aline giordano

Elegant Simplicity with Satish Kumar and June Mitchell - Schumacher College 2016

Elegant Simplicity with Satish Kumar and June Mitchell - Schumacher College 2016

© Aline Giordano 2016

All education institutions have a vision and those visions, as visions go, are usually bold, daring and necessarily boisterous. They mean the world to them and probably little to their undergraduate students. I could be wrong… but really - who reads university vision statements?

I do. I work in Higher Education. University visions are important and I read them. They show me what these institutions aspire to be and collectively tell me a lot about where we’re at with the world. According to some leading UK universities, the world, or more modestly (!) society, needs to be bettered because it simply is not fulfilling its potential. Am I being sarcastic here? Perhaps. I can’t help it. But in all fairness, this 21st century world that we’re living in could do with a little 'betterment'. Equally important, this is what education should aspire to do. But sometimes, it’s just that universities can be a little hard-nosed and pedantic about describing what it is that they do. We’ll say that the highly competitive market has driven them to this and we’ll leave it at that because this introduction is digressing way further than I originally intended. Back to Schumacher College!

When I visited the College’s short course landing page and read ‘25 years of transformative courses for sustainable living’ I didn’t take much notice of that statement; and it certainly wasn’t influential in my decision to book myself on the Elegant Simplicity course with Satish Kumar and June Mitchell. I had seen Satish in the film En Quete de Sens (A Quest for Meaning) and I instantly liked what he said. I was intrigued. I googled the name and I liked what I read: ‘A former monk and long-term peace and environment activist’.

Now that I have come back from the course, I certainly can say that it was transformative. But what does that really mean? I could try and use big words and rhetorical hooks to explain but let us not indulge.

The first thing I’d like to say is that on the last day I was with a small group of participants and we said jokingly: ‘we are packed but not ready to go’. I cannot speak for my (new) friends, but for me this was profound.

Nothing could have prepared me for this course. First of all, you join a family. We’ve all heard the phrase before, haven’t we? This may sound corny and lame, but it is true. I felt I was part of a very special family. We sang, we hugged, we listened, we talked, we exchanged ideas, we agreed, we disagreed, we simply let ourselves be in the presence of others, with others. We supported each other in 'doing' - for my part the doing involved a lot of garlic chopping and cleaning kitchen surfaces. This was my choice and I loved it. I preferred the lovely smell of organic wholefood cooking rather than weeding in the rain. And we did some walking meditation, deep relaxation and QiGong bamboo exercises with June Mitchell. It’s not so much the actual activities that were transformative. I could have watched Earth Pilgrim at home and could catch We The Uncivilised on tour this year. I could have chopped lots of garlic in my kitchen, watched Satish on You Tube and done some QiGong exercises in my flat (actually that would have been difficult with a bambo stick!); and I could have saved myself a few hundred pounds, which I could have used for a holiday far, far away in the sun. But that wouldn’t have achieved anythying near what the course allowed me to achieve. I needed the wisdom, the expertise, the kindness and compassion of the tutors, volunteers and other participants on the course. I needed that and I embraced it - the connection with them to allow for a deeper understanding of myself. Put simply, I was able to reconnect with myself in a gentle and powerful way. Again, this all sounds rather clichéd and woolly, but it is exactly that: a reconnection with myself and mother earth.

I felt that I did go on a lovely holiday though.

When you come back from a holiday the relaxation that you feel doesn’t last for long and you usually have a (slight) dread at the thought of having to go back to work. Well, I feel relaxed, very relaxed, full of energy and I don’t have ‘the dread'. Why?

Because my experience at Schumacher College has enabled me to look into my heart and my soul, to see what is good, what is bad, what is useful and what is no longer needed. At Schumacher College I was given space to be: to be myself and learn about myself.

We had a few more ‘traditional’ lectures. They were very moving. One started with Stephan Harding on guitar. By the end of the lecture I know that most of us were trying to hold back the tears: Tears of shame for what we’ve done to the earth, tears of humility for what some people have done to help the earth, tears of gratitude to the tutor for nourishing us with information, and with so much care and entertainment.

What I lived at Schumacher College, it was a whole experience that was created and shared with the tutors, the staff, the volunteers, my fellow participants and nature. The birds of Dartington Hall provided a lovely soundtrack to my week and the landscape an inspiring backdrop to the new emerging me.

This below is something that Satish said during one of his lectures, which I wrote down. It is poetic and practical all at once. It might not mean much to many but to me it holds an important key:

‘The radiator switch is in your Imagination. Attention. Pay attention to your heart - to create a warm heart.’

Dear Satish and June: It’s warm where I am now. Thank you – very much.

...and thank you to all the staff at Schumacher College, especially those in the kitchen, who embraced my strict diet and cooked tasty organic food for me every day.

For more information about Schumacher College, visit the website.

Solriche logo Website designed by Solriche.