Sunday, June 30, 2019

Blooming: The Act of Flourishing and Prospering

In the northern hemisphere, we have entered our summer months:  a time of light, warmth, and growth, having moved from the darker and cooler spring months where seedlings were just breaking through fertile soil.  Now, as we move around our cities, towns and countryside, we see evidence of Spring's promise and Summer's fulfillment:  vegetation, flowers, color and beauty.

I believe that we, too, are called to flourish and prosper -- in what we learn, how we interact, and relationships that challenge us to develop and become.

Blooming: do you hang onto your beauty?

Whether our inclination is to see a cup as half empty or half full, whether we tend towards a cautious or unguarded view of others, or whether we hold onto the past rather than move towards the future, we have a responsibility to question and evolve:
  • Have we noticed our habits and biases?
  • Do we wonder what formed our worldview? 
  • Are we willing to challenge aspects of ourselves that do not promote or sustain life?

As we look at the plants around us, we see plenty of variety -- examples of flowers that hang downwards or reach upwards, large and small, colorful or ordinary.  All bring beauty to the places where they are planted.... even weeds, plants that are misplaced!

Flourishing: when do we reach up out of your depths?

For me, one of the indicators that I might be growing in my dialogue practice, is when I attract others... not necessarily to my point of view, but when we can talk, listen and add to our collective knowledge of one another.  The reciprocal actions of giving and taking -- like the relationship between flowers and bees -- allows the beauty of each to flourish and prosper.

Prospering: how do we attract others?
(Click on the image to see the bees!)

Maybe, as we revel in the sunlight and warmth of these summer days, we might take delight in the interaction and synergy that occurs when we are:
  • Warm and welcoming to another person;
  • Accepting of the light that person brings into this world; and,
  • Curious about what makes us similar and different.

May you bloom and grow this week as you encounter ALL of the beauty around you!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Two Sides to Every Story

I am still processing my 6-day jury service of a week ago!  (Friends are probably getting tired of hearing about the trial!)

What I am noticing, though, is that I am beginning to reflect not on the facts and experiences of the trial, but on the implications of when two sides are in conflict.

I wonder:
  • What traps us into our version of what was seen, heard, or experienced?
  • Why do we end up walking away from friends or family, erupting with angry words, or resorting to retaliatory or violent actions?
  • When do we realize we might need a neutral party to listen?  (Or, do we ever realize this?)

Two Sides: do you erupt when you don't like the results?
(Photo Credit:  Kilauea volcano, The Washington Post, 05/17/18)

I guess we all reach a place of frustration when we are not heard or our ideas are not understood or accepted.  How we respond within the arenas of frustration and misunderstanding may fuel the flames of division and hurt.  In fact, our actions -- or reactions -- may place a wedge between what connects us.

Sometimes, in order to see the whole picture, we must look from different perspectives.  I learned this anew when visiting the Grand Canyon last summer.  My finite mind and limited vision could not take in all of the beauty before me at one time!

As I walked along the canyon's rim, the scenery changed.  The views shifted as my eye focused from different angles.  As I slowly turned or moved along, I began to realize the magnitude of what lay before me.  One place, one point of focus, could not take in all that surrounded me.

Two Sides: where do you tend to focus?
In a similar way, part of our challenge may be the realization that we are human and are limited beings.  We have a spirit and a drive that propels us toward truth, honor, and other values we individually hold important.  These offer us ways to discover and interpret meaning in the world we inhabit.

When life experiences come in conflict, though, we must remember.... we have a choice:

Are we willing to seek out, listen to, and attempt to understand another viewpoint?

Two Sides: are you able to listen to all perspectives?
(Click on comic strip for larger image)

(Photo Credit:  Fred Bassett Alex Graham, 5/10/19)

As we practice our dialogue skills, maybe a neutral party could offer insights that neither side had considered previously.  In the jury trial, I was surprised how removed I was to the final verdict.  It took 12 impartial people to piece together what each person heard; and through our collective wisdom and experience we were able to reach a conclusion that integrated the facts presented to us.

Were there winners and losers in the trial?  Probably... if we wanted to focus on that perspective.  But maybe something else happened:  two parties were finally heard... and after six years, they could now move on with their lives.

Questions to consider:
  • Is there one side that separates you from others?
  • What is the reason you hold onto this position?
  • How might you refocus and see another view?

This week, let us consider beyond the two sides that may be limiting us.  Let us try to look at the Whole.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Balancing What We Hear

Jury duty or jury service?  How do you react when you receive the summons to appear for one day, week, or month at your local courthouse?  My assumption is that we all respond differently when that notice arrives in the mail!

I was a juror for a 6-day trial scheduled over the past two weeks.  Once I accepted the reality of being selected for what started as a 3-week trial, I began rescheduling work and personal appointments, feeling the stress of balancing life in our busy world.

The judge and lawyers explained the importance of beginning with an unbiased jury: that is, a just decision could only be reached if our filters and prejudgements were questioned.

Balance: can I listen in a neutral manner?
(Photo credit: Life of the Law, May 9, 2013)

After hours of questions, dismissals, and more questions, the jury was selected and an oath was given to consider only the evidence (the facts) as presented.  In many ways over those 6 days it was difficult to only listen to the lawyers' questions and the witnesses' answers.  I had questions!  I wanted to offer my perspective!

But my job was to listen, take notes, consider only the facts as presented, and remain impartial.

Balance: how do I protect the fragile nature of Truth?

Each evening as I reflected on that day's experiences, I pondered the nature of our fragile relationships... especially as we respond to the discord in our world.  In many ways, I do not listen without prejudging what is being said or what I have seen.  I want to ask my questions or tell you my answers!  It is as if my reality might burst if I am not actively controlling the conversation.

