AWAKENING LEADERSHIP TRAINING
2019

Towards A New Paradigm of Holistic Sustainability

3 September 2019 - 3 February 2020

 

Course Overview

This Advanced EDE was part of the fourth Awakening Leadership Training, covering 5 months and 5 integrated dimensions of sustainability:


  • Self-discovery, healing and cultural integrity (Worldview Dimension EDE)

  • Interpersonal dynamics: Power sharing and compassion (Social Dimension EDE)

  • Eco-political Economy (Economics Dimension of EDE)

  • Ecology & Ecovillage Design (Ecological dimension plus Design in EDE)

  • Skillfull means for Social Transformation (Including Training of Trainers)


While based at the ecovillage Wongsanit Ashram, the training also takes the participants to a number of diverse traditional and intentional communities to enrich the learning journey. This year, this included the indigenous Karen community of Pa Teung Ngam (Deep Ecology, Vision Quest), Nong Sarai (Re-thinking the Market), Pun Pun (Foundations in Ecology), slum communities in Bangkok (Mindful Activism), and the beachside village of Bornok (Training of Trainer/Mindful Facilitation for Empowerment).


This year, in total, 80 participants took part in one or more modules, with half from China, and the remaining half from a number of countries in SE Asia, S America, Europe and US. Two participants completed the Advanced EDE – from Brazil and Colombia. 

What makes this course unique is that it is place-based, meaning that the learning draws on and highlights a diversity of Asian worldviews, practices and experiences – from indigenous to post-industrial, from N Asian to S to SE Asian; from history to present day. ALT recognises the vast contributions that the Asian region has made, an continues to make to dialogue and action for regeneration.  Contemplative practices are key among these, and which support a deepening and grounding of both personal and interpersonal learning, beyond what is normally experienced in mainstream classrooms. By integrating Asian worldviews into a broader framework of education for sustainability, participants are able to experience a place-based and global approach in dynamic relationship with each other. 

 
 

Participants

2 participants completed the Advanced EDE (1m; 1f), and 80 participants completed at least one training module (32m; 48f). Age range was between 22 and 75, with majority of participants in their 20’s and 30’s.

The majority participants this year were from China, with a small number from countries in the Asian region and beyond. A number of nationalities were represented by only one participant. It was our first year to also have a participant from Middle East (Syria).


A number of minority ethnic groups were also represented: Ladakhi (India), Naxi (China), Mon and Karen (Myanmar). 


In terms of background, there was an expected diversity in peoples’ livelihoods, urban/rural etc. The large number of participants from China/HK are working in the field of sustainable living and cultural and ecological regeneration. We also had a cohort from HK who are mostly activists in the field of gender and social justice. Myanmar participants were mainly NGO workers – both in the field and at management level in various areas including peacebuilding and civil rights. S America/US/UK were from diverse backgrounds including business, human rights and natural healing. 


The wide-ranging participant diversity always creates a unique atmosphere and space for learning, which is always commented on by the participants themselves. This year, the larger number of participants from China also gave a unique opportunity to dialogue on deep seated issues relating to the large-scale investment of China in the region, and the important work within the country that is happening to regenerate the landscapes and re-establish a cultural foundation for a more simple and ecological life.

 

Course Rythms

The framework of ALT continued from the previous year, but with the addition of a 5-day break between each learning dimension to give participants enough rest and time to digest learning. 


Daily scheduling remained the same as last year, with 6 hours of learning, plus another hour of mindful practice (30 mins meditation before starting, and 30 mins deep relaxation after lunch). Majority of the learning was experiential, with participants continually engaged in the creation of knowledge from their experiences in the classroom and beyond. 

This year we were also able to facilitate a transitioning between old students and new students. Prior to the start of ALT for 2019, we held an alumni gathering, with around 10 participants from previous cohorts joining us for a reflective and celebratory gathering. This group then held the opening ceremony, and participated in the first 2 days of community building with the new students. This process supported the new students to integrate into the learning space and the learning process. 


