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 Bangalore this time, there were over 1000 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 Sardarshahar (Raj), Pune, Himachal Pradesh, Udaipur, Mumbai, Brazil, Jordan, Pakistan and Iran.
Co-hosted by: Shikshantar Andolan · Bhoomi College · Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living · Volunteers Cafe · Swashikshan Association of Indian Homeschoolers · Vikalp Sangam · Multiversity Network · Swaraj University · Abhivyakti Media for Development · Digital Empowerment Foundation · Banyan Tree Bookstore · Moved by Love · Blue Ribbon Movement · Project DEFY
Dear LSUC family-
My heart is filled with gratitude for the most amazing times spent with most amazing people.
I slept under the stars, with live classical music going on, danced like no one was watching on Kabir, ate food of love, slept on floor and been grateful, met people with abandonment, felt the power of shower blessings, cried at beauty, felt deep consciousness about my body, mind and spirit. Hugs! All my dreams at LSuC came true.
I will never be lost anymore.
Dear LSuC Family,
I’d been to a couple of LSuCs in the past, so kind of knew what to expect. But this time was different for me as i came in as a tentative and slightly tense, temporarily full-time, single parent to 2 kids for 5 days. Yes, i’ve engaged with all the various ideologies and approaches to learning over the years, worked extensively with children and youth in my professional capacity and done a lot of back-seat driving on parenting the kids in my family and friends’ circles, but this was my first hands-on 24*7 living experience, 5 days exclusively with my 13 year old nephew and 11 year old niece, who i normally meet for just about a week during family vacations each year. When i hesitatingly proposed to them, spending a week of their winter vacations alone with me at the LSuC, they trusted in me and readily said ‘yes’, much to my surprise, and i trusted the larger community and immediately sent in our registration. And then followed all the hard work of getting the others on board, adjusting the dates and other schedules, getting their complicated and extended travel organised, with a lot of sustained effort on my sister’s part to eventually make it happen.
Despite all my pre-conceptions and latent concerns about how children who’ve grown up in the cut-throat competitive environment of the ‘maximum’ city, and used to a comfortable and protected way of life, would cope in an ‘alternative’, ‘minimalist’ setup, and how a space strongly rooted in ‘decolonisation’ and ‘unschooling’ would welcome ‘city-bred’ children studying in ‘mainstream’ schools, i took the plunge and trusted the universe that we would all emerge wiser at the end of it.
The only thing that gave me the confidence was the trust that there is a larger family to hold and support us, to help us learn and grow with us, and that’s exactly how it was. We felt really held, and loved and cared for in every way over the 5 days! The kids instantly took to the space like fish to water, forged great friendships with people who initially seemed ‘a bit different’, extended the circle of trust to all the people and the process and the place, suspended all inhibitions about getting out of their comfort zones and getting their hands dirty (quite literally!), found the perfect playground for their incessant questions and unique explorations, and happily disappeared into the dust and crowds and vastness of the nature-endowed campus… leaving me pinching myself to see if it was real … only to be reassured by a glimpse of their excited, joyful faces occasionally at meal times.
And even as the magical 5 days came to a close, we are carrying huge chunks of the LSuC magic back with us in the form of conversations, reflections, anecdotes, insights, dances, jokes, hugs, songs, games, photos, memorabilia (including the precious TUCs!) ,and a whole host of lovely friends from different corners of the country and world who had become family in those 5 days. And to top all of this, the anxious aunt in me was replaced by a special friend, co-learner and companion to two amazingly beautiful children, and hopefully to many others as well.
It is with tremendous gratitude and love that i am writing to thank each one of you for making space for us in the LSuC, and in your hearts…. and i’m inviting all of us to extend the LSuC into our lives, welcoming the free spirited child in all of us, beyond labels of ‘schooled’, ‘unschooled’, ‘colonised’, ‘decolonised’, ‘alternative’, ‘mainstream’,… because as Manish beautifully put it, it is with ‘many streams’ flowing that the rich diversity of flora and fauna truly flourish.
