Tan-Ju: Teenage School of the Human Arts!
Working with Emotions
Our education is quite different because of the way that we address emotional issues. In our Tan-Ju school, we practice hanging out, communicating, how to be yourself and how to live with each other. But our main focus is to teach how to deal with the emotions. Because when kids grow up and they become teenagers they get into unknown situations – their body starts to change, they get hormonal moods, they’re trying to find their way in life and often, they don’t know what to do with it all.
We put a lot of attention into helping them understand what a ‘feeling’ is. Often, in growing up, the feelings that we disown or have difficulty with are the so-called ‘negative’ emotions of anger, fear and pain. For instance if they are feeling frustrated, bored or irritated, they can learn that the underlying emotion is anger. We teach them that being angry is not something bad, but it is a power and a strength that they have and that they can use their anger to express themselves - for instance, to say “This is my space, these are my limits, and I stand up for myself.”
Often though, the problem is that when kids feel their anger they think that it is not socially acceptable and then, they turn it against themselves. They still have the feeling and the tension in the body but they don’t know what to do with it - so then they try to numb it. We give them opportunities to reclaim their power through expression with very clear procedures and techniques, so that they, and everyone else, can feel safe with it. We teach them how to stand, how to breathe and how to become aware of their body and what emotions they are feeling in that moment. This is what we call ‘taking a position’. Then, we show them how to express those feelings from the body. Sometimes, in the beginning, they can’t immediately access their feelings, so we teach them techniques for how to ‘act as if’ the feelings were there; then, eventually they will really connect with their emotions and express them.
Often when emotion comes in everyday life it can overtake them. They may have been suppressing a feeling for such a long time that when it comes, they are overwhelmed by the power of it. When this happens, they may stop it themselves and shut down, they may run out of the room or, they may start to cry: they find ways to express that are more acceptable in their family or society. In Tan-ju, they learn to allow the feeling to come, what the feeling is communicating and how to express themselves more effectively. Instead of being overwhelmed they become more aware that the body is saying “I don’t like that, this does not feel good.”
From there it is very important to teach them to go a step further. We will ask them: ‘If that does not feel good, what would feel good? What is it that you are missing? What do you need in this moment to correct the situation?’ For example, they might not feel respected, so then they have to go a step further and express what they need in order to feel ok.
That is the first step I teach them. In the first week of Tan-Ju, it’s about how to be with each other but also about how to claim their own energy and power.
Sharing and receiving Love
In the second week, we teach them how to go deeper, and also look into their past where, perhaps they experienced fear or pain; we create spaces where they can really cry about what happened when they were hurt in the past.
We create a space of trust where they can share about anything that is going on in their life and know that it will stay confidential – most everybody has something that they feel ashamed of or guilty about. It’s very important for the Tan-jus’ to know they can talk freely about these things. And it’s important that when they make these disclosures, they can then feel that they don’t have to pay a price for it - that they are okay just the way they are – that they are accepted by everyone, even with all their mistakes. They practice giving each other affirmations, sharing positivity and love with each other.
Part of their training in responsibility is home care, where they learn very practical skills. Often it comes down to cleaning up their own mess in their living room, bathroom, showers, bed spaces, and so on. We not only teach how to do this but also that it is fun to learn. We teach how to clean and tidy-up very well.
They also learn how we organize things. For example, during Tan-Ju camp, we usually go on a day trip to a fun park. The teenagers learn how to organize the tickets, to make sure everyone has lunch packages, organize the transport, the pocket-money – everything!
We also present a Tan-Ju Night in our club/ discotheque, during the final week, where they host the entire event: they plan it from beginning to end, they welcome the visitors, they DJ, they run the bar and, they clean up afterwards. They come up with creative ideas like face painting, food snacks and theatre skits and, basically, they learn how to create a great party together.
And, by making a small charge with each special treat, they can earn money from it! We use that for something special, like a big Tan-Ju brunch or going to see a movie.
During the third week, we prepare and present a one-hour theater variety show where we encourage each teenager to become a star. We have professional adult people who come to help including famous actors such as Peter Faber or former Tan-Ju’s who are now in the entertainment world and more recently Steven Buerk who is experienced as a scriptwriter for a big TV series.
The Tan-Ju theater is about teamwork as well as standing out as an individual. Often, the personal shame of not feeling good enough comes up with the teenagers. We help them to find something to do in the performance where they can overcome their difficulty and afterwards, say with pride: “I did it!”
We have to get it all together in time, integrate everyone’s ideas, and give it a structure where they look and feel good on stage – but we also want them to do their show. It’s okay to make little mistakes. It’s not about being a professional show, but about having that innocence where they show and open themselves. The beauty of it which also catches the audience; often during the show the adults sit there and they get tears in their eyes because it’s just so heart-opening to see the teenagers on stage. Some of them really flower and an enormous talent comes out and, later on, they go into show business.
The main idea is to give everyone an opportunity to work together, to be creative, unique and beautiful – to be a star for one night. And it always works out.
Finally, in the last week, I always prepare them for their integration back home. To come home and interact with parents and family about where they are at, is not always easy. I explain to them that there will be ups and downs – perhaps even a dip, a resting time with lower energy. So, we always advise it’s good to just relax and sleep and recover. We made a whole seminar about it and we also give them a ‘re-entry’ booklet so everybody can get into the process of arriving back home and working out what to do next.
They also have a closed Facebook page where they can interact with each other and stay connected.
All in all, it’s a remarkable experience that makes a deep impression and offers valuable skills for life. They get many treasured memories – all summed up in our beautiful Tan-Ju song:
We can be whatever we want to be.
We will find our place in this world.
Thanks, for giving us the space to do our thing.
Thanks, for teaching us to love ourselves and you.
Thanks, for making Osho’s loving dream come true.
Ma Anand Chandrika
Executive Director, Humaniversity
(and Tan-Ju Mama).