Majority of modules utilised participatory learning, and where the knowledge generated came from the learning community rather than pre-defined from a facilitator. Experiential learning techniques were also embedded into these modules, within a frame of praxis (action-reflection-learning-action). 

Facilitators for each module have all participated in previous ALT courses. The main facilitators were Thai, with the rest coming from the wider Asian region. One Gaia Education facilitator joined the TOT, which was included in the 5th dimension of learning – Skilful Means for Social Transformation.


The longer-term students were given space to practice and experiment withself-governance. They were handed responsibilities such as organising Hands-on work, writingupreflective articles for posting on social media, and welcoming new students to ensure a sense of community and trust continued throughout the timeframe of the programme. Having space for decision making and taking responsibility strengthened their own skills in socialdynamics.

 

WORLDVIEW DIMENSION


Emerging Worldview, Self-Discovery and Healing

(6 September - 1 October 2019)

  • Slow is Beautiful – Ecological Wisdom from Asian Traditions

  • Paradigm Shift and Emerging Cultural Values

  • Mindfulness and Inner Growth

  • Path of Inner Healing and Transformation

  • Art and Self Discovery


This was the most popular dimension of learning, covering 5 modules of learning which built on each other. The first module – Slow is Beautiful – provided a framing for the whole course in terms of presenting the present-day situation, and looking deeply into root causes, before exploring alternatives through cultural practice. 


Paradigm Shift covered most of the Gaia Ed curriculum, including short visits to a shopping mall and red-light area to embody contemporary paradigm values, before exploring systems approaches to new paradigm. 

Mindfulness and Inner Growth was a great opportunity for participants not familiar with meditation, to explore diverse approaches, and have the space to share and learn from each other’s experiences. 

Inner Healing utilised Internal Family System model to create a space for participants to explore inner wounds and use practical steps to support healing. Following on from this, Art and Self Discovery provided another approach to self-exploration, and a welcoming of all emotions and experiences in order to grow with acceptance. 

 

“I loved the way music, materials, movement and colours have a place in this course, and I’m amazed at how they ignited the ‘true self’ in us”

Art and Self-discovery

 

“The blend between theory and practice, of mindfulness, qi gong and yin yoga, felt potent to embody through observation and experience. Magical even!’

Mindfulness and Inner Growth

 

“I enjoyed the experiential learning aspect, which balanced the intellectual debate. I enjoyed conversation around the paradigm shift and theories for an emerging design – it gave hope and purpose”

Paradigm Shift and Emerging Cultural Values

 

“Loved it! It is so hard to combine lifestyle, values, activism, respect for nature, making money and living with joy. Keibo (facilitator) makes it seem a possible reality”

Slow is Beautiful

 

TOPICS COVERED

Shifting from the Economic Paradigm; Framing Knowledge on Worldviews; Old and New Paradigms; New Science; Meditation - 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, Loving Kindness, Body Awareness practices, Intuition; Art Therapy - Soundscapes,Self Discovery andExpression; Trauma Healing – IFS, movement-based therapy.

YOUTUBE

 

SOCIAL DIMENSION

Interpersonal Dynamics: Power-Sharing and Compassion

(7-29 October 2019)

  • Compassionate Communication

  • Gender and Social Justice

  • Conflict Transformation: Process Work and Deep Democracy

  • Participatory Decision Making

Building on from the community-building processes that had already been integrated into the first learning module, this dimension focused on specific tools for living together. Both compassionate communication and conflict transformation are core training modules of ALT, while gender was introduced last year, and this was the first year for participatory decision making (building on sociocracy workshop last year). 


The Gender and Social Justice workshops was not fully completed, as a decision was made with participants, to take advantage of an international Deep Democracy training which was being run in Bangkok simultaneously as the Conflict Transformation Workshop. Both Deep Democracy and Conflict Transformation workshops are based on process work, therefore decision was made by the group to join an international cohort of 80 people, participating in the Deep Democracy 8-day training.  

