Today has been a day like no other. Had a lie in until 8am, then got up and cleaned the house. Kelvin is coming down from Manchester today and it was important for me that Aubrey’s house is clean and tidy for them both. Far from being a chore, it was a pleasure to do it and good to know that someone will see the results of my efforts.
Walked to Karaj’s and sat with him and Robert. His review of his year struck me as being very similar to mine – we all have the same issues. His metaphor for slamming shut the door to his heart summed up perfectly how I feel myself. In my feedback I agreed with Robert and said that my heart is ‘mine’. Karaj countered this, saying that it is not mine. ‘Mine’ denotes possession. I can get close to it I can try to influence it and understand it but it is never mine.
George arrived. He and I had lunch with Robert and the rest of the men began to arrive. I felt at home, relaxed and excited about being in the group environment. Several people (Earl, Robert & Karaj) were later to talk about how they felt they belonged to the group. That is how I felt. Every time the group meets, the bond between us gets stronger.
We began with appraisals. Earl went first – an excellent development in itself – with a short piece about him feeling ‘pressed’ with boulders piled on top of him. He felt suffocated. Much later Calvin referred to this as pertaining very much to his life; he identified with Earl’s emotions. Robert picked up on this later as a sign for him that Calvin is with us. Three lovely observations.
George was next with his driving escapades with a critical passenger. A good learning point for me about having the conviction in oneself. If I am who I know myself to be, how can anybody undermine me? Dev followed, talking about his management course. He has a list of qualities he wishes to improve on in the next year – strategic planning, team management, etc. All of which, as Karaj said, he can develop within the group.
I read my ‘Simply Observe’ entry from 13th December and Earl made an immediate connection with the artistic process: take in all the information, relax and the art surfaces. Sunil talked about making changes in his practise next year: increasing his charges and reducing his workload.
Practising Positive Feedback
At around 5 pm we started to review the year. Each person went in turn giving his summary of what the year has meant to him, and then received feedback from all the other men. I was unsure of what to say about some of the men and this worry occupied my thoughts intermittently. I have a problem with being positive for the sake of it and also I am aware that the intonation of my voice can seem very confrontational.
[Karaj: You have to learn to be positive, regardless. There is humanity in everyone. Your job is to touch it.]
I was wary of being too wordy, too fawning and, in a way, too honest. I kept my comments to a minimum at first and let others take the lead. In addition, I was apprehensive about my turn. My concern centred on how awkward I would feel receiving positive strokes from the others. It was only after the group that I saw the correlation – I have trouble receiving positive strokes and I have trouble giving positive strokes.
This fascinated me because it is such a simple equation. As Karaj has said often enough – the more I can receive, the more I can give, and the more I can give, the more I can receive. It struck me that during this feedback session which, with 10 men lasted 5 hours, my giving improved with practise. So, the more I practise giving, the better I can receive, and vice versa.
At around 8pm we had a break. Dev and I talked briefly about how we felt. We both had tears in our eyes as we talked and had to curtail our conversation for fear of crying uncontrollably on each other. We were both moved by the whole experience and we weren’t alone. I would say that every one of us left the group tonight a different person. I was tired though. It was getting close to my turn and I felt I had little energy left to give feedback to the other men.
As we settled down after the break Karaj said to me ‘Get involved more – make more of a contribution to the group’. That was it, my head went down and as George talked about his year I couldn’t listen anymore. It was only later that I saw the compliment in Karaj’s words. There are people in the group who say little and Karaj does not force them in any way. His comment was not a reprimand, it was an indication of his confidence in me to contribute. After George had finished, Dev said that it was excellent feedback, and I woke up – I had missed something because I couldn’t listen.
The feedback I received from the men was wonderful. An additional aspect of it was that it was not overwhelming – I was much more balanced than I had expected. I was not affected by my emotions – I was not dragged out of the moment by them as often happens, and so I was able to stay in the moment and hear what every man said. I was touched – not for the first time today and certainly not for the last. Karaj told us that I am doing what I can to walk a straight path and appealed to the rest of the group to keep me there and to make sure I do not stray.
The group recognised my intellect, my passion for the journey, the life I have brought to the group, and Robert said that I am beautiful. Karaj said that I am becoming hot property, and he would dearly love to have us continue our work together. Me too. Another difference which I had not expected was that I was in no rush to dismiss their comments. I didn’t dismiss them. I am understanding more and more the importance of receiving what is given to me, and today I did just that. It was beautiful and I have never experienced anything so positive and supportive.
After Karaj’s final comments on his own year – he has suffered but he too feels he belongs to the space which the rest of us occupy – we went for a meal to round off the day. It really was a day like no other.