I left on New Year’s Eve 2003, and it has taken almost 17 years to complete something I had no idea needed completing. This post is about completing the cycle of friendship which began with my curiosity and his guidance; my desire to learn and his willingness to show me. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the main reason our friendship has been so effective, is that it was underpinned from the very start by love.
For five years after I left, I was angry at Karaj, but that began dissipating in late 2008 during a series of communication workshops I gave at a software company I worked for in Germany. Standing before my colleagues, wishing they could see in themselves what I saw in them, and faced with the stubbornness of their scripts and challenges, but also their desire to learn, I knew in the most immediate and intimate way how Karaj had felt with us.
That changed everything and I tried to get in touch with him. Months went by and there wasn’t even a signal from his phone. But then one day it returned, and eventually he picked up. I ended up spending a couple of hours in his company in January 2010 before our contact settled into sporadic phone calls, during which he twice told me he needed a year before we could talk again.
In 2014, everything changed again. At that time, he was struggling and I went to visit him for a week, offering whatever I had to give:
‘From day one I was calm, assured, and clearly different to how he had last known me. I have internalised what he taught me and I live it every day of my life. Furthermore, I had brought written evidence with me: the volumes for Karaj and the manuscript, from which I read extracts affirming the quality of his work. That is how I cornered him: my book, my blog, and myself; every one showing him his undeniable ability.’
We spent weeks together throughout that year, both in England and in The Netherlands. I recorded our many conversations in 20 written pieces, which can be found in the archives under the category Reunion (2014). Thereafter, our contact again became more infrequent as my personal life took on a greater priority, especially with the birth of my son in 2017.
Since June of this year, we have been in touch more regularly and, perhaps, more closely than ever. We discussed a familiar topic, one which had occupied our dialogues for much of 2014: the group itself. But this time we discussed it in the context of love, and why in particular I’m in touch with him, yet none of the other group members are. (The answer to that question receives more attention in the next post.)
As difficult and challenging as those early years were – for everyone – there was love there too. There had to be. There’s no way we could have met so regularly, so intensely, and for so long had it not been present. It answers a question I have had since 2014 – why did they regularly enter such a demanding environment? I had cornered myself and given myself no choice, but they left their lives every weekend and voluntarily threw themselves into a furnace of scrutiny and confrontation, when they could easily have done something else with their time and energy.
They came because there was love there. Unfortunately, every single one of us, including Karaj, had no idea how to deal with it in its purest form. Predictably, therefore, it was not really addressed. None of us knew how. Typically, the entry Different Ways of Supporting Each Other, written over a year into my time, carries a line which says it all. It talks about the need to be supportive and straight with each other, but look how love is relegated, even disparaged:
‘The love is there, but it doesn’t cloud the hard work which needs to be done by all of us to resolve our issues.’
Unconsciously, we all considered ourselves unlovable for various, particular reasons. We were seduced by the deep, exacting and beautiful work we were doing, and we seduced each other along the way. But there is a difference between seduction and love. Seduction is manipulative and one-dimensional. Love is is a multi-dimensional force with no agenda, preference, or limit. Unfortunately, if we are not inducted into it, it can be overpowering, intimidating, even off-putting.
As a result, it’s easy for us to close ourselves down, and close ourselves off from its purity. It doesn’t take much early on in life for a pattern to be laid down, which is reinforced so regularly that we come to see it as part of who we are. I cannot speak for others, but I can speak for myself: I wrote about my own closing down process in the piece If Space, Then Time (Pt. 2), from which these lines are taken:
‘That in itself is tragic: that a young boy can love and laugh, then experience his family break apart, and decide at some level that the best strategy is self-protection. I gradually internalised the conviction that it’s better to be on your own. Separate. […] That way you cannot be hurt. But you cannot love either, not truly.’
It is, therefore, no surprise that it has taken so many years for Karaj and I to complete this particular cycle. And it began a few months ago when Karaj challenged me to know and feel the love he has for me. It was a confrontation whose time had come, and it seems to have released us to be closer than ever. Closer than when I wrote the last piece of that illuminating year together in 2014:
‘[…] Karaj conveyed his appreciation for what I have learnt and put into practice as a result of my regard for my own development: ‘Your commitment to yourself is total and it shows your hard work. You had plenty of opportunities to give up but you didn’t, and you have managed to make the biggest contribution to me; one which my teachers and carers never did.’ After all the years during which he has contributed so significantly to me, I felt privileged to have been able to do the same for him.’
There, in that paragraph, is the love we have for each other. At that time, just as we had done in the early years, we overlooked the most fundamental element of our friendship, without which we would never have made it this far. That has changed now. In the regular calls we are currently conducting, there is an ever-greater awareness that love has carried us all this time, and that whatever happens from here on in, it always will.
Finally, in that paragraph is the same commitment and persistence which has ensured we are still connected after so many years. From the start there has been an unconscious recognition and yearning for the love which underpinned everything, and a similarly unconscious determination for it to be realised, no matter how long it took.