[From i,S.I.S to Bredrin en dadas in solidarity, in the words of one of my life-long sista/wifeys, “……..i fucking love you….” wanted to send you a special of specialiest of asantes for your divine selves and zawadis…i’m so grateful that we were sent into each other’s lives and that these soul families of ours are so nourishing and positively transforming….dis love letter is reposted with overflowing love, respekt en humility from a life-long dada in India and @ http://www.rehanatejpar.com ]
Hello dear friends,
I hope you are all well and carving your paths the way you wish. Since I last wrote here, there have been many experiences and moments of self-reflection which have impacted my views on life, learning and where I think I need to grow. I will try to capture some of my insights and outsights here, bearing in mind that my ideas are constantly being reformed and re-thought, that I am on a journey of seeking and have by no means reached my destination.
I am in Udaipur, Rajasthan and Shikshantar is a beautiful and inspiring place. It’s an open learning community where people of all ages are living and learning in a more practical, collaborative and sustainable way. Do-it-yourself, zero waste – everything is made into something else. Solar cookers out of old trunks, a bicycle powered washing machine from an old drum and a stationary bicycle, a table from an old door on two wheels, baskets, blinds, coasters made from newspaper, never will you need to go to IKEA again, I tell you.
Guided by Gandhian principles,swadeshi – meeting needs locally and using indigenous products to the land you find yourself, is really important to Shikshantar. They are growing organic vegetables in the garden, and support local farmers to also grow organic. They pay a lot of attention to the food they eat, and try to eat a diversity of local millets, which have nourished Indians for millennia but which arebeing eaten less and less with the pressures from industrial agriculture towards monoculture. So although there are thousands of different kinds of rice and grains, today you find only a few largely being used across India, threatening the survival of many. Cooking and eating is a communal ritual at Shikshantar and a lot of care is put into the process. Everyday all veg, local food is cooked and eaten together – without oil! For India, this is hard to imagine, since oil is in everything. Instead they use alternatives like nuts, mustard seeds, onions, tomatoes.
A sign in the kitchen says “We consider healthy, organic food to be the best form of health insurance.” I couldn’t agree more.
They are really working to shift consciousness and re-imagine other ways of thinking, doing and being
which are outside of the known, dominant systems currently in place.
They understand participation in the dominant system as violent as they know that exploitation is involved in extracting resources, manufracturing products and transporting them. They try to find local, more gentle alternatives to meeting their needs and are bringing forward indigenous knowledges, creativity, and the lesser recognized powers of trust, love, collaboration and spirit to empower their movement.
There’s a revolving door of workshops happening in the space, not to mention knowledgeable people from diverse fields, so learning from doing and discussing is happening constantly. Last week we had a 10 day film making workshop and people came from across India. It’s called Swapathgami – the one who makes their own path. The first project was a personal photography project which I think helped to situate folks in themselves first. Next they chose groups and created a short film which we screened the last day. There wasn’t huge emphasis placed on technical skills of editing and videography, but more on creating good stories. This way you first unleash your creativity and then you will learn how to edit and what shots work more or less as you go. What was really refreshing was that every other day there was a skills share where participants had the opportunity to share something they know and people picked up far more skills than just film making. I learned how to make a spoon from a coconut!
The film making workshop introduced me to many unschoolers. Shikshantar has a walkout/walkon network which supports people who walkout of school or from their jobs to pursue their own paths, versus the ready-made road. I have for a long time felt and known that the
system of schooling worldwide is insufficient to developing our good character, our practical, life skills, our creativity or knowledge of self which enable us to be in the world in a non-violent way. What I am realizing now is that schooling is a violent process which views people, souls, as pieces of clay which can be molded into whatever society wants and needs. And the school’s goal of manufacturing conforming workers to fit into neat boxes in society, tries to beat out the being’s being.
