When your work is a way of life, new circumstances help you get creative. During the COVID-19 lockdown of last year, Aurovilians Suryamayi and Francesco pooled their energy to bring the powerful tool of Awareness Through the Body to a wider audience. Through an online video course, these facilitators guide you through a spate of ATB practices to help you get a first taste of the power of ATB. We spoke to them about their first-of-a-kind project.
Learning Through the Body
ATB is a set of practices for connecting to the different parts of the being – the mental, the vital, the physical, and the psychic. It was created in Auroville by Aloka and Joan to help us explore how we relate to our inner and outer worlds. Different from many traditional forms of meditation it also involves a more dynamic part of life; there is no division between when you are meditating and when you are doing other things. ATB practitioners train to observe themselves in action, their emotions, their physicality, to access and understand their inner world in relation to the outer. As Francesco describes it: “We come into the world without an instruction manual. ATB helps you to find it.”
Francesco and Suryamayi are part of a new generation of ATB facilitators building their own relationships with the practice and bringing it to a new audience. For Francesco, he was already focused on the body in his life pre-Auroville, as he used to be a professional snowboarder. “Extreme sports are very much mind-body related because you need all sorts of concentration, you need a lot of visualisation, and emotional management – the physical action is then the product. That’s similar to how ATB works, it’s awareness through the body. So ATB is quite natural to me. I did things in my childhood that later I figured out were ATB exercises.”
For Suryamayi, who grew up in Auroville and who has been immersed in ATB since early childhood, the effect of ATB is hard to overstate. “It’s really a part of who I am, an awareness of my state of being, the different parts of myself. It’s like a second nature. What it offers me is just an unshakeable knowledge that I can find center within myself. I can find a point of stillness and harmony and connectedness to something deeper. When I look around me, I see that that is not an innate thing.”
Sharing a Treasure Trove
As young ATB facilitators, enthusiasm to bring ATB to a wider audience drove their latest project. While ATB is popular worldwide, it’s not always so accessible to people outside of India, as the workshops and immersives mostly take place in Auroville. Especially with the impact of COVID-19, travelling here can be complex. Suryamayi, for one, “had never thought of facilitating ATB online, but it feels really important to me to make the ATB practice more available in these times. Because it has so much to offer – we have this amazing treasure trove.” In collaboration with Auroville Consulting, they found the platform and skills to make high-quality videos that communicate the beauty of ATB to the world.
However, bringing ATB online is not as easy as it sounds. Many of the practices don’t translate well in the online setting as they require us to be physically engaged in a group – the one thing that the internet does not allow for. Francesco is the first to admit that we can’t get the full spectrum of ATB online: “There are exercises in ATB where we go into each other’ energy spaces, and forget about that, it doesn’t work online. There is something about the materiality, skin to skin, sweat to sweat, heartbeat and all. This is not possible online.”
To deal with this restriction, they had to be creative and take from ATB what can be done by individuals, at home. “ATB is attention, attention, attention! So the course spends a lot of time on that. Then there are the relaxation exercises, the breath exercises, and the basic information of what ATB is all about. So if someone has already been going through the information and then can come to an actual workshop, they can enter more easily into the experience.” Suryamayi is still open to see what more they can do, and ready to improve their current course: “Some aspects are easily shareable and you don’t need a live context. But we are definitely looking forward to getting feedback on what we have made, and seeing how we can develop ATB online in the future.”
Ready to Dive In?
The final product of the team’s work is a 4-hour workshop that can be bought in the AV Online Store. In this 3-module video course, you will be introduced to the foundational principles and practices of ATB. You will begin a journey of self-knowledge and self-development around three key themes: Attention, Harmony, and Breath.
The full course includes:
- 3 Video Modules
- 7 Audio Tracks
- 1 Bonus Meditation
Once you buy it, you can download the videos to refresh or redo the course whenever you feel like it.
Enjoy your explorations!