Unfortunately, the course was very intensive and without any introduction into the methodology being used, which created a level of chaos for the group. The original Conflict Transformation facilitators then provided extra sessions for the group in order to give them a foundational understanding of the process methodology, which greatly helped the learning process. Overall, while it was a unique experience to join the DD training, it was not conducive to the flow of the social dimension. 


The NVC workshop was an enjoyable process, with the addition of mediation skills, where participants could practice facilitating conflicts among each other. This workshop is continuously popular, and provides an important foundation in self-awareness, empathy, and deep listening. 

The final workshop on decision-making was well received, and participants could practice a range of tools and techniques within the group, and reflect on their usefulness to bring about solutions and solve conflicts. 

 

“I like the core concepts of NVC, which are clear and thoughtful, yet flexible. I liked the qualities of the trainers, importantly they gave a very insightful understanding of self and other, which was crucial. I liked the mediation process that was demonstrated very professionally by the trainer”

Compassionate Communication

 

“The learning process with the 3 main facilitators on Process Work was organised really well with good scaffolding (step by step process). The Deep Democracy part should be excluded, or at least shifted to after Process Work”

Conflict Transformation

 

“I liked the participatory aspect of the training, and the space and respect that developed to meet each participants’ need”

Participatory Decision-making

 

TOPICS COVERED

Self-Cultivation – Self Awareness, Edgework, Archetypes; SocialAwareness – Roles,Rank, and Marginalisation, Trust building; Group Dynamics, Deep Democracy, Conflict Transformation, Non-violent Communication, Tools for Participatory Decision-making (6 thinking hats, world café, sociocracy), Leadership and Participation

YOUTUBE

 

ECONOMIC DIMENSION


Eco-political Economy: From Global to Local

(24-27 November 2019)

  • Compassionate Communication

  • Gender and Social Justice

  • Conflict Transformation: Process Work and Deep Democracy

  • Participatory Decision Making

Building on from the community-building processes that had already been integrated into the first learning module, this dimension focused on specific tools for living together. Both compassionate communication and conflict transformation are core training modules of ALT, while gender was introduced last year, and this was the first year for participatory decision making (building on sociocracy workshop last year). 


The Gender and Social Justice workshops was not fully completed, as a decision was made with participants, to take advantage of an international Deep Democracy training which was being run in Bangkok simultaneously as the Conflict Transformation Workshop. Both Deep Democracy and Conflict Transformation workshops are based on process work, therefore decision was made by the group to join an international cohort of 80 people, participating in the Deep Democracy 8-day training.  

Unfortunately, the course was very intensive and without any introduction into the methodology being used, which created a level of chaos for the group. The original Conflict Transformation facilitators then provided extra sessions for the group in order to give them a foundational understanding of the process methodology, which greatly helped the learning process. Overall, while it was a unique experience to join the DD training, it was not conducive to the flow of the social dimension. 


The NVC workshop was an enjoyable process, with the addition of mediation skills, where participants could practice facilitating conflicts among each other. This workshop is continuously popular, and provides an important foundation in self-awareness, empathy, and deep listening. 

The final workshop on decision-making was well received, and participants could practice a range of tools and techniques within the group, and reflect on their usefulness to bring about solutions and solve conflicts. 

 

‘This trickle-down problem of centralisation is what we wanted to solve. Instead of imagining it like a waterfall- top-down – we reimagine as a spring – bottom-up, based on self-reliance, harmony, and working together from below’

Inpaeng Community

 

The communities have found ways to get out of debt, and therefore have had freedom to redefine how they want to live their lives. Key strategies in the process towards self-reliance have included:

  • Continual analysis by community itself, to clearly understand the context and issues at play

  • Localised economies with integrated circulation

  • Reducing reliance on external markets by producing what they can

  • Increasing income through added value of products, and utilising local resources sustainably

  • Protecting areas of biodiversity which provide food security

  • Facilitating bio-regional networking among villages for money and products circulation, and negotiating power 

  • Having representation in local governance structures to facilitate self- governance

  • Clear structures for participation and decentralisation of power

  • Dedicated and trusted leadership for mobilising peoples’ participation


As most participants came from China where their sustainability initiatives have only been developed over the past 10 or so years, the forum was a unique opportunity to see a broader context of implementation and change from the Thai presentations, whose initiatives are up to 40 years old. This longer view of community development processes was significant, and gave the Chinese participants perspective on the challenges that they are facing at this time. Overall, the learning highlighted the importance of embedding economics within community, as part of our daily lives, culture and relationships.

