Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Firestorms Within: How Clearly Do We Really See?

The recent wildfires in the West have highlighted the fragile nature of our world.  One moment we feel safe; our family and possessions are secure; we think we see clearly and our perspective is far reaching.  Then, life changes with destructive flames.

Even if we are not directly in harm's way, we may be affected by the smoky haze and the choking air: sight and breath are hampered, unable to see clearly or breathe easily.

A localized perspective:  distant fires affect local conditions
San Francisco Bay Area, October 2017
(Photo credit:  Curbed San Francisco)

For long weeks in October 2017, December 2017, and August 2018, apocalyptic fires blazed throughout larges areas of California (Tubbs/Santa Rosa, Thomas/Montecito, Carr/Redding and Mendocino/Napa).  The blue skies across several counties and states became muted, grayish and subdued.  Life changed.

Flying to Sacramento in mid-August, I noticed a brown-tinged blanket that covered the region.  But when I arrived at Auburn in the Sierra foothills, friends mentioned how nice it was to actually see blue skies again.

A matter of perspective: for me, a recent arrival to the area, I was having problems adjusting to the smoky air, but for my friends who had experienced the worst of the firestorm, the conditions were getting better.

Moving outward: gaining a wider perspective
Southern California wildfires from space, December 2017
(Photo credit:  SF Gate)
I wonder:
  • How often do I only see, hear, and understand from my perspective? 
  • Do I realize that outside conditions may affect my limited and personalized views? 
  • Am I willing to accept that others may be going through a much different experience than what I may be seeing or understanding?

Showing appreciation:  days when we see clearly
(Photo credit:  Montvill Patch)
Slowing down and noticing when our perceptions are unclear will help us gain appreciation for those times when we are able to see clearly.  Our bodies often give signals when we are uncomfortable: that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach; the restlessness of our minds; the racing of the heart...  As we listen deeply to what others are experiencing, let us test our perceptions by noticing our physical responses; asking questions of others and ourselves; and sitting quietly.  Maybe we will gain clarity when we seek what is beyond the haze and filters of the firestorms within.

As we move from limited to wider perspectives, may we learn to appreciate those times when we see more clearly!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Learning to Receive with an Open Hand

Over the past several weeks I have noticed my fascination with people's hands!  A baby instinctively wrapping its tiny fist around an adult finger.  A child holding an adult's hand to cross the street.  People texting with one finger or many fingers (and thumbs) on their smart devices.  A musician creating and sharing music.  An artist painting or sculpting.  People reaching out to assist others, carrying heavy objects, and lifting children.

Hands symbolize our need for security, safety, protection, assistance, carrying burdens, and creating.

Question:  How much can I hold with a closed fist?
(Photo credit:  The Young Roman Catholic Man
who Clenched His Fist, The Cripplegate)

Consider these differences between a closed fist and an open hand:

  • A closed hand is unable to easily receive and may be limited by how much it can hold.
  • An open hand is waiting for a response and can be filled to overflowing.
  • The one seems to be holding onto past grievances; the other is open to possibilities.

Question:  Am I open to receiving?

And when a closed fist or an open hand reach out and accept another, relationship occurs.

Dialogue is similar.  We can approach dialogue with a closed or an open mind:  are we willing to listen and understand... or not?  It is in the action of releasing our individual need for security or safety that we entrust those hopes in relationship with the other person.  
Through the vulnerability of opening up, we create an environment that strengthens Self and Other.  Sharing our individual needs and desires builds trust, and relationship occurs.

We both gain when our closed minds open to hear another experience, realizing that together we have created a new reality.

Question:  am I willing to be in relationship?
(Photo credit:  Study Discovers 7 Surprising
Benefits of Holding Hands)
Questions to consider:

  • When have I been closed to other people and new ideas?
  • What am I holding onto?
  • How might I open my mind, heart, and hands to be in relationship?

May open hands and minds create new relationships this week!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Where is Our Deafness? What Do We Not Want to Hear?

