RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

SABBATICAL

[See below for events before or during sabbatical.]

SOME months ago, I knew I needed time off to write.  In my early years, children and family, teaching, activism and holding community formed an essential unit and still I managed to write in the between times. My first published book, Skin: Shadows/Silence: A Love Letter in the Form of a Novel is composed of short entries that could be written between taking my sons to school and picking them up, or during naps, or their visits to friends. Many of my books were written that way. Several times I rented an office. Wherever we lived had enough physical space – a writer needs little – but rarely had enough mental or spiritual space. When my sons were teenagers, I rented a trailer in Valyermo, CA, a desert area two hours away from my home where I went, when I could, for weekends alone to write. When my children were grown, I could do healing work and teach and write at the same time. I was able to take time off, to go into silence. The books appeared. But over the last years, teaching, healing, community building, activism filled the spaces that should have been occupied by creative work, walking the land, speaking with the spirits, family and companionship. Pondering this, it would be easy to blame age, an inevitable slowing down, but I find myself working longer and harder with equal energy. I think the difficulty is with the times in which we live. A deadly combination of increasing administrative nonsense and extreme need caused by the global and national descent into violence, brutishness and environmental destruction demands our constant attention, willingness to bear witness and to grieve.

Yesterday an interviewer asked me how I had been affected by and what am I thinking since making the pilgrimage to the Death Camps in 1989, which I wrote about in The Other Hand, the novel that wrestled with the two koans of the 20th century – the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. My answer surprised me.

I remembered how we wondered about the Germans who didn’t respond to the Concentration Camps. We wondered how they allowed the Holocaust – not directed only at Jews – to exist and continue. But now, we live with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, rendition and waterboarding. We are involved with secret prisons, houses of torture and global scrutiny. We know and yet these unconscionable activities continue. Also DU, white phosphorous, Agent Orange, GMOs, Round Up, Fracking, Keystone Pipeline. Yes, we know …. and yet! The mind of WWII continues; it seems we have ingested it and become what we claimed to have gone to war to oppose.

The Holocaust itself has morphed into Ecocide. Genocide, still existant on the planet, has developed into the murder of the Earth and all Life. Attending such times with heart and compassion takes every moment of every day.

I started a novel three years ago. It has a certain necessity to it.  I am determined to follow this new urgency. I am taking a sabbatical to write this and another book, and to be with Spirit in order to gain, if I can, some wisdom and perspective with which to meet these times.

My sabbatical begins July 1st. It will go at least until December 31st. A few events are still scheduled between now and then and I am listing them here. I may or may not post anything on this Blog. I make no other commitments except to Spirit and where I am called as I listen as deeply as I can. My hope is that you will accompany me with deep listening and prayer. Restoration, sanity and beauty depend on our doing the work and changing our lives. We have to do this together.

Writer’s Intensive May 24-30, 2014 Topanga CA

http://deenametzger.net/special-events-2/writers-intensive/rs’ Intensive –

Writing Workshop: Finding the Stories of Our Lives. June 6-8, 2014

Rowe Conference Center, Rowe MA More info: http://rowecenter.org/events.php?event=287 
email: info@rowecenter.org

Healers’ Intensive – June 21-27, 2014 Topanga CA http://deenametzger.net/special-events-2/healers-intensive-vision-training-and-initiation/

Healing Stories – Sept. 5 – 7, 2014.
Sacred Wisdom Centre, Guelph, ON, Canada
 Contact: Barbara Booth barbara.susan.booth@sacredwisdomcentre.com

ReVisioning Medicine Council and Clinic, September !3-15 2014 , Minneapolis MN  Contact Michele Rae <Michele@centerwithin.com>

HOW TO START A DREAM THEATER from Dream Network Journal, Spring 2014 [with dream from Ayelet Berman Cohen

Theater director, Steven Kent, and I had not expected to be working together again on a creative project related to dreams at this time in our lives. In advance of producing Dreams Against the State in 1981, he and I had recreated the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece in 1980 for the first time in 1500 years. I had written the play and Steve was the dramaturge and director. The first production of the play was performed in fifty different venues: private homes, community centers, churches, etc. This deliberate variation on performance space was designed to emphasize the real life danger to dreams and dreaming in our culture and the need for individuals and communities to provide sanctuary for dreams.

 Thirty-two years later, in January 2014, we were co-teaching a class on How to Start a Dream Theater at La Verne University where Steven is a faculty member of the Theater Arts Department. This project is, perhaps, the closed parenthesis of a creative partnership devoted to theater, ritual, transformation and the inner life.

 The creative premise of the class was that the students comprise a theater troupe that visits communities to perform their dreams, and at the same time, are themselves a community whose dreams are explored and reflected upon, theatrically, by the theater troupe. We were imaging being called into a community to enact the dreams in order to help resolve conflicts or disagreements in creative ways.

 Because this class, as conceived, is a unique exploration and a first for Steven and myself, we have been surprised and gratified by the unanticipated directions it has taken. During our first meeting, I was startled to realize what fifty years of working with dreams had not revealed before: the essential connection between dream and theater. Dreams come to us as complete theater events, remarkably scripted, directed, enacted and staged. However, in recalling and communicating our dreams, though we may access meaning, we rarely, if ever, can transmit the quality and intensity of the dream experience itself. Enter theater.

How to Start a Dream Theater met four times a week for four hours during the January Interterm at La Verne University, La Verne California. Ancient Greek Aesclepian medicine considered the union of dreaming and theater as essential to the healing process. Steven and I have visited the ruins of the Aesclepian healing sanctuaries in Greece, but the living theater is long gone; and though the transformational aspect of the Mysteries was preserved in our work, we did not recreate our dreams theatrically when relating them to each other every day. So, in this class we found ourselves exploring a new form with remarkably ancient antecedents.

 Surprisingly, the limitations of working in a classroom with essentially inexperienced students created the impetus for discovery. We had to begin at the beginning regarding dreams, theater and healing. I had expected to be teaching Theater Department seniors but only some of the students in the class were theater majors; the rest were liberal arts majors fulfilling their humanities requirement. The students ranged from freshman to seniors and came from many different multi-cultural backgrounds.

As Steven Kent does with every class he teaches at the University, we opened each session with a check-in, where we often asked the students to share a dream image. We ended with a check-out that consisted of a question or a statement about dreaming or the content of the class. With this simple device we came to know each other intimately, which is rare in a college classroom. Steven’s theater games further relaxed everyone and released energy and tension, thus reinforcing the possibility of bonding. Dream telling each day involved us deeply in the exploration of our inner lives.

 Early on, we made a strategic decision in the interest of efficiency that was critical to the success of the class. We divided the fifteen students into three troupes. Though we heard many of the students’ dreams in the full circle, the troupes worked on their own dreams together when bringing them into form. Because the students now belonged to the dreamers and to the theater troupe, they bonded as a community despite the university setting that generally results in isolation and competitiveness. The students quickly realized they had to be respectful of each other’s inner lives and the necessity of being trustworthy.

Community work happens to be one of Steve’s areas of engagement and expertise, and we were privileged to hear some of his stories about working with gay people in a radical anti-gay state, also with small farmers, with women with AIDs and with other groups in the development of performance pieces. His theater experience with communities, and my experience with individual and community dreaming, together with our life long involvement in the creative process, and more years of teaching between us than either of us wish to tally, were the basis of what we brought to the class.

 When considering the actual creation of a performing dream theater group, we both understood that the performance of the dreams would be the ultimate means through which the community could reflect on itself, provide social cohesion and lessen conflict. However, I didn’t realize that the very act of soliciting the dreams in a collective setting would begin the process through which the conflict might resolve. That meant that if the troupe were also willing to present their own dreams in the process of soliciting dreams from the community, the artificial barrier between troupe and community would dissolve. Finally, enactment could take the community members to yet another level of healing of the original discord.

The most significant understanding came to us when all three troupes independently decided to disregard advice I had given them about enactment. Each troupe met to listen to one another’s dreams and select images/events that reverberated for all of them, which would then be developed theatrically and enacted for the group as a whole. I advised them to avoid “being fair.” Rather than including something from everyone’s dreams, I suggested they focus on one or two images/events they found compelling and performable. However, before beginning the work of scripting and developing, each group chose instead to consider each one’s dreams in order to find a common theme. The for Ruin and Beaurty initial themes were loneliness and separation, explosive emotions, and unacknowledged fear.

At the end of the third week, the three troupes sat in individual story circles, outdoors on the college lawn, imagining darkness and a fire at their center, and spoke of the ways they had experienced these themes in their lives. Though each group exercised confidentiality regarding the details of the stories, when they reported back to the larger group, it was apparent that they had entered the process deeply. They had embraced the experience of loneliness or fear in ‘the other’ as their own, yet recognizing differences as well as commonalities in the origin of such emotions. They had acquired the essential means to understanding and relating back to each other the meaning and implication of their dreams – Empathy.

One student commented that the class had become a group of distinct individuals whom she felt she knew well. Building community had not been one of our stated goals for the class but it became our finest one.

We had found a way, even in a classroom, for the students to experience the exactness and profundity of dream communication. This allowed them to recognize what mattered to them as a community, to refine their intent to communicate this to an audience, to develop language and image to hold their experience, then to embody the experience and finally to perform it for the larger group. The result was that they could bring the dreams back to their original vivid life. Each step in the process eliminated the formal differences between dreamer and actor, between one person and another. Without setting such a heady intention, we were entering into an exquisite balance between our unique experiences, dream language, and the particularity of the dreams themselves, and the trusting and supportive community forming in this setting.

 We were working in a multi-cultural setting and outside of conventional psychological dream analysis. The work is predicated on indigenous wisdom dreaming traditions that assume that dreams are a dialogue between the spirit world and the particular tribe, culture or in this case, troupe and university class. This focus allowed for a creative dynamic between particularity and unity and was of great value and solace to the individual class members. No one was left out of the exchange. Everyone was seen as valuable. The class became a sanctuary for the essential beauty and intelligence of each individual within the safety of the circle formed by the participation of each equally. Which is not to say that there were no difficult moments among us. There were. But as far as I know, these issues were acknowledged and resolved. Increasingly, day by day, the value of the group, the bond between the students was recognized.

 The class process was informed by the presence of Ayelet Berman Cohen, a contemporary dreamer in the old ways. She could not have predicted when she was a prominent photographer in Israel that dreams would become her life. Each night, for twenty years, profound theme-based dreams, as precise and lyrical as any theater or work of literature, have been landing on her, followed by teachings from the ancestors. For many years, she has been dreaming about war, often but not always referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and easily translated into any contemporary struggle between peoples. Many of her war dreams are succeeded by healing dreams, or dreams that ßthe antidote to war. In one of the sessions, she spoke of how theater allowed the war to be viewed and understood within the very magic of theater itself. The wound and the medicine together in one venue.

 She gifted us with a packet of six dreams that gave the students original dream images to work with. Independently, the troupes each chose one or two of the same images to dramatize and explore, so we understood that the conflict between victim and victimizer spoke deeply to them. This initial work with her dreams, which were so fully formed and precise in their theatrical intelligence, prepared the students to look at their own dreams and excerpt the wisdom from them.

 Three student dreams at the threshold of the project set the tone for the work to come. One student told a recurring dream that began when she and her family were immigrating to the United States, having already fled civil violence in their native country. In the dream that first came when she was a child, she observed the on-going tension between freedom and imprisonment. The dream had revealed, even to the young child, the fundamental torment that her family and culture were experiencing.

   In relating a dream to his father, another student discovered that the family had psychic gifts that had not been spoken about but were passed on through the patriarchal line.

   Aware of a repeating image in her recent dreams, a young woman decided to call her indigenous grandmother, only to discover that the dreams were warnings that her proposed very generous action would violate her people’s tradition and she would have to wait for the right ritual moment to perform it.

   The final days of How to Start a Dream Theater were spent developing the small theatrical presentations. Within a remarkably short time, each troupe went from acting out various dream episodes to identifying the common emotional elements, finding dream sequences to hold them, and then discarding these images and events for more vital and appropriate images that communicated the fullness of the conditions and emotions to the observers. Informed by Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process, the students were then able to revise their pieces once again, bringing each to a new level of reflection and communication, perhaps even more powerful than might arise in a class on improvisation because the images developed from the deep personal dream life of each student.

   The students had not known that dreaming had already and would continue to affect and influence their lives. Repeatedly in the check-ins or check-outs, the students expressed their surprise and gratitude for these ways of knowing that they had previously thought entirely unimportant.

Elenna Rubin Goodman, a community builder, had come to the class from Oakland California. The class served her deep desire “ tobring together community, sacred space and the ritual embodiment of dreams/dream theater.” And we were grateful that we could serve both the students and others seeking new ways of serving community that include validating inner life experience.

 Three texts informed the class: Black Elk Speaks, by John Neihardt, Healing Dreams: Exploring the Dreams That Can Transform Your Life by Marc Ian Barasch, and The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine by Edward Tick and Stephen Larsen. Each text speaks to the ways dream inform and heal culture as well as bringing wisdom and insight to individuals for their lives. So many of the dreams that the students brought into our circle were unexpectedly revealed to be vehicles for connection, community and cultural restoration. Entering and living within a dreaming culture is an essential antidote to totalitarian and fundamentalist thought. This is iterated by Paco Mitchell in the Winter Solstice 2013 issue of Dream Network Journal, an essay that we shared in class: “…dreams are such bastions of freedom.”

The class was not about creating a dream theater; rather, our intention was to facsimilate the experience of dream theater troupes and dreaming communities. We had started out suggesting that the students imagine that they were a dream troupe or a dreaming community; within days the imagined manifested. We learned swiftly that understanding self through exploring and performing dreams is also a means to establishing communal identity while emphasizing the wild freedom and uniqueness at the core of the creative process. Some of the students may go on to use dreams in their creative work. All of them, I am certain—whether as physicians or private-eyes, (two examples of the students’ present vocational goals)—will use dreams as part of their future work in the world.

Considering in retrospect my unheeded advice to the dream troupes and their intelligent insistence on following their own wisdom, I am grateful to have been reminded of the sensitivity necessary in approaching another community — in this case, the community of students. We must always fully respect the other culture and what the community itself knows. Fortunately, I didn’t insist, didn’t impose my own understanding. Fortunately, they chose to discern and honor common themes and experience, and to create communities of respect and relationship among themselves. Fortunately, we all honored the dream.

Each student presented a seven-minute excerpt from the journal they kept for the duration of the class that included dreams, the new understanding of their power and importance, reflections on the class process, and selected passages from the assigned texts. Most spoke their deepest truths to each other, though we had been strangers to each other only a month before. Everyone now understood that he or she has an inner life and all were excited about tending it for the rest of their lives. No one doubted the value, meaning, experience or and beauty of dreaming. The possibility of an on-going dream group was gratefully received.

The final gift from Ayelet Berman Cohen was a dream, which summarized her dream spirits’ understanding of the process that was destined to engage us all.

January 23, 2014

Ayelet Berman-Cohen

(dedicated to the students of the Dream Theater Workshop)

“Restoration”

 

A group of students
meet on behalf of their inner lives.
They speak to each other,
and to their astonishment,
discover that the night before,
they all have had the exact same dream.

 

In their dream
a python lives underneath their house.
There is a group of people shackled to a tree.
And there is another side to the tree.  
A woman who lost her mother is there.
And a shark who looks deeply into the eyes of a boy.
There is fear, laughter, movement and confusion,
each image and emotion
matches perfectly in all of their dreams.

The student body has had one common dream.  
In their dream they see
a woman carrying a suitcase.
She says it is filled with dreams.
She tells them how the Spirits come to her every night
and dictate to her a dream.  
The woman says she has been touched.  
When the students wake up
they know that their inner lives
are no longer the same.

Did the Spirits come to them too?  
How do the Spirits move?  
Who are the Spirits?  
Have they been touched?
They wondered.

The silence had been broken.

 

 

 

A Brief History of a Feminist Mind

This is the text of a talk I gave for the WCLA Women Writers Series in alliance with the Feminist Majority Foundation /Ms.Magazine February 27, 2014.

When I was invited to this event by Ms Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation, I couldn’t simply read from a new book. The invitation from Simone Wallace, who with her sister Adele, founded Sisterhood Bookstore, one of the most important cultural institutions of Los Angeles, required another response. So receiving the invitation, I saw the necessity to acknowledge the trajectory I had been on since teaching at California Institute for the Arts, Founding and Directing the Writing program at the Feminist Studio Workshop the first feminist institute for the arts and social change outside of a university, being part of the leadership of the Woman’s Building where Sisterhood had a store and gathering a small committee to organize and host the first Woman’s Writing Conference – Woman’s Words, since a Conference by the same name in Chicago 1893.

My intention tonight is to trace what I was writing and what preoccupied me then, and what I am writing and preoccupied with now. Literature has taught me the value of a body of work, of the slow, deliberate, heartfull development of form and idea so that one’s work and labor might contribute to the community and the future. This is particularly important as we are living in a culture that commodifies art and literature and has no consciousness of history or the necessity to honor and preserve ethical and cultural values – concerns that were core to the second wave of feminism.

The woman’s movement intended to change the world. It was not that we wanted equal participation in a destructive system but that we wanted to shift the means and values so that they incorporated what we believed were benevolent women’s ways, ancient and contemporary, of living in family, community and the world.

Feminism had a great range from protesting war, economic, political and racial inequality, fighting violence against women, opposing nuclear weapons, to recognizing an intrinsic woman’s culture and seeking interactive, collaborative, intimate, nurturing, non-violent, non-hierarchical, inclusive, earth centered, spiritually aligned, respectful social and creative forms. Not everyone held to all the values and interests, but there was enough agreement, complexity and cooperation for the movement to be effective then. Art, politics, eros, activism, spirituality all blended so that feminism became a true movement determined to achieve social and political change that would benefit all. Women were not seeking dominance. We, each in our own way, were seeking sanity, beauty, peace, security and health for all.

Friend, colleague and neighbor, Maija Gimbutas’ archeological work laid the foundation for non-violent cooperative, life giving matriarchal goddess cultures. Marija came to her conclusions reluctantly. She didn’t start out trying to prove that Neolithic goddess cultures were peaceful. She was unable to refute the evidence. When she joined theater director, Steven Kent and me in Greece at our re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries for the first time in 1500 years, she praised our work, saying we had managed to restore the spiritual integrity of the ancient Demeter ritual. Fifteen years later, we regretted that she wasn’t with us when we found an ancient icon of Persephone in Eleusis, approximately 2500 years old, in the place where the Goddess was said to have made her appearance during the Mysteries.

In my own life, I continue to be taken by two streams from Feminism. Political analysis insisted that one bear witness to the world’s atrocities and women’s spirituality is fundamental to my growing experience of the presence of the spirits. Conventional politics and traditional religion diminished as present day events and my personal experience called me, increasingly, to a different life and commitment to community and healing.

One important artistic focus was on form. It was clear that the personal is political and that form is content. Consciousness raising was intrinsic to the discovery of our own lives and stories. It occurred in circles. The shift from a straight line to a circle was an essential radical accomplishment.

Forty five years later, the circle is even more important than we knew. An indigenous community form, it gained strength from feminism and is entering the main stream as conscious people seek peership and equality instead of hierarchy and dominance. I am increasingly unable, or unwilling, to use what seems like a simplistic linear way. Even here, I seek the energy that comes from following the original associative form that called me to woman’s literature and the rest of my life.

From A Traveling Jewish Theater:

Stories move in circle. They don’t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost you start to look around and to listen.

This talk is also going in circles and spirals, moving forward, circling back. The first image imprinted on my heart from literature is still vibrant and active in my life and thinking: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is written in the form of a lighthouse. The shapes of our lives are not straight line, but circles, passing into light, falling into darkness, illuminated and shadowed, again and again.

Marxist self-criticism practiced in progressive organizations yielded in the woman’s movement to the positive forms of consciousness raising. My experience with non-Western and indigenous cultures created a deep respect for the wisdom that emerges in a council form. I began to practice Council in my own life as a way of inquiry and problem solving. At Daré, the healing community which gathers at my house, and which my ex and I introduced from Africa, has Council at the core. Council, story circles, dream circles, healing circles all cohere community. Whenever possible teaching occurs in a circle and outdoors, and around a fire in the old ways.

