Leadership Based on Spirituality

Three-day training for teachers at the Lotus Teacher Training Centre, Netherlands

By Timotheus Rammelt

This winter a three-day Teacher-training course took place February 15-17. This event was organised for a group of about forty-five teachers from the Netherlands. Our teacher trainings are born from the neohumanist school, Zonnelicht, in Den Bosch, where we have a rich tradition of these three-day events every year. This year’s event was facilitated by the sister organisation Lotus-Training and had the title “Spiritual Leadership”. The program was open to (aspiring) neohumanist teachers. The following article documents this event, some of our thoughts on the topic and the experiences of teachers.

The event consisted of two simultaneous program paths: The program path for the new-to-neohumanism teachers, and a program path for more experienced Zonnelicht teachers. In the program for new teachers, the focus was on learning about the fundamental aspects of neohumanist philosophy. The more experienced teachers were involved in several workshops and lectures with a focus on Leadership based on spirituality. Besides these focuses, the program included many shared elements for individual and collective growth. In addition to a variety of workshops, (training) activities and presentations, there was space to feel oneness through kiirtan and meditation, and teachers had the opportunity to learn or review their personal meditation practices.

To make this multi-day event possible, Didi Ananda Devapriya and Satya Tanner came from Romania and Denmark to support this immersive journey.

Why Leadership and Spirituality

After last year’s Neohumanist Philosophy for Education (Philosophy in Action) training it took some time to find the connecting main topic for this year’s training event. We had clarity about what was needed.

According to Yolande Koning, Director of Zonnelicht:

“Every year you build with the staff, trying to give them what they most need… always developing a step further. Anticipating their future needs. At this point, to me, it is important that the teachers get the confidence to shine and stand for who they are… this is important for the individual teachers who experience much more freedom in this way, it’s important for the children that they guide, and it’s also important for the development of the organization Zonnelicht.”
“Teachers need to feel inner strength and determination. They need to be able to use that to express their unique individual qualities as a teacher… and a leader.
The teachers also need to be able to maintain their emotional balance in the face of strong adversity. They need to have the courage to develop progressive and disrupting thoughts – and bring them into the world. They need to be able to create social awareness and security where there is too little – protecting the weak. These are all major leadership qualities in a world where ever-faster change is the daily reality.”

Judging from the ideas we came up with, the scope was even broader than last year’s topic of Philosophy. It was clear that more leadership was needed to empower the teachers.

But not the mono-dimensional type of business as usual. The spiritual leadership of neohumanism was needed. So the topic was set: Spiritual Leadership. But spiritual leadership is a bit vague as a title. To be more specific, the event topic was about leadership based in spirituality. This type of leadership, specifically related to teachers, as an embodiment of the higher purpose—Education for Liberation.

Leadership examples in the world

And in our effort to connect leadership with spirituality, of course we found many examples throughout the world who inspire us, because great leadership “experts” outside of the world of neohumanist education also seem to be strongly spiritually moved human beings.

Leaders that change the direction of society and politics in the world for the better are all fueled from the source within. They have a strongly cultivated inner life as a source of purpose and direction and use it to guide people and inspire leadership and action around the world. They help people to overcome obstacles and to look in a new direction, giving hope, and spreading love and happiness from a deeply devoted attitude to serve the world.

For instance, Mahatma Gandhi, a mediocre advocate who became an inspiration for a nation and the world today. According to his autobiography, by making his spiritual path the pinnacle of his life, he transformed his life and decisions every step of the way. Other examples are leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and the founder of Ananda Marga Gurukula, all leaders truly based in spirituality, overcoming all major obstacles in their way.

In contrast; leadership without a spiritual anchor is often like steering an empty vessel on the sea without rudder. Being a captain on a ship without a rudder…. the captain can steer but the vessel will not reach a beneficial or intended destination.

Inspirational Leadership Quotes
“The persons who can dedicate their all to the thought of the great and inspiration of the Supreme are verily the greatest heroes. Such heroes, indeed, are virtuous and they alone are capable of taking human history from darkness to light.” (Ánanda Vánii, January, 1965) Shrii P.R. Sarkar
“True leaders empower others to be great. They encourage and praise their accomplishments. Such leaders know that ‘who I am’ does not depend on ‘what I do’, or on titles or positions. As loving parents are proud of the accomplishments of their children, these leaders show joy when others become great, too.”
“Ideal leaders are ‘visionary’, ‘coaching’ and ‘democratic’, and rarely use the less effective ‘pace-setting’ and ‘commanding’ styles.” (Ideal Leadership, 2017) Dada Maheshvarananda
The Team and the program

We gathered a great team of leaders for a training about leadership, trainers all with a strong, developed inner life and a clear leading capacity. The two primary trainers were Didi Ananda Devapriya and Satya Tanner, as I mentioned before, but the program was enriched and spiced by many more trainers like Tapasii Popov, Rob van Vliet and John Dahkpo.

