Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stories and Puzzles: What We See and Imagine (Part 1)

I admire people who can tell a story.  No matter whether the story is funny or sad, the ability to capture the attention and imagination of another person is a wonderful gift!  Two of my brothers have that gift, and I admire them for it.

Listening to them can transport our family back to a shared event or a time that connects us to their experiences and ours.  Stories help us to picture... just for an instant... a reality larger than what we imagine individually.  We become intertwined by the words and images to a point of clarity, discovery and puzzlement.

What do you see?
Sometimes when I listen to people telling a shared story, I am surprised at how the events are remembered and retold:  what is important to one person may not be remembered in the same way by the other person.  It seems that we grasp and hold onto different sections of the overall Puzzle of Life

We tell stories to connect, but sometimes different facts or truths distract us and cause us to doubt or not listen to the other person.  We focus on what we see or understand, and forget that the many puzzle sections, when put together, may form a reality larger than what we, as individuals, can imagine.

What do you imagine?
At a a recent Dialogue Retreat, each participant was given 60 puzzle pieces.  The instructions were simple:  individually, assemble your pieces, and then reflect on the action of assembling your pieces.
  • Describe what you see in your puzzle section.
  • What do you imagine the whole puzzle will look like?
  • How does your section fit into the larger whole?

In a way, we were being asked to Create a Story with what we had.  Isn't that what we do each day?  Whether we consider ourselves as Storytellers or not, we create stories about the people we encounter every day:
  • Am I comfortable with this person?
  • Can I trust this person and what is said?
  • What motives or intentions are inferred by their actions?

We piece together what we see and add in what we imagine.  Oftentimes, we are tempted to make up or try pieces that don't quite fit expecting the story we have created to be an accurate representation of the whole person.

What is happening here?  What am I not seeing?
(Answer will be revealed next week:  Part 2)
I wonder:

  • What do we do when we discover that the sections may not fit together?
  • Do we consider that some segments of our story may not be true?
  • Can we let go of our assumptions and disconnected conclusions?

By asking questions and being open to the unfolding portrait of a person, together we are able to assemble a shared story that includes all perspectives.

May this week allow us to search for missing pieces, being conscientious of which truths actually fit together in our stories, and marveling at our Discovered Truth!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Home, Adventure, the Unexpected: What are We Seeking?

I don't know about you, but there are times I just want to be at Home - a warm, comfortable, welcoming environment where loved ones and friends can relax and just be.  There are other times when I seek Adventure - taking risks to say or do something outside of my comfort zone.  And then there are moments of Unexpected Beauty - unplanned gifts that cause me to pause.

I wonder what it is like for my family and friends when they engage me?  Are they encountering the Stay-at-Home or the Let's-Take-a-Risk person?  And what happens
 when my actions or moods are interpreted incorrectly?  How do they experience my response?

Home:  where do we seek comfort?
(Lighthouse:  Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego)
What do you do when people say or do the 'wrong' thing?  I think that I become embarrassed -- for myself and for them!  And I internalize a lot of questions: 
  • Why did s/he say that? 
  • Do they really see me that way? 
  • Why am I so irritated at this person? 

And, most importantly, why didn't I see the beauty in that person... FIRST?  Would I take the risk to reach out more if I would pause and wait for the Beauty-Within to be revealed?

Adventure:  where do we risk?
(Tidepools:  Cabrillo National Monument)
I am learning -- sometimes too late for that past encounter -- to ask questions and try to understand the person's thoughts and intentions.  But, I am finding there is still hope for me!

It might be too late for the earlier reaction or embarrassment... but I may be just-in-time to notice you and encounter you a little differently!  It is in these moments of reflection and awareness that I can seek the unexpected in you, in me, and in the way We become Us - the unexpected beauty revealed!

Unexpected:  where do we see beauty?
(Tidepools:  Cabrillo National Monument)

Waiting -- like I did at the tidepools of the Cabrillo National Monument -- allows a scene of beauty to splash over and create a new experience.

May this week invite comfortable risks to seek beauty in the most unexpected ways!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rugged Terrain Ahead: Danger or Hope?