 

“We got a good picture of holistic development in Thailand. There is diversity, but common to them all is based on local context and culture. The spirit of openness and innovation is what can keep them sustaining. The connection with academics and government agencies is quite important in all the examples to really take the examples forward. Without them, the communities would have struggled”

 

“Community economics is a result of relationships – between each other, with nature, with culture, history etc. So, it’s the most important aspect to focus on. Community economics is not just one village, its relationship between villages, and having a common vision. There are new possibilities when we work together”

 

“The learning from case studies during this workshop was a new approach, looking beyond theory and seeing the real examples. It’s really effective, it helps to go back to our roots, our values, our original initiative and learn from that”

 

TOPICS COVERED

Global Economic System, Neo-liberalism and Capitalism, Community Economics, Holistic Development, Alternative Economic Indicators, Community Organising, Economic Histories

 

ECOLOGICAL DIMENSION

Ecology and Ecovillllage Design

(3-23 December 2019)

  • Deep Ecology

  • Vision Quest

  • Foundations in Ecology


The participants had the unique experience of homestay with an indigenous Karen community for 2 weeks, during which the community became the learning classroom for Deep Ecology and the Vision Quest. Learning spaces were scattered around the village – under the sacred tree at the monastery; in the rice fields below the protected forest; and in the community forest. Connection with the local landscape provided a very powerful dimension to the learning, and was specifically related to the topics of the trainings. The homestay element was also one of the favourite aspects of the trainings; living with indigenous Karen families who still maintain strong connections to the natural world provided such a unique opportunity to observe and practice their daily rhythms of life which are intertwined with deep connection and reverence for nature. 

Deep Ecology was led by Sunisa Jamwiset, who ably facilitated and embodied the teachings with grace and power. She utilised the framework from Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, which shaped the learning across 5 days. Her facilitation nurtured a deep sense of care and connection with the world among participants, which is key for moving forward and sustaining ourselves to work for the betterment of all.


This powerful process provided a strong foundation for the next module, Vision Quest – where participants went solo in the forest for 3 days. This is also one of the most popular modules, where participants have a unique opportunity to deepen their connection with themselves and nature. This was held in the community forest, and supported by the community members who helped keep the space secure for the questers on their solo journey’s. 


The final module shifted emphasis from experiential connection with nature, to an approach of curiosity and scientific exploration. Held at the intentional eco-community, Pun Pun, this module focused more on how to engage students in environmental studies and care for the world, by exploring from a scientific perspective. Along with a diversity of tools and techniques for environmental awareness which were practiced by the group, inquiry also arose around the reconciling of spirituality and science, and how their seemingly opposing perspectives are both are approached through experiences of awe and wonder. There is potential for future modules to create more space for this kind of dialogue that acknowledges diverse perspectives.

The final design module was cancelled due to lack of participants. This year, the planned design was to be held at Mae Tha community – the same site as last year. This year the community youth had purchased land and were eager to work with participants to design the space as communal farming space. Despite no inclusion of design, the wrap up at the end of the ecology dimension provided space for the participants to weave together their diverse learning experiences – both the felt experiences of interconnection from Deep Ecology and Vision Quest and the scientific approaches from the Foundations in Ecology workshop. 

