Zonnelicht Teachers’ Training Den Bosch, Holland, March 9 -11, 2007 A report by Ada Merz
An excellent teacher training weekend was held in the Zonnelicht Daycare and Neohumanist Education Centre in Holland on 9, 10, 11 March 2007 organised by Yolanda Koning, the director of the school. The theme was ‘ Finding Balance In Yourself ’ and focussed on ‘Wisdom and the Art of Service.’ Most of the teachers were from Holland. Most of the lectures and workshops were given by Dada Shambhushivananda and Ole Brekke. Both have become the regular annual trainers in Holland and gave their valuable contributions.
Making Music The education seminar opened with a sing along session of neohumanistic songs led by Ada Merz, who intends to put her new songs on CD with a fellow teacher.
The Art of Service
One of Dada Shambhushivananda’s lectures was called: The ‘Art of Climbing the Bliss Pyramid’ in which he focussed on the spirit and art of service. He presented service in the form of a pyramid that can be climbed steadily. Service is a process, a transmutation of short lived pleasure into long term bliss. His explanation was so rational that it left us feeling that rendering service is the most intelligent thing we can undertake in our life. It leads to an increase in personal and social happiness and eventually a state of bliss.
Service in Upbringing How to be a Leader
Ole Brekke, director of the Commedia School in Copenhagen, got the teachers into a playful mood with 2 theatrical workshops. In one exercise, the teachers had to express a range of basic human emotions from feeling a little to feeling extremely e.g. angry, sad, shy, proud etc. In another exercise we took turns in using our ingenuity to persuade 3 recalcitrant personalities to move a bench into another room. We could solicit advice from the audience, which provided some relief. It was a good learning experience for classroom situations especially in dealing with older children.
Using Colours to Help Children to Deal with Emotions Jovan Drapsin, from the NHE Sunshine School in Zurich, Switzerland, gave a workshop on ‘ Using Colours to Help Children Deal with Emotions.’ She based her knowledge on the Aura-Soma therapy which the teachers found very interesting as it gave them an insight into their own mind and emotions. We were asked to pick 4 coloured cards in a sequence from 1- 4. She explained the meaning of the different colours, mentioning that no colour is high or low.
Here are a few examples: Yellow/golden: is associated with knowledge and wisdom but if you don’t live it, it leads to fear and becomes power seeking. Violet is a mystic colour, but it can lead to violence and escapism. Many people who don’t want to be here like this colour. Pink: searching for the self, but if you don’t live this it will bring you into a state of dependency. Orange: good for protection and for dealing with shock. (See poem, here)
The first evening was spent engaging in a treasure hunt which required walking in pairs in the local park. The teachers were tested on their determination, courage, creativity and leadership. Yolanda is an excellent translator of neohumanist philosophy into treasure hunts. The teachers had to scale walls and find treasures in the lake without getting their feet wet. I myself was too tired to take an active role but signed up for sitting in the cold and dark with 2 older children.
This was the last leg of the hunt. I was the goody and the other two the baddies. We had to cover our heads with a black cloth. The teachers had to guess by asking the right questions who were the baddies and who was the goodies. It was interesting to discover how difficult this seemingly small exercise was for most people.
Team Spirit The success of the education seminar was partly due to the excellent team spirit amongst the teachers of the Zonnelicht School. They were good spirited, and service minded and took the collective meditation quite seriously. The ones who have been working there a number of years and attending teacher training sessions are starting to understand what NHE is all about. This was very inspiring to see. Yolanda provides her teachers with group meditation once a week in the school and her efforts are bearing fruit I believe.
A Summary of Dada Shambhushivananda’s Lecture on “The Spirit and Art of Service”
Role of Services during Different Stages of Human Life We all go through the following stages: Dependence on others (as a child) Independence (youthful spirit) Interdependence (maturity of adult) Taste of freedom (if we are lucky) Dependence on others (the old age)
Dependence From the moment of our birth we are graced by the service of others. We grow as human beings because first our parents and then others care for us, teach and guide us. The feeling we should develop is gratitude. When we give service we should know when to help and when to stop helping. Otherwise it maybe harmful or have an adverse effect. The person may need another kind of help. In our life we need different kinds of teachers and guidance. Life is only made possible due to the service we receive from others and the service we give to others. We cannot do anything alone. In this world there is a need for co-operation and co-ordination with mutual understanding. In the world of business, helping is a transaction where help is given in order to get something back. We do this in our personal life too. The real spirit of service is unilateral. You render service to the person in need without expecting anything in return.
Independence The youthful mind starts to assert itself from parental dependency and authority. At this age, we think we can do it alone, but this is an illusion. We soon realise through different clashes and cohesions that others affect us and we affect others. We cannot live alone by ourselves. Our relationships, job, and community interactions- all remind us of our interconnectedness with ‘others’.
Interdependence Then comes the age of interdependence, the maturity of adulthood. It is when we realize that we actually cannot do it alone. Society runs by mutual cooperation. A person who doesn’t understand this is a misfit in society. If we want to have a functioning society, we all have to understand this truth.
The Taste of Freedom We may not be dependent on others for our peace of mind. But to remain free, we have to be alert; otherwise it will be taken away. As the saying goes: Vigilance is the price of liberty. Why is this so? Now danger lurks on two sides: in the external and internal world. Real freedom is having inner peace. In our evolution the mind moves from pleasure to happiness to bliss. Pleasure however is short lived, happiness lasts longer, and bliss lasts the longest. Pain is when we don’t get what we desire. Happiness is dependent on desire. Happiness equals wealth divided by desire. Wealth allows us to fulfil our desires, it is a resource. Bliss is when the mind is in a constant state of contentment.
Dependence In our old age we again experience dependency and feel gratitude for the help we receive. Despite all our wealth, we become helplessly dependent on others in our old age.
So the moral is: Life begins with dependency and ends with dependency. It means, life begins with receiving service from others and ends again with service from others. Knowing the wise direct their life and all its potentiality in rendering maximum service to others. That is the secret of fulfilment.
Wisdom Based Lifestyle and Life of Service
Immediate Pleasure: Life starts with immediate pleasure through sensory gratifications. The sensual/sensory level is a basic human need. This need continues to exist as long as we have a human body. But with pleasure comes pain. Now a person who is in a state of bliss knows how to enjoy without getting the pain. The secret is self control and moderation. If we don’t know when to stop, we will feel pain. And if we only think of our own pleasure, imbalance comes. Others will feel deprived and start claiming their due. We should become aware of other peoples need. This is the key. Billionaires give money to keep others quiet and to gain control. The psychology behind this kind of giving is: my pleasure should not be disturbed.
Future pleasures: Because we want pleasure not only today but also tomorrow, we secure the future through accumulation of wealth and knowledge. But saving is not always the answer, because human beings can die from suffering a loss. A rich man is more likely to die from a heart attack due to a loss than a poor man. We know that the mind wants more and more and is not satisfied with little. But the more you have, the more insecure we become and fear to lose it. But if we combine this with the spirit of service we shall get great mental peace and security. Human beings have the ability to think of other peoples needs. Helping others is good business, an investment in accumulating bliss. To get happiness we need to be intelligent. It requires inner discipline and self-control, which is a kind of psychic power. We externalize control by building a hierarchical structure, creating a paternalistic society that sets out to subordinate others. A self-directed lifestyle is based on power and control of others, a other/wisdom directed lifestyle however is based on empowerment of the self and others. We need to build a society that is based on co-ordinated co-operation and not subordinated co-operation. Everyone has their utility and existential value. We need to understand and put this knowledge to good use. Progressive utilisations need to be applied.
One cannot do service without proper knowledge. Good intention is not enough. Knowledge allows us to do things better. There comes a time in our life when we realize that we are not permanent. We need to have a sense of purpose. Life is a mystery. Tomorrow is the result of today. And today is the result of yesterday. It is more natural to live in bliss. It is even possible to live in bliss. Only living at the lower levels of the bliss pyramid leads to a fractured self, a dysfunctional organisation or a tormented society. Knowing this we have no choice but to include the welfare of others into our life to gain lasting happiness. But the life of service is not without obstacles. In order to take action and reach our goal we need moral courage. We need to apply rationality and use our discriminating intellect. Proper ideation (applying godhood) is a prerequisite. This way we don’t get entangled with our ego or attached to the result. Like the jackfruit when you cut it open, there is a sticky liquid inside. By putting oil on your hands, the oil will not get on your hands. Similarly, by oiling our mind with Cosmic ideation we can easily remove any kind of hurt or pain. We have to live our life based on some higher value which is the source of our tranquillity. Some values in our life are negotiable, some are not. We need to use our discrimination to see what is and is not negotiable.
Now how to develop a service-oriented mind? For this we need moral courage, a peaceful mind, determination, and a constant readiness to serve & sacrifice.