Current wars and threats of war.  Clashes of ideologies erupting in violence on our streets.  Vast wealth amidst daily poverty, homelessness, and starvation.  Record seasonal high and low temperatures with more frequent mega-storms.

It seems that our media sources remind us endlessly of these turbulent times... globally and locally... politically and economically... chaos and order... law and justice...

These thoughts came to mind as I was walking in the Cabrillo National Monument recently.  With the cliffs to my left and the vast ocean to my right, waves pounding on this fragile coastline, I was reminded of the ruggedness faced on both sides: the relentless elements of nature eroding the cliffs and the coastline; the seemingly endless upheaval in many of life's arenas.

Rugged Reality: erosion and danger?
(Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego)
From one vantage point the cliffs seemed to go on and on, but... walking a little further, two views brought a sense of hope:  the Cabrillo lighthouse could be seen above and beyond the insurmountable cliffs, and a set of steps which allowed passage above and away.  I noticed that once I had these two perspectives in mind, I began to see the cliffs and coastline in a new way:  the cliffs and the the coastline were under assault by the relentless elements of nature... AND... the crevasses and tidepools are places of refuge for birds (cliffs) and sea creatures (tidepools)  The energy and turmoil were given new meaning once my perspective changed.

For me, lighthouses and stairs are symbols of hope: the first, a guide leading to a safe place; the second, a pathway leading to another destination.

This quote by the actor, Christopher Reeves, may be important to us as we journey through these tumultuous times: 

"When the unthinkable happens, the lighthouse is hope.
Once we choose hope, everything is possible."

Looking Beyond:  a lighthouse as a guide to safe harbor

Is the erosion experienced today due to a belief that there is only one way to safety?  Could it be that there are paths that invite us to explore different  conclusions about each other?

I wonder -- as we face difficult topics and conversations with loved ones, friends, and colleagues -- is there a way that we can walk together through fearful and unfamiliar surroundings... searching for one or more aspects of hope:
  • Maybe a place that brings light and comfort, guiding us to a safe harbor?
  • Maybe taking one step at a time... listening... asking questions... trying to understand... helping to move above the discomfort of eroded relationships?

Movement Upward:  leading to safety

It doesn't mean that we let go of what is important to us.  Through dialogue, it may mean that we hear equally what is important to another person.

Questions to consider:
  • How might I advocate a topic, position, or value... and then invite others to ask questions or offer alternative views?
  • In what ways can I listen more fully to new ideas... and discover why these views are important to the other person?
  • Am I willing to walk with another person when there is erosion and danger... and discover together the lighthouse or steps that may move us to a place of safety, to another destination?

May we seek paths of hope and possibilities this week in the midst of these conflicted times!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gaining Perspective: The Five Whys

Young children are amazing!  They have a lot to show us and remind us... about curiosity, imagination, energy, and self-discovery.  I am easily amused when I encounter a child who hasn't lost the wonder of the question "Why?"  This simple... and sometimes naive... question can open doors:
  • How something works?
  • Why the world is the way it is?
  • What has caused some relationships to go dormant? 

But, through the lens of a child's innocence, the question sometimes carries an expression of  "But why not?"
Gaining Perspective from a Lighthouse:
Guiding the Way; Protecting from Danger
(Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego)
My reflection on children and their innate drive for discovery came to mind when a friend and I rediscovered the Cabrillo National Monument along the San Diego coast.  It had been years since we had explored the lighthouse or tidepools.  With the recent stretch of warm weather, it was easy to conclude:  "Why not!"  Being on the bluff overlooking downtown San Diego to the southwest and the Pacific Ocean to the west, we were greeted with beautiful views... and a cool ocean breeze!

A number of children were climbing the lighthouse stairs when the inevitable question, "Why?", was asked.  I listened to the parent's patient answers about why the lighthouse was important to the sailors... how families lived near the lighthouse to maintain this important instrument to guide the sailors to safe passage... where the children played...

As I listened, I wondered if I demonstrate this same patience when I am given a chance to reconnect with a loved one or friend:
  • Am I listening to what is important to another person?
  • Do I openly explore their views?
  • Is there safe passage through the narrow straits of my worldview?

