Report Published on May 2022
Topic: Promoting Sanghat Consciousness in Level 2
KRI ran an online Mind and Meditation Level Two teacher training in March 2022. It was a training run by an international team of trainers from different cultures, for an equally wide range of students from all around the globe. The two main objectives of these trainings are to promote cultural/racial diversity amongst both trainers and trainees, as well as to experiment with different formats and pedagogical tools in online settings. We have implemented a number of changes from previous years and got good feedback. As a result, we are now in the process of refining our methods and ideas further, and this article is the report on our findings.
The basis of the experiment
Buddhists take refuge in the three Jewels: Dharma, Sangha and Buddha. We yogis may call it:
Dharma – Sanghat – Guru
We know that a teacher alone, bringing down the Dharma, cannot take us all the way to Guru. We need Sanghat. The importance of community consciousness is greatly emphasized in Level 3. We have regular peer group meetings for 1000 days, where we relate to each other as equals. It requires our constant investment and commitment to be there for each other, supporting the growth of each individual while enriching the group. Since no one is above any other, and there is no external supervision, the learning process rewards the spirit of self-initiation, self-awareness, seva, and the art of knowing when to give support or criticism, and how to humbly take it.
In contrast, level 1 is the stepping stone into the teachings and we cannot expect the students — not yet teachers — to already possess those qualities we value so much in the path to mastery. It is a learning process and it requires both training and supervision. Therefore it is common to find that the group work opportunities are fewer and with more guidance from the trainers. Most likely, the sanghat awareness is gradually acquired more from the sharings happening during the breaks and outside of class, rather than from the actual teaching hours.
In the face of the last two challenging years, many courses have migrated online. While the feeling of Sanghat permeates the in-person courses, there is a growing need to explore how we can best provide that feeling in virtual settings.
In this level 2, we have aimed at bridging the gap in Sanghat awareness between levels 1 and 3, in a fully online course. With this objective in mind, we put into practice a number of ideas which we include here, with their drawbacks (-), advantages (+), and the feedback we received at the completion of the course (f):
Sadhana: The first sadhana of this course was led by the trainers, but the following days it was entirely organized by the trainees, according to their working groups. We asked the trainees to guide Japji and lead the chants with their own voice. They could use instruments if they wished, but not a CD. We assigned the kriya for each day of the training, taking it from the M&M manual.
- – : Two and a half more hours of zoom time per day was certainly challenging.
- – : Also the trainees were from such different time zones that sadhana occurred in the afternoon for the Europeans and in the evening for the trainees in South East Asia.
- + : In spite of the challenges, sadhana gave us all the right state of being to be more focused during the teachings.
- + : Having a kriya taught in the sadhana freed some of the time during classes.
- + : To realize we don’t need to be perfect musicians and just enjoy chanting together can be very empowering. Especially those who never dared before because they felt they didn’t have a good voice.
- + : Having to organize a sadhana was a good motivator to start working as a team and support each other with their own capacities.
- f : In the feedback from the training, the great majority of trainees appreciated the opportunity to share the sadhana space together, and they felt it was an added value to the training.
- f : Leading the chants using their own voice was difficult. A number of them reported this being the first time doing a capella mantras. It certainly got some trainees out of their comfort zone. Overall it was a positive experience. Some expressed looking forward to having the opportunity of leading this way.
- f : Many mantras were led in a very simple way, and occasionally some mantras were led in a slightly boring monotonous way.
- Schedule: Apart from sadhana, the standard training day is considered to be 8 hours long. This year, however, instead of programming the 8 hour classes, we opted to experiment with a 6+2h format. This means that we had 6h of regular classes (with the corresponding breaks in between), but the remaining 2h were to be done in their working groups. In these 2h they were expected to watch the Yogi Bhajan video corresponding to that day — or read the lecture if they preferred — and follow by having a discussion on the video and talk about the teachings of the day. They could help each other understand the teachings, get clarity from their own accumulated wisdom, but also write down questions as they arose, to bring back to the main group the following day. We also experimented by giving them the possibility to meet whenever it was more convenient to the group, right after class, or the following day. In that way, the groups from America were encouraged to meet right after the regular 6h classes, while the groups in Europe and Asia, could choose to meet the following day, in the morning before sadhana.
- – : 6h + 2h means that the actual teaching hours are shorter. The immediate consequence is that we had to adapt the material to fit the time and be more efficient with the delivery.
- – : Having to add a check-in the following day, to talk about the 2h working group time, conditioned the start of the day, and shortened the 6h.
- + : Having the kriya of the day being delivered during the sadhana helped to alleviate the pressure of how much content needed to be covered each day.
- + : Even though they are long days counting sadhana time + 6h class + 2h working groups, the 2h in groups are more relaxing and less tiring than 8 straight hours of classes, especially for those countries where the classes run into the night and chose to meet the following day (or during the week after the Sundays).
