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Trauma and recovery

From the Pastor's Desk

My heart is with teachers and students at this time as they begin a new school year. An organization that I have worked with, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, (www.cmbm.org) has been training teachers and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., how to manage and recover from trauma. Sadly, so many mass shootings and other crises keep CMBM in hot demand around the world. They have assisted people affected by wildfires, hurricanes, wars and numerous tragedies. I am pleased to have had some training with them.

When I was first introduced to the techniques CMBM uses to aid survivors of trauma, I was a bit skeptical. Primarily, they rely on very simple skills, helping people learn to sooth themselves through breathing, meditation and imagery. These techniques are nothing new. They've been utilized for hundreds of years, if not more, by our ancestors. I had come to know of newer techniques to aid people after trauma, like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing); TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique); and others. I have come to learn that most newer techniques are basically imagery-based solutions. Learning the basics of breathing, meditation and imagery can be helpful for a wide variety of people in recovery.

It can be easy to dismiss things that seem so simple, yet, in the face of terror or shortly thereafter, simple things may be all we have available for our benefit. When I think of big terrors, I think of Nazi Germany and the holocaust. I'm inspired by survivors, like Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Reformed Christian woman, whose family protected many Jews in the Netherlands. Eventually, the family was turned in and Corrie ended up in Ravensbrück concentration camp with her sister. Corrie's sister died at the labor camp, but Corrie survived and went on to become a writer.

Her story reminds me that the only thing we take with us when faced with terror is whatever we have written inside of us. The thoughts and visions that we possess or can conjure up are our lifelines when things go bad. As a pastor, I encourage people to have a few lines of sacred text and a song or two memorized for moments when we need them most. Simple things, like sacred meditations, can have great power.

Another holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, who endured Auschwitz and the death of his wife, parents and brother, later wrote about the power of imagery to sustain him and give life meaning. Frankl wrote, "my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answer me; saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look...I saw the truth...that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. The salvation of man is through love and in love...In a position of utter desolation...man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."

Imagery, meditations and the simple act of breathing can be lifesaving tools to develop. Most of us, God willing, will never endure a horrific traumatizing event. However, most of us will endure traumas in our lifetimes (i.e., accidents, assaults, illnesses, sudden loss, etc.) If you would like to build up some skills for coping with trauma, come be part of our Wellness Group beginning Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 3:30 p.m. at Tehachapi Community Church and breathe.

May you be blessed,

Pastor Nancy

About Tehachapi Community Church, UCC:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here!

The Tehachapi Community Church, UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person's unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey.

We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. Worship and Sunday School are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Please join us for coffee and fellowship at our Friendship Hall after worship (approximately 11:30 a.m.).

All are welcome.