Turn To Face Life

Thursday 20 August, 2020

This piece rounds off the 3-part series by insisting that we persevere with the view that the biggest contribution we can make to the world is to seek the truth for ourselves in every connection we make. When we do that we demonstrate the kind of behaviour which, when repeated by everyone, can change the world. Don’t worry about others, don’t seek to help others, just listen, seek the transformation for yourself, and trust that one day they will do the same.

You Think You Know, But You Don’t

I talked to someone recently who is in pain because of the way the world is. They have felt different and outcast for much of their life, suffering great trauma for most of it. But in our conversation it felt to me like a healthy step had been taken into a frustrated, futile and lonely place. Their present and future seem hopeless to them, but not to me. Paradoxically, it felt like the kind of wisdom I have heard from Karaj; the kind which has led to this post:

You think you know, but you don’t. Nevertheless, your conclusions are showing you the way. Keep going.

It takes time (years sometimes) for us to see things clearly. By assuming we know, or by trying too hard to solve the problem, we may well be curtailing our chances of important learning. Similarly, by seeking to help others, we may by denying them the revelation of insight.

When Karaj tells me he has realised he cannot help anyone, he is talking to himself, appeasing his own ego that tells him others need him. They may need him, but not in the way he thinks. They need him to be present, to listen, and to be on the lookout for whatever it is that he requires, because in doing so he shows them what’s possible.

Be Careful Not To Create Dependency

At the back of my book there are 257 learning points, each taken from the journals I kept during my training years with Karaj. No.24 states:

Listen to people and provide the space and the connection for them to discover their own solutions.

I read it to him but even there, with his typical perspicacity, he pointed to the nuance of what he was saying. In that line the focus is still on other people. In our conversation we were emphasising that the focus should be on ourselves – that if we take responsibility for our own health and well-being, then at best we can inspire others to do the same, but at the very least we ensure that something is taken from the interaction.

By repeatedly helping them, however, we are in danger of keeping them in the place where both of us believe they need our help.

This is something I encountered at the end of my training. Life had become unbearable and I felt I had no option but to leave. Karaj felt the same and eventually we agreed that I should go, but in the weeks leading up to my departure, I wasn’t sure I could survive without him. I felt I may have become dependent on his influence in my life. A week before I left, I spent Christmas eve with my friend Aubrey. I had a wonderful time, and felt completely relaxed and at ease with myself. My overriding feeling from that night was that I would be fine on my own. And so it turned out.

When I Serve Myself…

Not only should we be wary of thinking we can help, we must see that we cannot lead others anywhere, and we certainly cannot force them. But, as I said at the end of Choose To Change Your Mind, we can show them. By using every interaction and relationship to contribute to ourselves and our world, we encourage, give permission, and allow to others to do the same.

To reinforce his point, Karaj made a similar comment about my writing. Whilst acknowledging that he was not seeking to criticise it in any way, he told me that I must see that I am in danger of getting carried away by the insights, and in seeking to record them I am distracting myself from life.

Instead, he continued, ‘turn to face life and observe it more closely. See what is going on around you, gain insight, and put your learning into practice.’

Paradox or not, that is the biggest contribution we can make to the world. It reminds me of two lines Karaj used to quote from the Hindu scriptures (for further information, see the post To Serve):

If I don’t know you I serve you.
When I serve myself I am you.

In the days since I began writing these three posts, I have done what they prescribe. I have sought to take whatever I can for myself, whilst remaining fully present for the other. The result has enriched my life, removed the pressure of thinking I can and should help, and maybe, just maybe, that shift has helped the other person too. But then again that’s not what this is all about. Or is it…?

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2

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