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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

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Czech Wellness Councils: When wellness wisdom comes from the community

Posted By Jana Stará and Eva Dittingerová, Friday, April 12, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

How can we encourage wellness lifestyles even in countries where the wellness profession is not yet established? How to build upon the current resources in our communities and create a space where both the facilitators and participants or clients can learn and feel connected?

Jack Travis's 12 wellness dimensionsIn this article we share our approach and experiences from a year-long series of Wellness Councils.

There can be moments when you realize that you are longing for a change. And moments when your life just doesn't seem right and your daily routine doesn't serve your needs. You may feel you need to slow down, move more, take a deep breath, eat healthier food, or just need a hug. Yet it seems difficult to do something about it. In moments like that, it's good to have someone by your side to share your wishes, expectations and worries. To encourage each other and to make commitments that will keep you motivated until you meet again.

Do they sound like reasons to engage a wellness coach? Definitely, but since wellness coaching as a profession is not yet established in the Czech Republic, we struck on the idea of Wellness Councils. With the intention to build upon the current resources in local community, we commenced by calling together a circle of people who cared about their own wellbeing and were open to sharing with peers once a month.. 

What is a Wellness Council?

Wellness Council is based on our belief that we can live every day genuinely, with contentment and honesty. According to the wellness philosophy, there is often but little change needed to make our lives more vivid, exciting, happier and healthy. Our council is an open space for exploring what good and healthy life means for each of us specifically, space for sharing, inspiring and motivation. 

Putting wellness and councils together in a framework of monthly meetings dedicated to each of the 12 wellness dimensions, based on the work of Jack Travis, gives a year-long opportunity to kindly observe one’s own state of wellness, to feel inspired by thoughts and experiences of others and receive a little push and support to change for better.

Each event is open to public and everybody is invited to join the group, which always creates a vibrant palette of age groups, backgrounds, life experiences and so on. This reach out to more distant social networks created space for sharing with different, yet likeminded people, who felt that they needed to take first steps towards change or those who were already on their wellness journey. This can be very supporting especially in moments when one lacks support in the closest circles. We can hardly count on help from a demanding boss or family members who live an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Example of a Wellness Council ExerciseWhat is happening in a Wellness Council?

Every session consists of an activity allowing us to explore more about the given topic - both practically (interview, exercise, drama improvisation, brainstorming, drawing, relaxation etc) and theoretically (sharing bits of up-to-date knowledge). We are offering simple ways how everyone of us can be more attentive, relaxed, active etc.

With these small steps the program encourages us to review our current needs and to bring awareness to them during our daily life. There is always an optional “homework” component - simple guidance, instruction for every day of the forthcoming month. For example: Close your eyes for a moment while eating. Take a deep breath when you notice the sky. Find a moment when you are experiencing something beautiful and acknowledge it.

And in every Wellness Council, there is time for stories, too. Sharing stories in a safe way that allows us to revisit our priorities, map our personal history and experience, inspire and call for action. 

Wellness Council ExercisesThe power of sharing stories in a Council 

Having experience with the Way of Council, we felt that its intentions (speaking from the heart, non-judgmental listening from the heart, being spontaneous, speaking the essence, confidentiality and sharing what servers me, the circle and higher good) encourage honest and compassionate expression and can be more than helpful in creating the safe environment for personal stories on wellbeing.

Note: Wellness Council (in the Czech Republic) can (sometimes) look like this. (author Jana Stará)

In council we use a “talking piece” to focus the attention on the person who is sharing their story and there is no one else speaking at the time. The others do not ask questions; do not give advice or comment in any way. During council we share our personal experiences, our own stories through which we can learn from one another and get the sense of belonging to one humankind, the members of which lives are the “same but different.”

Wellness Council ExerciseThe Wellness lessons from stories shared

Every day begins the same way for all. No matter who we are. We all do wake up. 
Not so for the stories we tell and hear – these are very different. You can be say a wellness coach and know general principles of how our bodies and days function. Yet it's always fascinating to remain still and listen to the stories of the days of others. No matter what the rules and advice, when it comes to the joys and struggles of everyday life our human nature and wisdom are being awakened.

Thanks to the stories and council, wellness professionals can constantly learn (just as storytellers, listeners or facilitators would do). Learn a lot about others and maybe even more about ourselves. Learn what it really takes to live well. We strongly believe that empathy, one of the principles of council, is essential not only for sharing safely, but especially for our feeling of being well and grounded in our daily lives. 


