Sunday, December 30, 2018

Memories, Reflections, and Hope

Time... The passage of Time... moments that cannot be reclaimed.  It is again time to listen... and to learn.

The end of another year prompts reflection for many of us.  And, the beginning of a new year promises new beginnings.  What have I learned?  What can I hope for?

Politically, this past year has been filled with controversy and continued division.  Professionally, my work team has transitioned and we are learning new roles.  Personally, I am calmer and more patient.

Why am I calm?  What am I learning about myself that I can — for the most part! — be patient in times of controversy, division, and change?
Reflections:  Stories Competing and Colliding
(Honolulu skyline at night)
As the pace of the world increases and more is required of us to stay relevant, I am finding that when I slow down and notice what is happening, I can pause... look at the options... and respond in a more holistic and creative way.

One tool that has helped me is the ability to ask questions.  I am learning that questions don’t necessarily lead a conversation to where I already have the answers, directing people to conclusions I have already made.  Rather, questions have helped me to:

  • Gather new information;
  • Check out assumptions I have made; and,
  • Cultivate an attitude of curiosity.

Reflections:  Stories Eclipsing Others
(Lunar eclipse 2018)
As I listen to other people and their experiences of and approach to life, a broader worldview is revealed.  Life may not be as myopic or one way (“my way).  The beliefs I have become accustomed to and held so dearly may not necessarily be in conflict with others.  Instead, they may be more similar than I first imagined.

I have found that another person’s values don’t necessarily eclipse my own.  Instead, by allowing seemingly competing values to coexist, I begin to see new light shining from what was previously a dark night, created by my own mind.

Reflections:  A New Year is Dawning

As a new day dawns, the time before us is pristine and unexplored.  Maybe we can set earlier divisions aside... slow down... ask questions... and allow hope to exist.  Maybe the once dualistic “Win-Lose” or “My Way or the Highway” mentalities can be transformed into questions posed like Max, the new medical director at the New Amsterdam hospital (a current TV series:
  • What can I do?
  • How can I help?
  • What do you need?
The choice for us each new year — and each day — is:  how do I want to live... divided and separated?... or united and whole?  The choice is ours, individually and collectively.

My hope is that our questions and experiences transform us into the people and world we want to become!

Blessings to you!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Reflections: Memories, Hope and Grace

I don't know about you, but this time of year is always so BUSY!  Work deadlines, buying and shipping Christmas gifts, sending out or responding to Christmas cards, baking, travel preparations... plus routine chores and bill paying!  It's a swirl of activity!

Colliding with this swirl are the memories of Years Past:  the Family of Childhood competing with the Family of Today; how Mom baked the ham or candied apples; the sharing of Christmas secrets...  It seems that our mind and heart are racing to understand where we have come and where we are going.  And the innocence of childhood has transformed into our adult faith and belief systems.

Images of Childhood
Questions also arise at this time of year:
  • Do we believe in the Reason for the Season?
  • Have we become too materialistic?
  • What would happen if we spent within our means?

As I listen to some people, it seems that they are just trying to survive... due to past hurts, family deaths, declining health, poor finances, and a myriad of other modern day ailments.

Images of Adulthood
While traveling through San Francisco two years ago at the holiday season, I came across the World Tree of Hope (click to learn more).  When I saw it, the tree was located in a nave of the City Hall.  (This year it may be found in Grace Cathedral.)

People from all over the world send in a wish for the world.  These wishes are inscribed on white origami cranes (an Asian symbol for happiness, good fortune, longevity and hope).  A beautiful way to gather positive thoughts and energy for the world!

Images of Hope
(RWF World Tree of Hope, San Francisco)
In these times where past and present swirl, collide and compete,I have found that the dialogue skills of awareness and compassion go a long way!  By noticing what I am feeling and talking to a Loved One or friend, doors begin to open.  Sometimes I am heard.  Sometimes I listen to others.  Sometimes new hopes and wishes begin to grow... and the swirl, collision, and competing energies lessen their grip on me.

How fitting it is that Memories, Hope, and Grace transect at this time of year!

Blessings, good fortune and hope to you this Holy Season!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wanting to Join In: Overcoming Barriers and Rifts

Traveling through the Yukon territory, we came across Husky dog sledding at Caribou Crossing.  It was amazing to watch the energy of the adult dogs who wanted to work, to pull the sleds!  They were jumping high into the air:  "Pick me!  Pick me!"