And so, stories are themselves circles, each with a magnetic center that draws what is necessary to its beautiful and radiant interior.

And so, my writing. My first published book, Skin: Shadows/Silence is a resonance of voices. Later, still not knowing what I was doing but seeking new and coherent forms, I called The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them, a novel in the form of a play. I had not consciously envisioned the infrastructure of the circle or spiral as I would later in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, then more fully in From Grief into Vision: A Council, and differently, but as determinedly in La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary. In many of my works, beginning perhaps with the play, Dreams Against the State in 1981, and then in The Other Hand, in Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, in La Negra y Blanca, the endings are codas that reveal and unite the themes and voices together as in musical compositions, chorals and choruses.

As I was writing this, I saw that while patriarchal culture became progressively mechanical and technological, woman’s culture became musical – the writer’s voice, the rhythm of the language, its emotional communication increasingly important. Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras were concerned with the sound of their prose because that carries meaning.

At California Institute for the Arts, I taught a class on 20th Century Women’s Literature — it may have been a first in such an institution — and the first Journal Writing class. As Sheila de Bretteville, one of the three who founded the Woman’s Building, and I explored the possibility that woman’s culture still existed, I heard its resonance in contemporary women’s literature and this gave me permission to follow my own instincts in my own writing.

Soon, women adopted the journal and there, again, explored voice as well as prohibited stories. The Journal writing class was inspired by then recent scholarship revealing the hidden practice of journal writing pursued by pioneer women who had no company on their new homesteads and were quietly going mad. The journals often hidden among the linens helped. The other source was my dear friend, Anaïs Nin, who introduced the journal to contemporary life and to me. Now we scarcely imagine our lives without our journals. In 1970, they were almost non-existent. When I compared my writing to contemporary American fiction and poetry, I was out of the mainstream and had no interest in joining. What needed to be said, what needed to be revealed required its own form. African American literature, Native American literature discovered its own music. To create a culture of one’s own that is also resonant with other non-dominating cultures in the world changes the way of life.

In retrospect as we are facing the slow apocalypse of human designed climate change and the genocide of the beings of the natural world, I see that feminism allying with Native American beliefs gives us the essential understanding that may yet shift our consciousness enough for the earth to survive. Goddess spirituality also held “The earth is our mother.” Feminist theory understood that misogyny paralleled abuse of the earth and the environment.

Domination of women and nature co-existed. Violence against women and violence against the earth – the same. War everywhere. Over time I came to know that being against was being in battle. I began to seek forms in my life and in my writing that offered change. Increasingly I and my characters stepped away from conventional forms and values and created different lives.The Woman Who, What Dinah Thought, The Other Hand, Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, Feral, La Negra y Blanca feature women protagonists who find the means to step into another world – in the last years, learning from Native American spirituality – I recognize it as the 5th World. The books I write depict that struggle to disentangle from western imperialist culture, from patriarchy, from their assumptions, habits, securities and desires in order to live with integrity.

My current teaching is based on what felt like a transmission: 19 Ways to the Fifth World. You can see how they are sourced in Feminism:

1. COMMUNITY. Recognizing and living aligned with community as an essential vessel and means of transformation.
2. COUNCIL. Entering and trusting the ways of Council, Dare’ and Mandlovu mind.
3. STORY. Story is an event and a path. Learning to listen, to recognize, understand and attend the way of Story and the particular path of healing and transformation it reveals for each one.
4. SPIRIT EXISTS. Spirit speaks to each of us in a shared language. Entering into a dialogue with the divine. Developing and living according to a spiritual practice that develops from a real relationship with spirit.
5. THE PATHLESS PATH. Recognizing the path that one has traveled and seeing where one has been taken and the dynamic path that emerges from the journey. Attuning to, developing and being faithful to a spiritual practice on the pathless path.
6. BEARING WITNESS AND DISINGAGEMENT. Bearing witness to the horror and corruption of these times, scrutinizing our lives, and consciously ceasing our involvement.
7. HEALING WAR AND PEACMAKING. Committing ourselves to healing war within us and in the world. Committing ourselves to our transformation from war-traumatized people to peacemakers and visionaries. Walking in peace. Responding peacefully.
8. THE NO ENEMY WAY. Understanding and incorporating the No Enemy Way into our daily private and public ways. Walking the No Enemy Way in the world as best we can.
9. REVISIONING. Revisioning public institutions of thought and action. Imagining and aligning ourselves with ReVisioned Medicine, Science, Law, Economic Social systems. For example, a ReVisioned Medicine practices the No Enemy Way, does no harm and integrates the combined wisdom of medical people and medicine people. Assuming the equal relevance of indigenous, earth centered, spirit centered wisdom in all reasoning and thinking processes. Changing one’s mind.
10. INDIGENOUS WISDOM TRADITIONS. Studying, respecting, honoring, preserving, supporting, allying with indigenous wisdom traditions.
11. DREAM. Living by Dream, Intuition and Divination. Reading the signs and then following other spirit centered ways of knowing. Yielding to initiation and living accordingly.
12. HEALING. Recognizing the presence of healing. Learning the ways of healing. Seeking out healing. Becoming a healing presence.
13. MITAKYE OYASIN. Living according to All Our Relations.
14. THE WILD. Protecting, preserving, sustaining, bringing healing to the wild, the earth and all beings.
15. THE OTHERS – NON HUMAN BEINGS. Recognizing the intelligence and agency of non-human beings and living among them accordingly.
16. BEAUTY AND CEREMONY. Living according to Beauty, Creativity, Intuition, Prayer, Ritual, Ceremony, Loving kindness and Compassion as essential forms.
17. SILENCE. Valuing and engaging in silence, solitude, formless forms and not knowing.
18. SANCTUARY. Honoring, providing, become sanctuary for all beings by learning the way of the land.
19. ALLIANCES. Fostering dynamic relationships with other groups and organizations working in parallel heartways.

THEN recognizing that one’s mind has changed, one is living in a different field of understanding and assumptions. Stepping through the portal to live faithfully according to the laws of the 5th World that mandate serving Spirit and the on-going future.

Even as a young woman, as The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them was written in 1978, I was exploring healing and peacemaking, trying to understand what I would call in later years, The No Enemy Way.

From The Woman Who: P. 11

A woman whose name is Ada walks down the street of an occupied village from the cemetery passing her own house, to the General’s house which she enters without a word to lie down unashamed on his bed. She does this -

– With the full cognizance that she is coming a political act.

***
From The Woman Who: P. 21

The woman who lived in an occupied village went to the General. She knocked at his door with the pretext of selling him eggs.

In the morning, she washed herself and in the shower as water fell on her she asked:

May I be like water. May I bend over rocks. May I not break. May I flow. May I endure.

If I die, may I go up and come down again, may I not be gone forever. May I find a secret hiding place under the earth. May I be a well. May I move under the feet and over the houses. May I be strong. May I be white. May I be pure.

And the water fell on her in great hot sheets ad she soaped her long dark hair and piled it whitely on top of her head The soap curled under her arm, her groin, on all the covered places of her sex and then was rinsed away. And she went to the house of the General and knocked at his door.

***

Sometimes I think feminism failed. The struggle for economic and political equality overshadowed our passion for transforming our lives and undermining patriarchal agendas. Two women Secretaries of State – yes. Hillary Clinton probably running for President. But business as usual in Washington DC. The wars continue as does domination and imperialism. We had hoped it would be different.

Today is my son’s Marc’s birthday. I remember my early involvement with the anti-war movement. In 1960 a photo in the L.A. Times was captioned, Marc Metzger at 3 months of age, kicks up his heels against war.

At that time, I was also worried about milk. Testing had revealed that Strontium 89 with a half life of 50 days and strontium 90 with a half life of 28.9 years appeared in breast milk in 1961 when I was nursing my son, Greg. And it was also in the formula Marc was drinking. The highest concentration of strontium 90 in milk occurred in 1963.

My sons were three and two years old. I was frantic, looking for powdered milk dated before the various above ground tests of the early 60s. In 1961, Women’s Strike for Peace organized thousands of women against nuclear weapons.

I have a cousin who died of leukemia because as a soldier he was put in the front lines – without warning or permission, at the Nevada testing grounds.

This week, as a healer, I am working with a Vietnam veteran in constant excruciating pain from numerous cancers and surgeries all of which are being treated independent of the root cause of his extreme suffering. When I met him, I couldn’t restrain myself from saying, “Agent orange.”
“Yes.”
He had testified for Senate hearings, but that didn’t help him get that diagnosis into his medical chart. From Grief into Vision: A Council, deals with Los Alamos and Chernobyl.

The novel I am currently writing, A Rain of Night Birds, is set, in part, on the Four Corners Reservation where the yellow dust from uranium tailings still blows across the land and pollutes the waters. The protagonist is a climatologist. Not my idea of a novel. Spirit sent it. War, the Bomb and the destruction and poisoning of the earth were then and continue to be primary fields of inquiry and deep concern. It always feels that I am called to these concerns, called to write the books I write. That I have no choice. Spirit insists – and that insistence from Spirit, its Presence gives me hope that we might find ways not to avoid the path to total destruction.

***

From Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, which I had the privilege of writing with the renowned Argentinean writer, Julio Cortázar, 20 years after his death in 1984. P.43.

Rio ultimately acknowledged that he had a toothache. He had been to the dentist who had treated him without, it seemed, providing instant relief. And Iris did not know if it was permitted to reach out and stroke the somewhat puffy cheek in order to sooth his pain; it was a skill she had but was not something she announced publicly. She could put her fingers on his skin and extract the pain. It would happen so quickly everyone would assume the morphine had done it and would look at her transgression with polite disapproval.

In the cellar at that moment, someone was slowly and methodically extracting a friend’s teeth one by one. Iris had not learned to heal across a timeline or a space barrier. When Iris looked at Rio she saw that he knew what was occurring. This was no naïve display of sympathy. The two events were unrelated co-incidence. Rio did not think he was sharing his friend’s torture. He didn’t claim to be suffering someone else’s pain. Nevertheless, the two events co-existed. Rio’s tooth had been removed and he was suffering real and phantom pain that he had no desire to ease before he studied it soberly to learn its qualities. Iris was relived not to understand any of the languages in which they were now discussing what was broadly referred to as politics, for it allowed her to settle steadily into the pain that flared out into the room as from an infection of lilies. No one has the power to ease pain who will not feel it in her own body

***

In 1989, I made a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of Europe. When I returned, I began writing The Other Hand and addressed it as a letter to Cardinal Lustiger of Paris whose Jewish mother had died in Auschwitz. The protagonist is an astronomer who is inhabited by a Nazi and she attempts to see the holocaust also through his eyes. The novel is an extended koan on light and darkness.

*** The Other Hand p.3

November 17, 1989
Dear Cardinal Lustiger, Your Eminence:

My name is Daniella Stonebrook Blue I am—or was—by profession an astronomer. We are strangers to each other. Your name was given to me by a woman on a bus as we were traveling across New Mexico. Because of her insistence, I am writing to you about this dark period of my life. I need to speak to you about the matter of light. Light is the alphabet of God. I knew this when I was born and then I forgot. This is the first time I have understood it as an adult woman. Even as I prepared to write these words, I didn’t know what they implied until they appeared on the page.

***

The Other Hand
page 105,

Rosa had gotten up from the piano and walked into the kitchen as if she were going to prepare a meal and then just as suddenly she laid the pan down on the counter and returned to the piano, improvising on Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. We were spellbound.
Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are? Up above the earth so high …” It took a long time to get to the fourth line but when Rosa was there, I had chimed in as I had always done as a child, “Like a skymond in the die.”

“What’s a star, Dani? ” Rosa had asked without stopping. “What’s a star, Dani?.” She hit an insistent dissonant chord in the middle of a scale and then returned to her variations on the simple melody again.

Without waiting for my answer, “A star, Dani, is a time bomb. Do you know what I mean?” A few bars of music. “What’s a bomb, Dani? Again, without waiting for an answer: “A bomb, Dani, is a container with a star inside it, ready to go off, taking the whole world with it.”

That plaintive singing. I could still hear it clearly. My mother’s terrible, even demented, singing: “Twinkle, twinkle little star…”

***

The Other Hand page 166

Babylon was a beginning, Cardinal, where the magi, those Chaldeans, those astronomer- astrologers that the Old Testament rails against, had watched the stars with unprecedented devotion, seeing light everywhere, seeing gods in the constellations and the spirit of light passing down into them as destiny.

Babylon is where it had begun. The Babylonians had not distinguished between knowing the stars and their configurations, measuring the orbits of the planets, discovering the cycles of Venus, calculating the lunar and planetary ephemeredes years into the future, regulating the calendar, studying equinoxes, solstices and eclipses, and discerning the influence of these stellar bodies. And by some grace, I had found myself in this silent blue oasis in the middle of darkness. A brief blue interlude within the fetid industrial air of the poisoned city of East Berlin.

These had been the people of the stars. I was of their lineage even though they had conquered the Jews and brought them to Babylon, including someone whose name I bear. Daniel, the great magician, who had visions and understood dreams, had been here. He had been a captive and lived his life of exile here. Both slave and minister, he had walked down this very processional. He had looked at the stars from this place. He had touched this wall. He had survived the lions’ den and he had touched this lion. His hand on my hand through the fold of years. The same Daniel directed the Magi to follow the star that rose over Bethlehem indicating new light.

I had come through the arch of the blue gate, blue as the sky, with its gods, with its dragons and bulls of gold and white and was walking along the blue processional wall with its lions, gold and white as stars. There was no one else in this vast room that was, unlike the others, gleaming with the colors of light: gold of marigolds, white of lilies, blue of approaching light, blue of twilight and dusk.

Babylon was a point. A moment of light. Its rays like roads from the temple of the astronomer priests glanced off in different directions of space time: astronomy, astrology, cuneiform, writing, mathematics, diasporas, captivity, slavery, Talmud, Daniel, the Christ Child, Berlin and the Bomb. ….

Let’s meet in Babylon, Cardinal. Let’s go there together and watch the astronomer-priest climb the stairs to the summit so he can study the stars. He was the most honored one. After him came the ones who did the calculations and after them, the scribes who wrote it all down. Let us be with him there because shortly after this moment, he divided in two and the astronomer went his way and the priest went the other way and we see where that has led.

***

In 2005, I was honored to deliver the keynote to the American Academy on Environmental Medicine. A few days later, I went to the land around Los Alamos to do ceremony for restoration. My cousin, Alexis Lavine, then a geologist at the Laboratories, was my guide and companion.

From Grief into Vision: A Council: P. 93-94.

I went with Alexis to the suffering land where nuclear waste and other chemicals from experiments at Los Alamos had been dumped into the canyons and carried by the waters. Lat year, the spirits led Alexis, then a geologist at Los Alamos, to find a cave on land that originally was a sacred home to the Tewa people.

(An identified sacred cave [see photo in book] at Los Alamos has been closed with steel mesh and bars and is inaccessible even to the native people.)

This cave is a sipapu, a portal to the spirit world. We came in under a heavy cloud cover that arose suddenly. We had been required to change the time of our visit so many times, we had to accept that were being called to this place at this exact moment. Though the sky had been clear, I had had the premonition that we would encounter weather and soon we were accompanied by the rumble of thunder.

Alexis stopped, advising me that the cave was around the bend and it was time for us to take off our shoes. As we did, lightning flashed closer and closer and then it thundered again and hail fell furiously. We huddle momentarily under a tree that didn’t protect us and then made our way barefoot over mounds of hail to another cave from which we watched the display of lightning and of hail dancing.

Thunder continued to astonish us with its force and proximity. It was as if we in it and we blessed the Thunder Beings for gifting us with their presence. Water was streaming through the adjoining cave, a small flash flood that didn’t enter where were despite the hole at the level bottom of the common stone wall. After the storm, we made our way to the cave we were seeking. The only standing body of water we saw was at a small rock in front of the cave. Everything around us was renewed, vibrant and alive from the gift of the abundant water as if we were given a sign about the possibilities of restoration.

***

To return to the beginning. The title for The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them came to me in a dream. Finding the icon at Eleusis when the archeologist at first dismissed our claim because they had scoured the area for twenty years and were sure there were no artifacts left, was a miracle. Collaborating on a book with a dead man was a gift from spirit. I was introduced to Cortázar work when a book, New Writing in Latin America, fell off a shelf into my hands and introduced me to Latin American culture and politics which have engaged me ever since. There are miracles every day and they determine our lives. Often the miracles appear as afflictions.

I had breast cancer in 1977. I had been writing a novel, The Book of Hags, about women who had cancer:

From Tree: Essays and Pieces P. 31.

For years the women had been dying. One by one. Stricken in their youth or middle-age just as things were beginning. An unknown assassin. Just at the moment when everything was possible. Education. Power. Consciousness. Self They sickened and died. That is not true. They did not die of their own accord. Something sickened them and they died. They were murdered. Stricken. Poisoned. Assassinated. Suddenly. The doctors call it cancer. It is. But of what nature? And why now? And why so many? And why so young?

When I finished the book, I discovered I had cancer. I was 40. I didn’t know I was a very young woman to have cancer. It was hell. My children were very young. My ex had a heart attack a week later. I was afraid my children would be orphaned. I had to find the life force for all our sakes. One conclusion in the Book of Hags is that cancer is imposed silence. So I took a typewriter to the hospital.Tree, a journal, was the result.

I had a mastectomy. I did not have chemo or radiation. Ultimately, Hella Hammid took a photograph of my tattooed chest and we published the Warrior Poster, designed by Sheila de Bretteville. Having traveled around the world, becoming even a book cover in Japan, the Poster has, I know, saved countless women’s lives, those who might have suffered, might still suffer from silicone poisoning or complications when pursuing reconstruction and or breast enhancement.

This is the text on the poster: From Tree: Essays and Pieces. P. 91

I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon the one who shoots arrows. There is a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered, but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart. Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears. What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing. When he finished his work, the tattooist drank a glass of wine with me. I have relinquished some of the scars. I have designed my chest with the care given to an illuminated manuscript. I am no longer ashamed to make love. In the night, a hand caressed my chest and once again I came to life. Love is a battle I can win. I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound. On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

Cancer changed my life. I became a healer. I train healers. I am a medicine woman. I have gathered physicians and medicine people to create a medicine that does no harm to humans or to the earth. We call it ReVisioning Medicine. That is how I met the veteran who is toxic like the earth is poisoned. Seeking to bring healing to him, we are seeking also to bring healing to the earth.

On 9/11 I was in Zimbabwe. Entering the Ghost River opens with these words:

Entering the Ghost River P. 5

What is your medicine? I was asked.
Story. Story is my medicine, I answered.

Cancer taught me to ask: What is the message, the Story the affliction is carrying? What is the healing Story?

In The Woman Who, Ada goes to the General to heal him of war.

In 2007, I met the General. I was working with a grassroots peacebuilding organization in Liberia when we met a rebel general who, because the war was over, was going to become a mercenary in another West African country. Instead he became the youth director of everyday gandhis. We did not become lovers as in The Woman Who, but he calls me Mama Deena.

Peacebuilding and healing one gesture. One thing we learned in Africa is that you can’t have peace unless you heal the land. Our bodies, our communities, the earth require simultaneous healing. Healing depends on seeing the other. The great blessed other is the natural world. The other person. The other animal.

From Feral P. 9

The moment it first occurred to the woman that she would bring the girl home was when the girl had climbed to a sturdy branch half way up the sycamore and ensconced herself there, first removing, then dropping, her yellow leather work boots and then her socks, stretched out like lilies at their tops, fluorescent lime green no less. The girl wrapped what looked like prehensile toes around some of the finer twigs so that it appeared that she had grown into the tree or it into her.

When the woman was trying to discern the nature of the being she was examining, first she thought feral, then thinking feral, she thought wolf. But wolves don’t climb trees, both the girl and the woman knew that Confronted by the girl’s feet, she was compelled to say simian, ape, primate, mono, monkey, but stopped there as no one would identify a species by its feet alone.

