On our first night in Port-au-Prince, while Lee Ann and I are going over the next day's schedule, Father Fredy, who is attending The Center for Mind-Body Medicine's (CMBM) training, appears at our table on the Plaza Hotel's terrace.
Fredy is whippet-thin and angled slightly forward, a living emblem of his eagerness to share what he has been learning and doing even before the CMBM training begins on Tuesday. "The children who have lost their homes and parents are the ones I work with most. I have them breathe deeply to relax and then draw their biggest problem and imagine its solution -- a new home, people who care for them. And then we sing together, and I ask them to imagine that place they have created."
He has also worked with parents who, displaced and frantic since the earthquake, have been abusing their children -- having them do a technique, 'dialogues with their "problem" -- the abuse, and the unending frustration that seems to compel them to it. For the first time they are able to talk about what shames them, to gain a little perspective.
"They thank me," Father Fredy says, a huge smile opening his face.
"On the anniversary of the earthquake," he goes on, "I used an image of a river. I told our whole congregation to imagine they were on its banks, that the river was helping to take away the memories and the sorrow. They were so happy. 'It's just like we are there', they said."
Father Fredy is still fresh but Lee Ann and I are getting tired. We do a ''dialogue with a symptom'' and he realizes something that is just below the surface of his consciousness. "I know I should be tired too. I want to help, but it is too much -- seven days a week, long, long hours. I am awake when I should be asleep and then I fall asleep during the day when I should be awake. My Inner Guide says I have to change that," he says, laughing.
"You have planted a seed," he tells us, before we all go off to bed. "Other ways, like medication and just talking, weren't working or were too difficult, or even if good, like prayer, were not enough. But this seed is now becoming a tree and it is bearing fruit."
We are in Port-au-Prince this week doing an Advanced Training in Mind-Body Medicine with 120 Haitian health, mental health and education professionals and caregivers. Please look for more posts in the days to come. More information on the Center for Mind-Body Medicine's Haiti program can be found here.
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