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Women explore themselves through experiential workshops at Thamarai


Thamarai (or lotus in Tamil) is a symbol and inspiration informing the work of this centre which aims to provide a safe place for women, children and families to discover themselves and flower into their full potential.


Helgard Zurmuehl, a newcomer to Auroville was spontaneously attracted to this image and felt the possibilities to bring in some of her life skills as a psychotherapist, teacher and artist that she brought from the west to the women at Thamarai. The idea to work with women arose organically out of an exploration with a group of women about pedagogical approach to early childhood education. There was clearly a difference in approach and the women mothers and caretakers for young children - were only familiar with an approach that involved getting the children to become obedient copiers. We were confronted with a clash of perspectives! Rather that approach this in a right/wrong fashion, Helgard had the idea to offer some experiential workshops to women, which may open them to different ways of exploring and learning if they found it useful and beneficial, we could see how this may translate to the education and care for children.


Over a period of 3 months, Helgard has been meeting weekly with a fixed group of 6 - 10 women for a 3 hour session. The intention behind these Saturday afternoon sessions is to provide experiences that enable them to open the mind and learn and develop flexibility to deal with everyday life situations.


In the course of the afternoon, the women usually make a short meditation practice and engage in some kind of guided bodywork and then use colour as special medium to express something from their inner being. Time was always given for sharing the experiences. Through work together, Helgard assured the women that the trust in themselves and the others will grow and the benefits of experience will reveal itself.



The women came regularly and looked forward to the sessions as a highlight of their week. Initially very shy, this disappeared quickly and with safe conditions, the women could quickly come into contact with joy and pleasure. Helgard was quite surprised by the extent to which they were able to easily reflect on and describe their inner experience from the heart it seemed that they have even less obstacle from the mind than most westerners. Another impact of the experience is that over time, the women began to spontaneously come up with ideas for new experiences whereas initially they did not have this kind of initiative. Another woman commented that she feels the contact to foreigners is an essential part of her experience in order to come out of her self into a wider world. While not an expected response, it was nevertheless reassuring.


Helgard is sensitive in her work to always include time for discussion about how to bring this experience into their daily lives she works with communication practice and real life scenarios that the women face. This is a long term work and her vision is that the women who have been participating in this experience can become co-facilitators with her for new women who are welcome to share these experiences.


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