Sunday, April 26, 2020

Noticing the Beauty Around

While talking through recent COVID-19 experiences with dialogue colleagues, my mind began to wander: images of past kayaking and rafting trips surfaced.  Was this the result of being isolated too long -- the inability to stay focused as others shared their "secure at home" stories?!

Using memories of being on uncharted waters, I told the others of these earlier times, and explored the similarity of being out on the water with these COVID days.

Are we ever prepared for the unexpected?
(Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip, Juneau, Alaska)
In each of the organized float trips I have experienced, the guide reviewed safety procedures and what to do if someone fell out of the raft or kayak.  I recalled competing feelings of nervousness and calm:  facing the unexpected but having a competent guide along for the ride.

The initial segment of each trip focused on: acclimating to each person's responsibilities; gaining confidence in self and others; and negotiating the still waters.

Then, the fun began!

How do you handle rough times?
(Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip, Juneau, Alaska) 

No matter how much we prepared or relied on the guide's wisdom, there were times when the unexpected happened... and we all had to respond in that moment:
  • Accepting the unexpected;
  • Going with the flow; and,
  • Trusting self and others.

Once we reached calm waters, the exhilaration of surviving -- together -- flooded over us!

When do you notice the beauty surrounding you?
(Rafting in Kenai Peninsula, Alaska)

My lasting memories, though, surrounded the polarities embedded in the experience:
  • The energy needed to navigate traveling up-river and fighting the rapids;
  • The awareness of surrounding beauty when times were calm.

Also, when navigating the rapids, our focus seemed fixed on objects close at hand; whereas, during calm times, we could look outward and broaden our awareness.

I would offer that dialogue skills are even more important during these uncertain times:
  • Are we listening to the professionals who are explaining how to remain safe?
  • What skills are we practicing and relying on while "safe at home"?
  • Do we notice when our focus is more inward (self) or more outward (others)?

May we notice the Beauty Surrounding us as we negotiate these COVID rapids!  

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Demanding to be Open

How are you doing in this era of COVID-19?

From talking to others, it seems we have something in common:  we are learning to navigate new Ways of Being.

  • Creating new structures and self-discipline to get through the day
  • Staying connected socially with virtual koffee klatches, happy hours, and reunions
  • Home schooling children while balancing work responsibilities

It seems that flexibility and adaptability are skill sets that are being explored the most!  That is, the willingness to adjust, explore, and seek new approaches.

Are we open to dialogue?
(Photo credit:  Jeff Kowalsky, Getty Images)
But, as we have seen recently in the media, people are frustrated with the losses and limitations that are being encountered each day.  As I have watched some of these protests, I have wondered about my own self-protests:
  • How do I balance my needs with those of others?
  • What methods of protest are appropriate and effective?
  • Is there a hidden or explicit demand to being heard?

We must admit, these are unprecedented times where previous answers may not work and current solutions may not be clearly identified or forthcoming.

Are we willing to hold lightly -- to be flexible and adaptable -- as we experience these disruptions?  Can we seek results that benefit both Self and Others?

How do we react when we don't like what we've heard?
(Photo credit:  Reducing Family Arguments,

This is when dialogue is most important and necessary!

Questions to consider:
  • Can I advocate a position that people may not want to hear... and invite questions and discussion?
  • Am I willing to postpone judgement and blame... and seek understanding?
  • How do I respect differences... and stay in relationship?

Prior to this COVID-19 era, we experienced division.  I wonder if recent Demands to be Open could foster a desire to be Open to Dialogue?  Are we able to move from discordant voices to harmonious associations that broaden our understanding and inclusion of "We"?

 Can we stay open to multiple views?
(Photo credit, Fred Basset, 5/10/19, Alex Graham)
What demands do you want to voice?  Do you need someone to listen to you?  How might we be open to dialogue?

I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Pathways to Choice

Having grown up in the mild climates of the California coastal regions, I find the four seasons of other parts of our country intriguing!  Californians can sense the subtle shifts between Winter and Spring or Summer and Fall without having extreme temperature changes, but we sometimes miss the explosion of color that others encounter in the Fall or Spring.  The contrasts are powerful!

