Friday, September 25, 2015

Integral Being, Integral Yoga and Human Unity - the third round

 How do I capture the journey across Europe and USA over a period of 3 months (14 workshops and retreats in 9 venues spread over 4 countries) in a single post, that too 4 weeks after returning? I admit to myself that I violated my principle and almost skipped this altogether but had the sense to do it late than never. I will remember the workshops and retreats and will remember the ‘major’ lessons and insights. However, ‘major’ is a tag I give and in the context of personal growth all insights are insights and all lessons are lessons. I will do my best to capture my travels and learnings in this post. I am wondering whether I would like to make it into random musings or go with chronological order.  I think I will go chronologically to make it simple – for me.
The backdrop of this tour is that I changed my place of living form Auroville after 7 years and we are planning to shift out of Bangalore, having arrived there in 1989. I had to go through the discomfort of stepping out the known, fear of the unknown and apprehensions about how it would turnout. Letting all these things go and being a space for unfolding of the events was something I could do, albeit with some effort and time. I am at peace about what would be and what was.
My first stop was Nijmegen, as the guest of Johan and Gonnie, my Holland sister. I have been here the last three years but still am charmed every time I see this beautiful town and experience the warm hospitality of my host and hostess. Johan organized a cycle and we went for a 4 hour ride that was very enjoyable, refreshing and rejuvenating in the lovely countryside. We had a Pranayama workshop in the community and it was joy to meet some of those who attended my earlier workshops and some new people. It was also very interesting to attend the AVI Holland meeting. It was great meeting Wim after one year and Regina after about 6 months. Many of the deliberations were in Dutch but I could be with the flow, thanks to the interspersed English and whispered translations of some critical points. The language, the goodwill and the fraternity transcended the need for language to understand. We made a presentation on the network project of Auroville (with the team in Auroville) and it was very well received. I am hopeful that each such opportunity to share about this project would amplify the good will and attract more hearts, minds and hands in its manifestation. One of the extraordinary aspects about Gonnie is that she hosts a meal after the workshops. What was even more extraordinary was that she hosted a very enjoyable meal at the end of AVI meeting! The dinner gave me an opportunity to connect with more people in the network of Integral Yoga. 

I met Josee, Gonnie’s sister, who lives in Edam, along with two Zen Masters (her cats- Miloutje and Dickie Dick). Last year, she drove 100 miles from Edam to attend the workshop and has kindly invited me to Edam. Being a member of the Board of AVI, Holland and also AVI (worldwide), she attended the AVI meeting and she drove me from Nijmegen to Edam. The ride was scenic and the conversation was interesting and educational for me. Edam is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the fortune to visit! The greenery, the flowers, the lovely homes that appear to have been frozen in time and the still or gently flowing waterways that add a heavenly dimension to the enchanting beauty of Edam. We had a long walk along the lake to the pretty, fairy tale village of Volendam that was so enjoyable that I didn’t want it to end. Josee organized two wonderful Pranayama workshops and a Stress Management workshop. I am pleasantly and repeatedly surprised about the keen interest, focused attention and open-receptivity of the people whom I meet in Europe and USA that attend the workshops! The hospitality of Josee was the highlight for me and I wonder whether it runs in their family and may be even in the Dutch culture. Being sister of Gonnie, Josee is also my sister and the interesting fraternity transcended to Soul Sister and partnership in my mission to spread health and happiness. I learned so much form her and am amazed at her wide ranging capabilities and capacities that she so willingly gives in the support of AVI and in her professional work. She has given an impetus to the Auroville Network Project and she has guided me and inspired me to prepare a more detailed Pranayama hand out as a pre-curser to ding webinars. Moving into time and space independent spreading of health and happiness is a breakthrough and I am grateful to Josee for the partnership and the innovative ideas she is bringing forth.
Josee drove me to Amsterdam and I took train to Nijmegen. Gonnie met me at the station and took me home for nice cup of tea and when Johan got back from work, they drove me to Vlierhof, a sustainable and intentional community living project, the venue of a week-end retreat. Gonnie sang a song that was moving and touching, even though I didn’t know the meaning of the words. An experiential event for me to get that the heart is the language of music. 
 The genesis of the retreat was in my visit to Holland in 2014, where I enjoyed the wonderful Dutch hospitality of Mundo and his partnership in doing several workshops. On the last day of my stay, after the last workshop, Mundo asked me what workshop I would enjoy doing most and it was an easy question –Integral Being Retreats over a week-end (I would actually love them to be week-long but practical considerations make it week-end). We have talked a little bit about it and before going to bed, I checked my mail and find a message from Johan that he would pick me up next day and a link to Vlierhof as a place of interest by virtue of its vision. Johan and I visited Vlierhof and it was just ‘made for a retreat’! We met Anutosh, a venerable Karma Yogi, one of the founders. Anutosh came to Auroville in Feb 2015 and it so happened that I was doing an integral being retreat. I was delighted that he attended the retreat and we firmed up the plans Vlierhof retreat. Mundo posted the event on Facebook and Hiedi, one of his friends decided to attend and brought 4 more of her network with her! This is synchronicity. The retreat was an unforgettable learning experience for me because I learned that I was occurring to the participants as school master. I definitely don’t want that to be my role and I am grateful for the feedback. I am committed to be a liberal, fun-loving facilitator who is haring and learning from the people who come to the vents facilitated by me. I look forward to the retreat in 2016.

