I would like share some of my personal experiences of Quest trek that I participated as a psychologist on behalf of TPO Nepal. I went on 5 day trek with coaches of Mountain Child Care and children & adult companions of Hamro Gaun. Quest Trek was about taking children on trek guiding them to come out of their physical and psychological comfort zones and helping them to develop their personal development plans. Mark and Marianne, core facilitators, Elina Nakarmi, Social Development Specialist, Sudeep Lingthep, social worker did the good job of facilitation from Mountain Child Care. The adult companions/staffs from Hamro Gaun took care of children and made them feel comfortable throughout the program. I talked with all the 14 children on the one-on-one basis exploring various aspects of their motivation and their dreams/plans for the future. Mountain Child Care used the theoretical framework of Theory U by Dr C. Otto Scharmer (http://www.theoryu.com) to facilitate the program. This theory is based on the experience that “all great discoveries come out of a great inner journey”.
DAY 1: LISTENING/SEEING!
Theory U: voices of judgement/open mind
According to Theory U, The foundational capacity of the U is listening. Listening to others and oneself in true sense is the foundation. We may call it using different terms such as “active listening”, “empathic listening”, “effective listening” and so on. Effective listening requires the creation of open space having the open mind to which others can contribute to the whole. The capacity to suspend the “voice of judgment” is key to moving from projection (mental activity affected by our past experiences) to true observation (simply what is). This is the state of Open Mind.
11 April 2011. The first day of the trek! Children were very much excited and showed a lot of enthusiasm. The activity started on the entrance of the park. This was probably the toughest day. Children were instructed to walk uphill with the word PERSEVERANCE and contemplating upon it.
We took the break and had our packed lunch at about 3 pm. Activities continued. The participants exchanged in two groups what the word perseverance meant to them and the voices that they encountered and feelings that arose on the way uphill. We also exchanged the personal experiences of the periods in our lives when we really needed perseverance. There were exercises feeling different intentions of listening (Theory U: downloading and open mind). Mark and Marianne demonstrated and the children practised following that. They looked each other in the eyes with the energy of the instruction, without talking. Both felt what happened, how it was and the observer observed.
Continuing with the trek, children were asked to think about their burning question. Each one walked thinking about most important question that they are facing at the moment in their lives. We stopped at Chisapani, we stayed a night over there. Children did journal writing, theatre play and meditation before they went to sleep. Boys were playing guitar and singing songs. Girls were having fun talking about the day. Mare was playing with all of them in turn.
DAY 2: OBSERVING/SENSING!
Theory U: voices of cynicism/open heart
The preparation for the experience at the bottom of the U—presencing—which requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. It all starts with an open mind. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole. The challenge at this stage is the voices of cynicism which warns us against opening hearts and going towards open will. It creates self-doubt, pessimism and tries to draw us back into the patterns that our lives are used to. Open Heart enables to overcome the voices of cynicism.
12 April 2011. The day started with doing yoga, sharing dreams and writing them down in the journal. Before continuing with the trek, children played with Game of Trust: in couples, one person was blindfolded and the other one led him/her by touching the shoulder, the elbow and finally with the finger tip.
This time children were instructed to walk downhill contemplating upon the word TRUST. We had a lunch in Chipling and children did journal writing. Another game, Game of Trust: falling exercise was played in which one had to fall from the height on the net of hands of friends ready to save the person. I also played the game and I had a chilling feeling when I had to fall down, it made me feel it is so hard to trust oneself and others when one is in risk. But after falling and being supported by others, we feel good and the trust slowly builds up. Trust begins from oneself.
After that there were exercises feeling different intentions of listening (Theory U: open mind and open heart). Mark and Marianne demonstrated and the children practised following that. They looked each other in the eyes with the energy of the instruction, without talking. Both felt what happened, how it was and the observer observed.
We arrived at Lodge in Golphu Banjyang when we finish the walk for the second day. Children did journal writing, and practised theatre play. They did the meditation inside the monastery before they went to sleep.
DAY 3: LETTING GO/PRESENCING!
