Sunday, May 26, 2019

Dialogue: Learning to Hang Out Together

There are times when I enjoy being in a group, and there are times when I want (or need) to be alone.  Being together creates an energy that can be fun and exciting:  traveling together; being in classes or work groups; having a meal, going to a movie, or just hanging out.

The act of being together might assume, though, that we see and experience life the same or that we agree on what we think and feel.  But, there may be times when we are divided.

When are we not together?
(Mural in Clarion Alley, San Francisco)

When I am with others, I worry that my silence will be misunderstood:

Do others interpret my silence as agreement?

Sometimes I am just listening.  Sometimes I am trying to understand.  Sometimes I don’t know how to respond.  Sometimes I might agree.  My silence could mean these many things... AND... it could be that I am trying to suspend judgment in order to stay connected on this ever-swaying path we call Life.

 Are we able to suspend our judgments?
(Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia)

When I am alone, I oftentimes replay the conversations I have taken part or overheard.  I wonder how we are able to:
  • Balance our Oneness with our Togetherness? 
  • Step out with Courage and Vulnerability when we disagree? 
  • Stay engaged when there are many voices and beliefs that differ?

If you have the opportunity to go to Vancouver, British Columbia, be sure to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  The Capilano Cliffwalk is a newer attraction there:  a curved walkway anchored in the rock cliff and suspended high above the river below.  When I was there, the more adventurous people posed for Selfies and performed stunts that seemed reckless to me.  When I stepped out on the Cliffwalk, I had to focus to overcome my fear of heights... but I too eventually enjoyed the views and the experience!

Whether adventurous or cautious, all of us experienced this walkway -- and Life -- in our own way.

Can we hang out together?
(Cliff Walk, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Vancouver)

In a similar way, establishing Authentic Presence within Self or towards Others can come in many forms: one way does not look the same for each person.  What is foundational, though, as we seek this authenticity are the anchor points of the Dialogue stances, where we are able to: 

  • Take a long loving look at the Real (Noticing or Mindfulness);
  • Support free and informed choices with a commitment to Truth and a collective pledge toward the Common Good (Nondefended Learning); and,
  • Achieve a quality of Group Safety that allows fundamental problems to be solved... suspending judgment; listening, with curiosity and inquiry; and seeking understanding (Nonviolence).

May this week provide moments when we can suspend judgment as we hang out together.  May we notice when we are not divided... but maybe just not together.  May we listen with curiosity and wonder at another person's viewpoint.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Reflecting: What Do You See and Hear?

Walking through a Northwest rain forest, we came across a small pond that reflected the trees and surrounding landscape.  Due to the heavy overhead canopy of branches and leaves, there were times that the reflections in the pond were muted or obscured by the lack of light.  Moving into a clearing where the light broke through the trees, the reflections became more vivid and clear.

I began wondering about what I reflect:  my values?  what I believe in?  what I represent?  And what happens when I am confused or angered by opposing values and beliefs?  Do I allow the overgrowth of conflicting ideas to overshadow and obscure... or... am I willing to move to an opening that allows the reflections to become clearer?

Reflecting:  is there a canopy darkening
your view?

These musings stayed with me throughout the rest of this trip.  I boarded a train that passed by many rivers and lakes; and eventually I arrived at my destination, the Canadian Rockies  There were many opportunities to study the reflections of mountain peaks, glaciers, trees, wildlife, and human construction.

One lake had a dock area that reflected in the water.  I wondered:  am I a place of safety where people seek comfort... or... do I project a barrier which keeps people at a distance?

Reflecting:  what barriers are keeping you from arriving?

Another lake reflected distant mountains, snow, and clouds.  The further back I stepped, the closer those images seemed to draw me.  I wondered:  do I allow people to step close to see the lofty ideals and visions that draw my life.

Whatever we reflect, it seems, can change when we notice...
  • The dark moods and moments of clarity in ourselves;
  • Whether we project a haven of comfort or a barrier that signals, Stay Away;
  • Lofty ideals and visions that inspire our lives and actions.

Reflecting: how might you step back and see
a broader horizon reflected?

I wonder if our reflections are open for dialogue and conversation?  Can we ask one another:
  • I noticed your thoughts are dark today.  I wondered why?
  • Are the barriers in front of you something that I caused?
  • How might we exchange ideas that will animate one another and draw us together?

