Interview with Reena Singh!

Dear friends,

I met Dr Reena Singh at a training program and we connected immediately!

I had heard about her many times before as the both of us worked in the field of special needs and therapy.

We decided to meet again and that meeting led to an interview cum conversation with Reena as part of her YouTube channel. It was great fun doing it as we were on the same page and could relate to each other.

Here are the links to the interview presented in parts on the YouTube Channel:

Anthroposophic approach to parenting
https://youtu.be/RTC68ZQATRA

Waldorf approach to schooling
https://youtu.be/dAyAUeO-b24

Life Rhythms and Children
https://youtu.be/09dxaqsG0nU

Hurried parenting vs Slow parenting
https://youtu.be/PCAi9vqRYKM

Sibling rivalry and how to deal with it.
https://youtu.be/RVtpoZPmFA8

Will keep adding as Reena adds more parts of the interview.

So please watch, like, share and subscribe 😄

Lots of love ,

Nirupama

ABOUT NIRUPAMA RAO

Dear friends,

My name is Nirupama Rao. I’m a psychologist with 24 years of experience in the field of Special Needs and Child Development. I am a mother of 2 girls, 22 and 12.

I have previously run my own Waldorf kindergarten/ Centre for children for special needs called Niraamayaa for five years. I have worked in various school, hospital and NGO settings.

Have authored and published two books:

Parenting- The Art and Science of Nurturing with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS

The Autism Story. A little illustrated fictional booklet.

I love writing and post articles on this blog whenever inspiration strikes on various topics.

I currently work with preschools and with parents of young children with autism, attention, emotional and behavioral issues.

I also conduct awareness workshops for parents, teachers and general public on Autism, Special Needs, Child Development, Waldorf Education, on Conscious, Simplicity and Slow Parenting Styles.

There are many factors that exacerbate attention, sensory and behavioural issues in sensitive children. I educate the parents about these factors and help them to understand how conducive diet, rhythms, lifestyle and environment (physical and emotional), will maximise the potential of their children.

I work with the mothers closely and help them with their anxiety. I handhold the parents and guide and support them through various stages of the child’s development by leading them to the right resources. I believe in long term support.

I help parents see the gifts in their children and together work out ways of strengthening them; to celebrate the uniqueness of the child; to respect and accept differences in the child; and to eventually become their advocates.

I work from my home office at Hiranandani Powai, Mumbai.

I consult by appointment.

Thanks and regards,

Nirupama Rao

Contact:

raonino@gmail.com,

blog: http://www.wordpress.niraamayaa.com

ARISE, AWAKE AND QUESTION

(Especially written keeping in mind the young adults, people who are contemplating marriage and parenthood and parents of young children. This is not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear)

The world has changed a lot more in the last 5 years than it has in the last century.

Ola, Uber, flipkart, Amazon, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Google maps and numerous other apps have significantly changed our lives. Life is going to become increasingly impossible to live without our ubiquitous cell phones that can, incidentally also be used to make calls.

Technology has definitely improved the quality of our lives. It has helped save a lot of money, energy and time. It’s like any other invention like the knife or the atom bomb. It all depends on how we use it.

Netflix has a series called Black Mirror (the ipad, laptop or tablet screen that’s turned off) which projects into the future where technology takes stranger turns and transforms humanity in unimaginable ways. Many works of science fiction have been prophetic and that thought is quite scary!

In fact, even infants have their eyes glued to their gadgets that are stuck to their prams, as mom is busy shopping. Six month old babies don’t eat anymore without watching their favourite cartoon/nursery rhymes on YouTube or listening to their favourite Bollywood number.

My now adult nephew’s friend is earning in Crores by making nursery rhyme animations of questionable quality.

Ten year olds want have their own Youtube channels. Children are not going down to play as much as they used to earlier.

Parents in restaurants are feeding their babies but not before handing them their smart phones to keep them distracted.

You go to any social get together and you find children and adults alike busy with their screens, even relatives who get together after a long, long time. Couples in restaurants are busy looking into their own smart phones instead of looking into each other’s eyes.

