The Peoples' Institute for Re-thinking Education and Development

Love Letters from #LSuC2020

The Learning Societies Un-Conference is an intergenerational gathering which brings together leading “thinker-doers” from around South Asia who are active in challenging the monopoly of factory-schooling and monoculture, and nurturing diverse learning communities, vernacular traditions, intercultural dialogues, ecological sustainable living, decolonization and swaraj. In Sardarshahr, Rajasthan this time, there were over 800 alternative educators, organic farmers, artists, artisans, activists, designers, theater artists, environmentalists and nature lovers, filmmakers, healers, social entrepreneurs, homeschoolers, unschoolers, barefoot innovators, grandparents, youth, spiritual seekers, and more. Previous unConferences have been held in Orissa, Bangalore, Sardarshahar (Raj), Pune, Himachal Pradesh, Udaipur, Mumbai, Brazil, Jordan, Pakistan and Iran.

Co-hosted by: Shikshantar Andolan · Gandhi Vidya Mandir · Swashikshan Association of Indian Homeschoolers · Vikalp Sangam · Multiversities Alliance · Swaraj University · Abhivyakti Media for Development · Digital Empowerment Foundation · Banyan Tree Bookstore · Moved by Love · Blue Ribbon Movement · Project DEFY

 

Dear LSUC family-

My third time at this wonderful learning — unlearning unconference. A space where one can laugh, giggle, shout in excitement, dance, sing and at the same time sit in silence soaking in the environment, delving deeper into a question whose answer everyone seeks — ‘Who am I and what is my purpose in life?’ or in exploring ones passion and sharing ones talent. This is a space where one can ask questions, seek answers, engage in meaningful conversations and discussions. This is a space where one doesn’t have to worry about being judged and can share with gay abandon and quench one’s thirst for making meaning, making sense of ones existence.

and what did I do here?

I spent five days seeking answers to three crucial questions — who am I? what is my purpose? how do I chose to achieve this purpose? I found some of my answers in the gifts shared by Frederic Labarthe and in my conversations with many parents, young and experienced adults. I found my answers by spending time amidst children who played and chatted freely. I found my answers in the cold breeze and the light showers; in the peeping sunlight and the dancing clouds. I found my answers in watching my children — my oldest exploring himself among other youth, my middle one playing volleyball and my daughter maneuver around with confidence. I found my answers in rejoicing in the trust and the space me and my partner gave each other.

I spent time with a dear friend with whom I had shared my dream (set about twenty five years ago) of serving society and living a life empowering myself and people surrounding me. She lovingly called me ‘tai’ in those days and continues to do so today. It had been ages since I got to spend so much time with her…chatting, sharing ideas and reflections. Being with her — a person from my past who touched my heart and soul brought a beautiful sync between my past, my present and my dreams about my future.

I engaged in conversations with parents exploring unschooling and in exchanging notes with co unschooling parents. I remember my talk with parents of two children and was touched by their urge and quest for finding the right solution to their children’s education and learning. It took me to my past when I was in a similar situation. I felt happy that they had discovered LSUC — when their children were yet small. I had found my answers when my children were much older. I felt at peace when I stated, “many parents held my hand and supported me when I started this journey, today I am helping parents like you and I see you supporting more parents in the future and in this way we carry the tradition of support, love and care.”

Another parent was struggling with the question of how children would learn on their own without parents providing them with learning. At that moment I realized that parents can only create a learning environment where children would own their learning. I also realized that as children grow older, they create their own learning environments and parents rejoice in this self-reliance among their children.

Another insight came flashing through me when I reflected on Frederic’s session. He spoke about the importance of alignment of the head, heart and the gut; in other words — alignment of what we think, feel and want. I thought about the day my children were born and realized that they were perfectly aligned at birth. I thought of myself — how I must have been perfectly aligned at my birth and how fears, inhibitions, cultural norms, values and belief systems of my parents and the ever disciplining schooling system must have disallowed me from exploring and owning my experiences and reflections and forming my own belief systems and values. I grew up with a misalignment — I grew up confused as someone else always decided what I was to think, feel and want. The impact of which I face even today. I have learnt to ignore and blind myself to my thoughts, feelings and needs and just go by what is expected; and thus today I struggle with these questions of who am I? What are my thoughts? What do I feel? What do I want from life? What do I want to give back to life?

And in these deep reflections I found my purpose — to nurture an environment where children keep this alignment intact. To help and support parents to nurture this environment for their children. To help and support learning spaces to work towards keeping this alignment among children.

