A few weeks ago, Annie Weisman sat on the floor of a homeless shelter with a group of youth in her hometown, Las Vegas. The lights were turned down low and soft music was playing. The teens, many dealing with significant trauma, were quiet and reserved. Annie invited them to enjoy a few deep, soft-belly breaths and then take turns around a circle, sharing something about themselves. She next guided them through a series of drawings about the challenges they were facing, and invited each to share what they had created.
Gradually, Annie could feel a sense of connection growing in the room. Long after their time together formally ended, the teens stayed in the circle with Annie, eager to continue their conversation. In just a short time together, they had created a safe space where healing begins.
In that shelter, Annie was sharing skills she learned in training with The Center for Mind-Body Medicine—creating a space where these young men and women could begin to share some of their deepest pain with each other.
Annie is no stranger to grief; as a massage therapist years ago, she worked in hospice and with people living with HIV/AIDS. But when a gunman attacked her beloved community on October 1, 2017, killing 60 and wounding more than 400 others, she was uncertain about how to help.
A friend suggested The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Annie called and within 24 hours, she was on a plane to join CMBM at a community workshop with 200 people impacted by gun violence in South Chicago.
She vividly remembers sitting in the audience at the start of that workshop thinking that she was going to know a lot of what she was going to hear. She wasn’t expecting to feel such a strong and personal emotional reaction.
“I’m not a public cryer,” she says, “But as we started shaking and dancing, all those years of hospice care and holding my hurting community in my heart just bubbled up and poured out of me.”
To Annie, this felt like freedom.
After that Chicago workshop, Annie completed CMBM’s professional training program and eventually joined the CMBM faculty. She facilitated a series of mind-body skills groups for those who had responded to the 2017 mass shooting—coroners, emergency medical crews, police, and firefighters—all reeling from the magnitude of the tragedy.
Today, through her work with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Annie continues to partner with CMBM. During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Annie created a series of taped messages featuring mind-body medicine skills.
With seed funding from the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, Annie and CMBM are now creating a statewide initiative for healing trauma and building resilience. Through this program, hundreds of educators and administrators, health care professionals and counselors, and community leaders across Nevada will train with CMBM as Annie has, and eventually integrate mind-body medicine into their classrooms, workplaces, medical practices, and community institutions.
This is how one person can spark healing for thousands.
Annie has high hopes for CMBM’s program in Nevada:
“We have this opportunity to change the health outcomes in a generation. We can do this here.”