from one location to another... all in a frenetically-controlled state of motion.

How we approach these moments speaks to our patience and flexibility as well as our  ability to endure unexpected changes, cancellations, and disruptions.  A people in transition... moving... changing... arriving.

As I mused on these colorful scenes, I recalled a friend's advice and a question posed recently: Take Care of Yourself and Who is Neighbor?  I wondered: what is the best way to reach a balance between self-care and identifying others as neighbors?  Is it through:  Cooperation?  Understanding?  Listening?  Hearing?  Maybe we are called to lighten the 'baggage' we carry and create a state of Welcome and Acceptance.

Do we offer a 'welcome sign' to others...
that you are accepted and considered a neighbor?
(Etsy:  SIgns of Justice)
Did you know there are many definitions of what it means to be a neighbor?  Here are a few of the more common definitions:
  • A person who lives nearby
  • One's fellow human being
  • A person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward another
Whether at home with your neighbor or on the road with others, being a neighbor requires reaching out and welcoming, accepting and understanding the transitional life we all lead, and searching for the good... of self and others.

Do we welcome the world with arms outstretched...
or do we have our backs to the possibilities?
(Freedom, by cst, DeviantArt)
Once we release past hurts and misunderstanding -- setting aside the baggage that burdens us -- our hands are available to reach out in a welcoming gesture and embrace.  There are now possibilities for future dialogue and acceptance.  Our relationships begin to soar when we listen and understand the struggles, lessons, and truths of another person.  We begin to rise above and see life differently: People in Transition... connected... moving away from past burdens... and moving toward new places.

Do we leap with open hearts
... welcoming others into the beauty that surrounds us?
(A Gift to Realize:  Freedom)
When was the last time you sat quietly and paid attention:
  • To the places you have been and where you want to go?
  • To the burdens you carry and the baggage you want to leave behind?
  • To the transitions that have inspired you and to those not yet achieved? 

Blessings this new week as you Take Care of Yourself and decide Who is Neighbor?  Both require open arms that are available to embrace and welcome!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, July 9, 2017

To -ism or Not to -ism: That is the Dialog-ism Question!

This past July 4th ('Independence Day' in the United States), I decided to be a tourist in my own city!  A friend and I stayed downtown, checked out a local 'small town' parade, watched as people carved out space for BBQs and picnics, and attended the evening fireworks with 300,000+ of my closest friends!  It was fun to be outside, enjoying the warm July weather, not having deadlines to meet or work to finish... and just relaxing.

Early in the day I began to notice how many -isms were being played out:
  • Patriotism:  as people stood for the U.S. flag and cheered the military heroes.
  • Nationalism:  as people clapped for American-themed parade entries which connected with history, image, and power... but stayed quiet as a Chinese contingent marched by with their signs and a float.  (The signs and the float displayed the following words: Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance.)
  • Ageism:  as elder citizens were ignored, left behind, or not served.

Overall, it was a beautiful day... if it weren't for the -isms that kept nagging at me!

Have you ever noticed:
some -isms separate or divide us?
Over the next week, I began to wonder:
  • How many -isms are there?  -- and --
  • How many -isms create division and separate us (=> schism)? 
(Review some of the 743 -isms listed at 
I found myself reflecting on the -isms in my own life where barriers have been created between myself and others.  Sometimes, it seems as if I internally observe... and wait... wanting to point out to others where they are different or have opposing views.  It is almost like waiting for a geyser to erupt, taking pleasure at the force the -ism creates when people back away.

This thought reminded me of a trip to Iceland a few years ago.  Our busload of tourists gathered around the Strokkur geyser, counting the minutes until we needed to return to the bus.  We waited -- impatiently -- for nature to unfold!  After two eruptions, we were back on the bus... moving on.  (I learned later on that 'Strokkur' is Icelandic for 'churn.')

How often does an -ism churn in me as I wait impatiently for another person to respond within the deadlines I have created or in the manner I expect?

Have you ever noticed:
sometimes we want an -ism to erupt?
(Strokkur geyser, Iceland)
Have you experienced a time when you were walking between two people or two groups who strongly disagreed?  The energy emanating from both sides is palpable.  The -ism word itself is neutral, but how we portray and energize differing beliefs creates the positive or negative consequences.

Dialogue (dare I introduce, Dialog-ism) is a habitual practice to walk among diverse peoples, cultures, experiences, views, and beliefs... seeking to understand, seeking to introduce curiosity, and seeking to accept that differing stories can coexist.