It’s been a really beautiful closure to 2017 and wonderful start to 2018 for me. Tanmay and Shriya join me in wishing you all the same…
Nirupama Sarathy (from Chennai)
Tanmay & Shriya (from Mumbai)
Dear LSUC family-
The boy who lit the fire
When my son got the idea of making his own bonfire rather than sitting around the existing one, I was worried, afraid and said NO. But he did not relent and went on collecting sticks and arranging coconut shells for his bonfire and I was wondering how he observed and learned to do so in manner of minutes.
He finished his arrangement and started trying to get fire. I was about to shout “ it is dangerous don’t play with fire”, but realized others around are calm and encouraging him with their smile. I stopped shouting and started looking.
He kept on getting fires and it gets extinguished before he reaches his pile of sticks.. Finally, he is done with guidance from the good souls around and sat next to it without emotion like a yogi.
I don’t know how good he felt, but staring at the fire, I realized my journey towards unlearning has started.
Dear LSUC family-
My magical moment at LSUC2017:
I was fortunate to get a chance at receiving this amazing foot and leg massage by a lady form Nagaland, her name was Rajani (if I recall, sorry I do forget names). She massaged my tired feet after saying a prayer to them. No one has ever prayed to my feet. It was very tender for me. One lady came up to that spot and started giving me shoulder massage at the same time. A dear friend got me a tender coconut to drink. I felt like a queen. A participant from a foreign land was passing by and saw this sight and asked me ‘This is a wonderful sight, may I take a picture of you?’ I ofcourse said, ‘Go Ahead’!
I really felt so loved and looked after at that moment. I have been slogging it out for years looking after the needs of many, and Universe answered my request for a little nurturing from others and I got it! And I actually wanted unconditional physical nurturing, physical touch and I wanted to feel like a queen whose all commands are followed!:D
Dear LSUC family-
I was representing Himalayan Institute of Alternatives for this un-conference and in the process had one of the most amazing family vacations that I ever undertook. I always felt that something was missing whenever I went for vacations with family & friends and stayed in a 4/ 5 star hotel, where we did nothing much except eat, play and sleep. Thus, I have been trying to build an element of learning on my trips so that we come back richer. And this trip took it to yet another level and I must thank Manish Jain for having invited me and all the organisers for conducting this.
We camped for 5 days in last week of December with other 1000 people. We ate just organic food. And we played & learned as per our choice from the 75 sessions of self designed learning conducted each day. All this at a very negligible cost…as most participants came with intent to offer something they were good at.
While my 9 yr son taught dance steps to 20 participants, he got much more in return … he spun a yarn, made beads, listened to Kabir and saw theatre, tossed salad, lighted bon-fire, played games, visited an animal farm, understood making of a guitar and much much more.
On other front, I shared my experiences of running ME TOO Kids Adventure Club to a group of educationist and parents. I also talked about our work in Ladakh ranging from Ice Stupa Artificial Glacier to upcoming Alternative University. In return I learned how to travel the world with zero money, understood how to conduct such interesting un-conferences, met amazing people doing path breaking experiments in the alternative education space, got consultation on one of my dream project and much more. Free foot spa by fishes was a bonus. Similarly, all others who accompanied us gained a lot.
I want to tell you all, especially those having children to take atleast one family vacation in year with shoe string budget but which are very high on learning. I bet you will learn, do and enjoy a lot more. It is the adventure of learning from the new exposures and experiences that children absorb most.
LESS IS INDEED MORE.
Dear LSUC family-
Just ending, now, at Bhoomi College, Bengaluru, 30th December 2017, another fabulous, warm, mutually enriching, mutually supportive grand meet of unschoolers, unjobbers, unschoolable individuals, parents who have decided that schools are harmful places for kids and universities not more than sterile holes in which young people now bury themselves in preparation for “deadlihoods”.
