Sunday, March 31, 2019

Discovery: Bringing Light to Our Relationship Borders

Being out on the San Diego Bay ("The Big Bay") recently, I was reminded how a change in location oftentimes creates a change in perspective.  When standing onshore and looking across the bay, it doesn't look that big.  But when sailing into the mouth of the bay or being in a 22-foot sail boat, all of a sudden the bay looks very expansive.

Land-locked perceptions shift, concrete or firm borders melt away, and reality becomes more dramatic and exciting!

San Diego skyline as seen from Point Loma
(near the opening or mouth of San Diego Bay)

On another trip, I sailed out of Los Angeles Harbor near San Pedro, and I noticed how the horizon expanded as we moved away from land or artificial barriers.  The physical objects that gave depth or perspective were no longer present, so distance was harder to measure.

People gathered on deck to watch the lighthouse at the end of the breakwaters slip by: a symbol of comfort or safety for all seafarers was being left behind.  Our journey had just begun as we moved beyond the comfort of our land-based lives.  We were beginning a new adventure; discovery might challenge long-held beliefs.

I have always been enchanted by ocean travel.  Ancient stories surface: of sea serpents or falling off the surface of the earth.  People changed as they explored their world, and new truths were realized.  In fact, fear diminished when people began to understand differently.

Los Angeles Harbor lighthouse:
directing observant people to safety

Have you ever been a tourist in your own town?  Tried to look at familiar sites in a new way?   I had that opportunity last month when I went on a "foodie tour" that took us to Barrio Logan, Chula Vista, and Old Town.  The food was wonderful, but I enjoyed experiencing some areas of San Diego I had not seen in the 30+ years of living in this region.

The history and pride of Chicano Park, for instance, allowed me to see borders I had created.  Why had I not visited this national historic landmark located less than 15 minutes from my house?  The murals painted on the pillars supporting the Coronado Bridge showcased events that shaped their story.  Was I willing to listen, understand, and claim this story in the context of a more expansive human-shared story.
Exploring our borders and shared stories

For more information, click on:
Chicano Park, Barrio Logan, San Diego
Just think of that image or metaphor: a park built at the base of a bridge, using the supports of that bridge to tell their story!

So, seeing a mural proclaiming "Love has no borders" is no longer just a political struggle about physical borders.  Instead, if we are open to new discovery and horizons, we could be moved to seek out supports that bridge divisions between us.   When we are open to the expansive horizons of Dialogue, we are able to build bridges that support and tell our shared stories.

May our journeys this week open us to lighthouses that calm our relationships.  May we go beyond the perceptions that limit our horizons.  And, may the distances that separate us lose perspective as we move beyond our relationship borders!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

We Know What We Know

Chris, our 21-year old Ensenada tour guide, was showing a small group of us around the hills, beaches, and neighborhoods of his home town.  Our group was multi-generational and diverse.  The millenials in the group immediately took to Chris.  Questions were asked in a rapid, staccato fashion:
  • Do you live at home?
  • Why did you move out?
  • How much is your rent?
  • Do you have a girl friend?
  • When did you learn to drive?
  • How old were you when you had your first drink?

Chris was refreshingly open.  He did not hold back; he did not seem offended by the intimacy of these questions.  Curiosity and discovery surrounded us for those few hours together.

What holds us back?
As I reflected on this experience, I wondered:
  • What holds me back from asking questions?
  • Do I use my questions to discover a different worldview?
  • Am I open to the answers that are shared?  

The older adults in our small group asked questions about housing costs or the prices of gas and food.  Chris could not answer some of these questions:  he didn't know; he didn't have that experience; it wasn't in his frame of reference.  At least not yet!

Can we see beyond what frames our viewpoint?
I had a similar experience this past week: I attended a regional summit of customers who use the software products developed by my company.  Many attended this conference to network and learn from one another.  I attended in order to listen to their experiences.  Over the course of six hours we connected on the basis of helping others:
  • How do you handle this situation?
  • Is there a way to assist employees or customers who come to us for help?
  • What could be done to improve the software?

Through the actions of noticing individual limitations, asking questions, and sharing experiences, we were transformed into people who cared about the success of others.  To reach a summit -- the high point -- we must see beyond our institutions, worldviews, and long-held beliefs.

How can we see the "super bloom" in others?
(Click on: California's super bloom, Washington Post)
As I drove home that afternoon, I encountered a different landscape: the pre-dawn darkened landscape of the drive north had changed.  The hills around me were filled with wildflowers reflecting the light of the afternoon sun.

When we open ourselves to curiosity and discovery, the walls and blinders that constricted our views have been removed.  We can now see the goodness of the other person:  the super-bloom that makes each of us special!

May we notice this week what we know... and what we do not know.  May we ask questions to broaden our understanding.  And may we be willing to notice the super bloom that surrounds us!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Dialogue Time: Blossoming into More

San Diego reached its annual rainfall total by mid-February of this year.  The first plentiful rainfall in a number of years has reawakened the beauty of this region.  Not only are the skies clear, washed clean of distracting pollutants, but the deserts, mountains and canyons are beginning to burst with color that had been muted in recent years of drought.

The flower fields of Carlsbad are open.  The desert blooms are attracting people from the cities.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is this week.  And, purple Jacaranda trees will provide color for the next few months.

