Our Neohumanist Sunshine School in Vientiane is directed by Didi Ananda Gaorii and has 360 students. From July 1st through 14th, a wonderful teacher’s training was held for two weeks in the kindergarten section of the school with Dada Caetanyananda on The Ecology of Joy. It started with a special one day seminar in which 25 teachers, visitors and other interested people took part.
In the morning Dada introduced everyone to the main concepts of Ecology of Joy. Basically the practice is for the child or adult to concentrate and feel the pure joy, love and beauty in his/her heart and identify with it. The teaching style is as Ecology of Joy defines it. It has numerous single concepts, for example: I am the Joy I feel as well as the Joy you feel, or I flow with Joy (love). I can fill water with love, and it will do magic. I can send my love to a plant, animal, or object, and enhance its state of happiness. The concepts are repeated at random, according to the children’s’ flow, with very short sessions, songs, role-plays, stories, games, etc.
The teachers also learned about what Dada calls the ‘aesthetic purpose.’ Dada explained, an aesthetic purpose aims at goodness, and sets the mind in happiness and love in oneself and for others. For example, “Let’s sing a song to share our happiness.”
By training children to think aesthetically, the teacher nurtures their innate qualities. Children welcome kindness; they generally remain silent at the dryness of a technical lesson; but they cheer Beauty; ugliness confuses them, and so they laugh in their perplexity; they rejoice in Love while violence scares them.
Our teachers are embracing these new education ideas. In the weeks following the training, we continued with the practice of Ecology of Joy. This new academic year, the teachers and I are restarting implementing the practical aspects and its philosophy into our 6 kindergarten classrooms. We hope to bring more spirituality into the daily activities in this way.
The outcome of the sessions with the kids has been remarkable. The children have been and still are intrinsically using the concepts, radiating, and truly experiencing being the joy they feel. I noticed a clear shift of self awareness in the children; at the same time, they have become more self-contained and proud of themselves. They are also showing that they know many things, how to do them, and they are taking up responsibilities. Some of these children have now left our kindergarten for Primary one.
The teachers also changed from these 2 weeks of training. They became more connected and more interested in the children. There was a different quality in the air: more awareness, connectedness and joyful interest. I write ‘was’ because most of the children we worked with are now in primary one. Our sunshine school bill board in town displays the photo of a laughing child sitting on a swing. That photo was taken during the training; it really makes the board lovely.
The effects of the training are still noticeable with the children in the school and here in the Kindergarten. They are brighter, more lively, loving, etc. Whenever I walk through the playground of our primary school, these now older children come up to me with love and light in their eyes, and talk to me. Many of them also remember the ‘I love you’ mudra, which I duly answer.
Now, we have a lot of smaller children to work with, plus a group of 15 new children who just enrolled in our Kindergarten.
As the Ecology of Joy philosophy explains, the way to teach is by the constant repetition of various spiritual comments, and some very short sessions, 10 second stories, 30 second role-plays, etc., spontaneously practiced any time of the day. This is the way we can build a spiritual classroom. Most of the teachers are using the new knowledge and practice it; they still have to remember to use it often during the day and not only apply it in special sessions.
The work goes on for our teachers to bring this awareness to life.
The children continue to truly rejoice when we practice Ecology of Joy with them.