Tagged mind-body

Day One of the Training

The view from Soeurs Salesiennes school where we are doing our training opens out to the sea of Haiti’s south coast. Nuns glide quietly over the grounds and little girls in white blouses and blue jumpers with beribboned hair skip hand in hand.

We are working in a school because no hotel in Jacmel can accommodate our crew-120 trainees plus 40 international faculty, interns, interpreters and staff. We need separate rooms for each of a dozen small groups as well as the grande salle for all 160. Many of the students are on vacation for Carnival and the Sisters who run the school have generously made it available to us.

Meanwhile, Carnival made it almost impossible for us to find any hotel rooms. And those we have are fraught with complications-not enough beds, no water, absent or erratic air conditioning in 90 degree heat, etc. Minor inconveniences really, but reminders of the much greater hardships that almost all Haitians have to endure. The fact that we are able to have the training at all makes me so grateful for all the efforts of Linda Metayer, our Haitian program director, and LeeAnn, Jesse, and Wilguens, our US & Haitian administrative team.

Usual first day confusion and chaos-90 out of 120 doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, priests, nuns, and voodoo healers show up. “Oh, did it begin today?” wonder some of the absent ones whom Linda and Regine, one of our interns, called. “We will be there later” they say, and indeed most of them appear.

There are nine in my small group (more tomorrow I am sure) plus Regine, who also teaches yoga each morning, and Marc my interpreter. There’s a wonderful young pediatrician who supervises 40 professionals in the public hospital in Jacmel. She has been in one of Linda’s workshops and comes to our training like a hungry woman to a feast. “Everything” she says “I want to bring everything I am learning to my team.” There are nurses and teachers, the directrice of the regional chapter of the Croix Rouge, a sister who is a school principle, and some people with less formal education who are committed to helping those who continue to suffer from the earthquake and its aftermath. The middle-aged farmer who is helping in the schools and seems to be the head of his local mountain village concludes the first group; “If we had had these techniques before or even just after the earthquake we would have been less victims.”

James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.

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Arriving in Jacmel

We wound over the mountains from Port-au-Prince and arrived in Jacmel in time for lunch. Spills of fruit, vegetables, brightly painted metal butterflies, ceramic vases pouring out of stands onto the edge of the narrow roadway. Agriculture—hoes not tractors–struggling up steep slopes.

At the community center cum chuch in Jacmel we gather—faculty with our twelve Haitian Interns, some of the brightest and most committed of the first group of 120 whom we trained. We have brought interpreters from Port-au-Prince who have helped us before–absolutely essential to be understood in Kreyol, absolutely essential for us and our new group of 120 trainees to understand one another.

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In Haiti

The Center always begins meetings with meditation- to calm and center us after rushing to arrive. Now we are here, together– preparing to focus as a team to accomplish the work at hand.

This is the pre-program staff meeting yesterday in Jacmel, Haiti, where the Center is training 120 care providers in our Initial Mind-Body Medicine program. Initial and advanced trainings have been held previously in Port-au-Prince, and some of those trained are now part of a Haiti Leadership Team serving as interns in this training. Dr. Gordon and Center faculty are guiding the deep process of learning that begins today. The trainees will learn the science and practice of self-care, in a supportive small-group setting. They need this support themselves, and will learn to share it with their families and their communities in Jacmel.

Blessings on the work!

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A New Way to Think of Lovingkindness

 

This post originally appeared in the author’s blog Mindful Mothering on December 7, 2011.
Happy Valentine’s Day! 

I still have thoughts swimming from David Whyte‘s workshop and one was on this idea of lovingkindness. That is not how he described it but he speaks of the essence of how we nurture ourselves. He suggests that we are the only part of creation that is allowed to deny itself, ie a tree or flower do not get to deny their essence but we as humans, constantly deny or reject parts of ourselves that we are dissatisfied with. And so this idea of how to nurture ourselves is cast aside by our self-criticism. Read more

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Our work in Israel and Gaza in Jerusalem Post

Hi everybody,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying your summers. I’ve been  in Israel and Gaza with our team, and more recently have been working on getting our programs ready for the fall (Professional Training Program in Mind-Body Medicine begins in just a little over a month!) as well as doing some writing.

I wanted to share with you a profile of me and of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s work that just appeared in the Jerusalem Post Magazine. The JP is one of Israel’s largest and most influential newspapers–in both Hebrew and English–and I am hopeful that the profile will be helpful as we raise both awareness and funding for the trauma and other programs in Israel and Gaza.

Profile from Jerusalem Post Magazine, by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger:

From War to Ward: An Unorthodox Psychiatrist

In that connection, we are beginning to organize a joint Israeli-Palestinian CancerGuides training in the summer of 2012. The CG program is much needed in Israel, and is of desperate importance in Gaza and the West Bank where  people with cancer, particularly women, are often treated as pariahs.

