Last Christmas Vacation and into the New Year 2016, my family was at the Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry attending the Science of Living Workshop. It was quite a good experience for all of us for 3 days with lots of activities and the learnings that ensued those activities. I am jotting it down here chronologically day-by-day.
The workshop started by asking all the participants to introduce themselves and to identify any two from the many flowers arranged, they also need to tell why they like that particular flower. For example, I chose 2 flowers – the flower of Indian Cork Tree (Tree jasmine or Millingtonia hortensis) and Garden gladiolus (Gladiolus Xhortulanus), both of them white (personally because I like white color) and for me it is very soothing, an embodiment of peace and harmony. The facilitators then explained the spiritual significance of the flowers given by The Mother to each of the flowers chosen.
- Indian Cork Tree flower (Tree Jasmine) – Transformation
- Garden gladiolus – Receptivity – Integral Receptivity
For example, my wife chose – Marigold flower and the spiritual significance given by The Mother is – Plasticity
2) Life and Self
After the introductions, each participant was given a set of questions. In essence, it was about reflecting on oneself and then answering the questions therein (only to be reviewed again by oneself). The idea is to use this tool for personal retrospective.
3) Well-Being and Being Well
This session started with deconstruction of the word – Psychosomatic – ‘psycho’ means ‘relating to mind’ and somatic means ‘relating to body’ and so psychosomatic diseases are those which have their birth place in the mind, and subsequently travel outward and enter the body. The important message was that the body manifests the thoughts and emotions, either positive or negative, so we need to careful about the quality of thoughts and emotions that we generate in our interactions with our own self and others. The four dimensions of Well-being in an individual are the Physical well-being, Vital (emotional) well-being, Mental well-being and Spiritual well-being. Physical well-being can be achieved through daily exercises; Vital or emotional well-being can be attained by doing work or choosing an occupation that is in harmony with individual nature, temperament and capacities; Mental well-being can be established by having peace and tranquility in mind, and eventually spiritual well-being by awakening to the inmost self. To establish all these one quality that is required is Perseverance. What is Perseverance? When patience becomes dynamic, it is called as Perseverance, in other words – Perseverance is dynamic Patience.
We were then presented a case study on how one can use consciousness as medicine – “Love healed the bones” which appeared in the Namah magazine (Vol. 22, Issue 1, 24th April 2014).
4) Demystifying Life Aspects
In essence, each human being is a triple body – physical, vital and mental bodies (Annamayakosha, Pranmayakosha and Manomayakosha) and soul the inhabitant works through this triple body. It is very necessary to make sure that each of these bodies are harmonised for the well-being of an individual.
5) Playing Together
In the post lunch session on Playing Together, all the parents along with the children played together by doing Origami. We all learnt from the facilitators how to create beautiful butterflies out of plain paper and later we all were given special Origami paper, which we all coloured it using crayons and then folded them to make colourful butterflies. The core learning here was about improving one’s grasping, developing concentration, and above all understanding symmetry and perfection involved in folding the paper to create beautiful butterflies.
6) Collective Chanting
This was a nice experience of everyone in the workshop chanting together the invocatory mantra of Isha Upanishad (The starting Om needs to be recited such that a time split of 60-40 is maintained for O-m).
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
As a collective the chanting was very powerful and could feel the pulsations within me.
1) The ‘others’ in Life
This session started with a ‘game of moving chairs’ wherein each couple would take turns at this game. For each couple round (time-boxed to 15 mins), there were bunch of chairs arranged and one of the persons in the pair was blind-folded, with the second person giving verbal instructions for the first to move from one end of the room to the other end step-by-step. Upon reaching the destination, touch a pre-designated target. During the game, one can hear the couple’s argue and talk to each other. Also, the chairs were not kept static, they were moved by the facilitators to simulate changing nature of life. The essence of the game was to convey the message –
- Putting in one-self in the shoes of the other.
- Trusting the other person.
2) Creativity Bonds
In the second half, all the children along with the parents played various games.
Moving with a glass full of water (up to its brim) from one end to the other end of the room without spilling it.
These games don’t require a huge set-up, but can go a long way in developing –
- Body consciousness
3) Movie: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
All the children with parents watched this wonderful movie. There are lot of learnings that one can derive from this movie.
- Non-attachment to possessions
- Believing in oneself
- Living life with Exuberance
- Being open to change
If you have not seen the movie, I would highly recommend it.
Day 3: Trip to Sharanam
On the last day, we were taken to Sharanam, about 11Kms from The Society Office. The space is wonderfully done, all using bricks that are handmade and not dried in fire, they are left to dry naturally in the air. Cement and concrete is not used to build this structure.
In this session, all the participants were asked to create something jointly (all families together) with something that conveyed the spirit of this word.
2) Tools for Life Beautiful
In this session, we were acquainted with tools for making life beautiful. Jotting them here for reference.
- Stepping Back
- Guided by Larger Purpose
- Step Inside before you Step Outside
- Beauty and Harmony
Now, all these are tools are good, but how do we use them on a daily basis so that it is not mere mental gymnastics. As in everything its the implementation that is difficult, not the understanding. Of all the above tools, generally speaking, The Mother has said that begin with Beauty and Harmony in the physical as its near to us and then gradually work your way inwards. Trying to establish beauty and harmony in our immediate physical surroundings – cleanliness at home, at workplace etc… Beauty and harmony while doing our daily chores, harmony in our interactions with others, for example – as a professional, if you are a software developer, ask yourself – how can I make this code beautiful or write beautiful code?
3) Surprise video’s of children
As parents, we were asked to fill in a questionnaire (both the mother and father fill answer separately and merge their answers) pertaining to our children. While parents were attending the sessions, children were playing amongst themselves and under the supervision of Sri Aurobindo Society’s facilitators. They also asked them questions about parents and video-shooted their responses (as parents we were not told about this). Later both, the parent to child and child to parent feedback was shared in a congenial setting. Sharing Parent-Children 360 degree feedback in such a manner was the best part of the entire workshop. I learnt that this is a powerfully simple tool to see each other’s perspectives.
I have skipped a couple of sessions as I don’t completely recall what we did in them, but that does not matter, the above conveys the spirit of the 3-day program very nicely.