It is similar to the experience of walking through the Icelandic rift:  realizing that both the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate have the right to coexist.  Coming out at the other end of the rift, there is a beautiful and rugged valley where Icelandic tribes assembled in peace and formed the Althing (Icelandic: Alþingi), the Icelandic national parliament which assembled for the first time in 930 and is the world's oldest parliament.

The -ism that erupts and provides energy can bring wisdom and a new way of being if we but notice, learn to walk together through the rifts that divide, and seek the richness that exists when we assemble with others.  Through dialogue practice, rifts that separate can be transformed into places to assemble, listen, and understand.

Have you noticed: sometimes we are challenged to walk between -isms?
(Þingvellir National Park, Iceland:  where you can walk
between the Eurasian and North American Plates)

Questions to consider this week:
  • What -ism am I noticing around me?
  • Do I identify with one view over another?
  • How might I slow down, listen, and ask questions about all views?

May this week provide Dialog-ism Rift Moments: where we walk through openings that bring understanding, healing, and forgiveness in places we have carved out, places where we have been separated for too long!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, July 2, 2017

One Event: Do You Feel Boxed In?

One event.  Sometimes, one event makes the difference between.... being listened to or ignored... accepted or rejected... being seen as an insider or an outsider... trusted or questioned.

I noticed I was hearing through a 'One Event' filter while watching the evening news this past week.  I wondered...  What would have happened if this one event had been different?  How might things have turned out if someone had responded with more neutral words?

One event sometimes makes the difference!

One Event:  it can put us in a corner.
(Baby Blues, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, June 29, 2017
Click on picture to view larger  image.
Using this One Event filter, I reflected back on a past job:
  •  New to the office, I was asked by my supervisor to bring alcohol to an office birthday party.  I found out from a co-worker that the company's policies prohibited alcohol onsite.    I told my supervisor that I could not bring alcohol to the party because of company policy.  My supervisor stopped training me and planned to terminate me at the next review for not knowing how to do the job.  One event, one decision, began a course of action that seemed punitive.
  • Knowing the situation I was in, I sought other avenues for learning the software system.  No matter how much I excelled over the next two months, though, my supervisor viewed me through the Lens of Refusal, not following his requests unquestioned.  I submitted my resignation to the director.  One event, one decision, began a course of self-discovery and freedom.
  • Not appreciating the full impact of departmental politics, I was asked by the director to explain the real reason for my resignation.  She had a favorable impression of me, seeing me through the Lenses of Acceptance and Trust, and assumed there was more to the story.  One event, one decision, began a domino-effect of position transfers that allowed me to stay on in the department... as the supervisor!

Questions to consider:
  • What events in your life stand out?
  • Are there events where you were placed in a box?
  • Maybe there are events where you placed someone else in a series of boxes?
  • Do you find the box lids tightly shut, not allowing you or the other person to escape first impressions or events that have defined how people are viewed?

One Event:  it can put us or others in a box.

One Event... Boxes... and Filters came to mind when NBC Nightly News showcased and its CEO, Chieh Huang(Click on the link to watch the NBC video.)  Through the CEO's initiatives, the company or CEO contributes up to $20,000 towards an employee's wedding; provides unlimited parental leave; and pays the college tuition for an employee's children, no matter what school they have been accepted.  In the interview, the CEO explained these decisions through the Lenses of Love, Respect and Solidarity:  how his mother sacrificed for her family.  Specific events and decisions changed his life, and now he has chosen to provide opportunities for his employees and their families.

Questions to considerBesides  questions of which events stand out in our lives and where we or others have been boxed in, we are invited to reflect on the events when we have been allowed to escape these containers that confine and limit our choices:
  • Can we see beyond the container to other possibilities and options?
  • Can we become catalysts to help others by changing our filters of them?

One Event: it can free us!

It is important to acknowledge that it is difficult not to categorize what we see, think, and feel.  Filtering information and understanding its meaning in the context of our lived experience has allowed our species to survive and adapt.  It is a gift!  Slowing down and exercising the awareness that we instinctively filter, allows us time to reflect on whether a particular filter is appropriate.  Slowing down and becoming aware also allows us to see through the Lens of Choice, experiencing freedom to open the boxes and allow new interactions. 

Dialogue helps us to practice the skills of slowing down, becoming aware, and exercising freedom.  And, it invites us to become curious:
  • Why have I placed this person in this box?
  • How might we unbox one another?

Blessings this week as you celebrate Freedom!  May you notice One Event that could change how you encounter your loved ones, friends and colleagues!  May you unbox the gifts that have been hidden!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting