For one drizzly, chilly week in October of 2016, two teams of Breath-Body-Mind teachers, supported by private donations to Serving Those Who Serve, worked with refugees in shelters in Berlin and taught therapists how to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma using movement, breathing and meditative practices. Dr. Richard P. Brown, assisted by Samuel Kirschner (The BREAZE) and Jean-Marie Defossez (Coach-Respiration®), worked with the men and boys. Dr. Pat Gerbarg, assisted by Dehanna Rice-Inkles, (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ann Fleuchaus (email@example.com), taught the women and children. We wish to thank Friederike Masz for her tireless efforts in bringing us to Berlin.
The refugee shelters our teams visited in Berlin were somewhat sparse, but well organized, clean, warm, and safe. The tragedy of so many lives disrupted by war and by the loss of family, home and country, was mitigated by the determination of the men, women, and children to create a future. The Germans understand that language is the key to cultural adaptation and employment. Upon arrival at a shelter, refugees begin intensive daily German lessons that continue for one full year, the minimal time necessary for most to acquire proficiency. These refugees are highly motivated to learn because they know that once they become fluent, the next step will be a job placement program. This should be the model for assimilating immigrants in the US and other countries. Investment in language training reduces the social and financial costs of alienation and unemployment.
Photos and videos by Samuel J Kirschner and Ann Fleuchaus.
The men and boys enjoy tapping with Dr. Brown. This activates the system, circulates energy and sharpens mental focus and attention. Music and movement lifts the mood.
This slapping exercise activates and tones the body while releasing a layer of physical tension.
Dr. Brown teaches a tapping sequence to men and boys who are refugees from five Middle Eastern Countries living in a Berlin shelter.
Refugees learn Coherent Breathing. Each of the colored cloths hanging on metal frames in the background forms the wall of one living cubicle.
Breath-Body-Mind teacher, Jean-Marie Defossez teaches the boys to allow their bellies to expand as they inhale.
An old brick factory has been converted to a refugee shelter. Entering one of the large rooms that houses women, children, and families we notice the women hovering near their cubicles, reluctant to come forward. But the children are curious. With a smile, I hold out a small pale blue stuffed puppy. The children gather around to touch its soft coat. When the mothers see us smiling and playing with their children, they come forward and follow us to the benches in front.
Here I [Dr. Gerbarg] am teaching the women Coherent Breathing through our translator, Jasmeen, while children wander about.
One shelter may hold refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries. Our translator knows Farsi and Urdu. Some of the children have already learned to speak German and some speak English.
After movement, breathing, and meditation, the women and children rest, but one boy is tempted to tease and disturb them. Luckily, he picks up my signal to “Shhhhhhhhhh….”
Two children ask to learn how to do the breathing while holding their “Breathing Buddies.” Jasmeen translates as Dr. Gerbarg guides them through the breathing and a calming visualization.
The boy asks me to give him a “story.” Where does he want to go with his Breathing Buddy? He says, “to the mountains.” I realize that this child who grew up in the mountains and the fresh air has been cooped up in the shelter for five months with no place to play outside. As I guide him through this visualization, he falls into a profound, deep sleep.
“Imagine that you and your Breathing Buddy are far away in the mountains on a beautiful clear day. You are walking up a mountain path because you want to show your Buddy a special spot. You come to a place where you can look out over a wide open valley. So, you find a big rock that is warm from the sun. Holding your Buddy close, you sit with your back against the warmth of the rock. The sky is very blue and the air is fresh. It is so quiet and peaceful. Just you and your Breathing Body high up in the mountains, so quiet and still."
He continues to sleep, holding his Breathing Buddy. Despite the noise and movement from others all around, he sleeps on. Finally, his mother has to come and shake him, calling his name to wake him up. He and one of the girls agree to teach the other children how to breathe and relax with stories. Of course, the children get to keep their Breathing Buddies.
Dr. Brown teaches two children movement with breathing called “Earth and Sky.”
Dr. Gerbarg and Dr. Brown Teach the Science and Techniques of Breath-Body-Mind at the Institut für Traumatherapie. Participants are traumatologists, therapists and translators who work with refugees in Berlin.
Therapists follow Dr. Brown by holding an Energy Ball in their hands and moving the ball in figure 8s.
One of the Four Golden Wheels (Master Robert Peng), moves energy between Earth to Sky while polishing the 4th Golden Wheel, a central column of light.
Dr. Brown begins teaching Coherent Breathing to the therapists in Berlin. This activates the soothing, healing, recharging and social bonding parts of the nervous system.
Dr. Gerbarg explains the neurophysiology of breathing practices, the research evidence, and the clinical applications. One slide projected on the wall demonstrates how Dr. Brown taught Breath-Body-Mind to South Sudanese who had been liberated from years of slavery.