If you hold a workshop or seminar or conference in Delhi, a total of 5 people (including the organisers) will be at the inauguration, with everybody worried about how many people will actually come beyond the apportioned time. Most times, attendance shamelessly burgeons just prior to lunch, then dwindles post-lunch. Most of the time, the same speakers, the same big names are paraded to massage monumental egos. They all recognize and greet each other, and know what each will say.
So what is the magic of the LSUC that people take a week off, sometimes entire families (of course, the kids are always there upfront), register, pay money for simple board and even simpler accommodation, and turn up in huge anticipation without even having a formal “agenda” before hand? Don’t know really. LSUC is an un-conference. The unconference is constructed by the people who turn up at the gate. By the end of 5 days, some 60–90 small self-composing work groups sit, discuss, share, resolve (or dance, laugh or play), discuss humanity’s breach of its humanity, attempt to retrieve the creativity of young life effectively smothered by the schooling system, collectively calm the anxieties of parents who have declared “freedom from school” to the youngsters they have bred, and also ensure a festive air, with singers from Kabir’s tradition, baul singers and bonfires.
Those who came in mistakenly wanting structure find they have to navigate time and space like amoebas. By the second day, they love the amoeba status.
The LSUC creates its own currency for material and spiritual services called the “tuc”. You get 30 tucs free when you register. For 10 tucs you can get a banana or a hug, a cup of Osama tea with ginger. No cokes please, but a coconut seller is invited to bring in a truckload of supplies to last a week and you can sip buckets of tender coconut water (but know he will not accept tucs). The food has been prepared from organic supplies by the all too savvy millet expert cooking squad of Jayaram’s Green Path.
For the people assembled, there is simply no care left in the world.
There are no “speakers” since it is assumed that everyone, having done that act of courage of walking out from the mainstream gst f — ked economy, pissed on Mall walls, now wholly enraptured and captured (or captivated) with the sheer joy they see on the kids gone crazy with freedom without boundaries, schedules and pre-apportioned tasks, has a godawesome story that will make your eyes glisten. After courage has come wisdom, peace and calm.
The children, now out of the gaze of once anxious mothers, form their own communities, romp in mud pools, learn to cook, stay awake the entire night or sell things and earn more tucs. No worry since every child at the LSUC has over 500 doting fathers and mothers and no harm is conceivable.
Bhoomi College was the ideal heart for this meeting which will resume sometime next year at some other place of this glorious country.
That more than a thousand people, young and old, rich and poor, comfort-zoned or from the streets could forsake time and shake off their industrial confinements like dogs shake off water and create a huge recognizable family of people of this size can only mean we continue to be blessed and gen next will thrive.
Dear LSUC family-
I have no word to express gratitude for the organizers of such an amazing unconference: Beautiful place with beautiful people and various wonderful novel activities & sustainable product.Every corner And every moment of LSUC was magical and all people have the magic effect. I found love and affection and amazing experience in entire LSUC.
#1. First time I took session on menstruation and hygiene in lsuc. Two male attended with females and took part in open discussion. One male person had shown interest to purchase near about 500 clothes sanitary pad for his organization.one male member told me during the session that he want to know about menstruation and saying that male also should know equally about it.He got surprised that every month woman bleed.
#2. I have heard first time Kabir bhajan by Vipul and surprise to hear such sweet amazing bhajan, enjoyed a lot.He created interest in me for the Kabir Bhajan.
#3. My daughter attended the first time and the first day she was telling mumma today is the first day and counting the day but the second day she mixes with LSUC people and forget me and also forget to come at home. She did not want to come at home after LSUC. She enjoyed a lot the learning and experiences.
Dear LSUC family-
I was at LSUc with my 13yr old son. We both didn’t talk/meet much during the unconference. We barely met once in a day (rather bumped into each other).
We both came back with loads of unsaid learnings. The environment was safe enough for both of us to be just ourselves.
It’s important for our kids to experience such safe spaces to know that the world exist in many different forms and one does not need to confirm to only one way.
