GOING FROM PHILOSOPHY TO APPLICATION IN JOYFUL LIVING
I used to call myself a wanna-be hippie who missed the boat. Born in 1964 to a French Canadian father and American mother, it was too late for the Woodstock ride. Recently a friend teased me because I dared to say out loud on a steamy hot day here in Auroville: “I love air conditioning!”
You see, I have aspired my whole life to be as close to consciousness, peace and love as I could be. As a six-year-old child, I watched my mind say one day: “See this thinking going on in your head – you are the thing watching it. You have always been and will always be.” Then I spent the rest of my life trying to figure out how to embody that knowledge in a practical way. I see that many of us seekers and aspirants have been working solidly to put that puzzle together. How do you go from philosophy to the living application?
While studying at the University of Minnesota, I worked at a big spiritual bookshop in Minneapolis. Passionately, I guided our patrons to all the sections of the store. I was also a volunteer for the Continuum Centre, a sister organisation to Noetic Science where, in the early 80s, we brought in the latest speakers on consciousness research. I watched an unfolding of a larger society trying to outline what to do, now that we know there is much more to us than meets the eye.
Soon, at the university I met our new volunteer coordinator, and my future husband, Daniel Greenberg. At that time he was researching for his doctorate in education. A year later, his thesis work would be on children’s alternative schooling in intentional communities. I was a producer for a small video company downtown and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop a documentary on what used to be called communes. We traveled in our Volkswagen bus across the United States and Canada for eight months while I interviewed dozens of middle-age communitarians and created a film called: ‘Follow The Dirt Road: An Introduction to Intentional Communities’.
During this adventure, I experienced society’s fringe fully and saw people’s commitment to ecological sustainability, equitable leadership, resource sharing, and group spiritual habits. I loved being in those wilds: planting trees, cutting carrots, talking enlightenment and the age of cooperation.
While traveling, we stayed at ‘The Farm’ with Ina May Gaskin, known as the grandmother of natural birth in North America. There, her midwifery partner, Pamela said: “you should be a midwife”. The idea thrilled me but it felt like it was still something for older, wiser women.
The following year we looked for inspiring places for Daniel’s practicum and wrote to communities all over the world. In response, The Findhorn Foundation in Scotland invited us to work with their children and teenagers. So off we went. I reveled in being in this magical community of 300 people on the edge of the North Sea where we held hands before community meals, attuned together before work, and had group tea breaks for bonding time during our shifts.
I cherished gardening in the world-renowned Park Garden. Work was called “love in action” and I certainly felt that. Our children and team programs were rich with meaningful experiences and exchanges. I was learning how a community can govern itself from spiritual attunement and experienced how members support each other in conscious evolution. Once, while sitting in the dining hall at a table with a bunch of pre-schoolers, I noticed how I loved the feeling of being in my rightful place and helping to serve the community. The parents, who were my chefs, accountants and maintenance crew, were sitting at other tables enjoying themselves, knowing that their children were being well cared for by me. That sense of belonging and doing what was mine to do in a community setting was a striking feeling of fulfillment.
While we lived at Findhorn, we witnessed a few university student groups who were brought over for study abroad programs. We watched them inside this setting of deep connection and meaning where they were bathed in the profound ethics that included the care of each other and the tending to the soul. We saw them “pop”. Their transformation into becoming more awake beings was exciting and beautiful as we had experienced it ourselves over the past couple of years. Impressed with this kind of work, Dan took the phone number of Bruce, one of the leaders who had guided the students to the community.
Then came the time when we watched a slideshow presentation by Dhanya on a community called Auroville. Our jaws dropped. So much of what we held dear was on that red-soil land that had been transformed by the kind of values and beliefs that we treasured. We wondered, when would we get to go there?
We returned to the US so that Dan could defend his dissertation and then went traveling again to find our new home. While we were camping in a national park on the Rio Grande, I made an invocation to the Divine to give me my mission, now that Daniel had completed a phase of his. After so much dynamic human intimacy, I did not want to go back to my old editing room life.
The next day we were sitting naked in a hot spring and out of nowhere, another young couple asked to join us. Within the first minutes of introduction, the young woman said she was going to a birthing place in El Paso and she would be witnessing women delivering their babies for 24 hours. She was looking into enrolling in the midwifery program in this three-bedroom house on the Tex-Mex border. I blurted out: “I wanna come!”
I joined her and as soon as I stepped into the home, I knew I would be coming there to train. A few months later I was learning how to catch babies and the art and science of midwifery. This birthing house was infused with Heart and Spirit. At night, after another birth that was more like a sacred family fiesta, I would stand in the backyard under the stars praying that the universe would feel my gratitude.