May this week open us to the reflections around us.  May we seek clarity in what we see.  May we ask questions when we don't understand.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Structures: Learning How To Do

I have often wondered if time moves through us -- or -- are we moving through time?  This musing isn't meant to solicit a philosophical or scientific response!  I guess I am just wondering:

What effect do we have on our surroundings?
 -- or -- 
Do our surroundings shape who we are?

Traveling throughout the United States and other countries, I notice the impact that certain buildings have on the town or region.  The main street of a small town, the church and its plaza that attracts people on the weekends, or the decades that its takes to build a cathedral... each affects current and future generations.

Structures: what have you learned from the past?
(Rouen Cathedral, Normandy, France)

If we think about it, many structures express the ingenuity, generosity and spirit of the people in that region.  Our attention is drawn skyward by both the intricate lacework of the Rouen Cathedral and the modern design of the A'DAM Tower.  Past, present, and future converge on monumental buildings that memorialize the vision and skills of their builders.

As flames collapsed the spire and roof of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral, there was already talk of rebuilding.  I started googling the history of the cathedral and found that many generations had an impact on the structure we knew before the fire.  The structure evolved over centuries, changed by the needs and dreams of the current generation.

Structures:  how do you see the future?
(A'DAM Tower and A'DAM Lookout, Amsterdam, Netherlands)

What does this mean?  The solid structures we see as anchored in history and unchanging are actually altered and restored by us!  In the small course of one lifetime we can impact and change those around us!

Structures: are you willing to learn something new?

How then do we find ourselves in a climate that is deadlocked?  Maybe the words of Picasso can inspire us to action: 
  • Can I learn to do something new?
  • Will I accept that others may be trying to learn as well?
  • How might we encourage one another?

We are called not to be bystanders in this world.  Instead, as social beings, we are structured to reach out and learn.

May this week begin the process to do that which we cannot do.  May dialogue open the door to share our dreams, creativity, and needs.  And, may we learn to help one another.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Feeling Fenced In? It's Time to Notice SCRs

I don't know about you, but there are some situations where I feel constrained or limited.  I used to think that being boxed in was due to Control... or my lack of control.  This may have been true in some instances, but I began to realize that I was always looking outside of myself:  It was someone else's fault!  I needed someone to blame for how I was feeling or how I was reacting to the barriers that surrounded me.

Now, though, I wonder:
  • Do I notice -- or when do I notice -- the fences around me?
  • What do I feel -- or what emotions arise -- when I feel trapped?
  • How might I look differently at the structures that limit me?

Fenced In: what paces do you go through
when you feel trapped?

Recently, an out-of-state friend wanted to go to the San Diego Zoo.  We had a wonderful six hours together walking through the trails and exhibits.  Toward the end of the day we came across a number of animals that seemed agitated.  They were continuously pacing back and forth.  Were they aware of their confinement?  Were they disturbed by the people outside their caged-in environment?  Was it feeding time?

We came across another area that had water falls -- more transparent, but still... barriers.  I wondered:  how do we differentiate the real and perceived boundaries encountered each day?

Fenced In: can you see beyond your barriers?

My dialogue mentor is very adept at recognizing Socially Constructed Realities (SCRs) -- knowledge that is created, defined, and passed on through our families, cultures, social norms, and education.  SCRs help give meaning to our world, the file folders that help us determine what is considered to be right-wrong, good-bad, acceptable-or-not... and whether we are safe or in danger.  They provide common structure and understanding.

As I work through my dialogue practice, I have found it important to notice and identify SCRs I have accepted... knowingly or unconsciously.  In some instances, I can easily see the SCRs:  they are clear, and I remember when I learned or accepted these rules or meanings.  Other times, the SCRs are more evasive and less transparent:  I struggle with why society has determined these structures to be important, and I wonder why I adhere to the SCR when I don't understand or agree.

Fenced In: how do you find the freedom
to see beyond your boundaries?

This noticing -- this Self-Knowledge or Discovery -- helps us to see the ways we are filtering our worldly understanding.  Seeing and acknowledging SCRs -- without boxing them in with a Good-Bad value system -- opens us to choose:  we am free to respond with open minds and hearts!

We no longer need to pace and worry about the barriers between us.  Instead, we can relax in the knowledge that we have a choice in how to respond to one another.

May this week allow us to explore the SCRs that have governed our lives: not to throw them out, but to explore their meaning and truth for future decisions.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)