Fellows Collaboration in Indonesia

Yoga Retreat in Bandung led by Nirmala Nair, December 2011

After many years of work-related travels, Fellow Nirmala Nair of South Africa decided to take a vacation to Bali.  She writes: “As always, when one is open and ready to take on the opportunities coming one’s way, there is an effortless grace about events that unfold.”  Nirmala contacted a Fellow from her cohort, Any Sulistyowati, who lives in Bandung, Indonesia.  This led to a vibrant, three-way e-mail exchange involving a Fellow working in Bali whom Nirmala had never met, Nonette Royo, and plans for her to visit both places.

Any had proposed to host Nirmala if she could travel via Bandung and share with Any’s network some of her yoga practice and insights on sustainability work. Nirmala was delighted to be asked and stayed in Bandung for four days, voluntarily contributing to what Any described as “two of my organizations most important events of the year.” Any’s organization, KAIL, focuses on engaging and building capacity among young social and environmental activists in Bandung.  Nirmala is the Director of Zero Emissions Research and Initiations (ZERI) in South Africa.

Any reports: “Last Sunday, December 18th, Nirmala ran a day-long yoga class combined with a short course about healthy living, focused on food. Twenty three people joined her class. It was amazing that, with such a short course, a lot of my friends got so much benefit. Part of the magic was the breathing techniques. One of participants could sleep well following the yoga class after having experienced 7 months of sleep deficiency (she had only been sleeping two hours each night). She promised Nirmala to learn yoga seriously and is sure that she will benefit from it.

KAIL Seminar in Bandung led by Any Sulistyowati, December 2011

On Monday, December 19th, KAIL ran a public seminar attended by 40 Bandung activists. I think it was a great success and I heard that many participants were inspired by the speech Nirmala gave.”

Nirmala reflects on the same events: “The seamless coming together of the Bandung events was just another confirmation for me that there is another kind of  “systems” that are at work, not often visible. We so often fail to pay attention to these invisible energy networks.

At Any’s request, I created a special yoga retreat program for her and young colleagues. This retreat was oriented to go deeper into the science and philosophy of yoga in a way that any lay person can understand. It was also an attempt to heal-the-gap between what yoga has become in the Western context – yet another quick-fix for disconnected life styles – and yoga as a way to help us re-engage and re-work life.

The day-long retreat was a combination of lectures, yoga postures, and demonstration of how working with local biodiversity is not only about climate change but also about communities taking power back in terms of local sustenance. We also engaged with the individual healing process – personal mastery to dance with the micro and macro systems of life.

I had just finished my series of workshops as part of COP 17 Durban events on ‘Climate of Hope’ so I decided to do a very short version of the same on the following day as part of KAIL’s public seminar.  As part of my talk, I shared my poem, The Myth of Sustainable Development with participants.

I am extremely grateful to Any for giving me a chance to share what I believe sustainability is all about – sustaining life in the most creative and resilient manner, continuously re-imagining and reworking life as everything around us changes perpetually. If, as an individual, all we pursue is burnt out lives following dead ends, that is the kind of world we end up creating: burnt out with no energy to sustain life.

So as the year 2011 comes to an end, I am delighted that I have had an opportunity to share this vision of mine with Any and her young colleagues. I was deeply impressed by the level of engagement and the vibrant discussions late into the day after the sessions were over. I sensed there is a gap – some deep yearning for something different; something that is not yet being activated by the current sustainable development discourse. I wish Any, her husband, David, and their mutual networks all the strength they need to keep up the good work they are doing.”

Nirmala is presently in Bali, brainstorming with Nonette synergies and practical opportunities for collaboration.  “We shall keep you posted” writes Nirmala.

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