Interviews with Karuna Students: Eric Fine

Our next interview is with Karuna Graduate Student, Eric Fine from the San Francisco Bay Area. Eric says that his interest in Karuna Training began with a call from Karuna Training teacher, Sandra Ladely. I had known her for a long time and have a good relationship with her” Eric explained. “She encouraged me to join in. It was largely on her words that I would really enjoy this. I tried it, sight unseen!”

Eric added that he also has great respect for Karuna teacher Melissa Moore, from previously having had interactions with her. “That’s what got me started,” he says.

While Eric didn’t know much about what would take place during the training he says he had a desire to learn about himself and to engage in processes that would help him to grow as an individual. “I think that I didn’t appreciate or understand the scope of Karuna and how deep and profound it was when I started.”

Now, having made it through both the two years of basic training, and the third year of graduate training, Eric has more perspective on the program, and himself. “I’ve been through a multi-year process, which has worked on an emotional, intellectual and heart level, without having to go to thinking first or figure out and analyze things,” he explains. “I respond to situations in a different way. I’d like to think that I respond to situations at a more heart level.”

Reflecting Sanity: Compassionate Exchange with MS Support Group

During the graduate training, Eric worked on a practicum focused on providing a compassionate space for people with multiple sclerosis. “I worked with a group of people that I’m already familiar with.” Eric recounts.  “Because I have multiple sclerosis, I worked with a group of people that also have multiple sclerosis. I knew them through a support group and wanted to do what we had been working on in Karuna quite a bit, something called Compassionate Exchange. So I worked with four individuals and met with them for a total of about 20, 25 hours, individually.”

Eric says the sessions were often painful but enriching. “Basically I just listened from my heart and gave them faith to fully share whatever it was that was on their mind. Sometimes it’s painful to hear people’s life struggles. And so I shared that pain with people, and so at times, it was quite hard. But while it was hard, it was also enriching because it was touching my heart.”

A main piece in Compassionate Exchange practice is to reflect back the person’s intrinsic goodness and sanity. “Some of the things were challenging because it’s not always easy to, to remember the intrinsic sanity that everyone carries, especially if they’re talking about the things which, to them, don’t seem sane or well adjusted” he explains. “And it’s my job to remember their intrinsic sanity. Sometimes that was challenging. Actually not that often, but each time it would remind me to look for my own intrinsic sanity. And so I went back to that. I wouldn’t say the whole process was easy.”

While it wasn’t easy, the process received positive feedback from participants.  “Mostly it was that people were happy that they could express themselves and have that opportunity” he recalls. “One participant said that she found it really valuable and she wished that we could have more sessions, and one participant actually did more sessions.”

Looking Through a New Lens

Eric has also been working on integrating the Karuna’s teachings into his personal life, and doesn’t see the work stopping anytime soon. “I’m certainly working on that” he says. “The Karuna trainings are so deep and so profound that I think that I’ll be spending the rest of my life doing that. But I feel like they touch me at a really deep level. And those situations that would seem one way and seem kind of ordinary, now I have the opportunity to look at them through a different lens, and respond rather than react.”

“I’m feeling like it’s been a seed that has been planted and has started to grow,” Eric explains thoughtfully. “I’m starting to see how great this plant is, but it has much further to grow.”

“Because it’s a process, we’re working with our own minds and things do arise,” he explains. “And then there’s the opportunity to work past barriers. While going through that process, it can seem difficult, but it’s so rewarding to get through to the other side and be able to see it with a fresh perspective and to see things from the heart.”

“Just seeing things through a new lens. That happened over and over again in Karuna Training. To me, that was wonderful.”

Finding Enlightenment and Fun

When asked to offer some advice for people considering Karuna Training, Eric says “I think if people want to engage in a process in which they’ll really learn a lot, but also engage with their whole selves in a process and grow, and do that with a group of people, a whole group of comrades and friends, then I would say sign up for Karuna training! If that appeals to you, it will provide. It will do those things for you.”

Still, Eric says the training isn’t just a challenging opportunity for growth. “Karuna Training is extremely profound and as I said, will take a lifetime to explore and then develop… But some of it was just plain fun! Especially the part when we went off to Walker Creek ranch and spent a week deepening the process.”

“It’s sort of like adult summer camp – both fun and enlightening.”

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