An Opportunity in 10,000 Lifetimes

After the nurses’ hand-over I had the impression that this is easier than my mind had allowed me to believe. I phoned Sunil to pick me up and we made our way to the house. I felt ambivalent towards the day, the group, and towards the men. I often feel like this prior to a group and my present situation caused me to feel reluctance too.

At the house I felt unsteady on my feet (Karaj told me I walked like my father) and did not assume my usual role of welcomer and worker – as the men observed and later told me: I was behaving like a guest in my own home. At the bottom of the garden I greeted most of the men who had already arrived – unusual in itself as I am always the first one there – and Karaj’s first comment to me was ‘How’s the reflection going?’ This is just what I have been doing over the last few days; it’s precisely why Karaj has left me alone, and I answered him truthfully that it has gone very well.


For the first hour of the session I did not feel at home (self-inflicted) and was clearly in my want-to-leave state. This was brought home to me in the first reflection exercise with Ishwar as we discussed our subservience since the last group. As I talked I could feel myself flip from ‘leave’ to ‘stay’ and back again within the space of minutes, even seconds. In the group I talked about my trip to Rugby and my dichotomy of wanting to stay with Karaj and the group, and yet wanting to leave. It was tough as I began to talk but by the time I finished I felt lighter and more comfortable in myself and with my pain.

Karaj told me that the dichotomy is not the problem – everybody has dichotomies, every day, confirmed by a unanimous show of hands. He told the group that a year ago he had told Kuldip, Sunil and Ishwar that come the first real confrontation I would leave the group. This came as a surprise to me but at the same time it was no surprise at all – it’s what I’ve done all my life. The feedback from the group was that I need to be more assertive, take more responsibility, be more unreasonable, and ask myself, ‘Just who am I doing all this for?’ I began to settle down and for the rest of the day I did not have any inclination or need to leave my environment.

Earl raised an issue with his PhD which mirrored mine. He has recently felt like giving it all up. As I listened I was struck by the similarity of our respective struggles and also by how easily I could solve his issue but not my own. I told him that he simply needed to get on and do it. Karaj contributed further and the advice was to take time to reflect but do so with the goal always in mind. Make a decision and stick to it. Once that has been established, reflection is easier and more enjoyable.

Be Entertained By The Mind

Karaj continued with Earl. He told him to take some time off; four or five months. Because of the similarity with my situation I took this to mean me as well. It was then that it hit me that I could not bear to be asked to leave the group, the house or Karaj’s company. This highlighted my spoilt attitude: in my arrogance I can consider leaving the group but cannot conceive of being asked to leave.

I reflected for a moment. This is my chance to sort my life out. It is tough because everything I don’t want to do (take responsibility, be unreasonable) is everything I need to do. I realised, after my battle with myself last night about being unreasonable enough to attend the group, that my journey had just got more difficult than it has been at any stage up to now.

Karaj told me it’s not difficult, but that I make it difficult by giving my mind too much time and space to fuck me up. I should allow myself to be entertained by my mind, rather than be swayed, pressured and driven half-mad by it. It is the mind which is my problem. For the second time today a show of hands told me I am not alone in this; everyone has potentially destructive internal dialogues. Just make a decision, stick to it and enjoy the mind games.

Karaj told me that I am being responsible, I am being unreasonable. I am doing as much as I can.

Stick To What Works

After a break, George updated us on his issue of securing his position at school in the face of the potential problem from one of his students. He talked of his anxiety at being confronted with such a situation. Karaj had given him a list of procedures to follow and in spite of his anxiety George followed them through. He had stuck rigidly to the procedures and had shown initiative in anticipating events. He had been persistent, taking control of his life and sticking with it until the end. An example to us all.

For the rest of the evening we drew up and discussed lists of which aspects of therapy work for us and how will we carry them forward. My list started with the words ‘relentless and persistent self-examination’. The group spotted my problem immediately. With words like ‘relentless’ I am putting enormous pressure on myself and torturing myself in the process. George told me I’m too driven and I need to enjoy myself, and Leon summed it up perfectly by telling me that I am deafened by the noise of my own wheels.

Other aspects were as follows:

  • being with and the support of other men
  • staying away from women
  • daily appraisals
  • awareness of the games people play
  • awareness of my own games
  • listening to others feedback
  • verbalisation
  • positivity

Having then talked about how I will carry these learnings forward Karaj said to me, ‘You are doing it. You just have to own what you do. You have great potential. You have chosen a tough journey, you’re doing very well, and one day you will outstrip you peers – they will be coming to you for advice when they are in trouble.’ I found these words particularly encouraging because on more than one occasion Karaj has alluded to the fact that all my friends are successful whereas I have none of the trappings of success.

24 Hours A Day

George told me once again to enjoy myself and that I do good work – he reiterated his regular praise of the newsletters as excellent. Leon pointed out the huge possibilities I have in Germany, and Ishwar gave me an important perspective by highlighting that the week in Sicily had nearly killed us all, and I go through that every day with Karaj. Karaj added that whilst all the others have other jobs to go to, I am doing personal development 24 hours a day. An enviable position and as Ishwar put it, an opportunity in 10,000 lifetimes, but nonetheless a tough one. Sunil confirmed this, saying that in the three weeks he has been working more closely with Karaj, he has been very tired. Something I know a lot about and which explains the constant lethargy I felt in April/May of last year.

I took the feedback differently to normal – there was more ownership. Robert also noticed a difference. He told me of a mellowness he saw in me that he hasn’t seen before. We went on to talk about the lack of any frame of reference in my life because I am living in this therapy bubble. I need the men to tell me about their working lives in order that I appreciate the opportunity I have.

A Good Day

In summing up at the end of the night I said, ‘I’m glad I came, I’m glad I stayed. It’s been a good day’. Karaj countered, telling me I’ve no need to be glad or sad because I am just honouring my agreement to attend the group. The doubts will always be there but, like George following procedures with his union and headmaster, we must be resolute and determined. Karaj always has doubts and I should be curious and ask him what’s going on in his mind. He added that instead of ending the day saying it’s been a good one, I should start the day with that attitude.

Earl drove me back to the hospital at one o’clock in the morning. I had been gone for 16 hours
and nothing at all was said about it.

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