James S. Gordon

James S. Gordon

Founder and Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in D.C.; author of "Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression," and an expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety and psychological trauma.


A home run in Gaza

Q: In his first six days in the major leagues, the Nationals' Danny Espinosa blasted three home runs, including a grand slam. Do you find that your biggest successes come in big bursts, or as the result of slow and steady progress? Is success more about "base hits," or "home runs"?

The answer to the question -- "Do you find that your biggest successes come in big bursts, or as the result of slow and steady progress?"--is "yes".

After years of base hits -- like forging partnerships with local organizations and ministries, and holding intensive trainings for professionals and community leaders to offer our model of trauma healing -- we sometimes get a hit out of the park, like, for instance, an amazing article on our work in Gaza from last week'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.

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 -- examples of a few base hits, to stick to the metaphor -- from a visit to our program there in August. We were so moved 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 with us, 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 5-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 -- "and guided imagery too." And, an excited 5-year-old added, "I taught my brothers and sisters and my parents about the genogram."

We saw two groups for 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. Our trainees have worked with 30,000 Gaza children and adults since we started our work there in 2002, and our capacity grows each time we train more professionals. That feels like a home run to us here at The Center.

By James S. Gordon  |  September 13, 2010; 12:45 AM ET  | Category:  Success: fast or slow? Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sustaining success | Next: A pebble in the pond

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