Parents are not able to set limits as they are themselves hooked on to it as the IDEA 4G AD says “Look look, India hua hook”

Social networking apps have several people employed only to make sure people are always hooked.

I wonder if there’s an app to measure the number of hours people spend with their phones….(update: yes there are many)

HOW ARE OUR LIFESTYLES AFFECTING US

Given this situation, young children who are affected the most, are speaking less, moving less, playing less. This is giving rise to many issues like speech delay, poor muscle tone, coordination and many sensori-motor disturbances. It’s hard to imagine the repercussions this is going to have in the future.

Just as cardiac problems, hypertension, BP, infertility, cancer and diabetes are called lifestyle diseases among the adult population, children are also exhibiting various lifestyle related symptoms like hyperactivity, low muscle tone, sensory processing disorders, autism like features, speech delay, aggression and so on.

There are 4-5 children with issues in a class of 20 children at a playschool I visit. Since it was too time consuming to talk about the same causes and effects to each parent individually, we decided to address the parents of the whole school regarding these modern challenges faced by today’s children, and in turn, parents and teachers. The talk was surprisingly very well received by the parents who were being swept by the wave of technology and lifestyle. But when this was brought to their awareness, it was like an awakening.

Most of us adults are sleep walking through life, flowing with the current and doing what everybody is doing. As humans, we have individual egos that help us to think independently for ourselves unlike animals that are governed by a group ego and herd mentality. ‘Normal’ is no longer most healthy.

We need to think for ourselves and consciously question our choices, especially when it comes to our children. Is this the best that I can give my child? At every step, we need to question ourselves about the choices we are making. Is this what is good? Will this calm my child or excite him? Do I satiate him immediately or do I deal with the tantrum? Do I spend time with him or do I hand him the I pad?

HOW LIFESTYLES ARE CHANGING

Technology is only one part if the lifestyle changes we are witnessing. The world we live in and how we are living is changing in many different ways. Now let us look at what are the lifestyle aspects that are impacting the true potential of the future generation.

What are we doing differently from the previous generation that is giving rise to issues that they did not face?

  • Increase in the number of vaccinations and antibiotic As we are developing resistance, we need to look for stronger doses! The body is no longer allowed to fight infections on its own. We are reducing natural immunity by resorting to unnatural prevention.
  • The missing family physician that used to listen more, diagnose simply by checking the pulse, and not immediately order a battery of tests. Counseling was part of his job profile. Today there is no time for that. There is no time to lose. We need to get better immediately even if we have to suppress the symptoms- child or grown up.
  • A surge of packaged, instant, refined, fast and processed food in the market. As far from real food as it is possible.
  • Increased use of GMO in agriculture.
  • A sudden flooding of technology into our lives which is becoming increasingly indispensible. Children and adults are equally glued to gadgets, no matter where they are. Some schools have started using gadgets too. Movement and physical activity is reducing.
  • Early start in school and academics: Children are packed off to schools even before they are two (a mistake I admit to making with my elder one and am not proud of it). Children take about 6 years to get ready for school in terms of developing the necessary skills like sitting, focussing, pencil grip and so on. I realised the hard way that feeding young children information too early is detrimental to their physical health and well being. Early start leads to fatigue and burn out. Learning is a lifelong process. Even the elderly people learn. What children under six need to do is play, run, get messy and explore.
  • Lack of regularity in eating and sleeping times and in the rhythms of the day. Even children under 5 are not getting their sleep needs met. It is now normal for children to go to bed anywhere between 10.30 to 12. I have seen children who can’t sleep before 1 am!! Children need to eat early and sleep early.
  • Pollution: all kinds of pollution. Air, water, food, noise, wifi radiation, electro-magnetic waves, you name it.
  • Excesses: there is excess of stimulation- noise, visuals, entertainment, material abundance, food, flavors, sugar, excess of everything. We don’t know where to draw a line and say this is enough. Over-stimulation makes children Hyperactive. Once the stimulants are removed, children calm down. They will not need shadow teachers or go for therapies if healthy practices are adopted right from the word go. we do not need to be entertained all the time. Sometimes it is important to do nothing!
  • Consumerism: businesses go to any extent to make people want to buy their product. It doesn’t matter how the product may affect the gullible people- their body image, their self esteem, their self worth. As long as the product sells, everything is OK.
  • Media boom: Media is everywhere…it constantly keeps telling us who we are, how to think, what to eat, what to wear and gives us information that they want us to have. We are at their mercy completely and we have created these ourselves.
  • Role reversal: Children being only children and the recipients of the abundant resources, they are no doubt the centre of our existence. However unfortunately, the children have been given the control and parents listen to children instead of it being the other way around. Experts say “be their friend” and this has been completely misunderstood. Children need parents who will set the limits for them and handle them with firmness instead of becoming putty at their hands. There is a simple reason for this. We are adults, hopefully with the experience and they are children with apparently no experience to take decisions and make judgments. We have taken up the role and responsibility of being parents and we are not here to relinquish control to the little ones who don’t have the experience to weigh what is good for them and what is not. It is difficult for us to see them cry. We need to learn that sometimes a ‘no’ expresses much more love and concern than a ‘yes’. This is especially true in parenting. Having said that it needs to be balanced with a good measure of love and presence to make it work!!