 

Another beautiful development was the coming together of people who have started learning spaces for children. Together we decided to put together a network, an alliance of learning spaces where we support and help each other in our journey toward our purpose and experiment new ideas through collaboration and co-operation.

I have to mention the ‘power of a hug’. I did receive and give many hugs and I received the best hug from a young radiant girl who loves wearing sarees. This energizing hug taught me to trust, to believe and I felt loved and cared for. I must also mention here the ‘power in a cup of tea offered to me at times when I needed it the most’. This power was not in the cup of tea, but it was in these people who noticed me and felt an instant connection with me.

My conversation with another young girl who is researching and studying learning spaces for children, on living a self-reliant and self-sustainable life is also worth mentioning here. In fact I spoke about many many of my thoughts and feelings around children, learning, parenting, learning spaces, money, gift economy with this girl — I had just met. What I loved was how she received everything I had to say in a non judgemental manner. She simply held the space for me and listened. I will cherish this experience forever.

I thank Frederic, Neha, Shubham, Prachi, my children, my best friend and life partner — Chaitanya and all those at LSUC to have helped me in finding my purpose. I also thank the whole holding team to let me be in my space and not judge me for not attending the whole holding meetings. I thank Manish Jain and Vidhi Jain to have held the space for me and for not insisting on me offering a session.

To end, this is the power of LSUC. A space where one can just be. A space as magical as can be. A space with the power to transform and change lives!

-Sharmila Govande, Pune

 

Dear LSUC family-

What an experience! The hangover is still on. Lovely discussions continued in return journey within the group and also amused and enlightened the fellow passengers. Some want to be a part of Lsuc2021

The Family constellation was a very different experience thanks to #Arvind and #Akansha

Seeing the performances by #ruralSkateboarders and #Mastmalang makes me long for more

The cartoons by Chaitanya Govande make me smile
And so did the full arm Tattoo of my daughter Hiya.

The small circle deep sharings and also the deep dating was a soulful journey

The heritage walk by #Gopal and the farm visit of Gandhi Vidya Mandir to know how vegetables are grown in sand with a Food growers group helped learn so much

The #Artapart books and games by #rajudeshpande are being played by all age groups

And the free play games being played till early morning made me laugh my heart out after a long long time

The bidding managed so enthusiastically by two young buddies was so much fun

I am very hopeful to keep the same spirit alive till the next lsuc

Meeting some families very often and also trying to make more frequent City Lsuc’s happen would be pinned top on my list

Would love to see some families at the Pune Lsuc…. The #PUVU2020 on 19th April @PuneUrbanvillageUnconference

-Seema Agarwal, Pune

 

Dear LSUC family-

WHAT HAPPENS when a few hundred people come together in a spirit of freedom, togetherness and learning/unlearning in an environment free from psychological/physical/spiritual intoxicants?

What happens when people are allowed to be who they are, follow the discipline of ahimsa, non confrontation, and are encouraged to explore, discover, share and reveal themselves?

Love — Learning — Laughter: LIFE in all Her gentle, generous and glorious beauty.

It’s my second LSuC — and still in awe witnessing the miracle of Self Organisation.

I discovered Self Organisation back in 1996 when I first came across Brian and Self Managing Leadership. Since then I’ve been fascinated to watch that mysterious Intelligence organising everything — the world, nature, but also my body, my own energies, my mind, my emotions, my life, and operates with the same precision in communities of RELAXED, OPEN & INTENTIONAL individuals.

And it’s really magnificent.

Four days and every single encounter full of meaning as if an invisible hand was taking you to exactly the right people at the right time. I understand why people call that ‘God’ …

>> SELF ORGANISATION is the intelligence of the seed — create the right conditions, relax, avoid interference born of insecurity and watch the miracle happen;

>> It is the intelligence of communities operating on a shared will to make thing better for us all in a spirit of freedom from dogma, non sense and ‘rules’;

>> The intelligence of the forest, of the planetary/cosmic ecosystem where everything from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest galaxy ‘does’ something to participate in the great symphony of life;

>> And the creative intelligence contained within what we call ‘I’.

Love,

Frederic Labarthe, Mount Abu

***

 

Dear LSUC family-

I shall admit: I have a bit of a big crush on you! I came not knowing at all what would await me in Sardarshahr, with a couple of friends. And soon I found myself talking to so many of you! So many people who, like me, had not been to an LSUC event before. Day 1 we all were a bit shy still, taking it soft and slow. By day 5, most of us were crying tears of joy, hugging each other in gratitude, appreciation and love.

