TOWARDS A NEW PARADIGM OF HOLISTIC SUSTAINABILITY
Awakening Leadership Training 2018
March 30, 2019
“I was looking for some answers to big questions - how to connect my inner happiness with the world around me and its problems. I was looking for how to connect inner and outer change. I now feel I am more connected to all parts of myself. I am more committed, more inspired, more able to cope with my inner and outer reality, and more grounded as an agent of change for myself and for the rest of the world."
The third running of Awakening Leadership Training, a collaborative effort of Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), Ecovillage Transition Asia (ETA) as well as Gaia Education and Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), took place from 2 September 2018 – 15 March 2019 in Thailand. The Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) framework was integrated into the programme, expanding modules of learning with increased emphasis on self-cultivation and social transformation. The 5 areas of learning were:
Emerging Worldview, Self-discovery and Healing (EDE Worldview Dimension)
helping participants ground their own perspectives by providing different pathways into self-exploration, and utilising that as a basis to explore the world around.
Interpersonal Dynamics: Power Sharing and Compassion (EDE Social Dimension)
building a community of good friends, participants co-created the space for inquiry and experimentation, which formed the foundation for practicing deep listening, compassion and empathy, as well as exploration of inter-personal relations, power issues and marginalisation.
Eco-political Economy (EDE Economic Dimension)
including a deep exploration into the key political ‘isms’, alternatives to neo–liberalism with emphasis on Asian schools of Political Thought and Eco-Political Economy, as well as introduction to community organising and social movements.
Ecology & Design (EDE Ecological Dimension & Design)
integratedexperience in an indigenous Karen community in N Thailand, and provided an idyllic setting to connect with natureintellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, and ending with participants brining together all they have learned in the design module.
Skilful Means for Social Transformation (including Training of Trainers)
looking in more detail at skills and learning from good models of practice, drawing from their lessons learned, as well as a variety of tools that can be used to help facilitate transformation, like Applied Drama, Work that Reconnects, and Facilitation for Empowerment.
Over 27 weeks, participants took a journey grounded in critical self-awareness. Different forms of mindfulness and reflection were embedded into the daily rhythms of the programme, helping participants to be present, to understand themselves as a way to understand others and vice versa, all the while gaining confidence and grounding to find their way forward. They got to spend time in nature, to explore their own inner healing, and practice diverse forms of inner inquiry. This all helped to bring awareness to a sense of interconnectedness, and the potential of many paths. They learnt together and from each other, strengthened by their diverse cultural backgrounds and life experiences. They built their own community of good friends and care over time together, and had the time and space to practice possibilities of what community can be and how it can transform society.
Participants came together from 5 different continents, many of them active in social realm in differing capacities, (lawyers, trainers/facilitators, NGO and community workers, activists, environmental educators etc.), or seeking direction in how to walk their path with sustainability and authenticity at its core. Conventional educational levels ranged from participants with few years of schooling to PhD candidates, and ages from 20 to over 60.
Every day began with movement-based practices, and each learning day was introduced with half an hour of meditation together in the classroom. Learning sessions began with group re-caps of the previous days learning and energy of the group. Six-seven hours of study made up the rest of the learning timeframe, with another half hour of guided and self-directed deep relaxation in the middle of the day. Journal writing was introduced for half an hour at the end of each day to continue the flow of self-awareness and reflection. Wellbeing circles were held intermittently, as a lot of reflective sharing also took place during modules.
Long-term students were given space to practice and experiment with self-governance. They were handed responsibilities such as writing up reflective articles posted on social media,organising social events and welcoming new participants into the group. Having space for decision making and taking responsibility strengthened their own skills in social dynamics.
Key Learning Outcomes
Overall, there was clear self-transformation of all participants, and facilitators through the learning journey. Together there was a continuous co-creation of a compassionate energy field, which opened possibilities for each participant to deepen their learning experience and personal transformation through allowing for vulnerability and trust.
“I liked the program because I could witness lots of beautiful moments in many people, and oftentimes that was when I observed people really expressing themselves with authenticity.”
Inner reflective work provided a foundation of integrated learning across all modules, and a means for exploring diverse pathways for personal growth. As a result, the learning was grounded in experience beyond intellectual understanding, through connection of head, heart, hands and spirit together.
Working with the range of human emotions, there were also opportunities to learn and work with conflict, which led to changing attitudes, through realisation of conflict as an opportunity for growth and healthier relationships. Many of these practices opened participants to accepting the polarities, the shadow sides, which exist in themselves and others, and accepting and opening to them as part of the richness of human experience.
New learning arose by being exposed to a broad set of cultural perspectives, through the diversity of participants from around the world and their unique life experiences, and the diversity of resource people, who drew on teachings from their own experience, as well as both Asian, Western, new paradigm thinking and beyond.
While not every module was participatory in nature, the general structure that gave space for group work and reflectionmeant there was a general shift in how the knowledge was generated. This clearly built confidence in the participants. They were able to develop their own conceptual understanding of social, interpersonal, and personal perspectives through the framework of the four dimensions of sustainability plus the added dimension on Skilful Means for Social Transformation, and identify the connections between them all.
“I think I was afraid to leave at the end of ALT and take my own journey because I feel scared. But I also have found my strength during Vision Quest, that I can do it, that I am strong enough to follow my own path. Now I feel I am ready to take my own path, but I could only reach this point because I came here and there were people who could understand, who were accepting of people like me.”
Master of Arts in Holistic Sustainability
In 2019 we are piloting a Master of Arts programme in Holistic Sustainability to build on the ALT. with the ALT to be offered as the coursework component. A handful of Alumni have already expressed interest in exploring this learning avenue, and we are looking forward to many more joining.
“This is what education should be, something that is meaningful to you, and you keep it as part of your essence, and every action you do grows from that. That is what we will pass on to the next generation.”