THE AWAKENING

We need not wait until things go to such a head that we cannot reverse it anymore. I’m not sure how much of it can be reversed even today, but as free thinking independent individuals, we still have our capacity to think for ourselves and make conscious choices wherever it is possible.

People are doing that…and they may be judged for it, but that does not stop anyone from breaking the mould, seeking an alternate way of life. They are awakening in their own unique ways.

People are seeking out alternative medical practices, alternative schools, home births, water births, saying no to vaccinations, going in for veganism and organic food, taking to farming, minimalism, slow food movements, supporting sustainable and humane businesses, breaking gender stereotypes, going for yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices and so on and so forth. People are finding their own individual path and have started believing in natural and holistic lifestyles.

People are truly awakening and are refusing to follow so called ‘normal’ currents.

WHAT CHILDREN NEED

Children need to grow up in calm, simple, uncluttered homes with less toys, with good healthy routines, minimum entertainment, lots of physical activity and maximum time out in nature. They need parents who are warm, loving, playful, in the here and now, who believe that less is more and slow is good and are conscious, ecologically aware and most importantly, trusting. Children who grow up in such homes have better stamina, better resistance to diseases, recover faster from illnesses, are much more calm, grounded, balanced and happy, there is more resilience and are able to bounce back sooner from situations.

Even a child with autism who is brought up in the above-mentioned manner may experience reduced aggression, hyperactivity, sensory issues and will be able to realize his true potential using the gifts that autism brings with it.

Our lifestyle has changed, but the archetypal human nature remains the same across time and space. We are still a product of nature. We are still made of the same elements that makes the rest of the natural world. The more we are in harmony with nature and its rhythms, the more we are in good health- physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Human evolution is not over yet. We are still evolving. The human being is now peaking in terms of intelligence. There’s much more to be achieved intellectually. But what lies beyond human intellect? What direction is our next step in evolution going to take?

It will be interesting to see….until then, let us arise, awake, ask questions and think as the conscious beings that we are! We may still not be perfect and yet to do things the way they need to be done but what is more important is that we are aware and conscious of our actions.

This can be our practical, everyday, living and individualized spirituality.

NIRUPAMA RAO

(Psychologist, Parent Counsellor),

Co Author: Parenting-The Art and Science of Nurturing ( with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS)

Contact: 9987653780, raonino@gmail.com

EDUCATING THE HEART

educating the heart

December 22, 2013

Why should we educate the heart?

Is it possible to educate the heart?

How can we educate the heart?

These are some of the questions that this picture triggered….

Questions I would love to try and answer….

