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Experience #25 - Auroville, Índia

I am back to the magic place that awoke so many changes on me…

We arrived in India!

Now I am together with my love and best friend, exactly as I asked Ganesh since the first time. That’s why he is my favourite.

We went directly to Auroville, a city in the southeast of the country described as a universal city that “belongs to nobody in particular, belongs to humanity as a whole”.

Auroville rose up from the dream of a French lady who were born in 1878, Mrs. Mirra Alfassa, who the Aurovillans today call The Mother. She began her spiritual search when she was still a child and the purpose of creating a space for the evolution of the human consciousness intensified when she was introduced to Sri Aubindo, the Indian guru responsible for guiding and helping her to create the ideology of the city.

Auroville was founded in 1968 with the purpose of serving as an alternative to those who were seeking a new life style, where people from all countries could live together in peace and harmony, despite their beliefs, political convictions and nationalities. The founder wrote the manifest of the city called “A Dream” and to whom is curious to read, I put the link by the end of this post.

Today there are a few more than two thousand people from all around the world, supporting an ideal of preservation and connection with nature and our inner power.

Auroville seems to introduce us a bit to what can be our future if we were all able to awake in time to build a new individual and collective consciousness. Almost nobody uses car, everybody seems to have time to dedicate to themselves, the prices are fair and there is a huge concern about environment conservation, water usage, growth of organic food and recycling waste.

The Indians who live in the villages nearby and work in a range of positions perform a big part of the labour force.

Shoppers and service providers should contribute with 33% of the net profit. This percentage usually vary in some cases, once many of them choose to contribute with more than this amount, while others who are still starting their business can receive discounts until they get financially established. This is a good example of how to use the good sense, instead of being stuck exclusively to apply the rules.

Another curious fact is that nobody owns anything there. All the lands and buildings belong to Auroville. There is no mayor and decisions are taken in assembly, in which it’s expected to have a general agreement among the participants. When this is not possible, the vote of majority is enough. According to the conversations we had, this process of administration tends to be very complicate and delays the development in many times, once we are all human beings and obviously it’s not so simple to just agree with your friend all the time. One of the persons who we talked to classified Auroville as a spiritual anarchy.

Education is thought and transmitted in a different way and there are many schools for residents in Auroville and in the villages nearby. We spent an afternoon visiting one of them, the New Creation, and learning amazing things from its founder, Mr. André Tardeil, who arrived in the city in 1973. Five years old children and above are stimulated to develop their creativity and consciousness, while they are individually awaken for their interests and connections. There are no exams, neither evaluations and that way children truly develop themselves. To André, the image of the teacher isn’t to teach, but to guide the learning which should flourish from the inner child.

According to him, starting from seven years old children begin the process of concentration and will be more able to absorb information and deeper knowledge. Aggressive and violent environments that stimulate competition leave significant scars, as well as the learning based in memorizing and superficial absorption of information.

André also insists on the importance of developing the spiritual, individual and collective consciousness of the children. Human beings can be compared with a lotus flower, which is born tiny and shy in the middle of the dirty mud. After sometime she develops herself, grows and finally flourishes nicely. If we don’t invest time to develop our consciousness, our inner power, our gifts and natural talents, we take the risk of being always closer to the mud instead of to the flower.

But most part of the people who we met there are already flowers and take this privilege to put themselves as servants of the society, implementing innovative and inspiring ideas, such as Eco Femme, one of the most fantastic and complete projects I have ever seen so far.

Around the world and mainly in some parts of India, menstruation is not an issue discussed among girls, what brings a lot of doubts, secrets and wrong interpretations about it. When the puberty starts girls don’t receive any support on that, instead of this they start to be discriminated in some regions and prevented to go to public places and celebrations during the period.

Also due to the lack of information, money and shame of their own body, they use pads made of pieces of textiles and the truth is that it’s the reality of more than 74% of women living in the rural areas of India (source: Eco Femme). Thinking about this, a group of women founded Eco Femme, a social enterprise that aims to allow women to live their menstruation with more dignity.

Eco Femme not only brings knowledge to the village and demystifies the menstrual period, but also gives women the opportunity to work producing cotton pads that are distributed among the villages and sold for fair prices. The cotton pad is hygienic and reusable for up to five years. The cost of each one goes from three to six American dollars. This means saving money and avoiding wastes

The products are manufactured in different sizes to be adaptable to the flow and to the body. It can be washed and dried in the machine, but for those who don’t have it, it could be hand washed and put on the clothesline. Thinking about that and in order to avoid embarrassment with the neighbours and even with the husbands, one of the models is designed as a rectangle, so it can be opened and put outside to dry without calling the attention of whom walks nearby.

To have an idea about the social and environmental impacts of this product, I will talk about numbers: a disposable pad is equivalent to four plastic bags. A woman uses in average 125 to 150 kilos of pads during her life and each one of them takes 800 years to decompose. These statistics also apply to the “collector cup “, which is normally used by millions of women all around the world. The cup works as a tampon, but the material is reusable and it lasts for ten years. Eco Femme supports the usage of the cup as well and works in partnership with some of the social enterprises that produce it.

