A meeting of Kindred Spirits – Part 2 of 3

5th Year Anniversary Celebration of Swarnaprashna Parenting Group

The second day dawned bright and early. The first session of the day was Yoga – guided graciously by parent Bhooma. Though Bhooma did not have any indication that she will be called on to conduct the session (as the other person who was supposed to do it had to drop out due to unavoidable reasons), she enthusiastically stepped in and ensured the parents were not disappointed. I heard the Yoga session was very energetic and rejuvenating. Unfortunately, I missed it! The early morning chirping of the many birds on campus and the peacocks from the nearby fields compensated a wee bit for missing such a wonderful session though (or so I consoled myself!).

Yoga session by parent Bhooma

After a quick breakfast, all parents gathered at the pyramid room with much anticipation and glee for the day’s program.  We were not disappointed. The formal program kicked off with a small recognition ceremony to honor the core parents who have contributed their time and energies over the last few years towards the growth of the Swarnaprashna parenting group. Without these do-gooders, our community will not be what it is today. Many thanks to these kind souls who continue to dedicate their efforts to the cause of holistic living and parenting.

Parent Nandhini and core member of Swarnaprashna Parenting Community getting honored (one of the many parents who have tirelessly worked over the last few years towards the cause of holistic living and parenting)
Parent Team honoring Velu Jayaprakash, the man behind Swarnaprashna who is making all this possible (through the guidance of his Guru as he likes to acknowledge)

After the recognition ceremony, Ranjan Mullaratt, a Kalaripayattu expert with 30 years experience in the art form, spent over an hour with us sharing his knowledge about the most ancient martial art of the world. Kalaripayattu (Kalari meaning an enclosed space and payattu meaning practice), which is said to have originated from South India, is believed to be taught first to Sage Parasurama by Lord Shiva.  The art form was eventually spread world-wide by Bodhirama including to China. Today, it is practiced widely in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh in India. Placing a high importance on the guru-shishya parambara, Kalaripayattu is extremely beneficial for both physical and mental health. It follows the principles of Ayurveda and incorporates traditionally guarded secrets on vital nerve points to disarm the opponent in a fight.

Ranjan Mullaratt, a Kalaripayattu expert talking to us about the age-old martial art form

Next up was the super fun, super powerful, super thought-provoking session on Natural Foods by Dr. Maran G. A raw food activist and a firm proponent of Naturopathy, Maran G is what you might call a bomb of energy and traditional knowledge. Dr. Maran runs a tiny food joint in Sivakashi, Tamil Nadu named “Thaivazhi Iyarkai Unavagam” (translated roughly as Traditional & Natural Food Restaurant) – it serves over 300 people each day with completely wholesome, raw and uncooked food and helps them fight many diseases and illnesses with food as medicine.

Dr. Maran G – A raw food activist and proponent of Naturopathy with Parent Gayathri (who helped translate Maranji’s priceless talk to English for the benefit of all parents who did not understand Tamil)

Known for his selfless and passionate work on spreading the wisdom of consuming raw and natural food, Maran G is a wonderful human being who has dedicated his life for the betterment of the health of his fellow beings. An hour or so with him was just not enough – his enthusiasm, deep knowledge, jovial nature, literary skills, and caring attitude made us all wish he could spend the entire day with us talking! WE just couldn’t get enough of the many tips and recipes he shared with us all so generously. God bless Maran G and his kind – we were in turn for sure blesses to be part of his session that day. Though I am planning to cover the tips/recipes given by Maran G in another blog post, here’s what he really wanted us all to take away that day, if not anything else:

Pearls of Wisdom from Maran G’s talk:

  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. The more flour/starch you consume, the more pain you will suffer. Avoid plan starch food.
  3. Follow the Natural way of life – have more fruits and vegetables (raw). Consume Amla/Guava/Dates/Fig in plenty.
  4. Walking for 10 mins barefoot is equal to walking 1 hour in shoe. Try to walk barefoot as much as possible and stay connected to Mother Earth.
  5. A lifestyle without physical work and filled with bad food habits is sure asking for trouble.
  6. One must do the super brain yoga (thoppukaram as it’s called in Tamil, usually performed in front of Ganesha with both hands on the ears) at least 21 times a day to stay fit, young, and healthy.
  7. At least one meal a day must be Fruits only. Once in a day at least, you must do fireless cooking!
  8. For Thyroid, Diabetes and improving memory power, soak 2 Ladies Finger in water overnight and have that water in the morning.
  9. Try to have a wholesome and raw breakfast. You can always add spice to it in the form of pepper, jeera, ajwain. Replace Coffee/Tea with Dry Ginger Tea.
  10. Physical exercise a must for a healthy body. If you don’t have time to do exercise, you can at least walk in the form of a 8 shape right at home
  11. Most importantly, pls ensure your children inculcuate the good habit of eating raw and healthy food – enrich their water bottles and tiffin boxes with the best food Mother Nature herself has prepared lovingly.
  12. Do not watch any TV, mobile or other devices while eating.
  13. Never eat after 7 in the night!

