Twenty one years ago, a princess of the flowers was born to me. My friend gazed down upon the little baby and declared her princess of the stars. We laughingly agreed that she was a star-flower princess. Sahya knew nothing about our secret, yet, three years later, she returned from a walk in my ancestral village, and presented my friend with a flower in the shape of a star.
Children are magic. They are unique, marvelous, beautiful! They hold great promise and potential. We did too. We forget that we were children once. Do you remember what it was like to feel the feeling of infinite possibilities?
I am tempted at this point to go on a tirade of how over the centuries the ‘powers that be’ have perfected a psychological manipulation of the minds of the masses, instilling fears of various kinds and on many levels, that sit deep in our psyche and more or less decide the way we live our lives, pretending that we have choices; and how the systems and structures of urban life have imprisoned our bodies and our way of life in a stranglehold of oppression. But here I will restrain myself, for there is enough written and spoken on this. Talking about it only perpetuates what we can strive to transform. Is it an illusion or not? Are these all mental constructs that we can de construct and re construct?
As my little girl grew up, I found myself becoming a more and more demanding perfectionist. I tried to mould her in to my idea of how a good girl should behave; to feed her my idea of a perfect diet; engage her in my idea of healthy activities to build body, mind and spirit. We went out doors in the mornings and evenings, I read her good books, we listened to good music. When she awoke, I would carry her to the windows and balconies and say good morning to the sun, the trees, the earth, the flowers, the clouds…I would care for her skin, her hair, her body, her clothes…My life was all wrapped around my little girl.
Four and a half years later, my son, Rayn was born. He was a Chhota Bhim (a character from Indian mythology who was very strong and powerful). I never felt so torn in my life. I could not bear to be apart from Sahya to go to hospital. After many hours of labour, the doctor insisted I go for a caesarian section for the safety of the child. This meant I had to stay in hospital longer till the stitches healed. My husband John, my mother and a friend took great care of Sahya, along with his extended family support, but I continued to feel broken hearted at being separated. At last, when I reached home I was re united with my little family, and it felt very fulfilling. I went through the same internal tugging of my heart strings when my second son, Niom was born, in some ways less intense because I knew that Sahya, Rayn and John were together, but in other ways more, as I could not give myself wholly to the new baby, as I had two other little ones constantly requiring attention. By this time I had no energy or imagination left. Niom was just Niom. (And what a Niom he turned out to be!)
This is a very minor trauma in comparison to the terrible traumas many children go through. But please be patient with me, and throughout this article please ignore the inconsistencies and any theories that are not researched. The aim of this piece is to open up different ways of thinking about learning and ways of being as individuals, families, communities and societies.
The reasons I narrated the above story are multi-layered. Many mothers go through such emotional challenges and much worse. Many children are put through separation anxiety repeatedly during their childhood. These kinds of repeated experiences cause a fragmentation within, that have far reaching consequences. In our personal lives we feel a void that is something like a bottomless pit. When we come across human pain and suffering, our sensors seem cauterized. We become needy, and both manipulative and open to manipulation by people and systems. The deepest wound of which we are usually unaware, is our separation from nature, Mother Earth herself.
Had I been a tribal woman, my children would have been born in my hut, the other children sleeping or playing nearby. The children would have been born close to the earth, not several storeys up, placed in metal beds. The first sights, sounds, fragrances and experiences would have been holistic and natural. They would have so many close connections with people, animals, insects and plants, that separation anxiety would belong to some strange and unbelievable reality, in fact, quite unreal.
Earlier, I mentioned how I turned in to a demanding perfectionist, trying to mould Sahya to my idea of life. This intensified with the birth of Rayn. It is only when Niom was born, that I could not hold it together any longer. The more I tried, the more impossible it became. I started feeling that horrible feeling where everything is slipping away from my control, and that all my plans and projections were repeatedly being reduced to nothing. Many fights and crises later, that de escalated in to arguments and finally in to discussions, I realized that my whole ‘trip’ had been an ‘ego trip’. I had wanted the children to be a reflection of me as a great mother. I was not really concerned with who they were inside, and what their journey on earth was meant to be.
Back to ‘if I had been a tribal woman’, I would not have had this type of ‘ego’. I would have had a primordial type attachment to my children that would naturally thin as they matured. I would not have had any psychological damage to visit upon them. I would not have added to the void that is caused by birth traumas and other socially sanctioned traumas.
