Mindful Living: The mind-body-spirit continuum

Biopsychosocial, & ECO Spiritual Model

By Dr. Ani Kalayjian
Professor of Psychology, Fordham University

The Mental Health Outreach Program of Meaningfulworld.com developed by Dr. Kalayjian utilizes this seven-step model, through which various aspects of traumatic exposure are assessed, identified, explored, processed, worked through, and reintegrated.  The following are the seven-steps of the Biopsychosocial, & Eco Spiritual Model:

I. Assess Levels of Stress:  Participants will be given a written questionnaire, the Harvard Trauma Checklist, Heartland Forgiveness Scale, and other scales needed and used in previous calamities to determine the level of posttraumatic stress symptomatology & other symptoms.  Also added are questions pertaining to meaning and purpose in life, based on Viktor Frankl’s logotherapeutic approach.

II. Encourage Expression of Feelings:  One at a time, each member in the group (or individually) is encouraged to express their feelings in the ‘here and now,’ in relationship to the disaster or trauma they have experienced.  In post natural as well as human-made disaster the predominant feelings expressed were that of shock, fear, uncertainty of the future, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors, anger at the perpetrators or leaders, sleep disturbances & nightmares.

III. Provide Empathy and Validation:  Survivors’ feelings will be validated by the group leaders using statements such as “I can understand…,” or that “It makes sense to me….” and sharing information about how other survivors from around the world have coped.  Also used is intentional therapeutic touch, such as holding a survivor’s hand. Here it will be reinforced that the survivor’s feelings of grief, fear, anger, as well as joy of surviving are all natural responses to the disaster, and need to be expressed. When trauma ruptures the individual’s links with the group, an intolerable sense of isolation and helplessness may occur.  Providing validation and empathy in such a group will correct these effects by reestablishing the mutual exchange between the individual and the group.

IV. Encourage Discovery & Expression of Meaning:  Survivors will be asked “What lessons, meaning or positive associations did you discover as a result of this disaster?”  This question is based on Viktor Frankl’s logotherapeutic principles:  That there could be a positive meaning discovered in the worst catastrophe.  As well as the Buddhist assertions that it takes darkness to appreciate and reconnect with light.  Again, each member of the group will be invited to focus on the strengths and meanings that naturally arise out of any disaster situation.  Some of the positive lessons learned were:  Interpersonal relationships are more important than material goods, importance of releasing resentments, importance of working through anger and achieve forgiveness, importance of taking charge of one’s own life and the coming together of nations for the purpose of peace and solidarity.

V. Provide Didactic Information:  Practical tools and information are given on how to gradually move back to one’s home or work place utilizing the systematic desensitization process.  The importance of preparation will be reinforced and how to prepare will be elaborated.  Handouts will be given to teachers and prospective group leaders on how to conduct disaster evacuation drills and create safe and accessible exits.  Booklets will be given to parents and teachers on how to relate to their children’s nightmares, fears and disruptive behaviors.  Assessment tools will be given to psychologists and psychiatrists.  Handouts will be provided on grief as well as how to take care of oneself as a caregiver.

VI. Eco centered processing: Practical tools are shared to connect with Gaia, Mother Earth.  Discussions and exercises conducted around environmental connections.  Ways to care for one’s environment are shared. Starting with one’s environment and expanding to the larger globe, being mindful of system’s perspective and how we can impact our environment, and how the environment in tern impacts us.  A list of mindful acts is shared to help co-create an emerald green world.

VII. Provide Breathing and Movement Exercises:  Breath is used as a natural medicine, and a healing tool.  Since no one can control nature, others and what happens outside of one’s self, survivors are assisted in controlling how they respond to the disaster.  This will be an experiential section of the model.   Survivors are provided instructions how to move and release fear, uncertainty and resentments.  In addition, participants are instructed on how to use breath towards self-empowerment as well as to engender gratitude, compassion, faith, strength, and forgiveness in response to disasters.

Good intentions are no longer enough. I wanted to support humanity in my own way. Meaningful World was a natural way for me to help the victims of tsunami.

So many systems have failed us and as we transition from failed models, attitudes and behaviors that are polarizing, destructive and failing all around us I could not just sit back, be overwhelmed and do nothing… I am doing something with Meaningful World.

Meaningful World cultivates well-being, relatedness, a deep awareness and understanding how to elevate some of the world's suffering. Our choices impact all living systems and I choose to be an agent of good.