The above quote formed the ideology behind the Beginners’ program. The Beginners’ program, which runs in the slum community center, is to help everyone connected to it, to evolve. With the thought that, all that it takes to reach the destination is the determination to begin, we started this small experiment of beginning together, working together, of walking together, of growing together.
So welcome to the world of freedom, and have a sneak peak of what we do in such sessions.
We start our session with meditation. Meditation often forms the basis of healing for the children at beginners’ program. It is at this stage that we introduce our kids to Healing, Therapy and Spirituality. There is no fixed method for meditation. Sometimes there is music, sometimes there is silence, whilst at other times, there is chanting. Whatever it may be, it is the time for the kids to connect with healing, with silence, with love and, most of all, they connect with the soul that they possess. It is indeed beautiful to see tiny souls trying to evolve, trying to meditate. Also practicing meditation has helped our children to calm down, to appreciate silence, to connect with themselves and with others.
Meditation is followed by chanting a few affirmations. They are like our personal mantras. It is incredible to see how these simple positive words change the very perspectives of children. Simple words like ‘’I love myself’’, ‘’I forgive myself’’ and ‘’I accept myself’’ help them to create new neurological pathways, which in turn, help them to believe in themselves in a much greater way. Most essentially, the affirmations have allowed the children to have more faith in themselves than anything else.
Physical Exercise/ Art/ Music/ Stories/Games
We then take time off, for our reflections. We reflect on everything- from values to manners. This helps us to introspect, as well as to improve, to explore, to grow. The reflections have made it easy for the kids to be more compassionate, more loving towards themselves and towards each other. The reflections happen through various methods, like art, music, stories, physical exercises and games.
We believe that healing can happen when you get a chance to channel your emotions. And the focus for our reflection sessions is just that. We allow kids to heal themselves as well as to promulgate their emotions by giving them an opportunity to express it through various physical exercises, games, stories, paintings and music. It is during these sessions that children get a chance to just BE, devoid of any judgments and points of view.
For Eg : I frequently encourage children to come up with their own stories. Their stories are often filled with violence, killings, and bloodshed. During such instances, we don’t judge their thoughts and their emotions; we don’t really wrap them around the idea of good or bad. What we instead do is give them the opportunity and the free rein to be themselves. So if a child kills a lion in his story, it means that he has now killed his own aggression, the cause for his anger. In return, what we get is a clear conscience and the real self of a child, without any façade or pretence.
It’s amazing to see children liberating themselves, from judgments, from their negative emotions, and going beyond their conditioning, breaking free and flying high in their imaginations.
Concept-building is an integral part of the curriculum. Since there are some children who do not go to school, concepts are taught in a way that will make it easy for them to learn. We focus on building a strong foundation. Learning is made fun for the children so that they grasp the concepts more effectively. We keep a theme for a particular week and work accordingly on that theme. We follow the principle of knowing-doing-being.
In the KNOWING phase, we make the children aware about the concept. Then comes the DOING phase, where the children will do activities based on the concepts taught to them. Finally comes the BEING phase, where the children transform their knowledge into wisdom by using it daily in their life.
Assessment is usually at the end of the session. We assess our children by a star chart. We observe their behavior, and on the basis of this behavior, we give them stars. Usually children get stars for qualities like punctuality, regularity, focus, self-learning and self-discipline. The child with the maximum number of stars gets a gift from us at the end of the month. This motivates the child to improve. Instead of forcing things onto the children, we give them an option, an inspiration to improve.
With that we end our sessions. Every session provides a breakthrough to either us or to a child. It gives us an opportunity to combine education and freedom, and to make learning fun for the children. It is during the sessions, we have realized that in the journey of life, we are all beginners at one stage or the other. Striving to learn new things, practicing new values, and the liberty to do the same makes it all easy.