Then as the woman teetered between one identification and another without knowing if the confusion or complexity was in the girl or in herself, the girl raised her mouth to the sky and opened it into a fluted goblet as if to catch rain. The sadness the child exuded was so like a perfume that one could not bear taking it in or being without it. Grief eased out into the air extending itself in mineral colors like oil on water, the thinnest of diaphanous films until it found its destination and wrapped itself about the living body, a sculpture in opal and mother of pearl. So many days, the woman admitted, she had been curious about grief while most willing to avoid the textures of its mysteries.

From “Coming Home,” Intimate Nature p. 363

It has taken a long time to be properly humbled by the irrefutable evidence that I have been living much of my life in the presence and territory of other distinct, awesome, might intelligences without having any but the most rudimentary understanding of the meaning of their individual and species lives which I have nevertheless so deeply violated. This cultural and historic obliviousness, which sometimes overwhelms even those traditions that hold otherwise, has now brought all of us to the brink of destruction. So even if I weren’t personally compelled on this quest of alliance, making amends and restoration, even if I hadn’t opened up worlds of beauty and interest, even if I weren’t motivated by irrepressible passions and curiosity, it would behoove me to ask the animals: Who are you? – and to continue to adjust my life according to what I hope will be an increasing ability to understand their answers.

But nothing prepared me for meeting the wild Elephant Ambassador, four times, four separate years.

I met the Elephant Ambassador in the wild in Chobe Wild Animal Park in Botswana. He had walked to the open back of our truck with clear determination and intention. I had had the strange and inexplicable desire to sit in council with elephants, and now he was standing before me looking me in the eye.

From Entering the Ghost River P. 183

In my mind, I said the following to him:

I know who you are and what kind of beings your people are. I have some sense of the extent and depth of your intelligence and development. And I know that you are a holocausted people I know something of this means because I also come from a holocausted people and I have studied other holocausts and the planet in this century. I apologize to you for my species and what we are doing to you. I cannot tell you the extent of my shame and grief. If there is any way for you to imprint me with your wisdom so that we can form an alliance, so that we can, together, accomplish something on behalf of the earth, I am here and I am not afraid.

Alliance with the animals and alliance, also, with the elementals. All the beings of the natural world. The EarthSea Mother is profoundly injured in so many ways including the gulf spill and Fukushima.

La Negra y Blanca was written in the flames of fire storms. La Negra is a woman and/or a spirit or the rain itself.

From La Negra y Blanca 252

The setting sun is very red. Twenty miles away, rugged canyons have been burning for more than a month, columns of smoke, higher than the mountains mount the sky. It will be many more weeks before the fire is contained. It is hard to breathe because of the dense smoke. It is very quiet here as the sun sets; the fire has stilled everything. There is only the hum of a few bees, as of a depleted swarm searching out a site for a new hive to establish a new life. Or there are only a few because the bees are disappearing. A friend says the weather is perfect where he lives; though the plants are full and hearty, they are not yielding crops. There are flowers, he says, but no fruit. Some flowers are pollinated by the wind, I reassure myself, alarmed as he is.

A year later, the fires are transforming the colors of the sky again. This time the smoke turns the sky yellow brown, a sallow color and the trees cower in the wind. Everything is turning brown. I can smell deer flesh roasting in the fire hell of the burning wilderness.

It is August and the smoke from the wilderness fire twenty-five miles away blows over the setting sun, turning the sky brown yellow and the sun blood red. The fire will rage for weeks, even after it is contained, drawing closer and closer to the molten center. There was a drought before the Conquest. The Maya had been taken, as Blanca’s people are being taken, by the follies of empire. The Maya also cut down the trees. Drought followed and then increased warfare. Devastation everywhere. Fire is replacing rain. The trees are dying, the forests are aflame, the poles are melting, animals are going extinct; even the bees are threatened with annihilation. Where drought isn’t, there are floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and hurricanes.

Blanca takes a rain stick and goes up to the circle of trees above her house. She has placed a sculpture of three frogs in a crude clay basin of water. The drought has reached extreme proportions, calling us back to the old ways of reverence for the earth, to different lives, to prayer and offerings. When there is no rain, the wars increase and the earth increasingly suffers our violence. May rains come bringing an end to the untenable wars we are waging.

***
From La Negra y Blanca 253, 254

The terrible drought of 1989 finally broke in Yaxumá, Yucatán, only a few days after the village shaman, Don Pablo, had conducted a three-day long ritual called a Cha-Chac ceremony to summon the storm gods who would bring rain to the parched lands. Having participated in the earlier ceremony, an astounded David Friedel stood in his archaeological field camp watching the rains Don Pablo had called sweep in from the northeast over the pyramids of the ancient city next to the village. With his triumph written across his face in a huge grin, Don Pablo came running over the crest of a nearby hill, clutching his hat in the gusting winds as he fled inches ahead of a gray wall of rain. A great rainbow arched over him in the brilliant orange light of the setting sun in a magnificent display that affirmed the success of his performance as shaman.

The old knowledge of relationship comes with the rain. When we are oblivious to relationship, drought is inevitable. The shaman running before the rain is literally attached to the rain spirits, to Chac, to the thunder beings through the bright banner of his ritual work and prayers for the earth.

The sky is clouded over and the winds are fierce each morning and evening as if a storm is imminent although it has not rained for months except the intense moment when Blanca had been typing these words about Don Pablo, the Shaman of Yaxumá, Yucatán and the sky darkened with storm and emptied, rain and hail. May the rains come now.

The sky has turned dark and when Blanca gets up and goes to the door, there it is, a crash of thunder and rain pours down.

As I speak to you in Los Angeles on February 27th 2014, it is raining. It has been the first real rain in Topanga in about eighteen months. It is not enough to last us the next year, but perhaps it will restore the dying sage and the trees. The deer will eat the new grass and be sustained for a short time. In the last months we have put out water for the wild creatures and even alfalfa for the deer. The squirrels in the area share the bird seed with the birds and we try to provide for the wild on the land we have taken from them in ways that might be somewhat equal to how we provide for ourselves. In the last weeks we have seen bobcat, skunk, raccoon and eagle in addition to all our familiar neighbors, coyote, cougar, rabbits and squirrels. These days, everything I do is, I hope, a prayer for rain, the wild and a generous future for all beings.

From Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems P. 292

RUIN AND BEAUTY THE END

A last poem on behalf of ruin and beauty. A last poem hovering somewhere near, alongside everything that needs to be said now, in this time. The last poem for a book may be the last poem for a lifetime. What offering can be made with yet another last word?

Each time I write, I pray the last word will be a beginning. Even I pray for this, I, who love sunset, more than I love dawn, for its abandon to fire as embers turn to coal and then to diamonds that emerge from the heavy night. These are not the diamonds of the field; they do not rip the life out of the earth or the life from the hands of those who must carry the shovels that will dig into their hearts. These are not lights that need to remain buried in the dark.

I am remembering myself now because like everyone else I have spent a life forgetting. I recognize the child who loved trees as well as the woman who fell so passionately in love with light; she would follow it to its birthplace in the distant stars if she were able. When she was younger, she announced her willingness to burn to ash for the sake of blazing, and today she is an aging woman pausing before the bare elm, as skeleton now as the woman soon will be. It will dim before it blazes and so will she.

Who knows but the two, tree and woman, may fall at the same time, the way the acacia fell the night of the funeral, the way the great pine went over, bent over prostrate, along the threshold, the night the wind rose to take everyone down. We cut the pine into round steps; they decay, they fall apart, they ease into the earth or become the kindling we burn in the bright winter fire. The wisteria went down with the pine, but has risen again. It is winding a future of delicate purple blossoms through the eucalyptus trees. It will be fire next time before the fall.

It is not envy, it is not my own death that moves me. I am not wistful before the resurrecting wisteria displaying nubs, hard pressed, like a young girl’s nipples toward the sky. Rather I shade my eyes before the certainty of God, an invisible shimmering bird, perched in the elm’s silver nest, dull bark turning platinum with the Presence.

Soon the ravens will come, the hawks, vultures and owls to take possession of that naked perch, claw to claw, searching for prey and rain in the great round of life that still remains to them despite the airplanes that bruise the surfaces of clouds, poisons dripping from metal tail feathers.

I have written of this all my life. Each time I try to get it right so that life will continue. Not my life, you understand, but life itself. The magic formula constantly eluding all magis. I let each day fall out of my hand, another petal on the patio stones, or on the metal table, splashes of color turning brown, becoming soil again, melting into the future. The earth deserves a long life that will never end, constructed entirely of the sweet and rightful deaths of all the creatures who feed here on the various honeys of creation.

Of course, I am lying when I say my death isn’t a big deal. A poet’s rhetoric. It will seem that the world is dying when I will be dying. I will be leaving but it will seem that the world will be dimming and falling away. A physicist’s relativity.

“How do we serve the dying?” the exhausted woman asked from her mother’s bedside. Could she assure the dying woman, she had the courage and fortitude to pull away from us and enter the last adventure on her own. Easier said. But every one of us will be in that bed, wondering how to triumph at the end of the taffy pull. We will wonder about how to do it, while someone who hasn’t met that challenge yet will kindly reassure us with what she cannot know. If she is skilled, we will believe her, and we will speed away at sufficient velocity from all that we have until this moment loved more than life, have assumed is life, the whole of it.

This is where we part from the earth that until now we called our mother and so presumed she would precede us in all things. We pull away toward the solitude that is finally, irrevocably ours. We can report to no one from the dark cave that may or may not be a tunnel with a light at the end. Whatever it is for us, no one will ever know. We have been practicing a lifetime to learn to be, finally, on our own.

Earth is not so fortunate. She has made the essential bodhisattva sacrifice. She remains here until all beings are enlightened. Oh how bitter! She is unable to escape us. Even light gets to fly away.

***

In a clay bowl filled with white milk, we washed the dark feet of a soldier who had eaten human hearts. Another woman came and then another, washing, washing. Such forgiveness, acts of utter hopelessness and impossible hope. Forgiveness required that we sharpen knives until nothing could resist us, so we could sever the past from the future, for him and for us. He slashed and we slashed. The milk roiled in the earthen pot. Milk so white, pressed out of a living creature, milk I know because I nursed my sons, swirling about my burning hands. I searched to find all the love within me though the general had devoured the source of love so many times. He had assumed love would disappear from our planet forever; how else could he survive? When we were finished, the milk was so white it could have blinded us. Some deaths cannot be redeemed without acts of utter desperation.

Ruin, you see, is not the end of life despite museums of crumbling cornices and corner stones. Ruin is unremitting beauty flinging us to the ground. Ruin is a supernova exploding, an old one turning in on itself and becoming, in that moment, as much light as will blaze from the sun in the next ten billion years. Ruin is that gamma moment pouring out into the universe now.

Ruin and beauty:
Despair not,
There will be a future;
There will be a future before
Or after we die.

*******************

What Story Is and How Story Heals: Variations on a Talk. SoulCollage Conference October 2013

A Story is an entire, distinct world.  It has a heart that acts as dynamic center for the sake of revelation and healings. Story is an exact and particular, dynamic emergence, in time, the emergence of a particular configuration of meaning from several or many particular intersections and interactions.

It is not a chronological sequence but it can contain one.  It is a magnetic center, like the dark hole, let’s say, at the core of the Milky Way, or our sun as the energy that holds our solar in dynamic relationship, or the heart from which wisdom arises.  Events, moments, synchronicities, surprises, dreams gather mysteriously into meaning that reveals a path,

Like the world, it is not created exclusively by human means.  Stories are not only of our invention. Stories are not manufactured.  They happen spontaneously.

A Story is given and our task is to recognize it and then live accordingly.

Story does not tell us what to do in a simple linear fashion.  But it is revelatory. It awes and surprises us, once we recognize its presence.  It opens a path that is healing.  But a healing path cannot be healing only for ourselves.  A healing path cannot be walked in the midst of devastation or in despite of surrounding contamination.  A healing path heals what is within its perimeters and seeks to extend the area of its purview to meet the life of the individual, the times in which she or he lives, and the future for all beings.

Story, as I have come to know it over many years of study and investigation, is an insight or vision on behalf of all our relations.  The Lakota Sioux end their communications with the sacred phrase, mitakye oyasin, all my relations.   It is an equivalent of saying, Blessings, when the word is sincerely meant.  It invokes the harmonious and the sacred.  mitakye oyasin.

Story brings together everything that is related to its magnetic heart.  Some elements may be invisible but they are still present.  A story is whole and, therefore, is complex.  That is why and how it heals.

Story is whole AND also it is particular.

(You may have heard me tell, or read some of the stories I am telling here.  But stories change according to their context.  This essay is not about each story per se, but what is revealed when the stories are in new relationships to each other.)

In 1976 I was teaching at the Center for the Healing Arts.  The first Center for the ancillary treatment of cancer.  It predated, even sparked everything we now call CAM or complementary and alternative medicine.  A man whose life was profoundly changed through the deep healing process we were exploring as Westerners, having forgotten the old and indigenous ways, wanted to create a bumper sticker – Cancer is the Answer.

When I had cancer in 1977, I began to understand that I there was a Story that included the illness and was leading me toward healing.  I was in that story.  For story is not finite, it is a dynamic event that may have no end.  As I entered a healing path, carefully following the emerging story as it was being revealed to me, I also received a wisdom teaching that has become my foundation:  Heal the life and the life will heal you.  Then I understood that the healed life was not for myself alone.  I was not to focus on healing my life first in order to offer healing to others.  But rather the goal is to heal the life, to heal life itself, and then all, I and you, we will heal accordingly.

I will tell some of this story further on.

Healing stories are given to us so our times will heal.   These times are critical.  Life itself is endangered.  Some years ago, I keynoted the annual medical conference of the American Holistic Medical Association.  In my talk I said, Medicine, medical ways and the Earth are our patients today.

This cannot and must not be denied.  All life,, and so all lives, are gravely endangered, physically and spiritually.  And so we gather in the pleasure of each other’s company, in the relief of each other’s company, in the wisdom of each other’s company in order to see what we might offer individually and together to the future – mitakye oyasin.

Stories are like interlocking circles.  19 interlocking circles make an ancient image called the Flower of Life.  It speaks of the akashic records. It speaks of the eternal hidden wisdom stories.  A story integrates other stories.  Becomes wisdom.

Here is a true story.  Three weeks ago, I was flying from NJ to Los Angeles.  Preparing to give a talk that is the basis for this essay at a SoulCollage® (http://www.soulcollage.com) Conference.  I was reading about archetypes, Neters, as they are called in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. I glanced up at the film that I was occasionally s‘watching’ without words as I do when I fly.  Briefly, an Egyptian image appeared on the screen.  Horus, I think. And a word:  Neter.  Horus is one of the Neters who maintains the divine order.  The film was called “Now You See Me…”   Horus.  But maybe Tehuti.  Why not.  Tehuti has been a profound influence upon me.  Tehuti the great healer.

Tehuti came.  In Story.  We will speak of Tehuti later.  Suffice it to say here, that I was preparing to give a talk about Healing Stories, preparing actually to give this talk, and an image appeared on the screen that corresponded exactly to the book I was reading, Soul Collage Evolving: An Intuitive Collage Process for Self-Discovery & Conmmunity, by Seena B. Frost.

Story gathers into itself events from the inner and outer worlds.  Much of story derives from our own activity and thoughts, but some of it derives from real energies outside of ourselves. I look at Stories and Dreams in the old ways.  My hope is to contribute to restoring the indigenous wisdom that recognizes that Story and Dreams are gifts from the Spirits.  The Spirits are real.  Our task is to learn to recognize them so we can live in what the Native Americans would call The Good Ways.

The Kogi, one of the few most intact peoples on the planet, call us the Younger Brothers (or Sisters).  They are the Older Brothers.  The know what we are doing to the earth. They know we do this because we are young, callous, self-centered, greedy and naïve.  We don’t know how to listen to the Earth and the Spirits.  We don’t realize that we have not invented, are not giving words to the Spirits (archetypes) orto the Beings of the Earth but sometimes, when we are fortunate, they speak to and through us.  Story is one of the languages through which they speak.

We need to yield to wisdom wherever it is.  And we are children before Wisdom.  Story can teach us how and when to yield: when it is our thinking we encounter and have to step away, when we have to get out of the way, and when it is Spirit who calls to step forth.

I have over the years encountered Tehuti and learned how to serve this Neter.   To be graced by his energy and wisdom,  sometimes having the fortune of moving in the world in ways he might be directing.  In my novel, Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, Tehuti is central, is the core, the energy, is an actor in the book.  It is his book.  So let us say, the Neter in the silent film – designed by the filmmaker but only partially perceived because I only looked occasionally and didn’t hear any sound, so also designed by the great silence — was Tehuti.  It makes a good story.  No one says we can’t add imagination to the Story.  And now I ask the question, did Tehuti appear to emphasize the reality of Spirit and also did he come to remind me of a sacred relationship that was no longer prominent in my mind.

This Neter, or energy, Tehuti, that appeared ten years or so after Doors:… appeared within the activity of my preparing to speak.  The intersection of the film’s story and the story of the SoulCollage gathering, a focus upon Story itself and the nove,l published ten years ago or so, became a living Story in that moment.

The Neter or energy or Spirit often expresses itself in Story.  Stories emerge from such energies in the way that stories are also connected with place and event.  A story that has associations, in the way of collage, may have origins, development and futures.

When I had cancer, I was a given a question that has served me and those with whom I work: Why did this event, or dream, or illness, in particular, come to me, in particular, at this time in particular?  And now I add another essential element to the question:  At this time in our lives – at this time in the life (or dying) of the earth, of our beloved planet?

In looking at the particulars, Story appears.  But not merely a Story of beginning middle and ending, but of origins developments and futures.

Beginning, middle and end yielding to origins, developments and futures.

What if events in our lives, or afflictions lead us to stories so that we learn to live on behalf of yourself and the future for all beings.  Ecology.  The Story of all beings.

What gives me hope – in such dark times – when I know that we don’t know how to meet the times or the consequences of our own behavior – is that Stories emerge, is that inexplicable events are enacted in our lives – and so confirm, as the only logical explanation – the Presence. The Old Ways, of whatever tradition, recognized Dream as a gift from Spirit or the Divine.  Story is the same.  The Presence announces Itself through Story.  And the Story teaches us how to live.  When we live in healing ways, we are healed.   When we live in healing ways, the world is healed.  Our healing.  The world’s healing.  The same.

***

Because we can’t invent a Story, in the way I have understood Story all these years, we sometimes really need a story.

Fifteen years ago, I was in Berkeley preparing to give a talk at the California Institute for Integrated Studies.  In order for the talk to be successful, I needed the right story with which to begin.  I had spoken there several times over the years and so I needed a different story from which a new focus would follow.  The entire week before, I had been reviewing my life looking, but no formerly untold story emerged.

As a writer and teacher, I live by story.  Not only these classic or cultural stories that have sustained people for centuries or for the life of their tribe, but the stories that emerge in our individual lives from the dynamic between experience, events, synchronicities, dreams, sometimes divinations, and history.  One way of understanding this is that Spider Woman is present among us and She is weaving a story from the bits and pieces, shards and threads of experience, or she is about to weave strangers into an unexpected fabric of connection through the revelation of their common and overlapping experiences, through sharing, becoming part of a common story.  In an alienated time, we can become kin or members of the same tribe through recognizing unexpected connections.  In the ways a cliché can allude to a common but powerful truth, we are made whole through the gathering together of the scattered parts as wholeness and healing are of a single root.

When the needed story did not manifest before I began traveling, I was certain it would come to me on the plane or in the hotel room that night or ….  Now it was a few hours before the talk.   I went to a local sidewalk café for coffee to take a break from my desperation.  I had back ups and there were always myths I could tell to weave a talk, but ‘the’ story eluded me.

Some weeks before I had read an article about Dr. Jean Achtenberg.  She said that she often prayed to the Four Archangels before meeting a difficult case or before entering the surgical theater.  I hoped that the unlikely remembering of this essay might be a sign.  I understood that the four Archangels are Judeo-Christianity’s way of recognizing and calling on the sacred energies of the Four Directions and so it was neither alien nor inappropriate to invoke these sacred beings whom I knew from my birth tradition.  And so, having the security of a cappuccino at my small table, I pleaded for a story to Archangel Michael in the East and Archangel Gabriel in the North both messengers and protectors, to Raphael, the angel of healing in the West and Uriel the angel of Sacred fire and vision in the South.  Please, I begged, remind me of, send me a story so that I can bring some insight and wisdom to the community.  I ended, as I always do, “On behalf of all beings and the future.”

