Day 23 @EDE Class: Chinese Culture Talk, Inner Dance

Sep 23, 2018

“Come, come to the circle”

“Come, come to the circle. (repeat twice). Come, dear friends.”

I forgot to mention one thing: in the last two weeks we were often accompanied by music, when the breakfast is ready, when having lunch, when it’s time to come back from tea break … It took the organizer a little experiment to find fitting songs and music. I was amused when first time hearing “the Blue Danube” played loudly as a morning call. Perhaps, we needed to be cheered up 🙂

Today Trudy taught us this simple but beautiful “Come, come to the circle” song to invite people back to class. I liked it.

Transformation of consciousness

It’s about transforming from Ego consciousness to Eco consciousness. Before lecture, Trudy asked us to do a walking excise. We walked in silence on the mat for about 10 minutes. During the period we were instructed to breathe normally and evenly, feel ourselves and listen to the environment sound, for example, of the insects in the garden outside. Afterwards, we were asked to share our feeling and observation.

A couple students said that their mind gradually calmed down as they walked. One observed her connection with other students. And not too surprisingly, one student honestly thought the walking exercise not helpful, in terms of connecting him with nature. “We are creatures of nature just like other animals. But other animals don’t do such walking.”, he explained.

But that’s the point of walking exercise! One of many ways that trains our ability to feel and accept, not think and judge, hence it helps us transform from Ego consciousness to Eco consciousness. 

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Notes on transformation of consciousness (photo by LI Zhengjun)

However, I don’t think the two types of consciousness is a distinction between the  East and the West culture, rather they co-exist in both. In western societies where established democratic governance (though far from perfect) and rule of law emphasize equality, hence individualism is curtailed to a socially acceptable norm. In countries where civil society is strong, communities are also alive. On the other hand, in some eastern countries capitalism and individualism have evolved hand-in-hand and are still on way to reach their peak.

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Where are we going? An essential question to answer by the collective worldview (photo by LI Zhengjun)

Mindfulness and a live example

When talking about consciousness, it’s a natural step to explore the concept of mindfulness. As some in the class already have foundation in buddhism, we know “mindfulness” originates in the religion. It means bringing full attention to what’s happening at present. One observes internal emotion and thoughts, choose whether to act on them, in a calm and clear state of mind.

Just 15 minutes before the morning session finished, one student cried out, requesting to replace the translator. She was frustrated at the volunteer translator’s language style. This stirred up many other students’ objection.  A female student (say B) who sit next to her commented to support the translator. B also honestly admitted that she felt anger too, at the first student’s rudeness. This turned into a live case of not being mindful about ones emotion, i.e. being aware of anger only after being carried over by it.

Chinese culture talk

One of the students, Dr. Jin Zhengbao, gave a talk on Chinese culture. Haichao, the head of Sunshine Ecovillage Network, joined him. Since starting the Culture dimension of EDE, we have been talking a lot about the influence of traditional culture and history on our collective worldview. So it was fortunate that someone from the class was able to lead a review on traditional culture.

One interesting takeaway to me is that life is an ongoing process, in which individuals can experience continuous improvement through inner transformation. This contrasts to buddhism’s view of a finite point of enlightenment. Particularly to Confucianism, the transformation is catalyzed by handling relationship with oneself and others.

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Dr. Jin Zhenbao, left to the whiteboard, led a Chinese culture talk. (photo by the author)

Inner Dance

We lied quietly on a thin pad or cushions, eyes closed. Accompanied by carefully selected music, our mind followed, drifted, lifted, and finally, grounded.  It’s an internal journey to discover the potential of our consciousness and the power of the right side of our brain.

Trudy selected a dozen music and played them in a certain sequence. For some music, only a part was played. She carried a hand-held speaker and walked around the room so that all of us can feel the power of the music. She also gently touched the shoulder, forehead, exposed feet of many students, to sharpen their attention.

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Nope, we were not turning the classroom to an emergency shelter 🙂 Before the Inner Dance session, many brought their thin mattress pad and comforter to set up a comfortable “dance floor”.  (photo by the author)

Unfortunately, I fell asleep in just a couple minutes after lying down (probably a needed nap for an earlier riser 🙂 ) and woke up to feeling semi-awake about 10 minutes before the session finished. I must have had some dreams. But I couldn’t remember any. The part of music I heard was both meditative and stimulating. I remember clearly associating it with forest and ocean, though I didn’t recognize any elements of actual ambient sound. I was also feeling numb and painful with my body, not surprisingly, after lying on 3 flat cushions and a pillow (under my knees) for 50 minutes. 🙂

In the review session, I was really impressed to hear what some classmates had achieved in the “journey”. One transcended a desert and wondered in forest. Another experienced a musical and imaginary flashback of human civilization. Most amazingingly, one had a super long, cubistic dream so vivid that he later wrote it down and shared with the class.

Life here

Our kitchen team has becoming more efficient and creative 🙂 , under the leadership of Xiaorui, the chief cook. To many, genuine compliment on food becomes a common topic to start a pleasant small talk at table.

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A student, WEI Chuan, volunteered to make pan cake and steamed buns for breakfast. (photo by the author)

Thanks to the kitchen team’s effort and care, we no longer buy steam bread from outside caterers. I can taste the natural flavor of wheat flour in “homemade” bread.

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During morning tea break, some students automatically helped washing vegetables in the kitchen. (photo by the author)

People of the day

Liang. I met Liang the next morning after first arriving here. He was washing vegetable in the kitchen at 4:50 am, after waking up too early. As a member of the volunteer team, he often helped in kitchen. He is one of the quietest in the class. In mid 20s,  he has nice moustache and chin curtain (uncommon style to Han Chinese males), making him look more serious and mature than his age. My knowledge about Liang accumulated slowly through multiple chats over cutting vegetables, when we both happened to be helping in the kitchen.

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He studied environmental engineering in university. At his third year (2013), he founded an NGO that invests and assesses soil and water pollution, food safety problems, and offers medical support to cancer patients in polluted regions. They managed to register the NGO legally in 2014 and raised fund from charity foundations that receive donations from the public. The team also provide paid service to companies that need assessment on environmental impact. They have a small office donated by a local business owner. For 4 years, he and his team travelled extensively for work in the province which used to have a big coal production industry.  They helped patients with various cancer types. Last year Liang formally resigned from this NGO, which had 4 full-time stuff then. For the future, he is thinking about projects or organizations that plant trees, particularly social enterprises.

(End)

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