He played sports endlessly just for joy and beyond winning. He experienced music beyond performance (djambe, guitar and singing around camp fire), He met people beyond success and boundaries, He got inspired by unsung heroes (his special was Govinda), He saw joy in smallest of the skills (how to set tent!), He danced each day in the morning circle for no show. He saw people crying in gratitude shower. He reached out to people of any age and interest without any inhibition.
He met life beyond crowd in crowd of 1000 people! His confidence in his own way of living and learning at Aarohi grew beyond any measures by meeting life in unlife environment at LSUC!
Thank you all
Thank you all young adults who are inspiring these growing young adults.
Dear LSUC family-
I was very keen on attending the LSUC, 2017. My visit to Shikshantar in the first week of December further strengthened my decision and I registered for the event. Aditya, my 12 year old son who attended Shikshantar’s Winter Camp shared that he wanted to accompany too and soon I had convinced my entire family to join in. Our request to bring Mishti our young labrador along was also accepted and accompanied by two of more kids, we set out in our Pajero for a journey which proved to be fun, insightful and showed us a new path.
I spent four days playing with my three year old daughter, watching over Mishti, attending workshops and simply walking around observing my platoon interact with other participants and noticing little things amidst approximately 1000 people.
The warmth displayed by people toward Mishti, their unconditional acceptance of a different species and their genuine concern over whether she had eaten or whether she was thirsty strengthened my faith in humans and my belief in their compassion.
My children felt safe and free to do as they pleased. They played basketball, football and other games with other kids. At times, they chatted away gleefully, helped someone or the other, attempted to attend a workshop and at times I saw them lost in their own world. In the evening, they were always found near a camp fire, enjoying light-hearted chats while lighting and keeping the fire going. They did not hesitate to ask for my attention while I was attending a session and two of them attended a couple of sessions with me.
Dola’s sessions on homeschooling and unschooling and the session on Aarohi Experiences had a deep impact on me. I learnt that there was so much for me to unlearn. I needed to be aware of my beliefs, prejudices and notions and question their effect on my children. I need to constantly ask myself, “Is this what I want or what my children want?” I learnt that children are individuals too and have the right to be trusted. Everyone fails and so do children. I need to accept my kids along with their flaws and their mistakes. It is okay for kids to keep changing their interest areas.
Listening to stories of homeschooling / unschooling moms and the narrations of homeschooled / unschooled kids themselves built up my courage to be okay with unschooling my children. Infact now, it is not my decision, but theirs and I now believe it is their choice and not mine.
The talk on Aarohi experiences was very interesting and enthralling. Their philosophy and pedagogy, their processes and their relationships seemed so real. Listening to Aditi was a humbling experience. I am sure to explore more about Aarohi life soon and I hope to spend a few days at their campus along with my children.
The free hugs, the smiles, the laughter and the jokes and the well facilitated workshops brought out a certain calmness in me. Just being in this space was rejuvenating and now I am ready to explore and be part of a whole new world! thank you LSUC, 2017….
Dear LSUC family-
At the recently concluded Learning Societies’ Un-Conference at Bhoomi College, Bengaluru, I had many remarkable experiences, some of which lean dangerously into the province of the magical. But none were more remarkable than meeting and talking with a gentleman whose name I now forget, but whose story will remain with me long after memory has served its purposes. He approached me, and we introduced ourselves, and then — like so many others I met — proceeded to tell me about his entire life’s work and hopes for the future. Something about his account and demeanour made me want to move closer to capture every word he said.
