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Gunraj Arora

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Gunraj is a coach, facilitator, mindfulness practitioner and lawyer who has extensive experience across a wide client base in both the UK & Africa including law firms, corporates a...

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Who are you?

Hi, I'm Raj, and in this experience you can ask me any questions about mindfulness.

How did you get into mindfulness?

So I'm going to go back to almost near the beginning or beginnings of my life where I was born in Nairobi, in Kenya. I moved to the UK and very quickly found myself in this very nice but quite posh white middle class village called Travis and Giles. And as the only non-white person in the entire school and almost in the entire village, sort of fitting in with the way I looked was very difficult. And I didn't really quite understand what I do about the mind and about how we are as humans. But trying to fit in day to day was a struggle. I had no sense of who I was. I had no sense of connection. And so I struggled. I struggled right from the beginning just to feel safe going into school, feel safe about telling even the teachers about things that were happening in the playgrounds because no one really understood and no one could understand. But this really was the start of my decline, shall I call it. I didn't really even have an upside. It was straight in the deep end and never got to really understand myself and my mind. And so mental health or mental issues were right with me from the beginning. And I remember being maybe six, seven when my mother of all people bless her, said, there's something wrong with this child. He can't behave. He comes home and he's misbehaving in school and something needs to be seen. And so I got sent to a child psychologist, but with both my parents in the room. And that almost made me feel even worse almost. I've got to give the right answers here. And I couldn't really express anything of what was going on. And so I almost took, I think without being conscious of it, this label of there's something not right with me. There's something that is inherently wrong with me. And as a human being, when you feel that way, it can be a pretty dark place. And I certainly felt that darkness really from that age. And it just got stronger. And 14, 15, I would say, I started having real ideologies around suicide and around ending this pain. The pain was just so strong and I tried little things to edge it off alcohol, but nothing really seemed to help with the pain and getting up to a levels, getting into uni, this followed me around everywhere. It was a bit like a cloud, it's like a shadow. I'd be walking through anywhere and everywhere. But I knew there was this darkness, this Real sense that I have no value, I have no purpose. What am I actually doing here? And what became, shall I say, interesting in terms of my awareness of this was around when I qualified as a lawyer. I mean, I was second year of uni when I got an internship into the city and I was in the glitz and the glamour and the dizzle of all of that. And I got a job offer before I even finished my second year of uni to sponsor me for a post-grad in law, to start a career in a very highly competitive environment. So every single box was being shown as being ticked as success. And especially from my cultural background from who I thought I was supposed to be from parents and family, I was there, I was winning the game, so to speak. But when I qualified and I had just proposed or become engaged to my now wife, and I'd got that qualification where the salary went up and the glitz and the glamour got bigger, that darkness got bigger and it got significantly bigger. It was at the point where every single day for however long, all I could think about was ending the pain, which to me equated to ending my life. There was no other option. And one of the real memories that comes at me now when I'm answering this question and even feeling some of this emotion was a time when I went to one of the Pius hotels in London, because now I had this amazing job and I had this platinum credit card, and I checked into this hotel and had this most amazing Victorian bath, and I can picture it right now. And I remember sitting there thinking, alright, if I could cut my wrists and bleed enough, I could die in this tub. And that's what I did. And lo and behold, at some point in the morning, I woke up, I dunno how I woke up and I got dragged to yet another psychiatrist and yet another experience like when I was a child that there was something wrong with me. So where was I to go from here? Now, fortunately, and I remember the kindness in the psychiatrist's voice, and she said to me, this is how we're going to help you, but we're going to go. You can go back into your normal life, but there are certain ways that you're going to have to adjust things. And first of all, there was some drugs to help with the emotions, everything that was going on in my body that was out of control. And the second thing was some support. But she said to me, and I remember this so vividly, she said, look, if ever gets back to that same point, do not worry the time of day Where you are, what you're doing, give us a call or come in and those words from that one person with the kindness of heart, because I remember her heart as a human, when someone is true and is connecting with you and is seeing you for who you are, she said, if you're ever in this trouble again, you bring yourself here. And lo and behold, one or two months later, those ideas, those ways of trying to end all this kept on carrying on the next plan, what I thought was a fail safe plan, because I used to take the train a lot, how many times? And those of you who taking a train would've heard train stopped or train suspended because a person under the train, we all know what that means, and we always know that that person can't survive that. So my brain has somehow recognised the previous attempt and was unsuccessful. And I was successful guy. I'm a driven guy. And so I had to succeed at this. And so the person under the train was who I thought I could be to end this pain. So one day I was like, right, this is the time. I remember sending some messages, actually at the time to my now wife, very cagey, but essentially like a final letter in the days of technology. So instead of writing a letter, I thought, I'll send a message. And then I went down the stairs of this station. I can't remember what station it was, but it was one of those that had a lot stairs, a lot of those escalators. And I remember just going down, going down, I came to the platform and I stood at the front and train. One came and I was like, oh, no, can't go. Not right. Train two came. It was the same. There was an impulse, but I could not get myself there. Something was stopping me to make that leap. When the third one came, that lady's voice, her presence. I could feel her almost at the station being like, no, there's something for you. Just come and see me. And so I remember I was like right up the stairs, straight into Kaia Niga. I went to the receptionist and I remember just it's even now, it's surreal. It's almost like it an out body experience. I had no idea what was going on, but I just remember blurting something out and she said, don't worry, just wait here. A few moments later, that same psychiatrist came out. She said to me, you are in here. We will help you. We will be here for you. And that place, and that lady, I would not underestimate it, saved my life and then began the journey really at that hospital of understanding the mind, understanding my mind, and being given the support and the tools to do that. Now, at that time, we're talking about 2010. Mindfulness wasn't known as well known as it is now from a treatment perspective or a helping perspective when it comes to mental illness. So most of my treatment at that time was in sort of CBT and IPT. But luckily or fortunately, I got some sessions on mindfulness, a sign of these extras, and I remember now talking to other people about it, and I was so excited. I was so excited about this experience that I had. I couldn't quite touch and feel it as perhaps I can now, but even now, it still amazes me every time I practise it just at what you can do with holding a presence for your own experience. So that's I guess a brief to my backstory and quite wonderfully though the beginning and the segue to this mindfulness journey and I guess why I'm here and so passionate about it because it has such a great impact, such an amazing effect, and it's incredibly simple.

What is mindfulness?

Great question. So mindfulness is the practise or a practise where we bring attention to the present moment with an attitude of kindness or friendliness.

How can mindfulness help me?

Can you start mindfulness at any age?