My Journey to Creative
By Jayashree Ashok

Creative – A Journey

A few years ago – I did not expect to be here at Creative today! What was a 15-year journey of intense experiences, learning and self exploration took birth in physical reality when I finally met and re-started my spiritual journey and healing under my Guru, Dr Newton Kondaveti. It is the foundation of his unconditional love and trust that helped create and show the way. Creative started 1.5 years ago as a school dedicated to holistic education – one that acknowledges the mind, body and soul. More importantly, we are a school not just for children but for teachers and parents as well.  And here I am amidst a warm community of people working together to co-create a rich and beautiful space of exploration, self discovery and empowerment for ourselves, our children and our families.  

Creative is deeply influenced by the educational philosophy of Dr Newton Kondaveti, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Rudolph Steiner and Maria Montessori. The heart of Creative School is a Healing Centre – Pragya. How did a healing centre become the heart of a school?   Through a journey that took me to what should truly be the core of education – the human soul.

Roots in Seattle

This journey started in 1994 in Seattle, U.S.A. I had just joined Microsoft Corporation as one of the first few women engineers with MSN. Within me I felt a strong urge to create a non-profit space to support children in economically poor areas of India. Being from India – I strongly felt the need to give back. My original dream was to help set up and support a couple of schools on a volunteer basis. And really get involved with them in a meaningful way. I never dreamt that this would grow so much organically. Many others joined me and soon the little group we started grew into a volunteer movement in the Seattle area called “Asha”. Several hundred people participated and shaped an organization that set up and supported over 70 schools in different parts of India managed on ground by different NGOs.

What is Education?

My journey through Asha really changed me. I made it a point to visit and often volunteer in the schools we were supporting. Very soon I became deeply interested in education and larger questions about life. Can education truly empower us? What is it that empowers? I was very lucky to meet many pioneers in India who were really looking at education differently. I could participate in environments where education was truly a joyful exploration instead of the drab and often boring routine I had personally experienced as school. I met teachers who were friends with their children, who truly cared for children and often helped them in many areas outside their curriculum. I could experience the role of many non-traditional subjects such as arts, theatre, music, sports, hand work and their enormous contribution to the overall growth of a child. My interest in education grew and my disconnect with my corporate job increased. Although I was doing well in many ways, the challenges of corporate life felt uninteresting compared to the pull of my heart. I was not happy. I also found that my corporate experience made me very aware of the many life skills I completely lacked despite being very “good” “technically”. The urge to spend my time in ways that felt good in my heart finally pushed me to quit in 1999. It was a very difficult, scary and hard decision to walk out of something known into unknown territory. I did not have it all figured out. I just knew I HAD to leave. It was also hard to walk of out so much money. People around me did not understand my pull. Many tried to talk sense into me especially my parents. Luckily, my husband and a few friends supported my decision. I walked out and I’ve never looked back! Not even for a minute!!

Travel and Experience Led to Deeper Questions

From 1999, I started spending time travelling, learning about life, communities and volunteering in many schools in India. I was keen on studying educational philosophy practically by visiting and spending time with people who were experimenting practically.  Holistic life education was my deepest interest. The questions that guided me were, “what is the kind of education that truly serves us? What is education that empowers and helps us lead peaceful lives?”

Travelling extensively in India and the U.S, I became deeply aware of issues such as globalization, displacement of poor communities and many difficult social issues. I came in contact with pain. As I got to know people from poor communities and listened – simply listened, I started feeling guilty about my own life style. The contrasts were stark and painful. Why is it some of us have so much and some so little? This question haunted me and I started simplifying my own life. My travels took me to areas of mining and displacement, areas where land had been made barren through poor farming practices, areas of deforestation and loss of wildlife. I met many tribal communities in India as well as places like Costa Rica that once lived off their land and now found themselves homeless in dingy city life. I listened to a lot of stories. A deeply sensitive person – I felt their pain within. Their pain and my pain were the same.

As I spent time with indigenous communities I learnt a lot from them. They were intuitively living with a deep awareness of the harmony in nature. Earth wisdom was deep in them – in their very being.  Their instincts about plants, animals, and people were truly amazing. They “knew” their forests. I found myself drawn towards living in such a way that I reclaim this sense of “sacred earth”. My interactions with them made me aware of my own inner knowing. This was my time for inspiration, unlearning and relearning.  I started reclaiming my sense of “sacred”.

Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “We have enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed,” kept ringing in me. And the words “Become the change you want to see.”