Theory U: voices of fear/open will
Presencing is the capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will that allows the future to emerge from the whole rather than from a smaller part or special interest group. At the bottom of the U, individuals or groups on the U journey come to a threshold that requires a “letting go” of everything that is not essential in order to overcome the voices of fear and pursuing the dreams and aspirations. Open Will gently guides us to the way we have always wanted to take on but have been always fearful until now due to various reasons.
13 April 2011. The day started with doing yoga very briefly affected by the adverse weather, sharing dreams and writing them down in the journal. From the start, the children were instructed to be in silence until noon and only talk when necessary.
Children were instructed to continue walking contemplating upon the words LETTING GO. “What do you definitely want to LET GO?” The children left one by one with 3 min. intervals and walked in silence till big rocks close to Kutumsang. The whole group gathered at big rocks close to Kutumsang and they received a piece of paper on which they wrote what they definitely want to let go. Upon arriving at Kutumsang, the group participate in the fire ritual. They share what they have written in the paper and what they want to let go from themselves, they went close to fire, put the paper on it and observed the flames engulfing what they wanted to let go. Feeling relief they returned back to their positions. I let go the failures that I have had in the past. I know there is much to do in life and if I keep holding them, there will not be any space to accommodate the new ones that are on my way. We learn by making mistakes and from failures. A lesson must be learned and we must let them go.
Children again play Game of Trust: falling exercise. One girl was terrified and she started crying after falling. She was taken to a silent place immediately and comforted by the adult companion. After that there were exercises feeling different intentions of listening (Theory U: open will). Mark and Marianne demonstrated and the children practised following that. They looked each other in the eyes with the energy of the instruction, without talking. Both felt what happened, how it was and the observer observed.
Later in the afternoon, children took part in the guided visualization session. They sat down in a comfortable position with closed eyes and were guided through visualization for half an hour. They were told a story which they had to visualize and decide which door to open (from two choices/doors) to move on in their lives. One door gives way to easy life, current life whereas the other one gives way to the life one has always dreamed of but it is tough.
Children did journal writing, theatre play and meditation before they went to sleep. Midnight quest was cancelled due to the adverse weather. We missed it!
DAY 4: LETTING COME/CRYSTALLIZING!
Theory U: Link to the future that wants to emerge through you
Intensity & Power of the Intention. When a small group of key persons commits itself to the purpose and outcomes of a project, the power of their intention creates an energy field that attracts people, opportunities, and resources that make things happen. This core group functions as a vehicle for the whole to manifest. It helps to crystallize the goals and let come the desired outcomes. The reality is now manifested with letting come into the field of awareness.
14 April 2011. As usual, the day started with practising yoga, sharing dreams and writing them down in the journal. This day was the one of the most important days of Quest Trek program. Children took part in Walk of Life in which they are guided to plan and dream what they want to become. They imagined and went ahead of the time mentally year-by-year for 5 years and they shared their dreams and aspirations. They narrated in detail the events they envisioned of the next 5 years till they accomplished their personal missions. Each child participated in this activity alone guided by the coaches. Following that, I sat down with them one by one to talk about their feelings and experience of ‘Walk of life’. I attempted to explore their sources of motivation and invited them to share their dreams for the future. Some reluctant children also opened up and expressed their feelings freely which gave me a sense of satisfaction. They shared their ambitions. Children want to become footballer, engineer, architect, nurse (3 of them), dancer (2 of them), air hostess, tourist guide, social worker (2 of them), pharmacist and computer engineer. Some children are very clear about their goals in their lives where as some of them are still not very clear about it. They are confused and unsure of their aims because of the various reasons, some of which are beyond their personal control such as economic matter. Most of them think being successful in achieving their goals will make their family happy. They emphasised a lot upon the importance of family. Some expressed commitment to return back support to children’s home Hamro Gaun when they become able to do so. I was especially interested to know whether their goals were intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. I twas mixed, for most of the children it was both extrinsic and intrincisc. Some were found to be caught in dilemmas about their plans.
