Trauma Healing in Gaza, the Forgotten Place

09/08/2010 04:28 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • James S. Gordon Founder and Director, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Hello friends,

I have wonderful news to share with you today, an amazing article on our work in Gaza from this morning's New York Times. It gives such an accurate feeling for the touching, powerful and effective work The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is doing in Gaza and for the spirit of healing, community and hope that I believe pervades everything that we do.

Please read this testament -- so amazing to have it so well and emotionally presented in The New York Times -- to the possibility of transformational change.

"Finding a Steadier Path in Gaza," by Ethan Bronner

We're delighted that this Gaza program, which is nurtured and sustained by so many dedicated and generous people (health and mental health professionals, teachers, community and religious leaders, and our funder, the Atlantic Philanthropies) is being so positively recognized. I hope you'll take the time to read this beautifully crafted piece and share it with friends.

I also wanted to share a few stories I've been saving for you from a visit to our program there in August, (the second visit within three weeks). We were moved on both visits by the ways our Gaza team is helping children and other folks -- every kind of person -- to relax in the midst of poverty, danger and chaos. And it was so touching and such fun to be with our dedicated, passionate, raucous, talented and tender Gaza team (you hear some of their voices in The Times article) and with Jamil, who leads them.

During our time in Gaza, we visited with some of our recent trainees -- there are about 130 new ones this year. Throughout his training, one counselor -- I'll call him Abed -- was so skeptical, so cantankerous: no question was too obscure to ask, no objection too small to raise. A couple of weeks ago, we watched him sit on the floor -- sweet and solicitous and playful -- with the most troubled five-year-old boys from the kindergarten with which he was consulting. The boys -- cute, squirmy, solemn and giggly -- showed us how to do soft belly breathing and told us how they have brought relaxation into their families as well as guided imagery. And, an excited five-year-old added, "I taught my brothers and sisters and my parents about the genogram."

We saw two groups of women with breast and lung cancer. Cancer, we were told, is regarded in Gaza as a disgrace as well as a disease, a kind of plague which provokes shunning. "No one wants to know you," we were told, "except in this group." "I felt worthless ... dead already," said another woman. "The mind-body group relaxed me and brought me back to life." Another woman, stout and older, proudly showed us chaotic breathing -- flapping her arms up and down, breathing deep and fast. "I do it every day. It makes me feel so strong," she said with a grin.

Then there was a group for kids with Down Syndrome, the boys lying on mats, imagining safe places at a beach, in the garden or at a sister's beautiful wedding. We now have 160 mind-body groups in Gaza. They meet for 10 weeks and then 150 to 160 more begin. The film about all this and more will be ready soon and we will share it with you as soon as it is. (I'll be sure to post a link here.)

We're growing in many ways.

More soon. In the meantime, lots of love to all of you.