It seems like more now than ever before in my work as a health coach or Health and Wellness Coordinator for Evoke do I find the need to teach more compassion practices. Our world can, at times, feel like it's fraught with so much division, stress, lack consciousness, greed, misunderstanding, and fear. All of these feelings wreak havoc on our psyches, our hearts, and even our bodies. Today, over 40 million people in the US alone suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Not long ago I was working in our adolescent girls group as we transitioned from one field area to another. The drive started off stressfully when two group members expressed frustration about seating arrangements. An outsider might have described the two of them as smoldering for about the first 45 minutes of the ride. Then they asked us to check the radio for reception. It did nothing more than crackle, but they perked up slightly all the same. The staff members in the car chatted cordially as the two girls continued to look out the window. Fifteen minutes later or so the girls asked us to check again, and eureka! It worked. Separate two teenagers from popular culture for a few months and, predictably, you’ll get some excited screaming when the radio comes on. The first song was “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, and I think all 5 of us were singing, staff and students alike. I harmonized.
As an educational consultant and learning specialist, I sometimes have parents seeking my input on becoming better at discipline and how to be a stronger, more effective parent. My advice has changed over the years.
Let me start by introducing myself…..my name is Belinda Chaplin, I am a born and raised Mid Nebraska Girl! My husband Jason and I have been married for 13 years the end of August. We have been blessed with two children, Brice (age 10) and Brinlee (age 7)!
Someone told me not to write on this subject unless I was prepared to write another book. They suggested, “Nothing you write, no matter how much, will be enough to answer the questions a grieving parent can ask.” Many reports suggest the greatest tragedy that a person can experience—which becomes compounded if the death is the result of a suicide—is the death of a child. As a father of four, I cannot imagine losing one of my children, and I cannot imagine how I would manage to go on with that kind of grief. I assume this is a wound from which I would never fully recover. When I am asked the question about how far a parent should go to essentially ensure their child’s survival, I cannot answer it. No therapist or expert can ever answer that question. Even if we did, and the parents followed our advice exactly, yet their child still took his or her own life, then the parents would likely blame both us and themselves for not doing more.
Our "family intervention” approach works because it focuses on the total picture and all of the people and dynamics involved. We do not single out the addicted loved one as “the problem” and we don't let labels and myths keep him or her from being held responsible for either fixing the problems or living with the consequences. More importantly, we work with the family members who want the situation to change, ignoring the addicted loved one, who obviously has a vested interest in things staying the same.
We arrived early at the conference space adjacent to the ever-flowing Deschutes River to set up for the first day of our Parent Workshop. Right away I noticed the tables and chairs had been arranged in straight rows from the front of the room to the back, modeling a standard classroom style. I took a deep breath and with a smile I enlisted help to immediately move the tables out of the way so that the chairs could be arranged in one large circle to accommodate the twenty parents and five Evoke participants.
Smoke billowing from a juniper root, a sage spindle spinning quickly, the smell of a coal forming on the fire board, in the middle of the desert, watching as an expert field staff made fire with sticks and her hands, I became mesmerized, fascinated and a little scared. “I am expected to do that?” I thought as I was sent off on my solo experience shortly after watching someone make fire within 10 seconds. I was left wondering if I was capable of this job, if it were possible for me to make fire like she did. Only one percent of the population can make fire using a bow drill, and they expect me to join that statistic. I was terrified. The journey of making fire was frustrating. I saw students who were better at it than I was, while staff who sat patiently next to me as I worked on my own fire set. Its 90% preparation, 10% skill, I heard over and over. The pressure was intense and I knew I had to “bust” 14 fires before I could move up a level as a field staff and no longer an intern. I wanted it more and more as I worked on my set and had bloody knuckles from the spindle whipping my hands as it flew off the fire board because I did not have enough down pressure, or my bow string was too loose. All the pieces needed to fit together to be successful. I had to look at all the moving parts, one piece was not more important than the other. They all needed to hold their own as they worked together.
I’ve worked in the wilderness and through experiential education for 8+ years and believe more passionately than ever in the simple, tangible, and connective benefits we take home from every wilderness experience. Having just worked a 20-day wilderness course, I feel a renewed sense of appreciation for these take-home skills and lessons. Here are five you can expect to experience and benefit from long after you leave the field:
I am breathing in, I am breathing out.