Saturday, May 28, 2022

Knowing the Unknown

Sitting in the hotel lobby, we watched as other travelers checked in.  We were joining a tour group the next day for an 8-day trip through several Arizona and Utah national parks.  We knew that 42 people were signed up for the trip.

Watching people and their bags, we made comments to one another:  "I bet they are on our tour." and "They look like tour people."  Our assumptions were based on age and luggage:  we assumed this would be an older group and we were supposed to have only one checked bag and one carry-on bag.

What stories do we create about what we see?
(Photo:  hotel lobby - Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas,
Larry Gardepie)

In reality, we only knew how many people had signed up for the tour and the stated baggage allotment.  The age group was an assumption based on similar pre-COVID tours, and we assumed that people would follow the baggage requirements.  We had arrived one day early to explore Scottsdale.  Our tour group didn't need to check in until the next afternoon, and we were leaving the morning after check-in.

Later in the day we were sitting in the lobby again, and we noticed a tour manager welcoming some of these same people, giving instructions, and providing additional information.  We asked this tour guide what was happening, and we found out that a separate tour (14-days) was checking in and would be leaving the day before us.

Where do we focus?
(Photo:  Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, Larry Gardepie)

We were focused on our 8-day tour, so our observations, assumptions, and conclusions were based on what we knew.  What was unknown to us earlier:  several tours were leaving from this hotel over the next few days!

I wonder how often this happens to us:

  • We focus on what we know;
  • We make assumptions and conclusions based on these known facts; and
  • We don't know other information that might change the outcome?

I also wonder if we are we willing to withhold judgment, check out our assumptions, and the stories we have created?

What is hidden from what we say to others?
(Photo:  Pulpit Rock, Zion National Park, Larry Gardepie)

As we enter this new week, may we learn to:
  • Hold Space within ourselves that other possibilities exist;
  • Ask Questions to gather more information; and,
  • Seek to Understand what we do not know.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Blindness and Elephants

Working with a non-profit organization a few years ago, I was aware of a situation that the executive team was having difficulty discussing.  Rather than approaching the dilemma head on, I asked each person to write down what was seen, understood, thought and felt.  I explained ahead of time that each individual would have a choice what was shared... but I asked them to be honest with themselves and to write down everything that they observed.

I then asked them, on the left-hand column of their papers, to write down what they could not say... and why.  I assured the team that I would not collect their papers, that no one would see what they wrote, and that I would not coerce them to say what they were unwilling to share.

The choice was theirs to describe what they could in that moment.

What do you see?
~~ Click on image for larger view ~~
(Photo credit:  The Blind Men and the Elephant, Sophia Tepe)

Each person was given the opportunity to speak -- when they were ready -- with no limit on time.  After each individual we spent a few minutes in silence to think about what was said.  People could write down questions or thoughts about what they heard, but this first round was about describing what you saw, thought, and felt -- without interruption or questioning or problem-solving.

Once everyone had a chance to share their points of view we again sat in silence.  Rather than going into clarifying questions or addressing what was in common or different, I invited the team to reflect on what it was like to be listened to without interruption and what it was like to listen without having to respond.

Where is your focus?
(Photo:  Embassy Suites San Diego Bay, Larry Gardepie)

This executive team touched their humanity: shared places of not seeing or knowing; feelings of being lost or overlooked; and opportunities to connect on deeper levels of understanding.  We then took a 15-minute break (in silence) so that what was said could percolate.  When people returned, we moved into curiosity:  asking questions; accepting differences; and seeing what was in common.

At the very end of our time together, we approached the "Elephant in the Room" by asking one question:  What do we want to do about this situation?

Is there a non-violent way to approach your situation?
(Photo credit:  Mahatma Gandhi, Brainy Quote)

I was moved by the way this team chose to address their situation.  Instead of immediately going into problem-solving or blaming, they began to understand how differently they thought and understood.  A more profound truth began to emerge and other options surfaced
as they slowed down and realized there were multiple ways to interpret and address a situation.