When we ask parents what they want for their children, the most common replies will be that they should be happy, they should do well in life, find their calling, be a good person….

Yet, when it comes to education, it is one sided….the focus is only on making the child smart, successful, better than the others, in other words, competitive. This starts in play group….fancy dress competition, sports, writing, colouring within lines and this will continue in increasing proportion of stress and pressure, for another 20 or so years.

There is a deep underlying fear in the heart of many parents, “there is so much competition…I don’t want my child to be left behind”. The education business cashes in on this insecurity and and promotes early learning.

So yes, the focus is on the education of the head….On filling it with information

Now the question is, what makes a complete human being? Who is a complete human being? What does it mean to be human? What is the meaning of the word ‘humane’

According to oxford dictionary:

  • having or showing compassion or benevolence
  •  inflicting the minimum of pain
  •  intended to have a civilizing or refining effect on people

According to another site (which I liked-http://thinkexist.com/dictionary/meaning/humane/):

  1. (a.) Pertaining to man; human.
  2. (a.) Having the feelings and inclinations creditable to man; having a disposition to treat other human beings or animals with kindness; kind; benevolent.
  3. (a.) Humanizing; exalting; tending to refine.

According to these definitions, this is one of the most important aspects of being born as a Human Being- the capacity to show love and compassion.

Is this aspect being addressed by the education system? Can our current ceducation system that is based on competition, foster the development of compassion and cooperation?

Can we teach our children to put the needs of the others before ours- would we want to do that?

Could we just, for a moment assume that is kind of an education did exist, all the schools in the country practised it, and that it worked. Let us imagine the scenario….these are children who are kind, compassionate, cooperative, humane…putting others needs before themselves, not trying to push others down while trying to climb up, not corrupt, not manipulative, trying to do something for society while making a life for themselves….along with having successful careers!! Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that bring us closer to making our children more human? Isn’t that what we want for our children to be complete, balanced human beings?

This brings us to the next question- is this possible? How?

Let us look at the phrase ‘the education of the heart’. Let us take the word heart and ‘free associate’. Think of all the words associated with it- feeling, love, emotion, soul, rhythm, life, breathing, expansion-contraction.

Hence we can say that the realm of the heart is the realm of the soul, the realm of emotions, the realm of expression, the realm of rhythms- the realm of art, the realm of music, the realm of life- enlivening, bringing things to life…..

So if we can incorporate all the above aspects into education in an inseparable way, the answer to the above question is yes, it is possible to educate the heart.

How?

Through rhythmic activity, movement, music, verses,

through painting, sculpture and any artistic activity

by letting children connect to the lessons through art and creative expression

through stories, images that bring to life dead, abstract concepts,

by connecting lessons to real life experiences that a child can relate to

by making the lessons meaningful through stories and real, living, human examples

By surrounding the children with beauty, by helping children to appreciate art and beauty

As you can see, this is different from art as an extra curricular activity….where there is no connection to what the child is learning, seeing, feeling.

It goes without saying, that when a child learns this way through art and experience, the concept goes straight to heart and then there is no forgetting as the learning process involves the child and it is joyful.

One knows very well how this is done is our country today. Take art, music dance any of the classes. Are these an expression of the soul anymore? Or are they merely intellectualised courses aimed at certificate gathering?

When a child makes a beautiful drawing or a picture today one hears the comment “Oh! She draws so well! Why don’t you send her to art class?” What for? So the teacher can tell her only to use certain colours? To draw within lines? To draw ‘only as I say’? To pass grade exams?

Art helps us humans to connect to ourselves, to understand ourselves, to get to know ourselves. When we can do this, we can understand the other, we can get to know the other, to feel for another, to connect to the other.

So I believe that yes, it is possible to educate the HEART and there are ways to do it as it is already being done in many alternative and spiritually based schools. If we want to create a generation of thinking, caring feeling human beings, we need to incorporate these methods into all schools- not as extra curricular activities but as an intergral, inseparable part of the curriculum.

