Exploration into an Integrated Approach to Knowledge
Last Updated: February 17, 2009
Exploration into an Integrated Approach to Knowledge
an un-ending educational adventure
When you feel that you know nothing then you are ready to learn. - The Mother
Auroville has been known as a place of unending learning for many years. But what are we really learning here? Are we simply learning practical skills related to the construction and design of the buildings; the growing, distribution and preparation of our food, the development and management of our cottage industries, the governance of our community, the maintenance and care of our physical bodies, etc. This is all very important of course. And I believe Auroville contains a rich and diverse storehouse of learning, but do we really recognize this? Do we recognize the gems of knowledge that lay beneath our everyday activities? How much time or attention do we really allow for the awareness of how we approach our everyday activities? Do we understand why we perform the activities that we do and why our neighbour chooses to perform the activity that he does? At what level of consciousness are we when we perform these activities? Are we really practicing the Integral Yoga in our daily lives (or only when we visit the Matrimandir, the Samadhi, or participate in an Integral Yoga-related study of some sort)?
To facilitate the evolution in Auroville of truly integrated learning opportunities, more creative approaches to all aspects of community development, and ultimately an overall more highly integrated community. In essense, to foster the concept that All Life is Yoga.
To collectively develop a practical, integrated approach that offers every Aurovilian and friend of the Integral Yoga worldwide, the opportunity to participate in an exploration of learning and discovery that allows us to more fully integrate the Integral Yoga into our daily lives without taking time away from our current activities.
This is a draft of a possible program that could be used as a starting point to facilitate the development of the type of program mentioned above. Please note that many more aspects and possibilities of integrating this approach to learning could be (and should be) incorporated into the program. However, my feeling is that initially the program should not be too complex. It can be added on to each year as we discover new possibilities.
The program is intended as a very flexible approach that allows for individual and collective ceativity within a somewhat structured program. In order to make the program as efficient and meaningful as possible, efforts will be made to integrate currently established programs and activities in Auroville into the overall structure wherever feasible and appropriate.
The benefits and levels of learning attained are purely dependent upon the commitment and practice of each individual. The prerequisites of the program are: (1) that each participant recognize that he knows nothing, (2) be open to new discoveries and (3) be willing to share new discoveries with others.
The program is further designed in such a way that each individual starts from where he is and explores and learns at his own pace in an environment/approach which he is most familiar with.
In order to accommodate the schedules and locations of a wide variety of participants both in Auroville and around the world, the program will also be offered online through the University of Human Unity website. The website will essentially serve as the database for collecting all the data of experiences and learnings (from those who want to share) as well as serving as an organizational tool to organize all the schedules and provide a space for the communities of practice to organize and store their data and schedules. In this way, we can also provide a space for learners outside of Auroville to participate, in addition to individuals within Auroville who want to participate to some degree but are not able to attend any (or few) sessions for some reason. In the end, it serves as a comprehensive record of a (potentially) large-scale experiment.
The inspiration and approach to this program is derived from Vladimir's papers and presentations on an integral approach to knowledge as well as the explorations and discussions held within the University of Human Unity sessions wherein we explored knowledge according to six approaches to knowledge (artistic, scientific, psychological, philosophical, sociological and linguistic). A brief overview of Vladimir's vision of an integrated approach to knowledge, derived from the Vedic approach, is available at http://www.universityofhumanunity.org/integral_approach/knowledge.
Purpose: to present an overview of the whole program, how it will work, the learning possibilities that exist, and the time commitments that will be involved.
This is a general session for everyone who thinks they might be interested in participating in the program. Session could be held 2-3 times at venues in Auroville (as well as online) to allow for as many people as possible to learn about the program and decide if they would like to participate. Sign-ups can take place at the end of the orientation and for 2 weeks after the last orientation session is held via e-mail, online sign-up forms, News & Notes application form, and designated registration centres within Auroville.
II Re-discovering / Cultivating Awareness
Purpose: To help participants assess their level of awareness in daily activities and to assist in discovery (or re-discovery) of a method that each individual can integrate into his daily schedule and temperment. And more importantly, this method will be used by the participant throughout the course of the program as a tool for better integrating new knowledge developed through the program and for maintaining and cultivating an awareness of how they are acquiring and using their new-found discoveries in their daily activities.
This is a one-day (or 2 half-days) intensive workshop held 2 to 3 times to facilitate the needs and schedules of each participant. The session will start with a personal self-assessment so that each participant can take an honest look at their level of awareness in each of their daily activities. Several approaches to cultivating awareness will be discussed and practiced within the session so that participants can discover (or re-discover) approaches that they are most comfortable using. Two weeks will be given for general practice of these approaches with emphasis on programs happening in and around Auroville that can further assist in this practice. (For example, meditation or concentration courses, pranayama, yoga nidra, etc) At the end of two weeks time, a number of follow-up sessions will be organized to allow smaller groups to form and share experiences, notes and progress.
