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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

Tag Archives: Community

I was excited when I first went through the brochure of the Learning Societies Unconference. For two reasons. One, it was a gathering of people, in a manner I had never experienced before. Two, they seemed my kind of people. They were expecting more than three hundred people from across the world, with a variety of backgrounds to explore new ways of learning and living. Moreover, there was no structure to the conference; hence, it was called the un-conference. It would emerge as we went along. It worked for me. Anything that questioned mainstream education and economics and believed in going with the flow definitely had my vote. It seemed as though I had found my community at last.

As I reached Hideout, the rural venue, three hours from Mumbai, it took me a while to settle into the variety of people I suddenly came across. People who had attended earlier conferences greeted each other with shouts and hugs, like long lost family members. I smiled politely and shook hands. I was new to this family. Yet the distinctive character of the community was felt. These were people who had walked out of mainstream institutions, schools and corporations, and were searching for new ways of educating their children and living more authentic lives. Some had covered ground in that journey, while others were just beginning. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of community. I felt mainstream here!

The next five days were to be devoted to learning, sharing, listening and bonding. Each day began with an open space and members offered to hold workshops on a variety of topics. The workshops offered were mind-boggling! Ranging from the power of spaces, making of caps, sharing unschooling experiences, effective listening, radical honesty, creative letter writing, tarot cards, non-violent communication, belly dancing and the much anticipated unconventional relationships – to name a few. I offered one on finding inner authority. Then there were mela-shops of different organizations doing a variety of work in the developmental sector ranging from education to ecology. This seemed like a learners paradise.

I floated mostly. Without any agenda.  Allowing the day to unfold. Here is what I learnt.

On Learning

My primary learning was that learning and unlearning is a myth. There is nothing to learn or unlearn. Every learning or unlearning results in a new answer. Another concept. And each concept comes in the way of experiencing life. We keep replacing old concepts with new ones and perpetuate the illusion of learning. Giving precedence to learning over living.

Each time I think I have found a new way to live, to relate, to educate I feel fortified with answers. Until the answers crumble when dashed against the incomprehensible mystery of life. Then the mind searches for new answers, new masters, new books, new theories. Once it finds the new answer, it rests for a while. Until the cycle is repeated. Little realizing that the problems of living stem from the mind, the questions come from the mind and the mind finds the answers too. The mind labels this activity learning or unlearning. A poor substitute to living.

On Relating

Just as the nature of the mind is to create constructs, we look for the ideal construct to relate. Marriage, the traditional construct having failed, the mind now looks for new answers through unconventional relationships. Each construct – open marriages, polyamory, fidelity, commitment – is picked and examined closely. A hidden hope that the exploration would give the magical key into this mysterious terrain of relating between a man and a woman. Some of us have questions, some have answers, while others have stories to share.

In the search for a new construct, I realize that I am missing a crucial moment of relating. To myself, in this very moment.  And if I am not relating to myself, how will I ever relate to another.  Thus theories, concepts and constructs relate to one another other, leaving feelings unfelt and needs unarticulated.

On Authority    

Every time I seek an answer from another, I create authority. Every time I give an answer to another, I become an authority. From some I seek answers. To others I give answers. What is common is my need for answers. Where does this need stem from? What is it like to live without answers? Is it possible?

Yet I speak. I speak of how to be free, when I am bound. I speak of becoming independent, when I cultivate dependence. I speak of relating, when I myself do not relate. I speak to humans, when my own humanness awaits expression. Have I become a commentator on living, at the cost of living?

On Freedom

Does freedom mean being unbounded? What if my unbounded expression creates inconvenience to another? How does one then live as a free individual within an interdependent community? Is being free flowing, allowing for chaos to create, letting it evolve organically, indicative of my ignorance or my reactiveness to the system that confined me for so long? Can individual freedom truly exist without agreed norms and boundaries?

In the absence of basic norms, who decides? In absence of clear time boundaries, who waits? In the absence of clear roles, what remains undone? If my primary purpose is to learn, when will I learn that freedom and boundaries go hand in hand?

On Sensitivity

I talk of being sensitive to the environment, to nature, to the value of hard work and honest labour. But what of my sensitivity in communication to fellow human beings. Does not sensitivity have more than one flavour?  How swayed am I by my commitment to a singular value, that I am blinded to my own verbal violence? Am I so lost in my own story of sensitivity that I do not see my insensitivity to others?

How different am I from the terrorist or the rioter who kills for his value? Have I lost my sensitivity and rationality in my story of self-righteousness?

On Facilitation

I wish to facilitate inclusiveness. Facilitate listening. Restore peace and harmony. What is my need to do so? In the process am I giving up my authenticity to play a role, live up to an image of what I aspire to be? Am I listening to myself? Am I at peace and harmony? Have I explored myself deeply enough or am I seeking solutions from the outside?

What would happen if I gave up the security of a technique to communicate? Or the crutch of an approach to facilitate?  What if I got up one day to see all that I had learnt had been erased? Would I then get in touch with what I felt in the moment? Would I then risk becoming vulnerable to express my need to another? Or would I become immobilized if there was no one to facilitate me? And I run to find another mask that would make me socially loved and accepted?

On Feelings

Why is it so hard for me to be in touch with my feelings? The most fundamental aspect of my being. What draws my energy constantly towards the concepts and theories of the mind? Seeking answers, giving answers in a symbolic language that by its very nature is untrue, fragmented and static. Inadequate to meet the needs of a life that is dynamic, animated and whole. How do I perceive this whole without fragmentation?

Am I myself fragmented? Seeking completion, belonging and acceptance from family, friends and community? Will my search ever end?

