You Can’t Force Creativity

Listen to APV children singing a song written by APV founder and visionary Anand Dwivedi in Morning Assembly: APV Sings

Children in Morning Assembly Meditation
Class 3/4 in outdoor meditation in the Jungle

Creativity is the essence of the Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya School experiment.  At its heart, the philosophy is that We Are Born Creators. Our thoughts, our feelings, our actions are all creative acts that are the gifts of being human. When creativity is nurtured and supported in children, there is no end to the heights of expansive thinking and giving these tiny humans contain as they become adults and citizens of the larger world. Holistic education begins with this pure and simple awareness in teachers themselves. That for a child’s inner light to be nurtured, teachers must first themselves look within and nurture their own creative spark. The truth is any effort we put into forcing something unnatural takes away from the fullness of the experience at hand. While I am busy attempting to be creative, I forget that I AM creative in my every breath. That creativity is not confined to music or art, that it is embodied in your sight, smell, touch, in every sense and in every beat of the human heart. Creativity is the curiosity in the wonder and exhilaration of life. In that moment, life is full and inspiration enters the food we make, the plants we grow, the way in which we walk and are aware of our body. Creativity does not run ahead or fall behind, it remains steadily in the now. After 7 weeks here at APV school, I am only just beginning to learn to value myself as a creative being by just the fact that I strive to learn something new everyday. And with the children I am around, all I have to do is watch them and be inspired by their curiosity and love for themselves, each other and nature.

Learning from Nature. Children sit and observe their environment and write about their thoughts and feelings of the world around them as part of an engaged English learning assignment
Learning math and counting using beads via APV’s practical methodology in Kindergarten
Children learn song, dance, yoga and body awareness coupled with meditation to create healthy relationships between the mind and body

My time here at APV thus far has been nothing what I could have ever imagined in the depths of my mind.  When my mentor Mohan Bhai picked me up from the Dehradun train station the first day he said to me: I want you to see for yourself what is happening at APV, but I can tell you that it has become a living kurukshetra. This word is represented in the Bhagavad Gita when Krishna explains to Arjuna that the mind is a field of action where both positive and negative forces reside. This field is both a representation of our inner world and the world that we live in and the ways in which we manage these forces that play and dance within and around us. After having many talks with previous fellows about APV, it was clear that what I was stepping into was an APV that had dealt with such resistance before, but what it was now facing was of an entirely different magnitude. Like our own minds, APV was being pushed and pulled on by outside forces that did not speak the language of holistic education and mindful being. The founder of the school and some APV teachers had left in the beginning of this turmoil. Newly appointed staff by the parent organization were threatening the health of the school through extreme unethical behavior that deeply shook the community. The very foundation upon which APV stood was unsteady and it was this ground that I stepped onto my first few weeks here. Very quickly the teachers decided that they could take no more insult and asked me to schedule a meeting to state their demands: Either they keep the school according to the way APV has always run and remove unhealthy staff, or the larger organization takes full responsibility and APV teachers walk away for good after 8 years of commitment and dedication to create a new philosophy in mindful education. As with any revolution in progressive thinking, this was APV’s time to once again make a clear stand against larger forces that threatened it.

The Fields of Action…and Glory!

I felt torn. I came into APV to work to grow the school and its vision, and instead found myself in the midst of conflict and the possible dismantling of APV. After I too got tossed and turned in the sea of this uncertainty, I made a decision that no matter what happened, I was there to support the teachers in what they believed was right for the community, even if that meant giving it all up and starting new again.  What ensued was a beautiful collaboration of frantic work and meetings to get ready for our negotiation. As we entered the office the day of our meeting, some of us were apprehensive and others of us calm. By the end of the meeting, most of the teachers requirements were met, and appointed staff were removed and the school restored to its original framework. After less than an hour of celebration, Mohan Bhai and I again began to feel the immense pressure of “Now what?”. 100 eyes were looking at us, plug in hand, expecting us to fail on our own. And after months of fighting in an unhealthy landscape, the teachers were exhausted, and so was I. Now in the aftermath of this kurukshetra, we had to garner sankalpa shakti, the power of will and determination to motivate ourselves to learn and grow as a community. Through several talks with Anandji (the founder of the school) and Mohan Bhai , the community had to become one. One in thought, one in mindfulness, and one in service to the students of the school. The question was how? Anandji explained the paradox: In order to build energy and momentum, one needs to be creative. But in order to be creative, one needs energy! And then the answer: Strive to learn something new everyday. When you learn something new everyday, your discipline increases, and your capacity to create grows exponentially. Group meditation is the key to unlock this force.

Clearing the Outer and Inner Field, Garhwali Style
Getting the Field Ready for Planting Some Healthy Seeds and Thoughts!

As of today, the community is beginning to focus on next steps for APV and its sustainability and growth on a stronger, healthier field. This group of 7 teachers are incredible and unique. Their dedication and love for the children is easily palpable. It has only been three or so weeks, and I can already feel the momentum beginning to grow within each of us. As well as the love and deep appreciation for each other. I can say that it was this torrential storm that has gelled me closer to this community than I could have ever imagined and has given me the gift of watching and experiencing the diversity of the human experience. The teachers have become my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my inspiration for recreating my life in every moment and my determination to give everything I can muster to move this vision of mindful education forward. After 8 years, APV still stands. Now it is up to us to make sure it soars once again.

Some of My Amazing Family
Family Meals Everyday Together

For more of Khushi’s writings on mindfulness and adventures inside and out go to: www.wordpress.khushyoga.com

 

Indian heritage and American opportunities have defined Khushi's integration of philosophies that span continents. She is honored to return to India in the spirit of seva to share the knowledge she gained from these incredible opportunities. After graduating from college, Khushi's conversations with her grandmother led her to the Himalayan Institute where she served as a Herbal Apprentice for 1.5 years, studying Ayurveda, Yoga, Meditation, and the Cultivation of Medicinal Herbs and Healing. After falling in love with meditation, Khushi became certified to teach these practices to others. Since living in Philadelphia, she earned two Masters with the intent to bring Mindfulness to underserved communities through research and practice. In Philly, she formed Finding Freedom Within, a social service organization that combines traditional modalities with meditation and yoga for incarcerated individuals, drug rehab, at-risk schools, and traumatized children at the UPenn Center for Youth and Family Trauma. Khushi also served as a public health researcher and writer in her time at Temple University in the areas of parenting and teacher well-being. She is a dancer, gardener, artist and aspiring mountaineer, and one day hopes to follow in her grandfather's footsteps to learn the sitar.

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