Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Carer's Retreat at Aryaloka, USA

Anastra Madden, from the FWBO’s Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center in New Hampshire, USA, has sent FWBO News this report of their recent ‘Caregivers’ Retreat’. There are a number of similar FWBO projects in the UK, some details follow after the Aryaloka report. This is clearly an area where Buddhist meditation techniques - and friendliness - can provide great benefit to many people.

“Members of the Aryaloka community, in collaboration with Seacoast Hospice staff and other healing practitioners from New Hampshire, recently provided a weekend retreat for family and professional caregivers. These individuals were in need of respite from their ongoing work of providing care for individuals living with chronic, life-threatening, or life-limiting illness.

“Aryaloka’s comfortable residential setting surrounded by the quiet of 13 wooded acres provided ideal conditions for the caregivers to be cared for by staff and retreat leaders. Nutritious vegetarian meals plus a "High Tea" topped off the educational/experiential activities that were facilitated by the retreat team and ten volunteer massage, reiki, and yoga practitioners. The weekend was threaded with meditation for relaxation; massage and reiki bodywork; restorative body movement; group processing through art, music, and journaling; exploring the importance of humor; and sharing personal stories with other caregivers. Participants were also given personal binders containing "take home" skills and strategies for self-care and stress management.

“In the short space between Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, the transformation in each participant was breathtaking. They became animated and vibrant, as if new life were poured into them. The feeling throughout the weekend was one of openness and joy, with multiple expressions of kindness, and laughter - much laughter ! As one participant expressed it , "This weekend has been phenomenal...the only word I can think of is seamless...." Participant evaluations confirmed that our goals for the retreat were fulfilled far beyond our original expectations. Also, an unexpected benefit also emerged : the atmosphere of total, unconditional care created for the participants spread back to the team, and facilitators also became participants!”

Sadhu, Aryaloka!

In the UK, several centres have been running weekends and other events for carers for some years. The Brighton Buddhist Centre runs the ‘Carer’s Breaks’ project; the London Buddhist Centre are converting their basement to house their major ‘Breathing Space’ project; which will host events for carers, plus mediation for depression, addiction, and stress. Manchester is home to the FWBO’s popular and successful pain management programme ‘Breathworks’, and earlier this month the UK’s Guardian newspaper ran an article exploring the LBC’s retreats for carers – click here to read it.

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