Nenana Wellness Coalition
March 11, 2014
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate , masticate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
There were 12 in attendance today, including: Kat McElroy, Jessica Durtsche, Bonnie Reed, Tara, Virginia Young, Scott Bell, Cathy Walling, Carrie Farr, Miles Martin, Steve and Demita DuPlantis and Amie Verhagen. We enjoyed meat balls with pasta, mixed greens salad, Ritz crackers with a variety of sliced cheeses, and raisins and pecans for lunch.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT, by this week’s chair-person: Virginia Young.
PRAYER was led SteveDuPlantis , followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There was one addition to the agenda as presented today.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes for the meeting of 3/04/14 were posted at the WIN link at http://www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: Cathy Walling and Scott Bell were introduced, as was Carrie Farr. Miles Martin was welcomed back from his visit to Arizona.
Couples Enrichment: Cathy Walling and Scott Bell were introduced by Carrie Farr who knows them from Quaker meetings and from the Couple’s Enrichment workshops they lead in Fairbanks. Cathy and Scott received their training from the Friends General Conference. They are long-time residents of Fairbanks and became Couples Enrichment facilitators in 2006, leading workshops in Fairbanks, the Lower 48 and Australia.
Cathy began their remarks by explaining that our culture romanticizes relationships. We are raised on the fairytales of how couples meet, overcome obstacles to marry and then “live happily ever after.” We are not taught the skills needed for a relationship to survive Happily Ever After. We never hear the story of what happens, the in between coming together as a couple and happily ever after. Couples Enrichment is a process to assist that journey in between. It is a matter of creating attention and intention regarding precious relationships. She and Scott participated in three weekend Couples Enrichment (CE) episodes over a several year’s long period as a young couple and found it so helpful and valuable to their relationship and so rich and rewarding an experience that they decided to obtain the training to be able to teach CE to others. This process was pioneered in the 1960’s by David and Vera Mace who were therapists that specialized in couple’s counseling, dealing with clients whose relationships had become badly damaged. They wondered together, “What can we do in the preventative medicine end of things?” and the CE process was the result of that collaboration.
Scott had the WIN participants introduce themselves in turn and speak to why they belonged to the Wellness In Nenana Coalition. He explained that they teach people how to speak to be heard and how to listen so people feel heard. This is especially important in discussion if you do not agree with the other person, in a conflict or dispute. People need to feel safe and validated to be able to move on into problem solving. CE teaches specific exercises to do and opportunities to dialogue and creates time and space to focus specifically on the relationship. These communication skills are useful with friends, family and children, at work, or in the community, not just in couple’s relationship.
Cathy said that they have been asked to facilitate workshops for young adults to foster and nurture healthy relationships, whether or not they are in relationship.
Scott and Cathy then led an activity he described as “experiential, priming the pump,” which he called The Three Things exercise. They passed out sticky notes and pencils and asked us to think about a person, anyone with whom we have a significant relationship, a spouse, family member, boss, co-worker, someone with whom it is important to have a good relationship. First, he said, write down three things you like or really appreciate about that person, about the relationship. Then, write down three things you would like to change or that you want to see improved. Lastly, he asked us to write down three things we could think of that we could do to effect those changes.
In a CE workshop, he said, couples would share these lists in private time with one another after which they would come back into the larger group to discuss the process. “What was it like for you?” He said it is important that people know that they are not required to do any of the exercises and they are never required to share anything. But participants in the workshops are encouraged to stretch, to take positive risks where comfortable to do so. The purpose is to begin building Expression Skills. How we speak; how we listen. The focus is on using I Statements, reflecting How I Am Feeling, not attacking, but learning how to diffuse defensiveness. “It is so easy to attack without even knowing it,” he said, “if you are mulling things over, playing the story out in your head and not sharing your process with your partner.” How do you listen? How do you validate without necessarily agreeing? You have to practice reflecting back what you are hearing. He allowed time for people to discuss how The Three Things exercise went, what that felt like for them.
Cathy said that another aspect of the work they do is developing what they call A Witnessing Presence. Their job is to observe, not to comment or lend advice or feedback, but merely to bear witness, to hold the dialogue in prayer. “This,” she stated, “can be counter-cultural for many participants. It can be just too much of a reach. But it does help people to get to their own highest self in communication, to have a silent other uphold you into the best place with their prayers or good intention, especially when one is having difficult discussion about a particular sore or stuck point.
Scott then lead another exercise to enhance listening/hearing and speaking to clarity skills. He cautioned that people ought not jump directly into the most challenging issues, but initially to pick something easier. He cautioned that there should be No Surprises, that it would be unfair for a participant to spring an issue too tender onto their partner in a workshop setting. For this demonstration, participants think of something that serves as a memorable accomplishment from their earlier life. Describe that to the partner, who in turn uses reflective listening to feed back the essence of what they have heard.
Cathy and Scott modelled this: Cathy spoke and Scott reflected back to her an experience she had in 9th grade of having an unexpected Highest Score of all her classmates on a test. Then Scott spoke of practicing hard and mastering the game of tennis and Cathy feed back to him what she was hearing about accomplishment for him. Then WIN members broke into pairs and practiced this process. Discussion ensued about speaking with clarity and listening to hear.
They closed their remarks by saying that they would be glad to come down to Nenana to lead a CE workshop, which is about a 15 hour process, that typically occurs over a long weekend, with two hours on Friday evening to open the workshop, a long day 9-5 on Saturday and a slightly shorter day Sunday 9-2. They could also hold workshops on back to back Saturdays instead. They passed out informational flyers about the workshops and a brochure with contact information.
Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and their phone number is (907) 479-6854. People wanting to learn more about Couples Enrichment or Friends General Conference may go to http://www.fgcquaker.org/couplee-enrichment/relationships for further information.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: My Creator, let me walk in the stillness today. Lakota prayer
Kat: Just was informed that Tommy Titus’s mother, Elsie Titus, of Minto passed away.
Amie: Sam and Evelyn’s baby son was born Saturday and had heart surgery the following Friday. Surgery went well and baby is progressing well.
Virginia: Don’t forget our Nenana Health Fair will be Saturday, March 22.
ADJOURNMENT: 2:10 PM.