Journey to Freedom class facilitator Stephanie Gibson, left, and class “graduate” and recently-certified facilitator Linda Warnat compare notes Wednesday at the Downtown Y in Columbus about “Journey to Freedom” by Scott Reall. This eight-week class on personal positive change will next be offered at the Y Sept. 9 through Oct. 28. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
August 3, 2014 12:18:20 AM
It wasn't so long ago that Linda Warnat saw a flyer at the Frank P. Phillips Y in downtown Columbus for a class called Journey to Freedom: Your Start to a Lifetime of Hope, Health and Happiness. Warnat isn't quite sure why, but she was compelled to sign up for the eight-week experience.
"I had a good life, you know, but there was something stirring. I just wanted something in my life to change, I didn't know what," said the certified massage therapist. "I hungered for something more."
She will tell you today that she found even more than she expected.
"Journey to Freedom enabled me to face truths about myself and my life so that I was able to make positive changes I hadn't been able to make before," she said.
Class facilitator Stephanie Gibson at the Y is happy for Warnat, and not so very surprised. She has seen the class empower many people in the 22 times it's been offered in Columbus since 2010. The Christ-centered program imparts principles for lasting change.
"It can be change in anything that may apply to you," said Gibson. "It might be anything from a relationship that's falling apart, an addiction, habits, hang-ups." The goal is to give participants tools in an inspiring, practical way to help identify and remove barriers that stand between them and fulfilling their potential and purpose.
"It's amazing how many people want to change but have never really thought about how to take the steps," Gibson remarked.
Getting to the root
Journey to Freedom was developed by Restore Ministries founder Scott Reall. The father of three struggled in the past with his own addictions. As wellness director at a Y in Nashville, Tennessee, he realized while working with a member struggling to lose weight that her problems couldn't be solved simply through a fitness regimen. The issues went beyond the physical: Her husband had died, she had turned to food for solace.
Reall recognized that personal challenges like depression, loneliness, eating disorders and codependency often block the paths to health and happiness. He first facilitated a class to help others contemplate positive change in 1994. He later collaborated with the Middle Tennessee Y system to expand into other Y's. Restore Ministries emerged from this partnership. Some of the programs are now going international.
For most participants, Journey to Freedom is the starting point. Other targeted courses include Journey to a Life of Significance, Journey to a New Beginning After a Loss, Journey to Healthy Living, Journey to Living with Courage, Boundaries, Freedom in Relationships and 12 Steps to Freedom.
The small-group classes of 10 to 12 individuals are led once a week by trained, caring facilitators and offer a supportive environment. Gibson was in the first group of people to receive facilitator training in Nashville.
"The things we look at during the eight weeks aren't fluff," she said. "This material, if you will let it, will help you in getting through to the root. It's very freeing -- it really is."
Group gatherings follow the chapters in Reall's book. Questions accompany each chapter.
"A lot of times I couldn't even answer the questions in the beginning," Warnat remembered of her experience, "but it's a process, and by the end I had a freedom through knowing more about myself."
Participants are encouraged to share, although it's not required. Ground rules of confidentiality are established early on.
"We go to great lengths so that people feel safe and know that anything said in that room is confidential," said Gibson. She added with a chuckle, "What happens in the room stays in the room."
You share only what you're comfortable with, said Warnat. It took a while for her to feel comfortable talking in her group, she remembers. "But it gives you the freedom to go through the process, and you feel very safe."
Simple, powerful steps
Businessman Bill Walker of Brickyard Properties took the class in hopes of adding regular exercise to his weekly routine for health reasons.
"This (class) is for anybody," said Walker, who happened to take it with several people from his church. "It was really a great thing; we became closer after that."
The steps are simple, he said, things you probably already know, but have forgotten or don't apply. You start small and gain confidence as you go. He found the action plan each participant writes down at the end of the course helpful. It contains specific steps to continue the journey.
"Whether it's a life-changing thing for you or not, it's a positive reinforcement tool for you," he emphasized. Walker had not been a Y member before, but joined after his Journey to Freedom class. "I found out the Y is more than just an exercise place; it's helping people change lives."
Get what you put in
Journey to Freedom is the kind of class you get out of it what you put into it, Gibson stressed.
"I've watched people who are willing to make the investment in their own lives over and over and been amazed at the change," she said. "I've also seen people come in and not be invested, or not be as willing to answer the questions (in the book). For them it may not be as profound."
People may not typically think of the Y as a place to get this kind of support, said the facilitator, but the Y's emphasis is body, mind and spirit.
"Let's face it," said Warnat, "all of us have issues in our lives, things that have happened that we may not even realize are affecting us in negatives ways. ... It's not that we're going to get there tomorrow; life is a journey. But the class helped me grow, taught me to continue personal growth, desiring it and actually doing it."
It's not the easiest thing you'll ever do, summed up Gibson. But it might be one of the most productive things.
The next Journey to Freedom class will be offered at the Y on Tuesdays Sept. 9 through Oct. 28, from 6-7:30 p.m. Cost is $45 for Y members; $55 for non-members. Gibson is willing to facilitate the class at an outside location as well, if there are 10 to 12 interested participants.
To learn more or to sign up, contact the Y, 662-328-7696.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.