As part of an online course, I have been prompted to share a personal example of the space between stories. (For more information on what that means, see the post, New Journal, New Story.) Other people on the course have written about abrupt, life-changing experiences, but mine is nothing like that. It is about a comment someone made which was different to anything I’d heard before.
This, then, is my account of the time I first met Karaj, the man who would guide me in ways no other person had done before, nor since. He was a friend of my mother’s and I met him when I was staying there in 1997. I had just returned from Madrid, having spent the spring months doing very little. Prior to that, I had been working in Germany for an investment bank.
At that time I was in my late 20s and had all the things we’re ‘supposed’ to have: money, valued friendships, a loving relationship, and the kind of job I was sure my Grandmother would consider commensurate with her lifelong advice to always have something to fall back on. The problem was, I wasn’t happy at the bank. I was restless and slightly subversive. Even my colleagues began wondering what I was doing there.
I wasn’t happy in my relationship either, so I resigned from both and left Germany to create time and space for something else, whatever that might be. It was around this time that I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve spent long enough making sure I have something to fall back on. Now it’s time to do what I want to do.’ That intention was a movement into the not-knowing which took me to Spain and then back to my hometown in England, where I was introduced to Karaj.
He wasted no time in asking me what I was doing. As I explained the events of the previous few months and how I had no idea what to do with my life, I felt sure I knew how he would react. I fully expected some kind of implied head-shaking and a rebuke about hanging around at home doing nothing with my life. I braced myself for the kind of judgement I felt was all the world could offer. Instead he said something I have never forgotten:
‘Make the most of it. You may never get another chance like this.’
Those words were a call from the space between stories; an invitation towards an open door I had never been shown before. They jolted my reality, and I felt an immediate connection with the man in front of me; a depth of connection I would only come to realise years later. It was the first time in my life I had heard an adult offer such liberating, affirming wisdom. His words carried another, unspoken message: ‘Keep going, you’re onto something.’ And that’s what I did.
As significant as they were, however, his words were not immediately transformative. They were a seed which, having been so conspicuously planted, still needed time to germinate and grow. Perhaps I needed time to adjust, too, because at the end of that summer I returned to Germany and ended up working for another bank.
Undeterred, and buoyed by Karaj’s tacit permission to seek out such opportunities, I resigned again when the new summer came around. It wasn’t quite enough and I repeated the cycle one more time the following year before leaving banking for the final time. As I did, I remember saying to a head trader: ‘I’ll be back to help you make more of your lives.’ A little arrogant maybe, but nevertheless an indication of what I was looking for.
That was twenty years ago. My life is very different now and I am much more content as a result. Writing this piece, it became obvious just how persuasively that initial meeting had bridged the two stories. My old story had followed the advice of those who preached safety and security. It had led me inadvertently to the pinnacle of a world conditioned by possession: the money system. I tried to fit in but couldn’t.
Fortunately, my dissatisfaction caused me to step away repeatedly from what I felt was not right. That shift was rewarded by a wisdom I had not encountered before, given by a man who consistently offered me his gift so that I may offer mine to the world. There is a part of us which always knows. Quieten the noise, and in the silence we can hear our truth. It calls to us from that holding place between what no longer serves us, and what Eisenstein so wonderfully describes as the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.