Friday, December 16, 2011

eye and i - workshop on creative thinking & writing (report and response)

                                 Photographs - Slide show: 

                   EYE & I - report and feedback

What:            Eye and I – A Workshop on Creative Thinking    and Writing
When:            26th, 26th, 28th August 2011
Where:          SACAC, Sri Aurobindo Society, Delhi Branch
Facilitator:    Harvinder Kaur
Organiser:     SACAC

Those three days a mist hung in the air, a mystery enticed us, daring us to unfold the layers within. The promise of light was there, we sensed that in spite of the clouds and grey-ness around. We knew, the wind was with us, and the sun waited patiently behind the clouds…

Eye and I – A Workshop on Creative Thinking and Writing’

That was the official banner under which we met in the Delhi Branch of the Sri Aurobindo Society campus (26th, 26th, 28th August 2011).  But that was the ‘excuse’, a ploy the Divine chose to bring together a set of special people. A chemistry happened. We left with more than memories after the three days, we had exchanged more than emails, we had discovered more than names and designations.  It was as a journey within – together and alone, in dance and in stillness, in words and in silence, in colour and in blankness, in sharing and in observing, in breathing in and breathing out… Our workshop was experiential, our discoveries were of spaces in our souls and those in each other.

Jab we met (26th August)

The first hour of the first day, we decided to NOT share our titles, our designations, our awards, our ‘achievements’, our claims to fame or even our age!  Instead we decided to connect at the basic human level… the facts and labels could come in later. We did the experiments of ‘blindfolded dancing’ fold by freeze moments and word prompt writing (“Write on ‘cold’!”). That was enough to bring down barriers, and relax. We promised each other we would either give positive suggestions to each other or keep quiet.
The morning high point was official silliness! Euphemistically called ‘Ice-breaking’. Ha ha! Everyone danced around, hopped and popped crazy questions to each other. But when the hurly-burly was done… it was time for some serious introspection and sharing… in answering those questions which were ‘passed in a parcel’ we truly got to know each other. Questions like:
·         Do we owe anything to the next generation? Elaborate.
·         Describe something mysterious or mystical or extraordinary you have experienced… or if you haven’t experienced personally, then something you’ve heard first hand from someone who has.
·         Describe an interesting person of your family – could be an ancestor too.

There was an elaborate ‘Observation exercise’ based on objects the participants had been asked to bring (we had shells, bangles, an old diary, sun glasses…). This was followed by a group activity of creating a story or plot based on those objects. An interesting exercise to do with friends or a group of children! You could see imagination was set on fire in many! One group of young ladies came up with a solid espionage giving Sir Authur Conan Doyle competition!
Homework, discussions, sharing and preparation for the following day was a part of the package!

The second coming… (27th August)

The following day was a treat for the eyes and what fun! Everyone was told to go ‘clothes crazy’ wear a dress or outfit they were not used to wearing! That in itself became an exercise in awareness and challenged limits. Many people took out clothes they’d “once bought but never dared to wear.”  It was a chance to examine being ‘self-conscious’ which is often a block to one’s creative flow.
The morning activity began with a trick (Talk the walk) “describe your walk from the gate to this hall!”  Then when they’d tried their best, everyone deliberately took a silent walk in the verdant campus, observing consciously the objects around and writing again. The sharing, the comparisons revealed to us how we need to ‘see’ what we take for granted often. Sensitivity being the pre-requisite to creativity…

We explored ‘senses and sensitivity’ through ‘aura experiencing’ and various fun activities like blindfolding a person and then telling her to feel the face of the person in front and identity them - this was really ticklish (one lady got all right, and we wondered whether it was intuition, sensitivity or the blindfold was too loose!). And then if this wasn’t enough to make life tough, they were told to identify the voice of the people around. To complete the slaughter, they had to write about the voice that had meant something to them. While a few wrote about their family members (one lovely lady described her husband’s voice as the ‘sound of temple bells’!), many described the honeyed voices of Bollywood stars!
The grand finale came after tea… an experiment that took us beyond the mind (Write the song), to the source of creative expression. After a brief discussion on ‘how to listen’, everyone was asked to listen to a song and then write non-stop under conditions that would keep their left brain quiet! This exercise was followed by sharing, the discussion was a revelation to many of us. We discussed the relationship of the right and left brain in creative expression. The same activity was given as an exercise for homework and was to be taken up as a regular writing discipline.

Another day of togetherness… (28th August)

The morning activity (blindfold walk) was continuation of the ‘Senses and sensitivity’ journey. We went around in pairs – one person blindfolded – the other leading, as quietly as possible – then switching roles. What light can come through darkness, can be known if you do this! After they returned to the hall they wrote about the experience while it was still fresh. Revealing! We also shared ‘facts’ about ourselves – all that was taboo on the first day – what we do, where we work, our designations, families…

In the afternoon the outdoor canteen was converted into a ‘creative art studio’ when everyone had to ‘see’ a 3D picture emerging from random stones. There were paint brushes, poster colours, crayons, paper, pens, poetry and tea – a perfect afternoon!

The last session was devoted to reflection, sharing, exchanging notes… we sat in a circle with lit diyas, flowers and love. There was a sincere outpouring from the heart and hugs… we had come as strangers, we were parting as friends. The organiser was requested (bullied?) to organize part two!

Someone played the song ‘we had the time of our lives’…now the page is turned, the stories we will write…till we meet again!

From the horses’ mouths!

