28 – 30 April: Peace Education Training, Ghara, Nepal

28 April

I spent my first day teaching two classes. The subject was a Culture of Peace. I had Krishna and Kailash with me to help with translation.

A Culture of Peace

Gandhi has a wise saying “there is no route to peace, peace is the route”.

I taught about a Culture of Peace and UNESCO to lay the foundation for the importance of peace education and the resources available from UNESCO. Peace is about learning to live together with our differences. It is about democracy, human rights and diversity. What I find particularly important about peace is learning forgiveness. The teachers were informed that a peaceful school is the foundation to peace, if children are calm, happy and cooperative then they can learn more. I spoke about peace not as an intellectual subject but a lived experience. I was teaching teachers who are currently working in schools.

Peace Education – REAL HOPE excerpt ‘Peace’

I showcased my own Peace Session which looks at humour and props. I told them that I teach the children to use jokes as a means of lifting positive thinking. I took them through critical thinking and the importance of encouraging kids to bring out their own knowledge rather than put knowledge in. So brainstorming is a fast process and top of mind gives us an idea of what they think and feel. I showed them the Happy cards as a resource to get kids to focus on positive values for a week. The children enjoy receiving the cards. I then spoke of philosophy and facts and quoted Gandhi ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’. They weren’t sure what that meant I explained it was revenge, if someone hits you; you want to hit them back. Mother Therese says ‘Peace begins with a smile’. So the importance of smiling. I explained when I clown in hospitals that some people had told me that no-one had smiled at them, when I did it made their whole day. Always amazes me. I am told in Nepalese culture people do not complement each other much, the positive words are used less than the negative words, so I encouraged them to use positive words as it does impact people, I added I always make sure that it (compliment) must be genuine. I spoke of the cost of wars and nuclear weapons and the importance of disarmament. I am always amazed when I read the statistics and imagine if we were wise enough to put it into peace education. I guess we are not ready yet for harmony.

I undertook some exercises with the people outside to demonstrate diversity and unity. I had them try the Mexican wave (unity) and they laughed as they gave it a go. I had them shake hands and do it quickly. I explained the importance of friendship is to not think but shake hands. I got them all to move into groups based on gender. I spoke of the gender barrier and that equality is in opportunity. We are not the same but really compliments of each other. The idea is to release talent of people and that gender not be a barrier to that. I then had them organise themselves in a line from tallest to shortest, that blended the genders. That no-one is better or worse than anyone else. We are just diverse and different. Then I broke them up into castes and that was very interesting. I learned about the Chittre caste and I asked them how they felt about being in this caste they said happy. I learned that there were sub castes to this caste. I found out that the differences between caste were lessening overtime. The caste order is: Brahmin, Chhetri, Magar, Damai, Kami (the last two are untouchables). I asked others how they felt, one man said he had Asiatic look (related to Mongols), he said he felt isolated. The Brahmin’s indicated they felt happy. So I sensed there were still status issues attached to caste. I explained in Australia we do not have caste but we do have differences in regard to wealth and poverty. So always communities divide in a myriad of ways. It is interesting to become aware of this.

I then discussed the Blue Eyed Activity. This was created by Jane Elliott a Texan educator in the 1960′s who divided her class on the basis of eye colour mirroring the Nazi Mengele experiments (gas chamber decided on basis of eye colour). See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Elliott.  I explained it could be divided by caste. I went on to explain how it worked and the power of suggestion if one group is told they are more superior to another group. In this case they were examined and they found uniformly that the ones who thought they were superior did better those who thought they were inferior did less well. I explained the western perception where through capital/technological advancement many third world countries see them as advanced. Yet in truth we are all equal. So belief changes outcome. It is important for teachers to be mindful that some children will be quiet some will be outgoing and not to favour one over the other but to note that there are different learning styles. To train in equality. I explained years later the children in Jane Elliott’s class said they would never discriminate again as they felt the experience and realised it was not positive. They changed. So it is evidence that experiential education works.

That is all we had time for, and with translation the class went to 1.5 hours. They were learning new concepts and it had to be translated so they could understand. I was at a disadvantage as I could not hear their responses I tried to prompt Krishna and Kailash for what they were saying to give me an idea if they were understanding. I think teachers have to become proactive and active in their questions and answers if they are to teach children, they model learning by teaching.

The teachers were very positive, a good mix of men and women. There seemed to be barriers breaking down as they got to know each other over 10 days. They embraced me as a foreign teacher very positively and were open to my approaches. I found many of them quiet, there were a few of them that were commonly responding, which is typically the same in Australia, we are indeed same same but different. 

Kumari and I walked up to the shed and she kindly informed me that the teachers liked my teaching and were appreciative. It was nice to get feedback, as it is not easy to know how they feel. In their presence I heard much laughter and they were actively involved, so I can determine there was engagement.

