Sunday, August 26, 2018

Where is Your Focus? Being Open to the Unexpected?

A thunderstorm rapidly approached as we walked along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  Distant lightning and thunder broke our focus on the beauty around us.  We were waiting to experience a Grand Canyon sunset, witnessing how the light played out on the rock layers of millennia.

Our attention shifted from seeing what was before us (present) toward an anticipation of the colorful display of sun, light and rock (future).  Many people were distracted by the approaching storm -- disrupting for them both the present moment and the longed-for experience.  A new reality, the storm, began to darken their evening.

Maybe another shift was occurring:  moving from what we had planned (or expected) toward Being Open to the Unexpected (learning to trust)?

Do we see only storm clouds on the horizon?

In today’s divided and politically-charged world it is easy to react to the words and images we don’t like... or expect from others.  Our focus may tend towards one of the extremes:  siding with or in opposition to; believing one side is righteous and the other side is wrong; making judgments on who is informed or uninformed.

I wonder: what is being revealed about ourselves in these reactions? Are we learning that we really don't trust some people?

Where is your focus?  What is your perspective?

It is important to have a discourse... to seek understanding... when there are disagreements.  But, similar to the meanings we attach when asked if a glass is half-empty (= pessimism) or half-full (= optimism), we unwittingly box ourselves into seeing only one way or the other.

I wonder: when we focus on one of two extremes, do we miss what lies between or outside of those dual poles?  For instance:  do we experience the texture and feel of the glass, the taste of the liquid, and the potential that our thirst will be quenched?  Are we missing out on relationships and interconnections between worldviews... and opportunities... when we focus on only one way?

What if our focus was on staying in relationship?

The baggage of past decisions and actions -- both real and perceived -- are disrupting the definition of Who We Are (present) and Who We Want to Become (future).  Being able to create a safe environment for dialogue allows us to move forward... into an unexpected adventure of relationship.  Just think what we might learn from others and about ourselves!

Questions to consider:
  • What would happen if I tried to understand how someone came to another understanding or conclusion?
  • Am I willing to ask questions and listen to responses I don't agree with?
  • How might I experience another person if I were open to the unexpected?

May this week disrupt -- in a positive way -- those worldviews which limit and isolate us.  May we focus on staying in relationship... and to be open to Unexpected Possibilities!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Finding Serenity: Relaxing in Your Gathering Place

If you've ever been to Avalon, Santa Catalina Island (CA), you probably know that the Catalina Casino is not a gaming facility.  Casino in Italian means "gathering place."  The Casino has served as a gathering place for big bands, dance competitions, organ recitals, and the first talking movies.

People still gather on Catalina to enjoy its laid-back atmosphere, warm coastal waters, and serene beaches.  And, like King Arthur's Avalon, this island and its Casino have become a place of refuge and healing for many.  There is plenty to do; but, more importantly, there is an island culture to slow down, walk everywhere, and soak in the beauty.

Where is your place of refuge -- the place where you seek serenity and time to heal?

Finding Serenity:  where is your gathering place?
As the westbound boat approaches Avalon and as I walk along the harbor side, I notice many leisure and fishing boats anchored in this safe haven.  The picturesque backdrop of houses stacked up the mountainside provides many places to enjoy views of the town, harbor, and mainland.

Where do you find a safe harbor with views outward, allowing beauty and peace to prevail in your life?

Finding Serenity:  where is your safe harbor?
I would assume that each one of us has a different safe haven which supports peace in our lives.  I wonder, though, instead of focusing on the negative or what is wrong in our families, friends, and communities, what would it be like if we shared views that bring harmony and joy?

I believe that it takes a desire and a discipline to refocus attention from the negative to the positive.  Practicing our dialogue skills of sharing openly, listening with the desire to understand, and asking questions to clarify (not condemn) will refocus and open new views not seen before.

Finding Serenity:  what do you focus on?
As you might tell from these blog entries, I love the art of photography: the ability to refocus a landscape, to capture the unexpected, and to hold gently the memories of our relationships with one another and our world.  I know that my thousands of digital photos can be erased with a few steps (delete - yes - erased).

Sometimes, to find a place of serenity and safety, it takes a few intentional steps to let go of the past and to seek a new view.

May this week allow each of us time to discover or reclaim those places or memories that bring safety and serenity!

Blessings as you refocus and anticipate the unexpected!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Dialogue Journeys: Paths to New Destinations

Recently I was on a vintage (aka, restored, old) train from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon.  Two hours to relax... to view beautiful but arid desert scenery... and to slow down and reflect on progress.