On Creating A New World

In my pursuit to create a new world, a better world, for my children and the generations to come, am I missing out on another world? The world inside of me. Have I ever looked inside. Not introspecting, analyzing or interpreting, but simply looked and noted without words. Or am I so busy setting the world right that I have no time to stop and note the world I carry within.

Can I ever bring integration outside, if I am divided inside? Can I bring peace and harmony to the world, without bringing it first into my heart and mind? Is the world a reflection of my own mind? Am I the world?

 ***

During the conference I stayed in a dormitory in the home for the aged run by Christian nuns. It was reminiscent of my growing years in a convent boarding school. There was fixed time for everything. The gates of the home shut at 10.00 pm sharp. Often we had to wait outside in the hope that the Sister would be kind enough to open it. She mostly did and we would scamper inside muttering “Sorry” under our breath.

What I loved most about the place was the lake adjoining it. There was a dam and the water flowed into a small pond with rocks and pebbles. I went there for a bath every morning. It became my morning ritual. Often as I used to go for my bath, I would come across a few participants gazing at the sun. Drawing energy from it. Everything about the place was so energising. The cool air, the green cover, the gushing waters, the still rocks.

As I stepped into the waters and took the first dip. I entered another world. A fluid world of swirling gushing current. The world above me lost for a moment. Till I emerged for a breath of air. The sun continued to shine radiantly. The morning breeze played harmoniously with the trees, caressing the leaves with playful curiosity. For moment everything seemed perfect. Everything in nature seemed as it was meant to be.

Was I not an integral part of nature? Why then why did I seek perfection? Change? Evolution? Growth? Standing right in the middle of The Garden of Eden I sought it everywhere, other than where it seemed to be. Inside of me.

As I arrived in Mumbai I needed a day to ground myself. Even though I had traveled a mere three hours, I experienced a mental-emotional jet lag of many eons. I felt as though I had journeyed into the cosmos of each person present there, a catharsis leading to a realignment of my own cosmos.

Bringing me closer to myself.

***

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This is the story of three characters. Me,You and We.

The story begins with Me.

Me was born. A girl child.

Like most newborn babies Me cried when she felt hungry. Me’s parents came running to feed her. Me learnt when she needed something all she had to do was cry. And Me did. And sure enough someone came running.

As Me grew to be a toddler, she was admitted in a playschool. Me came across other Me’s. For the first time Me realized that she was not the only Me. There were others like her. Small Me boys and small Me girls. Each one crying for attention.  Me now had to compete with other Me’s.

And, boy was there competition! They called it exams. They called it sports. Someone stood first and someone stood last. Someone won and someone lost. When Me won a prize, her mother gave her an extra warm hug. Her father gave her an approving look. Her teachers patted her back.  No one paid attention to the Me’s that lost. The worst thing that could happen to a Me was losing. If a Me failed, they were called failures. It was frightening!

That’s when Me gave birth to You.

Me realized that if it had to survive and thrive in the world it had to please You. You Parents, You Teachers, You Friends, You Everybody else. Gradually she lost touch with Me. And got pre-occupied with You. She didn’t even realize when she stopped being Me.

For many years she lived as You. For You.

You did all that others told it to do. It wanted their approval, their love, their affection. It was hungry for others to like it. Could never get enough of it. You graduated with distinction, got her dream job, even had a grand marriage. You did all the right things. Like everyone else. You ran the mainstream race. Yet the more mainstream she became the more marginalized she felt. As though life from her very veins was gradually being sucked dry. She began to feel hollow. And this emptiness seeped into her life. She lost her marriage to her job. She lost her job to the economic meltdown.  And one day she realized that she had lost herself. She didn’t know any longer who she was. Or what she wanted. As she sat on a park bench, watching the children play, she reflected on her life as You. She was angry with You for ruining her life.

That’s when she re-discovered Me.

She thought she had lost Me forever. Yet it was there. Hidden somewhere in the deep recesses of her being. For the first time she spoke to Me. “What do you want?” Me did not respond. It was extremely angry. Hurt at being abandoned as a child. She realized her mistake. She knew that she didn’t have a life without Me. Me was the source of her life. She apologized to Me and they decided to become friends.

Now there was Me. An angry Me. A rebellious Me.

Wanting to make up for all those years it had lost, Me only cared for itself. Like a petulant child it wanted everything for itself. She blamed her parents, her friends and her ex-husband. For being selfish. For making her sacrifice. She believed that the world is selfish. And from now on she would be selfish too. Now she would live only for herself. She got another job. Another apartment. Another car. And indulged herself. She only had Me to please. She moved from one relationship to another. She didn’t believe in love anymore. Only loving herself. She covered herself in a hard shell of cynicism borne from her bitter experience as You.

She distanced herself from her parents and relatives. She hardly had any friends. She got into fights at work. She was angry most of the time. She knew that this was not who she was. In her fight to reclaim Me from You, she had lost out on Me.

She wondered. “How can I live as Me, in a world full of You?”

She quit her job and went on a sabbatical.

She read books. Met holy men. Visited ashrams. Attended workshops. Each had something to offer.  Yet the answer eluded her. Just when she was beginning to give up hope, something happened.

She was sitting at the seashore watching the sunset in the distance. In the fading sunlight she caught the sight of geese flying in a V. We! She had an epiphany at that moment.

We was born.

From experience. From wisdom. From lessons learnt as Me and You. We was a space where Me and You could co-exist. She could now be Me without making You a villain. We knew how to draw boundaries to protect Me. Yet engage with You. She got her answer atlast.

Without You, Me could not exist. And without Me, You had no meaning.

She got up and dusted the sand from her clothes and looked up once again. At the flying geese in the distance and wondered….

How did the geese learn to fly in a We?

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