 My next stop was Lisbon. I had such a fabulous visit to Portugal last year that I was keenly looking forward to revisiting this beautiful city and the joy of meeting Lisa and Nuno and their four adorable children. Lisa is like my daughter and the four children are like my grandchildren. Their friend Tiago, who runs Brahmi Yoga Studio organized two evening workshops on Stress Management and Meditation. I also had an opportunity to meet Maurizio and have a walk across Lisbon. The star-event was the Integral Being week-end retreat at Casa do Limoeiro, a small, quaint village north of Lisbon, where Tiago’s parents have a farm and Tiago converted one of the wings into a place for retreats. Tiago’s parents are two of the most contended, happy, healthy and energetic people I have ever met and their hospitality to the group is stunning. I would like to learn their secret, benefit from it and share it with others. Over the two visits, Bernardo, Tiago’s son has become a friend of mine. I am grateful for the opportunity of the retreat in such a serene home and am fortunate to be part of this extraordinary family.
I was in beautiful Berlin next and this is one European city I can visit any number of times and still be captivated by it. It was a joy to meet Isa, Georg and Raphael and visit the Auroville Garden in Berlin – a physical expression of the good will of the people in Berlin towards the ideals of Auroville. Isa took me to the Jewish Museum. It was a very touching and moving experience to learn how the Jews were persecuted over centuries, in so many places and in so many ways. They are a living example that pressure and heat transforms coal into diamonds. Raphael took me on walk and she is a really gifted in making me experience the special features and details of the neighbourhood that I was otherwise oblivious to.