Just consider travel over the past 200-plus years:  people journeyed by foot, animal, carriages, carts and wagons... progressing to ships, trains, cars, and airplanes.  Some are suggesting that space travel will soon be open to more people within the next few decades.

At times I wonder whether there is an equivalent evolution in our relationships or our inner journey of discovery.  As we move physically faster, how are we developing as social beings?

Dialogue Journeys:  Is truth always straight and narrow?

I know there are times in my life when I expect the road to be smooth and straightforward: the need to be right or to have my understandings validated sometimes overrules what I see or hear from others.  How real is this approach to life, though, if I want to remain in healthy relationships?

Don't you find sometimes that things don't happen as planned?  There always seems to be a curve in the road, veering off toward a destination unseen.

Dialogue Journeys:  How do I respond when I cannot see ahead?

I find that my thoughts and emotions sometimes get in the way:

  • I seek a Straight and Narrow path.
  • I desire to learn the Right Way.
  • I want to define the One Truth.

And, I expect you to follow!  Sadly, there are times when I don't see the whole network of tracks laid out which allow others to journey in different or opposite directions than the path I have chosen.

Dialogue is a process of describing what we see or experience, inviting others to share their perspectives, and listening deeply to the truths that are being revealed.  It is the realization that the Right of Way shifts back and forth as we learn to slow down, move over to a side track, and wait for others to pass in the direction of their destination.  It is the realization that we don't all have to be on the same journey going the same way.

Dialogue Journey:  Am I comfortable ceding
to others the Right of Way?
Allowing time to slow down and activate the switch that will alter our direction means that we will cede (surrender) to others.  This can be a vulnerable place to be: parked alongside... waiting.  But think of the alternative!  Do we want to be on the same track of an oncoming train -- or -- in the path of a friend who has an opposing view?  Just think of the destruction when we don't slow down and switch to a more dialogical stance!

Our journey may become more unpredictable when we switch to a side track or take another approach.  We won't know the outcome, but we will experience new scenery and will eventually see beyond the curve.

We have a choice: stay on a course that will get us to a planned destination faster; move off the main tracks to consider other options that may be equally valid; seek paths where outcomes are unknown.  All of these are viable paths on our journeys and can be adjusted as we encounter course changes along the way.

Blessings on all of your dialogue journeys this week!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

On the Edge: Taking Risks to Understand

Were you one of those kids where you would take risks... jumping in the swimming pool when your parents weren't around to catch you... wandering out of the protective confines of your front yard to explore your neighborhood... always being on the edge of the newest discovery?

Life provides many opportunities:  opportunities to take risks and opportunities to remain where we feel comfortable.  How would you describe risk-takers? Comfort-seekers?  Do you gravitate towards one extreme or the other?  Or, as in many aspects of our lives, does it depend on the situation?
On the Edge:
do you notice when I take the risk of opening up?
When I was in middle school, my family went to the Grand Canyon.  My parents counted on my older brother and me to help watch our four younger siblings.  At one of the observation areas, my youngest brother was using the cyclone fencing to help balance as he was walking along. What none of us noticed was the hole under the fencing.  My brother tripped and started sliding under the fence.  I grabbed his hand and shouted for my parents' help.

This incident replays itself in various contexts:
  • Am I aware of dangerous situations?
  • When do I wait until I am sure-footed in a new surrounding?
  • Do I seek assistance when I miss the holes in my understanding and fall down?

I was old enough to realize my brother could have died if he slid under the fence and into the Grand Canyon, but through noticing and my parents' assistance, my brother is alive!

On the Edge:
when and how do we test our courage?
I find that as I practice the dialogue skills and attempt to understand another person, there are times when I must:
  • Be cautious when selecting words or forming questions in order to respectfully honor the other person's experience.
  • Take risks when sharing vulnerabilities, failures, and lessons learned.
  • Seek assistance when the footing becomes unstable.

On the Edge:
when are we filled with inspiration and awe?
Realizing that we are on the edge of a Creation that is continually being created,  allows us to stand in awe and be inspired by Stories Unfolding.  Sometimes taking a risk is a matter of:
  • Listening... when we want to shut down.
  • Accepting... when we want to reject.
  • Staying in Relationship... when we desire only our way.

As with the Grand Canyon, there is a mighty force working within each one of us, eroding the strata that have formed over the years:  misunderstandings, caution, pain and rejection.  Are we willing to allow this force to wash away missteps that cause us to stumble out of meaningful relationships?  It may be time to risk being on the edge: opening up to the courage of being inspired by the depths of another person.

May this week allow time to stand in awe at the beauty before us: the people who are risking to listen and understand.  And, may we be inspired by those who seek comfort in being our Better Self.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)