The year 2020 brought many surprises with it, among which the Covid pandemic was certainly one of great impact. Focusing on overcoming the situation, people worked hard to find ways of being together despite the distance. That was also when some educators from all over Brazil gathered online to exchange ideas, thoughts, and feelings about the moment the world was going through.
The educators felt it was time to rethink attitudes and priorities in life. It was a moment when emotions needed to be welcomed and compassion was becoming an essential ingredient of everyday life, especially at schools, as students were all very sensitive to what was happening.
Having worked as a socio-environmental educator and as an engineer, as well as being a member of Ananda Marga for more than 15 years, I had had the chance to meet many people that lovingly cared for life. So, together with a Brazilian biocentric educator, Leda Bhadra Bevilacqua, life was brought to the center of attention and we structured the course “Education and Ecology: reflections and practices for good living”, considering care and love for life, not only for human beings but for all the existing web of life, as the basis for good living.
From this perspective, we understood that education and ecology were deeply related as they both address the interconnectedness of all beings, respecting and understanding differences. The origin of the word “ecology” comes from Greek and literally means “the study of the house”, but it can also be defined as the study of the interaction among the different beings and their environments. From a holistic perspective, therefore, it was fundamental to recognize the essence of this interaction, so, in the classes, “houses” meant ourselves, places we live, society, people, and all the beings we live with, considering cooperation and seeking to create healthy and harmonious systems.
The Education and Ecology course (@educacaoeecologia) also affirmed the need to deeply reevaluate the emotions of individuals, so that they would observe what their feelings and their reactions were, making adjustments to life planning.
With three institutions as partners to publicize the course, ETIS (@etisecobr), Cabana da Miranda (@cabanadamiranda) and Instituto Oca do Sol (@ocadosol, which also certifies the course), the first edition of the course took place through an online platform in October/November 2020. Despite being an online course, sharing experiences and reflections was a very important part of it. Participants were frequently asked to share pictures, videos and participate in breakout groups, because, even though it was an online activity, the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects were also addressed in a simple but practical way. This is why there would also be opportunities to dance, based on the biocentric education pedagogy or to do some yoga postures considering the neohumanist educational principles.
Biocentric Education’s main objective is connection with life, and it strongly works with the development of internal rules of life as well as the sacredness of life. This methodology strongly connects to Neohumanist Education, which emphasizes ethics, spirituality and a harmonious combination of western science, directed to the outer world and eastern philosophy, directed to the inner world.
Being a twenty-hour course, in six weeks, it aimed to allow people to raise their awareness and to develop simple attitudes about the importance of caring for life on an everyday basis, whether that would be towards themselves, their surroundings or the world.
In the first edition, there were participants from Brazilian and Colombian institutions that are devoted to social and environmental issues. From the second edition on, the participation of people from all different backgrounds grew, especially therapists, university professors, teachers from public schools, and educators from neohumanist schools, which only made it even more special.
From the northern region of Brazil, in the very heart of the Amazon region neohumanist educators that participated in the course came from Vila Moara – a community located in the city of Ananindeua, State of Pará.
That community hosts a school – the Ananda Marga Neohumanist Educational Center – CENHAMAR (https://www.facebook.com/Cenhamar-1432704980362428/) – devoted to child education that also develops reading activities carried out at the community library – Moara Library, as well as yoga and “capoeira” (dancelike martial art of Brazil, performed to the accompaniment of call-and-response choral singing and percussive instrumental music)
The courses I have been taking at the Neohumanist College of Asheville, part of the Teacher Preparation Program, have continuously broadened my horizons and brought me in touch with wonderful educators from all over the world. As a result, neohumanist education and philosophy have been increasingly addressed in each edition of the course.
The fifth edition, then, brought a very special guest, Tattvika Soma Devii is a Pedagogue and Pedagogical Designer, pedagogical assistant of Didi Ananda Jaya in the training of teachers in the kindergartens of São Paulo, currently writes neohumanist short stories and composes songs about the yamas and niyamas. https://gurukul.edu/newsletter/issue-42/42-yama-and-niyama-fairies/ and will release two bilingual books this year: Human Values in Early Childhood Education and The Wizard of the Big Heart.
That fifth edition was also a very special one as it welcomed teachers from Didi Ananda Jaya’s projects. These projects have been developed in four vulnerable communities of the largest Brazilian City, aiming at raising human beings as a whole, caring for the self and the other, and making children understand that we are not alone on the planet, that everything is part of a loving whole, in addition to encouraging values through stories and songs. In caring for the self, the schools have carried out shantala, ludic yoga, meditation and lacto-vegetarian food. (https://gurukul.edu/newsletter/issue-51/51-nhe-director-training/)
This year’s edition of the Education and Ecology course should start taking place around May, and will continue depending on donations to be made possible. They are intended to continue being online and count on the presence of guests. A hybrid edition as well as an edition in English are also a target for this year.
What is certain, though, is that this initiative has been a gift for all who take part in it. We learn, teach, share, and love. All in an effort of living a more harmonious and understanding world.