This is what they said… those who experienced it…

“For me it was like a flower blooming inside my heart.  Slowly, gradually, sensuously opening its soft petals and it made me feel alive. I felt my heart expand.  This beautiful flower which I would like to call ‘Ananda’ sensitized me to each and every particle around me and the fragrance flowed out in the form of poetry.  Each task and activity was in a perfect order – a perfect link to remove the layers that blocked the flow.  Right from the first activity of asking a question to every other member as we danced, to looking for visuals in rocks and bringing them out, it was a complete catharsis. Just PERFECT!”
-          Meenakshi Puri, Pre-primary In-charge, Apeejay School, Faridabad.

“Got to know about myself, a lot of layers were opened up, a mirror was held up, which showed and conveyed so much. Also a reserve was broken, I felt more free, somehow liberated and also motivated to write more… more often… Got to know some lovely, sensitive, thinking people and learnt a lot from their writing. In fact it was a journey all by itself, finding nuggets of gold time and again…”
-          Madhulika Banerjee, Business Consultant, BIZCON

“I must say I am astonished to see my own output.  Not that I am trying to rate it high, but I could make an effort (successful!) to get over some of my inhibitions, laziness, a bad habit of procrastination. Wondering how this can be taken beyond mere experience and make it into a practice… I think there can be a more elaborated workshop – maybe for a week or 15 days… The concept of freezing helped me to observe the stillness of the moment, observe minute details of the other senses.  It helped me to understand how to observe the feeling – with details.”
-          Shweta Deshpande, Engineer, Business Analyst, Oracle Financial Services and Software, Pune

“A lot of stuff came out that I don’t normally think about. It is  hard for me to express myself and I have always preferred a pen to a pulpit.  I want to keep digging, to dash off pages of scribble. I hate most poetry, but I find that what I have produced here is more poetic than I would ever have allowed myself.  I have learned to observe by being silent. I used to think that I was a quiet observer, but now I know that’s all rubbish. Taste, smell, touch with my heart, that’s what I need to learn, maybe then, my vital body will start to stretch its languid muscles.”
-          Amelie Rousseau, Student Coordinator, University of Oregon

“I enjoyed the first writing exercise – the word ‘cold’ given to us, to write whatever comes to mind; I also enjoyed the song exercise and the exercise where we were blindfolded and then blindfolded our partner. Over all, I really found the workshop interesting and stimulating. I have learnt a few techniques to practise… Also, I have always been very scared of writing, or even trying to attempt writing, since I thought I was very bad at it. Now that mental block has gone to an extent.” 
-          Shweta Poddar, Freelance Designer & Photographer

“It was so good to learn from you – exploration, feeling, spontaneity, creativity.  That painting on stone was absolutely amazing. I took a brush today after about 40 years! It helped to spend time with myself and emerge with a new energy… In the activity where we listened to the song, I was amazed at the speed with which I wrote without stopping for a second.  No pause, but yet, the clarity, accuracy, logical progression of thought flowed.  I did not rewrite it.  I did not want to even polish it later at home.”
-          Ramesh Menon, Author, Journalist, Documentary film maker, Guest faculty - Jamia, Symbiosis, SACAC

“In ‘The Eye and I’, my creative eyes, that are with me always gave me a different enriching insight… blindfolded dancing made me feel free with my physical self.  I feel it has given me spontaneous expressions in writing also.  Story writing from objects was an excellent idea.  It gave an opportunity for collaborative group work.  I am taking back a lot for my students.”
-          Rama Shinde, Facilitator,  PYP Coordinator & Principal, Vishwashanti Gurukul, Pune

“A beautiful journey which I started three days back… I discovered a lot about my inner self, the beauty in me… My mind is silent. I am at peace with myself. I am feeling light and rejuvenated. I am feeling fresh, like morning dew. Some inner part of my being is shining bright. I am happy, I met such beautiful people with such purity in their hearts… The experience of dancing blindfolded for some time and freezing – my writing after that! I could never imagine that I could write continuously for about seven minutes.  I was extremely happy with what I wrote.”
-          Anita Paul, Principal, Apeejay School, Saket

“Listening to the song ‘water’ and then writing, transported me to another world!  All other activities challenged me at many levels. They were all great. Loved the way you gently challenged us to challenge ourselves.  The activities looked so simple YET were so deep and intense, so reflective…  motivated self-exploration with a gentle push.”
-          Rajni Arya, Psychotherapist, Director Learning & Development Unit, IILM Institute of Higher Education

“It has been a great experience. It was totally beyond my expectations. Each session was full of surprises and enticing, like the unfurling of a bud… The activities that we performed were a great learning, as they were very well thought out and gave a lot of freedom to perform… I hope I’m able to use these techniques to encourage creative thinking and writing among children.”
-          Amarjeet Chhabra, Academic Coordinator, Bal Bharti Public School, Pitampura

“The simple exercise of writing with a word prompt, affected me.  Also, using objects for writing and writing on the piece of music were all very useful and unleashed my expression.”
-          Ajay Poddar, Author(Empower Yourself  published by Penguin India), Engineer, Entrepreneur

“The workshop came as a breath of fresh air in my life. I feel so refreshed now… a whole new perspective, I’m going to take back with me.  I know now, what to reach for within me, in order to unleash my creative energies on paper/in words.  Not only was the essence of the workshop a trigger but also the people who attended it.  All unique, each one special, possessing their own special ways of expression, that reflected in their writings. Overall, a very satisfying and gratifying experience!”
-          Anuradha Kaistha, teacher, Gurgaon

Very Innovative and practical ways of imparting knowledge which is missing in our education system.  One cannot express oneself without having connection with ones own core.   All the exercises were compelling to go within and then express your experience in words.”
-          Daljeet Wadhwa, Director, SACAC

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