Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mindfulness follow-up with teacher participants

Principal and teachers of Karmaling Higher Secondary School
It has been three months, since a successful 2nd mindfulness camp conducted for 40 teachers of Samdrup Jongkhar district.
The camp was dedicated to help Bhutanese educators express mindfulness in their everyday roles as influential teachers and explore the inner working of their minds so that they may benefit their students through their examples.

Students of Martshala School
As envisioned by Lho Mon Education, a project under Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, teachers who participated in the camp are playing a key role in imparting the practices of looking inward. 
Following are some of the activities carried out in the schools by the participants:

Mr. Tshering Dorji a teacher from Garpawoong Middle Secondary School started a new club called ‘‘Mindfulness Club’’ with 30 students. He said ‘‘this club is convened to teach the students to be mindful of their deeds.’’ As a part of club activity he also organized a daylong nature mindfulness walk in collaboration with Chokyi Gyatso Institute to encourage students to develop an understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.

Sonam Dema, a student of Garpawoong School
A vice principal of Phuntshothang Middle Secondary School, Madam Ambikka Homagai and Miss Sherab Zangmo formed a club with 60 students and 6 teachers. They are going to conduct a School Based In-service Program (SBIP) about mindfulness to other teachers in the school soon. Zangmo wrote ‘‘we have divided the club members into three groups of 20 members for meaningful practice.’’

Phuntshothang School: Health and physical class
Madam Tshering Yangzom and Miss Sangay Wangmo from Karmaling Higher Secondary School did School Based In-service Program (SBIP) with other teachers including the principal and started practicing meditation and karma yoga. Yangzom wrote ‘‘I am doing meditation as well as prayer. I too became a vegetarian after I have completed reading a valuable book ‘‘What Makes You Not a Buddhist’’. I have introduced karma yoga and meditation in my School Agriculture Program (SAP) club.’’

Wangmo also integrated the practice in her teaching classes. She wrote, ‘‘I did a trial meditation session in class 9 and 11. Students are very eager to learn about meditation.’’

Karmaling School: Democracy club members
Pelden Drukpa Dorji a principal of Dechen Primary School wrote, “We have started training teachers in mindfulness practice to be able to help children with the practice.”Dechen Choden from the same school wrote, ‘‘we started implementing karma Yoga in our school. Teachers including our principal are busy with Karma Yoga.’’
Sonam Tshering a teacher from Rinchen Kuenphen Higher Secondary School wrote, ‘‘I am practicing daily in the morning about 15 minutes and I am going to integrate the practice in my Dharma club.’’
Phuntshothang School: Mindfulness club members and teachers
Madam Jampa Choden wrote, ‘‘Mindfulness practices has always been practiced in the school, but I am teaching them more on meditation with all the knowledge gained from the mindfulness camp.’’ She added, “I am taking life skill session in four classes and I am integrating the practice in the class.”

Garpawoong Middle Secondary School: Mindfulness club members

Garpawoong School: Karma Yoga practice


Friday, March 25, 2016

‘‘Nature Mindful Walk’’- Connecting the world around us and our inner world

“It is my hope that we can help children develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.”
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

To help the students develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related, a day-long ‘‘Nature-Mindful Walk’’ program was organized by Lho Mon Education (LME) and Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) in collaboration with Garpawoong Middle Secondary School, Dewathang on 20th of March, 2016. The program was participated by more than 70 students, monks, lopons and teachers.
The program was organized to provide opportunity for students to experience and learn from their immediate natural environment and to take this experience to another level by integrating mindfulness practices. It was also to promote positive attitudes, sustainable mindful actions and to recognize the nature as learning laboratory in achieving greater goals of environmental conservation.
The students were assigned with different activities in smaller groups such as bird watching, exploring the ecosystem of plants, trees and flowers to develop appreciation for the variety and creativity found in the natural world and moreover to cultivate curiosity and acute observation skills.
The sitting mindfulness practice, walking meditation and still- life drawing were other group tasks assigned to connect the external experience with internal world and to develop sense of positive attitudes broaden their outlooks toward nature and bring in behavioral changes in dealing with the nature.
The karma yoga practice was integrated in the program to inculcate and maintain a sense of responsibility and dignity in performing any kind of work from manual labor involvement to paper and pen work. It was stressed that when working, motivation is so important and if one approaches an offering of service with basic good intention, then one accumulates merit.

The collaboration of students and integration of mindfulness in nature exploration program was first of its kind and we hope to organize such a program from time to time in collaboration with local schools to provide a platform for students to broaden their understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kolokpa Play in Decline

Kolokpa, a traditional game, has been played for entertainment by the people of Dewathang for as long as anyone can remember. “In the 1950s it was a very popular game.  Many young people, adults, and elder people of both genders would play and show keen interest in it.” said 77 year-old meme Khotsha. He added, “Back then the losar of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, was celebrated for more than ten days and they would engross in playing Kolokpa and archery during the day and at night would go for Changshay (drinking alcohol and local beverages) around the community.”
The game is played using a kolokpa seeds. These seeds are found inside a case which grows from the kolokpa plant. The kolokpa seeds are deep red and circular in shape (some are irregular). The few numbers of seeds are arranged in one line at three to five meters away. A seed, usually best of all seeds is used by player to spin throw and hit the targeted seeds on row. The throw will continue between players taking turn until all the seeds are finished.
Kolokpa is a team game and also an individual game. There are two ways of playing the game: “the gyelpo” (king) and “the gyelmo” (queen). Before starting, the players have to decide which one to play. The “gyelm means if a person hits one of the piled targeted kolokpas, he/she will win two kolokpas and subsequently if it hits on two kolokpas one would take four and so on. This is a quick game. On the other hand, the Gyelpo” meaning if a person hit one on the targeted kolokpas, he/she wins only one kolokpa. As a result the Gyelpo game lasts longer as compared to the Gyelmo. The winner and the loser are decided based on the number of the kolokpa possessed in hand after the play. 
Photo: Brodie Lewiss
As per Khotsha’s view, nowadays we don’t see as many youth playing kolokpa. He hypothesizes this is because they go to school from an early age and spend most of their time in the school and urban areas. "In our days in the 1950s and 60s we didn’t have to go to school and we spent all day playing this game. We played this game with a lot of energy and with complete fun in it. Today, because of modern entertainment facilities and other activities like football, volleyball and television, the traditional games like Kolokpa are paid less attention. Many young people do not want to come back to their community now and as a result that traditional wisdom remains isolated and vanishes along with the elder people."
Khotsha observed that the skill of spin throw, the charm of the kolokpa game to topple down all the piled kolokpa at one go if executed well, is not very visible in the youth. The skill, as passed down from parents and grandparents, should produce a high-pitched whizzing sound. It appears elegant to make the sound on every throw. However, the skill remained stagnant with only few elders of the community because of less interest shown by the present youth.
 Kolokpa is a fun game and can be an effective tool to teach simple arithmetic. Besides this student can also learn the skills like spin throw, game discipline, and keep up the tradition of game.