During these months, Daniel was working at odd jobs in the Bay area. One day, he reached into his pocket and found the old piece of paper with the phone number of Bruce, that director of a student program in Findhorn. Dan called him and soon Bruce asked him if he would like to co-lead on a long study trip to Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in France, called Plum Village, then up to the Findhorn Foundation, and then over to Auroville for the greater portion of the semester. This was so exciting! I prayed this was going to be our life.
For a few years in the mid-nineties, we were faculty with dozens of learners, all eager to soak in everything that Auroville could teach on a program that was called ‘Geocommons’. Leading groups to Auroville opened me up even wider to the possibilities for this world. Eventually, we inherited the program and it grew into ecological semesters abroad in communities worldwide, under the name ’Living Routes’. The students came from a variety of American universities and received academic credits through the University of Massachusetts for four courses during their time of studying and working in Auroville and other ecovillages. ‘Living Routes’ offered classes in sustainability, spirituality, community dynamics, communication and permaculture. Our students interned in a variety of Auroville units such as farms, schools and ecological technology centers. We started our days with earnest group sharing and teaching. Our cohort became very close while students blossomed on Auroville land.
Auroville showed these young people what can happen when humans come together, steward the earth while pursuing their vision of growing in consciousness. The students were introduced to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and loved sitting in contemplation at the Matrimandir. They grew in so many different ways in their months here – it was a thrilling and profound experience that shaped their lives.
Our student groups kept coming to Auroville for 19 years, and we were determined to come back to live in Auroville ourselves. Finally, in 2019 our eldest child went off to college and this left us in a position to be able to move here. Our youngest daughter is very happy with her choice to attend Last School. The plan was to develop another program like ‘Living Routes’ from this end in Auroville. So we packed up our home and came to live.
Before leaving North America, Auroville Midwife Paula Murphy invited me to work at MorningStar Midwifery Services out of Santé, Auroville Institute for Integral Health.
During my Living Routes years, I completed my M.Ed in Integrative Education for adults, with research on what empowers transformation.
In January 2020, we piloted a program for adults to come to experience Auroville for a few weeks. Shortly after they left, we began preparing for our next project of bringing over groups of students, but then Covid struck and India was in lockdown. The program was shelved for better days.
I continue to serve in Auroville as a midwife and support our birth team to create a holistic birth center with the vision of bringing to it all that is known about consciousness in birth practices.
For the new families here, I teach hypnobirthing, waterbirth, mindfulness birth, auto-suggestion, and a variety of psycho-spiritual approaches to bringing in souls to the world.
I’m especially passionate about the transformative and awakening potential of childbirth.
I envision our MorningStar Birth and Family Centre as a place to prepare mothers and fathers for higher consciousness partnering.
We study how to be more mindful in parent communication and relating. I’ve created and taught a few workshops on relationships here, as things change with the arrival of children.
During my newcomer year, I had begun a radio show with my mentor, B. Sullivan, whom I had met years ago, and our conversations reflected on what was developing in Auroville and where things could be headed. I’ve also co-created Youth Forward, a 3-day event aimed at the empowerment of young Aurovilians to think about their place in Auroville, their contribution and leadership.
Recently, I attended a couple of meetings, one to develop a new Residents Assembly framework and another with the Santé Health Care team. These meetings seeking to work out better systems of functioning are inspiring.
There are so many ways to be of service to this growing city. I want to bring all that I have to help expand the vision of the possible on Earth.
I am constantly noticing what jazzes me about living in Auroville, and what a gift it is to the planet. I see Auroville as a research and demonstration site for a world that dearly needs to see this transformation of the land into beauty and the gathering of diverse people striving toward higher states while being together. Nowadays there is more scientific research on the nature of consciousness and the workings of spiritual practices like meditation and wishing well on others. Auroville strives to bring those understandings more into co-operative daily life.
This charged place feels like a leverage point on the earth, a place where the efforts will reverberate far and wide. It’s an amazing feeling to live with others who are looking in the same direction of bettering the world and its inhabitants in as many ways as they can imagine. I love the closeness to others I sense when going to yoga, dance sessions or aerial trapeze. I am growing exponentially in this environment of mutual support.
After two years of volunteering here, I’ve just been confirmed as an Aurovilian. I have deepened numerous friendships and have been able to stay in close contact with and support the young families I work with here.
I wake up every morning counting my blessings for being in Auroville and fully enthused for the day ahead – evolving consciousness while walking on the red soil. My eternal six-year-old self is smiling with all that is embodied here in this ‘City The Earth Needs’.
Auroville, October 2021