(These are the notes that Nitai Deranja produced from his EFL tour of Europe in the winter of 2013.)
I arrived in Frankfurt on Friday, February 8th and was met by two families with strong ties to the annual Ananda Family Week in Assisi. Anne Stoppe is the person responsible for organizing this first part of my trip, We drove immediately for about 2 hours to a very interesting place called Yoga Vidya. I was told it is the largest Yoga Center in Europe. On my visit in the middle of winter there were about 200 guests taking a variety of courses connected in some way with yoga. The center draws its inspiration from Swami Vishnudevananda and the Sivananda line of teachers. My two-day workshop drew 16 people. German regulations currently make it difficult to start an EFL school, but there is a growing system of “forest kindergartens” that we can affiliate with. Several of the attendees were public school teachers who will be good candidates for Educators for Higher Consciousness and the online courses. There is also a possibility for starting some kind of school there at Yoga Vidya. Anne’s daughter Ruby is applying to study EFL at our college next fall
What a beautiful, energetic little country! Slovenia has about 2 million citizens in a country that gained its independence for the first time in history only 22 years ago. Of course I am getting to meet the most expansive, forward-looking people, but still it is impressive. I arrived last Tuesday evening on the train from Germany, then had public talks on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Attendance was good with groups of 45, 20, and 40 people, a combination of teachers and parents. Tina Rutar is the moving force that has built up a strong core group of about 15 people. I’ll be spending most of this weekend with this group as we explore the sea coast and mountains of Slovenia. (You can reach anywhere in the country with a 2 hour drive.)
Two years ago Monika Purger came to study at the Ananda College and has been instrumental in helping everyone get a deeper feeling for EFL. Another important factor was the visit last year by Irene and the three high schools students: Paean, Mark, and Rachel. People here were able to experience first hand the possibilities of an EFL education. So there is much excitement around getting a school or maybe 2 started over the next 8 months. They have two excellent locations and two qualified teachers: Monika and Jassna. Paying for a private education here is challenging, so Tina has submitted a detailed application to obtain authorization to be a state-approved private school that would receive government funding. They expect an answer this spring. They already have the basic conditions for Families for a New Tomorrow in place and meet on a once-a-month basis. Anya, one of their younger members, is seriously considering coming to the college in the fall to study EFL.
The Italian portion of the trip began with a 7 hour car ride from Ljubljana to Assisi (thanks to Monika). I was able to spend the next few days at the Assisi School getting to visit with the teachers and students. Darshan, Gauri, Manu and others have been working hard to build the school which now serves 24 students, ages 3-12. They have a new location that used to serve as the headquarters for Inner Path. The classrooms are located in a small, two-story building that has spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. As I looked out that first morning, the thought came, “St. Francis and his disciples walked through these same hills”. Those holy vibrations provide a fitting backdrop for the current set of high souls. I was especially touched by the sparkling bright eyes of many of the children and began thinking about Swami’s ideas for a rite-of-passage ceremony for pre-adolescents. In the USA I’d found the energy didn’t flow easily around this idea, but here it moved like a river cascading downstream with 4 girls and 3 boys eager to take part in the initial ceremony. On the auspicious date of March 7, in two separate ceremonies, four women took turns talking with the girls about the meaning of true maturity, while three men did the same for the boys. The students then celebrated with a fire ceremony and a pledge to live their next few years in a manner that will bring the greatest happiness to themselves and others. All 7 “initiates” then received a badge they’d help design that can be worn as a reminder of the pledge they’ve taken. The groups will meet occasionally to provide ongoing support. Swami’s comment on the ceremonies was that they marked an historic moment for Ananda.
Over the weekend I was able to meet separately with teachers and parents (including a delightful lunch with the Tosetto’s). My next stop was Jesi, a town about an hour to the east, close to the Adriatic Sea. Jesi is the home of Santoshi and Uddyama, two wonderful souls who are deeply committed to EFL. Santoshi opened a new school here last September with five founding students ages 3-8. I was especially interested in visiting, since this is our most recent attempt to get an EFL school started outside of the existing Ananda communities. Parents have provided the school with two rooms in their alternative energy manufacturing building. Somehow it works very well with the school enjoying clean, modern facilities, while the workers appreciate the bright spirits and occasional baked goods that the children produce.
My public talk in Jesi coincided with the arrival of the brand new, Italian version of my book “Educazione per Gioia” (English title: For Goodness’ Sake). It was an enthusiastic launch with over 60 people in attendance. My tour around Italy continued for the next week with additional talks in Milan, Rome, Gualdo Tadino, and a final weekend workshop back in Assisi. Total attendance for all the events in Italy was around 250. In addition to connecting with educators, the talks should help launch a few more chapters of Families for a New Tomorrow with the Assisi group having their first meeting on the Sunday before I left.
Over all, it was a blessed trip. There is a lot of interest in EFL around Europe with many young peope wanting to become EFL teachers. I hope to see several of them at the college this fall, but realize we also need to create training opportunities here in Europe. There is much good work to do.