Eva DittingerovaEva Dittingerová is an educator, drama teacher, project manager and facilitator who is interested in education through art and nature. “Drama led me to psychosomatically oriented approach to dramatic culture and creation and my interest in stories and it's potential brought me to The Way of Council.”


Jana StaraJana Stará, PhD, is a wellness promoter who dedicated her research and lecturing practice to promoting the concept of wellness in her country. She seeks ways to develop and implement wellness programs with respect to different cultural environment and traditions in Europe. She teaches at the university, empowers individuals, consults companies and believes that better times for European wellness are yet to come.

Tags:  czech wellness council  education  emotional wellness  Eva Dittingerová  Jana Stará  story  wellness 

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NWI Member Spotlight - February 2019

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meta CommerseMeta Commerse, MA, MFA, CWP

Roots 
Meta is a wellness practitioner using the indigenous modality of story medicine. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois among activists, teachers and writers of poetry and music during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. There, her life was shaped by a strong activist tradition. It was equally influenced by domestic violence that taught her to resist, to imagine and seek something better for herself and her family, and that compelled her to move away from systematic silence. 

Body 
Starting her wellness career as a body worker, a path of learning opened up before her. She learned about the mind-body connection where the body’s state tends to reflect that of the mind. She took a holistic approach to her work focusing on clients in chronic pain. Newly pain-free, most of the women in her practice began spontaneously sharing untold stories of trauma. These stories stunned Meta who felt unprepared to hear them, but listened out of respect. Listening to them eventually reminded her that she had an untold story of her own.

Healing 
By 1992, Meta made a commitment to heal her life and soon enrolled in a six-month group for women survivors. That group offered her a community conversation in which to see the brokenness that can result from child sexual abuse. She was able to feel the old emotion she had carried in silence for so long, and later looked for a more extensive, holistic program to continue the work. Finding none, she developed one of her own. 

Learning
In 1994, with much community support, Meta launched a program for women in Atlanta, Georgia, where she offered it for the next ten years. During that time, she returned to school to explore the problem of violence. She became a teacher committed to helping more people with what she was learning. She learned to see domestic violence as a problem extending far beyond private homes, that it knows no borders and has no limit. It can appear between two people or two nations. She learned that domestic violence is a public health problem impacting lives in personal and public spaces. That domestic violence is a spiritual problem that has wounded the spirit and soul of humanity throughout history. It can be spoken in words or imposed through systems. It can impact the lives of vulnerable people, of men, women, children seeking asylum, or of people denied the care they need. Ultimately, the more she understood about domestic violence, the more she knew about peace.  

Problem Solving 
Meta studied with gifted teachers, especially one who frequently drew from quantum physics. One of his axioms helped her approach the problem of violence with more intention and to see it more clearly. He taught, “Inherent in every problem are the mechanics for its solution.” To her, this meant that persistent study of a problem points the way to an answer. Finally, within the increasing random violence in our country, she learned to recognize the roots of chronic pain and to see violence as rooted in pain. This pain seeks an outlet. Sometimes we direct our pain at ourselves, in various forms such as depression or addiction. Sometimes we direct our pain at others as in bullying or other forms of personal offense. Imagine every perpetrator, every tyrant being driven by such pain! Meta sees this pain as the energy of our untold stories, (of individuals and of communities). Now she asks her students a few key questions: “Do you know your story?” “Do you know its value?” “What have you done with your pain?” She also learned that this medicine was the way of our ancestors, learning how they used sacred memory, words and story, to teach, heal, and generate deep change. 

Gratitude 
Today, Meta lives and works as an independent scholar in Asheville, North Carolina. In her groups, classes, readings, and performances, she demonstrates the power of story. Now she knows that through healing work, peace — the principle of harmlessness — will indeed return to the human heart. Teaching this medicine, she writes across genre exactly as her own story medicine emerged. She teaches the value of story to her students exactly as life proved the value of her story. She knows that personal healing and wellness is the beginning spark of community healing and wellness. She learned in her early experiences of struggle, activism, and violence all that she needed in order to seek wholeness and to teach peace. She is grateful for these lessons.  

Meta speaks about story medicine wherever she is called. Contact Meta at wordmedicinewoman@yahoo.com, or storymedicineworldwide.com


Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  Meta Commerse  resilience  story  story medicine 

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