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Love and Light

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Messy Play & Spirituality

A few years ago I attended a retreat with our then 6 month old son. It was without a doubt a spiritually uplifting event but one of the thoughts that I left with was would I be able to attend such an event again...

During the event I witnessed many mothers, and fathers alike, either trying to console their little ones that the talk would soon be over, or standing in the corridor watching their children running from one end to the other. Exasperated looks on their faces, whilst apologising to those who walked past about the noise the children were creating!

A year went past, we attended our local Sai centre, and our son started to walk and with that came the inevitable. Mother or father leaving the room mid-bhajan and standing in the corridor whilst our little monkey explored the area around him!

So I missed out on attending the National retreat last year but consoled myself that it would have been a nightmare to manage a 2 year old at the event. Not long after the retreat I heard that parallel to the adult sessions, activities had been organised for the children. I thought what a brilliant idea this was and was even more pleased to hear that such activities would be organised for the 2013 National Retreat organised by the SSE wing of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation.

With this information we decided our family would be able to attend the retreat this year.

On arrival in Llandudno we were provided with the programme information for the children. At the very least I expected to see that we would be provided a room in which may be the children would be given a few items such as paper and paint to keep themselves occupied. This was not the case. We were greeted with a packed schedule with every aspect of the children’s needs thought off!

Yoga for the early risers, to a visit to the farm….what else could the children ask for! This was in keeping with the theme for the retreat, and the sessions captured the children’s imaginations.

The Art session started with story-telling inspiring the children to create a ‘seascape’. The children were equipped with colouring tools of all kinds, pens, glitter and wobbly eyes… it was like messy play at nursery! Surrounded by the sea, loving ‘teachers’ who then took the children out to the beachside to collect inspiration for their wonderful works of art, the activities began with great enthusiasm and excitement.

After a meal ‘fit for a child’…which child doesn’t love pizza and chips, the children and the lucky parents were taken to a fabulous farm for the afternoon. Reputation preceded the group, as the farmer remembered the group from last year, collected us in his tractor and allowed us to take snacks onto the farm for the children, as I understand this is not usually permitted. In a fantastic setting the children ran around to their hearts content under the watchful eye of the parents and helpers, some of them with boundless energies themselves… a sister ready to climb the obstacle course in a saree?!

After dinner the children went to sleep allowing the adults to enjoy the evening ahead….no over tired children, running their parents round the bend, in sight!

The next morning the seascape theme continued in the form of rhythm, melody and dance. Again the beautiful sisters performed the role of teachers and got the children, even the reluctant older boys in the group to perform a wonderful dance piece. The children’s session concluded with an acknowledgement of their efforts in the form of certificates received by the children on stage from the chief guest Sri Rathnakar.

The feedback session at the event was hugely positive from the children and the parents who accompanied them. Huge thanks to an amazing team. The commitment, dedication, meticulous planning and last but not least the love of the people who organised it shone through.

It was certainly ‘messy play’ but the children learnt about unity, co-operation and friendship, all part of the central theme for the retreat, ‘harmony and bliss’. There was no exasperated parent in sight, only bliss from having spent a weekend with our beloved Swami.

Our family have already put our names down for next year’s retreat!

Mrs Nashita Suren
Parent
Region 1