By Day 5 the cases had been presented, and it was time for us to deliberate.  As we were locked in the jury room, I had to consider:
  • What did I hear and think was important?
  • Was I willing to consider that others might have heard testimony differently?
  • Could I suspend my conclusions and stay open -- unbiased -- until we jointly reached a verdict?

Balance: do I speak without judgment...
as if I am talking about the weather?

The judge's instructions and the voting sheet guided us through the hours of seeking the truth.  We had eight questions to consider: eight answers that we had to agree upon.  It was a unique time: we respectfully listened, openly shared what we had heard, and considered that each person had a piece of the Truth.  We slowly came together.

Though we only needed a 9-3 vote for this civil trial, we had come to 12-0 verdicts on 7 of the 8 questions.  And the final question, the hardest, we reached a verdict of 11-1.

The judge noted after the verdicts were read, how we had experienced something very profound:  it is possible for twelve people to come together and neutrally talk through a technically, complex case, reaching answers that satisfied the admonition to seek Truth through a common understanding of the facts.

This is true dialogue:
  • The suspension of conclusions and prejudgements;
  • The willingness to come together to listen; and
  •  The ability to speak neutrally about our own experiences, knowing that we individually do not have all of the facts.
Jury duty or jury service?  Instead of an Either-Or question, seeking only one answer, I would suggest that we consider a Both-And response:

It is our duty to serve one another.

May this week provide opportunities to suspend judgement, a willingness to listen, and the challenge to speak neutrally.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Meaning: when is...

When is a tree not a tree?  When are shoes not shoes?  When do we shift what we don't know into knowing?  Pretty heady questions for today!

I have been pondering how I know what I know, and how I learned various meanings of: right, wrong; good, bad; people to talk to or not.  As I considered these questions, I noticed that meanings I gave things and my outlook on life have shifted as:

  • I gained knowledge and experience;
  • I explored my city, country, and world;
  • I met people who have different life stories.

It seems that the beauty of what we know becomes greater or more important as beliefs and knowledge are tested and exposed to seemingly contrary views.

Meaning:  How do we know what we know?

Recently, I noticed a dead tree in my neighborhood come back to life... but not in the way I expected!  Over a course of several days and weeks, shoes began to appear on the tree.  Only a few at first, but then more and more.

I wondered what the shoes signified:
  • A place to offer shoes to the shoe-less?
  • A work of art?
  • A cultural symbol of wealth and prosperity?

The shoes added meaning and life to the dead tree.  Its purpose had changed. 
But, could it still be considered "a tree"? 

Meaning:  How do we shift what we know?

Last month I was walking through the Mission District of San Francisco and came across Clarion Alley.  Halfway down the alley, shoes were dangling from the overhead power lines.  I wondered: what was the significance of discarded shoes in an alley where public murals depicted people's passions and messages of hope and justice.  Without someone to ask, my mind began creating meaning.

Maybe what we believe, understand, and add meaning to shifts throughout our lives.

Meaning:  When do we throw away what holds us back?
(Clarion Alley, San Francisco)

One of the Dialogue Skills encourages us to Look for contradicting data and alternative explanations.  Our ideas, opinions, and beliefs are tested when we describe our position and invite discussion.  That is, when we have an open mind to hear other points of view.  Unlike my encounter with the shoes in the alley -- where my mind quickly filled in the gaps, we are invited to seek out the answers with the help of others.  Instead of adhering to false assumptions and conclusions, we are challenged to search for truth and understanding... together!

When is a tree not a tree?  When are shoes not shoes?  When do we shift what we don't know into knowing?  Do you know?

May this week allow opportunities to seek not to be understood but to understand.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Adventures in Dialogue

I have always liked the word Adventure!  There's something in that word that conjures up for me positive images of travel, risk, and discovery.  So, as I seek out new places to explore, I find my senses sometimes sharpened... waiting for the unexpected; anticipating the previously unnoticed; and learning anew what this world offers.

I also experience periods in my life when I need to be safe and to know what is happening.  

I wonder:
  • What triggers these polarities of risk-taking and security?
  • How might I notice when I need to cross the thresholds of adventure or safety? 
  • Where can I find balance?
Are you focused only on the survival craft?

I have found that as I become more comfortable with people, I begin to open up and share my beliefs and dreams more readily.  And, it is sometimes easier to be open and share with some people more than others.

Where is the risk, though, when I feel safe?  Where is the adventure when I am closed off and silent?  How far can I travel when the sails are furled and tied down?

As I learn more about myself -- how to unfurl the sails that catch the winds of change, I begin to understand how much I need to say -- and to listen.  (After all, once the sails are unfurled, it is important to pay attention to where the wind is blowing!)

Do you know how to handle
the rigging and sails?

It is as if dialogue -- that ability to open up and discuss what is happening within us and between us -- can help steer us through troubled waters.  The obstacles that divert our attention or cause us to go off course now become adventurous challenges to overcome together.  We become a crew that no longer focuses on individual survival but on the movement toward new horizons.

Just think:  the discovery that the world was not flat occurred when explorers pushed beyond the horizons they knew and could see!

What skills have you developed
to steer through obstacles?

We can too!  We can adventure beyond the belief systems we hold onto, our survival craft.  We can learn dialogue skills that open up our worldviews.  We can learn to steer toward new relationships that are waiting to be discovered.

It takes the willingness to risk being adventurous with our family, friends, and work colleagues.  It takes risk taking and vulnerability.  It requires the desire for discovery!

Blessings to you this week as you seek to learn anew, as you explore, and as you discover horizons beyond where you stand now:  Life is good!  Discover it!  Embrace it!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)