First, like almost everyone else in the carnivalesque gathering, threaded through with the laughter and running children, this man had issues with formal schooling. “When it becomes a matter of Excel spreadsheets, then it is hardly education anymore…it is industry”, he said, his serious eyes keenly set on invisible forms a few slices removed from my gaze, his eminent pronunciation and his traditional apparel giving the impression he was an English spy undercover in India. He spoke about the unwritten wisdoms of the Vedas; the unfortunate erosion of “morals and ethics” in today’s educational landscape; the escalating suicide rates among kids branded as failures in a system primed to reward unthinking homogeneity and punish (or pathologized) difference; and, how the “true India” was buried layers deep underneath a terraforming apparatus that employed state-approved education to disconnect citizenship from embodied learning. He said all of this in a gathering where farmers, social activists, professor-types, movement leaders, and persons who did not take themselves too seriously enough to name what they did, huddled together in bubbly conspiratorial circles — often noting with rapid gestures that there is no causal factor between degree acquisition and job security, or that unschooled persons who often presented themselves at job interviews were curiously more able and more creative than their certificated counterparts.
I knew all this. I recognized what this man was saying to me. This was my beat.
However, it was when he spoke about his response to all of this that something shifted. His grand response? His big solution to schooling-as-usual? Bring 30 boys into a living space in Lucknow, India; live and work with them in physical quarters that have been painstakingly designed to convey the idea that small is beautiful; invite teachers of all stripes who can share wisdoms from all faiths and philosophies (“One week, we might learn Christian stuff; the next week, we will explore Muslim truths. Anything that smells like wisdom, I want my boys to learn”, he said); there would be no fees; everyone would have to work for each other — if one person were missing during a session, nothing would happen at that time. And then, after 8 years of doing this with the same set of boys, “I will shut the whole thing down.”
Shut it down? What comes next? How do you escalate this, duplicate this, or perhaps make a model out of this and spread it everywhere? Are you going to write a book out of this? Give talks and lectures? I could feel the usual questions — not really ‘my’ questions, but questions all the same — streaming through my head, wanting resolutions. In a different context, his plans might have been branded ‘patriarchal’ or ‘quasi-utopian’. Or insignificant in the face of the bewilderingly complex and global scale of today’s education crisis. But in that small intimate moment he shared them with me, with the wafting smells of waffles cooking a few meters away contributing to feelings of intoxication, I didn’t care. It just felt precious to receive what he offered. To protect it even.
It was that simple. He would shut it down. After 8 years. His life would have been devoted to co-learning with these 30 boys alone. And then he would just send them away when the time was up, happy to die.
Listening to him was bone-deep medicine. It was like directing chest-expanding questions to a friend — questions about the origins of the universe, why we are here, the meaning of life, the destiny of our species, how to respond to the Anthropocene, how to be authentic and true to oneself in a time when the very concept of an independent self feels inauthentic — only for that friend to pause, smile and bring you a refreshing cup of tea in response. It was like Job receiving the gift of bewilderment as an ‘explanation’ for his suffering and pain. I must have sighed several times during our conversation. His response to the deleterious effects of modern education wasn’t to wipe it away, or to create a commodious adversary to counteract it (not that these are necessarily ill-conceived or wrong things to do). He implicitly understood that one could work from a different place of power — where winning the game no longer feels desperately urgent; he knew of a sensuousness, a politics of a different kind and of prestigiously different calculations. The point wasn’t to even the score, to beat the city, to hold the trophy.
The point was to call to question the series of narratives that insist that only when a thing is big enough is it useful. In the space of thirty minutes, he told a story that suggested to me that even inadequacy is prolific, generative and promising. Small is not a pathway to big.
In the bus ride home from Bengaluru, I recalled the boy-themed Dustin Hoffman-led 2014 movie called ‘Boychoir’ — a ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ story about a kid who sang like an angel and had the grace of a thug. Hoffman’s choirmaster character nurtures the boy to become an irreplaceable member of his choir and of the school that houses it. On the eve of an all-important competition, the choirmaster gathers his group of young singers together in a room. “What you have now, you will lose,” he says, noting that their abilities to sing with high-pitched voices, transporting listeners to seventh heavens, was a gift for a time and a season. Adolescence would soon possess them, breaking their bodies, deepening their voices, stretching them into new shapes. “This is about music. It’s about you. It’s fifty minutes of your life, and I want you to celebrate yourself”, he says to them. Winning the competition did not need to be as important as treasuring the fleetingness of that moment, when — for a round of applause or a serving of boos — they could partner with music in a way even their teachers could not. A different kind of calculation was needed to truly enjoy their moment in the sun.
