At BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, students will spend four to five days per week on masa’ot (excursions) exploring the public lands of Colorado. They will spend the remaining time at our basecamp in the Rocky Mountains. Our community comes together for Jewish holidays and Shabbat, which are celebrated at basecamp.
Shmirat ha Nefesh: Translated into English as “care for the soul,” Shmirat ha Nefesh is BaMidbar’s daily spiritual practice. Shmirat ha Nefesh will take place six days of the week (Sunday – Friday), and should last about 30 minutes each day. Shmirat ha Nefesh should begin with a niggun, that draws the community together. Staff should then lead a guided meditation, that lasts 10-15 minutes. This guided meditation can be drawn from BaMidbar resources, can be based in secular ideas or Jewish liturgy, and can be active or passive. Lastly, Shmirat ha Nefesh ends with 10-15 minutes set aside for personal prayer. Students can choose to daven traditionally during this time, journal, or reflect quietly.
Breakfast and Daily Goals: Breakfast is an opportunity to get on the same page and start the morning with intention.The leader of the day (staff or student) will check-in about the plan for the morning: what camp chores must be done and whether we are packing up camp. At the end of breakfast, each individual will state a goal they have for the day, and what they will do to achieve that goal.
Middot Cards: Every hike will start with a brief activity geared around middot, character traits. While middot is oftentimes translated as virtues or values, the literal translation is “measure.” In Judaism, a virtue is not static, but rather falls along a spectrum. In the field, we help students explore various values, where they fall along the spectrum in relation to those values, and where they want to be. With packs on, just before beginning hiking, students will each pull a middot card. This is not meant to be a complicated or long winded activity, but rather is an opportunity for students to reflect on different characters traits and values, and what they mean to them. Staff can ask for a brief reflection about the middot, an intention for the day, or can simply have students read the middot and put it back into the middot card bag.
Hikes: Groups will hike every day other than Shabbat, therapy days, and inclement weather days. The therapeutic value of hiking cannot be overestimated. The one exception is if a non-hiking day has been planned with and authorized by the Field Coordinator. As deemed appropriate by therapists and program staff, other adventure activities, such as rock climbing, may be integrated in place of hikes.
Spontaneous Teaching Moments: A day should not go by without each staff member taking advantage of a spontaneous teaching-moment opportunity. There is an endless supply of principles, and an infinite number of things to observe in the natural world, or events that occur in and around the group. BaMidbar staff use them to teach. At BaMidbar, we often say “how you do anything is how you do everything.” When an individual gets frustrated hiking, or excited to learn a new skill, this often reflects how they approach tasks in life outside of the program. Through spontaneous teaching moments, BaMidbar staff help students reflect and better understand their emotional and behavioral response in any given situation.
Skills Session: BaMidbar uses skill sessions to invite inquiry and build rapport. These unstructured times provide incredible opportunity for meaningful conversation, personal engagement in the process, task mastery, and rapport building between students and staff. Students learn how to make friction fires, carve spoons, make primitive art, tie knots, and more. BaMidbar tries to set aside at least one hour per day for skill sessions.
Therapy Assignment Time: Time is set aside every day for students to work on therapy assignments. This is individual time to write letters, work on therapy assignments and curriculum, or read books recommended by therapists.
Journaling: Putting thoughts to paper is an essential part of the reflection that students undergo here at BaMidbar. Structured time for journaling is provided at various times throughout the week. This can be structured, i.e., proposing a specific prompt, or integrated more organically. Journaling can happen at basecamp, on a day hike, during lunch breaks on excursion, and many other times.
Dinner and Check-In: Check-ins will happen over dinner every day. They are an opportunity for students to share what they are feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is an important step to support students in recognizing and naming their emotions and physical needs.
Growth Groups: Every evening after dinner, the group participates in a growth group. Some Growth Groups repeat, week to week, such as Kavanah Group, Mussar Group, and Teshuvah Group. Other Growth Groups are determined by therapists and staff, based on the group’s needs.
Therapy Days: Therapists are in the field every Wednesdays and Thursdays, arriving on Wednesday mornings, and departing on Thursday evenings. Wednesdays and Thursdays are filled with individual therapy, group therapy, and experiential activities. By spend 36-48 hours in the field with the group, therapists are able to observe students in and out of the therapy sessions, and work with each individual in an experiential environment. As needed, therapists will also join the group on non “therapy days,” on excursions or at basecamp.
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Bamidbar Wilderness Therapy is a program of Ramah in the Rockies.