Where is there room for the being to identify what resonates within them, to self-guide their learning, to pursue their own passions and know themselves? There is very little freedom within the processes of schooling. And what has schooling produced? The society we live in. What do you think of our society? I see a lot of negative, unfortunately (though I am consciously trying to think more positively these days). So I won’t even go into the hierarchies over nature and between humans, the violence, exploitation, constructed needs, and suffering which is man-made and within and around us. How can we not locate schooling, the most far-reaching socially constructing device in this modern world as a serious cause of society’s ills? How do its disciplining structures and rigidity block our creativity and confidence, producing fears, insecurities and competition?
How has the emphasis placed on literacy resulted in the loss of oral traditions and livelihoods of peoples and cultures worldwide? How have the schooled and literate produced more harm in the world than the unschooled, illiterates? How can we think differently about the way we could allow our young and old to grow? Learning, after all is what enables humanity’s continual survival and evolution.
The past week I spent with a beautiful family in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. They have unschooled both their children and have chosen a path less traveled. I observed and played with these children and was so impressed with how mature, confident, creative, and articulate they are. They really are exceptional humans. They spend the day rotating between drawing, playing active games outside, making jewellery, paper-mache, playing chess…They chose what they want to do, and have learned a lot from observing their mother who is often making something. These kids know what they want and what they don’t want because they are given space and freedom to choose. They can articulate themselves well, are witty, smart…, 7 and 11 years…just exceptional. I have so much respect and admiration for their mother’s ability to not intervene in everything in her children’s lives, to let them figure out a problem instead of jumping to telling them what to do, how to do, or just doing it. She trusts them and believes that they are souls on their own unique path and that she must only be a guide to them self-actualizing. I think about how much I want to create an open learning space where my children and other children could learn through
doing and discussing together. And then I also think about how bossy and controlling I can be. And how that comes from ego and insecurity – subconsciously or consciously wanting to have power over life – even my own – to dominate over uncertainty and natural flow to breed anticipated outcomes. So that things happen the way I think they should – as if I may know better than the Divine what should happen, or how someone ought to be. When just being who we really are is the best we can be. Just like a flower, who just is, and doesn’t need to go to school or be told how to be a flower and smell and look good and provide pollen for bees – we also need to just be. I have much to unlearn.
I’ve been thinking more about movement and theatre and how I have always had a passion to work with these mediums, either as a performer myself or as a facilitator with youth and children, but how I’ve somehow allowed “work” to get in the way of really diving into it or trusting my capabilities in these fields (because I have no piece of paper that says I’m an expert….ahh the diploma disease!).
So now that I have been gifted this time of rethinking I am realizing that I want to work with these mediums to facilitate re-imagining , understanding and transcending oppression, reconnection to our inner voices, cooperation vs. competition, mindfulness of what we think, speak and do, interconnectedness, living non-violently, trust in oneself and others….let me start there. And that I want to yes, be inspired and use the experiences and methods of others who have come before me, and also, more intentionally create my own ways of using these methods especially with children and youth from marginalized communities. I hope to develop workshops and practice them here and then hopefully with you when I next see you again!!
And in the process I’m working on healing myself from my socialization and schooling which has taught me away from nature and my natural way, to distrust myself and my abilities, to be violent against myself and other beings by taking more than I need and having too many expectations of myself, from negative thinking, and control, disconnection from my body, my waste (and how it should be recycled)…and much more. Healing is happening on all levels. Being slow is helping. Picking vegetables from the garden, cooking and eating really good food is helping (I’m going to start organic farming soon!). Having more time to think, make, read, write, meditate, talk and walk is really helping me to come back to being.
I am blowing you all a kiss of peace, wholeness, health and love. You are all in my hearts.
[i,S.I.S note: I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow…. Give thanks to my kukhu and granpa, give thanks for my family, give thanks for those who share their love with me, and all those who have been sent to me, [give thanks for powah! Of prayer! ] en for all the positive transformashun!….
bless the collective of Bredrin and dadas watering the seeds of, fundraising for and facilitating good (re)education with youth/peers en elders in Brazil, India, Kenya, Uganda and Turtle Island, (like) through Elimu Sanifu, Safe Spaces, QLGBT groups, Black Queer Resistance, Goldelox Productions, AND The People Project; with the support of global networks like Bredrin en Dadas in Solidarity & Schools Without Borders……… bless all a dem en their families, and all those around us….]