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May 21, 2007

18 May
At practically the same time that Fania and I were doing guided imagery training around Israel, Jim Gordon’s team was trying to work in Gaza.. a little like like trying to learn to meditate at the OK Corral..
At practically the same time that Fania and I were doing guided imagery training throughout Israel, Jim Gordon’s team was trying to work in Gaza, following their parallel work a few months earlier in Israel. Evidently it was a little bit like trying to teach and learn at the OK Corral. Here is what Bob Buckley wrote me:

It’s Wed a.m. here and our car van to the check point is on hold due to the mounting violence here. It’s been a new experience for us, working here in Gaza. Rather than PTSD, it’s more like living with day-to-day violence and trauma. Very sad, very crazy, yet the love between the team and our Palestinian colleagues sustains us all. We have been here in the hotel since Friday, not able to walk the streets, but doing what we are here to do. We did complete, amidst the gunfire and all, a one day workshop on clinical supervision for 12 supervisors and a 3-day leadership training for 37 in all .. .

I salute this team’s dedication and courage, under such daunting circumstances, and I do hope they all get out of there in one piece.

Fania and I found some very sad indications of chronic, nation-wide traumatic stress in Israel as well (you can’t call it ‘post’ here, either - it’s constant and relentless emotional and physical pummeling). People are numb, distracted, so stressed they’ve lost awareness that they are.

One dramatic difference: after so many years of leading imagery workshops, I can say that about 80% of Americans listening to guided imagery for the first time - even tough ones, like Marines, prison inmates, ex-stoners in rehab - tear up. They are moved by the reconnection with their bodies and their hearts. Israelis over a certain age become deeply relaxed and respond well to the imagery, but they rarely tear up. A friend tells me they were conditioned in the Army not to cry, even at the funeral of a beloved friend. With the younger people coming up now, it’s different. They still have access to their tears. But you see this kind of numbness everywhere. It of course has some short term benefits, but longterm, this cannot be good for a people. Israeli writer David Grossman wrote about this in the Sunday NY Times this past week, noting the same sorts of things, only much more eloquently and profoundly. You can find that article here - it’s brilliant.

Another sad indicator we kept hearing after each of our 5 workshops.. where we say "think of a favorite place, preferably outdoors.." as we so often do at the start of an imagery exercise, in Israel, people aways told us, "What’s wrong with indoors?". Outdoors in Israel is not seen as so safe and peaceful. This is where Kassam rockets fall, and bombs go off. People wanted their safe place to be indoors, likely as not.

I could go on and on. We learned a lot. Hopefully we were able to demonstrate the value of this simple, portable, self-administerable technique. We are more convinced than ever that there is a nationwide need for guided imagery in Israel. As Fania says,

I thought about this place indoors that is safer - as I was watching the news , seeing what has been going on with the shelling of Sderot , over 30 Kassam missiles, only this time the missiles hit two houses [Ed. Note: the missiles come from Gaza, ironically enough, where Jim Gordon’s team was working] so I wonder if people there are left with ANY notion of a safe place, anywhere. That is why imagery is SO important - it CAN provide a safe space, it is an inner space, may even be spiritual space, but it can be found and sustained .. .

Here’s to better times, everywhere.
All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award