Logo: DDI International

Eyewitness reports from our first intensive in Otranto, South of Italy

Fartun Mohamed

Portrait fartunIt was an amazing experience for me. Life changing. I learned so much from the trainings... getting the chance to facilitate in the small group as well as the large group, the tutorials, the open forums, everywhere I turned I learnt something new. My most amazing moment was in the small group where we got into a triad with Gunnar and Holger and had the most heart-opening sharing ever! The connection we formed and what we talked about was so deep. It amazed me how people from different parts of the world could connect on such a deep level, and it inspired me to work with diverse communities. I connected and shared a lot with almost everyone, but that evening was the most amazing one!
Fartun Mohamed, Kenya

Ahmad Abbadi

Portrait AhmadFor me, the Intensive was like a small world!! People from all over the world learning together, sharing their different points of view, and supporting those who are in need of help. It was a unique environment of collective learning! I liked it very much. Thank you Ruth and Josef for everything you did to make my participation in the Intensive possible. I do appreciate your help very much!
Ahmad Abbadi, Palestine



Xenia Kuleshova

Portrait XeniaDDI inspires me with a lot of things but I want to describe one, my last change after the DDI intensive that took place in Otranto, Italy. For a very long time, as far as I can remember, I criticized myself for not having a real profession and because of that I can’t really master anything. I trained as a physician and a psychologist, but I could not identify with any profession. I also participated in many projects but more as a team member and not a leader. So I always had the feeling that it is not clear for me where to go next. There is no purpose in life. I felt a sense of frustration as if I'm a failure. Even though I have all the signs of formal social success, my inner critic was beating me up.

With that, I came to Otranto. I did not have serious problems or symptoms or changes in my life, only this constant unfulfilled longing for meaning. In Otranto there were many daily group processes. The topics were different, touching, a lot of interesting situations and important insights but for me the most wonderful and memorable was HOW the group processes were happening. The fact that, even though someone would take the role of the official facilitator, everyone in the whole group was facilitating. It was like a living organism and it was amazing. The group acted like a flock of birds or fish obeying their inner music. Everyone was expressing something important, one after another, enabling the next step. It was like a real choreographed dance. What was also amazing, for the first time in my life I felt relaxed during the group processes. Relaxed may not be a good word, maybe it’s better to say trusting. The feeling was that there is nothing to worry about. It is important to notice what just happens and then, when the right moment comes, my mouth would open and I would say whatever was needed. Before that I would be merely attentive. I felt the same trust both as a facilitator and as a participant, that trust of the process about which many teachers talk about but I finally felt it in practice.

So I realized that facilitation, of course, can be a profession. But for me it is not a profession. It is something that I'm interested to do anywhere, any time, and in any situation. In projects, the family, with friends, on the street… Facilitation for me can be the same kind of skill as the ability to speak or write. This is my thing that I want to master. And I wish and hope that in the future facilitation will be taught from kindergarten. But for now we are the group of pioneers and that is who I am – a pioneer.

In Otranto, I saw a prototype of the community that I hope we will have in the future on our planet. I have a lot of sentimental feelings about this community. It may sound pathetic, but I finally saw in practice what I had read about in books. This is a community in which everyone in the best of their capabilities is a facilitator. A community in which it is possible to speak out about a problem and trust that it will be taken seriously with respect and the community will try to find a solution. The role of the leader is shared too and leadership comes from inside from one moment to another. And those that follow the moment do not fight elders - they support the leaders because today it is you and tomorrow it will be me. I could see an alternative to war and tyranny and I found my place.

So, my job, my mission is just to feel my inner impulses, follow them, and trust the wisdom of the process, catch trends, and support other leaders. And it's not about who's playing the first violin. The music is playing and it's the most important.

I’m back at home, and I'm observing myself. It seems nothing has changed except a sense of confidence and friendship with myself. But it’s huge!!! I have also some practical results. A week passed and just by following my curiosity and supporting friends’ ideas, I launched two interesting projects. But the main thing that happened is that I feel that it is quite unnecessary for me to become "someone." There is no need to create myself because I am fine just the way I am.
Xenia Kuleshova, Russia


Ruth Weyermann and Josef Helbling

Ruth and Josef10 intense days in Southern Italy

During and after the first DDI Intensive training over 10 days in Otranto, Italy, with 80 participants from 21 countries, many people asked how it was for us as part of this group and of the leading team. We are thankful to Ellen and Max Schupbach for creating DDI and initiating this Intensive together with Stanford Siver and for being part of that team. We would love to share a few of our experiences and thoughts here. We were so impressed by the self-organizing power of this Intensive which somehow was present from the beginning. Less then 6 months passed by between the first dreamy ideas and the actual event! Nobody could have predicted that in a rather short time such a beautiful diverse group would come together. And there we sat on the 12th of October, in a conference hall close to the sea in still warm weather, looking at the group, feeling the excited and curious atmosphere, wondering how the planned focus on group facilitation, inner work and relationship will unfold itself in the interaction with the people present over the 10 days together.

To begin with, as part of the community building process, our ad hoc group decided to work on the problem of so many different languages being spoken. What we feared to be a big hindrance in communication ended up as contributing to a feeling of richness. What a pleasure sometimes to hear the many ways the so-called English can be spoken or to hear sentences in Swahili, Arabic, Russian, or Italian in the middle of a heated discussion! We found the variety of proposed topics for group processes in the big group and also in the three smaller afternoon training groups already raising the awareness about how broad the range of issues is which are waiting to be discovered and processed. In our mind this is a clear and loud request to all of us to open up to group process wherever possible.

We enjoyed very much the exercises designed for dyads and triads which added to the skills and led to deep touching experiences for many. It was so good for us to go around as helpers and hear the variety and depth of what was worked on.

For sure also many areas where we would love to learn more and grow showed up during the days! One is the lifelong learning not only to judge what is happening into categories like right and wrong, useful and disturbing, but to give it a chance to be unfolded and become meaningful. Another huge learning is getting used to sit in the fire, in groups going through heated and non-linear phases of interaction. This must be especially tricky to learn for the two rather introverted persons with a Swiss background we sometimes are!

group at dinner table“I was touched and inspired by many things! One of those exciting moments was, when one evening in the mild air of Otranto – the first time since the foundation of DDI – all regional directors sat together around a table in the Restaurant ‘Profumo del Mare’ celebrating this real magic moment of coming together as a larger team. Wow, this was a real blast!!!”
Ruth, Director DDI Europe

Anton Yermolenko

portrait anton

The Otranto Intensive was my first intensive in process work and it went incredibly well. My biggest learning was not the theory, which was extremely profound, but the diversity I encountered there. What a group we had - people from 21 countries all in one room for 10 days! Well, this experience of diversity helped me a lot in finding my own style as a facilitator. It is one thing to practice process work in a well-known community, but it becomes really challenging when you do it in such a diverse group. And Otranto...mmm, what a marvelous city! Hope to come there again.
Anton Yermolenko, Ukraine


Petra, Holger, Tabea and Jana Fuchs

Portrait fartunIt was a nourishing experience to spend ten days in the community of amazing people who have dedicated themselves to awareness, Deep Democracy, and working on their issues. Thank you so much for making this possible.
Petra, Holger, Tabea and Jana Fuchs, Germany



Per van Spall

Portrait PeerI was an eyewitness in Otranto.

It was great to meet people from 21 different countries. Everybody was curious about what was going to happen in the first couple of days. Slowly as the time spirit moved on, borders and boundaries disappeared.

The feeling of being naked and feeling vulnerable made me think, heaviness came up. It brought me to a point of letting go of old ways of thinking and to let new things emerge... there was a moment of feeling the bottom of my existence, embracing the emptiness. This was after the exercise of exploring my life myth. I’m grateful to all because I felt naked in a very secure environment!

After this day, inner peacefulness appeared. The flow started. I was more feeling than thinking, just being and adapting/learning. My energy was starting to increase. Learning gave energy, it did not cost energy....

Next to inner peace, I could feel and understand others better. So inner peace combined with compassion made it fun and gave me energy and motivation for the whole Intensive. The outcome was idealism. The idealism brought energy for my ambition for greater good!

There was a feeling of safety all around, and the team did a very good job to keep an eye on this! The safety all around made contact with other participants very deep and intense. Trust and faith made it's way on our path. The exercises were intense and gave energy. It felt pure.

The 10-day program is amazing. The build-up towards the final evening made it memorable. For me it was the birth of a community, being seen, and the feeling of being part of a family where each and everyone is taking steps in their own evolution in order to assist their environment!

My magical moment was the party on Saturday night. We discovered new talents. It was just like sitting, very cozy, around a warm fireplace... 

Thank you so much to the team, Max, Ellen, Ruth, Josef, Stanford, and all participants. 
For me this was a life-changing learning and feeling experience. I wish it for everyone!


Maryanne Wachira

Mariannes triad of four10 days. 80 people. 21 nationalities.

Countless memories and deep encounters amidst such diversity. Sharing an apartment with Rola from Palestine, Fartun from Kenya and Zhanna from Kazakhstan. Being in a ‘triad’ of four with Benjamin from Germany, Elena from Russia, and Yuten from Japan. Yet amidst all this diversity such a sense of connectedness. This is one of the many lessons from the Otranto experience – how connected we all are.

DDI creates a safe space to be and to explore. I learnt, I practised, and it was great. The relationship exercise we did in the small group triads was amazing. It seemed to me that in half an hour a relationship reached levels that would normally take months or even years, just by being present to feelings and experiences and talking about them. After this there was some tension with one participant and I thought ‘we are here, we are learning this, let me try it’. Ok. It wasn’t as simple as that. It took me two days of ‘I’m going to do it now!’ before I did. The relief after that! For both of us and for the relationship. It was wonderful to experience that and this is one of my areas of practice in these days. So freeing!

In one of the many discussions in the large group about our presence in Otranto, Max said that the global presence empowers the local spirit. It provides an opportunity for the local people to see what they have with fresh eyes. And how true that was for me in those 10 days. I came back home and saw myself and my life with new eyes. I feel such a sense of peace and centeredness about where I am at, and about my path. It's a deeper trust in myself, and in God's love for me. Thank you to all the participants. Thank you amazing DDI team. I look forward to meeting all of you again, and for those who can, welcome to the Nairobi DDI seminars!
Maryanne Wachira, Kenya


Zina Daniele

Portrait zinaI am still processing the deep powerful experience of the 10 days. I felt the immediate power of the dyad and triad exercises. The inner work was so stimulating and in some cases brought resolution. I very much appreciated the warmth present among the participants since the beginning, increasing each day to the very special moment of the farewell hugs. I came to the seminar free from expectations and devoid of any information about DDI work; and all that took place nourished my learning about the many possibilities of being in a group, in a community and with your own self in this particular time for the planet. I was fascinated by the strong shamanic approach underlying the teaching. It wasn't just a seminar, it was a fresh community revealing itself day by day in a here and now spirit.
Zina Daniele, Italy


Rola Ibraheem Jadallah

otranto landscapeI travelled to Otranto with unexplained emotions and thoughts. Maybe I was afraid of the idea of joining 80 different people (different ideas, moods, attitudes and opinions). But after joining the group I learned that love is spread all over the world and people can inspire you and try to support you just because they touch your humanity and feel your power. The time in Otranto was full of fun, learning and it gave a chance to reflect. I saw my life from different angles, and went back home with feelings that I trust my abilities and understand them in a way I never did. Rola Ibraheem Jadallah, Ph.D., Palestine



Paul Callery

Portrait PaulWhat was particularly exciting for me was the incredible community learning experience. Through the structure of the large group, small groups, triads & innerwork we became a collective multi-leveled learning experience. Again & again I was moved, enriched & changed by someone else’s sharing or exchange. Organically, we all became each other’s process & learning. Through the joining of each person’s own unique thread, a magical, multi-layered & ever-changing tapestry was created. It was an incredible model for learning & a powerful demonstration for living.
Paul Callery, Spain


Elena Chizhenkova

Portrait elenaDDI's Intensive in Otranto actually became the first meeting and encounter with processwork through Max, Ellen, Ruth, Josef, Stanford, and all 80 participants. It came out of the blue, like the snow in summer. Or was it like the breath of fresh air? Or was it like a playful furry wave of the Adriatic Sea? There could be many more metaphors, and the truth would be a collection of all these images... in combination with the journey inside yourself and others in mutual reflection - as if you put two mirrors next to each other.

Thank you, DDI, thank you, Otranto. I wish to continue to live and interact in the same spirit. With respect and love,
Elena Chizhenkova, Russia


Yuliya Filippovska

Portrait of Yuliya and friendOn the first day of the DDI intensive, the image that flirted with me several times was the combination of two things: my Apple iPhone lying on top of the DDI brochure. When I saw these two logos together three times, I finally stopped and looked with more attention and curiosity as if the apple and two lizards with one stomach shouted at me: if you ever ask what would be the next big thing in the advancement of technology design innovations, that would be about human software and human design - the most scary and fascinating project on this planet. In fact, it's happening, right now!! And it takes courage to step into it - like 80 people from 21 countries and 5 continents dared to do on 12-21 October, 2012 in Otranto, Italy, going for the first leadership Deep Democracy Institute intensive. And I want to deeply thank Max, Ellen, Ruth, Josef, and Stanford for making the impossible things happen, for experimenting, and allowing the emerging trends to unfold in full speed with such fun and excitement and love and big hearts! I'm happy to be part of the DDI team, to bring it forward!
Yuliya Filippovska, Ukraine

Watch the video-report from Otranto


DDI Intensive 2012 in Pictures from Deep Democracy Institute on Vimeo.