Then began a journey of deep watching, listening and sensing. I started to perceive more deeply the very being of my children, and through them, of my husband and myself. From being concerned with the distractions of the externals of the children and of the world, I began an inward journey. Inner healing began. I started to be led to, and drawn towards people, books, situations, films, knowledge that supported my inward journey. Insights particular to myself and my immediate world came from apparently nowhere. My emotions began to mellow and my fears disintegrate. Certain practices became a part of my life that helped clarify and purify energy. Gradually, people got drawn to me, and I was able to connect people who were good for each other. My husband John too, chose to no longer continue in his dental profession, and stepped in to the unknown. I began to feel like life was happening through the body, the body being a sort of vehicle.
A feeling took hold in my heart that if I could take this experiment outside the family, to wider groups and communities, the ripple effect could create a tidal wave of change. I came out of my cocoon to speak once a month about homeschooling and unschooling. These talks led to invitations to talk to groups. Though I noticed a great fear about future financial stability among parents, within three years there was a huge surge in numbers of families beginning to homeschool in India. The first discussion groups, websites and blogs appeared. I had been interviewed once in a while over the years by major newspapers before Niom was even born, but now, articles appeared in fourteen papers in just one year alone! This may sound like I was the cause of the sudden surge in homeschooling in the country, but actually it is more like its time had come, and homeschooling, learning societies (mentioned below), and I, got connected simultaneously.
Learning Societies unConference, which is a nationwide annual gathering and an online discussion list connecting groups of communities of rethinkers, holistic healers, learners of all ages, seekers, organic farmers, people in social media, homeschoolers, unschoolers, alternative educators, activists, explorers and people involved in experimenting with life and ways of being. This was very exciting for me, as I could be with increasing numbers of people, groups of people and communities who were creating living learning spaces outside of the existing manipulative systems.
Part of me was carried away with the stories of the way of life of indigenous people that I heard from people in Learning Societies unConference. Part of me started to wonder why these peaceful people were always wiped out or dominated by aggressive nations. Did they not have the spiritual strength to transform violence? When I spoke excitedly about aspects of tribal community life, skeptics would tell me not to glamourize their way of living which was actually very hard. I realized that a major reason for human ‘progress’ is to make things easier: locomotion, barter, protection, storage…so where did emotions like greed for things, money and power emerge? Where did today’s structures and systems that fragment our psyche, fragment our wholeness, separate us from each other and Mother Nature, originate? There are many theories and hypotheses that attempt to answer these questions, but I am not as bothered about the probable causes as I am with some probable solutions.
The structures and systems were created for the convenience of the ruler(s); dividing people in to rulers and servers or servants. Democracy does not really give the servers choices. A friend, Jinan, points to literacy as the cause of this fragmentation. It causes us to be unnaturally mind heavy, ignoring the being. For the purpose of putting forward my probable solutions, let us assume this to be true.
If we assume this to be true, that the most fundamental separation happens within; that words and ideas literally take over the mind and create a separate kingdom, that dominates the being, we can begin to understand how ego and different types of greed dominate our own selves. Psychological manipulation through media messages especially igniting emotions, becomes a key to a few people controlling the whole world. We are one consciousness. Our inner environment is reflected in the outer environment. Even ‘good guys’ operate from ego and a type of greed. Even if we are full of heartfelt intentions, we lead with our mind, which, through separation from the being has become the house of ego and different types of greed. Our emotions are easily manipulated by words and ideas. We are all one consciousness. It is not a question of liberating oppressed people from oppressors. It is a question of liberation of all human beings from the stranglehold of word ideas (mind). In that sense we are both the oppressors and the oppressed.
I am not saying that we go back to tribal life or illiteracy (though it is interesting that the Kogi tribe sent us a message through the documentary film “From the Heart of the World”, and they have rejected literacy. A few of them are selected to become leaders, for which they have to spend nine years in a dark cave. They become leaders only after nine years of deep inner work.) We are complex beings, with imagination and creativity. The questions we have to explore are how do we learn from indigenous people how to remain whole, connected and un fragmented, within the self and together in community and with all earth. Starting from birth practices, how we communicate with each other (less words), how we learn (education system), how we resolve conflicts (legal systems), how we heal (medical systems), how we organize our societies (political systems and financial systems). And here I have already contradicted myself. For if we start to question these, and come up with answers from our ego (greedy) minds, we will no doubt come up with ‘better’ solutions that will end up being new wine in old casks, and will only be a more sophisticated version of the same soup. The transformation will have to start from within. For the outer world is just a reflection of the inner environment.
