For someone like me (an urbanite with a background in engineering and business,) the exercise of noticing colors and shapes and textures of fallen leaves was initially painful and seemingly pointless. But as the days progressed, all of our activities – cutting vegetables with awareness, meditating on the food before we started eating, walks through rubber plantations, hikes up to a hillock to catch magnificent sunsets, rambles through paddy fields on a full moon night, swims in a beautiful meandering river with a majestic Western Ghats backdrop – slowed my stride, elongated my gaze, and expanded my observation of intricacies in nature such as patterns formed by bamboo groves or the subtle shades of brown of fallen deciduous leaves. Quite notably, this sensitization was happening not just on the outside but also on the inside. I started becoming conscious of subtle feelings as they arose within me, such as fear of being judged as I was making my clumsy clay forms, feeling proud when complimented on the progress I was making in the workshop, and feeling distracted when I was tempted to check the time as I was observing tender young leaves in a garden. And just becoming aware of these feelings made them disappear and helped me become centered again.
By the end of the workshop, an inexplicable peace had entered me: I wasn’t afraid of being judged as what was beautiful to me need not mean anything to anyone else; I felt no pride or ownership for achievements, such as successfully starting a campfire that just wouldn’t start; I could ignore a mind wanting to wander and be completely in the moment when listening to a conversation or taking a photograph. What started off as an attempt to improve my aesthetic awareness ended up being much more than that – a spiritual journey that has enabled me to be truly silent and feel more connected to the beauty that surrounds us in all forms. So much so that all I could do in the sharing session at the end of the workshop was to cry with joy and gratitude for being able to connect with my true self.
Nothing can be taught. Everything has to be learnt. And learning is all about knowing oneself with respect to his/her environment. The awareness of being present at the moment-Observing, listening, experiencing,meditating and totally involved in whatever you are doing- might be the life-changing lesson that I have carried from Jinan. And if this has to happen, our senses have to work in total harmony.
These five days at the workshop... would rather call it a retreat, have been turbulent. The first day saw most of the participants shaken up as we started seeing our 'conditioned minds'. The next two days saw us internalising the whole process. Learning from children & observing the way they see and understand the world has indeed been an eyeopener for me. I realised that children are observing, exploring, innovating and applying all the time. They keep themselves engaged and the learning process happens very naturally.
Since the participants came from diverse fields, the circle times were always intense and the interactive sessions would sometimes lead to chaos and confusion. But, these discussions always resulted in an inward journey of self reflections.
So much so that towards the end of the fourth day, I could expereince a change in my thought process. I had started enjoying this whole expereince of being present at the moment in totality. My decisions were now ruled more by the heart and less by the logical mind.
The best part of the retreat was our interaction with Joseph. Every moment spent with Joseph was enlightening and I am sure to carry his lessons for life. These few days with Jinan, Joseph and all others have definitely kindled a fire somewhere deep down, which I can experience. The journey has just begun. Don't know where this will lead. But, am sure the process has started and there's a long long way to go.
Thanks Jinan. Thanks Joseph.
A special thanks to my school management, without whose support I wouldn't have got this rare opportunity to experience a new lease of life.
Dream is not what you see in sleep,
Dream is the thing which does not let you sleep!
The mail in my in–box was indeed a pleasant surprise. Breath taking visuals. Who could have thought an innocous and seemingly dull Jewish ear on a rotting log could arrest you in such wonder? And which ingenous mind captured the rays of the sun streaming through a canopy of leaves so beautifully? Mesmerizing images. “Awaken you aesthetic awareness”, proclaimed the e-brochure. The accompanying write- up was equally alluring.I wanted to be part of this nature trail. And that’s how I signed up for Jinan’s workshop in Nilambur.
Pushpa and I got off the train and with bated breath and arrived at Nilambur Manor( our accommodation for the week) in the heart of the town where you should count yourself lucky if you don’t turn stone deaf with all the honking or get run over by a KSRTC bus. As we were expecting a retreat of some sort nestled in a coconut grove through which runs a stream, the run-of - the mill Nilambur Manor, with its clinically white bed sheets was assuring but some- what of a let- down. However, Jinan’s place, the venue of the workshop, with its red oxide flooring, terracotta murals on the walls, chicken coop and cool interiors in a typically rustic setting was picture perfect and made up for the may hem that greeted us outside Nilambur Manor.
Just like every other workshop, the first morning began with the typical round of introductions. Why does every workshop begin with this ritual? It takes away the fun of finding out for yourself, especially so in a workshop of this nature where it is all about observing to learn and learning to observe.
As the session unfolded a multitude of things happened. There was the “what am doing here?” moments interspersed with “ I am really glad I signed up for this ” self assuring inner monologues. As soon as the first half of the day is over, you get the feeling that all that needs to be said and shared seems to have taken place. What is left for the rest of the week one? Wonders one, little aware that the learning is yet to begin.
The rest of the week had its challenges. It was hard indeed, finding myself in a situation where the learning methodology itself was the lesson. Roaming around as a silent observer discouraged from indulging in the pleasure of incessant yapping and the distraction of the ever bugging cell phone, a means of escapism, was a very difficult thing to do as most of us discovered.
Lesson number two: Unlearning is much more difficult than learning! Old habits die hard but it is harder to kill old thinking patterns. Try as hard as I may I found myself scurrying back to my comfort zone and judging by the interaction during circle times I was not the only one. The “new” ideas that were meant to induce our thought process to begin a hitherto unknown journey failed to make an impact. I found myself shackled to existing paradigms and questioning from an old vantage point was not helping me one bit and left me mentally exhausted.
A lot of what was discussed was making sense but how was I to bring about a change in the existing scheme of things personally and professionally ? I was flummoxed and so was Pushpa. It took time but towards the end of the week I felt empowered for having sought an answer. If change is what I was looking at then a paradigm shift was essential. Jinan’s repetitive reminder, or should I say request, to just feel and not rationalize everything certainly came in handy.
The million dollar question I took home with me : How do we develop the intuitive sensing ability characteristic of the primitive mind while keeping in check the inevitable intellectualizing tendency of the conditioned mind?
Have I found the answer? No, to sit down in seclusion with a notepad in hand and meditate with the hope of stumbling on one would defeat the very purpose of the quest. For the time being, I am at peace knowing that I am going to allow myself to see more and feel more and think less. Therein lies the answer and the true outcome of my novel and memorable learning journey!
My heartfelt thanks to the management for making this experience possible and to Jinan and Joseph for being who they are.