Even nuances in Southern California forecasts can be lost on visitors:  sunny with a few clouds, sunny with some clouds, and sunny with variable clouds may all seem to be the same for non-locals.  But, to locals, these are different!

And pity those tourists who come to San Diego during May or June, expecting sunshine!  Our May Gray and June Gloom may overshadow their visit (even though temperatures may be in the 70s)!

What relationships have cooled down in your life?

I wonder if Dialogue is like the weather, where:
  • People know the local climate on hot topics?
  • There are subtleties or nuances we don't always understand?
  • We expect to find our definitions of reality to be true or accurate?

Where have you encountered a roadblock?

Maybe there are several choices when we encounter something unexpected, harsh words, misunderstandings, mistrust, or obstacles in our relationships.

What would happen if we:
  • Slowed down and noticed (or, owned) our thoughts or feelings about the situation?
  • Stepped back and questioned our expectations or conclusions?
  • Asked questions of ourselves and others?

In other words, can we discover or explore the facts about varying positions to determine effective responses that will open new pathways?

Are we willing to create new pathways?

Like weather (where we cannot discount the weather in other regions -- it is what it is), the work of Dialogue requires that we become curious and knowledgeable about the personal climate other people are experiencing: their thoughts, feelings, and conclusions.

For example:  If the forecast is snow in Colorado, I might call a friend in Colorado to confirm what is happening before I pack for my trip.  In a similar way, I might call and check in on a friend or loved one, listening and asking questions.  Pathways open when I accept the reality the other person is experiencing.

May this week open routes to better dialogue!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

 A friend shared this "Prayer for a Pandemic"
(by Fr. Larry Tensi, Archdiocese of Cincinnati)
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Maybe... Is It Time to Clean House?

Living in a State where we have "stay at home" directives, it seems like the perfect time to conduct Spring Cleaning.  In fact, many friends who are staying in touch virtually have shared various cleaning priorities and tips.  Unlike past years where spring cleaning was a chore, we seem to be sharing online about our goals after we clean and simplify our lives.

As I clean out closets of items no longer used, photo albums of memories forgotten, and supplies purchased for projects not started, I am wondering if it is time to conduct other types of cleaning:
  • How I think of others;
  • How I respond to messages not welcomed; and,
  • How I act when My Way is not listened to or accepted.

Is it time to focus on revising how we interact?

As I try to fill out days no longer filled with distractions, I notice my mind is keeping a checklist of projects unfinished. I am aware that some items are of a personal nature, and my curiosity is drifting towards them.

Maybe it is time, I am thinking, of creating a Dialogue Checklist -- how I want to show up; who I want to become; what we might have in common; and why it is important to listen and understand.

What items should be included
in your Dialogue Checklist?

Reviewing Dialogue Practicum resources, I revisited Chris Argyris' Dialogue Skills, and realized this may be a wonderful starting point:
  1. Combine advocacy with inquiry.
    Invite others into your viewpoint, and let them explore and ask questions.
  2. Illustrate abstract interpretations with concrete information.
    When making a claim, provide the information behind the idea.
  3. Share your thought process and check for agreement at each step.
    Describe why you drew certain conclusions, and listen for conflict.
  4. Look for contradicting data and alternative explanations.
    Rather than seek out agreement, encourage and test conclusions.
  5. Support making mistakes in the service of learning.
    Listening for conflict opens the possibility that we may be wrong in our conclusions.
  6. Notice your impact on a situation.
    Realize that multiple roles may cause awkwardness.
  7. Experiment to test different views.
    Try various approaches to see if (or where) problems arise.  Be willing to adapt.

Where do you experience beauty and life?

I recall that humor is an essential aspect of learning -- being able to take lightly what is said and heard.  Maybe, as we practice these skills and experiment with a New Way of Being, we can allow a childlike playfulness to emerge!

Imagine what it would be like if we took this time of isolation, fear, and uncertainty, and worked on one dialogue skill each day (7 skills, 7 days = 1 each day; repeat each week).  Maybe we could practice with friends and family, whether isolated together or virtually.  Maybe we would come out of this global pandemic wiser, more trusting, and skilled at healing our hurting world.  Maybe...

Offered with peace and hope!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


 A friend shared this on Instagram
(by Laura Kelly Fanucci)
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~