A 4-day Integral Education workshop was held for the teachers of Neevam–The School, from the 21st to 24th of December 2021. It took place at the new and upcoming premises of Neevam The School, Amravati, Maharashtra. 20 teachers, and school board members participated in the workshop which was facilitated by Shivakumar, Director of Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Integral Education and Research (SAFIER) and Priti Umamahesvaram (SAFIER). SAFIER is the education vertical of the Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. The workshop revolved around introducing and deepening the understanding of the aspects of Integral education dealing with building an integral lifestyle for the facilitator. This consisted in knowing the parts of one’s personality and exploring practices to live a more controlled and harmonious life.
The first day began with an ‘adjective’ game which also served as the icebreaker. The facilitators and the teachers introduced themselves along with an adjective to describe themselves, while acting out the adjective. This was followed by a chain of recalling the name and acting out the adjective stated by another teacher. This helped the teachers know a bit more about each other, while creating an openness for the next few days of learning.
Getting to know the Inner friend - andar kaa dost -, the Inner Genius
This was followed by a skit performed by four of the senior teachers, through which the conflict between body-heart-mind was depicted and the role of the deeper part in us, the Psychic Being, was presented. The Psychic part in us, the Inner Genius, loves the mind, body and heart; and it wants the best for us. To be master of oneself, one has to quieten the mind, body and heart, and take the help of the Inner friend.
Priti introduced to the teachers some IE practices for connecting with the Inner Genius. The importance of poetry, art and music as the mediums that help us connect with our “Inner genius” was brought out. Another practice of connecting with the Inner Friend with the help of a flower was done as an activity, with the help of flowers. It was mentioned how the Mother named around 800 flowers according to their attributes. The teachers were also asked to connect with the flower in different ways. After the activity, the teachers were asked to express their explorations through writing or drawing, and share the quality given to them by the flower.
The session ended with making a badge. The teachers wrote their names and the adjectives they had chosen for themselves in the Icebreaker game and the quality that the flower gave to them, on a paper. They wore these name tags for the upcoming parents’ workshops, adding more colour and life into their interactions with the parents.
Parents’ Workshop – Raising Responsible Children
The parents’ meeting was on “Raising Responsible Children”. Parents were asked the question, “What are the qualities that they want their child to imbibe, in order to be successful and responsible in life?” Parents shared their views. Terms like confidence, good human being, success, etc. were shared by parents. They were then asked:
“Can only excelling in academics help children in becoming successful and responsible?” If these qualities are essential, the best way to inculcate them in children is to first have it in themselves.
“Do you have all these qualities that you want to see in your children?”
As a beginner’s practice, they were asked to choose any quality that they don’t possess but want their child to have. Once this is in progress, the second thing is to help their children to enjoy the beauty and joy in practising these qualities. These two practised together will help the child to imbibe that quality very fast.
One other point that emerged was that each child has their own beauty, similar to a flower. If we try to mould them according to our needs and expectations, they will lose their natural ability to grow from within and may not be able to make decisions in favour of this growth.
The second day began with an exercising game. Teachers had to run or move around like birds. The game served as a medium to boost energy before the session and get ready for the day!
Fine-tuning Our Aim of Life
After this, the teachers were asked to write the aim in their lives. Various teachers mentioned their views regarding the same. Some teachers were clear about their aim while some were not. When teachers wrote their aim, questions were asked to help them gain clarity on the same. Their personal aim was exalted to a universal level with subsequent steps. The main focus of the activity was to awaken the importance of generosity in oneself. The aim was expanded over the divisions below.
Where “Oneself” should be the utmost important aim, which will make us aim for other higher goals. For example: We can make others happy only if we are happy.
A beautiful activity was done with the help of oranges, to awaken the quality of Generosity in us. After the activity, the teachers planted the seeds in the campus itself. The activity helped the teachers to understand that we should always try to spend our energies generously, for the sake of others and not just for our own growth. Only then the circle of generosity will move through the universe and help the universe become a better place to live in. When we don’t practise this, we will be cutting ourselves off from the great universal current that provides all of us with so many things! This is the key to true charity – to maintain the unbroken chain of universal generosity.
The teachers were given different situations, where they were asked to examine which part of their being would be most active. This helped them to observe different parts of themselves in action and also how to observe them. They were asked to maintain a journal for such regular self-observation.
Developing Awareness of the Body
A body scan
Teachers were asked to close their eyes and focus on the instructions given. They performed a scan of their body. To observe intensity, colour, pain, pressure and other sensations in different parts of their body. They were then asked to express these sensations on a paper, after drawing an outline of the body. Teachers were then asked to share their experience.
Sources of energy for the body
Different sources of energy for the body were discussed and categorised. “What can be the right food for a person to get the maximum energy from it?” was asked. Based on the discussion, it became clear that the right food for each person varied, and was defined by:
- The location where the person stays
- The Season
- Time of the day
- Needs of the body
- Moods and emotional state
- Finally, by the nutritional content
The discussion moved towards the correlation between this, and the real needs of a child. The teacher must recognize what can benefit the child the most, instead of dictating needs based on assumptions. Then, we can help children to achieve their highest potential. Teachers were asked to observe closely the food they eat and how it makes them feel, when they go home and have their food.
