I spent the last week sharing my story with a bunch of strangers. It was totally awesome.
I completed an advanced training through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine - a righteous (in a good way) organization that is bringing self-care skills to people all over the world to support them in times of crisis and facilitate their healing process. CMBM is a really remarkable organization not just because of their mission but because the entire faculty practices what they preach. They walk the walk. They are a crew of the most empathic, open and loving people I've even met. I want to move in with them all.
There's something else happening at CMBM beyond just their incredible ability to handpick rockstar faculty. The model, created by James Gordon, MD, is magical.
1) It is built around group healing, which is both powerful and effective. Participating in community gets us off our islands and out of our heads. We are forced to show up for others and, maybe more importantly, let them be present for us. Sitting in a room full of people who are there to make their lives better is so awesome.
That it feels good is enough of a reason to participate in group healing, but there's more. Research shows that participants of support groups reduced their blood pressure, improved health behaviors and increased their quality of life1. For cancer patients, support groups improve quality of life, prolong life and reduce disease recurrence2, 3, 4. Research on the effects of participating in groups have also shown that they help low back pain5, improve metabolism and energy production (i.e. anti-aging)6, and reduce risk of heart disease7. There are so many more symptoms and diseases that have not been included in this research, so just take note of this evidence and consider what group support could do for you.
2) The second reason I love this work is that there is a practice of deep listening incorporated into every group, giving each person a captive audience to share thoughts, feelings, fears, family drama, work disappointments, stories that show the best and the worst of you without fear of being interrupted, judged or gossiped about. The purpose of these groups is to teach self-care tools, like meditation and guided imagery but for me this sharing and being shared with is the most magical and compelling piece.
And here's why:
Sharing and listening proves to us each that we are not alone. And that gives us the comfort and courage we need to keep up the good fight.
My group this last week included 10 women and one gentle-man who traveled from as far away as Japan. We were social workers, receptionists, psychologists, mothers, wives, betrothed, bisexuals, self conscious, damaged, lost, struggling and thriving. Every time one of us shared a piece of our life story there was this unanimous nod that went around the circle that said, "me too!"
I'm invisible. I am struggling through my pain. I don't like my body. I'm not living my life's purpose.
There is so much comfort in that shared experience, even if the story line is unique. We all have loss and regret and disappointment. We all struggle. And for most of us those struggles weighs on us more than our successes can pull us up and out of. Life is tough! But we're in it together.
I plan to continue my training with CMBM just so I can soak up as much of their magic as possible and then bring it back to my community and clients. I'll be pulling the techniques and skills I've learned through my training into my individual and group coaching sessions. Self-care is the bedrock of all health and wellbeing. We all need to practice it every day, even just for a moment.
I hope to facilitate a mind-body skills group this fall, so stay tuned! Sign up for my newsletter to learn more and stay in the loop.
References: see in text links to citations.
You might be surprised that this nutrition nerd doesn't actually write about nutrition all that often. Here's why: in 10+ years of studying food and nutrition, I've concluded that knowing about kale and vitamin K doesn't make me want to eat kale or care that it contains vitamin K. We need to dive into what it means to nourish and nurture ourselves. Once we discover that we're worth it, choosing healthy food is the most obvious option on the table. So get ready to dive into body image, self worth and whole-person (body, mind, spirit) healing. Once you change that tune, you change it all.