Sri Aurobindo Society, through its educational wing, has been conducting annual workshops on Integral Education for more than 32 years. This year, after a break of two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, an advanced workshop was organised titled ‘Integral Education Retreat’ from 1st June to 5th June 2022 at our Sharanam Community Centre (it is a training and administrative centre of Sri Aurobindo Society that aspires to provide a conducive spiritual atmosphere to the participants. It is situated on the outskirts of Puducherry). This workshop was attended by 24 enthusiastic participants who are practising primary-level teachers, school principals, administrators and trustees. The workshop was coordinated and facilitated by Shivakumar, Priti, Rathi and Sushanto of Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Integral Education and Research (SAFIER), the educational wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, along with their team of facilitators.
The workshop was meant to help those who already have a basic introduction to Integral Education (IE) and would like to transition into IE Practitioners. A few core practices were introduced in the span of five days to deepen the approach and experience of IE, touching upon the physical, emotional and mental parts in us and integrating them around the Psychic within.
Some of the key practices that were taken up during the workshop were:
● Practice for Journaling, in the form of an aspiration
● Practices for Awareness through the body
● Practice for the Refinement of the Senses
● Practice for Channelising emotional energies through art-music-poetry
● Practices for Opening to the Psychic within.
The workshop was divided into various types of sessions, giving the participants a variety of exposure about different aspects of Integral Education in relation to Psychic Education, and how learning could be made joyful and creative. The sessions were aimed at developing an experiential understanding first for the teachers so that, with some practice, they can make a beginning of this approach through appropriate environment and activities in their classrooms.
A Summary of the Sessions:
An introductory session of ‘Knowing Oneself and Knowing Others’ was taken up in an innovative way by Priti and Shivakumar. After this, both of them engaged the participants every night to practice journal writing and reflection practices. Rathi helped in the coordination of all the sessions with requirements of resource materials and was a constant support.
The sessions taken by Shivakumar were ‘Journeying with Mother’s Music’, ‘Aspiring for the Psychic’ and ‘Connecting with Psychic in everyday life’. All the sessions were interconnected and facilitated in an experiential manner which helped the participants to internalise and be centred within. They also got into an aspirational mode which set the underlying tone for the entire workshop.
The sessions taken by Priti were ‘Opening up the Senses’, ‘Vedic Chanting’, ‘Be like a Flower’, ‘Entering into Delight through Art’, ‘Connecting with Earth’, and ‘Initiating and Facilitating a Mini-Project’. All the sessions were facilitated with the aim to deepen the practices of channelising the emotional energies and refining the senses.
Sushanto took the session based on ‘Education of the Soul’, where he and his team of volunteers – Sumedha, Rathi and Krishna – helped the participants to get familiar with the importance of Poetry as part of the education of the soul. He and his team also took the participants to Matri Udyanam (a nearby ashram garden which grows and nurtures different species of flowers) to get conversant with the spiritual significance of flowers.
Shekhar and Shweta of Auro Yajna, took up Yogic exercises in the morning time to help the participants get aware of their bodily and sensorial energies.
Arnab Chowdhary and Anurekha, both alumni of SAICE (Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) were external resource persons who took sessions on understanding the role of music and dance in the ‘Education of the Soul’. Arnab’s session was called ‘Know Your Rhythm’ and Anurekha’s session was called ‘Expressing Poetry through Dance Movements’. Both the sessions helped the participants open up to the world of music and dance and its relevance in the current education system.
Photo 5 and photo 6
Towards the end, all the participants could enter into the spirit of psychic education that at once brings participation, growth and joy for the children, and the growth of teachers as facilitators of this. Conscious practices introduced helped them to experience the joys of conscious living. The 5 days of the workshop was another step towards making all of our education into soul-guided education.
Feedback by Some Participants:
A feedback was taken some days after the workshop to assess if the participants have begun some practices from their learning from the workshop. Here is what some of the participants shared:
“There are so many things I learnt while we were at Sharanam. Most importantly, the importance of spending time in silence – that is something that I practice daily. Plus, spending time in the garden isn't the same anymore. Talking and taking permission from the plants and flowers is what I learnt and picked up from there. Yoga asanas and mantra chanting, [I] want to make it a part of my routine. Coming there has also rekindled my love for dance and will start my classes soon.”
- Garima Bhardwaj, Principal, Sri Aurobindo School of Integral Education, Chandigarh
“Attending the workshop in Puducherry was entirely a different experience for me. Now I have learnt how to observe my actions with consciousness. I have started with the following practices:
- Art of conscious eating
- Practice of yoga asanas
- Chanting of Om
- Importance of silence even before starting anything
I aspire to improve my physical, mental and vital parts with the passage of time.”
- Taruna Ahuja, Primary Teacher at Sri Aurobindo International School, Patiala
“Immense Gratitude for introducing us to the different practices which can help us to know ourselves better. A few of the practices which I intend to follow are -
- To include one raw meal where I am having fruits. Conscious eating will be my focus.
- To practice the Yoga asanas which we learnt from the morning yoga sessions.
- Every day taking out some time for observing oneself and involving oneself in painting, drawing and journaling.
I aspire to be consistent with the above practices and slowly get better with them.”
- Trupti Zanjad, School Development Coordinator at Bejon Desai Foundation, Nashik
“The first practice I have started after coming back from Puducherry is working on the physical practices related to food, sleep and exercise. Added lots of fruits to my diet. Setting an intention before sleeping and relaxing before going to bed is also a practice I have started. Remembering and calling for the Divine Mother is another thing I have started. I wish to start with the mantra chanting too. Also continuing with my journal writing and giving gratitude every day. Trying to be conscious in everything I am doing.”
- Shilpa. M. Tibrewala, Director, Bejon Desai Foundation, Nashik
“Since I have come back from Puducherry, there is one thing that I do without fail, eating in silence. Before I go to bed, I even chant the Shanti Mantra and write in my journal about the things that I feel grateful for. Reading a book on The Mother and the notes keeps me connected to all the beautiful experiences that I had in Pondicherry. Immense gratitude for helping me find myself.”
- Parul Kalra, PrimaryTeacher & Class Coordinator, Seth M. R. Jaipuria School, Lucknow