A few yards away behind a wire fence were young puppies watching the excitement.  They too wanted to get out of their pens and join in.  The energy of the dogs mixed with the wonder of the tourists made a festive atmosphere as we watched or waited our turns to go on a dog sled ride.

Has a barrier ever kept you from joining in?
(Caribou Crossing, Yukon Territory)
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I wondered about my own life:
  • When am I excited about the work I do?
  • Do I exhibit a "Pick me!" attitude?
  • What barriers keep me from joining in?

Has a rift ever separated you from those you love?
(Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Iceland: rift between two tectonic plates)

I have noticed that my travels allow time to reflect.  I am able to slow down and connect what is happening in my day-to-day life with new sights and experiences.

This "Pick Me!" and "Joining In" reflection in the Yukon connected with an earlier trip to Iceland when we had an opportunity to walk between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  The plates have caused a rift in the earth's crust, creating a valley we walked through.

When we do not understand a situation the same way or we hold firmly to our preconceived thoughts about another person, culture, or creed, rifts develop between the crustiness of our fragile relationships.  We may think that the barriers are imposed by others, but maybe we have a role in building and maintaining these barriers.

Is it time to overcome barriers and rifts?
As I reflect on the connection between these two travel moments, I have come to realize that both barriers can be overcome:
  • Yukon Territory:  the barrier had a gate which anyone could open to free the Husky puppies and allow them to join in.
  • Iceland:  the rift between the tectonic plates had a passageway that allowed us to walk between two formidable masses.

The challenge for our dialogue practices is to learn when and how to open the barriers that separate us and to find common areas between misunderstandings and confrontations where we can journey together.

As we consider everything that has happened in 2018, let us reflect on the barriers and rifts that separate us and consider ways to reach out with open hands to what awaits us in 2019!  And, as we dialogue together, may we invite and want environments of "Pick me!" and "Join in!"

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Who am I? Who are You? Who are We?

Reflecting on various stages of my life, I recall times when I noticed differences between my family and those of my friends; when classmates became separated by interests and relationships; and when various cliques went their own ways.  I also noticed times when I wasn't accepted.

In those moments of comparisons, I began to discover the person I wanted to become.  I still haven't arrived, but I have noticed that my mind continues to compare and contrast what I see and experience... but in a different way.

How do I understand Who am I and Who are We?
(Photo Credit:  Baby Blues, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott)

I now see Life as a Journey of Discovery:  answering questions of Who am I? is only the beginning.  The journey continues when I open myself to other moments:  seeking answers to Who are you? 

My earlier years seemed to focus on achievement and direct/indirect competition.  Without being overly simplistic, did we not learn the following: 
  • In school:  who was smarter?
  • In sports:  who will win?
  • In church:  who is holy?
  • With family:  who helps out?

Do I try to outmaneuver others?

In later years, are we not challenged with other questions or lessons?  For instance, rather than focus on a dualistic relationship between Who am I? and Who are You?, we can transform those two questions into Who are We? 

So, the Journey of Discovery teaches us that all of these questions are important:
  • I want to understand who I am or want to become;
  • I need you to help me understand what that question means for you; and,
  • Together, we must discover the relationship between I - You.

As we discover answers to these questions, we begin to understand the importance of the hyphen (-):  rather than remain in the competitive Either - Or relationship of earlier years, we begin to transform the relational-hyphen into an All.

Is it time to accept that We are loved?

Through dialogue -- and with an awareness of I and You in relationship with We -- compassion, empathy, and possibly even love, begins to emerge:
  • When I hurt or you are hurt, then don't we both hurt?
  • When I am hungry or you are hungry, aren't we hungry?
  • When I am lost on my journey or you are too, then we don't arrive together.

Through these final weeks of the year where the holidays call us together as family and friends, may we slow down in our busy-ness and consider broadening our love for Self and Other -- giving the gift of time, interest, and acceptance!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hole-y Whole: Moving through Life

There are days when my creativity is gone; I am not sure what value I bring to my work team; and there seems to be a disconnect — or a “hole” — in what is being said and the meaning behind the words.  The world remains beautiful and whole, but my mind and heart swirls with missed opportunities and seemingly lost relationships.

Have you ever experienced one of these Hole-y Whole moments: when the world goes on but you feel left behind?

Have you ever felt like something is missing?

I find that when I am caught in low creativity, feeling undervalued, or being misunderstood, it is easy to feel separated... apart from others.  And, when I wallow in my Hole-y Separateness, I begin to look for someone to blame.  (Of course, it's not me!)