In other words, gifts are not owned in a final way, they are given away — and there is something about losing shape, fading away and attuning to the small that is maybe currently outside our vocabulary or our abilities to describe and appreciate. I cannot help but feel that this matters in profound ways — that answers are often a disservice to the questions that precede them, and that we are being called to consider the many intriguing ways that small is beautiful.
Bayo Akomolafe (Chennai, Nigeria)
Dear LSUC family-
What a wonderful journey it was attending LSUC. I went in with few expectations and a bundle of nerves, unsure of how I would feel in such an unstructured environment given I’d known myself typically to prefer structure.
As the unconference went on, my fears melted away and I saw the beauty of uncertainty and being open to whatever comes. One magical moment for me was on the fourth day of the unconference, when there was an Open Mic night in the evening.
That morning I had been thinking about sharing a few songs on my ukulele to anyone who wished to listen. It had taken me a while to get to that point, as I typically don’t offer to share my musical gifts without someone asking (and even then I do so hesitantly - not so much because I don’t want to, but for fear of judgment). The universe must have been listening because this Open Mic night opportunity showed up. I signed up with encouragement from friends.
After waiting a few hours, it was finally my turn. By now the sky had gone dark and the night had become much colder. Though I was excited to go on when I first signed up, I now felt anxious to go onstage. A friend assured me not to worry, to just be myself. To remember, in the spirit of the unconference, that I am still learning. That the important thing is that we create art for our own pleasure first and foremost, before that of others.
I kept that in mind as I got up onstage. I had prepared a few covers, which I had only been practicing for a day or so. I was nervous and uncomfortable as I don’t normally sing or play ukulele in public. I didn’t consider myself a singer! I was afraid I would forget the lyrics. As I performed the covers I tried to get everything perfect. With the little screen of my cellphone as my crutch, I paused here and there to scroll down the screen for the lyrics. I wasn’t connected to the music. I was performing, and very well aware of the fact. As I had been taught to do in my classical piano and violin training and performances growing up, I was trying to impress the audience.
After my covers, a friend shouted from the audience that I should sing my own song. I was slightly caught off guard but am so grateful that he did, because I was able to share a song I had written in Costa Rica, that holds a special place in my heart. I sang it effortlessly, looking out into the audience and connecting with them, as I no longer felt the need to keep my head down staring at my phone. I felt the song, and felt the freedom of sharing my truth with those gathered there.
After my performance, nearly every compliment I received was on my final song. Another friend told me it was a beautiful performance, and that what he enjoyed most was how I was completely myself up there, gaffes and all. During my covers, I had trouble with scrolling to see the lyrics, and basically — looking back, quite embarrassingly — voiced my inner monologue of struggle out loud instead of keeping it to myself. It was a novel experience for me, not having to hide anything in a performance. Feeling safe to be myself.
I think so often we feel the need to hide parts of ourselves due to fear of not being liked or accepted. I have learned on a deep level that that is unnecessary. Only in sharing your purest self can others feel safe to share parts of themselves as well. For this invaluable lesson, I am eternally grateful to LSUC and to all those I had the pleasure to connect with through it.
Thank you to the organizers and all the other participants for such a lovely transformative few days. LSUC has opened my eyes to a new way of living. Hopefully I am able to attend another LSUC in the future. Until then, keep dreaming and acting on those dreams!
Dear LSUC family-
This was a wonderful week……a week where without flex sheets, without laser printouts, without AC halls and comfortable chairs, without showers, we pulled off an event that the best of institutions would envy. A week where I did not sleep a wink during the day neither did i ever miss it. A space where despite minimalistic setup never heard a complaint, no mobile stolen (except at the end which was taken by a non-participant), no shoes missing.
The question I ask myself is how did this happen. The answer perhaps is the architects of the event Shikshantar and Bhoomi. And the footsoldiers led by Manish FreeMan & Ankit flanked by their hordes of dancers and players and the Love team.
