Our core intervention is the Tree of Life trauma healing and empowerment (TH&E) workshop. Using the tree as a metaphor for life, a healing workshop combines storytelling with healing of the emotions and connections. Groups sitting in circles, patiently listening to each other, go through a process of reclaiming personal power and sense of body, and reconnecting with nature, self, family and community.
In the Tree of Life healing and empowerment workshop, participants work in the following ways:
- Reclaiming our power: Telling our stories and having them witnessed.
The telling of individual stories takes place in a circle ('dare') which offers a step-by-step process of building on trust and respect. It allows participants to share the accounts of their experiences and listen to one another in an atmosphere of openness, understanding and forgiveness. This ‘community witnessing’, particularly for individuals who have been through traumatic experiences, helps reframe their perspective from that of ‘isolated victim’, to members of a caring community. These are the first steps towards healing and empowerment.
- Reclaiming our bodies: Bodywork – breathing, meditating, stretching, relaxing, dancing.
The stress of our daily lives is carried in our bodies. The process of being violated – possibly through abuse, intimidation, beatings or rape, has the effect on the ‘victim’ of becoming disconnected from their bodies. Simple exercises using breathing, balancing and relaxation are introduced as a means of reconnecting with our bodies and releasing tension.
- Reclaiming our connections with nature and ourselves: Expanding our view of ourselves - connecting with the natural system in which we live.
An important aspect of the healing is our relationship with nature. This simple understanding has been held by traditional cultures all over the world and way back into our history. Where possible, these workshops are held in a setting where participants can spend time outdoors sitting with trees.
- Reclaiming our connection to our communities: Re-looking at ourselves as part of a larger system – as individual trees in a diverse and interconnected forest community.
The workshop ends with the group gathering their ‘gifts’ and re-framing themselves and their community in a new way – as a group of people with power, and not as isolated and damaged individuals. This is followed by a closing ceremony designed by the participants.