Growing up behind a picket fence in a peaceful village in the green mountains of Vermont, life looked good. My step-father was a fine home builder and I was exposed at a very young age to the construction and real estate industries. We lived in physical comfort and yet there was this lack of comfort within me. I remember feeling really awkward, self-conscious, and sometimes even wanting to crawl out of my skin. Something shifted for me when I started exploring the mountains. Whether I was skiing, hiking, biking or just sitting looking across the ridgeline, I felt a sense of peace and safety. The mountains represent a combination of strength, courage and nurturing and have inspired my new business, ‘3 Mountains.’
When I moved from Vermont to Asheville in 2008, I instantly felt at home and had that knowing that I was in the right place. The same thing happened when I moved to Rwanda, also known as Land of a Thousand Hills, in 2009. Although I had never been to Sub-Saharan Africa before, when the plane landed on a dirt runway and the door opened to the smell of someone cooking over an open fire, I felt completely at home. This sense of true security is not something that comes with a roof over it, although that might help, but it comes from within.
I have known people who seem to be perfectly at home with themselves. They appear to be at ease in their bodies, confident, content, and really grounded in their place on earth. Yet this feeling of being at home within is something many of us seek out through various means. Some people felt at home as a child and then lost it along the path of growing up. Have you ever found yourself catching the scent of something that reminds you of arriving home to a loved one after school, like fresh-baked bread, and there is an immediate comfort that washes over you? Not everyone has good memories from childhood so there are other experiences that might bring to mind a sense of home.
Through the work I do with the nonprofit I started four years ago, Africa Healing Exchange (AHE), our team of trainers and volunteers deliver a model called Restoring Resiliency. One component of the approach is based loosely on the Community Resiliency Model which references the Resilience Zone™. When people are bumped out of the zone it is difficult to function at an optimal level and the nervous system is either stuck on high, stuck on low, or the body is experiencing both. It is like having the pedal on both the brake and the gas at the same time. This is a common response to trauma, past or present, and can be magnified with stress and without the ability to resource. It is also often misdiagnosed as ADHD or ADD because symptoms can be the very similar.
A simple tool for coming home to yourself is to identify a resource that gives you comfort. This is something you can carry in your mind and heart when it is not actually with you, so when you are traveling in unknown territories or when you are faced with a stressful or scary situation. Since one of my resources is waking up in the mountains, what I do is focus on the sensations of that moment and I am transported into that place as if I were really there. I can hear the birds waking up in Asheville, Rwanda or Vermont just as the sun is about to rise, and I can smell the earth and the air feels cool, before the heat has set in for the day. I am sipping my coffee and I am beginning to craft my morning pages. It is in this moment that anything is possible and I feel completely at home.
The practice of resourcing in this way resets the nervous system and over time can expand the Resilience Zone™. This is one of the many skills we teach to genocide survivors in Rwanda and are now offering in Asheville to world travelers, healthcare workers, and organizations that send staff overseas. For more information on participating in an upcoming Restoring Resiliency Retreat, or to apply for travel to Rwanda with AHE and 3 Mountains send me an email (email@example.com), or stop by the 3 Mountains Tea Pavilion and Zen Zone at the upcoming 2017 Asheville Coffee Expo, September 30th in River Arts District. I’ll be serving tea from Rwanda at 408 Depot Street!
Sara Stender, Founder of 3 Mountains Tea and Africa Healing Exchange, is based with her family in North Asheville. She is inspired by solutions-based models for positive change in the world, and builds organizations that support the new paradigm of conscious commerce. She believes that anything is possible and strives to serve as a model of resilience and growth, while staying humble to the mystery of life. Her greatest teacher is her son, with whom she is writing a series of children’s books called ‘Volcano Boy.’