Here are some examples:

http://www.waldorftoday.com/gallery/Chalkboard+Drawing/ews_chkbrd_art_20.jpg.html – Division

http://www.waldorftoday.com/gallery/Chalkboard+Drawing/ews_chkbrd_art_13.jpg.html – Frac tions

http://www.waldorftoday.com/gallery/Geometric+Drawing/6th+Grade+Geometric+Drawing/ – Geometry

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150104054014375&set=a.10150104053959375.284866.541494374&type=3&theater– solid shapes and other examples

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/184345_10150104055134375_7092701_n.jpg – plant study

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/180941_10150104057599375_3998397_n.jpg – animal study

https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/62705_623301067695477_1870530213_n.jpg – wet on wet painting

Geometry-7 intersecting circlesGeometry-7 intersecting circles

Animal studyAnimal study

Math- SolidsMath- Solids

wet on wet paintingwet on wet painting

FractionsFractions

Math- DivisionMath- Division

Those who are keen to learn more about Humanizing Education through art, music and movement, don’t miss the conference happening in Jan 2016 in New Bombay (http://www.asc-hyd.com/)

So we have so far seen the education of the head (intellect), the heart (emotion) and soon I will also share my bit about the third aspect that makes a human being complete- the education of the hands (will)

Thanks for reading,

Nirupama Rao

ON IMAGINATION

Nov 1, 2014Imagination
Whenever Dr Lakshmi my mentor begins to give a talk, she says “I want you to imagine what I’m going to tell you. Put your rational mind away for a few minutes and just stay with your imagination.” And then she will launch herself into images of spiritual realities- I say realities, that do not exist for a rational mind but could, one day, become truth for someone who is willing to imagine.
I have started to learn that Imagination is a gateway to possibilities.
Only when something exists in imagination- someone’s imagination, can it manifest in reality. Yesterday my husband said that every time he gets on a plane, he marvels about the man who once imagined that he could fly!!
Someone imagined that they could fly.
Someone imagined that they could talk to a loved one who lives on the other side of the world.
Someone imagined that man can go to the moon.
Imagination is the gateway to the truth.
It irks many people that in Waldorf schools, the dolls are made with out facial features. The blackboard drawings are made with utmost simplicity. The stories are told not read. It is now clearer to me than ever before why this is so.
Dr Rudolf Steiner was a spiritual scientist. But he was a practical, spiritual scientist. He was clairvoyant and a jnani who had access to spiritual realities. But he wanted to make sure that spiritual knowledge may not merely stored in the head as information. He wanted it to be applied in the most practical ways.
To understand Steiner’s teachings, we need to use our imagination. We can’t learn from him if we are closed minded or too intellectual.
Having said that he often repeated that one has to experience truth for oneself before you apply knowledge in life. If we do it without understanding, it becomes a dogma. That leads to rigidity.
So coming back to unfinished drawings, dolls, stories and toys, they were made in such a way as to foster children’s imagination. What is not complete, the child completes with her imagination.

So Waldorf schools encourage the faculty of imagination right from kindergarten where the children imagine different emotions on the face of a doll depending on the play or on the emotion that the child is experiencing. Imagine your doll grinning when you are sad!
The children imagine the characters of the story- the setting, the weather and the landscape. There is no right or wrong and there is no limit to a child’s imagination. The teacher paints rich pictures with her words and when she gives plain paper and crayons to the child, all the vivid imagination flows through the child’s hands on to the paper. Children in Waldorf schools are never asked to color a readymade drawing. They are encouraged to draw out of the rich treasury of their imagination.
In older classes, imagination gives way to independent thinking.
Whether in Waldorf grade classes or in our training seminars, there are no ready answers. The answers already exist in us. We need to dig deep into ourselves to find them. In today’s generation, this can be tough!

Yesterday I saw a child on the street clutching a doll. A doll cast away by another child. The doll had no clothes on. It was missing a limb or two and perhaps an eye. But for the little girl, the doll was complete. What was absent, she made it present with her imagination. When this little girl grows up, she may be inspired to turn into reality the life that she will imagine for herself.