It’s hard to pin it down to a moment that was special, because the specialness was all about the in-between the lines. That it was okay not to be comfortable at all times. It was okay to feel lost or overwhelmed. I felt we celebrated each other for whatever was there, whatever was authentic and real — no matter it’s form. And thanks to that, most of the time, joy and fun and freedom and openness were ruling the game. I was surrounded by people who come from such different backgrounds than I do, and yet we were all just the same: a bunch of curious people, learning to unlearn conditionings and finding what we truly love.

Cosima Bachler, Aljezur, Portugal

 

Dear LSUC family-

There was so much to do and yet so little I did. There were people to meet, places to go, dreams to catch. There were conversations to be held, projects to be launched, dates to go on. There were colours to be filled, laughter to share, songs to sing and stars to gaze. And I did so much and yet so much was left. LSUC was like life going on at its full throttle. The best of humankind gathered for 5 days to experience life, to experience humanity. We laughed, we cried, we danced and we saw dreams together and 5 days passed by, leaving all of us to wait for another year. I thought to myself how do I make each day for all the humans such fun and frolic. The Corona scare that swept through the world after LSUC gave everyone more time to spend at home and to ponder even more about what we are really doing running from one place to another without really asking ourselves Why? But that’s a topic for another day.

In Sardarshahr, the air of the place has an embrace of self. The moment I entered the gates, I felt as if I have come home, if even for a while. The living arrangements were most basic, but no one could care less. By the time we went to sleep, we were so dead tired that none of the 1st world problems mattered. I realised that when we are truly living, a lot of things we unnecessarily fuss about cease to exist.

 

When I look back at 5 days, I just find myself wondering that how we did so much. The first thing I did was to help an artist make a LSUC board. And I didn’t even realise how I learnt an entirely new technique to paint in no time. There was no sense of rules on how to use the brush or instructions on what not to do. In spite of having Anjush, who was excellent at his art, with us, I never felt as if I had to follow a way, a pattern. We were rather co-creating and despite of making few mistakes, end painting came out beautiful. Anjush who was creating this piece, did not for a second instruct or took a position of authority, he did give suggestions when asked, but allowed everyone to be, everyone to try. And then he patiently added more strokes to fix our mistakes without a word. And then I realised why he was not directing. It was because he was so confident that he could fix it even if some strokes went wrong. I felt that a true teacher is one who lets their students make their mistakes. And they know how to deal with those mistakes.

In the following days, I hosted two sessions for people working in or building self-design learning spaces to discuss their journeys, challenges, etc. The intention was to find out what we can learn from each other. And in the first session itself I felt the power of community. There were over 20 people in the room with more people joining. We were left short of space, so we opened our hearts a little more.

During the course of our interactions, I realised how a discussion becomes so meaningful when no one is actually trying to lead but to support. Everyone was trying to learn and listen and share and in that way we all became learners and facilitators. We came out with beautiful ideas of how we can support each other and decided to meet again the next day. Due to some reasons, we couldn’t meet at the time we decided the next day and I was feeling a little lazy about coordinating another session. And something beautiful happened then, Sharmila, a friend and a mother to three unschooled kids, who was part of the circle the previous day, came and asked why are we not meeting. And it got me moving as she helped me see how important it was to meet again. And I saw how the power of holding each other accountable gets things moving.

Another highlight for me was an impromptu women’s circle that a beautiful woman I met held. It was such a catharsis and for the first time in life I felt the power of feminine energy circle. We spoke about our lives and I learnt what feminism really is. I realise there was so much hidden inside me that just started to flow. And I found immense bonding with women I met for the first time. The thought we all are the same inside, though we may look different from outside, started to surface. I realised how much we all go through without a word. I realised that we need much more solidarity as women blended with a lot of acceptance for each other. It’s high time that we learn to support each other and claim our lives.

There were 30 workshops going on at the same time. One had to choose among a fabulous session on Dance Movement therapy, how to bake your bread, how to build a multiversity, etc. People were painting the walls and dancing their hearts and feet out in the evening. Everyone was so much alive.

I spent a lot of time taking naps under the trees and having chais with a lot of interesting people. We were awake at night, playing the silliest games possible, finding treasures which people so graciously shared. Sometimes I would find myself gaping at the art piece of someone. At others I would look at the guy dancing with a speaker in hand at 4 am in the night and inviting everyone to join him. I wondered what really kept them awake. There was life in every corner, people were playing games, singing songs, discussing everything that is beautiful and ugly and most importantly celebrating their being.