I had an experience of this recently at work.  It was a time when our positions and responsibilities were being redefined.  Many of us were trying to understand the changes, the new vision and goals, and where we fit in.  Where I felt like a valued member of the team earlier, my new role seemed to stand apart and disconnected from the other team members.  All of our paths were unclear; each of us — individually — were trying to understand what was expected.  As an organizational team, we were in Low Awareness.

Are there times when you feel separated from others?

What changed?  Our team had a series of meetings.  Our supervisor patiently described his vision, and noted when he didn’t have the answers to our questions.  Individually, we needed to reconnect and to make decisions about our worth and value.

What I found valuable through this time of disconnection and reconnection:
  • Noticing my discomfort... and sharing my thoughts with others.
  • Asking questions... and listening to the responses.
  • Holding lightly to misunderstandings... and trying not to devalue another person.

In addition, I was able to talk to Loved Ones and friends -- people who knew me -- and I  shared my thoughts, feelings, and confusion.

Where can you discover beauty and wholeness?

The experience of reconnection in these weeks of Hole-y Whole Separateness became Holy, and offered me questions to consider:
  • Do I recognize and accept the beauty in being connected and valued?
  • What do I do and say when I feel devalued or separated from others?
  • Where do I find balance: returning to those creative moments where I belong?

May you notice the Hole-y Whole moments in your life this week, and the ways you return to Holy Wholeness!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thankfully Thankful!

I know that when I am tired and life has delivered a few curves, I am not always aware of the wonders around me.  It seems as if the smallest slight is exaggerated; the simplest remark is misconstrued.

In those moments, am I thankful for the Life Unfolding and the Lessons Revealed?

Are there times when I forget to be thankful?
(Photo Credit:  Family Circus, November 24, 2016, Bill Keane)

In an old church in Amsterdam, I came across a wooden spiral staircase that had no visible support but the walls it was braced against.  There was only one way up and one way down.  The graceful curves and the simplicity of its construction drew me back to it several times.

Sometimes life can be very simple as well: how we view those curves -- or changes -- in our path; whether we feel an upward or downward trend in the challenges we encounter; or where we experience our support.

Where do I find my support?
(Oude Kerk - wooden spiral staircase, Amsterdam)

Maybe, when we feel less thankful for what life offers, we might want to get back to the basics.  That is:
  • Life is a gift. 
  • Support is where we see it. 
  • We have a choice on how we respond.

How do I respond when I feel adrift?

When we find that we are adrift in an ocean of possibilities, the invitation is to breathe in, enjoy the view, and return to a heart thankful for the Freedom to Respond.  Rather than going up or down in our mood-filled reactions, we are called to see wider vistas  which encourage us to go in many different directions.

As we continue this season of thanksgiving, let us remember the support and possibilities that are ever present:  we can change our outlook; we can never be done being thankful!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Coming Together: Fires that Destroy; Calling Us to Rebuild

Relationships can be wonderful and life-giving... and... sometimes, prickly and difficult to navigate!  It seems that we need the highs and the lows to appreciate people who have traveled with us throughout life.

I wonder then why I worry when friendships are blocked or there is no visible pathway ahead?  Do I expect that everything will be okay all of the time?  What do I fear when difficult conversations need to happen?

When are my relationships thorny?

In those moments of conflict and uncertainty, what would happen if we took a longer look at the expansiveness of our lives: past challenges and accomplishments; the failures and the successes; people we don't understand and those who accept us?  Rather than solely focusing on the current crisis of friendship and its uncharted territory, The Long View might allow us a moment to re-balance our thoughts and emotions:  the immediate anger, fear, and sadness may be seen through renewed optics of past love, peace, and joy.

How might I look broadly at a situation?

As I watched and listened to the stories of this week's California wildfires, I was overwhelmed with the tragedy of the moment... and the triumph of the human spirit.  Stories of narrow escapes and deaths were heart-wrenching.  Heroic efforts to save lives brought tears.  Glimpses of people opening their homes, offering clothes and food, donating blood and money brought hope.  Neighbors and strangers were coming together to rebuild lives shattered.

Can I come together in times of difficulty?

Much has been written and reported about ongoing divisions in our communities: current fears stoked by political and ideological differences, diverse cultural backgrounds, and people escaping violence and abuse.  Maybe we need to migrate to a new way of thinking, shifting from reactions based in anxiety to responses emanating from human empathy and concern.

Questions to consider:
  • Who needs assistance and support? 
  • How can we come together and rebuild?
  • What can we offer freely to create bridges of healing?

