Dr. M.S.Udayamurthy School of Excellence, established in the year of 2000, is an aspiring institute spread over 2.5 acres of land in Namakkal. Shivakumar and Priti from SAFIER—the Integral Education wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry—visited the school in August 2022 and gave a glimpse into the approach of Integral Education (IE) through awareness games and art activities. This interaction developed into a joyful collaboration – a course on IE spread over a period of 11 months, to introduce, guide and mentor a group of about 10-12 teachers of the school. The phase I of the course began with a 3-day Introductory Workshop at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Society with a group of 6 teachers from the Primary and Pre-Primary section of the school and two representatives from the Management.
Course Facilitators: The Main facilitators of the workshop were Shivakumar and Priti, supported by Sahana, Rathi and Sushanto from SAFIER, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry.
On day 1, the workshop began with a game where participants introduced themselves by sharing a quality of theirs, expressing it through a movement. This playful yet deep introductory session led by Priti cheered and opened them up for the further journey. Shivakumar then shared the story of IE, starting with a thoughtful and introspective interaction about spirituality. He narrated his own journey of discovering the true meaning of spirituality and then introduced teachers to IE through the story of its founders - Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This was followed by Priti's session on inspired teaching, where teachers were asked to recall the memory of their most favourite teacher and what qualities inspired them the most, reminding them to look within for the Source of their Inspiration.
After a delicious South Indian meal by Prasadam, participants were taken through a skit by Shivakumar & team reflecting the different parts of oneself and a constant struggle between them and a beautiful potential of a true leader hidden within. Teachers deepened their understanding of different parts of their being by filling up a questionnaire reflecting upon a few everyday activities and through experiencing each part while they engaged in different activities. Priti led participants further into the inner world through a meditative body scan, visiting and quieting all the parts. Participants expressed the inner weather in a visual way through colors and experienced a deep peace within through the session.
Day 2 started early in the morning with a refreshing yoga-asana session by Priti during which the participants explored postures related to nature and the animal world and experienced a new kind of energy flow in their body. The formal sessions began by introducing journaling to help participants observe the day's events, locate the sense of ‘I’ in the most inspired and challenging moments and understand which part of their personality was more dominant in these moments.
Connecting with the inner friend was the main theme of the day where participants were reminded of the pure, silent, wise being in the middle of the chaos created by the physical-vital-mind trio, and IE begins when these parts get connected with the Psychic. Beauty was presented as a gateway for connecting with the inner friend. Participants enjoyed singing together a beautiful song on beauty, translated to Tamil specially for this group, and then chanting mantras with Shiva Kumar to connect with their deeper selves. They were also encouraged to connect with flowers by being like a flower, a session in which they chose and deeply connected with a flower, shared and expressed their joy through a group dance movement.
Post-lunch, they played a few games with Sahana which were designed to create alertness and sustained attention, followed by an activity that involved creating something beautiful as a group, in silence while being in touch with the inner friend. They also made beautiful butterfly-origami with Rathi and were excited to do the activity with the children in their school.
Evening participants were taken to the Maret Garden, where they reflected with Sushanto Da and team on how learning from nature is different from learning from a teacher inside the classroom. They engrossed themselves in the beauty and fragrance of flowers and explored connecting with flowers through their unique vibrations.
The third day also began with yogic exercises aimed at increasing stability and stillness in movement. The participants had a taste of a physical routine with an awareness-based approach and vowed to practise some of the postures when they reached back home! Similarly, formal sessions began with Om chanting and an aspiration for a deeper connection with the Inner Friend. Participants were guided to journal in a deeper way, and shared their insights from the previous day. Shivakumar took the teachers for a walk through the current educational system where they had a critical look at the current educational system, reflecting on how much of their education has been really useful till date. It was an insightful session where teachers understood that it's high time that they begin to relook at education in a way that truly helped children blossom. They also explored certain coordination games which challenged them and helped them to bring awareness into the body and the possibility of a conscious body making its movements more perfect.
In the afternoon they went through a quick recap of the important quotes that were explored during the workshop. As part of that they read the first few paragraphs from the chapter “Science of Living” by the Mother, starting with the importance of having an aim that is high, wide, generous and disinterested. All the inspired teachers that we have had during our education had such an aim of going beyond being a conventional teacher, and it put them in touch with their Inner Friend and made them inspirational teachers.
The participants were given assignments and the workshop came was concluded with a reflective session on the intense journey of Integral Education that they had embarked upon for the last three days and, holding the learnings and insights in their deepest Inner space, offered it to the ‘Flame of Aspiration’ burning in that deep Inner space, within each one.
Highlights from Participants’ Feedback
“We were strangers, we became a family through love! Let us grow in knowledge - not through words but through acts that we will practise Integral Education….”
“I liked analysing our own experiences of the day the most because it will make me more conscious and a happy woman, happy wife, happy mother, happy teacher.”
Primary Teacher, English & Computer Science
“Connecting with Nature in Maret garden was very exciting. I haven't seen so many types of flowers before. They were very beautiful!”
“The Magic Mirror session I liked the most. Content clarity, execution and characterization were awesome. Detailed explanation made me understand the unknown concepts easily.”
“The best part of the AZHAGU song was to add our own stanza to it. I’m sure this will be a hit in the classroom where the children’s creativity will be kindled.”
Teacher, Class IV & V
“So helpful yoga-asanas. I felt fresh the entire day. My physical felt very light, active and energetic. It brought my attention towards each and every part of my body.”
K Arthy Lakshmi
“I understood clearly that students should not be fully pushed into the lesson plans or syllabus pattern. We have to give education that is relevant to them.”
A Ummul Barakath
Hindi Teacher, Class I-III