- f : Having to organize their 2h meetings meant having to agree on doing it right after the class hours or the following morning if time allowed. Some groups had difficulties agreeing which time was best. While other groups were very grateful for the option to meet in a more relaxed time at their convenience. Additionally, the teams in the later time-zones (Europe & Asia) also appreciated that we had them in consideration when working out the schedule.
- f : Quite a few trainees expressed their surprise when they heard of the schedule. They would have preferred to have been informed of the particulars much earlier so they could plan ahead. Particularly those who were doing the 2h meeting during the week after Sundays, expressed how it was difficult to fit it with their busy life. They were not expecting to have to add a meeting during the week in their already busy schedule of day-to-day family life.
- f : When specifically asked, the great majority of trainees (24) preferred this option of 6+2h to the alternative of 8h or even a middle ground of 7+1. A number of them (8) would be interested in exploring the 7+1 (7h class including the Yogi Bhajan lecture guided by a trainer, 1h free time with their working group). Only 4 would have preferred to go back to 8h of supervised class.
- Working groups: We grouped the trainees as best as possible according to their language and time-zone, but this year we did not establish a group leader. We purposely asked them to self-organize and cooperate to find the best way to work together.
- – : Being so much in their working groups can be very confronting. They may dislike some group members and tensions may appear which will put extra stress on the participant. Some trainees enjoy taking the stage and try to become the leader of the group, or the teacher, or the therapist.
- – : Having time for unguided conversation may lead them astray, possibly wasting valuable time, or ending up in conflicting conversations.
- + : The intimacy of small groups makes it possible for each to feel contained. With the right attitude, it can become a sacred space where they support each other, allowing each other to be vulnerable and truly go through a personal transformation.
- f : After the first day of training we had a couple of teams which contacted us by email. They had ended up spending the 2h talking about the Yogi Bhajan allegations. They felt down and confused, they thought that maybe they had wasted the time and were afraid it would be like this every meeting. We reassured them that if that is what happened, it was what had to happen. Indeed, this was L2 mind and meditation and if the allegations are in their mind, it was natural for them to surface. We encouraged them to help each other talk through it (some had never had the chance to process it before), and if they needed extra help from the trainers to bring it to the check-in session the following day. By the end of the training we received feedback from both teams that they had left the allegations behind and the meetings had become very valuable, they felt very connected and appreciated having that time together each day.
- f : We had some technical problems the last day and quite a few students later told us that the first impulse was to contact their peer groups to find out what to do. It showed us that by the end of the training they had established trust and supported each other.
Overall, from the feedback we got we feel that the extra time in their working groups has been very valuable. They helped each other understand the concepts and share their experiences. Whether the bond they created will be strong enough to support them beyond the scope of this level 2 only time will tell. At the very least, the spirit of seva and cooperation was there. We believe their experience can even be enhanced with a few subtle adjustments.
Refining the model, changes for the next training
KRI plans to implement a number of changes for the next L2 course in July. First of all, the schedule with the idea of 6+2h is going to be explicitly stated in the website and will be communicated to the trainees as soon as they register for the course. That way we avoid surprises and they can plan their time accordingly. Also KRI is creating a South East Asia training for the community of teachers in that time zone. This will make it more feasible for all trainees to have their 2h working group meetings straight after the regular 6h classes. It’ll be past midnight in Europe, but manageable. That way they don’t have to meet during the week, which for some was clashing with their family life.
We will explain in more detail the objective of this format, especially the value of Sanghat consciousness, how it is developed in their working groups, and how it is a preparation for the peer groups of L3. We will dedicate some time to go through basic etiquette within their groups and tips on how to get the best out of their experience.
In the 2h of the meetings with their working groups we will recommend to have a conversation around the Yogi Bhajan lecture of the day, guided by some questions offered by us beforehand, as well as discuss the material covered that day. But we’ll also be encouraged to have some time for just open-ended conversation, to allow the natural sharing which is required to process what is happening to them on that day.
We recognise the great importance of the check-in sessions following the 2h working group sessions. We have also noticed that the informal contact between trainers and trainees that naturally occurs in face-to-face meetings during breaks, is missing in the online format. In the next training we are going to combine both needs by creating an early morning check-in session, right after breakfast. We’ll have a zoom room open for 30min with one or two working groups per trainer. It should be an informal get together, to have a yogi tea with one of the trainers in a smaller group. It’s a way to be more approachable, as well as check-in of the previous day, pose some questions, answer others, and just have a chance to have a more human connection.
Our closing prayer
We hope the results have proven to be of interest to our wide community of trainers in the ATA, and we’d love to get feedback on it. What have we missed? What can be improved? Was this of interest to you? Did this inspire some changes on the formats you work with? If so, what are the results of your experience running those changes?
We wish to grow together. The R in KRI stands for Research and we are all part of KRI. Each of us trainers are constantly experimenting and exploring how to best improve our teaching, especially in these changing times. So, let us exchange ideas and improve upon them.
Many blessings to all.