Gaining Perspective from a Flawless Lens
Refracting and Reflecting Different Views
(Do you see the various images reflected in this lens?)

As my reflections continued, I recalled an exercise that our Practicum mentors suggested for our Dialogue learning groups:  "The Five Whys"  (by Rick Ross, and found in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook:  Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization.)  This exercise invited us to explore more deeply those answers and values that we hold onto.

The exercise is summarized in the following steps:
  • Why #1:  Why is [blank] happening?
  • Listen to the answers, sit quietly, and then:
    • Why #2:  using each answer as a base, ask "Why [response] is happening?" or "Why is [response] important?"
  • Listen to each new response, sit quietly, and then:
    • Why #3 through #5:  using the answers to the previous Why, allow a subsequent Why to surface.
  • Listen.

It was an amazing exercise!  The process allowed me (and our group) to slow down, to listen with more intent, and to explore a deeper and more profound truth.  Through patience and understanding, we glimpsed the root of what the issues were... what was causing friction and danger... and how to maneuver around dead ends and rocky outlets.

Gaining Perspective from Height:
Seeing the Horizon and Going Deeper

The subsequent questions, answers, and listening process broadened our horizons and allowed us to come to different solutions than if we had stopped with our first answers.

I wonder:  what would this week be like if:
  • We rekindled that childlike and persistent inquiry about the world?
  • We recaptured that innocent search or curiosity to understand?
  • We rediscovered a wider perspective of truth and reality?
May this week transform our Why's into lenses of wonder and discovery, freeing us from the surface dangers of untested responses!  But why not?!

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Spring Planting, Summer Harvest: Waiting... and Growing!

If you have been reading this blog for several months, you may recall the tiny Italianelle seeds that were planted in early Spring: protected in the warm house; watered carefully each day; nurtured as the fragile seedlings broke the soil for the first time and slowly grew.  Spring promises of new life and growth!

These fragile seedlings were planted outside; and now, six months later, have branched out and become large bushes 4 to 6 feet tall!  Spring promises are now giving way to Summer and Fall harvest... which means cutting, cooking, and freezing these Italian peppers for future meals throughout the year.  The work doesn't end with the planting or watering or fertilizing.  It continues through the harvest... and the preparations for next Spring.

Beginnings:  Fragile and Tender

Can you believe that a Dialogue blog could come from planting, watering, fertilizing, and nurturing plants to fruition?!  If you haven't guessed from earlier blogs, there are lessons for our 'dialogue practices' in almost every aspect of life!

Just think of the times when we reach out to a loved one, friend, or work colleague... listening to their hopes, fears, needs, and daily experience?  A seed may be planted that says 'I care.'

And those times when we provide tenderness to a fragile relationship that has experienced misunderstandings, we say 'I want us to grow."

Nurturing and Waiting:  Unexpected Growth

As we share our perspective and listen to other ways of experiencing life, we feed these connections with a hope that the human condition will improve.  Dialogue practices of awareness and compassion teach us to forgive when we are stuck in the past.  Noticing and practicing nonviolence help us to empathize when human exploration runs amuck.  Freedom and interdependence provide opportunities to seek the uniqueness and rich diversity of journeys so different.

True dialogue -- listening and sharing without judgment -- can provide a safe and fertile environment where ideas can germinate and grow.
Harvest:  Sharing Abundance

Unlike plants, though, that have specific seasons for planting and harvesting, Dialogue can begin at any time!  Each moment becomes a new beginning:
  • An invitation to plant a seed;
  • An inspiration to nurture a relationship; and
  • A dedication to stay the course of noticing, sharing, listening, and reflecting on the beautiful connections between us. 

Questions to consider:
  • What seeds do I plant in the Garden of my Relationships?
  • How do I nurture and feed these relationships?
  • Who do I want to share in the abundance before us?

Now is the time to begin, to nurture, and to share the abundance of our lives!  Let's not wait until tomorrow! 

Larry Gardepie
Dialogue San Diego Consulting