III Building Communities of Practice and Discovery
Purpose: to create forums of individuals who are practising according to similar approaches to knowledge so that each individual is starting from a place he is most familiar with (starting from where you are at.)
Begin by holding a one-day session where we talk about what it means to practise or approach an activity from each of six approaches to knowledge the artistic/cultural approach, the scientific approach, the linguistic approach, the psychological approach, the philosophical approach, and the
sociological/historical approach. (This session may be held several times to accommodate all the interested participants).
Although we each may use several of these approaches in our daily lives, the goal here is to discover which of these approaches we use most in our primary daily work/activity. Through self-assessment and discussions with a facilitator for each approach, every learner will choose an approach to focus on for this integral learning exploration. From this exercise, we will form groups communities of practice and discovery for each of the six approaches to knowledge (listed above). In some cases, we may create more than 6 groups based on the number of participants. For example, if we have a large number of participants focusing on the artistic/cultural approach, we might create several groups, each with a different focus on the artistic approach art, theatre and music (would be one way to group). This would all depend on the interests and needs of the participants. It will be most important to create groups that can come together regularly at convenient times as these communities will serve as the primary containers for participants to share and explore.
With the aid of a (semi)trained facilitator, each of these communities will explore in more depth what it means to operate within their chosen approach to knowledge. Sessions may include interactive exercises, sharings/presentations by individual members, etc. The exact format can be decided on by the group with the aid of the facilitator to best fit the needs and interests of the group. All groups will be encouraged to integrate awareness exercises as well as journaling into their daily routines so that the individual explorations become more meaningful. Each community will decide on meeting places and times that are most convenient for the group. These gatherings will happen for at least one month with a suggested minimum frequency of once per week.
To further supplement and create deeper explorations into each approach, participants will be encouraged to hold mini-workshops or personal glimpses into their primary activity of focus. For example, a painter may be interested to invite all participants focused on the artistic/cultural approach to come to his studio wherein he could share his favorite brush stroke, how he learned it, what inspires it and perhaps also invite others to experiement with it. All workshops, sessions and sharings should encourage participants to gain a deeper understanding of the primary approach to knowledge that they use in their daily lives as well as the differences and nuances that are employed by their fellow community members within the same approach to knowledge.
IV Exploring Levels of Consciousness
Purpose: to provide a forum whereby individuals may explore and self-assess how they operate within their chosen approach to knowledge within each (or according to each) level of consciousness.
Sessions will be held to explore (separately) each of four levels of consciousness: physical, vital, mental, and spiritual. These sessions will provide information on what it means to function within each of these levels along with practical exercises that can be explored both within the session as well as integrated into the learner's daily schedule. (Again, journaling will be encouraged to create a deeper awareness of how the individual operates within each level).
The four sessions (physical, vital, mental and spiritual) may either be held (several times each) to accommodate large mixed groups containing all of the communities of practice or (if the number of facilitators is sufficient) it might be possible to hold each of the four sessions separately for each community of practice. Either way, after each session, the communities of practice will be encouraged to meet amongst themselves and share their discoveries of each level of consciousness and how it affects/influences/feels within their chosen approach to knowledge.
During the course of these sessions, participants will be encouraged to also attend related courses being offered by Aurovilians that relate to these four levels of consciousness. For example, during the exploration of the physical level, participants may wish to explore classes offered in yoga asanas, tai chi, pilates, etc to allow their physical being to become more deeply immersed in the experience of that aspect.
V Discovering our Faculties of Consciousness
Purpose: to provide a forum whereby individuals can become aware of the primary faculty of consciousness that they regularly employ in their chosen approach to knowledge and to choose an alternative faculty for discovery and development.
Our faculties of consciousness include: thinking, speaking, feeling, seeing, hearing, touching.
Large sessions would be held for all of the communities of practice to come together and explore these faculties. Practical exercises and self-assessments would be used to assist the learners in identifying which of these faculties is used most in their primary daily activity. After allowing the learner some time to explore how he uses this faculty in his daily activities, all the learners would then come together again in large sessions to discover which of the learning faculties is least employed in the course of his daily activities. Based on this discovery, the learner would then be encouraged to participate in a session on how to cultivate that faculty that he least employs (for example, How to Hear.) Again, journaling would be encouraged and learners would meet with their communities of practice to share their experiences and explorations.
VI Embracing Our Verities of Consciousness
Purpose: to bring a deeper understanding, experience and appreciation of Mother's verities of consciousness to the community and to friends around the world.
