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How To Balance Individual & Collective Development?

From conception, as a developing embryo, at birth and beyond our individual and collective development is inextricably intertwined.  Growing alone is not possible as we are all naturally affiliative beings that meet or don’t meet each other’s needs.  No one is more aware of this interconnectedness than the parents, teachers and those training people in leadership roles as they scaffold the spiral staircase of learning for themselves and their students or children.  It is a balancing act to recognize for the parent or teacher what the moment calls for given theirs and the individual’s capacity and shared resources.  This balancing act continues throughout all the stages of our life as we strive to meet our collectively shared needs.  This effort is aided by coordinated cooperation which is a mutual friendly cooperation rather than subordinated cooperation. 

The next three courses that we are offering at NHCA are in the middle of balancing individual and collective development.  The first course, Child Development from a Neohumanist Perspective, considers “developmental variations in culture and in individuals….in helping children recognize their ‘interconnectedness of being’ with the natural world and Planet Earth.” The second course, Astaunga Yoga for 3-11 Year Olds explores developmentally appropriate strategies for bringing the spiritual practices of the Astaunga Yoga lifestyle into the classroom” which espouses an ethical code that embraces five principles of caring for others and five principles of caring for oneself at a physical, mental and spiritual level.  The third course, Leadership for Social Change, begins with a Self-Module that is the “first of a three-level leadership development program.”  This leadership course covers “understanding self, cultural intelligence and inclusion” as preparation for leadership modules that create leaders that inspire others. 

These course efforts will have the common goal of balancing how we as human beings serve our own needs while simultaneously serving others.  When we use the term “service” we mean offering something of value to others without expecting something in return, not a quid pro quo business transaction.  However, people who render selfless service do greatly benefit from this activity without the intention to benefit themselves.  It is part of our human nature to serve others (plants, animals, humans and the environment) in this selfless manner.   

Many people who attend juice cleanses and silent meditation workshops at the Prama Institute, which is affiliated with the NHCA, say they come to “hit the reset button” of self-care.  Many, especially parents, say they spend eighty to ninety percent of their time caring for others and too little time caring for themselves and feel some guilt or shame for wanting more for themselves.  Bud Harris in his book “Sacred Selfishness” defines proper self-care “as valuing ourselves enough to develop into “authentic” human beings who give back vitality and hope to the people around us.”  In the demands upon all of us in our modern- day world it is becoming clearer that proper care of ourselves is a precursor to taking better care of others.  

A holistic model of self-care includes physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual care of oneself.  It is an inside/out effort that starts with self-development of the “vital quartet” according to Dr. Dean Ornish that includes: 

1. Proper food of a predominantly plant based diet.     

2. Proper exercise that includes yoga postures for balancing our hormones, cardiovascular exercise of brisk walking or jogging and weight resistance with small weights or yoga exercises that lift the body.

3. Group support from like-minded people that are engaged in similar self-care activity.

4. Contemplative practices such as meditation, prayer, walking in nature, hobbies, music - activities that calm and center the body and mind.

As you can see this vital quartet includes the important “group support” from friends, your family by association or family of origin members.  These sources of support offer “friendly cooperation” which means coordinated cooperation that involves a mutually felt presence with someone who empathically listens and reflects deep understanding of who you are. 

When we integrate elements of this vital quartet by slowing down, taking one step at a time and exhibiting determination to “keep at it” we emerge with a balanced development of individual self-care and collective care for others.  We can choose to not take on too much at one time and gently take on the task of self-care as a gift to ourselves and others.  Rumi reminds us about “gradualness” in this follow poem:

Rumi-  New Moon

A new moon teaches gradualness

and deliberation and how one gives birth

to oneself slowly.  Patience with small details

makes perfect a large work, like the universe.

What nine months of attention does for the embryo

forty early mornings will do

for your gradually growing wholeness.


About The Author

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Sid Jordan taught psychotherapy and directed mental health, alcohol and drug services while in the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. from 1969-1993. He began his practices of yoga and meditation in 1971 pursuing the integration of yoga and psychology in his teaching and clinical practices. In 1997 he trained as a yoga and meditation teacher in India applying the tantric yoga teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti the preceptor of Ananda Marga.

Currently, he is CEO and Director of the Neohumanist College of Asheville. At the Prama Wellness Center, he offers yoga therapy and stress management to individuals and groups. He continues to offer his 40 years of experience and teaching of yoga psychology, philosophy, and practices to audiences worldwide.

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