After a year and a half of virtual programs, BaMidbar opened its doors and returned to in-person, therapeutic programming in June 2021. Over 40 days, students embarked on a journey of self-discovery, hope, and healing in the Colorado wilderness. Students explored questions of meaning, values, and purpose, built skills, practiced healthy emotional expression, climbed mountains, and built a strong, supportive, and inclusive community.
There is so much to share about our summer season! Recognizing that it would be impossible to capture all that transpired over the last 40 days, we will share highlights from each of the four program phases that guide our program model.
Image: Students walk along a trail with their backpacks on
“I love BaMidbar more than anything I’ve ever done before. It was such a wonderful community and incredible experience, getting to backpack and be so supported in the group. I think every group activity we did was super helpful, and we had a lot of fun as a group while also doing important work and learning a lot.” -BaMidbar Student
During the first phase of BaMidbar’s program, students explored their intentions and asked themselves, what do I want to get from this experience? What do I hope to leave behind as I step into this space? Students learned skills to stay safe and meet their basic needs in a backcountry environment, celebrated their first Shabbat together as a community, and embarked on their first masa – backcountry excursion. On masa, students shared their “personal narrative,” and explored the question, “What’s my Mitzrayim? What’s my personal Egypt or narrow place that brings me to this journey in the wilderness?” As students became comfortable in the group, they built trust and began to support each other in profound ways, building the strong community that is the hallmark of BaMidbar’s cohort-based experience.
Image: A staff member looking out at a vista, accompanied by a dog
“[My therapist] was the best! So sensitive and kind. I loved our check ins and just getting to spend time with her. I learned so much from her about how to stay centered and embodied and how to find the beauty in the world.” -BaMidbar Student
Seeing Obstacles as Opportunities for Growth
In Hebrew, Yirah is translated as both “fear” and “awe.” During the second phase of the BaMidbar journey, students explored their fears, and asked the question, “How do I transform my understanding of obstacles into opportunities for growth?” They identified and learned about their “inner critic” and practiced solutions-focused and positive psychology skills. In a backcountry and experiential setting, students developed a deeper awareness of both body and mind. They learned to recognize shifts in their emotions and engage in proactive coping strategies. Students sang underneath the stars and found joy in baking challah together over the fire for Shabbat.
Image: A student sits by an alpine lake
“I can’t pick one [best experience]. So many things were wonderful. I think generally just the amount of care and trust and laughter that we shared as a group was the best experience. But of a specific experience – I loved the alpine lake hike and basically all of the growth groups.” -BaMidbar Student
Building Healthy Relationships with Self and Others
During the third phase of the program, students explored questions of healthy relationships with both self and others. They backpacked to high alpine lakes, had a moose sighting, played in the snow still present at high elevations, and deepened their backcountry living skills with the support of BaMidbar’s board member and wilderness expert extraordinaire Cliff Stockton, who joined the group. Students learned nonviolent communication skills, discussed their communication styles, and explored what it means to build a strong community through direct feedback and respectful dialogue. Students reflected upon a relationship they wished to repair and learned about the concepts of “Teshuvah,” or “repair.”
Image: A fire in the foreground and two staff members sitting and talking in the background
“I think the field guides did everything they could and more to both get us through the challenging hikes and build a safe intentional space for all of us to work through our therapeutic processes. They were a great team and really showed how much they cared about us all having the best experience possible. I felt I could trust each of them with anything I needed.” -BaMidbar Student
Returning to Community
As the BaMidbar experience came to a close, students explored questions of community, both within BaMidbar and as they look forward to the future. They embarked on a 36 hour “solo,” a deeply meaningful opportunity to reflect on their time at BaMidbar. Students wrote poetry, journaled, and observed the more-than-human world in which they were immersed. One student even built a log cabin from downed logs around his site. They worked on their “future plans,” preparing for their transition home from BaMidbar.
The group processed what it looks like to have a strong culmination to the program. They participated in an activity where each student wove a string of yarn, expressing how they have grown in the program and what they hope to take home with them. They received feedback from other group members, and then together they wove each individual’s piece into a 10ft rope. Utilizing the rope as a metaphor, they talked about how each of them has contributed to the growth of the others, and how – as a group – they have grown into a strong and cohesive unit. Students each kept a piece of the rope to tie into a bracelet or keychain to bring home as a reminder of the impact they’ve had while being here.
Image: A student hiking along a trail
“I feel very sad to leave, but I do feel more prepared for life after BaMidbar and I’m excited to use the skills and confidence I’ve learned here in the greater world.” -BaMidbar Student
Students concluded the program by carving a mezuzah and writing “declarations” to go within their mezuzah. These declarations represented student’s key learnings from BaMidbar, the reminders each individual wants to hold close to their heart, reflect upon when they lie down and rise up, and carry with them on their continued journey.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with such a dynamic, thoughtful, and caring group of students this summer!
Image: A student looks at a vista with arms outstretched
“This was a great program! I’m very happy that I came and I owe the entire team a big thank you!”