Children did journal writing, theatre play and meditation before they went to sleep. Today the children also compose a song to perform when they return to their home. Today was the New Year (2068 BS) Day. Dancing in the sounds of madal was fun and rejuvenating. Sudeep did the great dance and encouraged others. Late midnight sitting around the camp fire, Elina, Sudeep and me discussed about the program and our personal experiences. It felt very good to have such a candid talk with them.
DAY 5: CRYSTALLIZING/ PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN!
Theory U: Vision and intention
Access the power of intention integrating head, heart and hand. Moving down the left side of the U requires the group to open up and deal with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side requires the integration of thinking, feeling, and will in the context of practical applications and learning by doing. This is called Prototyping or co-creating.
15 April 2011. The last of the trek. Children were still excited and full of energy.
Children worked on their personal development plan and wrote in detail in their journals about the following questions:
Personal Development Plan:
– What is your aim in life and work in 5 years?
– What is your special talent that will help you realizing this aim?
– What are your strengths?
– What qualities do you need to develop to reach your aim?
– Describe step by step how to reach this goal, use your walk of life experience?
– What obstacles do you see on your path towards your aim?
– What helpers do you have to reach your aim?
– When given a chance, in which line of work would you like to follow a traineeship?
Children went to the silent places and worked on their personal development plans with the help of questions above. Before continuing the trek for the last few hours, they finished writing in detail in their journals are important for their coaching and traineeship (the next two phases of MCC talent development program).
We arrived and had lunch at Melamche. After that, the private bus came to pick us there. Finally, at 5 we reached to Hamro Gaun, the children’s home. There children did the threatre play and performed the original song they had composed for the audience there who were there to welcome them back to their home.
Children were very disciplined and at their best behavior most of the times. On the third day, we talked about the ‘social desiriability bias’ among the children, the tendency to respond in a socially accepted manner and not exposing negative feelings. For the first two days,we had the feeling that most of the children were discussing the matters on the surface so, we made an effort to go in-depth. The first two days were also physically very tiring so, they later said to me that they actually had very little time to think deeply. Discussing in small groups and later on individual basis helped a lot.
Children enjoyed the trekking a lot and it was a good break for them from the usual routine life at the home. For me too, it was a nice break from my normal and usual life back in Kathmandu. Instead of reading tweets on my mobile, i was listening to the natural tweets of the birds in the woods which were actually more refreshing than the information-loaded online tweets via twitter. While on the trek, my mind was like almost rid of the automatic thoughts that i have back here in Kathmandu. Late at nights, it was always interesting to talk with Sudeep and listen to his interesting stories (personal experiences) before going to sleep. I enjoyed the company of Sudeep very much, who is a very talented young man.
One coach expressed dissatisfaction over how she had not been able to feel connected with the children during the trek. We came across the attachment issue. Some children seemed to be very much attached to Hamro Gaun which is okay but at the same time, there is a need to prepare the children psychologically for becoming independent after SLC. Hamro Gaun has been able to provide them with them with good facilities to prepare themselves for the future. One boy who had just given SLC and took part in ‘Walk of Life’ felt so much insecure and fearful of having to leave the home and go to Kathmandu for his higher studies. On the other hand, some children expressed excitement about going to Kathmandu and continuing with their studies.
There is also need for counseling for children. Some children had emotionally difficulties having to live away from their families and real homes. There were some children who had diffculty expressing themselves. It is advisable to identify the children having psychosocial difficulties and referring them to counsellors.
5 days is a short period of time however, it was a good initiative to help the children to work upon their personal development plans. It would be great to see the outcomes of the program guiding them properly through the next two phases: coaching and traineeship.
Route: The trekking route was Sundarijal-Chisapani-Golfu Vanjyang-Kutumsang-Gyalthang-Melamchi. Professional guides Tek and Kaji and assisted by 6 other helpers helped us with the proper management throughout the trek.
Acknowlegment: I would like to thank Jamuna Maharjan and Renee Gerritzen from TPO Nepal for this wonderful opportunity to work with children and Mountain Child Care.
http://www.theoryu.com THEORY U: LEADING FROM THE FUTURE AS IT EMERGES (Summary overview)