Sunday, May 27, 2018

Information: Unsaid, Missing, and Shared

A friend of mine uses a phrase, "I'd rather have a root canal," when presented with an unpleasant situation or task.  For me and for others, we are given a humorous but clear message of what this friend does not want to do!

When I accompanied this friend to a medical procedure as the "designated driver," I thought I knew what he meant after the procedure when he groggily referred to the "root canal as still hurting."  What made the situation unusual: the attending nurse laughed.

What was I missing?  And why wasn't the nurse taking his pain seriously?

How often do we question "Something Unsaid"?
(Photo Credit:  Pickles, by Brian Crane - January 18, 2018)
Once the anesthesia wore off, I recounted the experience to my friend, recalling the nurse's response to his pain.  I found out there was more to the story:

Just before the procedure began, the medical professionals asked my friend the standard identity question:  What is your full name and date of birth?  Answering these correctly, they stated the procedure that would be performed.  In mock surprise, he responded:  "I didn't know I was coming in here for that, I thought I was here for a root canal?"

Apparently, it caught everyone off guard:  silence; people stopped their preparations; followed by laughter.  Even the doctor smiled!

When do we realize "Something Missing"?
(Photo Credit:  Bullet in a Maelstrom, World Press)

I wonder how often we think we fully know our loved ones, friends and colleagues only to be surprised when new information is shared?  Stories Shared and Stories Remembered may be different.  In fact, there may even be Stories Missing!

When do we experience "Something Whole"?
Photo Credit:  American Rivers)
As I grow older, it seems to be increasingly important to slow down and ask the following:
  • What is being said -- and -- what is unsaid?
  • Am I missing important pieces of information?
  • Can I explore or be open to new information with a sense of curiosity and wonder?

It seems that the
Life Story of Self-and-Other is continually unfolding.  Isn't that exciting?!

May we wait in anticipation this week, with a willingness to explore the New Chapters being  written and revealed!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ricocheting through Life: Moving toward Freedom

How often do you find yourself bouncing from one thing to another?  Maybe, as a parent, you are juggling family responsibilities with work, church, friendships... and maybe taking care of yourself?  Or, as a student, balancing classes and assignments with family, work and extracurricular activities.  Or, as an employee, carroming between a variety of projects with competing deadlines?  Sometimes, doesn't it seem as if life is like a pinball machine?

Just image the similarities... the success of playing a pinball machine is:

  • Scoring the most points; by
  • Projecting a metal ball onto a game board of bumpers, pins and gates; and
  • Increasing your score as the ball ricochets between bumpers and pins or slipping through the chutes; until
  • The ball drops down the well at the bottom of the angled pinball machine. 

If you've ever played, frustration can set in when the ball bounces the wrong way, traverses the board too quickly, or slips between two paddles unchallenged down the well.  Once the ball is released, the only control remaining to the player is pressing the paddles at just the right time as the ball careens around the board, hoping to return the ball up the course another time.

Sometimes the desire to win causes a person to tilt the game board, which is not allowed, and ends the game.

Ricocheting:  bouncing from one to another
(Photo credit:  White Rose Pinball Show, York PA)
I wonder... when do we live a Pinball Life?  Maybe when we:
  • Bounce from one event to another while on autopilot.
  • Seek out relationships that only score an immediate need or desire.
  • Cause hurt feelings or frustrations when we compete too aggressively.
  • Don't play by the rules.

It can be difficult to stay in relationship when people always need to score, triumph, or win at any cost.  Are we one of those people?

Calving:  learning to let go
What would life be like if we would slow down, observe our interactions, consider the next best direction, and respond in a more thoughtful manner?  Maybe, before hitting a bumper-in-the-road and careening off in an unanticipated direction, we could apply our paddles of awareness and compassion... responding in a way that increases the chances for everyone to meet their needs.

Moving away from pinballs for just a moment:  glaciers carve valleys and fjords into remarkable new shapes, leaving deposits of rich materials for future growth.  And when a sheet of ice calves from the glacier, the birth of a new iceberg brings nutrients to the waters around it. 

Besides rewiring how we move from event to event, maybe another skill for us to consider is how to let go of a history pressured by misunderstandings and seek possibilities that will nurture.

Releasing:  seeking freedom
Life, at times, may seem pinball-ish, but we don't have to stay locked up in this game.  Uncontrolled pinballing through life can be transformed into a lived experience of noticing which bumpers, pins, and gates bring value... not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

We can slow down, notice how we interact with the bumps in our lives, and apply awareness and compassion to any situation.  The choice is ours!

May we seek freedom this week:  the freedom to learn; the freedom to choose;  the freedom to seek re-direction.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Breathe In: What is Natural?

Do you remember when you learned to breathe?  Probably not!  But, after those first breaths as a newborn, we just breathed... naturally... without thinking!  That is, until a health condition causes us to stop, seek assistance, and try to recover from the physical limitations which have slowed us down.

Next question:  do you remember how you learned to communicate?  Like breathing, there is something innate that inspires us to mimic those around us:  creating sounds, learning meanings, and making our intentions known.

