There are one or two questions I dread being asked when I go to the West this summer. And right at the top of the list is that hardy perennial, “How is Auroville doing?”
It's well-meaning, of course, and often represents genuine concern for what's happening here. But it also assumes that Auroville is essentially “out there”, that the community's progress can be accurately assessed on the basis of how well the major work groups are doing, how many new buildings are coming up, how much money is flowing into the Central Fund etc.
But think about it. Here we have over 1800 people drawn from 40 different nations. Each individual, if we are to believe Mother, has been drawn here for a special purpose, each is engaged, either consciously or unconsciously, on a very personal journey which also impacts upon and influences others – a bewildering web of interconnections. And working through all this is a Force, infinitely wise, which takes up now this element, now that one, moulding, excising, pressing, releasing, as the infinite complexity and richness of Auroville unfolds.
Given this, who but a fool would attempt to diagnose the state of Auroville's collective health?
And yet....sometimes through the haze we seem to glimpse something new, a realignment of energies which may ultimately lead to a fundamental shifting of the community's tectonic plates.
This summer, for example, there are a number of initiatives which share a different way of looking at things. There are the ‘Dreamcatchers' who continue to meet on a different Auroville roof every Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. – a considerable achievement in itself, given that they recommend the cycle over the internal combustion engine as a means of transport. “In its essence,” explains David the main organizer, “Dreamcatchers is an open forum for furthering the manifestation of Mother's Dream through the elaboration of the Galaxy Plan....the core focus at present is to call those relevant parameters (be they new or old, conservative or revolutionary, grounded or surreal) and to formulate pertinent questions regarding the architectural, planning, psychological and spiritual implications of the creation of a yogic city.
“Dreamcatchers aims to achieve this by reconnecting to that spirit and aspiration which called each one of us here, and hopefully through these efforts, begin to tease out those ideals and visions common to us all.”
Meanwhile Ange has revived the ‘Platform' concept as an alternative means of community discussion and decision-making. She explains that the platform idea diffuses power and control by empowering everybody who takes part. Participants are asked to bring their highest consciousness to the meetings and to stay with the process from beginning to end. They are also asked to speak from personal experience. A talking stick is used to ensure that whoever is speaking feels they can express themselves in their own way without interruption.
It's still early days, but Ange is already struck by how the Platform has already brought together Aurovilians who have not always seen eye-to-eye in an atmosphere of joyful collaboration.
In April, a small group of Aurovilians and friends made a 10 day retreat in Hampi. The purpose, in the words of their report, was “to explore the possibilities and potential for creating fields of resonance between people. The impulse arose from a sense that there is so much more potential, richness and joy in working together in groups than we normally experience here in Auroville.... In the interest of becoming more truly able and joyful in our visioning and working toward Auroville's manifestation together, our intent was to create a space in which to explore the conditions that allow each individual to bring their full being, wisdom and creativity into the collective space.”
Setting aside the rather new-age jargon, what was impressive in their feedback session was the evident affection and appreciation the retreat group felt for each other. However, it hadn't all been roses. The first three days had been particularly difficult as they worked on basic guidelines, but once these had been agreed – and one of the guidelines was to work with whatever issues came up – the group felt they reached a new level of understanding with each other which allowed each of them to be more fully themselves while generating a huge wave of collective energy. As one of them put it, “At that moment, we could have done anything.”
Finally, and least publicly, a small group has continued to spend Tuesday afternoons listening to the life stories, dreams and daily concerns of individual Aurovilians. The ‘listening group' is just that. It doesn't judge, argue or try to win debating points. It simply provides a safe space for Aurovilians to express themselves in any way they wish and be attentively listened to over a period of 2-3 hours, something that most Aurovilians have never experienced before. The sessions are sometimes moving, never less than interesting.
Four summer initiatives, each independent of the other yet displaying common features – the reaching for a higher consciousness, the creation of a safe space, the opportunity to speak one's personal truth and be listened to, respect for different perspectives – all premised upon trust in the individual, in the group process, and, ultimately, in the magic of this place.
Straws in the wind? Who knows? But, they might, just might, represent new blood – maybe even a new blood type – flowing through the veins of our organization which some of us feel is becoming increasingly thrombotic.