After months of preparation we opened our new school and spiritual centre in Lebanon on schedule on March 20. The program went very well attracting more than a hundred and fifty people including important people of the town and representatives of the Druze council. The center was beautifully painted and decorated and everyone was impressed at how attractive it looked. The kids put on impressive demonstrations of their mental arithmetic skills, martial arts, yoga and meditation and we had parents and others enquiring about signing up for our programs.
We invited the president of the Association for Permanent Peace, a well-established peace group that was started during the civil war by students from different religious backgrounds, to cut the ribbon for the opening. He liked our project proposal so much that he offered to help us with the process of registering our association as quickly as possible. We are thinking to call it “Minds Without Borders”. Its goal will be to set up schools based on Neohumanist Education principles, give teacher training, promote service and environmental activities, teach yoga and meditation, etc.
March 15 we had our first day of school at the new center.
Photos on left: President of Peace Association who cut the ribbon, Yoga for Children Poster
Photos on right: Smart Academy teachers, Entrance, Guests at opening including representatives from Druze Council, Children ready to perform at the opening.
The school is called Smart Academy. I was very happy to see how much the children enjoyed the new place. My office faces a balcony and I watched one young student walking up and down with a book learning her lessons while others gathered in a circle in the comfortable library to study English. It didn’t take the kids long to find out that, as I was right there on the premises, they could come and ask me questions if they had a problem. Every day there were a few knocks on my door and I found myself enjoying the new duty. The kids helped me as well; when I was making a flier for a children’s yoga class they picked out their favorite graphics for me.
A week before the public opening we had our Ananda Marga house entrance ceremony and our first retreat at the center with more than thirty people attending. People came from Syria and Lebanon and the center proved itself a perfect venue for a small retreat. We were wondering where we should serve the food and then had the inspiration to put tables and chairs on the roof with its spectacular views of the mountains and valleys of Shouf. Luckily there was a warm south wind and the weather was perfect. Our rooftop restaurant proved to be a great success.
Now we are in the process of settling in and getting our programs up and running. New practitioners of Ananda Marga meditation are showing themselves willing to volunteer including two who have taken training for teaching yoga to children and will start next week. A few ladies are also starting an organic lunch project – preparing healthy food for the kids and any other people who are interested in organic vegetarian lunches (that will solve my cooking problems nicely too!).
Until fairly recently most of the new students were women but some nice young men are coming now as well. One young man, Adham, a helicopter pilot and a captain in the air force, is enjoying his meditation and the other day he told me that he saw a rainbow while he was flying and started chasing it in his helicopter! I suggested he better not mention that to anyone else. Last week he brought along some of his friends – one of whom is the percussionist for the top band in Lebanon. He accompanied us for kiirtan which was fantastic and he enjoyed himself so much he asked if he could keep his bongos at our center. Another of Adham’s friends is the leader of the youth movement for the progressive socialist party and I am sure he will be a great help in future for organizing activities with young people.
I heard the sound of bells the other morning and came out to find a herd of sheep and goats grazing the slope behind the house.
Deepest thanks again to all of you who gave your help and encouragement. . If any of you would still like to help I have a list of books I want to buy for the kids including neohumanist children’s stories and such titles as “1000 things you can do to change the world”.