I was looking through my old journals recently, and I found a transcript from a very early group session in which I was asked by Karaj to read from the pages of my journal. At that point I had only been writing for 4½ months. I read two passages, and what follows is the feedback I received. I include this on my blog because it reinforces the power of writing, and because the brief comments from Karaj are hugely reminiscent of how he was in his work. He doesn’t say much in these exchanges but when I read his words I can picture the scene as clearly as if it were happening now, rather than 18 years ago. His comments will also be familiar to the people who attended our recent retreat, because my way of doing things is heavily influenced by what I learnt from Karaj.
The session took place on 22nd July 2000. I first read an entry from 22nd May 2000, most of which does not appear on this blog. (I had a strict editing process when I put my journals online, and only about 50% of the material made the cut.). After I had finished reading, Karaj asked people for their feedback.
Leon: This was a guy who said there wasn’t much worth sharing with the group. That was lovely to share. The page you’ve read there. Great stuff!
Karaj: Are you listening, Jonathan?
Jonathan: I am. When did I say there was nothing to share?
Karaj: Before you started. Any other comments?
Robert: That was beautiful. I really enjoyed that. I love your ability with words. I really like the way you can be specific and also take an overview of your experience at the same time. I like those two things together. You were specific in the moment, but you were also in an overview of what’s happening to you. I really enjoyed it. I felt a tremendous affection and respect for you while I was listening to that.
Karaj: Okay, silent majority, make a connection!
Earl: I particularly liked the phrase about ‘some people were too busy taking drugs to enjoy themselves’. Speaking as someone who’s been in and around drugs most of their life, I know exactly what you mean. That is a very good way of describing it. It’s great. That’s why I giggled.
Naveen: I love the awareness; the self-awareness in all of that; in everything you were doing. You were in total control and relaxed and very self aware. It’s very powerful – a very powerful image.
Dev: That’s what I was going to say. In addition, you’re very positive about yourself. Not bashing yourself up. You’re positive and you’re moving forward.
Leon: You like yourself.
Robert: I also like the sense of wonder you have… you expressed… about who you are now and how different that is. Now, I don’t know how you were before, but it’s clear to me that you have a sense of wonder about where you’ve got to. I think that’s such a valuable thing to keep inside you.
Ishwar: The naivety of exploration
Sunil: There’s a sense of joy in getting where you’ve got to.
Ishwar: Very well written, very vivid, imaginative. You came across really well. I was actually picturing you being there, which is something else. You’ve got to be a very good author to actually do that. It was like a very good book, but real life. Very good.
Earl: There was a calmness in it as well, which I really liked. Sort of… just a real calm flow through it.
Dev: It’s level. It’s not… I mean, your voice contributes to that, but it’s level.
Jonathan: That’s blown me away. Blown me away.
Karaj: Okay, let’s have a second extract.
Karaj: Comments please.
Dev: I noticed your voice go harder when you talked about your mother calling. It was soft and suddenly it became hard and then went back to soft again when you were talking about the meditation.
Karaj: (Laughing) Now what does that say about you, Dev? (Laughing again) What a pick-up, hey?!
Naveen: There’s so much of you in the writing. The emotion, the thoughts, the feelings. So much of you. For me, hearing it, I was thinking, ‘My God, there’s so much coming through here!’ It’s very openly written. You know, you’re not playing any games with yourself while you’re writing. It’s very honest. You’re not writing it for anyone else. I feel that it’s totally written for yourself.
Sunil: The bit about gratitude; about expressing gratitude… because that’s come up for you a few times in the Thursday men’s group; and about it being just enough and that it distracts… by saying more it distracts from what you’ve said.
Karaj: An important lesson for you, Sunil.
Leon: The tool of actually writing in this way seems to me to be very good for reinforcing the lessons that you have learnt in the day, or looking back. It seems to set them, from what I’m hearing of it, which encourages me because I haven’t started doing it – to write. And I think this is super stuff, and the real work is reflected in it. The real things that are going on.
Robert: Yes, I’d like to share that… a sense of inspiration that I have, too, from hearing you read and the way that you handle your thoughts about each day. I feel quite inspired. I’d also like to say how lucid I find it. It’s a very, very clear form of writing. It’s just, to me, evidence of a very clear mind. A very clear mind. A tremendous, noticeable gift with words. I’m very, very struck by that. I love the way that I’m just carried along by it, and yet I know that you’re making some discoveries about yourself, and you’re making them in a succinct and lucid kind of prose. I love it. I really enjoy it.
Earl: I second that. That’s exactly what I thought too. A really clear flow; even through the ups and downs of what you’re describing. A clarity of vision. It is very inspiring.
Ishwar: It is. Wonderful, wonderful writing. Slight jealousy.
Karaj: Jealousy – you shouldn’t say that. I’m going to challenge you in a minute, and a few others. We all have the capacity.
Leon: Yes, but he’s done it.
Karaj: He’s done it, yes. He’s got balls, mate!
Related posts: Saturday Men’s Group | Write Stuff Down | Appraisal: Jonny to Jonathan