Conscious Parenting – Inspiring Children

It was in the year 2001 that I became a parent. My child brought me the most joy and inspiration I had ever experienced. I was filled with love and could watch her endlessly. I found infinite patience, idealism and flexibility within me. Very naturally, I started gravitating towards conscious and spiritual parenting. Deep within me, I felt parenting’s main foundation needs to be one of unconditional love. I was reading a lot of books on parenting, education and home schooling. This was the time that I really explored “The Mother” and Sri Aurobindo’s writings on children, Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi’s writings on education, visited and experienced Waldorf schools, Montessori schools and sincerely started practicing these philosophies at home. There was a strong surge of idealism. A desire to become the perfect parent setting a good role model for my child! My second daughter only deepened this need and brought in new challenges and areas to perfect in myself. I am eternally grateful to my children for inspiring this in me!

I experienced and continue to experience children as pure and divine. I have learnt honesty, trust, authenticity and playfulness from them.  I cared passionately about accepting children unconditionally and this pushed me deeper into spiritual practices to master myself so I can practice this with my children.  My children have been my inspiration to make my family life a living spiritual practice. They have helped me take responsibility for myself, my relationships, and my emotions and take this path of peace. I truly felt the need to contribute to them a future world of peace and harmony. I knew this could only happen if I myself could gift this to me.

The Interconnected Nature of Life

My travel experiences helped me feel the interconnected nature of our lives. Our actions, life and living affect others – whether we acknowledge it or not. I felt a strong urge to transform myself so I will live harmoniously and leave a better world for my children. The word that resonated deeply within me was “peace.” Peace within, peace around and peace with nature.

Through my journey I realized that our education system has made us unaware. We are not aware of the inter-connected nature of life and living. I also strongly felt that is we were educated in the “right” way we will not live such unaware lives – devoid of sensitivity. Education has made us seek material comforts. But is this all there is to it?

What is it that is missing in education? I “felt” it strongly but could not articulate it. I searched for peace within and explored what would be peace education. Even though spirituality kept knocking on my door much before my travels I strongly rejected it equating it to religion. I felt that one must live it and not just talk it. I dismissed and rejected all the spiritual groups that tried to talk to me. I was opposed to any religion or ritual I found fault with most systems and did not trust any of the “gurus.” I felt that people follow Gurus and get away with living dishonest lives. I had strong mistrust and rigid beliefs. They were my own prison.

Mindfulness and Inner Looking

Sept 11th 2001 was a big turning point in my life. As 9/11 happened, I watched the country I lived in fill with fear. Everything and everyone around me changed overnight. Fear filled the consciousness all around me. I however felt strangely shielded and found in me immense strength. The events during that time made me declare with all my heart, “I will work for peace the rest of my life. No matter what challenges I face I will never give up.” This peace declaration is what kept me going for the next decade as I explored myself. Many a time when I wanted to give up – it gave me strength and commitment.

It is at this time in the year 2001 that I came across Buddhist mindfulness. I was finding it very difficult to articulate the turbulence I felt within. I had been trying to express myself but was really unsuccessful. It was at this time that I came into practicing Non-violent communication or NVC. I immersed myself for the next 2.5 years in exploring non-violence in words, action and living. NVC really helped me become aware of the world of feeling. I found my relationships improving and I could express myself better. Along with this, I found many ways of living – organic gardening and farming, vegetarianism, simplifying my life and materials completely. I searched and found eco-friendly construction, renewable energy and many practical solutions to living life more peacefully. These years were intense but also opened the doors of peace. Our family – my husband and older daughter felt harmonious after all the turbulence. I practiced non-violence to the best of my ability.

As my practice deepened I hit many blocks. I found myself losing my temper and erupting suddenly. The harder I tried the worse it became. I had set very high standards for myself and could not forgive myself for being non-violent in words or action.  I was crumbling again.  The months that followed were dark and depressive. I felt a failure again. I was going through transition again.

Peace as a Physical Journey

I started searching again – how can I practice peace? This time my journey took me to a Taoist group called “The Tao Fellowship”. Through rigorous physical training (yes!) and energy healing I experienced peace as a physical state within myself when my energy was balanced. This was the first time I came in contact with my soul through many meditation experiences. My meditations were deep and opened up a new world inside me. I could understand many of my questions through understanding soul science and energy principles. I realized that what I sensed as the interconnected nature of life is truly “real.” We are all connected by energy, by consciousness.  I started exploring the science of the soul.

I had my first past life experience spontaneously and it took me by surprise since I did not believe in past lives! I found myself as a Buddhist monk in Tibet in a state of deep meditation. I had a message from within that said – “You’ve experienced this peace here on the mountaintop. Now find it living in society!” This became my mission – to find and live peace living amidst all of society’s conflict.