This piece of the program is perhaps a sort of aside or extra to the program that is outlined above. It could be potentially integrated into a year-long program, but may be a bit much to integrate into the first run of the program which may start out as a 6-month exploratory venture.
This is a 12-month, year-round, perpetual program that focuses on one verity per month. One may envision flooding Auroville with the Verity of the Month. Participants could be encouraged to visit the petal in the Matrimandir that corresponds to the specific verity being focused on, journaling on this verity for the whole month. Workshops, lectures and explorations in this verity could be encouraged for the month. The News and Notes could focus on the verity of the month. Practice of this verity would be encouraged for the month. The flower that corresponds with the verity of the month could be showcased and studied. Meetings, workplaces, schools and other activities would be encouraged to focus on the Verity of the Month. Art galleries, films, musical events, poetry readings, etc could focus on the verity. In essence, Auroville would be bathed in a different verity each month. We could even focus on coloring Auroville (and ourselves) with the corresponding color of each month's verity.
As an introduction to this 12-month program, we could design a short one-day introduction that introduces each of the 12 verites. This could also be offered periodically as an overview and integrated glimpse of the full program.
VII The Integral Festival
Purpose: To bring together all the communities of practice to share, exhibit and celebrate the various explorations into the 6 approaches to knowledge, the four levels of consciousness, and the 6 faculties of consciousness. Through this venue perhaps a clearer understanding of how individuals and groups approach various aspects of life and community may emerge. In addition, it is hoped that new approaches to solving issues in Auroville may be embraced and that new, integrated approaches to learning emerge.
The Integral Festival would be held in the winter (perhaps February) and would be open to all Aurovilians and friends from around the world. The Festival would be entirely designed by the facilitators and participants of the preceding exploration. Introductory sessions could be held to educate visitors to the festival on the process used in the learning exploration that had taken place as well as introductions to the approaches to knowledge, levels of consciousness and faculties of consciousness so that they would have a point of reference in which to better understand the meaning behind the Festival.
Festival events could include the following (but would be limited only to the creativity of the participants):
General session where a topic is introduced (perhaps town planning). Members of each community of practice, in turn, share how they would approach that topic (artistic approach, scientific approach, philosophical approach, etc)
General session where a topic is introduced (perhaps housing) and participants who are most familiar with a particular level of consciousness (physcial, vital, mental, spiritual), in turn, share how they might approach the topic from a particular level of consciousness.
General session on the faculties of consciousness. As above, a topic is introduced (perhaps governance) and participants who focused on a particular faculty (seeing, hearing, etc) could, in turn, share perspectives on that topic from that faculty.
Each community of practice may want to create their own presentations or sharings based on their particular approach (artistic, scientific, philosophical, etc). Or even integrate approaches (such as the historical approach to art or the psychological approach to science, etc). These presentations could take a wide variety of formats. Perhaps a full day for each approach could be scheduled.
A variety of creative events could be developed: art exhibits, plays, dances, poetry readings, workshops, etc.
To a large degree, the program is intended as a self-learning tool. Although guidance and group interactions and sharing are encouraged, essentially the individual is practicing, exploring and learning through his own activities. Journaling, self-assessments and recommended readings can further facilitate this individual learning process. In essence, this makes it possible for anyone to partcipate in the program individually or collectively, in Auroville or outside of Auroville via connections with the materials and online collaborative platform offered through the website.
To facilitate conscious interactions within all program sessions and communities of practice a set of simple communication guidelines might be agreed upon by all participants at the start of the program (ie. Deep dialogue, Non-violent communication).
If an experiment of this size could truly be implemented, it could potentially serve as a valuable research resource to the World. As such it will be important to document as much as possible via blogs, journaling, audio tapes/video tapes of sessions, recommended readings and papers, etc. (Always, of course, with the participant's approval). It could also be interesting to make a 5-minute video clip of each participant at the beginning and end of the program. Each might talk about where they are (initially) what their goal is from the program and where they are at the end.
This is a very preliminary program schedule that could be considered as a starting point. The material and possible explorations suggested by this program are infinite and such a short program only scratches the surface. But it may be better to start with a more introductory program to initiate interest, gauge the response from participants and whet the appetite for the possibilities that lay beyond...
Approx. time needed
Recruiting and Preparing the Facilitators
June - August
Sept 1 - 20
Re-discovering / Cultivating Awareness
Sept 22 Oct 5
Building Communities of Practice and Discovery
Oct 6 Nov 2
Exploring Levels of Consciousness
Nov 3 Dec 28
Discovering our Faculties of Consciousness
Jan 5 Jan 31
Preparing for the Festival
Feb 1 Feb 14
The Integral Festival
Feb 15 - 28
*Preliminary organization and promotion of the Festival will begin much earlier. These two weeks will allow for the communities of practice to finalize their presentations and sharings.