Energising Physical Activity
Day 3 of the workshop started with warm greetings and smiles. The teachers performed physical activities to invoke sukham-sthiram in the body, followed by some yogasana stretches. Teachers were asked to do a mountain pose and then bend in the forward direction, trying to stretch as much as possible. They were then given the example of a bamboo stalk. How it stands straight, firm and yet ready to bend. Thus it was stressed upon that by doing postures related to Nature and emulating Nature, can help develop certain qualities existing in Nature such as steadiness, strength, flexibility.
This was followed by mantra chanting, where the teachers learnt how the Shanti Path is chanted with Vedic intonations. A change in energy was experienced due to the vibrations from the Vedic way of chanting and the inherent power of the mantra. A few examples were shared on the impact on consciousness and body-emotions-thoughts. Vedic Chanting helps in developing the faculty of concentration and it creates a state of calm and inner peace in the person who chants and in the listener and has the power to make a change in the atmosphere too.
Understanding the Interrelation of Parts of the Being
A revision of the 4 different aspects of our personality viz. body (physical), emotional (vital), mind (mental), and the inner genius (psychic) and their different characteristics were discussed. The body (physical) wants comfort – to eat, sleep and enjoy. The vital (emotional) wants to express and satisfy itself. The mind (mental) wants to bring order in others, and to organize others. The inner genius (psychic or ‘andar ka dost’) is the inner self, which wants the best for all the above three, wants them to be in harmony, loves all three and is ready to help in achieving this.
A discussion was initiated about the three questions that the teachers were asked to observe regarding the food practices, and their responses varied as per the situation. Teachers were asked to experiment and try making a few variations in their food habits and observe how the body responds to this. A story from Mother was discussed where the impact of things like the attitude with which we cook, conscious cooking and conscious eating, were discussed.
How to sleep: The interrelation between the 3 monkey-like parts in us (body, vital, mind) was discussed in order to get the best sleep. If the 3 monkeys quiet down, only then can one sleep properly. All the participants were asked to lie down on the floor and experience the same through a guided process of relaxing the 3 parts.
Awakening to the ‘Hanuman’ within
A story was narrated about how Hanuman had lost his memory about his powers. However, during his search to get Sita back from Lanka, the wise Jambavan helped him to regain his memory and thus he awakened his powers. In the same way, when we get closer to our inner friend we can awaken the dormant powers lying within all of us. A body awareness activity was initiated for the teachers to experience being awakened to their powers.
Developing Awareness of the Body through Stick Activity
All the teachers were given a stick each and were asked to choose a partner. The teachers were then told to stand about 2 metres apart from each other. The stick was centred on their hands to keep it in balance. Each member had to throw and catch sticks with proper timing and with various rhythms. After this, all the members were asked to lie down on the floor, balancing the stick on their abdomen and feel all the sensations in the body.
Conscious eating: During the lunch break teachers were asked to eat their food with consciousness and feel the taste of each morsel, in silence.
Developing Emotional Awareness
After the lunch break, the teachers were engaged in the “Tail game” which was played sportingly by all. Different feelings and emotions like anger, jealousy, desire, possessiveness, impulses, desires that the participants felt emerging during the game were discussed. This was followed by a few words on how all the former emotions can be balanced with their opposite feelings. If emotions don’t cooperate, the mightiest of structures crumble, and also nothing can be built on this instability. The teachers were asked about the recent negative emotions they have felt. The responses were – sadness, irritation, impatience, anger.
A few techniques which can help in stepping back were shared. There are a few activities which carry higher vibrations which can help refine our emotions and raise our emotions. According to Sri Aurobindo, the triple path of poetry, art and music can help raise emotions, still them and deepen them. Thus Poetry and art were taken up as a tool to help the teachers experience this.
A poem by Rabindranath Tagore, “I cannot remember my mother” was read out. Many deep emotions were expressed in the poem. The teachers then meditated for a while, thinking about their own mother. Then they expressed their feelings and emotions felt, along with colours and poetry. All the members drew beautiful paintings and felt raised and refined emotions while sharing their work. Tears rolled down from several eyes during this activity.
A Collective Dream
The teachers were asked to come up with a dream, a collective aspiration for the Neevam–The School to flower into a happy and collaborative space where everyone including the teachers and children strive to be at their best and to work on that dream, for it to become a reality.
The teachers were split into 3 groups and were asked to present a small skit representing their dream vision for Neevam–The School, as they envision Neevam after 10 years.
The teacher-groups creatively presented the skits with their beautiful vision for their beloved school, full of enthusiasm and energy.
Teachers were explained the concept of how children are like a mystery box, and the teachers have to become a facilitator to help them to bring out the magic in them. How the school place should be neat, tidy and beautiful; how the inner atmosphere of school should be, such that the children realize that they have reached a different zone – a zone of learning from everything around them. Children are sharp observers and can sense the teachers’ state . The teachers’ thoughts radiate to them. So, there should be a lot of clarity in the mind of the teacher. The teacher should take a moment to centre, and stop thinking about the different things going on in their minds, so that the children don’t get affected by it. When a teacher is in the presence of children, with a mind having clarity, they can help the magic in children to emerge. True learning happens when the child is free and happy from within. Thus in order to be truly happy in the presence of children and help facilitate at their best, the teacher has to be connected with one’s Inner Friend and with its help perfect one’s mind, heart and body. This is the essence of facilitating Integral Education.
Thus the workshop concluded with this beautiful message and a deeper understanding into integral education which will be furthered and facilitated by the SAFIER team in the online mode.