The room had not been prepared for us. Karaj put me in control and told me what to say and how to say it. I needed to be firm, but with his sideline coaching I found it difficult to relax and be effective. I sorted things out in the end with a combination of Karaj’s methods and my own ability. I was not as unreasonable as Karaj would have been, but it brought home to me the fact that I am not Karaj and never will be. I have a different approach to such situations and all I can do is to go with that approach and incorporate Karaj’s techniques where I can.
The workshop finally began 15 minutes late. We returned the feedback sheets to each other and George kicked things off by thanking Ishwar, Sunil and me for our positive feedback on the Sicily Sunday. In our feedback to him today, Sunil struggled to find the words to describe his own relationship with George. He used the word clarity but there was anything but clarity coming from him. There was a level of incongruency about him and from that moment on he withdrew into himself. George was later told to keep an eye on him and make sure he wasn’t allowed to withdraw.
Karaj outlined the focus of the day: we need to have a system in place of internal measurement which we then verbalise. By doing this we bring it out into the open, externalising it so that it can be assessed by people other than ourselves. This is vital because those other people, by virtue of them not having our script, can make a far more effective assessment than our filtering and conditioning allow us to make. This assessment can then be fed back to the individual and from there we can measure the level of congruency between our personal, internal evaluation and that of the other members of the group. It is that measurement which then allows us to determine how far out we are with our perceptions of ourselves and the reality of how we are perceived.
This is such a simple and effective concept, but it is nothing if we do not assess ourselves and verbalise our issues. It is that measurement which provides us with a reference point from which we can develop ourselves. The reference point is vital because without it we have no idea where we are or how to get where we want to be – we are drifting.
We assess using the following conditioning criteria
- Family conditioning
- Cultural conditioning
- Ancestral cultural heritage
- Our own assessment criteria
- Our environment
Our question for the day was as follows: Recall an incident where someone changed my life. How has that incident/lesson mushroomed over time? As the first people recounted their stories, a number of general rules and comments emerged:
- The feedback to Ishwar centred around the fact that he sets standards for us all to meet. We are fortunate to have him in the group in this respect because he provides us with an ideal reference point.
- The power of the group and the importance of talking to each other. We can never know when or how the spark of inspiration will come but if we keep on relating to each other we can be sure that we will be triggered in all sorts of ways which will help us on our journeys.
- The feedback to Calvin was very positive and just went on and on. He is a straight, honest Englishman who has a very calming influence, is always perceptive with his insights and has a talent for comic timing and delivery. He is sharp and always present with a willingness to participate which belies his reserved and so-often-quiet demeanour.
- Karaj stood up from his chair and launched into a vital commentary on how we all need to practice ‘conscious foolishness’. He told us how valuable it is to make mistakes and make fools of ourselves but how we should do it in full awareness that we are making fools of ourselves. To do so consciously, increases the learning beyond our imagination.
- Robert read a superbly fitting piece which highlighted that true power is not to be found in extremes of any kind but in ‘total surrender’. (Here is the irony of Robert making that point: ‘Surrender Can Be A Strength’.)
- It is odd how all the evidence is there for us if we just open our eyes.
Karaj then announced that today is my birthday, and in time-honoured tradition the group was asked to write down what I have contributed to them. In addition they were to write a wish for me for my life. Karaj later told me that he had added the second element in response to my cocky pose which suggested that I was being blasé (cocky) about the prospect of more positive feedback. As they read out their comments I was struck by the feeling that ‘my god, I am good, I do have something to offer’ (more unnecessary surprise – inverted arrogance?)
When they read out their wishes for me I was so touched I cried. That’s me all over – emotional. I lent forward in my chair supporting myself on my hands. Karaj came over and put his arm around me and told me to stop ‘cringing’. I didn’t think I was and had to wait until the next day for the realisation that I was. At the end of it Karaj said to me, ‘You’re loved, Jonathan’. That was why I had cried. The wishes from each and every one of the men were not only all different, they were spot on:
- George: I wish that you never lose the desire to learn, and that you continue to have fun.
- Leon: Savour every minute – you know that it is not what happens that matters, but how you react to it, that determines the quality of your life.
- Ishwar: When you separate, start living life to your full potential. Your success is my success.
- Dev: I wish you a speedy recovery for your back so that we can play football together.
- Calvin: To find the truth you are seeking and enjoy the journey.
- Sunil: My wish for you is that you may recognise your power and achieve balance.
- Robert: I wish you peacefulness – that the highs and the lows of your awareness may be forged and re-made into a creative, powerful, vibrant steadiness.