When we use our imagination, we will understand that people with disability who, may in a way be incomplete in the physical realm are complete in other subtle ways that can be experienced, but not perceived with senses. There’s more to a human being than just his body. When, aided by imagination we are able to perceive a complete soul and an intact spirit, we begin to see only a difference but not a disability.

This is the reason some teachers cannot see beyond the perceptible reality of who the child with a so called special need appears to be. She can’t see who the child really is, or can be if the teacher’s imagination would allow it. When the teacher complains to the mother about what the child cannot or does not do, the mother cannot accept it, because only the mother and often not even the father, can see the child as a complete human being who is capable of thinking, feeling and doing and being. A teacher who can imagine that the child is complete the way he is, will be inspired to do her best for him and then when her intuition takes over, both the child and teacher can together find new ways of doing things.

When we live with imagination,
It leads to inspiration and
that in turn leads to intuition
where we meet with truth- our own, personal truth.
This is in total antithesis with the Google generation. The generation of instant answers. The generation of Barbie dolls and video games.
We are losing our imagination to smart phones and touch screens.
More than any other time in history, especially a hundred years ago when Steiner spoke about imagination, inspiration and intuition, today is when we really need to foster these qualities in children and in adults so that we can remain in touch with ourselves and to be inspired by nature so with intuition we can get closer to truth and to reality.
For this we need to find time to quietly be with ourselves and listen to the inspiring, intuitive voice that exists within each one of us.
Photo courtesy: http://tillytilda.blogspot.in/2013/06/tilly-tilda-pocket-waldorf-dolls.html?m=1

SPIRITUALITY THAT WORKS

First written on December 5th, 2010

 These days people are a lot more into spirituality….the quest to find the spirit in ourselves…through reading, attending courses, discourses, etc. We are proud to be from a country that gave this world the Vedas and the Gita. We are trying to  understand and apply these laws in our lives again. We have recently come across literature by people like Devidutt Patnaik who are connecting the wisdom of the Gita to the corporate world. In the field of Education, we’ve had gurukuls and veda pathashalas in the past and also in the present but not in mainstream education which is beset with a one sided feeding of information and suppressing human creativity. 

And any spiritual growth that results in self-development but is not used to benefit humanity at large is of little use.

Can we apply a philosophy in one area of life and not in another? If we have made a philosophy our own…no matter which one…can we separate it from who we are and what we do?

Is spirituality limited to self development? Is spiritual growth only limited to doing meditation, kriyas and asanas?

If there is a philosophy that helps us to contribute to humanity as a professional, for instance as a doctor or a teacher, would we be curious or dubious?, if there is a form of education that applies this philosophy in designing its curriculum, would we be ready to consider it?

Many such spiritually inspired educational initiatives came up in the early 20th century from great thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore, Maria Montessori, J Krishnamurthy, Aurobindo, Rudolf Steiner, to name a few.

I am one of those lucky and ever increasing number of people who has come across such an education, called Waldorf Education, which is based on the philosophy which is another form of practical Vedanta. This philosophy is called Anthroposophy, meaning the ‘wisdom of the human being’. This was founded by an Austrian philosopher, a clairvoyant and scientific researcher Rudolf Steiner(1861-1925) who tried and tested the spiritual knowledge to which he was privy. Education, medicine, agriculture, architecture, special education and social therapy,etc., are some of the many areas where the wisdom of our Vedantas is converted into a practical and professional practice.  He says each and everyone of us can be privy to this knowledge through imagination, inspiration and intuition!!

He now has followers all over the world that are grateful to him for showing the path to convert the knowledge of spirituality into a service to humanity through our own professional work, no matter which profession we are into.

My first brush with Anthroposophy was at IPMT (International Postgraduate Medical Training) seminar, Bangalore 2008.

That’s where I started and now, after three years, my life has found a new meaning and a new purpose.

Thanks Steiner Baba!!

Nirupama