But also the teachers from Zonnelicht, who clearly demonstrated leadership, helped to create this program to infuse leadership from spirituality in the teachers, and of course the director of Lotus and Zonnelicht, Yolande Koning, who inspired this direction with her clear vision.

The three-day event/program consisted of several layers:

  • Meditation
  • Live Music
  • Content; topics and workshops
  • Physical exercises
  • Creativity & expression
  • Sattvic Food

To create a feeling of unity and joy, each day started with lively games to bring the subject of the day and the teachers to life. After this happy start, theory was discussed or shown in many ways. Thirdly, we looked at how this applied to the lives and teaching of the teachers. After dinner, the day closed with fun and inspiration in the form of a mystery tour, or a group discussion.

The first day started with some lively games, followed by the concept of Varna: the four main socio-psychological archetypes, whereby human psychological, physical and social motivations and factors are expressed. The Vaishya (acquisitor), Vipra (intellectual), Shudra (labourer) and Kshatriya (warrior) and how these archetypes live in each of us, making us weaker or stronger as a leader.

From there a personal tree of knowledge, a personal wisdom-teacher-tree, was constructed and discussed, filling in some new areas in answer to the question, “Who are you as a teacher and a leader?” From these trees the program flowed into the second day: “Who are you? Discover and design”, about finding purpose and core values in life. Altruistic Leadership from Authenticity was the follow-up topic of the program. This topic covered theory about styles of leadership, role-games, visualizations and the creation of a personal action plan for Leadership.

In the second group, emotions were explored in depth, and the difference between emotions and feelings. Also, the ‘Free vs Un-free position in relation to emotions’, and specifically five main principles as an introduction for doing ‘The Inner Work’.

The third day was coloured with “Mind for Life”, specifically asking how you can use your mind for the benefit of the world as a teacher, and expressing and feeling this with music, dance and artwork.

Best Random Teacher Quotes
“I had to find the best spot for myself in a big hall full of colleagues … being aware of my relationship to colleagues. Becoming aware of these unspoken affinities was a very strong exercise. How you relate to each other between groups of colleagues and individuals became visible, touchable almost. Incredible! Why would anybody like to stand in the shadow of another teacher? It was very fascinating to be aware of this process and to find the best spot for myself in the Sun.”
“For me personally this was by far the best training in years; and I see many teachers have grown in their leadership.”
“I got a lot of personal inspiration, mostly visible in small things. I decided to go a little earlier to my work in the next week, to be better prepared. These small things make all the difference.”
“I am happy to say that I have restarted meditating.”
“There was a lot of diversity in the program… it was breathing. The Djembè drums were really great.”
“The training gave insight into my own state of being. One example is a game we played about finding your own true self by choosing between a type of person (being an entrepreneur or a fighter) with supplementary characteristics that were spread around a room. I experienced some difficulties since I recognized myself in more than one type of person. The game continued by walking around the same room and writing down characteristics that I aspire to for the future. This gave me clarification into which type of person I want to be and which supplementary characteristics I want to develop more.”
From Elly – new to Neohumanist Education.
“Three days to develop with people who are familiar and people new to the education. I was excited and full of attention when Satya quoted … ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant. We’ve created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ These sentences wake me up and I take them with me on my way.
“To feel connected with the intuitive mind, kiirtan and dance/movement are wonderful tools. Musicians playing the drum and dancing and singing as a group opens my heart, and made me feel enlightened and joyful, connected. Mindfulness and meditation, the ‘happify’ video animations, the practice together as well as the individual meditation lesson from Didi, it was rich to share and it fed me. I met beautiful people, looked at my colleagues with other eyes.
“Issshta, I know the meaning, how do I write it? The way to express and to make clear to people who never heard of it…. Playful learning by singing songs with movements and gestures. The awareness of love and compassion made me glow in the dark.
“Let’s go back to where I started…….The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind a faithful servant. This training, or as we call it, development, has awoken my intuitive mind. I mean it was already there but needed a wakeup call.
“In the days after the training there was a very special atmosphere at Zonnelicht., We were singing the newly learned songs and our eyes shined brighter then I saw before. In me there is a deep wish to participate in the Spiritual Leadership Training, to learn, to teach, to build together. Namaskar”