TO BE OF REAL VALUE AS A MENTOR ONE SHOULD HAVE BALANCE IN ONE'S LIFE, UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF STRIVING FOR BALANCE IN ONE'S EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SPIRITUAL WELLBEING. TO BE OF REAL VALUE AS A MENTOR ONE SHOULD BE SELF AWARE AND BE OPEN TO CONTINUOUSLY LEARNING IN THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.
creating a better future…
In 2000, I co-founded a not-for-profit organization in Australia to support men in the community through experiential weekends based on the following values; love, compassion, congruence, accountability and integrity. Over 60,000 men have now gone through that experiential weekend process globally and it has helped with the ultimate goal of creating a safer society for the women and children in our communities. Along with the Australian organization, I have had the honor of helping to grow the organization in South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand and the USA. I was blessed to have had the honor of helping to facilitate the emotional healing of men that had been incarcerated with Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison in South Africa. I got to hear and sense the evil that man is capable of and at the same time see how compassionate, resilient and powerful our spirit can be.
In 2000 I also supported the foundation of a not-for-profit in the USA, the “Inside Circle Foundation” (ICF).
The Inside Circle exists to assist prison convicts in Folsom Prison in Sacramento, California. Folsom Prison is a maximum-security prison used for incarcerating the most violent prisoners. The ICF volunteer facilitators “intensive 4 day experiential weekend workshops” in the prison chapel where prisoners can safely work through and explore the issues that have prevented them from living up to their full potential as human beings. We help them to take behavioral, emotional and spiritual responsibility for their lives. I have had the privilege of staffing many Folsom Prison weekends and I have been gifted by profound learning about myself through the experiences. There is something very raw and scary about being locked in a large room with 30 of the toughest prisoners in a maximum security prison and with no guards to protect you! It can only happen with a deep level of trust and integrity between the convicts and the ICF staff, I have seen miracles take place with my own eyes.
The ICF program is modeled on the evidence-based therapy paradigm of Cognitive Processing Therapy, which is recommended in the 2010 Department of Veteran Affairs Treatment Guidelines for PTSD. Through application of this in closed circles, inmates experience a progression of growth from the subconscious behaviors of the past to a state of congruence where thought, behavior and action are aligned. They take ownership of their behavior, identify and understand where and how they went wrong, and assume full responsibility for their choices, life and future. Over the last 17 years of the 500 or more prisoners that have gone through the ICF program, not one of them has been placed on report since their participation.
I believe, that through the amazing healing that has resulted from the ICF Folsom prison program and what we as a society can learn from it we can save lives and bring about a safer world for our children and generations to come.
ICF mentors/Facilitators address crisis shoulder to shoulder which provides on-going opportunities for their own further development and maturing. As skilled leaders they carry collective wisdom and social technology home to their families, communities and society in an expanded cycle “paying it forward” inspiring lives of emotional integrity, significance and wisdom.
I contributed over $100,000 to help produce an award winning documentary on the ICF program. I would strongly urge you to see the trailer of “The Work” . The 1.5 hours documentary is available on Amazon and itunes, I can assure you that you will not regret taking the time to see it.
I am also very passionate about supporting the reintegration of US military veterans into society, and helping them deal with post-traumatic stress and with suicide prevention. Since 2013 I have supported both financially and with my time a number of veteran support programs. In 2015 through my discussions with US Special Forces Operatives(SOF’s) (both active and retired) I realized that the challenges for SOF’s that have been deployed in combat multiple times, often having survived experiences beyond my comprehension, are severely challenged in going from “Special” to reintegrate back into society as “ordinary”. They invariably have to deal with emotional trauma and the challenge of resetting their moral compass.
I was instrumental in developing the concept of taking SOF’s into Folsom for the ICF weekends. What if Folsom became like a monastery and the convicts were the monks that helped heal the elite warriors? What if we brought Special Forces operatives and maximum-security prisoners together? We started taking SOF’s into the Folsom weekends as staff members and the synergy, the immediate recognition and respect between them and the convicts was profound. Without speaking a word, with no explanation given the convicts immediately recognized the SOF as brother warriors.
SOF's and convicts are remarkably suited to understand one another having endured similar emotional stressors. Risk, challenge and violence are normalized in their worlds. Respect, discipline and hyper vigilance assure survival. They live in a world few can comprehend, a world of daily fighting for their lives and those around them. Through our transformative approach, together they mentor one another and emotionally de-compress. Based on proven success from the Inside Circle, they move beyond the past, and build a world of integrity and hope.
This social bridge spanning heroes and criminal’s stands on a firm foundation of shared human experience and respect. A world few can comprehend and fertile ground to re-purpose a life.
The integration of SOF’s and convicts establishes critical bonds of trust and empathy capable of supporting individuals in crisis. Experienced peer mentors skillfully navigate crisis/trauma while providing opportunities to regulate and integrate emotion; assuring crisis will not deteriorate into isolation or desperation.
I would like to share with you some of the comments that have been shared with me by SOF’s and convicts that have gone through the ICK weekend experience.
"The Inside Circle, was an instrumental piece of my personal development inside prison and continues to be a major factor in the successful reintegration I strive towards since returning to society. Without ICF, I most certainly would likely still be a creature among humans with no connection to my own sense of self or appreciation for life.....my own or that of others.The impact ICF had,and continues to have on my life is something words are insufficient to fully give testament to. The fact that today I have a beautiful wife and great family, are in no small measure, attributable to me having been exposed to the healing of my soul sitting in circle. Today, I am graced with the opportunity to mentor fatherless young men, and without ICF serving as a support structure for my growth, it is not possible for me to identify how I could reasonably be trusted to guide a young man along the path of leading a responsible life with positive choices as a foundation. To a degree, I can say ICF helped save my life, and set the wheels in motion for me to contribute to fostering new and vibrant life.”
Humbly...Eldra, Freed Convict
"Before Folsom with the Inside Circle, I was withdrawn; having lost my sense of self as a warrior. I had lost confidence in myself, and hope for becoming what I was once, let alone anything better. The Army knew how to send me out after 23 years as a Green Beret, but I didn’t. I was transitioning into a world where I had nothing in common with anyone. I was alone, anxious, depressed…worthless as a warrior. It’s odd to think of Folsom prison as sacred space. I found other men like me. It’s the look we all share. They had been in the foxhole with me …ready to step back into the fire. These men helped me see myself…empathizing with the warrior identity I lost…reminding me of the warrior I still was and could be. I could immediately be myself, and found my value being reflected back at me. When we retire, get injured, give in to self-pity, we forget our individual worth as warriors …as men. My brothers need to experience this. It reminds you you’re not alone. The men in blue have an intense desire to create something good …not to make up for their past, but to be authentic with who they are now. When we leave after three days, we take part of them with us back into freedom. The gifts they give of trust, respect, and friendship is all they have …the only things with value.”
Special Forces Veteran