Logo: DDI International

DDI Around the World: from Palestine and Ecuador


From Palestine

DDI Team

If you had to mark the “official” or consensus reality beginning of DDI as an organization, we would place it in 2006 with a first seminar in the West Bank. That project grew and became our first program, the Process Oriented Leadership Program Palestine. Sparked out of a desire to meet Palestinians, get to know their hopes and inspirations and lives from the inside out, we ended up in the North of Palestine, in Jenin.

group picture JeninIn a region which is the focal point of many of the globally unresolved tensions, with a complex and difficult history, wars, and occupation, and the second intifada, our first project was focused on a fact finding mission, what was the most needed that we could bring. Palestinians told us that they are interested in learning more about leadership and how project development, personal development, and the difficult political situation can all come together in new leadership styles and thinking. We were thrilled, as this goes along with our main mission and belief: that everyone everywhere, all of us, have a capacity to follow our own visions and facilitate the course of our relationships, communities, and organizations.

In our first seminar, we had the good fortune to have Dr. Rola Jadallah as a participant. At that time, Rola was an assistant professor of biology and a doctoral candidate. She soon became DDI’s Director of the Palestine program. Through her faith and dedication, the program has continued and is now growing into other cities throughout the West Bank.

Dr. Rola says:

In the past I thought that good leaders were born but now I believe they are made. If you have the desire and dedication, you can become an effective leader. I have experienced this myself: good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training and experience, listening to others, and follow their minds as well as their feelings and facilitate as much as they lead. This is part of my experience with DDI. I live in Palestine, which is occupied by Israel. If I want to think about daily life, I am often tempted to give up from any issue dealing with capacity building, but after becoming involved with DDI, my prescriptions to many issues changed. My understanding of power and privilege and how hidden roles structure change have been very helpful. These do not come naturally but are acquired through continual work and study. Good leaders are continually working and studying to improve their leadership skills. They are NOT resting on their laurels. I am proud to say that I am a mother, assistant professor, director for a project unit in the university, and vice president of the municipality in my town. Most of my skills were built during this shared journey between me and the Deep Democracy Institute. This started in 2007 and during these years the institute trained me and others. Most of the trainers hold leading positions in their institutions. I can say that during the training they began to understand the challenges of living under occupation and how to resist it by focusing on development. Together we have learned how weakness is a power that brings us learning and community.

One of the things that we’ve learned is to appreciate the enormous creativity and spirit of the participants who have come to learn together with us. Another viewpoint, that is not the only one we encountered, but deserves a special mention here, is that a focus on the big conflict is important, but should not inhibit us to focus on the smaller tensions among ourselves and our community issues.

Max Schupbach writes:

We are often asked: “What do you think you can achieve with your work in Palestine?” “Do you think it will help with the regional conflict?” We understand the question but it marginalizes the lives and creativity of the Palestinians and their inspiration and strength. We also teach in Amsterdam, San Francisco, London, and Berlin. People assume that in these cities, participants come because they want to learn about Deep Democracy and cutting edge leadership development. Nobody ever asks us: Do you think your work will solve the racial tensions in Amsterdam, or the community issues in London, or the EU tensions? Working on your own community issues, like we have witnessed and shared with the Palestinians over these last years, focusing on your own process, working on your relationships AND finding the structure of national transformation and participating in it politically like our DDI director Rola and many of our students, what possibly could change any situation more? We are grateful for the learning, the lifelong friendships that have formed, the mutual understanding and trust that has been built over the years. Thank you.


From Ecuador

Dr. Stanford Siver, Development Director, DDI

mountain ecuadorTwo years ago, Julián Jaramillo; a friend, student of deep democracy and processwork, and apprentice shaman met me at the Quito airport on my first trip to Ecuador. Julián was a graduate of a therapist facilitator training program in Quito, Instituto Technológico Superior de Desarrollo Human Cre-Ser (Believe to Be) and the program’s classes in processwork had sparked his imagination. I’d come to give a seminar but the first thing Julián said was, “There’s a ceremony tonight. Do you want to go?” Maybe it was my oxygen-deprived brain struggling with the altitude, maybe my fatigue from having flown all day and all night and all day to get there, or maybe it was the special spirit of the land in Ecuador, but I said yes. We got into a taxi that led away from the inner city downtown airport and wound up - several towns, taxis, and bus rides later - in an old and remote hacienda built during the earlier days of Spanish colonialism. There I met Bladi and Ruthcita Sandoval, Julián’s friends and mentors, the shamans who would lead the all-night ceremony. I thought about the process-oriented idea that the place and timing and way that you meet people is often mythical; it somehow foreshadows aspects of the relationship that you may not realize immediately and which will continue to shape and pattern your relationship. Ruthcita and Bladi and Julián immediately shook my assumptions about shamans. Ruthcita: a powerhouse of warmth, loving relatedness, and connection with gran espíritu. Bladi: a voracious reader of history, political philosophy, psychology, and a fan of the work of Carlos Castaneda—the US anthropologist who wrote about shamanism through telling stories about his apprenticeship with Don Juan, a Yaqui shaman. Julián: a passionate student, eager to understand the connection between shamanism and indigenous philosophy, the western world, and process-oriented deep democracy’s attempts to describe something like a unified field theorem that brings it all together. Ruthcita, Bladi, and Julián each felt that Castaneda’s books, ignoring a few details that were woven into the book’s formulaic narrative to make the story flow, are the texts that best reflect their understanding of shamanism and their work with spirit, consensus reality, and life and that Arny Mindell’s work mirrored that in a way that was practical and accessible. The ceremony was held in the largest teepee I’d ever seen: long poles leaning together and covered with an enormous, discarded vinyl Pizza Hut sign like a huge symbol of the integration of indigenous practice and modern capitalism. A large fire burned in the center of the teepee, surrounded by a ring of stones; the participants each sitting on the earth against the outer skin of the teepee. The ceremony continued until sunrise with Bladi and Julián chanting, singing, playing guitar and watching over the participants. The fire keepers kept feeding new logs to the fire but also they would rake the hot coals from the fire and use a shovel to paint with them, drawing pictures of power animals and spirits in the space within the stones.

The magical spirit of the earth

As I sat watching the fire, I began to see images in the flames and coals. At first I discounted them as artifacts of my sleep and oxygen-deprived brain’s inability to adjust but then I began to appreciate something about them and their dreaming. A special feeling came with each experience and I started to think about the earth, the tao, and concepts from quantum physics and how it connects us all. And I started to think about Ecuador and the magical spirit of the earth and life that the people there have and about the unusual synchronicities that had brought me there. I wondered about the dreaming source of polarities and conflicts and the dreaming solutions or resolutions to those polarities and conflicts.

Is my understanding of processwork too linear and western? Can someone as linear and western as I am learn and open up to something as foreign to me as indigenous spirituality? At a deeper level can we start to see capitalism and socialism as two local manifestations of a richer human tendency? How do we deal with the questions personally and how do we deal with them collectively? Do we individually have something like a life myth that patterns our personality, our interests, and our lives; and do we collectively have something like a human myth that patterns our behavior and interactions globally?

I listened to the fire and to the music and the chanting and I felt altered in a warm, safe, but challenging way as if an outside force, a spirit that I didn’t understand, was somehow working on me or approaching me, trying to communicate and create relationship. I understood that I was at an edge to open up to the unknown, mysterious experience. And then I changed and felt myself imagining that I was slowly sinking deep into the earth. From within her center, I could hear her thoughts and for a moment I had the thought that I was being taught by the earth and that this is the way it has always been, for thousands of years; the earth, our mother, has always taught us.

In the days that followed I learned about many of the challenges facing Ecuador; hopes for economic development, mining and energy projects, and modernization competing with hopes for a more indigenous sustainable life. These tensions exist everywhere but I wondered about how they are different in Ecuador. Does the spirit of the land actually manage to shape and guide us collectively in our conflicts?

Deepening collective understanding

In many ways Ecuador is ahead of most of the world in regards to its integration of dreaming into mainstream culture. In 2008 Ecuador rewrote its Constitution and it was ratified by the people of Ecuador in a 64% majority in a referendum, approving articles that recognize rights for nature and ecosystems. Ecuador was the first to weave the rights of nature into its constitution.

The Constitution, ratified by ‘we women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador’:

recognizes the

celebrates nature

and supports

It also supports a high dream to build

and is committed to

The roles and voices represented and protected by the constitution are beautiful and also compete with other roles; those that value economic development, jobs, technology, and the rights of people, communities, and nations to benefit from the environment. Consensus reality solutions like enacting legislation that protects human rights doesn’t guarantee our safety, and legislation intended to protect the earth and the diversity of life doesn’t guarantee their protection either. But it does reflect an exciting effort to deepen our collective understanding and to create a broader open forum for discussion.

My experience in the ceremony had been more about deepening questions than about answers. Maybe our collective conflicts are also more about deepening questions than about specific resolutions or solutions. That is something I hope to remember, when I notice moments when I forget all of that and I get attached to one side of an issue or when my body experiences are too painful for me to hold and learn from without reacting or escalating in order to win.

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