Can you imagine the benefits of this invention to all the women and to the world?

Further than that, the women from the villages nearby Auroville who used to be shy and scared about this matter now are the key producers of the pads and the ones responsible for bringing awareness to the community. An amazing example on how to implement innovative ideas in favour of social inclusion.

In this same line of thinking is Life Education Centre, which offers to the women of the surrounding area courses of English, sewing and workshops about different matters. This is the strongest way to empower these women and to give them the knowledge they need to fight against abuses, violence and any other form of discrimination and prejudice that they can suffer at home or at work.

We were kindly received by Devi Nama Sivayam, who explained with patience and details the purpose of the project and the reality of Auroville. She also reinforced our belief that people who have information don’t accept anything and are powerful to resist even when everybody gives up. This is the power of consciousness.

To materialize this beautiful path of awaking the consciousness, the central point of Auroville, considered as the soul of the city, is a hypnotizing building – The Matrimandrir – idealized to who seeks to learn how to concentrate and find their own consciousness. In the centre of the globe is the main chamber, cushions extremely aligned, a huge crystal ball in the middle and a little opening in the roof allows a strip of light to come in. Around the globe is what they call petals, which are small meditation rooms specifically to the virtues in which you want to concentrate in.

To visit the Matrimandrir it’s necessary to book in advance and watch some videos showed in a small auditory. The instruction is that you must prevail the absolutely silence and there is no space to practice any religious ritual. It’s only you, your consciousness and your inner power.

Our first visit was magic and took me to those futuristic movies in which I saw myself entering in a white chamber and almost got deaf with the noise of the absolute silence. Who has already been through this knows that the silence is not always silent… I had never experienced this feeling before and it was incredible.

In the following day we went back there and this time I could also meditate in the petals. I chose humility and perseverance and Fe chose goodness and equality. The construction of the petals was based on the twelve virtues of Mother Nature, which refers to our relationship with us and with others as well. It was special to choose the virtue according to its meaning. We not always remember exactly the real and spiritual meaning of some words and to read the descriptions made me conclude that I need to meditate – and improve – a lot in all of them.

These moments in silence, concentrated and trying to avoid undesired thoughts were very clarifying and I suggest that everybody should try to do it somehow. However among the few insights that I had during those minutes, especially one called out my attention. It showed me clearly that my purpose, which today is this trip of discoveries, is a real search for synergy and synchronization between spiritual consciousness and social development.

I say so due to two reasons. The first one is that we can’t change the world, if we don’t change ourselves before. This is basic, but when I think that I want to work with social development, creating opportunities, sharing knowledge and awaking abilities I must be aware that I should push myself to a continuous evolution. So that my eyes and heart should be always ready to practice empathy and my ears even more available to hear than my mouth to speak.

The second reason is regarding spirituality. Sometime ago a valuable market to spiritual consumers was created. People who are practicing yoga, drinking detox, receiving reiki, meditating, choosing their guru, seeking for answers and some kind of enlightenment. This is great and I take part of these people (somehow). But it’s never too much remembering that spirituality is not ONLY this. Instead, the spiritual consciousness is much more related to the way you face life, awake your inner power and express it in a kind and respectful way to others. There is no real spiritual presence if you are submerged in your meditations, rituals and personal discoveries and don’t apply your learning in the day to day life. In other words, there is no point in doing yoga and kissing your guru’s feet, if you are rude with the waitress, the cleaning lady and even with yourself.

Auroville made it so clear to me. People reunited for noble objectives, as in the case of this city, shall – or should – be aware that when they accepted to be part of this new era, they automatically became change makers and messengers of essential virtues. As far as we could observe, fell and verify in some conversations it’s not always that this happens there. The Indians who live in the nearby villages and spontaneously received Auroville ideal in their land are the main labour force in the city and it seemed to us that part of them are still out of the spiritual and environmental consciousness largely argued by the residents.

Some residents, mainly the ones who run business in the city, don’t appear to be concerned enough to invest time and money to transmit information and knowledge to the employees. What would contribute, as they can also have access to the path that clarifies the spirituality, preservation of the environment and etc. Instead, we noticed a certain hostility to treat the employees and an apparent social inequality, once it seems like there was no relevant effort to share Auroville’s ideals with the employees, who instead of being residents are the locomotives of the city.

This bothered me a lot, but at the same time remembered me that we are humans, our evolution is a hard way and plenty of subtleties pass unnoticed. Some of the inspiring people we talked to share the same feeling we had and according to what they told us, they drive part of their energy to change this minority completely. Auroville is building a new possibility to live in tune with nature and humanity, but in order to see the development of this dream without losing its roots, it’s needed that people understand that unity is not only related to an individual and his relationship with himself, but also to the way he puts himself under the service of others, no matter who it is.

But even so, Auroville is future. It’s dream, reality, present and possibility. It’s a little slice of the world in which we see a society truly interested in evolving as humanity.

We have a long walk ahead, but Auroville rose as a light in the middle of the tunnel, which we can follow until the end where we can find a pot full of golden people and lotus flowers.



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