How Our Wounds Help Others

Group Horse Therapy lends many opportunities for passing lessons learned to a friend.

Group Horse Therapy lends many opportunities for passing lessons learned to a friend.

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ” Rachel Naomi Remen

I asked my boss to forward this quote to me after she read it aloud at a recent meeting. WOW! If I didn’t believe in this idea wholeheartedly (as the poster child of incredibly wild mistakes) I would likely be in someone’s closet by now curled up in the fetal position. Not a day goes by when I don’t pull out a perfect example of “Don’t do what I did, kids, it was REALLY stupid!” Sharing an experience then shaking our heads when they do it their way anyway is what we get to do as wise grown-ups. But there are the occasional days when the boys listen to my experiences and sidestep trouble, which makes the wound of having made it in the first place worthwhile.

Realizing that something we’ve overcome provides us a unique ability to help others is indeed part of our own healing process. Our gaffes are what make us human and sharing them with others helps increase the survivability and recoverability of each one.  If you can’t eventually laugh about the lesson you learned, perhaps you just need to repeat the story one more time. Trust me, they get funnier as time passes.

Using one’s past to rise above a situation repeats itself throughout history. Some notable examples include Moses, who was accused of murdering a man before leading his people out of Egypt. Bill Wilson, a noted alcoholic in the early 1900s, went on to found Alcoholics Anonymous. And we’re all familiar with Alexander Fleming’s big scientific oops that became penicillin. There’s an example of healing in its most literal form. To say these three men made a significant contribution to others despite mistakes in their past is a drastic understatement.

It’s easy, as adults, to think of someone who makes the same mistakes over and over and – like a train wreck – there’s little you can do to stop them. So at CCBS, we begin to teach the boys to reflect on their past behavior and learn something from it. Then as their time with us increases, they can take their lessons and pass them along to those not so far along the PATH. They become empathetic to the limitations of others and those moments we observe among the boys are priceless and dear.

The lessons of the Medicine Wheel are evident when we share our life lessons with others. We show not only, “I am wise,” but also, “I am resilient,” and sometimes, “I am forgiven.” But most importantly, when we admit our mistakes and make it part of our healing process, we show “I am authentic.”

What part of your past can be used to show someone your authenticity? How can a wound in your life become a healing story for you and those around you?

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When Snow Was Fun

Dylan (left) charges forward, while Jon provides coverage

Dylan (left) charges forward, while Jon provides coverage

Sunday night, my husband and I toured the online blizzard of weather related warnings, watches and apocalyptic premonitions. After a few minutes he turned to me and asked, “Remember when snow was fun?”

Granted, we did receive a ton of snow. Much more than is normal for Upstate South Carolina and most of the warnings were very much warranted. But on Monday morning as I arrived on campus after a long and difficult drive, my shoulders relaxed and a single thought came forward – “Snow Day!”

I made my way from room to room reminding the boys to dress in layers, wear boots, hats and rain gear. In their minds, I knew, were visions of snow play, snowmen, snow angels and, best of all, a snow ball fight.

Middle schoolers so often sway between gleeful childhood and the beginnings of more solemn adult-like maturity. It is what makes them the most fun and interesting age group to work with. Often, our CCBS students arrive having forgotten…or somehow deficient in…the art of real childhood play. We provide dozens of opportunities for boys to be playful, learn new games, and remember old ones – in short, we provide a place where boys can be boys!

The Healer reminds us of the power of fun, play and joy! And there is nothing more joyful than a giant snowfall followed by a snowball fight…nothing…except maybe the hot chocolate afterward!

 

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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The Best Medicine

Sandy Morris, LPN reminds us to treat ourselves to a good belly laugh, tee-hee or guffaw.

Sandy Morris, LPN reminds us to treat ourselves to a good belly-laugh, tee-hee or guffaw.

Laughter has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. It is who I am. When I think of my childhood, the funniest memories revolve around growing up with 6 siblings. It is at family gatherings that we share our favorite memories and laugh all the more. Large families are so skilled at telling funny tales, like the time my brother was locked out of the house  and being chased by a neighbor’s dog – his knees hitting his chin with each step. Or the time my mother and sister crawled under blankets, shrieking and terrified, across the bedroom floor while my father and I tried to remove a bat with brooms…

Laughter was what got me through my personal battle with breast cancer. I could find the funny in almost any situation, from surgery experiences, to chemo, to the stares of children when I lost my hair. Children are so brave with questions. They can ask anything because they are so innocent.