 

“The Vision Quest itself was incredible. We have so much inside ourselves! The opportunity to do this in an intentional, communal way is a complete gift”

Vision Quest

 

“The stress on reverence for the natural world resonated with my approach to nature protection. The flow of content, the framework applied was very thought-provoking. I think people working in environmental protection are missing the element of deep experience towards themselves, their pain and their place in the world. Therefore, I would highly recommend this module for all environmentalists”

Deep Ecology

 

“I liked the facilitation and the cultural exchange. I liked the ecological principles and teaching strategies, though I thought that it was a little disjointed because the translation slowed the momentum”

Foundations in Ecology

 

TOPICS COVERED

Ecosystems and Biomes, Carbon Cycles, Soil and Forest ecosystems, Toolsfor Measurement, Patterns in Ecology, Environmental ValueSystems,

 Deep Ecology (WorkthatReconnects), Climate Change and related crises, Bio-diversity, Archetypes, The Hero’s Journey, Ecological Wisdom, Indigenous Wisdom

YOUTUBE

 

SKILLFUL MEANS FOR SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION 

(3 January - 1 February 2020)

  • Gaia Education Training of Trainer: Mindful Facilitation for Empowerment 

  • Community Organising

  • Mindful Activism


As a result of low participant numbers, the Community Organising module was integrated into the Mindful Activism module, as it remains an effective and skilful approach to social change.


The TOT remains continually popular, and a powerful learning journey for the participants. Approximately half of the group came from China, with the remaining half from the region, and Europe/Mid East and the America’s. Diversity in the learning community always provides a rich context to the participatory learning which is embodied throughout the workshop. The contemplative rhythm of the course through mindfulness practices makes this a deep internal process, alongside participatory learning and development of facilitation skills. This integral approach to learning through embodying is very powerful and anchoring, and goes way beyond the learning of new ideas and skills. 

he final module on Mindful Activism was new for this year, and was quite popular, especially with participants from places with challenging social-political dynamics (Hong Kong, Myanmar). The training could provide inspiration, especially from personal stories from activists, and diverse case studies. The diversity of participants was also a rich source of learning and exchange. Overall, this training captured the needs of a growing number of people stepping in to activism, who are looking for inspiration and lessons learned to guide them in their own actions. 

 

TOPICS COVERED

Theory of Community Organising; Asian community and national-level experiences of social movements for change; Mindfulness, Self Care, Participatory Learning, Facilitation Skills, SDG’s and Edge Work

 

Lessons Learnt

As this was an extended, ‘deepening’ EDE program beyond the usual 4-week training. Regular reflections from participants and final feedback and evaluation gave some inputs into what worked well during the course, and what could be improved:

Previous years’ feedback to be addressed:

  • Having some modules in Bangkok was distracting and weakened the group energy and connection. There needs to be a balance between having modules in places where the public can access them more easily, and having them in a contemplative and quiet space away from the wider public. 


2019: This year we only had two learning modules in Bangkok, which allowed for a consistent time-frame in each learning site without disruption, which supported the flow of learning for participants, and helped to lessen travel and accommodation logistics, which was a burden the previous year.

  • This year the training was extended due to new modules being integrated into the programme, which made it too long for participants (only 5 registered for the complete programme compared to 14 the year before).


2019: The length of the training was shortened again, but included more rest days between each dimension of learning (5 days) according to previous feedbacks, so in the end the total time-frame was similar to the previous year, but with less actual training hours. Because there was such a small number of long-term participants, the break in between dimensions seemed to disrupt the community and flow of learning rather than provide time for digestion. Considering this, 3-4 days may be an optimal time instead.

  • Shifting the Worldview dimension to be the first area of learning provided

  • an excellent foundation and conceptual framework for exploring further dimensions.


This was continued this year, and has proven to be a useful way for participants to develop their own way of looking and interacting with the topics of learning. 


  • Providing structure, daily activities and space that encourage self-discipline (e.g.morning meditation, journal writing) gives participants new patterns of living that they take backwith them, to continue their owncultivation.

Due to the lack of participant numbers, there was less scope to have a student group as another site for learning and practicing new skills. Despite this, long-term participants drew on their own self-motivation to digest learning and deepen study in areas of interest.


Other feedback from this year participants was mostly positive. Areas for improvement included:

  • While participants appreciated the flexibility in organising due to consideration of needs, this was considered at the cost of clarity of the program and logistics. This related to the last-minute cancellation and change of modules due to lack of participant numbers. Despite having a lot of interest in the course this year, it did not translate into confirmed numbers.  