Maybe communication isn't as quickly learned as that first breath, but there are parallels:
  • We naturally repeat or mimic what we see and hear.
  • We experience hardships when ideas come in conflict.
  • We need assistance in unraveling mental limitations that block our understanding.

A reminder to become aware
When excited, frustrated, or angry, have people suggested that you slow down, take a breath, and decide what you want to say?  In this fast-paced world there may be a lost connection between breathing, thinking, and our actions... something natural... where we experience hardships... and where assistance comes through gentle reminders.

Next question:  have you ever looked in a mirror and watched yourself breathe?  Or, have you ever watched another person breath?

When waiting for an appointment, I often put away my smart phone and practice the following:
  • I place a hand on my chest or stomach, focusing on my breathing.
  • Once I have a sense of my rhythmic inhaling and exhaling, I observe another person.
  • I try to notice their breathing rhythm; and then,
  • I try to match their breathing: inhaling and exhaling together.

Of course, this may sound a bit voyeuristic or intimate, but don't we make clandestine observations about others all the time?!  And, often, don't we come to judgements about the other person as well?

A reminder to share long-held beliefs
 The questions I ask myself while conducting this exercise:
  • How often do I even notice my own breathing, let alone someone else's?
  • Am I able to match their rhythm?
  • What does it feel like when we are inhaling and exhaling together?
  • How long can I hold my breath and breathe in a rhythm unfamiliar?

Usually, I find myself uncomfortable: another person's breathing feels unnatural, out-of-step with my natural patterns.  But, I have found that the more I practice this exercise, I can stay in co-rhythym a little bit longer... and the discomfort lessens.

A reminder to let go
This breathing exercise produces several insights about dialogue and communication:
  • Another person's thoughts and perceptions may seem foreign to my way of thinking.
  • I may find myself hooked by physical or mental limitations... like the exterior physical attributes of skin color, voice tone, and accents... or like the interior constructs of progressive or conservative thinking, language, and culture. 
Like breathing, people develop their own rhythm in speaking and listening: what is exhaled and inhaled into our minds.
And now, a final question:  are you willing to practice a dialogue-rhythm that allows you to stay in step with the people around you... maybe a little longer each encounter?   Like a wisp of a cloud stretched on air currents, communication and understanding can be extended:  over time, our shared ideas may intertwine, merge and disappear into a pattern natural to all of us. 
Blessings to our mothers... who gave us life...
helped us draw our first breaths and
taught us our first communication lessons.
If there were hardships along the way,
may we seek assistance to understand
those lessons which make us unique.
Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Stories Unheard - Stories Shared: True and Real

When was the last time that you or your family gathered for a reunion, a wedding, a funeral, or a special event?  This past month I attended the funeral services for my uncle, my last relative from his generation.  A sudden realization:  my generation is now “On the Front Line”!

Reconnecting with cousins not seen since the last family gathering or meeting some relatives for the first time, I became aware of stories that I had not heard before… or... had forgotten!  There were moments when memories came flooding back.  There were other moments when I listened to unknown facets of my 97-year old uncle’s amazing life.  Smiles, laughter, tears… rising from a wellspring of a life well-lived.

Stories Overshadowed:  Hope Returning

As I was listening to these Stories Revealed, I recalled January’s “Super Blue Blood Moon" -- the full lunar eclipse which occurred shortly after Uncle Don’s death.  The brilliance of the full moon was slowly overshadowed by a larger planetary body, Earth.  As time progressed, the reflected light of the Sun returned to enlighten the darkness.

We are sometimes overshadowed by Stories Imagined or Stories Untrue.  Eventually, though, it seems that the true essence of who we are is revealed, recognized, and shared.

Stories Colliding:  Does it Have to be One or the Other?
(Photo credit:  Bubble Football,  Daily News)

Listening to stories of my uncle and his family -- Stories Unheard -- and sharing my recollections, I experienced one of those Rubber Band Moments -- times when there is an expansion and a contraction pulling on mind and heart.  Stories Shared were both individual and collective memories, moments when individual bubbles touched other individual bubbles.  Rather than colliding, these stories gently merged into a collective remembrance of a Loved One.  The Rubber Band Moment?  When energy is created as new information is received and stretches us beyond the familiar.

Slowly, I am learning that there is a much larger world out there!  Realizing that individual stories are just fragments of an Overall Story of life, love, separation, and connection is why dialogue is so important.  The ability to define and understand our individual stories -- on the best of days -- is an accomplishment.  But realizing that there is a much larger perspective that encompasses our extended human family is the act of allowing individual stories to transform into Our Story.

Stories True: distinct and merging
(Photo credit:  Twitters racial and social divisions
analysed, BBC Trending)

As with my extended family and the stories we shared recently, just think of what this means when we encounter people throughout the day, people who bounce in and out of our lives.  Imagine the stories unheard or not shared... but all are true and real!

As we continue to expand our mindset to include the Stories Beyond Ourselves, let us consider the following:

  • What elements of My Story are important to me? 
  • How can I listen to the important elements of Your Story? 
  • Am I willing to accept that our unique stories are valid and integral to Our Story?

May we realize this week that we are all on the Front Line:  We are One Family.  May we understand that all stories are true, real and important.  May we accept the responsibility not to overshadow the Other Story!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)