Some minutes later, a small man in a worn brown gabardine jacket began lurching from table to table asking for moneys.  Soon he made his way to my table.  Aware that under his jacket, he was clutching a brown paper bag with a beer bottle in it, I wondered if I should give him money as it would obviously feed his habit.  But recognizing that he had lived his entire life without my advice, I gave him a generous donation and exchanged blessings with him.  He continued through the maze of tables and then stopping at the edge between the shaded café and the no man’s land of the street, he turned and looked at me directly:

“Would you like me to tell you a story?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I answered passionately, “I would love you to tell me a story.”

“Do you know,” he began, “what General Patton said when he was preparing an offensive in Africa?”

“No,” I answered.  “I have no idea what General Patton said.”

“He said,” the man’s gaze was steady and grave, “Tho I walk in the valley of the shadow of death…”

The man stopped, turned and began walking away.  Then he turned toward me again and certain he had my attention, he began speaking again.  “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death…” he repeated the words but with a different emphasis that called us both into our common mortality. Within a moment he turned the corner or disappeared.

I had my story and we have this story now.

Versions of the story of the beggar who is an angel appear throughout the world.  It is an analogue of the beggar, the disreputable, needy or unpleasant old man or woman who appears to test us and who offers us gifts if we respond appropriately.

When we hear these stories, we want to identify with the ones who recognize the angel or who always act as is appropriate to an angel, or who treat everyone like an angel, but we rarely expect the angel to appear.  Appear, really!

A healing story is a living or a lived story.  It is a story that arises out of our lives and teaches us how to heal, how to live.  In its classic form, it requires an exact action and an offering.  True stories may seem random but they are precise.

Stories, such as these, which are gifts from Spirit, seem obvious in the telling but we can easily miss them.  They require us to be awake.  The one who is living the story may miss it and we hope that the one who is listening, the storyteller /healer will recognize it.  Our training through listening to the traditional and classic stories can alert us to the lived story when it appears.  Listening to and telling classic tales, reading books, literature, myths imprints the patterns on our hearts and so we are alerted when something similar begins to appear.  If I didn’t read voraciously, I could have missed this story.  If I didn’t know myth ot the Old Testament, I would have missed the story.  It could have turned to ash in the guise of an old drunk weaving through a café, easily dismissed, unless you know the sacred relationship between beggars and angels.

In this case, I had prayed to the Archangels and not the Four Directions.  Had I done otherwise, I would not be thrust so particularly into the story of the Angel and the Beggar.  But if I were out in the wild, I probably would have prayed to the Four Directions.  Because every medicine person knows that we must honor the Gods of place first.  And then, perhaps, a bear would have appeared.  Or a Wolf.  And I would have another story altogether.  I will tell such a story later too.

If only the beggar came, it would have made a good story but not as good as it is with the angels invoked and an angel appearing.  Not as good a story as to know that Spirit really exists, that the Angel is not a metaphor.  Spirit exists.  The angels are real.  And so are the beggars.  Such stories understood in the old, old ways, teach us the etiquette and ethics required in both worlds, in the world of the angels, that we rarely enter or are visited by, and in the world of the beggars, where, unfortunately, so so many people live most of the time.  A Story can bring these worlds together.

During a teleconference renowned storyteller Laura Simms and I participated in on June 13th, 2012, Laura spoke of the Story as inherently creating, reconciling or teaching relationships.  This Story reestablishes an ethical world of exchange and respect that also reunites the spirit world and the secular world.

The beggar and I had an ordinary exchange.  I gave him money, he gave me a blessing.  A kind but not memorable event.  He is still merely a beggar.  But then he turned to me:  “Would you like me to tell you a story?”

Now I the storyteller, the healer, the story carrier must pay attention.

Now we are in the miracle.  Now Story comes alive.  Now he is also an angel.  Now we are in the unfathomable.  Now Spirit is present.  What is happening now is entirely outside of human intent.  A dimension opens to the Great Mystery.  For the Lakota Sioux, the name of the Divine, of God, if you will, is Wakan Tanka.  Great Mystery.  Ahh.

This would be more than sufficient but we need to pay attention to the Story the Beggar /Angel will tell.  It is a story of the human condition. It is the story that levels all distinctions between a General, a beggar and the listener.  “Do you know what I thought when I was in the Valley of the shadow of death?”  Now we are all in the story for each of us have been or will be in that Valley.  We are companions as we will all face death.  No exceptions.  Such deep equality.  The profound question that we are each being asked is – Will we under similar circumstances, turn to Spirit?

The beggar offers me a surprising healing of whatever fear I might have of death.  For Spirit has just made itself known through the beggar/angel’s presence as he asks me (asks you) what might I / you think when ….?

One way of thinking about a healing story is that it reveals a path that the afflicted one is to follow.  In this instance, among other things, I / we are enjoined to recognize the existence of Spirit and the way it works in our lives.  To recognize Spirit even though we will die, even in the face of death.  And to recognize and listen to the teachings and guidance of Spirit as it comes to you, in particular, in its particular form, in the face of the possible death of the planet.  Our individual deaths are certain. The death of the planet is an aberration.  Can we devote our lives to turning this around?

In this case, we are invited to recognize Spirit twice – through the Beggar turning to me and answering my prayer and through the content of the Story he tells.

***

First it is necessary to recognize the Story that is coming to us, or that we are in or that we are called to live.

At this point in the essay, I turn back to the Conference and write the words I spoke then:

“In this moment, speaking to you, I am in another Story.  As Stories are co-existent and co-extensive, I can, we can, be in many stories at once.  A conference was planned, I was invited, and here we are.  All of you brought me here.

“But something else happened.  Someone you do not know brought me here. Someone I scarcely know.  Someone I didn’t know before I accepted your invitation.  Someone I encountered many months after accepting the invitation and just a few months ago.  Someone named Terrence Green.  He is a character in a novel I am writing.

“When I “met” him, I knew nothing about him, except that he was connected to the protagonist, Sandra Birdswell, of the work in progress entitled, A Rain of Night Birds.  He didn’t tell me anything about himself, but in the way of novelists, I began very slowly to know something of his story.  I began to know that he made a shocking discovery and it brought him to his knees.  I learned, doing the calendar for my novel that this happened in 2007.  And so doing research I found something that could have been the cause. It was a publication of the United Nations: The Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007.  And when Terrence Green who is a Climatologist held this in his hands and saw that it mentioned – for the first time – the validity of indigenous knowledge in understanding climate change – he had to leave his western office so he could read this where he could understand it best.  He had to be in nature.  He had to be on land he knew well.  He jumped in his car and took off.  For where?  For a place that appeared on the page but I didn’t really know where it was.  Mind you this occurs in July 2013.

“This conference has been planned for almost two years and its location well established. On my page, he takes off for Mt. Hood.  Confession. I didn’t know where Mt. Hood was.  So I began researching Mt. Hood and tried to understand why he went to Mt. Hood.  I began reading about Native American life in Washington and Oregon, about the ways the Europeans colonized the native people, took the land, destroyed tribal life, forced the end of their spiritual lives and languages.  The under history, untold history, real story of Lewis and Clark and all that followed.

“So please, please imagine my fearful astonishment in late August, early September, when I began to map the drive to this Conference, having decided more than a year ago that I would drive but not knowing why, not having paid any attention to the Conference’s location, not having any idea where it was to be except somewhere on the west coast of United States, when I realized that I would be driving through what I had been learning is Terrence Green’s territory.  And beyond that, this Conference is being held in the shadow of Mt. Hood.  This sacred co-incidence made it possible for me to drive the Mt. Hood loop visiting ALL the places in that loop I had researched for other reasons altogether, ending up Thursday afternoon just before the opening at the foot of this road, where the First People exhibit has inscribed sacred stories of Coyote the creator.  Coyote, the trickster, indeed.

“Who brought me here?  Terrence Green.  Why? I don’t know yet.  Accept to say, I am living a Story.  When there is a call and we answer, then we are in a Story.

“In my community, when events like this occur and a Story begins to form itself in this way,  we say, “You can’t make this shit up.”  And then we follow the Story.”

***

Community, which we call, Daré, (which means Council in the Shona language) gathers monthly meeting at my home in Topanga Ca – and in other places across the country — on behalf of healing.  We meet all issues through council and we speak in council by telling the stories and experiences of our lives.  We also ask the afflicted ones who have come for healing, to tell as best as they can, the story of their pains or illnesses.

A story is complex and carries a reality that the recitation of events, the offering of a diagnosis or the recitation of ideas cannot match.  When someone tells a story that carries such an imprint of Spirit as in the Beggar and Angel story, or the presence of Tehuti or Terrence Green, we frequently ask – What is the true nature of the world in which such events happen? Such stories, especially when they have mythic resonance as do the Beggar and Angel story, the Neter story, the Terrence Green, the Coyote story, reveal the true nature of the world.  The stories have other meanings and functions but in categorizing stories, I would say that is their ultimate purposes are to reveal the true nature of the world.

They call us as listeners or members of a tribe to ask – How shall we live? They call us to remember how we must live.  When we are in alignment, healing can occur.

Folk tales, fairy tales often have miraculous circumstances, which, as westerners, we are led to quickly deny or subsume or perhaps even colonize as parts of ourselves.  The fairy godmother, the wizard, the magic wand, the myriad givers of gifts are relegated to the realm of make believe or psyche..  But what if such narrative devices are actually metaphors for the inexplicable events that sometimes occur in our lives and that change a set of linear experiences into a real story.

Storytellers healers work in different ways.  Some, like Native American physician and ritual practitioner, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD may offer the patient a traditional story to consider as a template through which to understand their lives or to reveal healing procedures.  In these instances, mentioned above, we are also asked to traditional or mythic tales as part of the narrative structure of the Story we are in. Other story healers, listen for the Story that the illness or affliction is telling in order to attain a diagnosis and find the healing path. All such stories often have a common basis: Spirit exists and Spirit wants to heal.  Spirit wants or is willing to come to us, to move through us, to affect healing.

And what is healing?  In the world of Story, healing can be physical, as in cure, or it can be emotional, and or spiritual, or all.  It can bring us relief, ease, restoration and it can bring us meaning. It can also direct us to change out lives.   We may still have the physical condition but when we are living differently, it may not matter so much.  Sometimes healing moves the illness, distress, affliction away from the center of our consciousness and allows our different ways of living to come forward.

Preparing to give a talk, I needed a story.  Ideas alone would never have served me or the community.  But a Story, as we just heard, is a small but complex world and if we enter it, we can be transformed.

In the land of Story, the particularity of any physical illness may point us to understanding our deeper suffering and the path to heal it.  When I first understood this, I realized that illness can be a messenger directing us to live in a different way.  So when I am ill, or when I am called to meet someone who is ill, I / we need a story or we want to know the story that the illness is telling and the path of healing it suggests for our future.

Sometimes, of course, an illness is just an illness, and sometimes there is something profound we need to learn for the greater healing.  Often I say, “Don’t heal too fast, so that the deeper questions can be addressed before the field of inquiry vanishes. Our culture draws us to focus on the physical.  A Story based culture would look to the medical, physical or body event, as well as the Story that encompasses the distress.   We look to body, mind and spirit to heal us and we look for the Story that includes all of these as well.

In 1975-76, I was teaching at three different educational institutions with very different women’s populations:  a community college, California Institute for the Arts and the Feminist Studio Workshop, the first feminist institution outside of a university for the arts and social change.  In each school, there were high percentages of women suffering breast cancer.  I began writing a novel, The Book of Hags, which became a radio play produced by KPFK, Pacifica Radio, with this question at its center: Why were so many women suffering breast cancer, why at this time in history, and why so young?

In July 1976, I had had a dream in which I was being tortured by a matron from a concentration camp whom I recognized from documentary footage in the Alain Renais film, Night and Fog.  In the dream, pretending she wanted me to give her information, she commanded, Sveig.  Silence.  I understood torture seemingly inflicted to get names or information is primarily designed to silence the population.  In the radio play, cancer and silence were intimately related.

I finished writing the novel in December 1976 and discovered I had cancer in January 1977.  I had a map for healing – it was within the Story that I was living.  I took a typewriter to the hospital and placed it on the little table that in those days opened so that the patient could use the mirror to put on eye shadow and lipstick.  As the typewriter was one of those IBM monsters, I gave up the cosmetic table for consciousness.

Might the woman who came to the Woman’s Word’s Conference I organized a the Woman’s Building in 1975 two years earlier have been correct about her life when she took the microphone on the stage and whispered, “I never spoke and so now I have cancer of the throat?”  Not that her silence caused the cancer but that the body inevitable carries the imprint of the sorrows and difficulties we carry and, also, it may begin to heal when it receives the energy of understanding.

My full story of cancer and healing developed over several months and then became the book Tree.  I was alert to the appearance of the Nazi matron from the Camp, and so I was willing to follow my intuitions when I saw cancer also as an act of imperialism, or as a conquering army.

Tree was published with another story – The Woman who Slept with men to Take the War out of Them – not an unrelated story, because it is a story of healing war and healing the General – and with several essays on healing which I wrote as the years developed.  But that first story, writing the text that became a radio play and writing the journal that became the book Tree, taught me that Story is at the essence of healing and through that teaching fashioned me into a Healer.

A friend and colleague has been on the land where I live as I have been writing this talk.  She came because a death in the family dispirited her and she needed soul company and she needed silence and we could provide both.  One evening, we offered her what we call a Music Daré, a music council.  Some healers, energy workers and musicians gathered to hear the story of her despair and anguish and then to offer an improvisational sound healing to call her spirit forth.  It is our custom to offer such an event to someone who is suffering an illness and is need of such deep attention.  The two essential elements are the exploration and telling of Story of the affliction, followed by the music that in its way develops according to the story line as we experience it.  In the course of examining her life, my friend traced her grief to an earlier time when she began to lose her life force, strangely enough just after she had completed a book about her journey to Spirit. The book, as it happened, unwittingly held the story of her affliction AND a path for healing.

Story has the capacity to awaken physical healing, emotional and spiritual healing.  Once in a Daré Council, two women, the daughter of a holocaust survivor and the granddaughter of a Minister whose Church had opposed, even plotted against, Hitler realized they were both profoundly connected through the stories and dreams of these events they had carried all their lives, which, for each, centered on the Nazi death camp, Matthausen.  Listening to them find each other and make an alliance across history and war, bringing their ancestors into the room through storytelling, it became plain that we had been called together that night so that their two personal stories could weave together into a new, distinct story, this unexpected common moment of understanding, compassion and forgiveness.

A similar event occurred at a Healing Intensive that I led in Pine Mountain California.  Of the twenty-four women in the room, two were the daughters of Holocaust survivors and another had been born in Switzerland and spoke German fluently.  One of the fathers who had been in the Camp had been born in Germany.  When his daughter collapsed remembering her father’s story, the Swiss woman embraced her and the women whispered to each other in German, the common language of their grief.

Silent, but present in the stories we tell, are the listeners from the past and from the future.  The story is not whole or full until we hear all of it and then because we inevitably breathe our own understanding and associations into it, blowing it up like a ball, like a world map, even the old story is vitalized by our participation through listening to it.

After writing much of this talk, I went out into the field and sat on a stone bench at the graves of my wolf hybrid companions Cherokee and her daughter, T’schee Wah Ya.  It was a beautiful day, the sun bright on the dry grasses and the brilliant oranges of the feral orchard lighting up the royal purple of the self seeded jacaranda tree.  I realized that I was re-enacting the scene of the story opening this essay. I was asking Spirit for the story or stories with which to conclude.  I was focusing on the questions that have engaged me for more than thirty years:  What is story? What is healing?  Why are they intrinsically related?  And what does it mean to live a story?  What does it mean to recognize the healing path revealed by Story and live accordingly?  What stories reveal the healing paths for the Earth?

Once again it seemed that hat only stories could answer these.

Sitting by their graves, I was pondering another theme in stories, as frequent as the theme of beggars and angels, the theme of animals as helpers or wisdom carriers.  I began to remember Cherokee and T’schee Wah Ya stories and how deeply connected I had been with them and with all the animals of my life.  To recognize the animals as kin has been part of my development as a person and as a healer for the earth and these times.  I believe that many of our illnesses and the harm we are doing are caused by our profound disconnection from and lack of understanding of the beings of the natural world.  Folk tales, fairy tales most often included these others and when these stories were at the center of our lives, the animals and plants were as well.  Much of our troubles come, then, from the destruction of an ecology of mind and spirit, as well as from our destruction of the earth.  Listening for the connections that still exist, both the animals we live with as well as the animals that come to instruct or enlighten us, listening for the stories that contain these connections or point to the disconnections, can lead to personal and global healing.

Sitting at the gravesite, I remembered many stories of my growing relationship with animals and my coming to understand that they are intelligent beings who can act with intent, even spiritual intent.  My first experience of this was with a squirrel in the forest twenty years ago.  She or he stopped me and we engaged in a back and forth communication for close to an hour.  It changed me entirely, especially as I was carrying the guilt of having killed a rattlesnake with an axe when I first moved to Topanga.

In 1996, I was co-editor of a groundbreaking anthology, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals.  As my contribution, I was writing the essay, Coming Home, “ to assert my recognition of animals as kin, as in the fairy tales,.  The essay was an apology to the rattle snake and as one might expect from a good story, a rattler appeared once again at the threshold.  This time I did not kill it but gratefully noted its appearance.

After, the book was published, I became aware that the arthritis I had been suffering in my right wrist had disappeared.  I am not certain exactly when my wrist healed.  Maybe it was when I told the story.  Maybe, it returned, years later, when I had no choice but to watch the death agony of a harmless gopher snake that a meter man had killed, before I could stop him, also by cutting off its head.  I watched the severed head and severed body reach toward each other in a horrific dance of longing that went on for almost an hour.  Maybe telling this story, maybe feeling compassion, will heal my wrist again.

At Cherokee’s grave, I remembered another story. It was the last time that my friend Hella, ill with cancer, telephoned me while I was teaching a writing class.  “Are you dying?” I asked her.  “I don’t know, she answered, I’ve never done this before.”

In our work together, she had described the cancer pain she was feeling as a porcupine in her gut.  Returning to this image again and again, she recovered a lost memory.  Her country house had been infested with porcupines and she had insisted that her young son, who had an aversion to violence, take a gun and shoot until it was dead.  She had never apologized to him or the porcupine for this breach of right relationship until these last days.   She and her son had had a difficult time for many years but now he was at her bedside and in the moment of her dying, she rose up and fell across his lap, a pieta in reverse.  And their lives reconciled.

The greater healing affects the individual, the community and the earth – all beings.  Many of our stories point toward that unification.  I write it again: Heal the life and then the life will heal you.  It is the wisdom that I carry since I had cancer.

In 2000 I met an elephant in the wild.  We call him the Elephant Ambassador.  I met him again, four times, four different years, at the same place on the very last day of my journey, at the same time of day.  You can read about it on my website The Language of Relationship: Engagement with Elephants, http://deenametzger.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/the-language-of-relationship-engagement-with-elephants/ and in From Grief into Vision: A Council.  The true story of meeting the Elephant Ambassador heals the world.  It establishes right relationship with the others.

Children’s stories classically involve animals but we may have forgotten that they are also calling us into right relationship with the wild.  From this perspective, the Bear’s poignant questions: “Who has been sitting in my chair, eating my porridge, sleeping in my bed, may be calling us to see how we are overrunning the habitat and taking the food of the animal world as our own.”  Goldilock’s intrusion into the bear’s territory, takes on other meanings if we look at the story from the bear’s point of view.

Sighting of animals on the land may signal healing and restoration.  Peter Nabokov, Where the Lightning Strikes, defines sacred land as a recurring place of ceremony or a location for sacred events or visions.  When the land is occupied by the original people or when it is restored, the sacred occurs again and again.  Sometimes we say, the land is storied by these repeated events.