Over the last year or so, we have organized the first cancer support program ever in Gaza, and now, we have ten groups running concurrently. You may remember that some of these cancer group participants are featured in our short video about Gaza, “Finding Hope in the Face of Another.”

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Visiting Leogane Haiti – Mind-Body Skills at Cardinal Leger Hospital

We spend the morning at the Cardinal Leger Hospital, destroyed in the earthquake and quickly rebuilt. Haiti’s lepers come here, older people without legs , or with fingers and toes amputated by the disease; brothers 8 and 12 years old whose noses have collapsed and whose faces and hands already bear the scars of the condition.

The kindly and concerned Sisters and lay nurses who are in charge have been overwhelmed by the suffering around them—staff, friends and family killed in the earthquake, as well as by the weight of sadness their patients bring. Out in the country, living with people whose illness has wasted them, meeting acute care needs, they are clearly stretched thin.

Little by little, they brighten during our workshop, appreciating the relaxation of Soft Belly, laughing with the shaking and dancing—“The first time laughing since last January 12th,” notes one sister.

Here’s a quick video we took of participants dancing at a Port-au-Prince workshop—

Sharing their drawings, One sister notes how rigid her body is in the drawing of her “biggest problem”, and how the flower that she draws in the third picture (“the solution to the problem”), bending gracefully toward the sun, is a “lesson to remember.” Before we close, JJ teaches us all to stretch in our chairs.

Afterwards, outside, the Sisters show us the bushes blooming red, yellow, white, and orange, and reach up with a net to fetch us mangos for the road. “We will use what you have taught us, ourselves,” says Sister Yolande, the Director, “and we will teach our patients too.”

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Training Haitian Healers: Father Fredy Stops By

On our first night in Port-au-Prince, while  Lee Ann and I are going over the next day’s schedule, Father Fredy appears at our table on the Plaza Hotel’s terrace.

Fredy is whippet-thin and angled slightly forward, a living emblem of his eagerness to share what he has been learning and doing even before the CMBM training begins on Tuesday. “The children who have lost their homes and parents are the ones I work with most. I have them breathe deeply to relax and then draw their biggest problem and imagine its solution – a new home, people who care for them. And then we sing together, and I ask them to imagine that place they have created.”

© CMBM

He has also worked with parents who, displaced and frantic since the earthquake, have been abusing their children – having them do dialogues with their “problem” (the abuse), and the unending frustration that seems to compel them to it. For the first time they are able to talk about what shames them, to gain a little perspective.

“They thank me,” Father Fredy says, a huge smile opening his face.

“On the anniversary of the earthquake,” he goes on, “I used an image of a river. I told  our whole congregation to imagine they were on its banks, that the river was helping to take away the memories and the sorrow. They were so happy. ‘It’s just like we are there’, they said.”

Father Fredy is still fresh but Lee Ann and I are getting tired. We do a ”dialogue with a symptom” and he realizes something that is just below the surface of his consciousness. “I know I should be tired too. I want to help, but it is too much – seven days a week, long, long hours. I am awake when I should be asleep and then I fall asleep during the day when I should be awake. My Inner Guide says I have to change that,” he says, laughing.

“You have planted a seed,” he tells us, before we all go off to bed. “Other ways, like medication and just talking, weren’t working or were too difficult, or even if good, like prayer, were not enough. But this seed is now becoming a tree and it is bearing fruit.”

We are in Port-au-Prince this week doing an Advanced Training in Mind-Body Medicine with 120 Haitian health, mental health and education professionals and caregivers. Please look for more posts in the days to come. More info on our Global Trauma Relief program in Haiti can be found here.

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Our Work, Alive in Haiti

This weekend I’ll be headed back to Haiti with my team of international faculty, to continue training Haitian caregivers in Mind-Body Skills that they can bring to their traumatized families, the more than 1 million who still live in tent camps, colleagues, patients, and students at their workplaces. This is the next step as we create a nation-wide program of psychological self-care for Haiti. I can’t wait to be back in Port-au-Prince with our faculty, and the wonderful, caring group of Haitian professionals we’re gathering together and training to be the nucleus of society-wide change.

Haitian caregivers in our training, at our Port-au-Prince Office. © CMBM

You may remember our first training in December 2010, which was cut short by election riots. Here are a couple of moving testimonials from attendees who are practicing what they learned . . . Saint-Juste Desir, Teacher at the Public school in Raymond and at the Family Care Program for Better Future International, in Cayes-Jacmel, Haiti, writes:

At the end of December, I lost one of my cousins who was about 30. I was really shocked because she was not sick. So hearing the news shocked me very hard. After that I could not sleep at night, I also had headache. By chance, I recalled the CMBM training and I decided to try it so I could sleep. I tried the “soft belly technique” and I slept all night. Since then, I use it every night before going to bed.

