In Bhutan, I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of connection, interdependence and community. We need each other, and there is a real beauty in that.
I wrote the above words after completing the Slow Change Experience course in Bhutan in November 2016. Applications for the Slow Change Experience 2017 were recently open and this has inspired me to reflect again on the time I spent in Bhutan last year.
Bhutan: Another Way of Living
Sometimes it can feel as though the stars align to offer you a truly life changing experience, or that you are in completely the right place, at just the right time. This is how I felt when the opportunity came up for me to go to Bhutan.
For years I’ve been interested in alternative models of development, which do not place profit above people and planet. This led me to Totnes, in the UK, to research alternatives to economic growth. It has also taken me to various events, protests and classes, seeking guidance on the best ways to fight against the problems in our current systems, as well to find solutions, alternatives and more positive ways of living.
Bhutan is a place which offers learning and inspiration by embodying an alternative model of personal change alongside systemic change in the form of Gross National Happiness. In the 1970s, the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said: “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” Since this time, Bhutan has prioritised its population’s happiness in all decision making.
Having the opportunity to go to Bhutan taught me so much; showing me another way of living is possible, that we can live in a way that prioritises the wellbeing of people and planet over profit. (You can read more about this in my previous post, Can Happiness Change the World?)
Connecting Through Storytelling
Through participating in the Slow Change Experience in Bhutan – run by the Gross National Happiness Centre, Humankind Enterprises and Digital Storytellers – I also learned a lot about storytelling. In a practical sense, this partly involved learning to make videos; filming interviews and getting lots of footage of the stunning Bhutanese countryside.
On a deeper level, it also involved learning to share truthful stories of change with each other. There were around 20 people on the course; all actively involved in ‘changemaking’ in some way. This included those working in government, in education, plus activists, environmentalists, film makers and many things in between.
Each person on the Slow Change Experience was given the opportunity to tell their own life story to the whole group; to share what brought us to Bhutan and what motivated us to want to create change in wider society. The stories told were deeply personal, and were incredible to listen to. They made us laugh, they made us wonder, they made us cry. They made us feel a deep connection to the storyteller and to each other.
For me personally, I felt able to open up to people in a way that I’ve often been afraid to. The act of telling your own story and truly being heard is very empowering, and reminded me again of the lesson that I keep learning: that systemic change also requires a deeper change within us, in the way we live our own lives and the way we treat each other. We need to take the time to slow down, to really listen to ourselves and others, and then from that more truthful place deep within we can gain more power to take positive actions in the world.
The Slow Change Experience had a big impact on me, and I’m very grateful to all those involved in making it happen. I also appreciate all the lessons that I learned, and that I continue striving to put into practice.
Share your comments:
Have you ever been to Bhutan, or would you like to go? What do you think of Gross National Happiness? How has storytelling impacted your life? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts 🙂
Read other posts on Mindful Change:
- Reasons for hope in a changing world: Chandolin retreat review
- Can happiness change the world? Three lessons from Bhutan
- Can mindfulness change the world? Daniel Goleman event review
- Practicing Gratitude
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