The above is just barely scratching the surface of what he shared. You must definitely attend one of his sessions if possible in the future.

Standing ovation to Dr. Maran – one hour with him is just NOT enough!

We all proceeded to lunch – thinking if we should start practicing all Maran G told us right away – unfortunately, bad habits formed over decades of lifestyle needs at least a few days of convincing one’s own mind and self before making the switch. Maran G, however, did not think so. He liberally shared his meager lunch of 2-3 fruits with everyone at the Lunch hall. Indeed, a very selfless Samaritan he is.

Usually, any session planned right after lunch will turn out to be boring (even if it is not really so – thanks to our full stomachs!). But we had a surprise coming for us. The team from Kreedaa Kaushalya, who came all the way from Mysore, enthralled us the next one hour with the traditional games of India. Right from Indian Chess, Pagaday, Aliguli Manay to Adu Huli Ata, it was a fun session where the children and adults even got to play a game or two.

Traditional Games that transported us to our childhoods

The team of RG Singh, Raghu Dharmendra, and Dileep Gowda have done extensive research on the traditional games, their use and their importance in our culture and have made their knowledge freely available to anyone who is willing to pay attention. In this day and age where children are glued to mobile screens for hours together, traditional games offer a hope and promise of getting them back to an engaging form of play which are also designed to make them more mentally agile and fit. Do check out the Kreedaa Kaushalya team at their shop opposite Mysore Zoo or catch them at their blog here: http://kreedaakaushalya.blogspot.in/. And don’t forget to introduce your children to the rich game culture of India.

Children getting lost in the wonder of Traditional Games, thanks to the session by Team Kreeda Kaushalya

The next session was on Karathandavam, another martial art form of India. It was very interesting to learn about this ancient art and appreciate the beauty of many practices that were part of our culture.

A quick demo of Karathandavam – another ancient martial art form

A quick water break later, all of us assembled again for another one of the most interesting sessions of the meet – Yoga point of view from Thirumoolar by Siddha Dr. Selva Shanmugam. A very deep subject, with profound wisdom and insights, Thirumanthiram and its teachings on Yoga and Medicine is not very easy to be discussed in just a few hours. But Dr. Selva Shanmugam did fantastic justice to it, while still keeping it absolutely relevant and informative, by sharing his decades of research and knowledge of Thirumoolar’s text. The following lines from his presentation stand out strikingly clear even today in my mind:

Andathil ullathae Pindam,

Pindathil ullathae Andam

Meaning what’s there in the Macrocosm (the Universe) is what’s there in the Microcosm (The Body) i.e. man is a universe in himself. These lines were said many thousands of years ago by Siddhas (ancient Tamil Sages) – and it is being discovered to be true by modern scientists even as we read these lines today. Whether one views these lines literally or with more spiritual intent, it is certainly not something one can just understand in a day and gain mastery (in fact, nothing in life is like that, but these kind of topics definitely need their own time, effort and dedication to really understand, let alone start practicing them).

Dr. Selva Shanmugam sharing his decades-long insights from Thirumanthiram

After that intense session, parent, healer and acupuncture therapist, Anandji did a light and simple session on Body, Mind and Soul – he gave us a very good understanding of the these three realms and even shared an easy way to meditate. Thanks Anandji – it was indeed a new way of looking at meditation (where one just lets the thoughts flow without getting too attached and instead focus on “who” is having these thoughts).

Healer Anandh talking about a simple meditation technique

Post that, it was time for little Ishita’s first birthday celebration!! A celebration where everyone wanted to get as close to the birthday cake as possible!! Joking aside, I am still in awe of the parents’ clear commitment and conviction towards holistic living (they sacrificed the usual first birthday celebrations and instead chose to attend the outing and celebrate the little one’s birthday with us). Anyhow, again on a lighter vein, thanks to dear Ishita and her parents, we got to taste one of the yummiest Millet based cakes made by parent Sharanya (again proving the power of parenting community coming together for the benefit of each other). God bless you, Ishita dear!

Little Ishita’s birthday celebration at Swarnaprashna’s fifth-year anniversary celebration 🙂
Someone called for a quick group photo before Maranji takes leave. Check out the cute little guy striking a pose in the front!

The day wound up with Dinner and another meditation practice session by Velu. This time, the meditation was focused on building a positive aura around ourselves, an energy ball of protection and good will. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most intense moments of my life! Beyond that, it is very difficult to write about what we all experienced – a mild sense of liberation, lingering joy and the thrill of having discovered our own mind power – definitely something to be experienced rather than heard from someone!

Children being very much a part of the day’s proceedings – thanks to all the parents who came together to keep them entertained

Author: Vaijayanthi

Vaijayanthi is a Sustainable Living Coach who firmly believes in the ancient wisdom of minimalistic living and circular economy where nothing was ever considered a waste. She advocates and conducts workshops and training sessions on Chemical-free living and sustainable living practices. She also takes Gardening workshops for children in Bangalore and hopes to empower them with the knowledge to grow their own food.

