The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

Unthinkable

April 17, 2012Jo CooperSelf-Care0

Both my home & office laptops developed crippling problems within one week. Well, hello, Universe!

My office computer recovered. But I found myself in an Apple store, after a discouraging meeting with the tech at the Genius Bar, having a serious discussion with a young saleswoman about purchasing a new mac. I happened to mention that I had started experimenting with unplugging for long stretches of time– leaving my cell phone behind, limiting my computer time… She stopped what she was doing and stared at me, stunned. “I could never do that!” she said earnestly– her eyes repeatedly returning to mine, questioning, fascinated.

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Mind, Mood & Food: A Beautiful Blend

To paraphrase a CMBM alum, “When I heard The Center for Mind-Body Medicine would be offering a seminar called ‘Mind, Mood & Food’ at Kripalu, I felt like the heavens were bringing all my favorite things together.” The “trifecta”, as I like to call it, was a beautiful blend of relevant material taught by engaging faculty in a setting where what was being taught could be practiced. Imagine learning about foods that support brain health and then going to Kripalu’s dining hall where those foods are waiting for you on an abundant buffet. Picture completing a moving meditation with Jim Gordon and then going to Yoga Dance during a seminar break. Kathie Swift spoke about the benefits of being in nature for brain health, and I’m convinced Mother Nature was a seminar participant as the weather was perfect for walks to the lake. It was seventy degrees in mid-March in the Berkshires!

Mark Pettus, Jay Lomard and Chuck Parker offered a wealth of knowledge and fantastic synergy as they fed off each other’s energy and complemented each other’s work.  A big round of applause goes to the hard-working staff at Kripalu. They were wonderful to work with and jumped right in to run the program like a well-oiled machine. Mind, Mood & Food at Kripalu is definitely worth a repeat!

Nourish Means….

Food As Medicine Executive Chef Rebecca Katz, MS, just shared this lovely video, “Nourish means….” from the folks at NourishLife.org.

What nourishes you?

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Finding the Light in the Darkness

Yesterday, I had an incredibly powerful yoga class. I spent the entire class practically wtih my eyes closed. It wasn’t intentional at first but then had great meaning for me. We started with a little flow and then stopped with eyes closed to “set an intention” as my teacher says. I closed my eyes and had some tears come out. I decided on this early early morning (I do yoga at 6 AM), I was going to search inward for the light, for the joy. That I could not attach to finding that in the stressful situations before me. That no matter how Zubin does on the steroids or if and when he deteriorates to a wheelchair, that no matter how he does in school or if we feel we get what we need there, that joy is not something I can wait for from these things. I have to search inward and get joy from within. And so I closed my eyes and set my intention, to search for the light and peace within.

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Launching Today: Freedom from Depression Audiobook

Hot off the presses: Center Founder and Director James S. Gordon, MD’s new Sounds True audiobook, Freedom from Depression: a Practical Guide for the Journey launches today!

Based on Dr Gordon’s enormously popular book Unstuck: Your 7 Stage Journey Out of Depression, the audiobook contains new experiential and didactic material.  Quoting  the Sounds True website:

The true source of healing from depression comes from within—not from doctors or medications. Yet when depression drains away our vitality and will, how can we find the energy to help ourselves? With Freedom from Depression, Dr. James S. Gordon reveals a new and empowering approach for dealing with this misunderstood condition—a way out of the darkness that helps you restore balance and joy to your life.

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Day Five: Images of Our Time Together

So much happens to all of us in the Jacmel training as we go deeper, become more aware, take chances, and connect over five days.

Our faculty faces fears of not performing well, of not sleeping at night, and of missing what is muffled in translation. We take the chance of feeling our uncertainty of daily supervision and are gratified that our colleagues have at least as much compassion for us as we feel for those we are helping.

The interns are stars, setting examples of emotional risk taking and taking care of business: filling in where the translator is a bit off, pointing out what faculty may have missed, and making sure, as if they have invited all of us into their own homes, that we are well cared for in lines at lunch, during the lectures, and at the beginning and end of each day.

I see the participants grow more receptive each day, feel them more engaged with every exercise we do. Men and women who have never heard of, let alone participated in, psychotherapy are exquisitely sensitive to each others’ complex feelings and thoughts, and us. Often without words, old and young, farmers as well as physicians, create a climate of acceptance in which everyone–and I really do mean everyone–seems to feel safe.