 

Amongst so many amazing things that LSUC made possible, I feel the crux of it lies in how it humanises people. How it brings everyone together and how everyone comes together shredding their titles and designations. The world is organised in such a discriminatory fashion that anyone who achieved some success is put behind glass doors and is made quite unapproachable. Then you have to jump the hoops to reach them and talk to them or learn from them. LSUC broke those barriers. There wasn’t a class system. Everyone, irrespective of what they do, how famous or infamous they are, lived together under the same roof sharing the same living arrangements, eating the same food. It made everyone so much equal and broke the stupid walls that we build around ourselves. It not only humanises people, it also makes everyone so important and valuable. There were no social indicators left for one to judge the other person. The only way left to know someone is by interacting with them and by listening to their stories. All the discriminations of caste, cloth, money, status, knowledge were shredded off.

I met so many people by chance. I would sit at a chai stall, and someone would come and talk. I met Sharmila who shared her story, her experiences and I found a lifelong friend and supporter. I met a boy who left his job and is now trying to learn a different way of living. Basant offered me his friendship and a massage when I was having a terrible back ache. It was such a beautiful and loving space, people offering their gifts so freely, caring for each other that I started to believe that it was not the first time I met them. Maybe we have met before and maybe we all are connected.

Still, I couldn’t meet everyone, couldn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to with few people, but I found myself at peace with that reality. I told myself that if you are meant to meet someone, your paths will cross, you will meet them when the time is right.

-Prachi Mittal, Rajasthan

 

Dear LSUC family-

You know those white little fluffy things that fly through the air? Lighter than feathers, the wind directs their every movement. Without effort, they go everywhere. Kind of like a balloon, without its string.

 

Well, that was me …

I was healed. I was meditated. I was massaged. I was hugged.

I had been put to sleep. And I was woken up.

I fell in love. I fell out of love and in love again.

I taught without teaching, and was without being.

I slept less, but had more energy.

I forgot about e-mail, deadlines, deliverables and alarms.

And remembered what made me happy:

What it was I am passionate about.

I was vulnerable to the moment -

and let spontaneity take advantage of me.

My string was cut,

and gusts of love carried me around.

Thanks, LSuC.

-Dan Rudolph, USA

 

Dear LSUC family,

A love story from LSUC…

LSUC… my first LSUC… After hearing a lot about LSUC and two failed attempts to be an LSUCian, I was too excited to be there in 2020. And it brought me so many beautiful moments, hard to forget. I am mentioning only few of them.

‘Ira’ was one of the beautiful moments, whom I had never met earlier. She would daily find me somewhere, and would give a nice hug. Oh! What an innocent love, unconditional love…

This LSUC had been a time for me to appreciate the ‘joy of not doing anything’. I had come with a thought that I will learn so many things here. But I didn’t feel like attending anything most of the times, and I could feel my heart saying ‘its okay not to attend’. I ended up attending very few sessions, and that too, very light ones.

Sukhmani’s sharing on ‘clowning’ was a highlight for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, becoming ‘free’ and behaving like a new comer on the Earth and expressing and sharing in a team only with expressions and sounds. We made all weird expressions and sounds, and that made me feel unbelievably ‘FREE’.

I, Kaku and Bhaveshbhai spent a whole day in Sardarshahar after LSUC, and that day we had experiences of sheer love for unknowns. Be it having tea in havelis, meeting a doctor who took alot of trouble to help us, talking and having a glass of butter milk with a spiritual old man in the silver house factory. That day was an extension of the LSUC (both spatially and in time) we felt.

And one more extension of LSUC was waiting for us. In the evening, when we returned, everyone had left. We packed up and reached the bus stand to catch bus to Ratangarh. And we met Manish Jain and a few others, who had been waiting there since 1 and a half hour for bus. The buses were cancelled due to holi and there was no chance of getting any conveyance. Finally, we took a private tempo, who fit 7 of us and a few others in, and left for Ratangarh. Along the way, we played and shouted and clicked photos. Then our tempo/auto went on an off-road to avoid toll. We were enjoying the beautiful full moon night and desert and sand all around us. The auto which was in front of us broke down a technical problem. We were the only ones on the sand road with them. Our driver decided not to leave the other auto, and, so we all were waiting on the deserted off-road. Enjoying all the beauty with our hands, legs, tension of missing the train and planning if we had to tent, we would spent the night there only. The other auto couldn’t be repaired, and we had now double passengers, on top, on back hanging and inside, in an already packed auto. It was really magical how we reached to Ratangarh station. We spent some memorable moments in the auto, staying calm and enjoying in the moments of chaos.

Love to LSUC 2020 for helping me receive all the love, said and unsaid.

