Sunday, August 27, 2017

Transforming the Beauty Within: Past, Present, and Forever

People of a certain age may remember the summer Yosemite 'Firefalls':  waiting on the valley floor; anticipating the twilight hour transitioning into nightfall; and watching red hot coals cascading -- like a waterfall -- down a granite cliff across the valley.

Nature and humanity coming together:  discovering the beautiful waterfalls of Yosemite and the magic of the Summer Firefall!  Water and Fire: two elements of our world that create and destroy, bringing comfort and growth as well as destruction and harm.

Transforming Water: Into Fire
(At Yosemite: A Waterfall Turns into a Firefall,
New York Times, February 24, 2016)

This summer has been a period of self-reflection: recalling memories of the past; noticing present moments; and wondering about the future.  There is great power in holding and celebrating these temporal phases... each with gentleness and sacredness.

It is as if the past currents of our life have carved a pathway for present actions and future hopes.  But, as with the mighty rivers of our world, we can experience an immediate transformation when flooding waters surge beyond restrictive riverbanks and transform the surrounding areas.  In the moment:  change and destruction.  But in the days and years following:  new channels allowing a change in the water's direction and silty overflow providing nourishment to the surrounding farmlands.  Destructive power giving way to new growth and possibilities.

Transforming Water:  Into Power
(Gullfoss Waterfalls, Iceland)
Dialogue and reflection go hand-in-hand:
  • Through dialogue, we become open to another person's past experiences, current realities, and future dreams.
  • Through reflection, we have the opportunity to understand the common needs and desires which animate the human condition.

And, it is through dialogue and reflection that we realize The Choice before us:
  • What path do we choose to follow -- destruction or healing; and
  • What temporal phase will we spend more time?

Past:  memories that tug on us.  Present:  choices that free us.  Future:  hopes that will heal us. 

We can remain within the muddiness of life... where murky waters hide what is below the surface.  Or, we can choose to clean out the discord between us... where clear waters reflect the beauty around it.  Dialogue transforms us from not seeing the gifts in another person to mirroring the beauty of that person.

Transforming Water:  Into Reflected Beauty
(Haynes, Alaska)

Questions to consider this week as we face moments of sadness and pain, and happiness and healing:
  • What memories come to mind?
  • What current events surface?
  • What future dreams do I want to achieve? 
  • What choices will I make to transform and reflect the beauty of who I am and who you are?

May this week allow your past, present, and future to be seen as sacred and transformative!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Self-Illusion: Seeing What We Want to See

I have always been fascinated with puzzles, hidden images, and optical illusions.  As a child, I would sit for hours reading and solving the puzzles in our monthly Highlights magazine!  (Do you remember this magazine?  Sometimes I still see well-worn copies in a doctor's or dentist's waiting area!)

Dialogue work has opened a similar fascination for me: puzzling together how we see and experience life so differently; talking to friends and noticing that we may have attended the same event, movie or meeting and come away with unique conclusions.  Don't you find that curious?

Darcy (a Dialogue partner and friend) and I were talking recently about experiences with our dialogue practices.  She commented about times when people would see something one way and realize later on that there may have been other meanings present but not seen.    Do you wonder why others cannot see what you see?

For instance, look at this photo:  what do you see?

What do you see?
(Click on photo to enlarge it.)
(Image from
Many people will see mountains and water.  True!  But, stare at the photo a little longer... or rotate the photo to gain a new perspective.  Do you see anything else?  Maybe a woman and a child?  One image may have been noticed first or it may have taken a split second longer to see the second image, but both images were present from the beginning.

Another photo I saw years ago and rediscovered when searching the internet is Octavio Ocampo's painting of Don Quixote.  A broad view of the painting reveals a portrait of Don Quixote.  Once one is drawn into the painting, though, more images can be seen:  the windmill, a horse, Sancho Panza, plus many other objects and faces.  (How many faces do you see?)  It is as if the whole Cervantes story is being recreated in this painting.