This was one of the most memorable weeks where I got to see what heightened energy can achieve. While companies try to keep people motivated and schools and colleges try to keep students tamed. What all miss out is that those efforts become necessary due to absence of games and dance.
I wish I had the ability to prepare a paper to show this very reality.
Not to mention the Hugs. I have almost come up with a detailed description in my analytical mind explaining the dynamics how it comes to play and how and why some hugs are tighter, others warmer and yet others so very formal.
If there is one thing that can destroy communalists, one thing that can shut up naysayers, one thing that can erase pathological haters, I think it is this experience that arose out of LSuC and experience of fun, frolic and love.
The children and their responses to responsibilities, to beckon of duty and to the events was simply ecstatic. The creativity unparalleled.
While I am not very sure if I will be able to attend the LSuC in the coming years. I am very sure how much will I miss them. It was a great week of learning, play, dance and love. Thank you.
Dear LSUC family
I experienced the magic of organic connections…Besides being an over-whelming experience, LSUC’17, my first LSUC, was like meeting my tribe. I was amazed at how many re-unions I had with energies I recognised and connected to. Every time my inner voice would go ‘Wow, he/she is just like me. Our questions, answers and journeys are so similar!’
I ‘d like to share that from the first moment I put my foot on the UnConference soil to the last, I experienced an endearing and bonding aura with the organisers and participants. Something told me I could be vulnerable and open to the chaos that was rather a beautiful orchestra. An orchestra where all kinds of people were playing all kinds of instruments and still there was music in that noise. And we were told on the very first day to trust the moment, the timing, the people, the closure, the opening …as the best that would ‘ve happened. This is probably the music note I hear most clearly even now.
I offered the natural dyeing concept and demonstration workshop as my offering to LSUC and it turned to be an amazing journey. It was supposed to be one session, but it lasted three days and yet people came back to dye their piece of white garment after we closed the session. I could see the energy of people guiding my flow to communicate and share my work. Besides this, I was selling few pieces of my natural dyed garments without profit for LSUC people and they just loved it! So many young people wore what they bought and many alternative education entities invited me to their amazing spaces to work with children. All the places that I wanted to visit at some point were now inviting me to come as a visiting facilitator.
From the stay to the food to the people and sessions, everything was intoxicated with a genuine love, goodness, unlearning and joy! It was really a humane and humbling experience.
I would also like to share my experience as a mother of a 13 year old…Besides a natural dye enthusiast, I had taken my 13 year old son to witness the organic magic of unschooling and open source sharing. On the first day, he was very judgemental of everything and seemed somewhat lost as to what was he supposed to do. However by the end of the day, organisers took prompt notice and mixed the two shades of UnConference and my son into a beautiful hue. He was still himself and yet he made family outside of me and we only met twice: when we came and when we had to leave together for our campus where we were staying. Everything kept falling in place everyday like it happens with a real family. So, LSUC was an amazing giant family experience while giving the space to just be and not do something all the time. The holding and the space given was rather the subtle beauty of this UnConference. It was empowering to feel possibility to create the moisturised world of our choice than accept what has been given to us by dry institutions.
These are few lines that flowed from me as I felt like a child myself..
‘Why do you keep me in fear? I am meant to dance in the chaos with the rhythm of life and death. Let me go. Let me be. You are no more than my gardener and no less than my soul family. So, let’s trust freedom.’
Dearest Spirit of LSUC-
After 5 days at LSUC with my dear Son in a space that allowed and accepted and celebrated every state of being and inspired expression for all ages and people from all backgrounds, I’m coming alive in what feels like the essential, easy “me.”
After the first day of virtual chaos, noise, euphoria when people meet and live together (we were almost 1000), we began to settle in the comfort and delight of this diverse way of living so unavailable to us in modern life.
