For years, the Garrison Institute has offered a program that provides resilience trainings for direct service providers through the Contemplative Based Resilience (CBR) Project. These evidence-based trainings give caregivers –– health care providers, social workers, humanitarian aid workers, first responders –– the opportunity to strengthen their resilience. Whether they are working in the field or behind a computer, these professionals are operating in challenging contexts and they regularly bear witness to traumas they can neither predict nor control. Knowing the causes and symptoms of stress is helpful, but seldom sufficient. Resiliency requires specific skills, and these skills can be learned.
Today, this training is more critical than ever. The global pandemic, climate change, economic unpredictability, and civil unrest have caused caregivers worldwide to confront unprecedented levels of stress and trauma, yet they persist in their life-saving work.
The Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Training is an experiential skill-building program that helps participants develop practices to enhance and sustain physiological and psychological resilience. This innovative curriculum integrates secular meditation practices; education about the effects of acute and chronic stress on the body and mind; yoga-based and healing movement practices (no experience required, all body types welcome); with facilitated discussions and exercises to help build self-awareness and community. The techniques covered are all grounded in cutting-edge research on human resilience.
CBR draws on insights from aid and social service practitioners, in addition to experts in psychology, meditation, and movement to offer a secular program that guides and empowers participants to build their own skills to foster greater resilience to the sometimes overwhelming demands of their work.
Our belief is that in order to serve well, we need to be well.
We live in a world of increasing volatility and disruption. Globally, millions of people require humanitarian assistance and protection as a result of overlapping crises. In America and worldwide, humanitarian aid workers are operating on the front lines, in high stress environments, to provide support to those in need. Tools like CBR are urgently needed to support these direct service providers.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the world has witnessed the tireless efforts of healthcare workers, first responders and volunteers around the globe. In many cases, doctors, nurses and EMTs are confronted with difficult life and death decisions in chaotic environments. Dealing with overcrowded emergency rooms, a lack of protective gear and an onslaught of cases, many are in danger of succumbing to overwhelming stress and burnout and yet have courageously continued with their live-saving work. In the process, these professionals often compromise their own well-being. Abundant current research indicates that this can contribute to adverse health conditions.
The CBR approach to well-being integrates the key components of resilience: Awareness, Balance, and Compassionate Connection. At the heart of contemplative practice is awareness: paying attention to the present moment and choosing to cultivate loving kindness toward oneself and others.
Awareness of the psychology of stress and its causes;
Balance through mind and body practices;
Connection with ourselves, with the people we work with and care for, and in our communities
Accessing breath work, meditation and simple mind-body awareness techniques, CBR offers foundational skills that include:
CBR is highly portable, the easy to learn practices are useful for healthcare and first responders, including those working in emergency rooms and intensive care environments. The tools reveal simple, accessible ways to increase awareness and create space for beneficial replenishment to individuals on the front lines. The training teaches how to be fully present while attending to others without forgetting one’s own need to step back and replenish.
These short, easy to repeat tools in breath awareness, meditation and simple movement practices can be accessed at any time during the day, at work or in the field. As Sharon Salzberg says, “The breath practice is completely portable.” Practiced on a daily basis over time, they become ‘hard-wired’ patterns of enhanced resilience.
The resilience of one individual can positively impact the resilience of larger communities and environments.
The Garrison Institute has created a video series to empower caregivers with the essential practices of the CBR training. These 8 short guided practices feature Sharon Salzberg leading meditation and Gayla Marie Stiles leading mindful movement. The segments may be viewed consecutively as a series or referenced individually on demand.
Gayla Marie Stiles is a licensed acupuncturist, and expert in yoga and other movement modalities, and is passionate about teaching therapeutic and transformative elements of movement.
Sharon Salzberg, renowned meditation teacher and author, is co-founder of the CBR Project and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.
We urge you to watch and share these videos among your networks––whether it be with your colleagues, family or friends. To view this video series, click here.
Research on neuroscience and contemplative practices conducted at international academic institutions by such esteemed scientists as Richard Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tania Singer and many others has demonstrated the physiological, psychological and emotional benefits of meditation. For a more in depth exploration of the research, review Thaddeus Pace’s paper “The Human Dimensions of Resilience.”
In 2004, The Garrison Institute launched its Women’s Wellness Project (WWP), a five-year pilot program serving front-line staff and directors of domestic violence shelters in the New York Metropolitan area. The goal of WWP was to address and provide support for staff experiencing acute stress and burnout at work, as a result of their empathic connection working with traumatized clients.
Building on the success of the WWP pilot, The Garrison Institute expanded the curriculum of the wellness approach to support the global community of international humanitarian aid and human rights professionals serving in high stress, crisis situations. In 2010, the Contemplative Based Resilience (CBR) project was launched, and since then has provided trainings across four continents for diverse communities. Learn more about our international work here.
“Once people have a deeper understanding of what is really happening in their nervous system, it helps them connect to the benefits of the practices we are teaching.” — Ola Witkowska, CBR International Psychosocial Faculty
“Before I attended four days of CBR Training, I did not believe in the meditation world and its result on people. But now meditation and mindful exercises are my daily habits to reduce the stress and tension.” —Aseel, Jordan
“I’m starting to discover myself and the world, humanity again. We’ve had so many trainings regarding the humanitarian sector, but what I’ve felt here was completely different. I feel so grateful for the experience.” —Aerlyn, USA