Meaningfulworld’s Humanitarian Outreach, Conflict Transformation, Peace Building and Forgiveness
by Rebecca M Schaffner
Have you ever been in a situation that drained you emotionally to the point that you could not see a positive ending? Have you ever experienced something that seemed too detrimental to your well being and you lost all hope? Did you ever wake up feeling stiff, helpless or sad and saw yourself even affecting your children or spouse with your emotions? If you can answer yes to any of those questions or similar questions, you would have enjoyed the Stage II training that the Association for Trauma Outreach Prevention (ATOP) of Meaningfulworld held. Stage II, entitled Conflict Transformation, took place on 21 May, 2011 from 9:30am-5:00pm in New York City.
“As I inhale, I take your love into me, as I exhale, I blow my love out to you”, this is how Ms. Mucci, Vice President of ATOP of Meaningfulworld begun the morning session. Throughout her presentation, we learned that loves is a very important aspect to remember when healing from trauma. Love, because it is the greatest of all things and because it helps us to forgive our perpetrator. After Ms. Mucci’s meditation session, Mrs. Kaze held her five minute presentation as part of the requirement to graduate from the ATOP of Meaningfulworld programe.
Ms. Kaze, named her presentation “lessons of compassion.” She shared with the group that while participating in ATOP of Meaningful World’s programe and as a United Nations (UN) representative, she learned a lot about empathy. She realized that by “just listening” to someone’s traumatizing story, a trained psychologist or a simple ATOP participant, will provide the most help to the affected person. This theme, is a recurring one for ATOP and one that even a lay person can use in daily life. Ms. Kaze’s presentation left everyone thinking and reminded us that sometimes, lending an ear, is all that we need to help someone. Another graduate of the programe, Mrs. Sharon Muja, also presented on what has been meaningful for her.
Mrs. Muja shared her trauma of being a genocide survivor and corrupt regime conqueror in Rwanda. She fled to Uganda, and experienced more hardships there. Mrs. Muja was scared to seek refuge in the police or soldiers of her country, because even they were untrustworthy. Instead of being instruments of peace, they were fullers of corruptness. She and her parents had to flee Rwanda to escape the horrible genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis. So was Mrs. Muja not only confronted by her own trauma, but she also experienced that of her parents. Upon coming to the United States, she brought her fears with her. Her trauma affected not only the love she would eventually project to others, but also how she would “breath” in their love or trust individuals. With ATOP of Meaningfulworld’s empowerment programs, Mrs. Muja learned to forgive and most importantly to breath love in and out, despite negative experiences she endured.
In ATOP of Meaningfulworld, we learn that to recover from trauma, it is important to start with healing the self and then to scale up. Some often think that by first recognizing oneself, he or she is being selfish. However, “if a car is empty of fuel and driving on fume, it will not drive well”, mentions Dr. Kalayjian. As an international psychologist or anyone involved in a helping profession, one must ensure that his or her well being is taken care of first before starting to help another person. Not only that, but to help someone to recover from trauma, realizing that the sweetest revenge is to forgive was also mentioned during the presentation on Assertiveness, Conflict Transformation, Peace Building and Forgiveness. Listening to the presentation, we learned that “war starts with me and ends within me.” The ATOP of Meaningfulworld programme participants learned how to forgive by letting go of ANGER (anger, negativity, grief, revenge) and letting go of ANTS ( automatic negative thoughts). They also learned how to best resolve conflict by following the eight steps of Webne-Behrman. At the end of the charming presentation, ATOP of Meaningfulworld was blessed with a distinguished speaker, Dr. Kazuko, of the Gaia Holistic Health Centre, who shared her experiences of her most recent outreach mission in Japan.
In Japan, Mrs. Kazuko witnessed a couple who would rather die in the midst of their destructed but loved home, rather than seeking a doctor of another culture. Talking to someone about one’s feelings, in Asian culture, is seen as a weak characteristic. The collective in Asian culture is more important so that any individualistic behavior is not seen as acceptable. Mrs. Kazuko also witnessed that even children were not enthusiastic about sharing the last bowl of rice and would pass the food to the youngest. The situation in Japan, shortly after the earthquake, was devastating both physically and psychologically. For this reason, did Mrs. Kauko, a native of Japan, decide to visit and assess the situation as well as to use her new healing therapy, a handheld far-infrared instrument. This instrument can be used professionally but also at home. Mrs. Kazuko used this instrument on victims while in Japan to help them relieve their nervous system, to increase their physical and mental energy, to ease aches and stresses etc. The feedback to the therapy seemed to be positive and effective. To learn more about her idea, you may visit the gaiaholistic.com website. Upon learning about the cultural differences of Asian vs. Western culture, say that group therapy would be most effective in Asia, and after learning about the infrared therapy, Dr. Kalayjian invited the participants to lunch, not to forget, breakfast was also served.
The lunch was freshly prepared by Dr Kalayjian with love, choosing all that is organic, healthy for the mind-body and eco-spirit. The participants enjoyed a variety of healthy foods such as chicken, kale, yuka, salad, hummus, tea, water with herbs etc. The food was prepared without sugar, salt, or other unhealthy condiments. While enjoying the healthy lunch, a film was shown, on Forgiveness and Healing. The theme of the video went along with the entire training session. Participants again learned about forgiveness and how difficult it is for most. The video depicted the Garden of Forgiveness that has been built in Lebanon. The garden is a peaceful place that people visit to practice and be mindful of forgiveness. It is in debate, on whether such a “Garden of Forgiveness” should be build near ground Zero in New York. The population’s opinion is mixed because some have experienced a higher degree of trauma due to the 9/11 attacks than others. Some believe that it will open up wounds; while others see the garden as a spiritual relieve. To forgive someone, one must first start with forgiving oneself, as mentioned earlier, which helps to relieve stress and to let go of the victimization. One great way to do this is by learning how to empathize with one another, even with the perpetrator, for one’s self-growth. The video depicted a scene in which role-play was in the forefront to teach a young boy how his father when he left, might have felt. This role-playing and realizing the other person’s feelings leads to non-violent dialogue and a peaceful resolution of conflict. After the video, ATOP of Meaningfulworld’s participants were looking forward to the healing circle.
The healing group was co-facilitated by two participants, as a requirement to graduate from the programe. During the session, the 7- step model of Dr. Kalayjian, Biopsychosocial and Eco-Spiritual Model, was used. The participants first shared their trauma or levels of distress while others listened attentively and provided empathy and validation. After hearing some captivating but also sad stories from Israel, USA, India and Uganda the participants were encouraged to find meaning in their experiences. What kept them strong throughout their trauma were the social support, love and guidance they would receive. Some would seek their sister or mother, others their boy- or girlfriends yet others would tend to their own faith to find meaning and a positive light between darkness. As part of the model, didactic information was also provided and how to best care for one’s environment. Let’s not forget the physical exercise after the group session. Ms. Kaze, intern of ATOP of Meaningfulworld, provided the participants with a wonderful experience Kaporeira, a Brazilian martial art. We left the indoors and went out to experience the fresh air, the sunshine, and the garden. We all enjoyed the physical exercise as well as the fifteen minute meditation following lead by Dr. Kalayjian.
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