Did you know that children laugh on average 300 times a day compared to adults who only laugh about 15 times a day? Laughing gives our heart and mind a good workout! It increases endorphins, helps decrease stress, burns calories, improves memory and even boosts your immune system. Laughter can even help reduce feelings of depression and create a sense of well-being. With all that, who wouldn’t want to laugh!!??

Laughing is a pretty cool thing and it’s very contagious. If you listen, around campus you can hear big belly-laughs, giggles, tee-hee’s, guffaws, snorts and even some whoops coming from the classrooms, during meal times, out on the front porch of the Lodge, at many sports activities and even during therapy sessions.

All this laughter can motivate a person and release positive energy. Our students need this in their lives…a chance to laugh, be positive and to channel their energy in a positive way. It shows them that life can be fun, full of joy and/or happiness even when their lives have had strife, sadness, loss, anxiety or bad school experiences.

As Woody Allen says, “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

Reminding you that laughter is real and true…

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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The Healing Power of Hugs

Beth congratulates recent graduate, Cole, on his graduation day.

Beth congratulates recent graduate, Cole, with a hug.

I always love the Family Seminars at Cherokee Creek Boys School and the sessions on Love and Healer are my favorite. Spending time with bright, caring adults who are, “paying attention to what has heart and meaning,” is uplifting. One of the many lessons we explore together is the Arms of Love: the power of acknowledgment, recognition, validation and gratitude to demonstrate genuine caring.

Living in Florida, I am not on campus often and truly miss the day to day engagement with the boys, staff and families. Hugs are a “touching” way to share my heart-felt love and appreciation…if you’ll excuse the pun!

Hugs seem to be the full manifestation of the Arms of Love. A hug acknowledges, accepts, recognizes, validates and is appreciated by giver and receiver.

I am aware that there is a hugging etiquette. Not everyone is an instant hugger. At CCBS we follow guidelines like those set forth by the Hugs for Health Foundation ( yes, there is a Hugs for Health Foundation!)

-Always respect another’s space.
-Ask permission before hugging.
-A hug is a compassionate gesture, hug accordingly.
-A hug is a gentle embrace, not the Heimlich maneuver.

There have been scientific studies measuring the benefits of hugging. Sometimes I’m surprised that science needs to validate what seems so obvious.

Hugs are a simple, one size fits all “therapy”. They are good for all ages, environmentally safe and a renewable resource. They are not bound by gender, race, color or creed. Hugs have Heart and Meaning…hugs are Real and True.

Who will you acknowledge, recognize, validate or appreciate with a hug today?

Here is a video hug for you: Free Hugs Campaign video on YouTube

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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Growth in Change

Residential Lead, Shawn Ziluck, shares a story about his own journey of self-discovery, paying attention to “what has heart and meaning” and embracing responsibility.

Residential Lead, Shawn Ziluck

Residential Lead, Shawn Ziluck

Like many of our students at Cherokee Creek, I had a very difficult time taking responsibility for my actions in my adolescence. My willingness to trust the criticism and advice the adults in my life gave me was non-existent and often fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until I was preparing to graduate from high school that the words I had tried so hard to ignore came back to haunt me. 

The thought of going to college was exhilarating at first, but quickly faded as I saw my father come home from his second job cringing in pain and barley able to walk. I began to realize the sacrifices he had made, and would be making,  to provide me with the opportunity to go to college. I knew in my heart I was not ready for college and would surely waste the money he had worked so hard for, and more importantly the blood, sweat, and pain he had endured to do so.

It was then that I learned what it meant to be grateful and what it meant to have a strong work ethic. It was the acknowledgement of his efforts and my feelings of gratitude that lead me to take responsibility for my life. I postponed college and joined the Navy, which also taught me integrity, leadership, respect, compassion, courage and committment in addition to responsibility.

Nearly 14 years later I find myself surrounded by the boys at CCBS as they face many different transitions that act as catalysts in their journey of self-discovery. I have found that change and transition force us to look again at the things that occur to us, within us, and around us.  This is how our students grow and gain insight into their own personal truths.

Many of our students embark on a new journey as they see their peers graduate and transition home. Though it is typically a happy and joyous time, the graduates leave the remaining students with a void to fill. The void that is left often sends their groups into disarray. As they struggle with the loss of leadership and friends, many students are thrust into to new and unfamiliar roles within their groups. 

