“The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself. In the wilderness your possessions cannot surround you. Your preconceptions cannot protect you… You see the world as if for the first time”
– Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Honey from the Rock
In Hebrew, BaMidbar means “in the wilderness,” or “in the desert.” There is a Jewish text (Zohar Va’era, 2:25b) that tells us when we were in Egypt, we lost the ability to express our own stories. During that time, we were literally slaves to another person’s narrative. When we left Egypt, we spent forty years in the midbar – the wilderness. It was there that we began our national story telling and created our own identity. The midbar is a wilderness, but there is also a second meaning — to speak — דבר. We went into the midbar to find our own voice and to write a new narrative as a people.
At BaMidbar, we give our students a chance to write their own narratives – to redefine how they view themselves, what they think they’re capable of, and their ability to achieve that vision.
In the wilderness, our students will have a fresh start. They will be in a new and unfamiliar environment, free of the constant cultural stimuli experienced in today’s world. The wilderness is humbling. It invites vulnerability and decreases distractions. Within these powerful surroundings, our students build identity, develop skills, and find strength in their community. Every aspect of our program is intentionally crafted to facilitate students’ personal growth.
While BaMidbar runs a variety of both therapeutic and personal growth oriented programs, all of our programs are guided by a common philosophy.
BaMidbar participants learn a deeper understanding about the variety of emotions that they experience on a regular basis. Participants develop a greater emotional vocabulary and the skills to communicate these states effectively.
Using the Window of Tolerance (Siegel, 1999) participants are given a greater understanding of the connection between emotional states and the functioning of their nervous system. This framework empowers our students to have an increased ability to recognize, regulate and understand their patterns of emotions and behaviors.
BaMidbar students develop a deeper awareness of both body and mind through mindfulness practices focusing on mindfulness of thought patterns and bodily sensations (somatic awareness). These approaches help our students to recognize shifts in their emotions and engage in proactive coping strategies.
Students are taught coping skill approaches known as ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ regulation. These approaches give students strategies to help calm down using a rational and cognitive approach (top-down) or by using mindfulness approaches focusing on sensation, somatic awareness, movement, and breathing (bottom-up).
Many of BaMidbar’s practices and approaches are inspired by Self Determination Theory of Motivation (Deci and Ryan). This theory states that motivation becomes more intrinsic when our students experience an increase in their experiences of competence, relationship, and choice. These three ingredients are built into a great deal of the student curriculum and programming.
BaMidbar focuses on the intentional use of adventure activities for the purpose of helping students create metaphors, finding transferable skills, and building relationships.
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Bamidbar Wilderness Therapy is a program of Ramah in the Rockies.