The suspicion and rancor among religious groups–Catholics, Protestants, Vodoun Healers—is palpable in the early days. Though the saying has it that Haiti is 80% Christian and 100% Vodoun, some of the Christians seem quite fearful. “Who are these Vodoun people?” They ask with uneasily politeness. By the last day, after having sat in the same small groups, most of them seem at ease. “We are just people” says Clement, who heads the Jacmel Vodoun Healers Association. “I feel like these people are my family,” and the nuns in their habits and scripture-quoting-Protestants nod their heads.

Nature is so important. In drawing after drawing on the final day, the restoration of hope is symbolized by new trees, green and blue where there was, on the first day, only brown.

If it is possible, community is even more important. The final day’s drawings of the goal each participant would hope to reach are crowded with family, friends, and neighbors. When the groups come to the front of the grande salle to receive their certificates of completion, they sing songs to their leader and intern, and to themselves, and they call themselves “family”.

Already on the first evening many of the participants are sharing what they’ve learned with children, spouses, and parents. On the fifth and last day, they are, without being asked, pledging to take “CMBM,” this work, to their schools, churches, clinics, and to everyone in their communities. Linda has to slow them down a bit. “Sharing with your friends and family is good, but you need to practice much more. You are just learning. When we have the Advanced Training in November we will teach you how to lead groups.”

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.

Amazing Graces: Days Two, Three and Four

The Missing Twin: Part Two

For two years whenever the teacher closes her eyes to sleep or rest she sees “only all darkness.” After a while of doing Soft Belly, it changes. By the second day she is “seeing colors” and pronounces herself “very satisfied.” That first night she returned home and, just as we had done in the training, she shook and danced with her surviving son. The next night, after we had used imagery, she tells him to “close your eyes and say what you see.” “A house and a sailboat,” he tells her. She is amazed. This is exactly what she had drawn in the picture of how she would be without her biggest problem. On the third day she tells her group, “My smile is back.” She brings her son to a party and we kid around and dance a bit. Her smile lights up the restaurant.

Then, on the fourth day, when I give my talk on Trauma and Transformation she finds herself, like so many others, remembering and crying. “I am afraid the crying will never stop,” she confides. That she will never again locate the smile which has so remarkably reappeared. Toni tells her that smiles and sorrows can live alongside one another in the same person, that she felt that way when she did our training after Katrina destroyed so much in her own state. She and I and our whole team have seen it in Kosovo, Israel, and Gaza, and indeed everywhere we’ve gone.

When people are frozen in shock and grief all the emotions are deadened. As our work unfolds, they recover what they have lost. Years ago, I remember teenage Kosovan girls in a refugee camp in Macedonia. When they shook and danced the tears they had held back finally came, tears for the loss of fathers and brothers dead, imprisoned, or fighting. Only after they cried could they laugh with the ordinary joy of girls.

On the fourth night, the teacher returns. She is going to partage, to share, everything she is learning with her husband.

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.

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.

Mind-Body Bookshelf: Learning to Breathe

 Priscilla Warner’s Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life is an instant mind-body classic, tracing her journey from panic to peace in generous detail.

Though happily married, with two wonderful grown sons and a satisfying career as an art director turned author, Warner suffered from serious anxiety and panic attacks. She made a decision to spend a year seeing if meditation and other mind-body techniques could help her heal, and the results are riveting. She describes her explorations, from breathing and lovingkindness meditation to Trager work, Ayurveda and EMDR, with refreshing honesty, growing wisdom, and humor.

This may be a book you’ll enjoy for your own pleasure and edification, as well as to recommend to patients or clients and friends. A keeper.

Available in our new online bookstore

The Hungry Brain

Are you concerned about your memory?  Do you feel irritable much of the time?  Is your stomach tied up in knots from chronic worry?  Or are you just “stuck” and don’t know which way to turn?

What you may not realize is that your brain is a “hungry” organ and depends on a constant supply of nutrients that influence your mind, mood, energy and vitality! Your emotional and mental health is closely linked to your nutritional status.  Food is a carrier of energy  or “prana” that delivers unique substances that influence the health of your brain and consequently, your mind and mood.

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