Federal Employees Given Massage and Social Justice Retreat

As adults, we have many things that may give us stress. And for most, on the very top of the list is their job. Whether it’s a cranky boss, way too many hours worked, not enough pay, the people you work with, or even the nature of the job, there seems to always be a reason to not be in love with your job. For government employees, it is no different.

However, at least they get some sort of respite and reward for their hard work. We recently found out that many federal employees have been offered exclusive retreats on several occasions, with the most recent one being held in August.

The government recently hosted a “Mindfulness and Resiliency Summit” for some 450 government workers. The summit’s website said these employees were from “various departments (Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, IRS, Department of Justice, and more) to engage, learn, and practice mindfulness and wellness tools.”

According to the schedule, employees were to instruction on learning to meditate, new-age wisdom, as well as receive on-site massages.

On the first day, workers listened to an hour of introductory talks and then took half an hour “stretch and self-care break.” After this Gretchen Rohr spoke to them for about 90 minutes about “restorative justice” and how to overcome “trauma.”

They were then given a two-hour lunch, followed by a two-hour speech given by Ashanti Branch, who presented teachings that included such things as “the Longest distance most people travel is the 18-inches between their head and their heart” how “young men of color” can “hold safe space.”

The schedule shows that this was the end of the participants’ day.

They were encouraged to rest up for another similarly titillating day that would include talks by ABC correspondent Dan Harris on how he “tamed the voice in my head” and encouraged doodling. Massages were to be given, as well. But the pride of day two was sessions by Michell Reugebrink, who works as the Forest Service’s “Mindfulness and Resiliency Program Manager with the Work Environment and Performance Office.” Records show that she is paid $102,000 a year to teach people “mindfulness and compassion practices that enable all of us to not just survive but also grow from exposure to stress.”

Her profile on the USDA Forest Service’s website says, “Mindfulness and compassion practices are core skills that foster high performance and promote diversity and inclusion. I do a lot of coaching, and I am also passionate about bringing restorative justice practices to our work environment.”

Now, it is entirely understandable that “trauma” training could be useful for individual government employees such as the Forest Service’s firefighters who continuously put their lives on the line to protect our communities or Border Patrol agents who continually deal with dangerous criminals trying to gain access to our nation.

But what about those who sit at a desk all day and punch numbers for the IRS? Do they really need “trauma” training and meditation to do their job?

And this hasn’t been the only summit offered to government employees. Reugebrink said in an interview with conference co-host Soren Gordhamer that she also helped to host another meditation conference earlier in the year. Only this one included the “whole government.”

So when was this summit? You’ll never guess. In January, during the most extensive government shutdown in US history.

Reugebrink said, “We started the Mindfulness Compassion Inclusivity summit, and 1440 Multiversity helped host us. It was beautiful…we held it in January, and we had big plans for the whole government, like, to come and then we got furloughed. So I did it on my own.”

So, while most government employees were forced to work for no pay because of a stalemate in federal funding, a select few got treated to a “luxury retreat in the redwoods of Scotts Valley,” where a simple room with a queen bed costs $645 a night.

Participants were taught forest bathing or therapy, which requires Reugebrink’s “20-minute sitting” routines. These are literally blocks of time where federal workers spent 20 minutes sitting and staring off into space.

When asked about who okayed these summits, Reugebrink replied, “Civil rights…that’s were the most movement happened.” We just have one quick question: what do massages, forest bathing, and meditation have to do with civil rights or diversity? This is where our hard-earned money is going – meditation!

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