A meeting of Kindred Spirits (Part 1 of 3)

5th Year Anniversary Celebration of Swarnaprashana Parenting Group

It was Monday morning. I woke up with a strange and wonderful sense of peace and calm – very unlike other Mondays – in fact very unlike most other days as well! A quick recollection, and it all came flooding back – a weekend full of learning, unlearning, joy, celebration and a sense of time standing still. And yet, it all got over so quickly! Yes, I am talking about the fifth year anniversary celebration of the Swarnaprashna holistic living and parenting group.

Held on 10th and 11th of June 2017 at the very picturesque The School of Ancient Wisdom at Bangalore, the event was a meeting of kindred spirits and parents who became quick friends. Though packed tight with learning sessions on everything from Yoga & Meditation to Parenting & Healthy living, the two days were as relaxed as one can ever hope to get. For me, personally, it was a total treat, like a surprise package of all things that are on my “most liked list” – as if someone had gone through my mind map and picked the choicest of favorites and come up with an agenda that I would never miss for the world. I am sure it was the same for almost every parent who came to the meet! Now, that is not a small feat to achieve – but achieve it they did, the organizing team of Velu, Divya, Mani, Priya, Ananth, Nandhini and all the others who worked hard for more than a month to pull together this beautiful event for others. There is a reason I have emphasized the last word – I will elaborate more on it later.

The lush green and peaceful School of Ancient Wisdom
The beautiful environment of The School of Ancient Wisdom

All of us were to arrive by 5 – 6 PM on Friday evening. But as luck would have it, the rain gods decided to give us a shout! It started pouring delaying some parents from reaching the venue before 6.30 – no problem, said the kids who had arrived by then….We will just take our time getting to know each other so that we can hack our plans for the next two days! And that set the tone for the next two days – something you would never have seen in any other meeting of adults in your life am sure – a free rein of the meeting room for the kids to play, run, fight, sleep, eat and what not – amidst very serious discussions!

So while the adults listened, talked and took notes (pretending they don’t hear the noise!), the little ones had the time of their lives as well. This itself can be one of the best highlights of the meet – a highly tolerant and relaxed huddle of parents where every single parent took the disturbance (adventure for the kids!) in their stride and kept a watch on the kids collectively. Reminded me of the long forgotten huge joint families of yesteryears. Yes, I know, we are a parenting group and some might say this is expected but well, I can only thank the organizers and all the parents for proving we can have a productive meeting with our kids 🙂

After a quick round of introductions of all the parents and how they came to be part of the Swarnaprashna group, we came to know that one of the child had her first birthday the next day – and the parents have decided to spend it with us, in this retreat, instead of the usual party and merry – a awe moment of their dedication and interest to the cause of holistic living for sure.

It was soon time for Dinner followed by the Negativity removing mediation session by Velu. The day was also perfect for it – being a Friday AND a full moon day – a great combination to rid oneself of negative influences and disturbing feelings. If you have been following the discussions on the WhatsApp parenting groups, you will know that removing dhristi is one of the suggested weekly rituals one can follow to maintain emotional health and well-being for the entire family for those who believe in it. It is usually done with salt/chilies/mustard/eggs or any combination thereof (some also use natural straw/camphor and burn them after the cleansing ritual). Scientifically, we are using these high pranic energy filled items to “absorb” the negative energies around us, helping us keep a clean energy space around us. However, our meditation session focused on removing the negative energy within/around us in a different way by using a combination of visualization and self-suggestion. Each of us was also asked to hold a metal coin in our right hand (or a Lemon) which acted a medium to capture all the negativity – this was thrown into the fire built specifically for this purpose at the end of the meditation session.

One of the main things that we learnt during the pre-session discussions was on the importance of discarding the materials used for removing the dhristi (like the coin/salt/chillies…etc.) safely – without letting it affect another person (i.e. not throwing it in a public place where another person is bound to walk over it). As important as it is to get rid of our negative energies, it’s equally important to ensure we don’t pass it off to another person, knowingly or unknowingly. So it’s always best to discard any items we use in a space where another person/animal will not get exposed to it – for at least 24 hours. After that, the energy will get dissipated naturally. The meditation was a very soothing experience for me (not what one might expect out of a Dhristi removing ritual aka Black magic removing meditation!) – and helped me slip into good sleep in the calm and safe environment of The Ancient School of Wisdom.

Author: Vaijayanthi

Vaijayanthi is a Sustainable Living Coach who firmly believes in the ancient wisdom of minimalistic living and circular economy where nothing was ever considered a waste. She advocates and conducts workshops and training sessions on Chemical-free living and sustainable living practices. She also takes Gardening workshops for children in Bangalore and hopes to empower them with the knowledge to grow their own food.