Trupti Nisar, Mumbai

 

Dear LSUC friends-

The first LSuC I attended was the very first LSUC which was held in Udaipur in 2002. Between 2002 and 2020, I have attended at least five such gatherings. What stands out for me through these years is the transition and journey of Learning Societies community as well as Learning Societies un-Conference (LSUC). In 2002, it was a small gathering of around 70 people. In that gathering, I felt like I found my community here. It was a small, intimate gathering where there were personal connections made, excitement about our own journeys, curiosity about knowing other people’s journeys, drawing strength from the fact that we were creating a new paradigm in many different ways. All of this still remains at the center of the community that comes together for LSUC. I also see a shift here.

Over the past eighteen years, the community has grown. In sardarshahar (2020), there were around 800 participants. It has become much varied. By now, there is a group of people in the community, who have tried out various things, followed their dreams, learned from their experiences and are able to share their experiences with the younger generation. They are able to hand hold the new comers. There are parents, children, homeschoolers, unschoolers, youngsters, who we can call walkouts from the traditional system and walk ins into this exploration of self and the world, healers, natural farmers, artists, writers, eco entrepreneurs, and people who look at business in a different way and have the knowhow to guide the community in that direction.

Amazing! Isn’t it? A whole new system of thinking, feeling and doing has developed over these years. I found, that there is enough experience now, to see some frameworks emerging in order to understand how things develop at the level of community, in this self-organizing learning space. This was really heartening to see.

At Sardarshahr, during LSUC2020, it was amazing to reconnect with some of my friends there. It is really heartening to know about different explorations and experimentations going on. It is so encouraging to see these youngsters bringing their gifts to this world, making a difference where ever they step.

I really enjoyed just being with the Learning Societies community in that space. Sitting in a corner, observing so many people, bubbling with energy, coming up with such innovative ideas was a gift for me. The youngsters were holding the show with such confidence and finesse. It energized me and touched something deep in me. It is like a real ‘Satsangha’, where, people from different walks of life come together, bring their gifts and in the process of sharing their gifts, they take away the transformational energies with them, which can empower them to set them on the path of realizing/strengthening/expanding their dreams.

It was really nice to connect with parents through a session that I offered on unschooling and homeschooling. I particularly enjoyed one on one conversations with parents who were considering homeschooling and unschooling and with those parents who have already started their journey. It is heartening to see that they have discovered LSuC at the right time in their life. They have a support and companionship of a community at such an early stage of their journey. When we were going through our journey in nineties, I didn’t know any other family in India, who were on a similar journey at that time. My only companionship and support system was the bimonthly news-letter, ‘Growing Without Schooling’ brought out by Holt Associates, which took almost a month to reach me.

Growing up with my children, it was about enjoying, watching them engage with life. It was a process of unschooling my own mind. They explored life so seamlessly. They have been my teachers and every moment, they help me unlearn and unfold. And this is what I see for the parents who are embarking on this journey. This community of Learning Societies will hold them and give them strength when these parents will come across their own conditioning and when they will have to confront those parts of themselves, which form the bases of a lot of choices they themselves have made, in their own life.

Speaking to so many youngsters, who have a dream and a twinkle in their eyes and a resolve to make it happen was so refreshing. It really gives a lot of hope for meaningful change in this world. There are so many dreams in the pipeline, in the process of being shaped and materialized. The workshop held by Manish Jain on exploring the dreams and giving them shape was again characteristic of him and of this community. So many Universities were founded in that one session. I really enjoyed Manish Freeman’s morning and afternoon Games. They were so energizing and refreshing. I loved a session on Conscious Connections, held by Arti Bhandari and Sonal Parakh. It was a very reflective session, which invited deeper questions around the way we hold our relationships.

I met Frederic Laberthe and attended quite a few sessions held by him. His session on inner Child was very powerful. I had been looking for an exploration on this subject for a few years now and I did not resonate with whatever came my way. I instantly connected with Frederic’s approach and his quiet energy. In his knowledge and wisdom, I discovered what I have been searching for the past few years: Reconnecting to myself, to my heart and being ready to emerge from my hiatus, taking my next steps.

Past ten years, 2010 to 2020 have been a period of transition for me. During these years, I have tried so many different things. I have shed so many layers and have discovered and rediscovered myself multiple times. And, now, it seems, I have integrated different parts of myself, which were kind of screaming to find their space in one whole. Integration is a life-long process. I am also ready for my second innings of receiving whole heartedly, what the universe brings to me and sharing from my heart and my soul, the gifts, life has offered me and keeps offering me with such generosity. I am grateful to life, to nature and to this universe, for all that it has offered to me, to my family, to my community and to human race, as such.

My best wishes are with Learning Societies community and with every individual member of this community. This is my community.

Vineeta Sood, Chandigarh