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Reflections from My GMF Programme Journey:
Exploring ‘the Familiar’ with a Fresh View
  • In the initial stage of the GMF fellowship programme, I wondered what the programme was really about. As I dived deeper into the 'learning encounters', it became clear to me that this was not only about learning; it was also about radically changing my viewpoints and initiating significant self-development that would have a direct and indirect impact on social transformation, at least at my level.

  • The GMF journey helped me to look back on my own experience that I had not keenly observed, closely reflected on, or mindfully analysed before in my life. It focused on ground-level learning. The primary emphasis was on 'rooting' learning in actual experiences. It fostered in me comprehension of complex realities ("subjects") by helping me explore my experiences deeply and/or by direct interaction with educators, as opposed to getting lost in theoretical abstractions.

Arun Vincent J.

  • The cultivation of compassion was at the heart of what I learned. I was being guided to become a 'compassionate being'. The GMF fellowship offers six interconnected pathways to 'being compassionate'. I began to understand that compassion is not about blindly giving or just doing whatever and whenever one feels like it. It's about how we want to be in the world. I learned that it is the basis for our mindful action for the well-being of the Other. The GMF journey helped me to see that compassion is an active energy that motivates deliberate choices and mindful action for the general well-being of all -- individuals, communities, and Nature.

  • Making sense of the differences between the GMF learning journey and the regular academic course, I can say that, it offered numerous opportunities to learn, to understand or to question deeply and differently. It is a positively disruptive educational process. 

  • As a student of a regular academic programme, an important feature for me is that it involved 'zero lectures' but promoted two-way interactive learning between the fellows and the educators. When highlighting 'learning encounters' that replaced the usual lectures, the GMF learning process puts more emphasis on sharing experiences pertaining to the topic under discussion. Educators, as well as fellows, exchanged ideas, perceptions, and analyses based on their experiences. The educators, of course, mentored, accompanied or guided the co-learning process (as a learner). This approach highlights the method of Paulo Freire -- avoiding the 'banking method' followed mainly in mainstream lectures. The break from the traditional educational "banking method" helped me to realise the transforming power of shared experiences-based collaborative learning.

  • Non-violence and peace, reconciliation, and oppression-free society are the three main pillars that are central in the GMF fellowship journey. These principles were grounded in the fellows' actual lives rather than in theoretical frameworks (offered by books on Gandhi, Mandela and Freire). I encountered and learned about reconciliation, peace, non-violence and an oppression-free state of being from my own lived experience. I recognised Gandhi, Mandela and Freire in those experiences.

  • As part of the GMF learning journey, learning to ask questions and building a 'question bank' were encouraged in the effort to 'reclaim oneself' or 'reclaim one's voice'. Regaining my voice via the skill of questioning was one of the biggest changes I experienced. I developed the skill and habit of questioning about my experiences, about received knowledge, and about the world. This enriching approach also gave me the confidence to interact with the many international educators in the GMF learning journey. It helped me understand their experiences and ideas, too. Creating a 'question bank' became more than just an educational endeavour; it was a means of empowering and self-discovery that allowed me to have meaningful conversations with 'experts' from around the world which broadened my understanding of different viewpoints, different ways of looking at the familiar.

  • When comparing the 'previous me' before joining GMF programme with the 'current me', I can sense a number of obvious as well as subtle changes.

  • An important change that happened to me after joining the GMF programme is that it helped me to nourish my communication and delivery skills in English. The GMF learning journey encouraged the habit of keeping a diary. This helped me to reflect and focus on my-Self, critically. It also allowed me to question my-Self and to find answers from examining my own experience. Dairy keeping strengthened this practice.

  • Thanks to the practice of creating mind maps, I now practice a non-uni-linear way of thinking, which enables me to think in a multi-dimensional way ("3D Thinking").

  • The next major thing that I would like to share is the forest bathing experience. I have understood that entertainment is not only watching TV or playing games. I realised that forest bathing is also a substitute for entertainment, which helped me get away from the congested, stressful system that we all live in. Forest bathing offered me healing 'mind-breaks' and grounding of my senses and body. It is calming and reduces undue stress.

  • As part of the GMF learning encounters, I realised that various things that were believed to be true were not the way they really were. For example, the colour of the leaf was chosen by Professor Jinan for an important exercise in the first learning encounter. The colour is 'normatively' given as green, but if we explore the real and experiential world, green is not the only colour -- there are many shades of green as well as many other colours. Many of us learn the 'word', not the 'world'. We live in an 'inter-texual' world of words/concepts. We need to immerse ourselves in the eco-social world to deeply connect with it and know it in its diversity and richness. This practical exercise helped me to experience the familiar in altogether a new way.

  • Another important aspect of the GMF journey is the social, spiritual, and ecological aspects. These three important elements were discussed throughout the GMF journey. We human beings arrogantly consider ourselves the only social creatures. We don't consider other beings in the same way. We consider ourselves superior to other beings. I have deeply understood that we are part of the ecology, too, deeply interconnected.  This also helped me to make sense of inequality, racism or casteism.

  • Another big realisation that I had during the GMF journey was spirituality. At first, I thought it was only related to religion, but after my forest bathing experience, I have understood that it is related to Nature too. I have deeply felt spiritual stirrings while entering and experiencing the forest similar to the experience of entering and experiencing the Church. 

  • Recognising' dominant narratives' has helped me understand the role of narratives in my life and their influence on my decisions, emotions and actions. I understood that I live by unexamined 'social scripts' given to me by the family, religious community, political community, school, college, and friendship circles. They define what is 'normal', not necessarily what is right or good or just. Understanding dominant narratives helped me change my normal way of thinking and acting. For example, as I went through the GMF journey, I realised that dominant narratives around the "social" have excluded many critical realities as I am now learning to see the world as an eco-socio-spiritual reality.

  • Though there are many more observations and learnings I would like to share, let me conclude here. For me, critically the GMF learning journey offered an understanding of the familiar from fresh and unique viewpoints. It  comprised of a series of innovative eco-socio-spiritual transitions within a larger learning journey, initiating self- and social transformation. For me, hopefully, the journey will continue.

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