May this week invite moments for giving thanks:  for what we have; for what we can offer; and for ways to come together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sacrifices: What are You Willing to Give?

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918: the end of World War I.  One hundred years ago, but still remembered and celebrated.  British author H. G. Wells described World War I as the "war to end all wars."  Yet, we know that this hasn't been true.  We continue to struggle with other nations and peoples... because of ideology, cultures, misunderstandings, resources... and anger, fear, or history.  It seems that we have a difficult time letting go!

I wonder:  what is my Eleventh Hour when I will eventually stop warring against those around me?

What memorials have we created to the past?
(Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial - World War II)
During the jury selection process several years ago, I was surprised at how similar many of our responses were to the judge's pre-trial questions.  The lives of almost every prospective juror -- or someone close to them -- had been touched or shattered by abuse, alcoholism, harassment, or other forms of violence.  Listening to some of the answers, I noticed that some people spoke of the event in a matter-of-fact tone.  Others were visibly taken back to that emotional event in their past.

The judge's follow-up question for each person was whether or not we could set aside our own experience and listen -- without judging -- to the testimony of this trial.

I wonder:  how often do I set aside my own life story to listen to another person without judging?

What has shattered our trust in others?
Though we may have experienced hardships, prejudice, and other obstacles in our lives, I believe that we can overcome these events... not alone and by ourselves, but together and with the support of non-judging family, friends, and work colleagues.  How?

 By looking beyond the shattered glass of that moment.  By sharing our stories and trusting others again.  By the presence and caring that we bring into each relationship.

I wonder:  do I really care about the other person who is willing to answer my sometimes trite "How are you doing?" greeting?

How might we see beyond the dark clouds?
Dialogue invites us into new ways of being: our Quality of Presence and Quality of Engagement challenge us to notice the past but remain in the present.

Questions to consider:
  • How can I set aside my judgments to listen openly to another person?
  • In what ways might I learn to trust those who remind me of past hurts?
  • What am I willing to give in order to stay in relationship?

May we honor and respect the sacrifices of the past, but may we also move toward a future where peace will prevail.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Building Bridges of Understanding: From One Heart to Another

Election Day.  A day of individual and collective decisions... candidates, vision, leadership, promises, referendums.  People seeking direction for their communities, states, and country.  A time to reflect on what is important in our lives, and moments to adjust course.

What is important to you?  What is important to those around you?  Are in you agreement?  How do you know? 

Bridges to Discovery
(Portland Japanese Garden: Portland Oregon)

Bridges allow us to cross-over gaps that separate us.  It seems that in these decision-making moments, we are invited to notice bridges... being built, repaired, tested... or destroyed

Are we willing to see or imagine what is on the other side of the bridge?  Can we ask questions: to seek continuity of what we know; to discover new possibilities; or to begin anew with our relationships.

In other words, do we elect to stay separated by the gaps that separate or to build bridges across these divisions?

Bridges to New Understanding and Ideas
(Charles de Gaulle Bridge: Dinant, Belgium;
Birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone)
Traveling through Dinant, Belgium a few years ago, we came across an old bridge that was alive with national flags and gigantic saxophones decorated in the colors and images of countries paying tribute to Adolphe Saxe, inventor of the saxophone.

As I walked across this bridge -- moving from the older to the newer sections of the town, I reflected on how one person impacted so many others throughout the world.  Each of us has this ability to move from old to new, influencing others as we reinvent who we are and want to become.

Bridges from One Heart to Another

I would suggest that when our minds and hearts become hardened or trapped into ideological corners, rather than throwing stones at others who don't think and believe as we do, a better course of action might be to rediscover ways to build bridges of understanding, one heart at a time.

Questions to consider:
  • Am I open to asking questions where I don't know the answer?
    Examples: I don't understand...   Can you help me understand your decision about...?  What is your primary concern about...?
  • Can I listen to the responses without judging?
    Examples: When I hear a response I disagree with, can I ask additional questions to seek a deeper understanding?  Could I test my assumptions about what I heard and how my own values might be getting in the way?
  • May I stay present to the other person by not checking out mentally or walking away?
    Examples:  When I feel uncomfortable, can I ask myself why?  Can I share my discomfort with the other person in a neutral way?

I would suggest that staying in relationship when we differ in our values, judgments, and decisions is one way to build bridges and repair hurts or misunderstandings.  Seeking a middle ground moves us out of our corners, and invites others across the gaps that separate.  Bridges of discovery and new understanding allow us to move from old to new.