I see...
Don Quixote, by Octavio Ocampo
(Image from
Dialogue as a practice is similar to these pictures:  conversations that combine time, listening and intention.  That is, providing more time to invite a deeper listening with an intention to understand.  Dialogue invites new or hidden perspectives to become revealed!

But, some days it seems that I -- or others -- have so much to say!  Our stories spill over!  When I do slow down and listen, I find that curiosity begins to take root:  I wait for those valuable nuggets of truth that are waiting to be shared, and I hear so much more than when we were racing through our stories.

The self-illusion -- or possibly, self-delusion -- is the notion that I can take in and understand all of life's lessons!  Like the Ocampo painting, maybe it requires us to learn a dialogue discipline of... waiting... seeking one image at a time... and waiting some more!  (Such a difficult concept in this fast-paced world!)

Just like there are optical illusions which trick us into seeing one image over another, I wonder, without slowing down and waiting, if we tend to favor one perspective over others?

Are you ready for another image? What do you see?  (Type what you see in this blog's 'Comments.')
Coffee beans and...?
(Image from
Through dialogue, we are invited to:
  • Offer what we see, and listen for another perspective;
  • Hold gently to what is similar and different;
  • Wait for the unexpected to reveal itself; and
  • Humbly accept that all views may be valid and real. 

Questions to consider this week when interacting with loved ones, friends, and colleagues:
  • What do I see or hear first?
  • Am I willing to listen for other perspectives?
  • Can I see the truth in all views?
  • Will I hold gently myself and others when we cannot see or understand?

May we be open to seeing beyond our first impressions!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Images: Who We Were and Are Becoming (Part 2)

[Click here to read Part 1 of 'Images: Who We Were and Are Becoming'.]

As we review photos or memories of when we were younger, we may recognize some traits that have followed us through the years.  We may even notice that we have grown and changed: we look older and, hopefully, a little wiser!

We are people with stories rooted in relatives and friends.  In some ways we may have become predictable.  Occasionally, we may surprise those who know us by saying or acting in ways they weren't expecting.

As I move into a new week carrying decades of Self-and-Other photos and experiences, I have come to realize that I Have a Choice.  But first... let's continue walking down Memory Lane!

Leaving the earlier childhood photos, we come to a freshly-minted high school graduate.  How many of us have had dreams for our lives?  For me, a trait that is brought  forward:  I continue to have dreams and ideas of what I want from life.  But the question that arises is whether those dreams can still be realized.  Questions I often ask myself:
  • Do I have the courage to share my dreams and ideas with others?
  • Once I have shared these dreams, am I expected to achieve them? 
I have a choice to share and decide what is important.

Self Image: High School Graduate
I have dreams
Fast forward:  since my school days, I have been a second grade teacher, youth minister, and seminarian.  I have worked in higher education, and am now employed by a a software company.  Often, the work has been rewarding; but for me, the relationships and friendships are more important.  The actual work seems to have been the ongoing lessons of Self-in-Relationship.

As I move forward from the cocoon-like world of Family of Origin, I have been challenged to see the unique nature of loved ones, work colleagues, and friends -- chosen as the Family of Choice.  Both are important.  Both origin and choice can be life-giving!

The desire to understand another person is one dream woven throughout my years following high school and college.  As we uncover the individual Self and encounter the unique Other, one question seems to be: 
  • Do I say thank you to those I live with and work with?  (I have a choice.)

Self Image: Long-term Employee
We are each unique and valued!
These photos and memories allow me to recognize traits that have been constant.  I have become aware that I also see a person who has changed.  If I acknowledge that I am a Person-in-Transition, then possibly I can extend that same understanding to you.  We are not the same people from a decade ago... or months, days, and even minutes ago!  We are more than the snapshots frozen in time and the stories retold. 

But, will I show compassion for myself when I mistakenly place you in a Memory Album... and you show up differently... changed?  Can I  support and encourage your life journey... where it is now?  Can I acknowledge that you are a gift... who is being slowly revealed?  I do have a choice!
Self Image:  World Traveler
There is so much to see and experience!

Our complex, polarized world needs people who will journey together, allowing a new dialogue to develop.  We are asked to listen humbly to the stories that have brought each of us to a fork in this road.  Can we do this together?  We have a choice!

