by Len Lear
While countless “reality shows” on TV such as “Duck Dynasty,” “Honey Boo Boo,” “The Kardashians” and many more appeal to the most abysmal qualities in human nature and essentially an audience of yahoos, all is not lost.
A new reality show, “Natural Reboot,” created by a Philadelphia-based production company, Banyan Productions, is just the opposite of much of the trash that masquerades as “reality” entertainment. It can be seen Monday nights, 9 p.m., in January on ZLiving, Channel 162 on Verizon FIOS. Thirteen episodes have been shot so far, and it can be seen at least through March, possibly beyond.
The show is based around a new participant each episode. A woman who has volunteered for one week to be open to all the possible ways she might “grow from the inside out to experience more calm, work-life balance, less clutter, more self-confidence, less stress, etc.” works with experts to help her “get unstuck.” The goal is to help participants start new “mindful eating” and to develop more healthful, positive and empowering ways of thinking and acting.
“My job,” explained long-time Chestnut Hiller Jennifer Schelter, 48, a life coach and yoga instructor for the show, “is to support women by empowering them to feel their body in a new, accepting and kind way through yoga and meditation or to help them re-see, re-member and re-connect with who they were authentically. “We lead conversations with the participant about compassion, self-esteem and how to value their creativity or reduce anxiety and worry. In most cases, this leads to the woman doing creative activities like improv comedy, drawing, painting, learning to trapeze or writing a short one-woman play/monologue. I served essentially as a creative coach and inspiration in creating a structure to examine their lives and helped spark, guide and articulate the process of transformation.”
This show was not Schelter’s idea, although she had the same idea several years ago to offer yoga and mindfulness-based coaching as a TV show. Several producers shot the pilot, but it was not picked up by any network. “So this new show,” said Jennifer, “is terrific and fun for me to see my initial idea come together and expand around what I had proposed to several TV producers.
“I’m proud of the work and grateful I had a chance to make a contribution. It is the opposite of cruel, back-stabbing TV. It’s a thoughtful, positive show for women wanting to reboot and re-invent their lives. I’m proud and honored to have been part of the team to help 13 women live in ways that truly helped them see their potential and enjoy their body, home, mind, career and family in a new light.”
Schelter, who owned and operated the Yoga Schelter studio in East Falls from 2002 to 2012, now runs yoga/mindfulness-based courses and retreats on her own or at various locations in Chestnut Hill, local schools, Morris Arboretum in the summer, Verge Yoga Center in Wayne, Purenergy in Paoli and at the Wharton School of Leadership, offering executive teams ways to reduce stress “and allow vulnerability and humanity in the workplace.”
Jennifer is also currently writing two books, a yoga practice book called “Living Yoga” and a memoir of short essays “about authenticity, unconditional love and feeling at home in our own skin.”
In 2006, Schelter, a Germantown Friends School alumna, was offered the Lierman Trust for Humanitarian Law’s invitation to join a lawyer, Susan Burke, in Istanbul, Turkey. The pair interviewed Iraqis who had been tortured by U.S. Army personnel at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison. In 2004, the prison was a topic of international controversy after details emerged proving several U.S. Army members had intentionally abused the prisoners.
The primary reason Schelter was asked to go to Istanbul was to teach the former Iraqi detainees how to heal and also serve as a reminder that many Americans did not condone torture techniques. As a 500-hour Yoga Alliance-certified, experienced yoga teacher and a teacher training facilitator, Schelter knew she could use her skills to help others.
Although Schelter initially journeyed to Istanbul with the intent of giving, she surprisingly received something — a new perspective on the human capacity to love. Following her return to Philadelphia, Schelter created the play, “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib,” as a way to express her experience and also help others. The play originally was performed during 2007’s Philadelphia Fringe Festive to critical acclaim.
It was also performed for two weeks in 2008 at the InterAct Theatre Company in Center City. The performance explores the themes of love, forgiveness, fearlessness and transformation. (In addition to her work as a yoga and mindfulness teacher and coach, Schelter is a professional actress who shared in receiving a Tony Award at the Denver Center Theatre Company and is a member of Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild.)
“To me, it’s like eating a big courage sandwich,” Schelter told me in an earlier interview. “It’s all about overcoming fear and depression and transcending through personal and universal faith to find out what’s possible. Everyone can make a difference … My hope is to continue to be able to do the work I love and support more women in knowing options exist and that they don’t have to stay stuck.”