My heart longed to return to India and continue my spiritual journey there. Something inside told me I had to return to India. And yet again, I chose to listen. With a lot of uncertainty I quit a deep spiritual practice and decided to start over again after returning to India. My path was very uncertain. The only solace was that one of my teachers told me that I will find my master in India.

Emotional Healing

To cope with the grief and fears that plagued me as I quit my Taoist spiritual family – I had to really work on healing myself emotionally. For the next few months, I learnt and practiced deeply intuitive acupressure, mindfulness and tools for emotional healing.  As I practiced I started understanding the link between emotions and thoughts. This journey was transformational for me and led to the next phase of my growth. Some of my friends became curious and soon I started teaching and helping them heal informally. My most powerful experience was helping a lady from Palestine release her war memories. It was stunning. We were able to release trauma of almost losing her entire family due to a war tanker almost running over her children and car. She healed rapidly and learnt from me. Took it back to Palestine to help others!! This is the time I truly experienced how healing ourselves helps others automatically. 

Moving back was not an easy decision after 18 years of living in the US. We had a beautiful home amidst the woods and it felt crazy to leave this and start over. We were already living in harmony with our environment and within our family. And yet, the pull was there. It would not stop!!  We finally decided to pack up and come back.

Trip to the Pyramid

Just before our journey back, I had many doubts and fears about letting go. Change brings out a lot of suppressed fears as we let go things we take for granted. I missed my Taoist practice and masters. I missed my sangha. At this time I felt guided to learn Sudarshana Kriya. I learnt the Kriya and it brought in much needed rest. I feel immense gratitude for Sri Sri Ravishankarji for this gift of Sudarshana Kriya. One day, after an Art Of Living course, I felt guided within me that I should visit the Pyramid being built off Kanakapura road. We spontaneously drove to the pyramid. It was just in the beginning stage of construction. As soon as I reached the site, I felt completely calm within. No more doubts about coming back. The doubts vanished. I knew that I was somehow linked to this but not clear how.  The doubts never came back – not for an instant. Strange it felt.

We came back in 2007 and my work grew naturally. People in Seattle had told others about my emotional healing work and soon their friends in Bangalore found me. I taught practices to be with our emotions and heal emotionally. Through word of mouth, this spread easily. I also started working with schools to teach mindfulness to our emotional being as well as a simple acupressure process based on unconditional love called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). The first couple of years back were smooth and full. Being in India filled me with an indescribable sense of well being - at home. I was meditating everyday and growing myself through my healing work and inner practice of meditation. I was also experiencing several masters through meditation – Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo.

The Desire To Start A School

Back in Bangalore, my children were at a small alternative school close by. It is my children’s schooling experiences that brought back the next surge of growth for me. As they grew older, I started finding schooling repressive. They could not express themselves to their teachers. Even though academics were joyful, it was incomplete. Physical and emotional well bring were simply not understood as fundamental to education. I really wanted my children to study in an environment where the entire human being was acknowledged.

As I started reflecting on these, I found myself again reading The Mother’s book on “How to raise a child” and Sri Aurobindo and The Mothers work on Integral Education. I felt intensely and passionately what they had written about. A week or so later, I experienced Sri Aurobindo in my meditation.  The message I got was to act. Not just read this. I will not be satisfied otherwise. I was terrified. I was not part of any ashram. With no living Guru guiding me, how can I act? This was in March 2009. I felt the inner turmoil again. I could not conceive sending my children to school. I was a desperate mother looking for a more whole and sensitive environment for my children. It felt like there were no option other than homeschooling our children. 

My years of exploration of peace and education led me into the depths of spirituality and became a rich personal healing journey of a parent, a healer and teacher. And yet, here I was not yet ready to truly work on a new way of education. I kept having visions of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother guiding me to take up “Integral education” – that which recognizes the soul as core to education. These visions only left me more desperate. I lacked the courage to actually step up. When I meditated – all I heard was that the path will emerge. I knew not how but trusted this and held on to my dreams. Am I to truly work on this new vision? It felt too far fetched without a Guru and a definite path.

The Mother’s writings also made it very clear that for such a school to exist – teachers and parents must open up their own healing journeys. Our children learn through example. We need to heal our self and follow our inner journey of empowerment and harmony. Our children will automatically do the same. In my heart I knew such as a school would not be for children but also for parents and teachers. Spiritual parenting and teaching has to be the foundation of the school. The vision was overwhelming. How will such a path emerge?