For me, the first work is of healing the fragmentation inside. However, this becomes a bit chicken and egg, as I see a lot of struggle to begin, and then sustain inner work, while grappling with survival with the current systems, especially money systems in play. Still, I like to be optimistic. My own journey with money is a long story on its own. I feel we should speak about money more, explore new ways of looking at and thinking about money, and get really open minded, open hearted and creative in our way of living and being.
Becoming whole is now more about healing emotionally, physically, creating a lifestyle that is integrated and sustainable. For this we need to simultaneously create systems that are humane and life affirming, that help all life thrive and flourish, which will originate and manifest from the centre of our Whole Being(s) rather than only our mind ideas (though it will include our mind ideas).
One important practical challenge that comes to me that needs to be overcome that will go a long way to address this void inside that is almost universal, is a symbiotic generation and flow of love of self and other, and between self and other. I find that we have grown up with so much criticism, that everyone, the whole human race today is too low on a feeling of self worth, for the health of the individual and all life on earth. (Extroverts seem high in self esteem, but it may not necessarily be so. They are still hiding the void inside. This is evident from other behaviours they exhibit.) The void is according to me nearly universal. It can be filled with love. And love is a funny thing, one can give it only if one has it, and one can have it, if one can give it. Our work on this earth today is to conjure love up almost from nowhere and somehow fill ourselves and each other up with love. In my practical experience, one way to start is to stop being critical and judgmental of the self and other.
How can citizens and governments, nations, corporations etc. communicate and negotiate with the deep understanding required for humane institutions, unless we figure this out on an individual, family, community and local level? We are one consciousness. To understand the other, we must understand the self. The relationship with the other is vital for healing. Healing of our close relationships will heal each self, which in turn will heal the planet. Can we see each person in our lives who seem to be there randomly, by chance and sometimes by choice (as in our chosen spouses), to be our principle teachers? And can we see that the only subject we must major in is love?
Is it possible to be really very good to yourself and those closest to you; to grow a big healthy happy sense of self? For too long we have lived with an attitude of miserliness and poverty on all levels, not just monetary. It is time to be courageous, generous and creative with self included. Open the whole being to Infinite Possibilities and human potential beyond imagination.
Can you see the star flower prince and princess you were born as? Can you see the jewel in your loved one? In each and everyone? In the person you hate the most? Can you see the importance of seeing this in everyone? There is great healing potential in personal relationships. One good healthy relationship in each life can heal each other and Mother Earth.
That was meant to be the end of the paper, but I wish to add:
When I read this article to my family, through the feedback I realized that I started from a heart space and real experience, and ended up in the head. Another thing I realized is that my meaning has not come across, and that is the need for support and to support. I have spoken a lot about love, but not about support. It is with my family’s help, support and love that I am able to heal the fragmentation within me and without. They hold a mirror up for me to see myself. They catch me in inconsistencies and contradictions. But they do it with the utmost love and care, which helps me feel held. This is my hope and prayer for everyone. Let these primary love and support systems grow in to larger support systems at the local level, including all our needs, gradually decreasing dependence on the larger machinery. A sort of connecting web that is personal, global and natural. This is my hope and prayer for the world.
Let us close our eyes for a moment, leave this swirl of words and ideas, breathe deeply and reach a place of silence inside. Allow your breath to settle into its natural rhythm. Become aware of that rhythm.
After a few moments, when you feel ready, gently open your eyes.
This article was submitted as a paper for online Homeschool Conference 2013. It is not a product of academic research, but a combination of learning from a deep engagement with life and personal experiences. Some words like ‘ego’, ‘self esteem’ and ‘tribals’ are used loosely without any attempt to define them objectively. I have attempted to make my subjective meaning clear through the context within which these words appear. I like to call myself a Whole Being Learner, which means that mind learning is integrated with sensory and practical experiences (and possibly more parts of the being that I am not yet aware of!) It’s not like I am a learned being who is telling everyone what’s right and what’s not. My learning is all jumbled inside me, and when I write or speak or share, it is my attempt at getting small patches of my learning un entangled sufficiently enough to further my own learning, (and anyone else who is interested), and to progress towards the next small patch of clarity.
The paper makes an assumption that today’s structures and systems are the cause of fragmentation within and disconnection without. It encourages us to support and love each other in at least one primary relationship, and also in localized groups. To begin, we can practice being non judgmental and critical. The assumption is that these close connections will heal the self and mother earth, as our outer world is but a reflection of our inner environment.