Rain and cooler weather are necessary to bring forth this colorful bounty.

Desert blooms:
abundant rains have carpeted the desert with flowers

Through the rhythm of sun and rain — warmth, water, and nutrients — organic newness springs forth from the ground.   In a similar fashion, dialogue requires continual feeding:  paying attention; practicing dialogue skills; and nurturing relationships.

Listening to a friend, asking questions of a colleague, and understanding differing views or values creates a newness or a reawakening in our interactions.

Cherry blossoms:
celebrating the fragility and beauty of life

Relationships -- when left unattended -- have a pattern: they may run smoothly for a time; hit some rough spots; and go dormant.  What if we were to break through this automatic cycle and look at what is needed right now?  What would it be like if we acknowledged the beauty and fragility of each life... each relationship... each moment?

Maybe it is time to:

  • Contact a family member or friend who has gone silent for too long. 
  • Reach out to a work colleague where differences remain unresolved. 
  • Bridge gaps of misunderstanding that have disrupted the norm.

Jacaranda trees:
purple blossoms color the canopy above

I look forward to Spring when the exotic Jacaranda trees add to the neighborhoods and downtown skyline.  For a few short months, our environment is transformed into a purple canopy which draws our gazes upward.

I believe that we can be transformed through our dialogue practices.  A canopy of non-violence can cover us when we attempt to understand.  The color of our views can change or soften the harshness of our stances and obstacles.  Old and dried petals will fall below our feet as we step forward, reach out, and accept one another.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you need to blossom and grow? 
  • How do you draw forth the beauty around you?
  • When are you reminded of our fragile relationships?
  • What canopy draws your gaze upward?

As we move closer to the Spring months, may we become open to the Beauty Around and Within.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Spring's Hope: Dialogue Draws Us to Beauty

Whether living in the colder climates where the four seasons are more pronounced or the coastal regions where change is more subtle, there is a transition in our environments.  Do we notice it?  Are we open to the newness that each season offers?  Can we stop in wonder at the smallest insect, the newest bud, or each drop of water?

Or... do we walk on and bypass the miracle of our interconnected world?
Spring's Hope:  what do you see?

What do you see in the raindrops?
(Click on image to enlarge)
On several recent walks, I noticed:
  • The sunroof of a car dotted with perfectly-beaded raindrops.  When I took a picture, I saw my hands and the phone reflected in the window... and mirrored perfectly in each raindrop!  One image captured - in miniature - throughout the photo!
  • Bees buzzing around newly-opened flowers of a Tower of Jewels.  The never-ending busy-ness of creation that sustains life and beauty.
  • The beauty of nearby flowering trees interlacing a scene of tables, chairs and umbrellas -- empty, but inviting people to sit, relax, and enjoy the joys of relationships.

Spring's Hope:  do you see movement?
There are Seasons of Dialogue as well:
  • The Awakening (Spring):  when discovery provides new ways of seeing the world.
  • The Maturing (Summer):  when curiosity invites minds and hearts to grow.
  • The Harvesting (Autumn):  when honesty and trust produces fruitful conversations.
  • The Dying (Winter):  when letting go inspires hope for the Spring.

Spring's Hope:  do we see beauty and beyond?

Questions to consider:
  • Am I holding onto an image of others... but never realized the depth of their hopes, dreams, values, and desires?
  • Can I step back and allow their discovery and movement... without making it about me?
  • Do I achieve my immediate goals... but miss the long-term value of each season?

May this week allow us to discover dialogue as profound -- yet subtle -- transitions that sustain collective growth.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Winter Darkness: Dialogue Lights the Way

I live in San Diego but my primary job is in Portland (Oregon).  Being a remote employee, I have the good fortune of experiencing two beautiful cities!

On a recent work trip to Portland, I again noticed how one thousand miles provides contrasts I don't experience every day.  For example, there is a marked difference between how early or late darkness (night) transitions into light (day).  The change is most noticeable in mid-winter and mid-summer, when the days are much shorter or longer, depending on which city is your point of reference.  And the cold and snow this past trip added a crispness and a magic to these contrasts.

Winter Darkness:  learning to see beyond

While pondering on darkness and light, I came across this quote:

"The difference is that darkness is needed in order to make light but light is needed to live.  That makes darkness necessary, too.  We need the two of them for a healthy circadian rhythm of our body and for sanity of our mind as well.  And, if you're into the more philosophical dimension of it:  you have to experience the dark side of life in order to embrace the light."  (Rogier van der Heid, designer, Liechtenstein)

Winter Darkness:  light illuminates what to see

Dialogue works in a similar way: misunderstanding another person's words and actions provides moments where, through curiosity and inquiry, we can discover the person's intentions, meaning, and values.  These instances of darkness, confusion, and mistrust can be illuminated when we slow down and question what we have seen, heard, or think we know.  We can transition into compassion, empathy, and understanding.  In fact, a lightness begins to outweigh the burden we carry when we cannot forgive or let go.

Winter Darkness:  provides festive
moments of clarity and life

Questions to consider:
  • What darknesses am I carrying into this day?
  • How might I explore another point of reference?
  • Can I accept the rhythm of darkness and light in my own life?  How about in the lives of others? 

May this week bring us moments of clarity -- when we can see beyond our darkness and into the light shining through others:  You, Me, and Us.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)