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Climate CoP Session Notes: Community Healing and Strengthening Resilience


The presenters of this session described how to engage residents in practices that begin healing trauma and by teaching these skills to others.


Resilience Pause: Grounding

Bob led participants through grounding exercises throughout the session. Grounding is a resilience skill to calm your body, mind, and emotions or to be present in the here and now. This pause desires to create a sense of safety or security by being “grounded” on something solid, such as standing, or sitting.

Find a comfortable position. Notice where your body is making contact with something solid. Where is your body being supported by something solid? What is the physical sensation of being supported by that solid grounding? Just notice what’s there. Notice if the sensation is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If your attention is drawn to unpleasant situations, try to shift your attention to pleasant or neutral sensations connected to something solid.

Six-Step Process

Bob described a six-step process for Forming and Operating a Resilience Coordinating Commission (RCC) for the Climate Emergency last week. This session focused on Step 2: How to engage community members. One option is to begin with trauma healing and resilience education. The second option is to understand what strengths they have in their community to build resilience (called asset maps). During the next 5 weeks, we will go through each part of Step 3: Establishing a vision of success, goals, strategies, and an action plan. See PowerPoint for more information.

Bob discussed how chronic and abrupt changes can be stressors. He led us through “stressors” and “transitions-tasks” exercises– self-reflection exercises to consider the number of “transitions” you’ve had to make, if transitions were stressful, and how you, your family, and communities coped. See PowerPoint for the question series.

What can appear as mental health problems are usually coping mechanisms (self-protective survival reactions) gone astray when the mind can’t distinguish between real and perceived threats, leading to “hyper-inflated” fear. Some coping skills can end up harming others, themselves, or harm the natural environment (e.g., cutting down trees to manage wildfires).

Entire communities can be traumatized by climate change, resulting in widespread, maladaptive coping mechanisms. It is important to emphasize and provide skills that individuals and community members can use to heal from these stressors, move away from maladaptive coping mechanisms, and find ways to adapt healthily and release their traumas. One approach to community healing is through Asset mapping. See PowerPoint for Asset Map steps and overview.

Matt Erb, Associate Clinical Director for The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM)

CMBM helps traumatized communities heal worldwide. CMBM’s evidence-based model of mind-body medicine skills training is rooted in the amplification of awareness and a mindfulness-based model that goes beyond mindfulness-based stress reduction. There’s a variety of evidence-based skills and tools that support self-regulation, co-regulation, and self-expression used in this model. It emphasizes a small group model that supports a collectivist and community-based or population-wide model of support.

It also involves an in-depth exploration of science and the biology of stress, trauma, and body-mind-environment interactions. It’s not just a matter of individual mind-body interactions but how we are bathed in and influenced by our environment. This emphasis underscores how one’s agency and sense of autonomy is connected to the upstream Social Determinants of Health and the impact of systemic and structural challenges and patterns.

CMBM primarily use a train-the-trainer model, relying on the ripple effect of trained community members to convey these skills to their communities. See PowerPoint for research findings on this model. CMBM offers a model for building a community project that includes assessing community needs and engaging the community for co-creating (with humility). The model has professional training and advanced training programs that include delivery, supervision, and certification to help develop leadership in the community and long-term sustainability. A method of training, guiding, and sustaining when partnering with communities. Work is tailored to the community. (CONTACT: Jennifer Pelton (Development Director)

Reflection/Q & A

Bob asked participants for thoughts/comments on how participants’ communities and organizations can start to heal collectively and what group-minding healing opportunities can be organized in their respective settings. Bob also emphasized how even basics like getting enough sleep can initiate healing and addressing these basic needs and actions can lay the groundwork for community healing.

Vichi Jagannathan, is the Co-founder of the Rural Opportunities Institute (ROI)

ROI works with rural majority-black communities to design innovative solutions for healing and resilience. It supports youth, organizations, and communities in rural Eastern North Carolina to interrupt the cycle of generational trauma and design innovative solutions for healing. ROI is based in an area rich in Black history, strength, and resilience as well as intergenerational oppression and enslavement-related trauma that impact social determinants of health. ROI considers how and what forces impact their community’s ACEs.

ROI started off with a series of interviews, engaging more than 300 community members, and creating feedback loop maps (places where dominant behavior was happening in cycles) that recognize how systems, communities, and factors are all connected. The conclusion was that our current systems segregate and isolate people from connections and sustain historical trauma. ROI’s community leverage strategy is to educate and increase knowledge about trauma, work with public institutions to develop healing systems, and keep people connected to school and work, believing that people who stay connected can heal and heal others.

ROI’s approach also involves being in places individuals in the community convene and listening to their concerns. This was initiated when individuals from the organization started to attend school meetings, listen to concerns being voiced, and conduct 10-minute workshops at each meeting to encourage community collaboration and learning related to trauma and healing systems.

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