Deep ecology approach is a rare find in terms of integrating spirituality, emotional aspect with environmental issues. 

 

Summary of Learning Outcomes

Each year the feedback is very positive regarding participants’ deep reflective and contemplative learning experience, and the space to connect and engage in rich exchange with a diversity of people - beyond what we normally experience in our daily lives. Some of the reflections at the end of the program this year included:

  • Mindfulness, participatory decision-making and co-creative learning, all helps for knowledge to embed and sustain

  • The facilitators were knowledgeable and skilled – down to earth, humble and encouraging

  • The learning space was intimate, where people got a change to know each other deeply, especially through community building

  • The overall delivery of the course emphasized co-creation, not a facilitator-centredapproach

  • Home-staying (Ecology dimension) added a lot to the learning process


Good sequencing of workshops, especially having Deep Ecology followed by Vision Quest – which provided a strong foundation with similar energy.

 

OVERVIEW SCHEDULE

-

Arrival/ Registration & Inauguration Ceremony

3 Sept 2019

-

Building a Community of Good Friends

4-5 Sept 2019

 

Emerging Worldview, Self Discovery and Healing 
(EDE Worldview Dimension)

MODULE 1

Slow is Beautiful: Ecological Wisdom from Asian Traditions

6-9 Sept 2019

MODULE 2

Paradigm Shift and Emerging Cultural Values

12-16 Sept 2019

MODULE 3

Mindfulness and Inner Growth

19-23 Sept 2019

MODULE 4

Path of Inner Healing and Transformation

26-28 Sept 2019

MODULE 5

Art and Self Discovery

29 Sept - 1 Oct 2019

 

Interpersonal Dynamics: Power Sharing and Compassion 
(EDE Social Dimension)

MODULE 6

Compassionate Communication

7-10 Oct 2019

MODULE 7

Gender and Social Justice

13-15 Oct 2019

MODULE 8

Conflict Transformation: Process Work & Deep Democracy

16-23 Oct 2019

MODULE 9

Participatory Decision-making

26-29 Oct 2019

 

Eco-Political Economy 
(Economic Dimension EDE)

MODULE 10

Asian Political Thought and Eco-Political Economy

4-8 Nov 2019
- CANCELLED -

MODULE 11

Financial Systems and Local Economies

11-14 Nov 2019

- CANCELLED -

MODULE 12A

Right Livelihood and Alternative Markets: A Learning Journey

17-22 Nov 2019

- CANCELLED -

MODULE 12B

Right Livelihood and Alternative Markets: Re-defining Market

23-27 Nov 2019

 

Ecology and Design 
(Ecological Dimension EDE)

MODULE 13

Deep Ecology

3-7 Dec 2019

MODULE 14

Vision Quest

10-16 Dec 2019

MODULE 15

Foundations of Ecology

19-23 Dec 2019

MODULE 16

Ecological Design

26-30 Dec 2019

- CANCELLED -

 

Skilful Means  for Social Transformation

MODULE 17

Mindful Facilitation for Empowerment 
(Gaia Education Training of Trainers)

5-18 Jan 2020

MODULE 18

Community Organising for Empowerment

21-25 Jan 2020
- CANCELLED -

MODULE 19

Mindful Activism

18 Jan - 1 Feb 2020

-

Reflection and Evaluation of ALT programme for long-term students

2-3 Feb 2020

 

Sulak Sivaraksa 'The Wisdom of Sustainability'
Founder, ALT Program

"Education needs to be re-envisioned to include the cultivation of wisdom, as well as learning to live in society and overcoming oppression and exploitation. For education to be more effective, it has to be dialogical, inclusive, and compassionate, and needs to heal the rift between body and mind… Buddhist education begins with humanity’s ultimate questions: What is the meaning of life? What is our own deepest nature? What is our responsibility to others? Buddhism does not separate life from education."

 
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