I remember being so baffled by Chief Saba and his family’s ability to drop everything to spend time with me. He was a man slight in stature but mighty in reputation. The chief of roughly 250 thousand Batongan people of Southern Zimbabwe, faced with starvation, disease and political violence, respected by other tribal leaders but despised by Mugabe, the country’s president. He was humble, soft-spoken, loved an occasional beer and cared deeply about his family. I always felt awkward and self-conscious driving unannounced into his territory knowing that he and his many wives, brothers, and children would stop working in the fields, stop taking care of, what I saw as, the most crucial aspects of life in the harsh, sandy terrain of Kariba just to say hi. I finally asked him once why he was okay with stopping their daily chores to spend hours with me. His reply has haunted me to this day, “We survive because of our connections to each other. Don’t forget that.” These words became a torchlight that guided me, subconsciously, to Second Nature.
It’s definitely winter in the high desert! Time to light the internal fires to stay warm and support that sense of comfort from the inside out! It never fails to amaze me how food can so easily and directly affect well-being. Beyond the benefits of tasty, nutritious meals, the very act of creating something that is unique, requiring a skill set (new to many of our clients), and inviting the cooperation from the entire group creates an almost electric environment where individuals can thrive! The hope is that our clients bring the simple pleasures they cultivate, like cooking under the stars with friends and mentors, into their next chapter after Second Nature.
The holiday season is a difficult time to be away from home and family for all of us. This is especially true for those in treatment. Separated from family, friends, traditions, and the comforts of home – our clients experienced a myriad of emotions during this holiday season that were tremendously and uniquely challenging to bear. This was certainly true also for their families, who shared in their sense of grief over the loss of memories that could have been, but weren’t.
As those of us working in Admissions will attest, being tied to your phone is an essential part of the job description. Particularly in working with families who are considering placement in a wilderness program, ideal timing is often the exception. Being attentive and responsive to parents in crisis are critical components in helping them take that step to find peace and to regain hope.
The more I witness the subtle and profound shifts in clients after a gratitude practice, the more curious I am about what “the experts” know regarding gratitude’s effect on our overall mental, emotional, physical health. There’s some exciting notions creeping into the scientific community regarding this topic!
At Second Nature we have been conducting a longitudinal outcome study, and I am currently in the middle of following up with almost 500 of those participants. In the context of wilderness therapy and residential treatment, a three-year follow-up is unprecedented and will offer incredible insights into the effectiveness of wilderness programs. Those insights are still underway, as we are just halfway through this last follow-up. What I have been itching to share though, are the reflections I am hearing from alumni and parents.
“How do you know it works?” This is one of the most common questions we get in the office from our new families. It isn’t easy to trust someone you’ve never met with your child, and I’d like to share my answer.
I appreciate autumn for its quiet yet vibrant salute to the end of summer. Colors are still bright, sun is still warm but there is a lilt in the air like a yawn signaling the slumber of winter to come. This week at the Oasis, I was struck with the brilliance of colors still in the cottonwoods, a sunset that would make the psychedelic artists of the 60s weep, and that stillness in the air… That stillness that invites me to get quiet, calm, listen more intently, settle into the present. I also get excited about the rich, colorful foods that we harvest this time of year – squash and root vegetables reminding us to get centered, grounded. This recipe is all about honoring the seasonal diet that helps keep our bodies in rhythm with our natural surroundings. Try this one out while sweet potatoes and pears are still beckoning!
At Second Nature we are obviously concerned about and committed to mental health. Perhaps not as obvious, is our focus on and commitment to physical health and well-being. For over a year, our nurse Adam at Entrada has been tracking the weight and body fat of our clients on a monthly basis. To get a first glimpse of these physical changes, I recently crunched the numbers for our clients that entered and graduated during 2014.
When you’re tasked with hosting an event and spend hours preparing for it and making sure it goes off without a hitch it’s easy to forget why you were doing it in the first place. I can often be guilty of focusing too much on the details and erring on the side of perfection. During our event I sat around a warm fire surrounded by professionals of the industry in the middle of the Nevada desert. In this moment our Health and Wellness Coordinator invited the group to practice mindfulness as we enjoyed a well-prepared meal of beans and rice. It was the first time in over a month where I actively took time to slow down and enjoy the present moment. I was reminded WHY I was there and how powerful the wilderness can be. I was overwhelmed with the amount of contentment and gratitude surrounding me.