Sharon Simone was one of several participating in a ceremony of restoration, designating the land in Topanga as a sanctuary for all beings.  As if going on a quest, the participants spent the night in silence on the land without tarp or tent while others kept a sacred fire.  Not surprisingly, the wind came up fiercely that April 1st night.  Huddled in prayer under what she calls the Guardian Tree, she saw a large animal move across the field in front of her.  It stopped to look at her and she looked back, frozen, as she was eye to eye with a large cat.  A bobcat, she reassured herself, though she saw the animal’s long tail.   She pulled a tarot card to give her bearings.  The card was mountain lion.  The card spoke to her of leadership which was very appropriate to events in her life.  However, it also revealed that the animal that she was seeing was indeed mountain lion.  It had come to her before, through scat she saw when hiking during a quest, but never in the flesh.  Now the land as sanctuary carries the story of mountain lion as totem, spirit and presence.  When we live a story, as Sharon Simone is doing, it alters us to the sacred presences around us.

The concern with body, mind and spirit extends to body, mind, spirit, community and earth in the process of becoming whole.  To repeat what feels most important here:  Healing occurs when the essential relationships that have been broken are restored.  Another way of thinking of story is that it chronicles the ways in which these essential relationships are restored as it gathers into itself all the disparate pieces.  It is possible to see that everything can be part of a story.  Seeing relationships is creating a story that heals as it restores the fragmented and diminished world–

Terri Many Feathers returned to the Red Path after years of having been disconnected.  When she returned, she devoted herself, becoming a Pipe carrier, a Sun Dancer and holding Lodge.  She also began teaching her children the sacred songs and prayers.  One day, she heard the growl of a bear on the hill outside her house and then the breath of wind as her son rushed past her toward the outside.  She was alarmed but it was too late to stop him.  Slowly and quietly, she made her way toward where she thought he had gone.  Within a few feet, she saw her son in the distance, singing the bear song, he had just learned, and the bear sitting, facing him, listening.

For the Diné (Navajo) illness occurs when the relationship with the community, the land or the spirits has been violated.

I met a Navajo professor of anthropology at a Conference on Sand paintings in Santa Fe, NM.  He had been skeptical of the old practices and decided to put his native medicine to the test. He had had a chronic skin condition that was not yielding to conventional medicine. The hand trembler (a Navajo diviner) who looked at his rashes told him he had offended the Red Ant people. When he made amends, he would be healed.  Well, the educator had offended the ant people. He had used gasoline to burn an area where they had been living in order to create a place for his sleeping bag. Chagrined, he made the required offerings. He acted for the land in ways the Ant people demanded.  (He did not speak of what he was asked to do, but certainly telling the story in academic circles to honor his people was one requirement. )  The infected rash disappeared. Right relationships were restored. A healing occurred that all the steroids in the world had not been able to accomplish.

I don’t know if he had had a Singway ceremony to cure this condition.  But if he had, it would have included various rituals that restore hozho, a term that means a combination of beauty, stability, balance, and harmony.  These might include gathering the community for the Red Ant Way ceremony, creating a sand painting of a moment in an appropriate myth, and perfectly singing the myth and saying the prayers in ceremony so that the entire perfect world implied in creation can be restored.  The story, the healing, the world become one.

We can look to Navajo wisdom to see what aspect of community, earth or spirit has been violated so that we can find the Story and the path that might set things right and bring healing as well.  In as much as our physical illnesses are increasingly the consequence of our assault on the environment, finding the Story of our illness in relationship to the earth and making amends can lead to healing beyond the personal.  Looking to Navajo wisdom, respecting and honoring the wisdom ways of the First People begins to heal the great illness, Europeans imposed upon the people and the land.

When we meet with a patient in a ReVisioning Medicine Council which brings together as peers, physicians and healers, medical people and medicine people, therapists and story tellers, we enter into what we call Indigenous Grand Rounds, listening together for the story.  We are honoring the medicine ways of the First People as way of healing conventional medical ways and their dire consequences that all of us suffer that result also from the disconnection from the land and all our relations.

The most important part of this healing work is the listening.  We have to listen between the lines, we have to listen to what was not said.  We often have to listen to many stories that gradually interpenetrate each other to reveal a single story that can point the way to healing.

Here is a Story from the September 2013 ReVisioning Medicine Council in Nashville, Tenn. When she was a very young child, a woman’s uncle committed suicide.  The event entirely overwhelmed the family and so her life.  The effect of the suicide reverberated through her childhood and then adulthood in its subtle but persistent way.  Many, many years later, when she was leading a workshop on veterans and the wars, a homeless veteran approached her.  He said, “I have killed so many.  Forgive me.”  She embraced him, held him, forgave him. He left gratified.  Many years later, she told the story to us and, to her surprise, added a detail that had not been part of the story before: just before his suicide, the uncle had returned from World War II.  In that moment, we/she grasped so many years later, that she had, in her gesture to the veteran, actually forgiven her uncle, also.  The story of her grief and his was over.  And, perhaps, a new story, arising out of forgiveness, was beginning.

Healing is rarely the reinstatement of the former condition or the status quo.  Healing brings the parts that have been broken, scattered or disassembled together again but in a new pattern that is more true to the complex nature of the world than to the simple assembly of technology.  Story also gathers distinct parts into a new configuration.  Healing invites us to be in resonance with all life.  So does Story.

Stories also bring us to the spiritual entities who inform our lives. In these stories, the Beggar, Horus, Tehuti, Terrence Green, wolf dogs, rattlesnake, porcupine, elephant, the wounded uncle veteran, arise into our lives out of the soil of the stories.

We are all descendants of indigenous wisdom communities from which we have been separated by global tragedies.  Every such community has a tradition of healing and story and their relationship.   The Navajo, as above, speak of it in their way.  The Jewish tradition speaks of it another way:

When the Divine poured itself into vessels in order to create the world, the vessels could not contain the energy and they broke.  The task of every conscious person is to gather the broken pieces of light that were scattered everywhere.  This act is called Tikkun Olam – it means mending the world.  A healing story is the vessel that gathers to itself the broken pieces of the afflicted one, of the wounded community and the broken earth as a spiritual act of healing the world.

We have to listen back into the past and into the future.  We have to listen in non-linear ways.  Origins.  Developments and variations.  Futures.

Here is a final story:  Orland Bishop is a healing presence in Los Angeles, devoted to human rights advocacy and cultural renewal with an extensive study of medicine, naturopathy, psychology and indigenous cosmologies. He is director of  Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation, pioneering approaches to urban truces and mentoring at-risk youth that combine new ideas with traditional ways of knowledge. He told this story to a ReVisioning Medicine Council in Topanga in February 2012.

As a young man, Bishop had befriended a young ex-felon, becoming his guide and teacher as the felon transformed his life entirely.  One day, it was revealed that the young man had AIDS.  Bishop stayed beside him.  At that time in his life, he was attending Charles Drew Medical School with the hope of becoming a physician.  His young friend became increasingly sick.  Bishop visited him in the hospital knowing it was his last hours.  He sat by his bed. The young man was unconscious. Bishop said good-bye and got up to leave.  As he reached the hospital room door, he heard a voice:  “Do what you came here to do.”

Bishop was startled to hear his friend’s voice so clearly. He turned around and went to the bedside.  His friend was still unconscious.  Bishop left again.  At the door, he heard the voice again, even louder and more vigorous than before.  “Do what you came here to do.”

Because three is, as you know, a magic number, the voice spoke a third time with final emphasis.  Bishop left the room and went directly to the medical school and resigned.  The work he was called to do was healing work of individual and community that goes far beyond what he could possibly do as a physician.

As I record this story hearing it yet again, having heard it and told it so many times, I hear something else.  Bishop told it to a room full of physicians. It was about becoming a healer in the way that Story and Spirit intend, which may be far beyond the conventional ways of healing.

I offer it to you at this moment.  What if that voice is speaking to each of us as we wonder how we may heal and bring healing to ourselves and others, to humans and non-humans alike – May you each do what you came here to do.

And so this final coda:

Here are words from repertory of the Traveling Jewish Theater, from their opening play Coming From a Great Distance:

“Stories move in circle.  They don’t move in straight lines.  So it helps if you listen in circles.  There are stories inside stories and stories between stories and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home.  And part of the finding is the getting lost.  And when you’re lost you start to look around and to listen.”

***

For further information about the books mentioned, Daré, and ReVisioning Medicine please see my website:

REVISIONING MEDICINE 2004 – 2014 AN INVITATION

Join Us For a ReVisioning Medicine Council foR Physicians, Psychotherapists, Health Professionals and Healers

Feb. 15-17, 2014 in Topanga, California [Los Angeles area.]

In the old days, when a people were gravely threatened, the Chiefs, Medicine People, Healers, Shamans, and Elders, the spiritual leaders of their communities, called Councils. They looked for solutions to problems by aligning themselves with the ancestors, the Natural world and their wisdom traditions. They were careful to consider dreams, signs, myths and stories. Recognizing that illness is often the consequence of having violated the earth, the community and the spirits, they searched for systemic responses to assure healing. The spirits, animals and plants, even the elementals, communed with them, extending teachings, blessings and wisdom. In times of crises, they gathered, as we are gathering now.

This is an invitation to a ReVisioning Medicine Council to be held in Topanga, California, Feb. 15-17, 2014.

A core group of physicians and healers have been consciously exploring ReVisioning Medicine since 2004.

Deena Metzger convened the first gathering after giving the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA). In that talk, she identified both medical practice and the earth as the patients we were called to heal.

  • ReVisioning Medicine is a council that honors and relies on deep dialogue between medical and health practitioners and medicine people – healers, pipe carriers, shamans, energy workers, dreamers, story tellers, sound healers, indigenous elders and practitioner – as peers. To address healing with heart, complexity and profundity, we gather a broad based healing community to inform and sustain each other.
  • In a circle of trust and camaraderie, ReVisioning allows each person to examine the gulf between the original call to be a healer and the increasing limitations and distortions imposed on medical practice by different aspects of corporate and institutional medicine, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and government.  It is so important now to have working connections that support the expertise and the heart and soul of our work. Through ReVisioning, healing teams emerge – teams that gather around patients and also improvisational, impromptu teams of and for the practitioners as well.
  • ReVisioning is an on-going creative process.  In the ten years we have been gathering we have learned that community is essential to healing, that community, itself, heals.  Those who come together for ReVisioning create a community, albeit far flung across the country, that continues to support each individual’s exploration and activity on behalf of a new medicine.
  • Based on Council principles, everyone’s unique intelligence, medicine tradition and wisdom is appreciated. ReVisioning Medicine is a spirit-based medicine, as healing is a spiritual practice for medicine people. It promotes alliances between the patient and physicians, healers, the family and the natural world. Such partnership has major implications in terms of diagnosis and treatment as does including ritual and ceremony in the healing process.
  • Medicine determines culture.   Therefore our medical practices need to change for individual, social and environmental health to improve and flourish.   Medical practice itself is one of our patients.  So we gather physicians who can carry seeds of change to create circles of support so that physicians and health practitioners can return to their original calling as true healers.
  • At ReVisioning we ask: Can medical people also be medicine people?  Can a physician serve the community in the best ways that medicine persons served theirs indigenous communities? Can we speak honestly and from the heart about the grief and vision we carry around medicine and healing? Can we examine together what we must step away from and what we want to change? Can we create medical practices and treatments that do not harm people or the environment?
  • With the hope of approaching the entire Story of an illness or affliction, and seeing how it may affect both an individual and the community, we seek to expand the narrow medical focus, looking beyond symptoms, the physical and emotional components, beyond testing, seeking many ways of knowing and a range of possibilities for treatment. In the intimate process of healing, we also learn and carry each other’s stories, what we have suffered and how we have triumphed, we recognizing the healer in ourselves and each other and support the path we are each called to walk.
  • We have each experienced, participated in or witnessed unexpected healing events; this is a safe place to explore them and consider their import. We begin to imagine on-going alliances as we become true healers in a time of history that requires such transformation.
  • ReVisioning gatherings are always small so that true exchange can occur.  While the days together are planned, they allow for spontaneity and improvisation. We always hope to spend time on the land and in silence or solitude.  When possible we sit around a fire in the old ways to access inner wisdom.
  • Someone volunteers to be the focus so that together we might discover the deep story of an illness and illuminate the coexisting paths of healing that extend beyond the “patient” to the people and the earth. Particularly attentive to and respectful of what the patient knows about his or her affliction, we listen carefully for the Story. We call this exploration Indigenous Grand Rounds.
  • Over the years, we have worked with such Volunteers who have been afflicted with various cancers, heart disease, leukemia and kidney failure (from playing in uranium tailings on the Reservation) agent orange poisoning, (Viet Nam), chemical sensitivities, and other ailments. (A good percentage of our Volunteers have been also been participants working in conventional medical fields.) We always try to focus on someone whose affliction has ramifications for the society as a whole and to see how non-conventional ways of healing might inform us and the patient in new ways.
  • The Volunteer for our February 2013 gathering was a 21-year-old woman who had suffered continuous pain since she was 18 months old, later accompanied by depression and fatigue.  We were acutely aware of the great number of young women suffering similar often undiagnosed afflictions or variously diagnosed as lyme disease, fibromyalgia, etc.  We were, and were not, surprised to observe that that the young woman’s energy increased with her willingness to explore and comment upon the field of her suffering.  She, who had because of pain insisted that she not be touched, embraced each one of us at the end. A few weeks later, her mother wrote, “M is doing great!  She is lifting weights, running a mile, doing yoga, dancing, hiking and meeting new people. She is even boxing.
  • The Volunteer for the Nashville Council, September 2013, was a woman who had suffered chronic pain in her arm for six years. We (and she) did not know when she was invited that she is one of the Great Storytellers.  In telling her story, she detailed the ways historic, religious, political and economic circumstances combine with medical and institutional abuse to exacerbate symptoms and illness.  We do not know yet if / how her physical condition will resolve, but it was confirmed that sometimes listening to the story, without pathologzing, can be the medicine.
  • We are very concerned with iatrogenisis. Too many are suffering the side-effects of prescribed medicines, and/or complications from medical or hospital treatments. One physician, using a short hand, referred to the majority of her contemporaries as practicing “pharmaceutical medicine.”
  • Physicians also become patients and endure iatrogenic events. An M.D. colleague, who was planning to attend ReVisioning, suffered acute kidney failure in 2011 from the prescribed medication for rheumatoid arthritis. Despite having insisted that rigorous research precede treatment, he became the victim of a protocol that was known to cause harm.
  • If we are free to think differently about the nature of illness and healing, as well as the relationship between common illnesses and modern life, we might seek other interventions, invent treatments that do no harm to individuals or the planet.  ReVisioning calls us back to the original call to physicians to heal and not do harm.
  • We also gather to support each other on our individual journeys.  ReVisioned Medicine is reciprocal medicine, based on relationship, collaboration, on taking care of each other.
  • During the last meeting in Topanga, a physician asked for community support. He was torn between the restrictions of corporate for-profit medicine and his heart’s call to a spirit based, indigenously informed, humanitarian medicine.  He was relieved to discuss the heartbreak of his devotion to his patients and the compromises he was forced to make.  Deena met with him in October 2013, in the city where he is currently practicing medicine.  He has formed a deep healing alliance with a medicine woman who lives in this area and also attended ReVisioning.  Far from being lonely in a new city, he is creating unexpected healing possibilities for his new patients.
  • ReVisioning Medicine seeks to bring medical wisdom together with time tested indigenous ways and contemporary vision. Cooperation between western medicine and non-western healing practices is implicit in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but these are still parallel systems operating from different perspectives. A new collaboration is essential.  Integrating the old, old medicine of Story, right relationships and respect for the communities of all beings, can bring us back into alignment and health. When medical ways and medicine ways are aligned, then community itself is healed as are many of the grave ills and illnesses of modern life.  ReVisioning Medicine brings all the ways into a unified and dynamic council; it is, we believe, the future.
  • A few days after the Nashville Council, one physician wrote: “My connection with patients was subtly different this week. I found the willingness for more risk-taking, and the directness on multiple occasions led to some remarkably beautiful sessions. There were shifts in some long- term patients, with whom I’d begun to feel resigned to the status quo. I feel very grateful to you all.“

***

ReVisioning Medicine in Topanga, February 2014 

As this will be the ten-year anniversary of ReVisioning Medicine, we expect this gathering of medical and medicine people from across the country and even the world, will deepen our understanding of how we may collaborate to create and restore a medical/medicine culture that seeds health in every interaction.

Deena Metzger will be leading the gathering again in alliance with Kjersten Gmeiner, MD, Karen Mutter, DO, and Muz, Richenel Ansano, formerly of Global Medicine Education Foundation and now with the NAAM Foundation, the National Archeological – Anthropological Museum of Curaçao.  Joining them will be Lawrie Hartt and Danelia Wild, dedicated healers and musicians who have been carrying ReVisioning Medicine since its inception and Tobi Fishel, PhD, Director of Psychological Services at the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health (VCIH) and Associate Professor in the departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Pediatrics who organized the ReVisioning Council in Nashville, September 2013.

To reserve a space and for more information, including fees, interested parties please call or write to Deena at deenametzger@verizon.net  310-455-1089 or Kjersten Gmeiner, M.D. gmeiner.k@gmail.com 206-679-5429.

***

Essays on ReVisioning Medicine and healing can be found Deena’s website:http://deenametzger.net and her blog, www.deenametzger.wordpress.com.

These include: Thinking About Healing; Illness Heals the World; On ReVisioning Medicine and the Possibilities of Miracles; The Soul of Medicine (Deena’s address to the AHMA in 2004); Illness Can Heal the World and Healing in the Community. Her books related to healing include, Tree: Essays and Pieces, a journal of surviving breast cancer, Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, and From Grief Into Vision: A Council.

Peace and Blessings,

Deena and Kjersten

BEAR MEDICINE FOR THE WORLD

The USA together with the Russian Federation have put a proposal to the CITES Conference of Parties March 2013 to uplist polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Appendix II to Appendix I. The proposal considered that this higher level of protection was needed as polar bears, in addition to being threatened in the future by the increasing loss of ice in the Arctic (summer ice has decreased by 15-20% due to climate change) also are significantly affected by trade. Indeed, the USA proposal mentions that from 2001-2010 something like 6798 polar bear products were traded, including skins, skulls, trophies, “bodies” and live animals. 79% of the trade emanates from Canada. http://www.lionaid.org/blog/2013/02/cites-travesty-part-3-polar-bears.htm

***

Adoration of the Bear by  Oleg Gurenkov

Adoration of the Bear by Oleg Gurenkov

One of the oldest myths in the world is the story of the young girl who marries the bear.  In most versions, the she is captured by the bear because she is indolent or rude and so is taken back to his people where she becomes his wife and bears (sic) him cubs, part bear, part human.  It is important to recognize that she is not raped.  She marries. Over time she matures.  A true bond is created.  Sometimes her children are bears and she loves them so. After some time, loneliness for her own people calls her back home and she returns with her sons. When they return to human settlement, they take on and keep the shape of the human.  Then, in one version or another, the brothers or her sons, set out to hunt the bear and are taught this mystery by the bear who offers himself to his human kin.

The myth is concerned, primarily with right relationship between human and other.  The necessity for such a connection is implied in the recognition of Bear people.  Bear people and human people are equals in power and the Bear people demonstrate sacred authority.  Shape shifting, bear to human, human to bear, is also is central to this myth.

What does shape shifting mean politically? We can become each other.  This reduces differences.  This implies the possibility of alliances and mutual concerns. Such understanding was fundamental to most indigenous cultures and allowed for ecologically balanced and environmentally sane survival tactics.  Hunting is balanced and sacred wisdom is a gift from the animal to the human.

However the history of Western culture is one of increasing alienation from the natural world. Disrespect has led us to the degradation of the environment. It has led to the crisis we find ourselves in.  The increasing extinction of species leads, if things continue in this way, to our own extinction as well.