29 April

Awaken the Fool

I came into the class on this day dressed as a clown. For me this was an experiment. I wrote this program in one sitting and it was really the foundation to peace for me. It is about the Fool and the metaphor that the Fool moves out into life innocent and can be seen as the fool. This person has no possessions, they are not ambitious, they simply live in the moment. They see the grasping of the world and they see it as people being empty and trying to fill themselves. The fool is already empty of desire and is fulfilled on life. They see the gold as the fool’s gold which is the real inner wealth. It is in the shape of REAL HOPES – responsibility, empathy, awareness, love, honesty, oneness, peace, enjoyment and service. These are the values that are valuable and they are universal. So the fool knows his or her real wealth lies within and trusts that life is richly abundant.

So I tried to demonstrate this wisdom to the class with translation. The program is a good showcase of the activities already presented in REAL HOPE. So I was able to take them through REAL HOPE and have them experience the activities that bring each value to life and to learn about conflict resolution in the process.

I had activities such as flow and resist. Where we learn through our thoughts we can resist others and create tension – push hands together, or we can flow, even if we disagree, we can ask people their reasons for their point of view without being tense.  View this activity on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKjyyq2fnVU  I had mirror games where you copy another person as life is indeed a mirror of people. What we see in others is in us. I had a game where you close your eyes and imagine the front, sides, back of the room. It is a good exercise in selective perception, that we are not always right and to be open to the possibilities that we would be wrong. This is where the real intelligence is. They all stood there and I was able to determine that some saw a great deal and others didn’t remember certain features. I got them to explore love and praise each other. To find something where they saw something they liked in another. Some found that hard as it is not common in their culture. However, some were able to find what they liked. I then gave them a bigger challenge. I demonstrated this by going around the class and saying ‘I love you’. As a clown I’ve had the opportunity to be with dying people and have looked into their eyes and told them I love you with genuine feeling. It is something I’ve developed as a clown and it has become easy for me to love people. I open my heart naturally. To my surprise when I looked into their eyes and said ‘I love you’ they said it back and I felt the truth in their eyes. It touched me and I could see how loving they are as a people. To make this easy I said to them they could say ‘I love you as a … brother, sister, father, mother’. That way it is not to confronting given gender and age issues. I asked them to do it once so it was not too difficult. Most people experiencing saying ‘I love you’ to a stranger as very hard. Intimacy is not common, only in close relationships. Yet this is the beginning of learning unconditional love.  It is very important for a Culture of Peace.

I discussed honesty in the context of the Jester and used the mirror ball to try and explain that each face was a different person in the world, when we look into the mirror ball we can’t see ourselves, but when we look into our own mirror we can see ourselves. It was an exercise of realising that the truth sets you free, but it is your own truth. No-one can give you there truth, you can choose to assimilate it if it resonates but ultimately you know the truth. It is about thinking through what is true for you. So that was a good exercise. Time was getting away and I was able to demonstrate Oneness as one breath, one family in the world. I expressed it as a rhythm clap where we all clap together as one body. This is the feeling of oneness, we are not separate. In reality we are not separate and I am becoming deeply aware that what I see in another is in me. Peace I communicated as yin and yang and balance. Enjoyment for me is being who I am and it is different from pleasure. True joy arises from within; some students got that concept and then forgot it. To really find happiness is to allow yourself to be do and have what you want in this world, many people feel enslaved to families, jobs, ideas etc. and do not feel they can just wave a magic wand and have what they want. I can understand the looks of disbelief around this but slowly I understand that I am the creator of my reality and I have proved it to myself. When I focus on something, imagine it and allow for it, it comes. This is the Law of Attraction which overtime will be known to the world. If you believe you have the power to create what you want, it changes everything – economics, government, family, relationships, business and so on.  It changes the way we see ourselves. We are not victims of life; our thoughts pave the future for us. If we stay positive the best is yet to come, as Gordon so wisely indicated. He lives that truth and he has no illness. He was the one who didn’t get sick. He is in balance, because he is in peace, he goes with the flow. So it has been a privilege to meet such a rare man. He is in service as well; I can feel how quickly he serves, for me that is true leadership. The leadership of the future empowers others, it doesn’t lead from the front, it serves from behind. I suspect many of the great teachers of the past were full of smiles and love.

So again, my program went over around 2 hours. Krishna and Kailash had me in the morning where there is more flexibility, so I was grateful for that. It is hard to get class duration to be on time as it depends on translation, it depends on interaction and understanding. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to practice my work and I learned a great deal about what I am teaching. I do hold the gold in my hands and this is my way of sharing it, if not on one level perhaps on higher levels, great good emerges. I felt emotion inside as I wrote that and feel that may be true. We are never wasting our time reaching out and sharing. I do this for free as I love people and I wish to contribute to this beautiful world. It is true I live a privileged life and for that I am grateful and who knows where it leads me.

I came back to my room and I slept a very deep sleep. I was absolutely exhausted. The cold takes its toll and I find I don’t have lots of energy but I give my best when I can.