I found myself thoroughly free and safe and nurtured, so much so, that my self expression in sharing in a variety of forms surpassed all my limitations and sense of self. I did not have the time to paste on the Wall of Possibilities my various offerings but rather just Flowed right into them from morning till midnight.
The empath in me felt the Deep need to Balance the pure high of your spirit by creating a quiet creative corner of “Beingness Zone” with music, art, books and even chai (thanks to Ritu and Vinay) where we could relax our over-stimulation and take it in …just be.
My need to breathe easy got my flute out almost everywhere, attracting other dancers and musical beings out. Thus emerged — LAVARI SATSANG with Siddharth Khoji and Dhrudip Thakkar, inspired by all those who came drawn to random music being played by us in corners … we met and bonded in that randomness and experienced oneness thru uninhibited playful participation.
Insights and aha moments began to popcorn burst thru us. We inquired if creativity and playfulness had more use than just to serve beauty, etc. If it was our primal nature and could it sustain and thrive our lives by paying our bills and more.
A mother of 2 — Durgesh Nandini shared how brave she feels Unschooling her children, writing her blog. A govt employee-- Bhavesh taught himself to play Flute and finds unique happiness in playing for others. Siddharth Khoji feels understood and seen for bursting into Dance anytime, all the time, and Monica Narula could not stop laughing at the insights. Another Lady said she found her answers to her questions without asking them and we laughed so much — who knew meeting our simple easy selves could be this effortless.
Finally the Open Mic saw us express that ease in an impromptu performance of Bhavai LAVARI…
In the end, many came and hugged me/us and that’s all i needed to heal my inner child.
My insight — when we express ourselves thru any form of our creativity everyone can see us exactly for who we are and we connect without needing to explain or understand. That connection is all that is needed for new life and direction to Flow.
I bow to you Spirit of togetherness and may you thrive in our hearts LSUC such that we come alive anywhere and everywhere in what’s truly “us.”
Deepali Parmar and Sonny
Dear LSUC family-
Learning Societies Unconference is an amazing place, gathering, congregation, crowd, of people, who think straight, has ability to be conscious, conscience; an annual footprint of thousands of people who are non judgmental, who smile, laugh, give hugs and seek love; where people gather with family, friends, alone, and with the hope and expectations that there emits only positives be energy, where everyone ends of giving, even seeking is giving in this unique gathering; it is a place where we meet every year to explore and share how we can make our world better, humane and natural. LSUC is a place where innovation is found in abundance; and where even the youngest child is on her own and making happen things that people learn from with awe. Where the elders and youngests are friends and indulge in equal conversation; where wastage of food is minimal; where everyone washes their own plates, where people come with their own belongings, where everyone helps in cocreating the space and the event and does not just behave like a consumer but primarily co-innovate, co-produce, co-create, co-operate, co-administer, co-manage, co-criticise, co-cook, co-eat, co-plan, co-sing, and fall and rose together. It is a place where diversity is deeply understood and practiced.
Here I am sharing the glimpse of LSUC 2017 that took place at Bhoomi College in Bangalore from December 26–30. We were joined by more than 1200 people from all over the country and abroad. We lived together for five days, we cooked and ate together, we sang together, we bought and sold together, we played together; we even created alternative currency called Tuk; we were joined by social revolutionaries, by those who practice education by learning and not just by teaching; by those who wrote and not just read, by those who sow and not only reap, by those who spread happiness and not only be happy, by those who create jobs and not only just do jobs. According to me LSUC is a place that attracts people with such high consciousness that they should be making and designing countries and societies.
Dear LSUC family-
Last evening after the LSuC ended, I sat with a dear young friend And just listened to his story of discovering himself. It was sublime. How he felt a connection with the trees and all that is. How he saw that we know everything. How his poetry began. Marvelling at it all.
Was touched by what’s possible — encountering the magic that becomes possible when we meet in the heart. And freedom and love are freely flowing.
The Learning Societies UnConference always amazes me, inspires me, intrigues me — and to watch what children and the young are doing and being, clearly a whole new world being born.