Right relationship and respect continues as a theme in the fairy tale, The Three Bears.  Here there is no recognition of the ‘other’ by the human girl.  Goldilocks does not recognize that she is in a foreign terrain and needs to act with respect. She is even more naïve and immature than the girl in the old myth,  Goldilocks assumes she has a right to what belongs to the bear. No bond of recognition or connection occurs between human and animal.  The Three Bears marks the development of disconnection between the species.  This is implied by the bears losing their bearness and living in a human habitat.  This is not shape shifting; this is colonization.

Beauty and the Beast is another variation on the same theme.  Beauty goes to live with the Beast (read Bear.) Then loneliness, for her own people, also calls her home.  However, love has been awakened and she returns to the Bea( r)st.  This is where the story shifts.  The Bea( r)st turns into a man.  The shamanic skill of shapeshifting is replaced by enchantment, a conversion by evil means.  A profound way of knowing is demonized, a common trend in Western culture.

There is a Cherokee Bear legend about the Ani Tsaguhi.  http:www.firstpeople us/.  A young man from this clan makes his way more and more frequently to the mountains.  After a while his parents notice that the young man is growing long brown hair.  He is transforming and wants to live away from the people.  His parents decide to follow and live where he lives.

The clan elders try to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home. They send messengers who are “surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, ‘We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called Yonv(a) (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always.’ Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.”

In this story, the bears will live always.  The humans shape shift into bears and the bears teach the sacred songs, reveal the mysteries, so that the hunters will always have good fortune.

In a similar Cherokee story, told to me last month, by Cherokee elder Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, a young man wants to join the Buffalo people but can’t until he proves that he walks among them with great respect.

The old myths teach the good ways (Native American) or right relationship (Buddhist.) They present the political principles through which we are to govern ourselves and our habitats.

How far we have come from this: later Western stories reflect our ignorance and disregard.  The commentary after the myth on the Indigenous People’s Literature site is “Aho.  http://indians.org/indigenous-peoples-literature.html. We are all related.”  This is the essential principal from which good governance develops.

***

In early 2013, master storyteller and dear old friend, Diane Wolkstein, asked me to write an essay for a section of StoryTelling Magazine, http://www.storynet.org/magazine.html. which she was guest editing with Loren Neimi on the Politics of Story.  When Diane died suddenly while researching her next story project on the Monkey King in Taiwan, Neimi continued with the section. BEAR MEDICINE FOR THE WORLD was published in Volume 25, Issue 2, June-July 2013: Remembering Diane Wolkstein.  It broke my heart and eased my heart to be with Diane at the end having known and loved her for over thirty years.

Realities Enter Our Lives: Fukushima and the Future

Every morning when I awaken and see the amber light on the old dying elm and the vigorous eucalyptus, the one that bled crimson sap one season I think, ‘Beauty is still here.’  Relief and gratitude.  Life as I have been living it – shall I call it – life as usual – goes on.

I can meet the day.  I determine to go on living my life as well as I can.  The early morning light is beautiful as it was yesterday.  Today will be hot again, but the nights are cool and clear.  We are meant to sit under the stars. 

Life as usual, what is it?

At this momentarily quiet moment, it is: Pray, eat, write, work, water, feed (the wild), dog, walk, read, family, friends, solitude, sleep. Again and again.

But also at this hour and every hour, deadly radiation – 300 tons of toxic water per day – is leaking from the storage tanks in Fukushima.[1]

“The water from the leaking tank is so heavily contaminated with strontium-90, cesium-137, and other radioactive substances that a person standing less than two feet away would receive, in an hour’s time, a radiation dose equivalent to five times the acceptable exposure for nuclear workers,” Reuters reported.

TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company has finally admitted what we, and they, have known from the beginning: they do not have the means or the knowledge to remedy the situation.

An hour later, the light is stark and will remain so all day.

After twenty-seven years, I am divorced.  The reality of this great loss enters my heart.  I did not expect to have to re-imagine and rebuild my life at this age.  One prepares for the death of a life partner, but divorce is an unnatural death blow to the heart.  After divorce, I have to assess what life is, so I can reconstruct a pattern that is a life.  The essentials are there: Pray, eat, write, work, water, feed (the wild), dog, walk, read, family, friends, lots of solitude, sleep.  Now Fukushima is here.  Drone, and dissonance.  It adds another dimension to the question: How does one go on?  How am I to live?

These are not the questions I expected to ask at this time in my life.  But now I must ask them.  The personal and the global coincide.  Fukushima, only one of the myriad horrific consequences of the ways we are living our lives.  How do we go on?  How are we to live?

1985.  A dear friend died.  I was inconsolable.  Driving on the freeway one gray morning, a disembodied voice said, “Forgive those who have left early.  Who could not stay to witness the end.”

I protested that I was also unwilling to stay to witness the end, but I would stay as long as I saw that I might make a difference.  I was not fifty yet.  Too young to know that one doesn’t win when trying to bargain with the spirits; I thought I had made a deal:  I would stay. We would all work to change consciousness and there would be no end to Creation.

I was certain or I was determined: The human could not (would not) overcome the Holy.

Last night, August 24th, I was anguished about Fukushima, climate change and the Rim Fire “swallowing everything in its path.” as it approached Yosemite . My own personal pain and unexpected loneliness, miniscule and irrelevant before the anguish of the earth. Losing a soul mate is not the same as losing a planet, even though it raises similar questions about how to live and what has meaning.

“A raging California wildfire has grown to 200 square miles and is so large and burning with such force that it is creating its own weather patterns, making it hard to predict where it will move,” fire officials said. “As the smoke column builds up it breaks down and collapses inside of itself, sending downdrafts and gusts that can go in any direction,”

She is really angry” a Native American friend says.  “No telling what She will do.”

I went to bed asking for wisdom, which only rarely comes to me in dreams.

I dreamed a friend has decided to commit suicide.  Her husband and I are accompanying her as witnesses.  We are facing her as we sit on the ends of a small couch, a large space between us.  She is speaking to us but she is speaking in absolute silence.  She is standing, restless, as she reveals her decision.  She does not have to explain.  We know.  We understand.   Sometimes my friend suffers what the world is suffering in her body.  We see that she cannot bear the pain.

My friend is living in a neighborhood where violence, always a constant, has suddenly escalated.  She is aware that the escalation in her neighborhood is an analogue of the global escalation.  She is not willing to respond personally without also considering the global dilemma.  So she speaks, without words, of the local incidents, the murders and break-ins, and the parallel events in our country, and around the world.

The communication between us is entirely silent and precise. We could elaborate, but, in the dream, we are committed to short hand:

She is thinking of the violence in her city, the violence in our country, the violence in the world.  Personal violence, national violence, global violence.  Murder, massacre, terrorism, war.

I am thinking of climate change, global warming, nuclear accidents, oil spills, extinction.

She is considering suicide.  We are immersed in ecocide.  We are each holding everything the other one is holding.

She and I have declared our houses as sanctuaries for the community of human and non-human beings.  Now sanctuary is threatened.  Sanctuary , a quality of earth, is threatened everywhere.  In the dream, the reality of the loss enters her heart.

At first, neither her husband nor I interfere.  It is, after all, her life.  We know her anguish.  But then it seems, I do question her decision and she falters.  She cannot stand her ground about suicide.  It seems she decides to live.  Or rather, she decides not to take her own life.  In the dream, I am now responsible to her for the unbearable pain she will have to bear.

She will ask the question:  How shall I live?  She will ask that even if there are no remedies that she knows.  No remedies for her pain.  No remedies for the disasters the world is facing.

I am trying to follow the wisdom and direction of the dream.

On August 23d, NPR played an interview with climate scientist Judith Curry, who in 2005 predicted that hurricanes were going to get more severe due to climate change.  She also did diplomatic work behalf of the IPPC, the United Nations, International Panel on Climate Change.  This spring, she testified  to a house subcommittee that “If all other things remain equal, it’s clear that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will warm the planet, but all other things may not remain equal.”  She didn’t feel certain about the outcome and so she recommended taking no action.  “I have six nieces and nephews who have recently graduated from college,” she says. “Not easy finding jobs in this economy. Are we going to jeopardize their economic future and they may not even care?”

Leaked material from the soon to be published IPPC 5th Assessment Report declares that scientists hold humans 95% responsible for climate change.  Until we are certain of this, do we indulge business as usual for the imagined economic benefit of our relatives without considering all the other beings, human and non-human on the earth?

Native Americans have an answer to this.  In Lakota, it is mitakye oyasin, all my relations.  Ideas are not abstractions.  Embedded in culture, they, like the force that turns sunflowers always toward the sun, magnetize and focus our energies in particular directions.  These two words, alone reveal the great gap between a culture that lives for a technology that created Fukushima and a culture that lives through a reverent love of the earth.

As it happens, I am writing a novel , A Rain of Night Birds, about an atmospheric scientist.  The novel was ‘given” to me.  I would never have conceived of it, nor could I have developed it, by myself.   I have been writing it for two and a half years, faithful to whatever is given me, listening, listening, listening, deeply involved and yet not knowing.  I have given the summer to it and in turn I have been guided in ways that bring me to my knees.

Because of a series of accidents and complications, I was seated in my car and turned on the radio, just as the interview with Judith Curry aired.  Had this been an ordinary day or hour, I would not have heard her.

These are the last days of the writing retreat.  When the novel came to me, I knew no more about climate science than the average well educated citizen.  Frustrated with trying to write intelligently about  characters whose work and knowledge are central to the story while I do not share their understanding, I set out to query several scientists for a reading list of books I could understand without having the math background necessary for environmental sciences..  Years ago I had managed to learn what was necessary to bring Daniela Stonebrook Blue, an astrophysicist in my novel, The Other Hand, to life.  The research had taken a year or two, but afterwards I could write in the language of the stars.  Maybe I still have a year or two to learn enough of the environmental sciences to satisfy the integrity of my characters.  Within a few hours, and before I wrote to anyone, a reading list appeared with articles I could understand that cover the entire field: “Welcome to Resources in Atmospheric Sciences.”  Welcome, the title says.  Welcome!

I do not generally associate technology and magic but I see that the spirits use any means necessary to communicate with us in ways that we can accept.  They use dreams and they use Google.  The combination is breathtaking.   And a little humorous.

Earlier in the week, other strange circumstances connected me with the IPPC 4th Assessment Report.  I had never read it.  A brief section startled me: The Role of Local and Indigenous Knowledge in Adaptation and Sustainability Research.[2] “Research on indigenous environmental knowledge has been undertaken in many countries, often in the context of understanding local oral histories and cultural attachment to place. A survey of research … outline the many technical and social issues related to the intersection of different knowledge systems, and the challenge of linking the scales and contexts associated with these forms of knowledge. With the increased interest in climate change and global environmental change, recent studies have emerged that explore how indigenous knowledge can become part of a shared learning effort to address climate-change impacts and adaptation, and its links with sustainability.”

How did this report come to me?  The novel called it forth.  The inner world and the outer world, experience and the imagination, life and spirit, they are always in resonant exchange.  This report came to me because its material is central to the novel.  Every environmental /earth scientist will read the Assessment, so will the characters in my book.  But perhaps, the Assessment came so that I, as a citizen, will read it.  So that it can be brought to your attention here.  So that you , and I, will learn something of what we are facing AND that spirit exists.  Both and together.

I do not know how to restore the earth any more than I know how to write this book.  But I do know that it is necessary to take signs seriously and listen deeply.  This is one of my commitments to these times.

And so the dream.  I am trying to follow the meaning and implication of the dream.  In a strange way, Judith Curry is part of the dream.  As so are the characters in the novel I am writing.  Environmental scientists.  Earth scientists.  How do they bear it?  How do they live given what they know?

Often dreams pose questions rather than answering them.  Dreams focus our attention in new ways.  Here are some questions the dream may be asking:

How do we live if there are no known remedies?

Are there changes we are being called to make whether or not we know in advance whether anything will make a difference?

What might it mean to give up life as usual to actively face and meet these grief times?

How do we shift, if we don’t know what to do?

At least for this moment, let us agree.  Let us not live life as usual.  Let us not live  business as usual. Let us not allow life, our lives, to be beholden to commercially designed, media driven, technologically determined life style.

How, then, will we live?  How will we live each moment with integrity?

I had breast cancer in 1977.  I sought out the life force, as a healing strategy, in the face of threat.  In 1997, I wrote a journal of healing, Tree.[3]  In it, I named the life force, Toots.  It was a proclamation. The question I asked then:  What are the forces in me that say Die and what are the forces in me that say, Live?

The answers were so easy then.  So personal.  I had to change my life and I did it.  At that time, a dream that alerted me that I had cancer, instructed me to step out silence.  To speak. That was one way.  I was a feminist; I understood how essential this was.

That dream in 1976  centered on fascism.  It was set in Chile under Pinochet.  It featured the Dina, the Chilean secret police, and a Nazi matron from Dachau who intended to use torture to silence me.

Today, as I remember the dream, and our need to identify our real lives, Daniel Ellsberg declares “”We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now,” Ellsberg told The Huffington Post Wednesday.[4] “And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It’s worth a person’s life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile — it’s worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country.”

In my dream of August 24th, 2013, my friend and I speak silently of everything that is bringing us to grief.  Somewhere in our hidden conversation, teaching us how to live in such times, are Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

Here is another question inspired by the dream and the gravity of this time:  If we have the courage and capacity to consider everything that is threatening us at once, might there be responses that can help us meet everything at once?

What would it mean to hold and consider everything at once?  In the dream, my friend wants to die because she cannot bear it but later it seems she capitulates to the need to live and bear everything.  What is everything?  We each have our own list:

It is probably divided between the deliberate killing and the concomitant dying.   The wars we are waging and the victims we have become of those wars.

(Please stay with me, with us.  If you’ve come so far, please read this list, create your own and stay present to it.)

The development, sale and use of weaponry and the victims of these weapons..  Nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear power.  Hiroshima / Nagasaki and Chernobyl /Fukushima.  Syria and the new potential for horrific war sparked by the U..S. Arms sales and rapes and murders.  Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Drones., Surveillance, poverty and prisons.  Sexual abuse, domestic violence, torture. Home foreclosures and city bankruptcies.  Hurricanes, tornados, and fire storms.  Monsanto, Keystone XL pipe lines, fracking, drilling, mountain top removal, coal,  and mining,   The melting glaciers, the release of methane from permafrost, the rise in carbon dioxide levels, the holes in the ozone layers, the rise of seas, the deaths of the polar bears …  Our maddened and suffering children.  All our losses and disconnections.

We murder and we die.  This is who we have become – murderers and victims, both and at once. “I have become death, “Oppenheimer declared.  That recognition did not save us.

Here is the challenge – for me and for us:  If we have the courage and capacity to consider everything that is threatening us at once, and every way we are living that supports it, might we find ways that can truly help us meet everything at once?

And what if no answers come that guide us to know what to do?  What if there are no remedies?  How will we live our lives?

So often, I come to writing thinking that there is something new and urgent that I must set down.  And then, I find myself, as at this moment, at the same insight.  But once again, with urgency.  Perhaps that is what writers and artists do.  We are given an essential form or insight that is ours to continuously examine and perfect.

Remember the classic story of the renowned Japanese carver who had saved a very particular log.  Being more than eighty, he told a friend, that after a lifetime of study, he  thought he might be ready to begin to carve.

Mitakye oyasin as a response, as a standard, meets everything at once.

The repeating, on-going, continuous, relentless, insistent understanding:  if we change out lives, if we step back entirely from those forms and habits that directly, if inadvertently, lead to Fukushima or any of the horrors we faced above, then … then … we still might save Creation.  Everyday, the need to change and the radical nature of the change gets greater and more urgent.  And even so, if there are no carbon emissions for the next year, the seas will not freeze over as before in a year or two.  But we do not know what might result from such a united and complete offering to Spirit.

Judith Curry wouldn’t speculate on global warming because she can’t calculate all the factors.  Or perhaps, she hit despair. When we hit despair, we go on with life as usual, in its most diminished form.  We continue to insist on what we, individually need and what we individually want.

Unlike Judith Curry and like all the contributors to the IPPC 5th Assessment, we can assume that global warming will get worse and we are responsible.  Therefore …

Just after 9/11/2001, I wrote in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing (Hand to Hand):

“At the time when the planes hit, seven of us … were engaged in fierce ritual work.

“Two stories intersected in that moment: a story streaming toward destruction and a story streaming toward healing.”

The path toward destruction has gained momentum.  Fukushima may mean that destruction is imminent.  And yet …

I don’t know what is at the end of that last sentence.  I will let you finish it.  But the dream implies there are right responses even if we do not know them.  And that we are to choose life.  I am asking myself and all of us, what does it mean to choose life?

Are we willing to change our ways, to live in what Native Americans call the good ways, to step away from what leads to the tragedies we have each listed, even if, ultimately, it may not save our lives?  Are we willing to make those radical offerings?

At the end of When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams writes: “An albatross on Midway Atoll, dead and decomposing, is now a nest of feathers harboring plastic from the Pacific gyre of garbage swirling in the sea.  We can kneel in horror and beg forgiveness. Or we can turn away.  But the albatross crying overhead, buoyed up by the breeze, is now suspended in air by her vast bridge of wings.  She is the one who beckons us to respond.”

Terry learns that she has a tumor close to the language center of her brain.  Surgery might threaten her understanding or her speech.  Doctors giving second opinions “all asked the same question: ‘How well do you live with uncertainty?’

“’What else is there?’” she said.

The friend from the dream and I have just had a conversation.  “I have made the pledge to live twice,” she said.

“I have as well,” I answered.  “But I made it conditional upon reversing the terrible disorder of things. Perhaps the dream calls me to make the pledge unconditionally.”  As I write these words, I wonder if this is the offering?

My friend says, “You will not be alone if you choose life. We will help each other bear it.”

***

Since I was young, I have been told that we can’t go back to the way it was.  (Also that this way is better –  that is not worth bothering to refute.)  Don’t be a Luddite, I was advised – or warned.

This is the other theme explored here:  Everyone of us comes from an indigenous culture. That means we all come from people who knew the spirits, loved and interconnected with the earth and all its beings.  It means we have the love of the earth, beauty, art, song, healing, vision within us.  It means we have access to deep peace and respect for all beings.  It means that we can all follow the African way of Sankofa, the mythical bird that flies forward by looking back.

It means we can go back.  it means that, as in the dream, we can falter in our determination to kill ourselves and destroy all life.  It means we can gather the wisdom we need to live real lives.  It means we can be freed from what has taken us over. It means we do not have to continue on this death march of our own invention.

When Fukushima first exploded, I journeyed to Her, to the one who I called the Great Earth Sea Mother.  I didn’t dare do this in what is called real time, but I could do it through the ways that Spirit has given us to reach across from one realm to another.  I wanted to comfort Her of course.  She did not allow me to ease my heart that way.  “Be with me,” she said.  So I was as extensively as I was able.  Imagine then, the pain of the on-going nuclear reaction within her, the unimaginable fire, the continuous, relentless agony.

We don’t know how to decontaminate the waters.  We don’t know how to ease her pain.  A hundred years estimated to repair the nuclear facility?  How many years until the radiation is spent?

But we also don’t know what will be possible if we go back to the original wisdom and live accordingly.  I don’t think any indigenous people on the planet have the intention of  saving  us.  But living in the old ways, that they have so carefully and respectfully preserved, may save the earth.

Mitakye Oyasin.

A Gift to You for Earth Day

THE ORCHARD IS FERAL

I’ve let the orchard go feral.

We offer it nothing but water

And take nothing,

But leave it to the bees

Who sing among the blossoms,

And to the squirrels who gather

The oranges and grapefruits

That fall and scatter.

The lemons and oranges

Have mated on their own

And maybe they will remain coupled

Or maybe they will sort themselves out

To their own original natures.

 

This time the old elm is dying.

A very few branches have leaves.

There will be none next year

Except for the sapling that is streaking

Toward the sky.  I thought I might die

With the elm, and wonder if its progeny

Means a new birth for me.  It is, after all,

From the old root.

 

Everything must have its way.

The oak that planted itself

Created its own field of being,

So the others accommodate

To its shady dominance.

The creatures eat

But they do not slaughter.

The old, old ways insist

That the animals can teach us.

The difference between their natural order

And our domination.