I wonder, with the complexities we encounter these days, is it time to listen and see what part of the elephant our blindness is trying to understand?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Weeds of Ideas

Growing up I remember always questioning and exploring:  curiosity about how the world around me worked;  why friends' families did things differently; and if work systems could change.  Though I didn't need to, I took additional classes on ornamental horticulture, soil science, history, statistics, Greek... even though I was a computer science major!  Each semester the Dean had to approve my "course overload."  My interests and the academic choices seemed endless... but my time was limited and the university system wanted me to graduate!

Why?  There was so much to learn:  I wanted to grow... and I still do!

What filters what we see?
(Photo: Shaded Patio, Catalina Island,
Larry Gardepie)

As spring weather returns and new plant growth appears, it is time to weed and prepare the soil for our vegetable garden.  In the process of weeding, I recall a comment from one of my  horticulture professors:  "Weeds are plants that are misplaced."  He explained that weeds bring value to the environment.  We are the ones who have labeled them... and want to remove them.

I wonder about our Need to Weed.  Before the horticulture class, I was taught:

  • Weeds draw water and nutrition from the plants we prefer.
  • Weeds choke off the growth of other plants.
  • Weeds are not the plants we have chosen to nurture.

Where does beauty exist?
(Photo:  California Poppy, Larry Gardepie)

Maybe these statements are true, but what is it about our desire to define, filter, and control what is considered a "weed" or "not a weed"?  People in California are faced with continued drought conditions, so some are returning to native drought-resistant plants -- those that are best suited for this environment.  It takes awhile to get used to the naturalness of these native plants - they don't always match what I learned earlier... some look like weeds!

Weeds and dialogue have a lot in common:  curiosity helps us to explore people's ideas, opinions, and conclusions; slowing down and listening heightens awareness of the filters to pull up or discard other ways of thinking or being; compassion and empathy surface as we relate to the person planted in our lives.

Where can we bloom where we are planted?
(Photo:  Conservatory and Lily Pond, Balboa Park,
San Diego, Larry Gardepie)

Learned filters determine what is choking growth or what is nurtured.  Noticing these filters provides choice on what is misplaced or not.  Choice allows us to consider Weeds of Ideas that we may have discarded without thinking.

Maybe as we consider the words we choose and the actions we take, we can learn to value diverse ideas and opinions.  Rather than controlling and removing what we don't like, we can sit with and marvel at the beauty of what is planted.

Be careful what you weed and toss aside this week!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Immersed in Beauty

I find myself continuing to process the "Beyond Van Gogh" exhibit mentioned in last week's blog.  Something happens to me when I become fully immersed in a play, movie, book, project, or discussion:  my whole being is challenged to understand the experience, and it takes awhile to release the experience.

Do you know what I mean?  That ability to transcend the physical or mental aspects of a situation and to Become One with what is happening: to cherish and Rest in Being; to release time and allow Presence to exist.

When do your thoughts and feelings linger?
(Photo:  Shadow reflected on Art,
Beyond Van Gogh, Larry Gardepie)

My memories and photos don't quite capture the inner Beauty Awakening when that moment lingers.  Eventually the distractions of life reclaim my attention and that brief boundless encounter fades.  But even as I return to normal, my heart continues its wondering:

  • What caught my attention?
  • How can I hold onto that Beauty?
  • Is there a way to nurture the longing to understand... and to be understood?

How do you take in the beauty of our world?
(Photo:  Walking among Starry Night,
Beyond Van Gogh, Larry Gardepie)

Sometimes dialogue is a practice of letting go of... preconceived ideas... memories and past hurts... what is known or not known clearly.  It is a time of waiting and noticing what is Real Now... what is beautiful and revealing in this current moment.  It is sitting at the shore side, waiting expectantly to be illuminated by the reflected light that eventually reaches us:  Now I understand!  Now I see!

Are you willing to sit, notice, and wait?
(Photo:  Sitting along the Shore,
Beyond Van Gogh, Larry Gardepie)

The "Beyond Van Gogh" exhibit still resonates in my thoughts, I believe, because it invited me to be immersed in a beauty that I don't experience every day.  I was ready.  I wanted to see.  I was in a place where I could accept something different.
May we find ways to seek out the Beauty of Others, to wait expectantly, and to be ready to become immersed in illumination and understanding.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)