As I am a teacher, after the training in December, I was teaching math to my students. I realized that they were tired and could not concentrate. I asked them if they would like to experience some relaxation techniques. They agreed. I put music, I asked them to stand up and we did some “shaking and dancing” for about 5 to 10 minutes. After that we continued working with no problem. They were relaxed and they asked me why I didn’t do that with them before. They loved it.

I expect to know more techniques during the Advanced Training so I can help myself better and also help my students.

Jacques Africot, Project director, Better Future International, from Jacmel, Haiti, writes:

The technique I use the most is the “soft belly”. It can be practiced anywhere, any moment. It is the easiest technique for me to calm down my nerves, reduce my stress. Any time, I feel stressed or depressed I use it.

An Experience that surprised me:  I was talking to a friend and she was suffering in her breast. I asked her if she wanted to make an experience. She said yes. I put a soft music and I asked her to close her eyes. After some deep breathing, I started to guide her slowly with the “body scan technique.” After finishing, she was smiling: Her pain was completely gone. I was myself surprised.

I practiced different CMBM techniques with my children: soft belly, shake and dance, drawing, imagery.  I realized that after practicing those techniques they sleep better. Less nightmares, no headache if someone had one before we practiced it. And they sometimes ask me to practice with them.

I expect that the advanced training will give me more techniques to guide others.

By the time our training is finished—the end of February– these Haitian caregivers will all be taking the CMBM model out into the wider world and leading “small groups.” Each person will begin helping others manage their own stress and anxiety (still lingering from the January 12th 2010 earthquake, cholera outbreaks, and continued hardship and displacement).  If each caregiver leads 1 group of 10 Haitians, that means the 120 caregivers we’re training will immediately be able to reach a minimum of 1200 Haitians in rural areas as well as cities; and that number will grow as our trainees continue to use these skills with the individuals and in classrooms and with additional small groups.

Making Haiti a community of healers—that is our goal. “This program,” as our Haitian Program Director Linda Métayer has said, “is a gift to the Haitian people.

Haitian Participants at CMBM Training © Mark Silverberg for CMBM

If you’d like to support us as we bring this gift to the Haitian people, please click here.

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Great Profile of CMBM Gaza Program!

Hello friends,

I have wonderful news to share with you today, an amazing article on our work in Gaza from this morning’s New York Times.  It gives such an accurate feeling for the touching , powerful, and effective work The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is doing in Gaza and for the spirit of healing, community and hope that I believe pervades everything that we do.

Please read this testament—so amazing to have it so well and feelingly presented in The New York Times—to the possibility of transformational change

Finding a Steadier Path in Gaza

We’re delighted that this Gaza program, which is nurtured and sustained by so many dedicated and generous people (health and mental health professionals, teachers, community and religious leaders, and our funder, the Atlantic Philanthropies) is being so positively recognized. I hope you’ll take the time to read this beautifully crafted piece and share it with friends.

I also wanted to share a few stories I’ve been saving for you from a visit to our program there in August, (the second visit within three weeks). We were moved on both visits by the ways our Gaza team is helping children and other folks—every kind of person—to relax in the midst of poverty, danger and chaos. And it was so touching and such fun to be with our dedicated, passionate, raucous, talented and tender Gaza team (you hear some of their voices in The Times article) and with Jamil, who leads them.

During our time in Gaza, we visited with some of our recent trainees –there are about 130 new ones this year. Throughout his training with us, one counselor—I’ll call him Abed—was so skeptical, so cantankerous: no question was too obscure to ask, no objection too small to raise.  A couple of weeks ago, we watched him sit on the floor—sweet and solicitous and playful –with the most troubled five year old boys from the kindergarten with which he was consulting. The boys—cute, squirmy, solemn and giggly—showed us how to do “soft belly breathing” and told us how they have brought relaxation into their families — “and guided imagery too.” And, an excited five-year-old added, “I taught my brothers and sisters and my parents about the genogram.”

We saw two groups for women with breast and lung cancer. Cancer, we were told, is regarded in Gaza as a disgrace as well as a disease, a kind of plague which provokes shunning. “No one wants to know you,” we were told, “except in this group.” “I felt worthless…dead already,” said another woman.  “The mind-body group relaxed me and brought me back to life.” Another woman, stout and older, proudly showed us “chaotic breathing”—flapping her arms up and down, breathing deep and fast. “I do it every day. It makes me feel so strong,” she said with a grin.

Then there was a group for kids with Down Syndrome, the boys lying on mats, imagining safe places “at a beach,” “in the garden,” or “at a sister’s beautiful wedding.” We now have 160 mind-body groups in Gaza. They meet for ten weeks and then 150 to 160 more begin. The film of all this and more will be ready soon, and we will share it with you as soon as it is. (I’ll be sure to post a link here.)

We’re growing—in many ways.

More soon. In the meantime, lots of love to all of you.

Jim

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