- I also received a card from the women’s group containing messages of thanks and appreciation.
After dinner and with Serena present, Robert talked about a weekend with Dev during which he gained a very useful insight into the effectiveness of timetables. The rest of us struggled with feedback to him because his incident didn’t include anyone else. It hadn’t mushroomed in any way to encompass the other members of the group and we found it difficult to be involved. Eventually we gave some general and firm feedback to him. He was told that he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t read the newsletter properly and he doesn’t put men out. This last point was laboured because of the importance of its implications. It is okay to impose on the other men because only then will he be able to reap the rewards of the relationships within the group. At present Robert, by thinking he is not a burden, is being just that.
We talked briefly about the newsletter being produced on a daily basis. I struggled with this idea at first until Karaj put it into perspective by saying that ‘The men are pushing us so hard and we cannot stand in the way – we cannot halt the momentum’. I understood that because everybody is working hard and so much material is coming out of our work at such a fast pace, we have to commit it to paper. Throughout the day, there were a number of other quotes from Karaj which I noted:
- If you have something going on in your life include people, don’t exclude them.
- If you want to be a man, invite complaints and do so with a smile.
- Checking assumptions only becomes nagging when it’s emotional.
- When things go wrong it is a sign of my fucked-upness. It is a reminder to me to wake up, be aware, focus and observe.
- As long as you don’t create hatred in yourself, things will always work out right.
We moved on to Leon who spoke about the meticulous work and reporting he is doing in his job to ensure that everybody who needs to know that he is doing his job very well is in possession of all the information they need. He does this to look after himself – no job is guaranteed and it is up to each one of us to safeguard what we have. Leon went on to say that the inspiration for his reporting came from Calvin who had kept similarly meticulous notes during a particularly difficult time in his working life. The reason Calvin had initiated this practice in his work was because Leon had encouraged him to do so. In turn, having seen the benefits Calvin enjoyed from such an approach, Leon took it on himself to follow his own advice. This supplied the group with an ideal example of how two men provided mutual support and inspiration for each other.
Karaj checked again with Ishwar, as he had done throughout the day that Leon is taking the Sicily course seriously. He is. We continued with Leon and talked about his anger. Within the framework of the ‘internal-external-feedback’ model, Leon has a block which prevents his anger from being externalised. He does not see it but, as discussed on that Sunday, it is visible to others. Karaj told him that if he takes it on trust that it is there, it will become visible to him.
George’s turn came and he recounted the story of how he had appealed to the group for help with his extension. His initial thought after the request was that nobody will volunteer. Karaj said that this will happen because if you are going against your script, people will not respond immediately. As it happened Kuldip, Ishwar, and Sunil all volunteered to help and George gained an enormous amount from doing what he doesn’t normally do – sharing his work with other men. He enjoyed the silences and saw how effective life is amongst men.
My story was a dancing one. Dev had taken me dancing at just the right time and I took to it with great enthusiasm, such that others were carried along with me. We enjoyed the dancing together, a fact highlighted by the time a group of us paid an empowering visit to Leon’s local dance evening. Our male energy was tangible and it enhanced Leon’s reputation within his dancing circle.
One of the most interesting ways how the dancing affected other group members was when I pushed things too far with George. In trying to get him to come with us he felt offended by one of my comments and we had it out. That day was a big day for me because it was the first time I ever resolved a dispute in a calm and mature fashion. (See: ‘Challenging & Growing’.) This occurred on the same day as the youngers/elders split. Dev and I had wanted every group member to join us in the dancehalls but Earl and George raised the point that the older members perhaps don’t want to go dancing. The split has since galvanised the two groups and, paradoxically, has brought us all closer together – and all because of dancing.
Karaj decided that this was a fitting conclusion to the day because it had ended on such an important point: enthusiasm. Robert summed up the essence of enthusiasm by providing us with the root of the word. ‘En thios’ comes from Greek and means ‘to be filled with the spirit’. We broke for the last time today and returned to sum up what the day meant for us. I mentioned my anxiety about receiving the feedback sheets from everyone. Within seconds, that anxiety had disappeared to be replaced with a feeling that here were precious documents containing words from my fellow group members which can only be of assistance to me as I seek to attain congruency.
For the last half hour of this 16-hour day we laughed out loud in a way I have not laughed for a long, long time. Karaj gave us the homework, which was to work through the feedback sheets and answer the following questions:
- Is the feedback congruent with my perception of myself?
- Where is the incongruency?
- What am I going to do about it?