It’s time to share a little bit about one of the main treasures of education I found here in Auroville. Auroville is a city with so many initiatives, so many schools, proposals, activities, that it is impossible to know everything and even more impossible to go deeper on it with such short time!
Awareness Through the Body, or ATB, as all affectionately refer to it here, is a program developed in 1992 for schools in Auroville, with the aim of “help children to increase their attention, concentration and relaxation capacities, and to develop their self-awareness and sense of responsibility.”
Currently the program is also offered for adults and is present in all Auroville schools, in a curriculum ranging from kindergarten through high school. Can you imagine the impact on a child’s life, who is systematically stimulated to increase concentration, attention and relaxation, from the age of 4 until 17 years? I can tell you that what I saw here is quite impressive. The video above can help you get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Through a very diverse range of games, materials and activities, ATB classes are a success among children here and help individuals to increase their self-knowledge, explore the complexity of their beings and harmonize all of this complexity in alignment to their truest inner self.
Francesco, one of the ATB educators I met in Kindergarten, highlighted a very important point to understand this program. “Notice that it is not body awareness, it is awareness through the body. The central point is awareness. The body is only the chosen tool to work the consciousness.” And I think in that statement lies the reason why I felt that ATB is something very special, and unlike any ‘body-awareness’ activities I’ve ever seen in schools.
The body is “only” the instrument chosen to develop awareness with children, since they are very young. Awareness of themselves, awareness of the others and awareness of the whole. The word “only” deserves a very large quotation mark, because I do not think that any other instrument chosen could allow this work as well as the body. The body is a medium that we all have, it is our home on this earth and in this life. The body carries the function of the senses and allows the capture of the concrete reality of all things through the sense organs. It is an element of extreme importance for human development because it allows the direct and clear perception of reality and for being the concrete means of relation with the world.
Psychology brings the body as an extremely important element for human development, being the field where everything is expressed and in which the human soul is manifested. It is the perceptions expressed and felt in the body that, in a way, rescue and manifest the entire history of the individual and the collective. The psychologist A. Maslow affirmed that human being necessarily presupposes the unity of body and soul, the intersection between matter and spirit or matter and mind. The manifestation of one without the other would not characterize a human being. Some millennial philosophies, such as Buddhism, already put the exploration of the manifestations present in the body as the way to the understanding the Truth.
Well, it is very beautiful to see the fun way this is worked out here in schools, with beautiful and simple materials, with lots of fun, with many new things every week. In kindergarten, which is the environment I work here, children love it and learn to control and observe their own bodies. In high school, after having worked on this for so long, it is possible to see young people being able to walk through a large room full of obstacles blindfolded, without bumping into anything (climbing stairs, hanging on ropes).
It is a very special treasure offered by the schools here that it is very difficult to share in words, because it is based entirely on practical experience. But for all educators open to working the body as a means of learning and development, I definitely recommend knowing a little more about ATB curriculum!
The website of the program has some information (link). In addition there is a wonderful book in English, Spanish or French (link to physical book and link to Amazon ebook), including many practical activities to replicate anywhere with different age groups. And the latest good news is that some ATB trainers are planning to go to South America to give some workshops! 🙂 Anyone who wants to know more can follow here.
Let us remain attentive and close to our bodies. 🙂