The Path and Master Emerge

I guess the Astral Masters are always right – the path did emerge. In August 2009, I first heard about Dr Newton Kondaveti. I went to his website and straightway saw Life University’s vision and especially his writing on education. It resonated deeply with me. I saw an advertisement for GCSS and decided to attend. I was very drawn to the PLR session and talk. This brought me to the Pyramid again!  My first encounter with Dr Newton was at a first PLR experience at GCSS. It was intense and left me completely stunned. I went straight away to the root cause of my fear of taking the step I want to take. Many barriers of fear left in this single session. Later, I experienced Eric Berglund’s session on future life progression and saw a truly beautiful earth. It was a deeply healing session for me. As I came out of the meditation and turned around I saw Dr Newton and Patriji sitting right behind me. I immediately knew my next steps. I quickly enrolled for the PLR Intensive training and started longer duration of meditation.

Just before the PLR intensive training, I went to meet Patriji to seek his blessings for the school. He immediately told me – “You need to do this. You won’t be happy otherwise.” He suggested the name “Creative” for our school.  His simple encouragement deeply touched my heart. It gave me a lot of courage and faith in a time of great doubt.

The PLR training changed my life. It was simply put – the most intense spiritual workshop I had undertaken. I completely surrendered to the training processes and opened my heart to this amazing master. I “felt” his presence and was simultaneously drawn and scared of it. Shedding a lot of past life baggage and trauma – I came out of the training light and confident. The 8 days of training cleared me to such an extent – that I could actually see our centre/school built and ready in the final meditations.  I came out of the Therapist training ready to begin. In a record time of 6 months, our building was finished – smoothly with no obstacles perfectly on time! It was stunning. Ashok, my husband was completely supportive and his support has been so vast it is not possible to describe in words! Our children were very happy to be in their own school!

Our team started coming together. The first one to join me was Reshma Madhusudan. She took this vision as her own. We worked with one vision. She has been my partner in this through all our ups and downs. Her background and experience as a teacher is invaluable since she too has come to the need for this through her experience and understanding. Together we started building our team.

We started talking to people and found not a few but twelve families ready to get on board on a new vision for education.  Many of our teachers were parents themselves who strongly believed in the need for a new kind of education for their children. Their commitments levels were high and all of us put our hearts and soul into this. Collective work started happening. Creative was born!

Although the entire path was not clear, we started this as a school that acknowledged our whole being. A school with healing of families – teachers and parents as its core. I’m truly grateful for the amount of trust and support I received from the entire starting team at Creative. It was a direct experience of grace and divinity manifesting on earth.

Intensive Training Shapes Our School

The year that followed completed the rest of the picture. At every stage of Creative’s growth I found the perfect workshop from Dr Newton to clear myself and overcome my challenges. A clear path emerged for creating a space that was true education for teachers, parents and children. Dr Newton has shown me the way to facilitate a space that clearly demonstrated the original inspiration behind Creative. “Pragya” the Healing Center which is the heart of our work was born inaugurated by Dr Newton and Dr Lakshmi and open to teachers, parents and the public. Both Pragya and Creative have grown through word of mouth.

As I trained with Dr Newton, I started recognizing his consciousness – one of pure unconditional love really helped me find and clear my inner blocks and work from my inner strength. It was not just the workshops but his presence which made the difference. It is truly this consciousness of unconditional love and light that is the foundation of Creative. As I freed myself, my own work too started coming out of love. The year was intense as I trained with him on Inner Child Healing, Radiant Relationships, Money and Spirituality, Breathwork and Kundalini Energy.  I could directly see and experience a reflection of the spiritual wisdom of these trainings in our school community.  We also started practicing this in school.

Our teachers and some of our parents started healing themselves both through healing sessions at Pragya and Dr Newton’s workshops. We also set up regular time in our teachers schedule for inner reflection and healing.  We have co-created an environment of living spirituality based on unconditional love. Tangible benefits were felt in our community. As I grew myself under his training I could experience Creative effortlessly take shape and grow.

The foundation of unconditional love in our school has benefited our children the most. They are fearless and authentic here. We have watched them open up and express creativity and imagination within. We have watched them play and learn. We could practically implement the suggestions on spiritual parenting and teaching in our school.

Our curriculum is very wide and offers children an opportunity to a wide spectrum of “subjects” in a joyful and hands on learning environment. The 15 years of training and exploration of education has finally given a lot of ideas for practically implementing the classroom.  Soul science is the foundation of our work. Children explore this through stories and practical sessions that help them explore different aspects of themselves in an age appropriate manner.  Arts, theatre, music, all conventional subjects, games and so much more is explored in our school.  All subjects are explored in a creative and interesting manner for optimum learning. Creative is truly creative – for the children and all of us.

And you know what? It feels right!