Asia West Pacific

Companion Group Practice is a Joy

By Subhash Chandra

Ratna (in blue t-shirt) with Bhutanes refugee children in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal, photo by Ratna

Ratna Maya Lama is a Creating Cultures of Peace (CCP) facilitator in Nepal. She has been a psychosocial counselor by profession for the last 12 years. She has supported Bhutanese refugees, urban refugees including Rohinga refugees and other Nepalese populations from vulnerable and risk groups in Nepal, she has facilitated several AVP workshops with diverse groups of participants and was one of the participants in the first ever CCP in Nepal in 2018. She is now part of a companion group that meets every three weeks for mutual support in practicing peace and nonviolence in private and public life. Here, she reflects on her experience being part of the companion group:

Ratna during the AVP World Gathering in Nepal in 2017. Photo by Ratna

Every single tool of Creating Cultures of Peace makes peace possible in personal life and then gradually that practice transforms relationships with family and friends. In my experience, practicing small steps in changing your own thought and behavior in everyday life becomes part of your core self, and it is even more enriching and enjoyable when we have someone with whom we can share experiences, reflect, learn, and get motivated. That “someone” in my journey in Creating Cultures of Peace practice is my companion group. My companion group journey started in October 2019 with Kalpana, Subhash, and Santosh. We come from different professional backgrounds and life experiences. But we have the same quest of healing ourselves from our past traumas, seeking and accepting inevitable change in ourselves, and living in transforming power in easy as well as hard times. 

In the daily practice of peace, questions sometimes arise, such as, “Am I doing good or following the right track? Is my thought or action nurturing peace?” etc. To settle these thoughts and feelings, and to move forward through conscience and discernment, a companion group is the most suitable space and environment to fall back and depend on. I enjoy the sharing and reflection of self-practice of each of my companions and feel deeply connected with each of them. The beauty of companion group practice for me is the unjudged attention and time happily offered by each of us to one another with an open heart, mind, and ear.

The companion group that Ratna is part of in Kathmandu. From left to right- Santosh, Ratna, Kalpana and Subhash. Photo by Kalpana

Ratna, photo by Ratna

Catching up with my companions always gives me hope and motivation to continue my practice. During our meeting once every three weeks for about two hours, we usually choose as our homework to observe ourselves in different situations in our daily personal and professional life. We notice what blocks us from opening up to transforming power, what rigid patterns of habits we have developed and how that affects us and others, and how to loosen up out of such rigid patterns. Sharing and reflecting back with my companion group about the difficult situation helps me feel better. Likewise, I get insight to handle difficult situations in better ways in the coming days without resorting to violence within self and towards others.

I am glad that my companion group started before the COVID pandemic crisis and lockdown. During this time, practicing a focus on self-care, and sharing and reflecting on our practice helped significantly to keep us physically and mentally healthy, and I believe that the fruit of this will last long in our lives. From this, I also knew and gained confidence about when to say “Yes” and when to say “No” to the things that are overwhelming for me, in my family and profession. This has been extremely important for my self-care.

Companion group is meeting virtually during the covid. photo by Kalpana

Around the beginning of our practice, we were reflecting on what is a good companion, which is very important to know as being part of a companion group. “Pay attention to the other’s goodness and capabilities” made me rethink and reflect on my personal and professional approach and attitudes. I think conflicts arise when we forget to connect with the goodness and capabilities of others and ourselves too. Many of us tend to focus on negative qualities or weaknesses quickly rather than on goodness, which reinforces the negative thoughts and feelings. This can change our behavior and response towards others. Instead of being attentive, caring, and understanding, we become complaining and show annoyance. When I notice that I am beginning to do this, I remember to bring my attention back to my core self and my present experience. My companion group supports me in this process by listening to me and offering feedback when asked. This practice gives me joy. I am pleased to be part of this group and thankful to my companions.