One of the most difficult moments on my trip to South Sudan, was seeing patients in a psychiatric ward in Juba hospital shacked to windows by chains. When I first saw this picture it took me to slavery & the holocaust, and to my own history as a patient. A barrage of disturbing judgments came up for me, somewhat quieted by the explanation that psychotic patients have to be shackled for their own safety, as they try to run away and can harm themselves and others, and because of lack of funds, they can’t build locked wards in the hospital. I had to practice a lot of conscious breathing to get through this one. My big surprise came the next day when Dr. Brown taught a workshop to the staff & the patients combined about coherent breathing and conscious movement as ways of coping with PTSD & trauma. When I presented the five steps of The BREAZE some of the same patients who were shackled to the windows the day before were now moving and breathing and dancing with their attendants, and you could see no difference between them. Something about that deeply touched my heart. I could breathe with compassion to both sides of the coin, and to my own judgmental reaction. When we asked the participants to share about how they felt, their smiling faces said it all, and some spoke about feeling happy & joyful. But one patient asked me – “What do you do when negative thoughts & feeling come up?”. “You notice them and try to breathe & move through them.” I answered. At the end of the workshop he came up to me and said: “I’m sorry if I probed you…” “I’m glad you did” I said, “I was once a patient like you”. I was later told by the psychiatrist of the ward that when he arrived to the hospital a month earlier he had to be shackled and that he improved significantly since then.
(“Stand like a tree & make space” – is the third step of The BREAZE
Samuel Jakob Kischner, Voice of The BREAZE