Have you had one of those experiences where the same word or event keeps surfacing over a short period of time?  Recently, at a dialogue retreat, one of our colleagues walked us through an exercise and shared information about what people with hearing loss actually hear.  It was an eye opening.... okay, an ear-opening!... experience.

Within that same week I came across a YouTube video of Mandy Harvey, a 2017 contestant on America's Got Talent.  (Click here to watch the video.)  At the age of 18 and a vocal music major, she lost her hearing.  Her dreams had ended... or so it seemed.

On AGT, Mandy performed a song she had written, "Try".  Through song, she guided us through the experience of losing her dream, and her courage to decide to keep on going.

As I listened at the retreat and watched Mandy's performance, I wondered:
  • When am I deaf to what is happening around me?
  • How have I responded when I have lost something important or valuable?
  • Have I continued to try?
Question:  What am I deaf to?
 (Photo credit: JAMA's Study shows Gap between
Reported Hearing Loss and Treatment)

Hearing Mandy's story -- from her perspective and her father's, I realized anew how an individual loss is also a familial or communal loss.  After all, a body experiences the loss of any of its members.

The father realized that Mandy's music was alive, but locked inside.  Individually, Mandy needed to make a decision; and together, Mandy and her father found a way to reawaken Mandy's talents.  A new dream emerged!

In Mandy's words:  "It's not the dream that I always had.  That's okay.  Because I showed up.  I did something I never believed I could do." and "There is no one but me to blame 'cause I know the only thing in the way is me."

Question:  Do I want to overcome my deafness?
 (Photo Credit:  NBC America's Got Talent, September 2017)
Looking at the complexity of our divided world, we individually and collectively are experiencing loss.  Isn't it time for us to listen and understand the individual loss, and talk about how these losses are affecting our collective spirit?

Through dialogue and understanding, we can release what has been locked inside.  We can show up differently.  We can listen more intently.  We can pursue new dreams unimagined before.  We can stop the blame, and move out of the way.

Question:  How can I overcome the loss I am experiencing?

(Photo credit:  Sign Language, Devotions by Jan)
The questions and challenges each of us must face:
  • Will I show up for those around me?
  •  Will I try to listen and understand?

If the answer to either of these questions is "No," I would add another question:  Why not?  The answers to Why Not may reveal the depth of the losses experienced.. and ways to love oneself in the future.

May this week provide us opportunities to explore our losses -- individually and collectively -- and seek ways to unlock the dreams that have been hidden within.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cruising through Life: Longing for Immensity

What do most cars, airplanes, and cruise ships have in common these days?  Depending on your frame of reference, you may think of:
  • Fuel:  they all use some form of fuel and are trying to consume less.
  • Speed:  they move us from Place A to Place B fairly quickly... again, where speed is seen through your frame of reference!
  • Distance (travel):  they can transport us beyond the horizon to new places of discovery and adventure.

And, like other aspects of our modern lifestyle, they all have some form of autopilot, a system that assists in reaching our goals.  For cars, cruise control maintains a constant speed to help in fuel efficiency and reduce driver fatigue on long trips.  For planes, the autopilot monitors the speed, direction and trajectory, aiding the pilot in controlling the aircraft.  For ships, the crew is relieved of mundane tasks in order to focus on broader aspects of navigation and safety.

Have you considered, though, the difference between an automatic pilot that assists.... and... placing your life on automatic?

Cruising through Life: searching for new horizons
In a recent mentoring learning community, the facilitator shared a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

This quote captured many of our imaginations!  How often have we been assigned tasks -- the endless ToDo list?  Or, how often is life full of endless activities to attend, participate in, or facilitate?  When have we been taught to Long for Endless Immensity?

Cruising through Life:  expecting wonderful promises

Isn't it a treat when we are able to pause, turn off the autopilot, and just take in the scenery... moved by awe and wonder?