 

The plumbago expands between

The eucalyptus that plant themselves,

Increasingly at the border, providing

Shelter for the squirrels and a thrasher,

Occasional quail and a flock of brown birds

Who prefer to remain anonymous.

We are advised not to plant these trees

As they will burn hot and fast

When the great fires comes. But

It is their will to abide here,

And who am I to deny them their home?

They are no more immigrant than I

And also, at this time, they are

Calling the cools winds to them,

The heat of the neighboring meadow

Entirely dispelled by their fluttering arms.

And, you must understand that

We are in a conversation about

What it will take for them

To call down the rain -

But only for the frogs

And the non-human creatures -

From this desert blue sky.

– Deena Metzger April 20, 2013

***

PLEASE SEE AND USE MY NEW WEBSITE — http://deenametzger.net

SOLSTICE 2012: MYTH AND POSSIBILITY

December 21, 2012 — Many of us were involved in a myth that could carry us into consciousness and bring healing and restoration to our besieged and suffering planet. There were many opportunities for exploitation, obfuscation and fear mongering around the date, and most of them, if not all, were utilized. But those who had studied the myth and its archeological foundation knew, and we hope the others see by now, that whatever was or was not happening on that date would not lead to planetary or galactic disaster. Rather we were witness to and participating in the unfolding of a mythic story derived from ancient consciousness. The source was Maya in this instance. It is important that so many people across the earth were willing to grant foresight to an ancient people. To honor the myth was also to honor their culture and knowledge and make amends for hundreds of years of brutal oppression, followed in the most recent years by patterns of chilling genocide. It was also to begin a process of return to earth-centered sanity that has eluded the dominant culture for hundreds if not thousands of years.

One way of understanding myth is as a living story, a vital pattern, enacted on individuals and cultures, again and again, in different forms, but not, usually, literally. In the movement from 2012 to 2013, we entered in the energy and vitality of one cycle ending and another beginning. The classic myth of the celestial journey of navigating the Sacred Road along the Milky Way was coming into prominence and heralded possibility not destruction. People across the world used the myth/date as a common opportunity to work toward changing their lives and, as importantly, their life styles. The mythic resonance was an opportunity for a global conversation, a council of sorts: What will it take to initiate personal, cultural and political transformation? The media and different governing bodies feared (and stirred) people’s fears of imminent destruction. But many of us were, and continue to be, alarmed about the somewhat slower (not by galactic time) but relentless trajectory toward extinction unless the human population on the planet changes its ways.

Changing its ways means stepping out of the materialistic, power driven, violent dominant culture. The date, its association with the end of a cycle, did not imply apocalypse; the date could auger new beginnings.

John Major Jenkins articulated the myth this way: The alignment from the perspective of earth, of the sun with the galactic center, the dark rift in the Milky Way, is a story of the birth of First Father (the Sun) from the womb of First Mother, (the dark rift or the black hole from which the galaxy, itself, was born.) The birth of First Father augers the beginning of a new World age. “We are living today in the Mayan end times. The Great Cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on the winter solstice of 2012 A.D. Following Mayan concepts of cyclic time and World Age transitions, this is as much about beginnings as endings. In fact, it was considered by the ancient Maya to signify the Creation of a new World Age.” (Jenkins: Thesis and Mayan Cosmogenisis.”)

For the Maya, this journey across Xibalba, is the journey from the birth canal, the journey of life to death, the way or journey of spiritual transformation central to each person’s life.

My dear friend, Guatemalan writer and human rights activist, Victor Perera,wrote about it this way: “ … the fabled twins of the Popul Vuh, Hunahpu and Xbalanqaué [descended] in Xibalba to defeat the Lords of death [in] as seminal an event in the Maya cosmology as Mose’s ascent of Sinai is to Western Religion.”

And these lines from my novel, La Negra y Blanca: “Something else is entering that is neither death nor eternity. We have no name for what it is. The Maya had a word for it. Their word is Xibalba. Awe. The place of Awe. The entrance to this world has no door. What it has is an opening in the heart.”

These stories are not about the accuracy of astronomy, though they could be, but about the essence of mythology, the way the great stories recur in, frame and guide our individual and collective spiritual lives. At a time of such tragic global descent into violence and environmental destruction, the possibility that an ancient, indigenous myth might help us emerge into a new time of restoration is welcome and most gratifying.

It is striking and important that this mythic assistance comes from an ancient, indigenous civilization, one that predates the Conquest. Its origins underscore a growing understanding that challenges the poisonous thoughts and merciless actions of the European Conquest on both hemispheres, North and South, and all instances of colonization and imperialism, everywhere on the planet, in the last two thousand plus years. Increasingly and everywhere, the old, old cultures are being honored and attempts made to recover, record and restore their teachings. It may not be appropriate to practice their rites and rituals, that is to subsume or co-opt them, but it is essential for planetary survival that we study and learn their wisdom and live accordingly.

What we now call the old, old ways, the ancient and indigenous cultures, the tribal ways, the earth and spirit centered ways of life were profound and honorable. When we went to war against the original peoples of the land, we went to war against the sacred; banality, alienation and the pain of modern life are what we have reaped. Restoration calls us to retreat from the criminal trinity of the military, merchant and Christian missionary structures of the 4th world toward a spirit centered and earth centered 5th world. The great wisdom of the original people of North America, is contained in the simple but profound phrase, mitakye oyasin, All Our Relations.

Idle No More is just one example of the strategic relationship between honoring indigenous rights and protecting and sustaining the entire earth and the future – all actions considering, at the least, the next seven generations of ALL beings.

When I was young, everyone asserted that we should not and could not refuse the developing technology. We were told that we must not become Luddites, that we could not go back to the old, old ways, that progress was good, necessary and inevitable. Those who were unwilling to participate and serve it, would be left behind, exiled, ostracized, or as we learned from history, destroyed in a thousand different cruel ways.

This is no longer a truism. 2013 may not be a carte blanche to all technology. We may be entering a time of choice. Perhaps we will become free to avoid the dangers of being immersed in fields of microwaves, radiation, toxins. Perhaps we will give priority to our concerns about the fate of our autistic, depressed and emotionally disturbed children before we sign on to the environmentally and emotionally toxic world we have been told we must accept. Refusing genetically modified foods, the Keystone pipeline, a gun culture, drones, increasing surveillance and smart meters develop out of the same ethical concerns, out of a passion for loving kindness. 2013 can be the opening of a passageway from the world of death, the inanimate, the technological, the object, to a vital, animated and inspirited universe. Perhaps Solstice 2012 was a door.

December 21, 2012. People everywhere on the planet marked the date. In Topanga, we held a three day Solstice observation that was coordinated with other observations across the hemisphere. We entered into meditation, council, story and dream telling. We walked the land. We set up tents in the four directions, so individuals could meditate on and for the land despite the cold, rain and wind. We sat in silence. Some of us fasted. We entered ritual space and did ceremony. We ate simply and communally. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed.

It’s been seven weeks since the 2012 Solstice. It is time to reflect on our time together and what, if anything, has come to be as a consequence of that ritual experience. Did something, anything come to be? Are we altered? Are we altared? Might a new cycle have begun, at least for some of us? Enough to provoke a shift for all of us in time?

Seven weeks is hardly long enough to truly observe and consider what might be emerging for any of us, or for the collective, from the long time of preparation and the three days that some of us spent transiting, we hope from one world toward another. Seven weeks is hardly long enough to note and confirm a transition from one way of thinking to another, tiptoeing out of the 4th world and stepping toward the 5th world. Might we consider that the beginning of change occurred even though the date was preceded by the Newtown massacre, by further revelations about rendition, torture, drones, by war, more war and more war? Might we hold firm to the possibility of a shift despite more and more revelations of the on-going destruction of the environment and the intensification of the suffering of animals and other living beings.

Perhaps the three days in between are just symbols of the lifetimes it takes to transform from one state of being to another. Perhaps we are on the border or in between, in the Bardo, in the dark river, in the chrysalis, in the womb or in the birth canal, in the nowhere or the no place, in the ending or the beginning. And though we cannot assert yet, that we may as a species have come to a point of return to goodness, it is still important to reflect on possibility, on those three days, and on the time that has intervened. Where have we been taken?

This was the structure of the three days in Topanga: December 20th: Deep Reckoning and Introspection. Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World. December 21st: Alignment with the heart of the universe. Transformation December 22nd: Invoking and honoring Spirit. Meeting the land and yielding to the ways of the natural world. We couldn’t look toward the future until we took responsibility for the past. The first steps were not going to be easy.

“Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World” required awareness of the tragic patterns of our time, the activities and values that reinforce them, the fear and consequent violence that has characterized these last several hundred years. Despite the security of familiar patterns, despite thinking there are no other options, we have to be willing to step away. Actually, it was to interfere in these tragic patterns that we had prepared for months, even years, for this moment. Only by beginning the process of disengagement, could we align with the heart of the universe. Removing the obstacles, we were able to bare our hearts. Having bared our hearts, we created a habitat for Spirit and gained the guidance and intelligence needed to walk on the earth in the right ways.

We began drumming at 12 noon on December 20th. Brian and Keith Davies brought their djembes and their drumming, sometimes together, sometimes spelling each other, often drumming with others, and continued until 4:30 am on December 21st. Earleir, when we had come up in procession with drums from the yurt at 11 pm, where we had been sitting in council, we found Jonny Nadlman drumming at the fire. He continued without stop, entranced, until after the solstice moment. (The next evening he, his wife, Carrie Dinow and their very young daughter, Ruby, attended council and helped prepare and serve dinner. And so community coheres.)

At 3:15 am, after sitting in ceremony, meditation, council, ritual space for fifteen hours, after keeping the drumbeat for same time, “To send a strong message to Spirit that we are here and sincere in our intentions,” we came to the sacred fire we had consecrated together and made offerings to the Heart of the Universe with which we hoped to be aligned.

When Native American people give a gift of respect, such as tobacco, they often say – four times – “From my heart to your heart.” We were entering, we hoped, into such a connection. “From our hearts to your heart, Great Mother of all Life.” It did not matter if the alignment was a physical reality. It mattered that we were responding as if it were true, as if there were a direct line between the earth, the sun, and the Womb or Heart of Universe. Our sincerity mattered; we were determined to try to stay in such symbolic and spiritual alignment for the rest of our lives.

A most memorable moment was when Lone Eagle, an elder in the Lakota Sioux tradition, spoke of what it means to offer oneself to the Sun Dance on behalf of the people. He is an old maner. He is not well. He often needs a walking stick or assistance. But he is still dancing at the Sun Dance, no matter the blistering sun or his own difficulties. He has and continues to give his flesh. What he and his wife, Morning Dove want more than anything is to walk the Red Path and to live in the right ways.

Offerings: Sound healer, dream tracker, Danelia Wild committed to live absolutely by an offering she had been moving toward for several years. She offered to live by all my relations, by right relationship, no matter what. Binding oneself with such a pledge, is a moral, ethical and spiritual act. It implies a shift to we from I. It refuses dominance and calls forth alliance. It requires constant scrutiny and devotion. It is not a new year’s resolution, quickly forgotten. Speaking about this with Danelia, two days ago, I heard her voice crack with emotion. The depth of her intention still with her.

The Hebrew tradition has language for such an act: “D’vay kut – I bind myself to You.” A pledge between self and the Divine is far more serious than a promise to oneself or another human being. Meeting the Heart of the Universe, hoping to shift one’s self on behalf of a future for all life, carries such solemnity, such significance, and carries joy. The joy of releasing ourselves to our best selves. The joy, even delight, that the slightest shift here makes a great difference there. That the slightest shift now will make a great difference then. The joy of living according to our soul’s wisdom. The joy of the possibility that our lives might really make a difference.

Change doesn’t happen in an instant. It isn’t mechanical. It arises out of a shift in consciousness which leads to different responses and reflexes, to different circumstances – then, suddenly, one is living differently and then we are living differently. With the hope that this might occur – the slightest consistent shift in thousands of individuals creating an enormous difference – people entered meditation or gathered, not concerned with the end of the world, but rather with the possibilities of new beginnings.

As I am editing this piece, Julie Ariola calls. “Everything has changed since the Solstice,” she said. “The patterns of 68 years have to change. I have been given a ‘redo.’ How often does that happen?” We are all called to such changes,” I say, “Every change you make is for all of us. Every success you have, shows us that we can do it as a species.”

Surely, we have all noticed differences in thinking, new assumptions, postulations, new values in the last years, weeks and days. An elegant austerity or frugality replacing conspicuous consumption and flagrant consumerism. Downsizing everywhere. The value of paying for services instead of things. Exchanges.

Simple value shifts. Wearing a heavier sweater in the house, turning down the thermostat to preserve cherished resources. Increasing activity against Keystone, against further oil drilling, against coal, against nuclear plants, against topping mountains and being willing to do without accordingly. Publicly and frequently valuing all the creatures and beings of the earth. Increasingly refusing to see other human and non-human beings as commodities. Using paper carefully, planting trees whenever possible, often as gifts, and, yes, talking to them, offering prayers. Portioning one’s use of water, fuel, even food. Blessing food before eating as a sincere rite of community, setting out spirit plates, making offerings, living reciprocally, valuing relationships, praising and protecting the earth increasingly – a subtly arising consciousness occurring globally.

But there is so much more to leaving the dominant culture, or stepping out of the 4th world than simply limiting or diminishing the familiar ways. Thinking of all our relations creates a new and spontaneous kindness. Once you are in a dialogue with the invisibles, once your life becomes an offering instead of acquisition, everything changes. On Sunday night, at the conclusion of the event, we learned that Kathryn (Mama) Farmer had cut off all her hair in order to express her devotion.

My own offering to the fire was to be even more conscientious about choosing Spirit whenever I discerned the call. No exceptions. This leads to different goals, ambitions, passions, concerns. To live by dream, by divination, intuition, checking and rechecking to be sure I am not being bamboozled by my own desires, and then meeting whatever Spirit calls me to.

I’d had a dream in 2010, which I have written about before, in which I was given a year to become an indigenous woman. I attended that dream for a year, asking each day and at each critical moment, how a native elder might respond, how an indigenous elder would understand a situation, what values needed to be honored, what action needed to be taken to align with indigenous wisdom, what served the land, the community, the future, also water, fire, air and earth. Over time, as you might imagine, I changed. Dominant values fell away, indigenous wisdom inserted itself. Soon I began to see that my reflexes were different. After Solstice, even my dreams have changed. Increasingly, they are about the presence of spirits. I move toward Spirit and Spirit confirms its existence. So I feel encouraged. Encouraged for all of us and the future.

Admittedly, I don’t know how to meet these times. I don’t know how to change the trajectories. I don’t know how to meet a world in which murder, cruelty, rape, assassination, torture and the killing of innocents by armies have become commonplace. But I believe that Spirit knows that there are ways. And I believe that Spirit is able and willing to guide us, if we listen. I do believe this. It is the basis of my hope.

Living by Spirit isn’t always easy, even on the small and personal level. After Cherokee’s sudden death a year ago, I had to yield to repeated divinations that denied me any one of several four-legged companions who seemed perfect in every way. 2012 was for me the year of being broken hearted. It was a year of losses of all kind as it was for so many I know. Month by month, loneliness increased and yet the divinations remain consistent: No! Two weeks ago, I was propelled out of my chair to check the internet for Husky rescues and found a site I had never seen before. The next day, with the confirming divination, I brought Cheyenne home. He is the perfect companion. This is, undoubtedly, his home and community. Beautiful but soaked in urine from the less than adequate conditions, he called out across time and distance to bring him home. His need – not mine alone. All our relations.

Back to the Solstice Daré. Several dreams were at the core of the event. We heard them on Thursday and listened to them again on Saturday. Ending war in ourselves and in the world was central to our concerns, particularly after Sandy Hook Elementary School; the dreams spoke to our distress. We had come together so that the group energy would help us understand the dangerous conditions of our time, so we could disengage and, together, find and commit ourselves to pragmatic life-giving forms. We couldn’t be certain in advance that it would be possible to realize our prayers and intentions through council and ceremonial work, but by Saturday night, many of us, believed that we had actually crossed over, that we were altered (because altared) and so would be living differently.

After fifteen hours of continuous drumming – “to give a strong signal to Spirit” – it began to feel as if the signal had been received and we were on different paths from the ones we had been walking before. Susan Hammond told a dream of harming children and helping them. A mother, a grandmother and a former teacher, she was devastated by the reflection that she had done harm. After Newtown, all of us were distraught about the harm coming to all our children and focused upon what we must do to make their lives safe and vital.

Katja Beisanz told a dream she’d had 35 years ago. It remained in her consciousness even though she had rarely spoken about it. In her dream, “a community, exhausted from constant war, was offered the opportunity to end it. Thinking of the children, the people agreed it was more important to have peace than victory. Then those who had never fought were required to take up swords in order to pierce the hearts of those who had wielded them while looking steadfastly into each other’s eyes. “In healing,” she concluded, “there is a moment when you have to look at something unbearable and bear it.”

Ayelet Berman Cohen dreamed, “If you want, if you choose, there can be an end of war for you.” A year before she had dreamed that she was on an island in a lock hold with an enemy that she was wounding. The enemy couldn’t heal, she couldn’t be free and they couldn’t leave the island as long as the wounding continued. Spirit was speaking to us adamantly: If you, if we want, if we choose, there can be an end to war.

How shall we accomplish this? We don’t know but we see that we are being guided. Our dreaming is changing. We are, increasingly, receiving dreams that resemble the dreaming of indigenous people. In order to honor this gift, we have to live the ways the dreams instruct us.

A week after the Solstice, Sharon Simone dreamed that we are to teach the young children the Four Directions. In the dream, if she could orient herself according to the spiritual dimensions of the Four Directions, she would not be afraid in the wild. Because she is living by dream and divination now, because she trusts the ways to the 5th World, she flew from Los Angeles to Connecticut to teach her grandchildren, five, three and one years old, the Four Directions. Her five years old grandson, the most aware of her young students, woke her each morning to watch the sun come up in the East of new beginnings.

In such difficult times, it relieves the heart and soul to see evidence of a spiritual intervention on behalf of the earth and the future that can guide us to restore sanity and possibility in a broken world. Because indigenous understanding has been violently suppressed through colonization and missionary activity, we have to learn the wisdom ways again. It takes years and we are still very young in our knowing, but circumstances seem to be calling us to new ways. On the third night of the Solstice ritual, we danced.

Two weeks ago, I co-lead a Circle, the Healing Path of Story, focusing upon lived and traditional stories, with the Native American elder and healer, Lewis Mehl- Madrona, M.D. During these days, the dreams that came to a gathering of people who did not know each other spoke repeatedly of the Road, the Path and the Way. One Native American woman told several dreams that indicated to Lewis that she was dreaming the sacred ways that had been suppressed and lost. The dreams and stories gathered us into our common longing for restoration of the real life. It was for a day, simply a familiarly extraordinary workshop, full of wonder and surprise. Then Barbara Mainguy, Lewis’ wife, ritual and ceremonial partner, took out colored cloth, string, scissors and tobacco. Soon she had taught us how to make prayer ties. The circle continued but differently, far more profoundly, as it was also sustained by the underlying rhythm of placing a pinch of tobacco on the cloth, folding, tying, praying, and on to the next. Pinch. Fold. Tie. Pray. Pinch … Pray. We were now in another kind of Circle, this one located in the 5th World.

The Solstice rituals of December 21, 2012 were on behalf of the 5th world. But they were also the enactment of the way of the 5th world. To go toward is to become. Some years ago, Spirit taught me that even, or especially, the healer must make an offering on behalf of bringing healing to the afflicted one. The one who is ill or in pain, calls forth the healer in us. Such a calling is a great gift to receive.

I go out in the mornings of the on-going dry season and offer water to the frog people on behalf of rain. Sometimes the clouds gather in a startling blue sky and the predictions of clear weather are revised toward rain. I only pray for the non-human beings. If the earth is restored, you and I will have everything we want and need. You and I – we don’t matter – we are the obstacles in this time – except as we become the conduit to Beauty. My dreams tell me so.

I dream a passionate discussion of the power of dream images. In that dream, I remember drinking mead in a hotel in Poland after spending three days in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Honey mead in the midst of devastation. Then I buy amber earrings for my mother. Somehow amber is another kind of honey. The honey of preservation. I dream I buy a gift for the Mother in a time of devastation. Maybe the dream means we will save the bees.

