|AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - Jan 2017|
Children’s Retreat, 2016
by Yuko Metsugi
The fourth International Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat was held in Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama from 22nd to 31st December, 2016. We were blessed with fifty-two children including ten children from Bhagaban Dev Ji’s ashram in Orissa and two children from HIHT. While most of them were from India, there were also families from U.S. and Africa. I joined for my second time as a volunteer and also as an AHYMSIN Youth member. Though it is a small experience of mine, I would like to share some of the things I learned from the retreat.
It was the morning of 24th December when I arrived at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama. On the day, I joined the Christmas decorations in the meditation hall where children were writing their messages and drawing pictures on the cards. I was impressed by their creativities and all the uniqueness of the work. I enjoyed looking at the colorful walls on which the cards were later posted. It seemed as if the joy and happiness were overflowing from the walls with warmness of the colors.
On 25th, we had Origami workshop. Origami, literally meaning “folding papers” is often associated with Japanese culture. It has been practiced in Japan since Edo period (1603-1867) and passed down for generations. In the workshop, they learned how to make different animals by Origami and they practiced making them with different colors, prints and patterns of papers. Though some of them were difficult, they all worked very hard, enjoyed the process of folding papers in different ways and made beautiful Origami by helping each other.
The next day, children learned Japanese calligraphy. Before the workshop began, they came into the room while I was setting up the desks and tools. They sat around the tables curiously looking at the calligraphy tools such as brushes, Washi papers and inks. When I started writing a word in calligraphy, they became very quiet. I felt that they sensed an air of silence and state of tranquility. It taught me that we can teach them silence with our attitudes and mental states. With the silence prevailed in the classroom, we began the workshop by chanting OM together. In the workshop, they practiced writing peace 平和 (peace, shanthi) and learned some Chinese characters, their origins and meanings, and the stroke orders to write them. As is often the case with any forms of art, concentration is very important in practicing calligraphy as well as proper posture and awareness of the breaths. Though I do not know how much they understood their importance, I believe it was a good opportunity for them to enjoy a new culture, and experience its practice.
Besides teaching workshops, I was blessed to teach hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation. For the first few days, there were separate hatha yoga classes for small children (between 1-year-old to 6-year-old).
When I taught the small children’s group, I included “active time” and “quiet time”. For “active time”, we did pair-stretches, postures and games. For “quiet time”, I asked them to feel the vibrations of sounds by putting hands on the chests’ areas. Children chanted OM together to feel the vibration of the sounds. They became very focused and concentrated on the sounds and their vibrations. Ending the class with relaxation, I realized that we can teach small children concentration, and one of the good ways is by using their senses (touch, taste, hearing, eyesight and smell for five senses though they may have six senses) because they are more aware of senses than adults.
For the latter half of the retreat, we had family hatha yoga classes designed for all the children and parents.
It was wonderful experience to teach them for six days until the end of the retreat as I could see the changes in children, and it was also a good experience for me to learn! In the hatha yoga classes, we practiced basic postures and to be mindful to each movement and their breaths. We sometimes did pair postures and group activities like “tunnels” to get closer to each other. Their minds became quieter and quieter toward the end of the class every day, which allowed them naturally move into the meditative practice. They also learned Bhramari pranayama and practiced it before meditation practice. While English-Hindi translation was sometimes necessary for teaching hatha yoga classes, we found that children did not need the translation for guided relaxation and meditation. It might have been that the state of consciousness was transmitted to children or it may simply because my tone of voice was allowed them to move into relaxation and meditation. There is a saying of Swami Veda, “Teaching meditation is not teaching a technique but transmitting a state of consciousness. I confer meditation with silent hug.” I hope I can do the same thing one day...
Apart from classes, there were many activities. One night, children from Bhagaban Dev Ji’s ashram in Orissa performed a traditional dance. The music was of similar rhythms in different tempo, and though I did not understand the words, it made me feel very serene and touched my soul. One girl from Orissa shared her poems in the talent show and also in the closing ceremony. Her pure devotion and soul also touched my heart.
Though it was a week experience at the retreat, I learned many things from the children. I appreciate that we got to know each other in spite of language differences and mostly thankful to them for treating me as a friend. I admire children for their pureness, openness, positivity, and generosity. I thank all the children for teaching me many things I have forgotten. Teaching is also a learning. I wish to remain as a student so that there are many more chances I can grow.
Last but not least, I thank the many volunteer teachers who helped the retreat. Pierre Lefebvre, being a big leader for children, did MC for guests’ workshops, performances, and the talent show. Ram Prakash, Chandramani Ji, Borim, Swami Ramcharit Ji and Geeta Bhoi taught hatha yoga, Joints and Glands, breathing and meditation classes. Mamta Nakoti, Surendra Nakoti, Mina Bhatt, and Bharti Dekate taught small children’s classes. Adhikari Bhoi was a wonderful innovator for outdoor games which children enjoyed very much. Rahul Kataria guided nature walk and Divya Gupta conducted a gratitude workshop and a pay-it-forward workshop and mostly took care of children during the retreat. Rabindra Sahu taught parents’ workshops such as Joyful Living, which many people actively participated. There were many other people who helped serving in the kitchen, preparing for snacks and so on.
I also would like to mention members of AHYMSIN Youth. We had worked together to organize the children’s retreat and it has been a great pleasure for me to work with them and grow together as Kalyana Mitras. The members are Rabindra Sahu, Namita Sinha, Apoorva Pal, Divya Gupta, Rosa Dacri, Bharti Dekate, Tarinee Awasthi, Chetna Tandon and Yuko. Though not present in her body, I would also like to mention Nalini Behari for having served for the tradition compassionately sharing her smile. It has been a short but long journey to study in this tradition and I have received many opportunities which has helped me to grow. Keeping in mind, “What we receive we must learn to give” I would keep practicing so that there would be plenty that I can give to the world.
I would like to end my small article here with a humble pranam to Swami Ritavan and the Guru lineage.
“So that the Grace and the practices and the teachings of meditation in our lineage may continue into next generations and meditation may become a family-centred experience” ~Swami Veda Bharati
Love, Serve, Remember.
In loving service,
The next International Yoga Youth and Children's Retreat at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG), Rishikesh, India, is scheduled for 24th - 30th December 2017. Contact: [email protected]
More on kids from Odisha in another article "Meditation in Action by Wolfgang Bischoff"