This piece examines what happens when expectations are left to run their course, and how easily and unknowingly we are captured by the mind. It is a reminder of the repetitive nature of this work and the need for vigilance. More than anything, it highlights the importance of reflection in seeing more clearly what is happening and in helping to understand that whilst there is always so much noise on the surface of our persona, the deeper we go, the calmer, more peaceful, and more beautiful we are.
Two months ago I met with two senior members of the international faculty of a renowned training organisation here in the Netherlands. I first heard of de Baak in 2008 from someone who was attending one of their intense development programmes. I was immediately impressed with the way they conducted their training. I recall thinking that here was a highly professional organisation with a thorough and clear commitment to offering people every opportunity for extensive and lasting personal development. It reminded me of my own training under Karaj.
I had travelled to the meeting in January full of anticipation, eager to spend time in de Baak’s beautiful surroundings, talking with like-minded people and connecting effortlessly over shared goals. I imagined flowing conversations of the kind I know so well from my time with Karaj. Without realising it, my expectations were very high. It should have been obvious to me what was happening but I didn’t see them as expectations. I thought they were a certainty. The meeting was a good one – they even suggested I come along to their faculty day in March – but because it wasn’t quite how I had imagined, there was a tinge of disappointment as I made my way home.
My mind quickly rationalised the disappointment as a mismatch in our respective emphases: leadership training versus personal development. I never even considered that expectations could be the problem. Over the coming days and weeks, my mind turned the disappointment into negative expectations of the faculty day. And there was more to come because in the 48 hours prior to the event, my mind succeeded in undermining my confidence in myself and the whole day. It does that sometimes, so I know what to do about it: relax, refocus, and know that everything will be fine. (Here and here and are two excellent examples.)
I told myself not to try and prove anything and not to be too withdrawn. As with the expectations, find the balance between high and low. And that’s exactly what happened. My mind quietened, my balanced self emerged, and everything worked out wonderfully. I met like-minded people; had flowing conversations about shared interests; exchanged experiences on development and training; and felt very much at home. Listening to people talk during the introduction, I was strongly reminded of the goals which Karaj had asked me to write down in January 2000. I shared a couple with the group:
- To work with like-minded people in a friendly environment doing worthwhile work.
- To support and be supported in our efforts to make the world a better place – allowing the individual and the planet to fulfil its potential.
17 years later, here I was once more in precisely that kind of environment. As I talked about those goals, I felt how my words touched people. I felt it again as the day came to a close: volunteers were being sought to take on tasks from a brainstorming session, and I offered to write a story about the essence of de Baak. People were audibly moved by my desire to take their own contributions and create something magical. What a contrast to how I had felt standing listlessly on a packed commuter train that morning.
The whole day shone a light on what my mind had done with me. It had entertained itself at my expense, and as I emerged from its insistence on drama and spectacle, the smile which had developed over the course of the day grew larger. Then, as I was packing my bag to move downstairs to the bar and share a drink with the everyone, one of the heads approached me to let me know that they had decided to invite me to join the faculty. I smiled again, even more broadly this time.