Let us use the words of Francis of Assisi to form this week's questions:
  • Where there is hatred in my stories... how may I sow love this week?
  • Where there is injury... how may I pardon?
  • Where there is discord and division... how may I seek unity?
  • Where there is doubt in leadership... how may I rekindle faith?
  • Where there is error in decisions... how may I humbly draw forth truth?
  • Where there is despair in the world situation... how may I encourage hope?
  • Where there is sadness and darkness... how may I provide joy and light? 
As a companion-traveler on this journey, I hope to hear your stories, learn about your families and cultures, and seek ways to understand. 

May this week provide opportunities and choices that break from the past or current stories which separate us.  Let us seek to see and experience a brighter world through dialogue, understanding, and forgiveness.

Larry Gardepie
(Seeking the Sacred in You)
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Images: Who We Were and Are Becoming (Part 1)

Memory Lane... a street in Spring Valley, CA; a 2012 movie about a soldier who returns home from war, falls in love, and must relive the tragedy of his Lover's death; and a meandering reflection as I look back through past photos and stages of my life.  There are times in our lives where "Walking down Memory Lane" brings moments of insight about self, self-image, and our relationship with others.

Let's reflect back together...  What is your earliest photo or memory?

My parents kept my earliest photo in my Baby Album:  I was 11 hours old.  Of course, I don't remember those early days, but I often look at this photo and wonder about my parents and older brother:  What was it like for them to welcome a new member into their family?  What  was in store for them as Family was redefined?  Were there newborn promises and expectations as we walked through these first few days and years together?

An early photo or memory may cause us to revisit questions like Who am I?  and  Who will I become?

Self Image: Newborn Promises
Who will I become?
Another photo I cherish was taken at my maternal grandparents home in Iowa: my grandfather, great grandmother, older brother, Dad, [me] and Mom.  Family, promises, and dreams handed down through four generations.  (Even my grandparents' dog, Tiny, wanted to be memorialized in this photo!)  A photo and memories of Life and Midwestern Values passed on.

My childhood mind cannot quite recall this moment, but I do experience deep emotions whenever I revisit this photo:  family members long gone who shaped my early sense of self.

Another question rooted in the past:  Who and what is important to me?

Self Image: Four Generations
 Who is important to me?

Eventually my older brother and I would share our parents with four other siblings.  Individual personalities are hinted at in these frozen images: confidence; shyness; a twinkle in the eye; a mischievous grin.  Each person developing and becoming a unique Self.  (My youngest brother isn't in this photo, but he was on his way!)

Eventually, we began to realize that we were One-of-Many.  How fascinating when we become aware of others!  What we remember and the stories we tell about Self are now intertwined with a much larger narrative:  another person's perspective!

The questions we ask when in relationship: Will Self-in-Relationship be allowed to change?  and  Can we accept the newborn into an ever-changing Family?

Self Image: Siblings
I am one of many.

I am fascinated by early photos!  They describe the on-going story of who we were and are becoming:  People-in-Transition:
  • What I remember... recalled through the veils of time and shadowed by my awakening.
  • What others remember about me... seen through their hopes and concerns.
  • What remains... Self-in-Transition... balanced between the memories of Self and Other and the current challenges which stretch us beyond these earlier stories.

An example:  the memory mentioned in last week's blog about Dad, in his frustration, saying to me, "Can't you get it through your head, You Knuckelhead?", doesn't show up in any of these photos I have shared.  It is a Memory Hidden Within, an internal photo album not always shared with others.  It is revealed though at the most unexpected times, when I feel vulnerable.

Each of us has these hidden albums:  times captured when we were hurt, became defensive, or sensed fear.  There are other albums as well:  experiences of individual joy, happiness, and contentment.  These albums exist and are connected to the public stories and memories.

A final question this week:  What would it take for us to share these hidden albums with others? 

May this week provide moments when photos, memories, stories and hidden albums are shared.  May we acknowledge the beautiful complexity of who we were and are becoming.  And may we recognize that each person has Sacred Worth and Value!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting