Ups, we did it again!
“Follow the Yellow Brick Road” is a very successful training course we have realised for the first time in Italy in December 2013, and that since then we have brought (with some variations each time) to Czech Republic and Netherlands. This time, we took it back where it all started: the village of Sermugnano, in central Italy. The fourth edition took place in January 2017 and allowed us to boldly go where no man has gone before. Like,
trespassing private property and archaeological sites, on a journey to self discovery and growth. But really? Well, let’s find out.
Sermugnano is a lovely place that has more cats than people
and looks like it’s just out of a fairy tale postcard, even on an average, winter day.
So it seems perfectly suited to host a training course on personal development, with strong elements of connection with the nature and storytelling. Also, for some reasons we always bring our groups there in winter, which is not so bad since winter in central Italy can be cold, but not too punishing.
Ready to follow us on the journey? Set, go!
Thanks to the contribution of the Erasmus+ programme (“But what has Europe ever done for us?” yeah, whatever) we have collected a fine group of 23 participants from 12 European countries. The diversity in the group was one of its most important elements, because it brings a lot of… well, diversity, I guess? Cultures, languages and points of view that are an essential part of an exploratory journey.
The title of the course is inspired – in case you are wondering, which
makes you unworthy of reading this page is something definitely worth addressing – to The Wizard of Oz, the famous 1939 movie with Judy Garland. Which may be old, and is still controversial (we had a very good round of discussion and critiques on the movie), but still scores an amazing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, which defines it:
An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant
and frankly, that still has to mean something. In short, it’s a story of a girl that finds herself very far from Kansas (her home), and with the help of a few apparently good-for-nothing misfits and some supernatural help, will manage to find her way back. In the process, she also manages to right a few wrongs and make everybody else discover their true potential and achieve something important. That’s a very powerful story, speaking of personal transformation, and that’s why we decided to get inspired by it – one more time.
Anyway. We were soon able to form one team out of such a group of diverse individuals. One of the ways we did that, was exploring communication and teamwork, with a blindfold game called “Colour Blind” (it wouldn’t be the only time when the group would be deprived of some senses):
The whole point of the game is that participants are blindfolded, and they have to solve a puzzle which involves wooden figures. They have to use their other senses, teamwork and a great deal of communication skills if they want to solve the puzzle.
In the meantime, the trainers are there to support the process and create a safe learning environment,
for example, by
taking blindfold selfies testing testing their sixth sense awareness,
exploring the connections between art and perception
wearing funny hats,
and in general,
making random jokes involving friends and other props testing that no-one was cheating.
So, yes, you can probably guess that I took very seriously the task of keeping a serious tone to the whole thing. But seriously: it’s important to include humour in a self development experience, or the risk is that it becomes too serious in a freakish way. And well, bad humour is still humour, right?
Do you want to know if the group solved the puzzle? Short answer: NO. They got tired and frustrated by the confusion, and in the end they didn’t make it. How to deal with mistakes and failure was going to be one of the main topics of our week, so what happened was really fitting well in there.
The programme included, as for some of our classics, a good deal of work on artistic expression and to develop creativity,
and a thinking-outside-the-box attitude.
So much, that the course developed very soon a “everything can happen” attitude. Which is in general a good thing, worried as we are that education and society at large seem to be a little too obsessed with structure and limitations, and this ends up suppressing people’s potential and killing dreams, rather than helping to realise them.
So we were always finding time and space for playfulness to be included in our programme,
and by the end of the week, our group marching through the streets of the little village looked and felt a bit like “the circus is in town”. You can clearly see the expressions of joy and freedom there!
As well as my pure, unworried smile. But hey, I consider to be cheerful all part of the job.
So, creativity, intuition and playfulness were some of the cornerstones of our course. To counter balance it, we were also including many moments of reflection and sharing, to make sure to engage also empathy, compassion and the more spiritual and social dimensions of learning.
And as always, we incorporated a rich component of The Way of the Council (as we learned by the Ojai Foundation) in the course, to develop communication, listening and speaking from the heart. Really, if you have never tried this practice, you should. It can really be a powerful tool to bring growth and trust to any group process.
Another of our classics: an important part of the course was inspired by the Hero’s Journey narrative. (Do you want to know more about it? Well, you don’t need to look further! On this very same blog you will find 12 articles, dedicated to each of the main stages of the process. You can find them all neatly categorized under the “Hero’s Journey” label. Clever, uh?).
How did we incorporate it in our programme this time? We started with a challenging and inspiring adventure in the nearby area,
where our protagonists had to solve riddles before Crossing the Threshold,
learn to trust each other (or maybe themselves) in unfamiliar situations,
and face some more unexpected challenges on the way,
which, I think, some may have enjoyed,
and others may have enjoyed a little less.
But this time, I have to say, it was a real inspiration to see how well they worked together,
assisting each other while at the same time being immersed each in their personal journey.
The group could finally claim its well deserved reward.
This was the day part of the adventure. The night brought a completely different type of challenge, in which each participant was invited to design their own personal ceremony to invite, or celebrate, an important change in their life.
The possibilities were many, as everybody was really invited to express themselves through every aspect of the ceremony: from setting the intentions for it, to designing its details, to its actual performance.
People were encouraged to face their challenges, getting out of familiar territories and habits: many fasted through the whole day, many decided to stay away from distractions or addictions, some decided to spend part (or the most part!) of night outside, while others took the time and took care of themselves. Everything was allowed, and nothing was obligatory. In this way we could ensure that the process would be a special time of celebration and marking personal decisions for everybody.
The morning after (yes, everybody was back safely and in one piece. Did you doubt it?) we shared the stories and oh, the feeling was gorgeous.
It felt like a real groundbreaking experience, also because… it was. That very day, Italy experienced another major earthquake unfortunately. This part of the story is not funny at all. We all could feel the quakes very well. Luckily, no person or building was damaged in our area, but there were victims in other parts of central Italy and more people remained homeless. To them, goes all our thoughts and solidarity.
After the challenges of the past days, the group deserved a nice break in Civita di Bagnoregio, a really magical place, a nearby town that seems suspended in time (and in the sky),
where they could indeed enjoy a proper break and some fun.
We made sure to include “Open Space” workshops, in which participants could learn from each other in a, well, open structure.
To complete the picture, we included in the programme some solid community building elements, very important in residential events. After all, we all live together and we are called to share so much!
It appears only normal that by living together and working together, people learn to know each other better, and respect each other more. Obvious, right? They why don’t we do it more often? For example, why don’t we learn these basic principles – such as: clean after your own mess and wash up after every meal – in primary school?
Well, we did. Cleaning, reporting, and especially cooking became soon some of the favourite activities everyday.
And sure, food had for sure a very important place in our week together. We had the luxury of having home made, family-style Italian food every day. Which made us feel cozy and
fat happy, since every meal was an opportunity for celebration!
I seriously mean it. Have a look.
I am getting hungry even as I write this. I should probably
have a snack now stop it.
Thanks to the fantastic work of Angelo and Giovanna, who happen also to be my fantastic parents. Be blessed forever.
So, the week was over! Maybe too soon?
Not judging by the trainers, who were absolutely exhausted. Bara Blahova,
And of course yours truly, here, to complete the quartet.
We made sure to involve an award ceremony at the end of the course, so that everybody involved got what they deserved. If you were there, you know what I mean.
And yes, maybe a bit of sadness was there as everybody packed to go back home,
But for sure people were now better equipped to face their future adventures: with creativity, connections, some clarity, inner resources and motivation to face the unknown.
All in all, a very memorable week. We were all really lucky to be there.
Thank you for reading this!
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And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include this little “Call to adventure” at the end of this story. Would you like to host, or be involved as organiser, in the next edition of this course? Contact us! And we will be very happy to discuss the conditions and support you in any way we can.
(credits for the amazing cover picture to Rutger. Thank you very much!)