Rather than responding automatically to the familiar -- saying or acting on first impulse -- maybe we are invited to turn off our autopilot every once in awhile and use the other tools available, like the:
  • Satellite radio: to listen to a broader channel of information.
  • Brake:  to slow down and search for other routes.
  • GPS (a global perspective system):  to navigate safely through unfamiliar terrain.

Cruising through Life: open to the surrounding beauty

When we widen our perspective beyond the familiar, we begin to dialogue with eyes open to new vistas, ears attentive to new sounds, a mouth willing to ask more questions, and a mind searching for new meaning.  It seems that when we remove our automatic blinders that limit us and move toward intentional wonder, we gain the capacity to long for the immensity that always surrounds us.

Blessings this week as you explore beyond the known and seek horizons beyond!
Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tributes, Dancing, and Dialogue: Learning to be Authentic

Watching and listening to the tributes this past week for Senator John McCain, Aretha Franklin, and Neil Simon, I experienced a retelling of the richness and diversity that each person brought to our world.  Whether described as a Maverick, a Great Statesman, an American Hero or honored as the Queen of Soul or America's Playwright, these individuals captured and personified America's Soul in a way that invites and challenges our lives today.

Each person began life as we have: children imitating and learning.  Each faced challenges that strengthened and focused their talents and interests.  Each pursued the telling and retelling of the American Dream by discovering its ideals and values through their voices, decisions, and actions.

It causes me to wonder:  Do we ever fully understand the richness and diversity that we add to our world?  Do we appreciate the struggles that identify and clarify the gifts that we offer?

Dancing:  Learning the Steps
(Photo Credit: Rumba Dance Step Diagram, Gray Miller)

One of the gifts that I never developed is the ability to dance!  I have told myself that I don't have a sense of rhythm and that I am not coordinated.  I feel self-conscious.  I am afraid of being laughed at.

As a teenager, my mother tried to teach me the initial dance steps and counting to the music.  I wanted to be like my friends who enjoyed the freedom of movement:  I wanted to belong.  But, when reminded "Don't look at your feet" or "Stop counting out loud," I would lose courage.  I would stop trusting the foundations of practiced lessons.  I would lose my way.

Dancing:  Relationship Dance Steps
(Photo Credit:  Facebook Art Residency, Stefanie Posavec)

Recently, I came across a Facebook article about relationships: creating dance step patterns that follow a couple's relationship.  Many different patterns began to emerge as couples explored their social interactions.

Consider the following questions:
  • Have we been taught to only follow the traditional roles of who leads and who follows... or... Are we willing to share or switch those roles along the way?
  • Can we, in the moment, trust one another to co-create a pattern new to this emerging relationship?
  • Do we rely on lessons learned earlier -- balanced with -- a willingness to hold lightly the unexpected we soon encounter?
  • Are we able to learn and expand "our dance" (that is, the way we dialogue and how we see relationship)?

As a Younger Self, I didn't always relax and trust my foundational learning.  As an Older Self, maybe there is a renewed invitation:  it is time to listen to the rhythm of the individual Maverick Within -- my Authentic Self -- and allow it to intersect with the Soul-filled Nature of Authentic Life.

Dancing:  Bringing Color and Rhythm to Life
(Photo credit:  Silhouettes of People Dancing, Freepik)

John, Aretha, and Neil are examples of people who learned to dialogue with words, music, and artful expression, sharing with us the story of lives they individually explored.  By telling their stories, we learn of struggles and mistakes.  But, each triumphed over their doubts; each pursued paths of Honor, Respect, and Truth.

Maybe it is time for us to trust the color and rhythm of our own lives, celebrating the varied dances and steps that intersect.

I don't think we are being called to believe or understand one way.  Instead, what I have learned from this American Soul that stretches almost three centuries: can we allow ourselves and others to respect and celebrate the Individual Goodness of Shared Home... the many dances that celebrate US?

As we recall the lives who have taught us the initial steps of Life's Dance, may we celebrate the labor, struggles, and triumphs that call us to be heroes that tell and retell the unfolding story of Soul.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)