30 April

Communication

I did attempt to write this up on butchers paper first. Krishna informed me he had PowerPoint and my preference was to present using PowerPoint. So I drafted the presentation from the conflict resolution work I’ve done, the Conflict Resolution Network materials (reminding me of what I have left out) and peace education by the Brahma Kumari’s.

Communication is a complex subject and communication in the West is different to Nepal. However, as human beings there are basic tools and there are new ways they can absorb to look at conflict differently.

We talked about communication through translation and that my message would be truncated through Krishna and then each of the teachers would interpret on a 3rd level. So the message is travelling through many messages.

I talked about body language being 55% of all communication verbal and words 38%, 7% of a lesser nature. People typically read body language. So we went outside and I asked them to walk when they were happy, angry and sad. I explained to them that we release emotions through the body and that we communicate how we feel through the body. So in conflict how we move our bodies makes a difference. I had them come back to the class.

Kailash and I undertook a role play. I was his mother and he was my son coming home late. I communicated poor and good communication. We started with poor and I yelled at him and told him that he should have told me he was late and that he had work to do. He tried to explain but I talked over the top of him as I was right and he was wrong. I didn’t care about his story as mine was the right story and he should do as I say (power).

I then turned to the class and asked them what they thought, what they noticed? They noticed my head turning away from him, that I was yelling. One teacher was very enthusiastic and explained that I was mean and not kind to my son. I then explained that I dismissed him. I did not solve the problem. I asked them what I was teaching him? I further explained that I was modelling power and control over him and disrespect. I did not find out the other side (justice) I just assumed I was right and his rights were not relevant.

We then role played good communication from the same scenario. I sat calmly as he walked in and asked him politely where he had been. I actively listened (reflecting back what he said so I understood). I explained that I felt worried as I had tried to ring him an hour ago and he hadn’t answered. He apologised (acknowledging my feelings). I then explained that what I want is for him to remember his phone in the future and ring me when he is due to come home. I spoke to him as an equal and was open to working with him in solving a problem.

I then turned to the class and asked them what they thought? They indicated I was peaceful and that I spoke to him in a good way. I explained that I showed respect and that we were equals. I also pointed out the I Statements which was next on the butchers paper outline. I statements are simply saying when you… (late), I feel…. (worried) and what I would like is …. (ring me). That is how we own our power and not blame others. It is how we acknowledge our own feelings and get what we want in a way that shares power.

I explained that blame was one finger pointing at the others and 3 pointing back. They got that concept very quickly. We have to own our own anger and annoyance and not hate the person but solve the problem.

I also spoke about ‘react’ or ‘respond’ and what this means. To suddenly react emotionally was what the mother did and in the good communication scenario she responded to find out the issue and solve the problem.

I then went onto explain Dr. Emoto. Unfortunately the power was not on, we find it is intermittent and you can’t be sure you can have a PowerPoint presentation. I said to Kailash what will be will be. I explained that he was a Japanese doctor who put water into vials and placed labels on them. Some of the labels said ‘thank you’, ‘you make me sick’, ‘Mother Theresa’, ‘Adolf Hitler’ and ‘love and appreciation’. Then he had subjects focus and feel their negative/positive feelings directed at the vials and then he froze them. He worked on the theory that our bodies are 90% water and intent affects water. The experiment is called ‘Messages from Water’ (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaru_Emoto). What he found was that all the negatively intended vials revealed frozen crystals that were dysfunctional and formed erratic crystal patterns. The vials with positive intent (labels) was perfectly symmetrical. So the way we feel affects the water, therefore, in our bodies if we direct negative intent we can actually affect the health of the body. That is why we clowns go into hospitals to bring cheer to get people feeling positive as that affects their recovery. The teachers were very interested in this and I told them they can Google for more information. Just imagine if we took responsibility for our thoughts and realised it directly impacts other people’s wellbeing. Perhaps wellbeing will be seen in a different light.

The next activity concerned how words affect people. I had a plasticine mould which I use as physical example of how words change the shape of people. I told them it was a person. I asked them to pass it around and say something negative or positive. They mostly said nice words but there are a few clowns in the group and one guy said a negative word. I demonstrated when it returned that we can expand the plasticine by saying kind words (genuine) and that we squash people by saying negative words. It is a visual way of demonstrating to children how our words, although we can’t see them, they do affect people on the inside. Not unlike Dr. Emoto’s point. I think they got the message there. We have to be careful how we speak as we can shut down or we can choose to encourage people to live to their fullest. My vote is for the latter.

Kailash in the last class did a summary, I was grateful for mostly I was out of time. It is important to do summaries to give people a sense of what has been communicated and see the links. So he finished it with good communication to aid recall.

I said goodbye to my class and went back downstairs. 

I enjoyed the teaching it was a really fascinating experience, one I will never forget.

Mohandas Gandhi

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

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