May the election decisions we have made individually and collectively this week bring us into meaningful discussions, one open heart to another.  Peace... and happy bridge building!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

We are Mysteries to be Explored…

During our dialogue practicum, Steve Wirth, one of the facilitators, reminded us that "We are mysteries to be explored, not problems to be solved."  The wisdom of this statement continues to challenge me years later.

In a society where we consume-and-throw-away and vote people off the island in reality shows, at work, and maybe even with family and friends, it is easy to forget that each of us has Sacred Worth and Value.

Questions that I ask myself:
  • When do I consider another person as The Problem? 
  • Why do I think I need to Solve the Problem? 
  • What would happen if I discovered The Mystery of Who You Are?
Question:  what exists below your waterline?
(Photo credit: anonymous photo from internet)
Freud's Iceberg Model of Unconscious, Pre-conscious, and Conscious (click on link) acknowledges that what we see is not the fullness of what exists.  In fact, only 10% of the iceberg is visible (conscious); the remaining 90% is hidden, below the water's surface (pre-conscious or unconscious).  

If we apply this understanding to our own lives, think about how much we do not know about one another. There is so much waiting to be discovered!

Question:  can I see the wonders of the world with open eyes?

When we open our minds to wonderment and discovery, we begin to see rays of hope breaking through stormy clouds of doubts and limited perceptions.

Since childhood, I have been caught up with one specific Bible verse:  "
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7: 7).  In my young mind, it seemed that there was a hidden puzzle, an acronym, to be found:  Ask, Seek, Knock = ASK!

The key to understanding another person is our willingness to ask questions, to seek understanding, and to open our minds and hearts to discovery.  Through dialogue we can explore the mystery of the other person, to go below the surface of what we see and imagine.

Question:  how might I see beauty while I wait for discovery?

I wonder, instead of voting people out of our lives, maybe we could send out invitations to sit beside us, filling the empty seats.  And, as we wait for the door of discovery to open, maybe we can sit together and revel in the Beauty Visible and the Mystery Waiting to be uncovered.

May this week help us to move beyond "problems to be solved" and to anticipate the deeper mysteries that will be revealed!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Discovering Entry Points

Traveling in the Yukon Territory recently, I came across a tranquil scene: a house surrounded by a wooden fence; an enclosed pasture; trees and snow-capped mountaintops in the distance.  It evoked both a sense of security (surrounded by a fence) and a sense of oneness with the world (wilderness beyond the ordered).

I have mentally returned to this scene several times over the past few weeks.  As I consider the national and political debate over immigration and safety, the scenes of people shouting "lock her up" at rallies, and the opportunities when I have traveled to distant states and countries, I wonder when or where have I sensed security and oneness?  Are they mutually exclusive, or can they co-exist?

Balancing security and oneness
(Caribou Crossing, Yukon Territory)
Let us consider Entry Points.  When looking at the pasture in the Yukon Territory, I didn't consider how to get into the pasture or a way to the house.  I was content with the beauty of the scene.

I did not have a need.  But, what happens when a need arises: to get to a destination or a dream?  What do we do to find and open those gates?  How far are we willing to go to have our needs met?

One entry point might be to differentiate between what we want and what we need.  Another entry point might be getting to know our neighbors and their wants and needs.  The dialogue that ensues when we encounter these two entry points challenges us to step out of our insulated lives and risk a relationship.  Looking beyond our fenced-in lives and recognizing the richness that exists beyond could introduce us to another entry point: what do we do when our dreams collide?

The entry point of knowing others
(Photo credit:  Family Circus, Bill Keane)

In essence, we are invited to consider what another person is thinking and feeling.  What would it be like if we asked... and then listened to a reality different than our own?  Through conversations where we pause, slow down, and wait, we might encounter many entry points of curiosity and discovery!

The entry point of curiosity, what is beyond 
(Orval Abbey, Belgium)

Last year a member of my dialogue learning group died unexpectedly.  The products of his artistic skills remain.  His humor and laughter are remembered.  His life experiences and his wisdom can be recalled.  But, he is still missed by family and friends.

In moments when I sit back and remember Bob, I wonder about the richness that has been lost:

  • What entry points were not taken while he was alive? 
  • What questions were not asked? 
  • What lessons have been lost because they were not shared? 

It seems that we have many opportunities throughout the day to move beyond our personal security and risk the discovery of oneness.  The challenge for each of us (another point of entry):  are we willing?

May this week provide moments of security, curiosity, and oneness that go beyond our fenced in lives!  May we seek out entry points that bring us into relationship!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)