 My next stop was Rodenberg, a small German village where my friends Ilka and Klaus live in a very comfortable and cosy home. Ilka invited me attend the wedding of Lin, her daughter with Yana. This was the first time I was invited to attend a wedding in Europe and what an experience it turned out to be! I enjoyed the celebrations and bonhomie but what I learnt was that the basic human values are the same across cultures and geographical locations. The family is the atomic structure for the human society, the relatives are the molecular structure, and extended family is the cellular structure and so on. The fractal nature of the fabric of society and the underlying unity is something of a revelation to me. Ilka is another sister of mine, the German sister. An unforgettable scene that will be imprinted in my memory is that of Klaus dancing. The floor saw the whole range of ages starting from 1 year to 85 years. Klaus is close to the oldest among them but the energy he exuded and the exuberance and joy he radiated was incredible. I wish I would have that kind of vibrant health when I am 80! 
I had to get back to Amsterdam and catch a flight next day Frankfurt and onward to Seattle. I was lucky that Mundo could make time to meet me and he spoke to Rosa, who attended a workshop last year. Rosa and Steven welcomed me, another instance of the wonderful Dutch hospitality. I could have a couple of hours of lovely time with Mundo. I was excited to learn that he is agin going to Scotland and taking a group with him for trekking in the Highlands. He prepared a nice Italian meal in Rosa’s home. I enjoyed meeting Rosa again and am grateful for their warm hospitality. Rakesh, a volunteer at Auroville, was studying for his post-graduation in Holland. A friendship sprung between us when we shared the work table in Auroville and it was wonderful that he came over to the Airport and we had a nice hour together over a cup of tea. The nodes in the Network of Integral Yoga keep popping up! 
The next destination was Seattle, where my elder daughter, son-on-law and Nina (granddaughter) stay. My wife has already reached there and so did the family of my younger daughter, who live in NJ. I saw Adi, our 7 month old grandson for the first time, a chubby, cute, curious, friendly and cuddly boy who is ready to smile and willing to be carried, if you are ready to show him things which are above his normal ground level.  We all gathered to celebrate the 60th birthday of my wife and it was a delightful and intimate family reunion of 7 days, enriched by the grandchildren. Interacting with Nina was the other highlight and we used to walk to the park and she used to pleasantly surprise me with her questions and comments, which flow in an incessant and delicious stream. Inventing games and playing some games over and over again seemed to make the time fly-by and it was during the times she sleeps in the afternoons and after she retires to bed that I used to work on the project proposal for Auroville Community Network. It was an idyllic world, made most charming and enjoyable by Nina and the warmth of the family.
 I and my wife went to NJ. Soon after reaching there, we got the bad news that my elder brother was admitted into hospital. He later went into coma and never recovered. I experienced sadness coupled with fear of ‘what would happen to me’ during the entire time and had to work on letting go of it. Being with Adi helped a lot. In fact, watching him was like a meditation. I just observe him and time gets compressed! When I do switch my mind on, I marvel at nature which is so creative in endowing each being with intelligence that unfolds and flowers in miraculous ways. When I saw him learning to crawl on all fours and later learning to stand, he was pure joy in the pursuit of learning and he couldn’t care less about the falls and the number of attempts he has to make before a brief period of triumph and tumbling over again. If an adult has to do anything like this, what comes in the way is the mental noise about how difficult it is! Watching him live in the moment made me live in the moment in observing him being in the moment. The comfort and warmth of being with the family continued and we would cherish the 8 weeks in USA as some very special experience, thanks to the grandchildren, the love of the children and my sons-in-law, who fill the space of sons for us. I became addicted to the grandchildren and it is one addiction I don’t mind.
During the stay at NJ, I made two week-end trips to Woodstock. The first was to do Pranayama and Stress Management workshops and enjoy the company of Wendy and Julian in the pristine nature of Woodstock and serene atmosphere of Matagiri Ashram. The workshops were held under the aegis of Matagiri but the venue was the Woodstock Yoga Centre run by Barbara. Julian came all the way to NJ to take me to Matagiri and it was a delightful three days at Woodstock and it was a rejuvenating experience to do the workshops. It helped me to lift my spirits after the bereavement and get back to normal level of energy and enthusiasm. This was a new experience for me, the healing power of workshops.
The other trip was to Melna to be part of the AVI-AUM combined meeting. Melna is a beautiful retreat, sprawling in a lovely, very natural undulating hillocks-and-valley terrain and it is interesting to me to see that their logo says it is a retreat for health and happiness. I was attending the AUM meeting for the first time and it was an incredible experience to meet so many friends – Josee, Isa, Vikas, Julian, Wendy, Fredericke, Mandakini, Jaya, Marlenka, Frederick, Fif, Hamish, Vani and make new friends in an atmosphere palpable with goodwill and the privilege of being part of the Integral Yoga Network. The 3 days were full of sharing, caring and give and take. Julian and Wendy have come up with an extraordinary set of events that filled the body, mind and soul to the level of satiation and the planning was meticulous. I attended talks, mediation sessions, musical events, and healing sessions and gave a workshop of Pranayama and a session on meditations. So much exchange of energies and knowledge and techniques in the true spirit of Human Unity was a transformational experience. Amidst all this, Josee found time to give me a heart healing session that was transformative and she also enrolled Alfanso to take photographs of me to include in the detailed instructions for pranayama. We now call it Integrated Pranayama Practice. Am I lucky to have such a Soul Sister who brings forth such creative energy in spreading health and happiness? A word about Julian. He is the most networked person I ever met and am amazed at his ability to connect with so many people and remember the personal details and the connection of the person with Integral Yoga. He is a walking IYpedia!
We also made a presentation on the Network Project with part of the team in Auroville to seek the support of AVI. The presentation was scheduled on Saturday but the broadband in Melna failed and we had to reschedule it for Sunday! Before the fibre optic network was set up in Auroville, the broadband was so unreliable and flaky that it used to be a frustrating experience and it was wiser to use plain old telephone. This was a new experience that Auroville was ready for the session but we didn’t have it in Melna, USA, albiet a remote retreat. It gave me sense of satisfaction that we made a beginning in setting up reliable internet connectivity in Auroville. A small step in making Auroville belong to the whole of humanity.
I would like to add something about the network project before I conclude this rather long post. The project took a long time – a gestation period of 6 years. Finally, it was in August 2014 that Chandresh gave the impetus for breaking ground and Mr. Balabhaskar, Secretary, AVF requested for connection to National Knowledge Network. I remember saying that this was the last attempt from me and in case we don’t make progress, I would drop the network project. Mr. Srinivasamurty, the Under Secretary, said “Now, it will happen. Sri Kirishan came to the rescue of Draupathi when she let go of holding the edge of her sari and surrendered to Krishna while Dussasana was trying to disrobe her. Now that you let go, She will show the way”. We made significant progress in the last year and we got two wonderful people in the team – Manu with all his rich experience and Dyuman with the enthusiasm of youth and fresh perspectives. I was apprehensive about being part of the team remotely. Remote participation is one of the key enablers of the project and I wanted to try it out. I am grateful that it has been working well, thanks to the wonderful team spirit brought forth by every member of the team. This project has a long way to go. The Educational and Research network is targeted to be completed by Dec 2015 and then the bigger project of Community Network begins. We aspire for it to manifest by the 50th anniversary year of Auroville (2018) so that we create a new window for time and space independent tele-collaboration in realising the Dream, using ICITI as a platform.
I look forward to the next round that  combines traveling, spreading health and happiness, meeting friends and family - an Integral experience! 

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