Amongst the changes and challenges they face, an incredible thing begins to happen: followers become leaders, and boys become young men.

When in your life have you embraced responsibility and embarked on a new journey?

 

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic Boarding School for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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Eagle’s Wings

In our study of the Medicine Wheel at Cherokee Creek Boys School, we are exploring the qualities of the Healer, the value of Love and the guiding principle of, “Paying attention to what has heart and meaning.” Therapist Jane Barker shares a touching story of healing and love – an experience filled with heart and meaning for her.

CCBS Therapist Jane Barker

CCBS Therapist Jane Barker, LISW

It was not an ordinary camping trip. I was taking my daughter Casey to the state park where I had experienced treasures of childhood joys. In my early adulthood visits to the park had been harshly interrupted by my father’s chronic illness. I was flooded by memories of my father as I sat rocking gently in the hammock the first day, as he had so often done when I was a child. The park magically came alive with voices of laughter from my past summers. I was overwhelmed by the unexpected, simultaneous emotions of grief and joy. 

Later, during that same trip, I caught sight of a majestic Eagle soaring skillfully through the sky. I sat amazed at the splendor of this grand creature soaring through an orange evening sky glistening over the still blue water. Its mantles of feathers were a spectacular sight and its pallid head projected from the wings like a snow capped mountain. This rare sighting of the Eagle in the wild gave me a splendid observation of the Master of the Skies. 

I know my flashbacks to childhood and my encounter with the majestic Eagle were an alignment with grace, soaring like the Eagle, riding the winds to touching healing. I recognized the beauty beyond the harsh and cruel realities of life and death. 

I believe that when an animal shows up to you in an unusual way it is trying to convey a message. On that day I received a message about my own healing journey from the Eagle. My grief was a majestic encounter upon Eagle’s wings.

What magical and spectacular encounters have you had with animals in nature?  In what ways has the beauty of nature inspired healing in your life?

 

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic Boarding School for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

 

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Keep On Strong Heart

Strong-Hearted Beth and Adam Dancing at Her Birthday

Strong-Hearted Beth and her son Adam Dancing at Her Birthday

I first learned about the 4-chambered heart when we enrolled our son in a therapeutic boarding school. It had been a 14-year journey trying to find help for my struggling child and I was exhausted. As I was beginning to pick up the pieces of my life I also picked up Angeles Arrien’s book, The Four Fold Way. And there it was–in the chapter on the Healer and love and “Paying attention to what has heart and meaning” — the beginning of real healing.

Angeles, a cultural anthropologist, shares that many indigenous cultures feel the Four Chambered-Heart is the source for sustaining emotional and spiritual health. Your heart must be full, open, clear and strong. Where you are not Full-Hearted, you are Half-Hearted. And where you are not Open-Hearted, you become Closed-Hearted. Confusion is the result when you lack a Clear-Heart.

I acknowledged each of these wounded chambers of my heart, but was most saddened to recognize that I had become Weak-Hearted. I had always prided myself on my Strong Heart…especially in my ability to courageously fight for my children. But it seemed I was in heart-failure and I began to seek ways to mend.

It was a “power song” that touched my heart the most. On those down days when I knew that a good cry would cleanse my weary heart, I would play Keep On Strong Heart by Libby Roderick over and over again until I felt restored.

Over the years, I’ve discovered many things that are real and true about the heart. It is resiliant. It can be broken…shattered into a million pieces and, somehow, if we are open, strong, clear and full the heart will heal. And as with broken bones, it will knit together and be stronger than it was before being broken. Keep on, strong heart!

Beth Black is the Founder of Cherokee Creek Boys School, a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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River Lessons (Part 3)

We continue the River Lessons, a series of blogs from our students’ perspectives. Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing  and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Student: Scott
Aspect: Healer
Statement: I am Joyful

“I think on Healer I’ve been more joyful because I can always have fun on Trek even if it does not go as planned. Another reason why I think I have been more joyful is because when I’m not on Trek I can just let things go and I can almost always be more joyful.”

Scott makes the ultimate “go with the flow” statement, doesn’t he? This statement is a great Healer-Teacher combination of joyful participation and flexibility – the perfect river lessons.

Are you inclined to “go with the flow” and find the fun in most situations? What are the fun activities in your life that allow you to be open to outcome?

 Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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