In my recent dreams, the spirits look into the great window and laugh. Another time, they come into the house and take what they need but not a penny more. Or I look out of the window onto a magical path winding between small green trees, red flowers and dappled light. In my day life, the gold finches have, after six months or longer, found their way to the new feeder; I can see them as I type this on the computer.

At Daré, our on-going council (fourteen years now) on behalf of personal and global healing, we realized that everyone in the circle at that moment had been at the Solstice Daré and everyone recognized that their lives had changed. Not because the date had come and gone but because they had prepared deeply, entered ritual, engaged in ceremony, and offered themselves. The old ways are true ways if we take them to heart.

December 21, 2012 marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. This is the cycle of restoration and beauty. It is also called the 5th World. If we walk the Sacred Road together, it will take us to the 5th World.

* * *

The 19 Ways to the 5th World (see Ruin and Beauty blog and my website, www.deenametzger.com) describe some of the changes of mind to which we are being called. I am teaching A Training Program for the 5th World to understand and incorporate these ways. Individual work, guidance, counseling and mentoring are available for those who wish to be part of this shift through this essential transition. If interested, please write to me at deenametzger@verizon.net.

The Ones Who Accompany Us to 2012

This is Day 16 before 12/21/2012.

I awakened this morning without dreaming except for a continuous image of a thick Modern Library book, entitled Change.   I felt the need to listen deeply to voices that are not my own nor human. I was reminded of the “Transmission Letter,” I wrote in May 1986. It circled the globe, passed from hand to hand by the original thirty-six recipients. In that letter, I spoke of a voice I heard while driving on the freeway some months after the death of my dearest friend that said, “You know, you are being asked to forgive those who were pulled out early, or who did not volunteer to be here to help with the necessary change or to bear witness to the end.”

I have been carrying the consciousness of that letter since that time, twenty-six years ago.  Now we are at an essential moment when everything is being asked of us for the future.  We either continue as we have and the descent into the on-going tragedy of human and non-human life will accelerate, or we will become those who are here to initiate the necessary changes and offerings so that we will not be called to bear witness to the end.

Guided by the 19 Ways to the 5th World, that were given to me and to the community, (see this Blog) I have understood that the mythic date of 12/21/2012 marks an opportunity for each of us and so for the planet.

In Topanga, we have been considering this date for several years and are gathering for three days to meet this moment.  I have written about this before, if not endlessly, and it is the focus of the Blog I started a few months ago, To Consider 2012, http://toconsider2012.wordpress.com/, on which this is also appended.

(Details are at the end of this posting. I offer them so that you don’t have to invent the wheel in order to create your own gathering, and so you can be accompanied, if from a distance, as you also observe this time in our global lives.)

As I mediated on the dream image this morning, I heard what felt like a call similar to the one that came to me in 1986, to listen, to step entirely out of my own personal concerns, even the concern to listen well, and to … “Begin writing!”

2012        As I began considering the aperture that this date, because of its mythic significance, has for us, I didn’t fully understand what is required or made possible. I admit, sixteen days from the very date itself, while I am writing this piece for and to the community, that I still don’t understand.  How can I or anyone understand?

2013        The date 2013 pops up on the page as if I am writing an outline, or Spirit is assuring me / us that there can be a future.  I am willing to be seen as a fool while I take note of what might be signs, rather than miss something.

I thought I was writing to the community that was preparing to gather, though I did not know what words would follow, and then realized I was also inviting you to read this.

***

We are going to spend three days together marking this opportunity to align with the heart of the universe.

The Kogi people, probably the last surviving pre-Columbian people on the planet, who have devoted their individual and tribal lives to sustaining the heart of the world, have advised us, relentlessly, since they decided to emerge from seclusion in the Sierra Nevada of Columbia, that the world is dying and we are responsible.

The Kogi came to me in a dream in 1999.  It was a true meeting.  They asked me what I would give in return for the possibilities for the planet that they wished to transmit.  I said I would give my life.

My friend, Victor Perera, had met with the Kogi through Alan Ereira. Ereira went through great ordeal to create the film, The Heart of the World.  Afterwards, he  wrote the book, The Elder Brother’s Warning, and then established the Tairona Heritage Trust,  http://www.taironatrust.org.

Victor is a protagonist in my latest novel, La Negra y Blanca, Fugue and Commentary.  He is now on the other side, and is, perhaps, guiding me, us, from there. In response to my dream, Victor said that the Kogi had always been able to communicate telepathically with the elders on the planet, but now the communications are blocked by all our activities. I was profoundly humbled by the dream meeting I had had and  have devoted myself, as best as I know how, accordingly.

In this moment as I am writing the above, not knowing what will appear next on the page, but continuing nevertheless, I remember that the Kogi have been, for several years since their first emergence into our world, calling together, partnering with the Indigenous, the Native People of this planet so they can learn from each other and live and act in concert. They certainly recognize that they are among the ones who know what has been violated, what must be healed and what are the intrinsic ways to accomplish this. If the original spirit and earth aligned wisdom can be restored then we will have a future.

I am trying to imagine the actual content, exchange and activity of their secret gatherings, secret from us, the perpetrators.  I am trying to imagine the specific ways they are meeting among themselves and with each other.

We must understand the gravity and urgency of such times that call the Kogi to dare to enter into our midst and run the risk of being blinded and contaminated by our distorted ways in order to gather with the Indigenous and to alert us to the fate of the heart of the world.

How would they sit, or gather, or meet on these three days with any of the Indigenous people they have already met?

Remembering the content of my true, if dream, meeting with the Kogi: they said, “Teach the pattern.  Put the forms in place.”

We understand that form is content and, therefore, if we continue to use and have allegiance to the old forms of our lives, if we adhere to the conventional assumptions and dominant culture, the content of what we do will not change no matter what is said, no matter the small activities we engage.

As many of you know, I have a real and profound relationship with one we call the Elephant Ambassador. So I am trying to imagine what the elephants, who I consider the wise ones on this planet, are demanding that we do to meet, observe, and change in these times  so that all life might be preserved and Creation restored.

What are the Kogi, the elephant, dolphin, whale, wolf (being slaughtered in this country as I write) eagle, lion people, what are rain, fire, wind, earth asking of us, demanding of us?  How are we each to use the sacred opportunity of these three days to meet them fully?

***

What is this date after all?  Why the fuss and urgency?  The ancient Maya identified a place in the Milky Way that was, for them, the place of birth and death.  Individual lives, tribal life and the cosmos were intrinsically connected to it.

- – And as it happens, the place they identified is the dark hole around which our solar system circles, is the dark hole from which the solar system and so all known life, all our lives emerged.

– And as it happens, our very sun, around which we circle, will be, with other planets,in a direct alignment with this dark hole, this place of birth and death, the heart of the universe, at 3:12 am on December 21st.   The light of the sun aligned with the dark at the center.

Or so it is said.

How will we meet the demand? How will we meet the Heart of the Universe?  How will we step out of our involvement and enchantment with the details of our own little lives, the bloody sacrificial altar to which we have been relentlessly bringing the earth, so as to meet this sacred challenge, the great possibility of our collective and community lives?

Everyone who is reading this is has been met by spirit and called to some awakening.  Perhaps you met Hurricane Sandy, heard the trees snap in the fierce wind and cold, or suffered the torrential rains.  Perhaps you are in the Midwest, wondering where the water will come from for your crops or are watching the Mississippi decline rapidly, aware that it may soon be unable  to transport goods along its length. Perhaps you have been a recent a victim of earthquake or landslide. Perhaps you have witnessed the recent forest fires and fire storms.  Maybe Gaia is speaking.  We cannot  continue to live as if the consequences of our behavior will not affect us or our families or the earth ?  Or perhaps, it is your family or beloveds who are being blown up or tortured now almost anywhere on the globe?

Apology.  I have misled us.  I didn’t know better.  My best thought, until this moment, has been that this date is about our shift in consciousness, yours and mine.  A radical shift in consciousness leading to living differently, entirely.  It is, certainly, about this, but not so much that our personal shift, insight, activity, takes the only focus. Not so much that we continue to focus upon the small things we will do to appease our fears or conscience.  Not so much that we want to decide in advance what we will do or not do on behalf of planetary and species survival.

This morning it seems to me that we are being called to another consciousness, not ours, but that which was connected with the earth in the beginning.  A consciousness that would never have developed the ideas and values that have led to the horrors that are afflicting all beings at this time.

Imagine this.  The Kogi, the Indigenous, the Animals, the Dead, the Ancestors, the Elementals, Gaia, Herself, will be entering our circles, temples, yurts, meeting rooms, will be literally behind us, invisible but present, insisting that we devote ourselves to meeting this moment.  Will we listen, hear, accept their call, instructions and guidance? How shall we be, who shall we become, in their presence?

This is the question we have been given to hold at the alignment with the Heart of World and the Universe.

***

What follows are some excerpts from our original announcement regarding the Topanga gathering  The schedule as we have imagined it until this moment is also included.  However, we yield in advance and entirely to the guidance and direction of Spirit as it is offered.

Happily, some of those who were going to join us for our small Daré are choosing, instead, to stay home and gather the community around them in resonance with us.  At the least, there will be parallel and aligned gatherings and ceremonies of one form or another in Seattle, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Connecticut, Texas, Philadelphia, Curaçao, Guatemala and, perhaps, Nashville. These are not open gatherings, but our hope is that you will find the means to be with Spirit, in solitude or gathered with us and with community, human and non-human, wherever you are living, in the ways you are led to for these days.

If there are any spaces, at the Topanga gathering, it is primarily because these other gatherings are manifesting.  Please contact us immediately if you  wish to  join us, Most importantly feel free to post open, aligned events on this page in the comment section.

***

Dare’ on Behalf of the Future

Here in Topanga, we have been thinking deeply about 2012 and have been for many years. This mythic, historic, astrological, astronomical moment calls us to step across fully into the heart and mind of the Fifth World so that each breath of our lives assures a viable future for all beings. The time of integrity is here. How do we meet it together?

12/21/2012 is the spirit centered, earth centered, heart centered, community centered moment that calls us to live, as the Dine’ say, according to the Beauty Way. Hozro. We have been together in so many ways over the years. We have been together considering the gravity and possibility of these times, holding fast to each other’s hearts. We have hoped to sustain the heart of creation and to contribute to a shift of consciousness that helps restore balance and beauty and creates sanctuary for all beings. Now 2012 is upon us. What do we want to create and how will we do it?

Preparing to do so in our own individual ways for so many years, shifting as we have into new lives with and among each other, these days call us to meet this great challenge together as a community. 2012 invites a new lived consciousness of human and non-human beings.  

The Dare’ 

  We are offering a three-day Dare’ from December 20th at noon through December 22nd at midnight.

December 20th     Deep Reckoning and Introspection.

Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World.

December 21st      Alignment with the heart of the universe.

Transformation.

December 22nd     Invoking and honoring Spirit.

Meeting the land and yielding to the ways of the natural world.

Articulating the new ways.

Responsibility.

Entering the Fifth World through commitment to the Way. 

The Means 

Rounds of      Meditation, Prayer and Communion, Invocation, Silence, Solitude and Blessing. Meditation and Prayer on the Land and For the Land.

Council, Visioning, Dream telling, Story Telling and Divination.

Drumming, Music, Ritual, Ceremony and Camaraderie,

Solitude and Silence

Tending the Fire.

Offerings and Offering of Oneself to the Spirits, the Land and the Beings of the Land.

Tentative(!) Schedule

Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 DEEP RECKONING AND INTROSPECTION

12 noon          Light Fire

Astrology Reading

Focus and Purpose

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

1:30 pm          Council – Dedicated disengagement from what injures and destroys.

3:00 pm          Drumming Begins [ continuous drumming 12/20 3:30 pm to12/21

3:00 pm          Camaraderie

4:00 pm          Dream Telling

Story telling re difference between 4th and 5th worlds.

5:00 pm           Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer, Music

6:00 pm            Dinner

7:30 pm          Council – Intentions

9:00 pm            Journey and Visioning / Dream Telling / Story

10:30 pm         Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:00 pm          Supper

12:00 am          Begin Fast – for those who wish to fast

12:00 am          End but for Drumming

1:00 am            Begin four hour sacred drumming.

3:00 am           Group drumming to acknowledge the solstice moment

3:12 am           Under the Milky Way

3:30 am           Relight and rededicate fire.

5:00 am           End group drumming

Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 Alignment with the Heart of the Universe.  Transformation.

Fasting if desired

Drumming continues

10:00 am        Relight Fire

Align with Center of Galaxy

Focus.  19 Ways

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:30 am        Dream, Story, Vision

12:30 pm        Council – Alignment

2:00 pm           Break Fast, Food and Camaraderie

2:45-3:45 pm   End Drumming together

until 4:30 pm   Continue Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

4:30 pm           Community Divinations

5:30 – 7 pm      Council – Offering oneself to transformation.

7 – 8:00 pm     Food and Camaraderie

8:00 pm           Journey and Visioning / Dream Telling / Story

9:30 pm          Council – How does a Community Cross into the 5th World?

to Midnight    Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012: Exploring and Articulating the New Ways. Responsibility. Entering the 5th World through Commitment to the Way.

10:00 am          Relight Fire

Retrospective – Where have we come?

Focus and Articulate Goals

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:30 am          Dream, Story, Vision

Reading the Signs

12:30-2:00 pm  Council – 5th World

2:00-3:30  pm   End Fast, Food and Camaraderie

3:30-4:30 pm    Music, Dance, Celebration

6:00 pm            Meditation

7:00 pm            Food and Camaraderie

8:00 pm            Council on the future of community and all beings.

10:00 pm           Drumming, Music, Community

* * * * *  

We are being called together to create the possibility to meet these times. We will do it as simply and cooperatively as possible. This has to be a small gathering. Our hope is that we will be able to be outside for much of the time, meditating on the land, sitting around the fire, using the outdoor kitchen for very simple food preparation and serving – reviving some of the most simple and old, old ways of community and communion. However, the indoor space is small, the weather unpredictable.  Parking is limited. When it rains, the land becomes virtually impassable.  We can expect to encounter just the right difficulties to help us transform. We hope to meet whatever arises with heart, great generosity and exquisite care for the land, our neighbors, each other and all the beings present.

2012 requires us to be simple, quiet, modest in our gathering and to take responsibilityfor ourselves, each other and the land.  It is asking us to create forms with light footprints. It is asking us to meet Spirit and the land more than it is asking us to meet each other.

We will set up four tents, one in each of the four directions, so that, no matter the weather, someone can be meditating for and listening to the land and the spirits throughout the gathering.

As the three-day Dare’ on Behalf of the Future approaches on Dec. 20-22, 2012, we find ourselves immersed in preparing ourselves both individually and as a community to mark this event.  We are asking what questions we carry for each other, what changes we are preparing to make, how we can serve the time.

We are imagining a progression of detaching from untenable lifestyles to resonance with the heart of the universe and then to stepping into the possibilities of new life for ourselves and all beings.  We are looking to see how we can each shift and how a community shifts as well to meet this time of difficulty and opportunity.  The schedule provides some framework to do this work and be in ceremony together.

Notes and Intentions 

Our core time marking the solstice alignment is from 1 am to 5 a.m. on the morning of  December 21, 2012 with the exact moment at 3:12 am PST. We will have a focused drumming session for that time. Ideally, we will also have continuous drumming from 3 pm on December 20th until 5 am December 21. This is dependent on who is here and what emerges as possible. It will be arranged according to what Spirit presents during our time together.

A sacred fire will be lit at the beginning of the event and will be kept burning until the end.  The fire will be renewed ritually at the beginning of each day.  It will be renewed again at 3:30 am on December 21.  People may volunteer to be fire keepers.

* * * * *

While the land in Topanga will be open to the community for these three days for ceremony, ritual, prayer, meditation, drumming, music, invocation, silence, tending the sacred fire and blessing, along with food and camaraderie, conversation and companionship, no one will be able to sleep over or camp on the land overnight. Everyone must arrange for their own housing for sleep and restoration.  Food contributions, soup, bread and rice, will be needed.

This Daré, will be one of great simplicity. As 2013 requires us to simplify our lives profoundly, these ritual days will be in keeping with that directive.

A question we will hold at each moment is:  How will we treat and take care of each other, human and non-human, and the earth in the 5th world?

Contributions/Dana are expected to support the cost of the event and, hopefully, to bring in a few elders and wisdom keepers who cannot afford to attend without having transportation and expenses paid for.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made through the 501(C)(3), Mandlovu at SEE, Social and Environmental entrepreneurs, 22231 Mulholland Hwy, Ste 209, Calabasas, CA 91302. (Tel: 818-225-9150, Fax: 818-225-9151). Or go to SEE’s website at https://p10.secure.hostingprod.com/@www.saveourplanet.org/ssl/Donate.html

***

Please note again, there are a few places left for the Topanga Daré 2012,so if you are hoping to attend,  please call Danelia Wild, 310-815-1060 or email her at dwild4deena@ca.rr.com immediately to receive the necessary information to attend, to make reservations and/or for questions.  No one admitted without reservations.

***

Peace, Hope and Blessings,

Mitakye Oyasin, All Our Relatios]ns

JOURNEY TO THE STONES – MEETING THE SHAMAN BARDS

Let me tell you some stories.

In Ireland, that would be the voice of the Shaman Bard.  We don’t know if it is the shaman speaking as a poet storyteller or the poet is speaking as a shaman (healer, visionary diviner, historian, myth-teller, peacemaker); they are entirely intertwined and it has been so for thousands of years and was so when I was there this month.

On the last day in Ireland, we visited the stone circle, the largest in Western Europe, at Lough Gur that dates back at least 5000 years. A few miles away, ancient stones, also moss and lichen covered, comprise the Wedge tomb, where an old woman had lived for many years.  On a grass covered hill among hawthorn and oak trees, the stones serve as a threshold between the lake, Lough Gur, and the Grange Stone Circle, The Lios.

When the old woman died in the early 18th century, the roof stones were thrown off.  The money diggers who searched the tomb found only burned bones in an old jug.

It is said that there is a buried treasure, especially in the nearby extensive Knockadoon circle, which is guarded by a fire breathing mythic bull that no one has been able to subdue, so great is the fear that arises when the bull arises from the earth.

***

Earlier in the week, we went to a dolman, a small mound tomb in a farmer’s field on the Beara peninsula.  As such a tomb is ancient, and the cap stone or other times may have collapsed, you can sometimes still see that such a structure invited one to cross from this world to the other world as one moved through it and beyond.  In this instance we needed to climb over a ladder, descend along a small stream of rainwater, pass through the narrow entrance between two boulders and cross the field to a sacred tree and the small tomb.  KJ went first, striding across the wet grasses, before noticing the four bulls that were following her, before noting that she was wearing a red flannel jacket. When she turned around, she saw she had time only to scamper to the entrance between the stones, remove and hide her red shirt, then clamber to the roof in order to establish height.  The bulls, particularly, the black bull, were not daunted and remained guarding the tomb.

And so it was left to me and L to return to the road thirty feet above the grassland to see if we could locate the farmer to help us.  L. went ahead of me and I walked to a spot across from the dolman, leaned over the stone wall and called to the bulls, “Come here, my beauties, my beloveds, my lovelies.”

In the long history of Ireland, cattle are known to be sacred.  The river Boyne is the Goddess Boann, is the sacred cow, and is also the river of stars, the Milky Way of life and death whose center will meet all of us directly on December 21, 2012.

The shaman bards know the ways to work with or around the fire breathing bulls and to meet the holy ones with praise.  For centuries, they have been carrying the practice of crossing between the worlds, speaking across species, communicating with the holy ones:  “Come here, my beauties, my beloveds, my lovelies.”

My intuition proved correct.  The bulls, even the black one, turned and slowly grazed their way toward the cliff where I stood as KJ made her stealthy way back to the alleged safety of this world.  We met, woman and bulls, for a moment eye to eye, though separated by the hill wall, and then I also returned to the car.

***

Approaching any event, I am always alert for what is at the threshold.  In this instance, at the Wedge tomb, just hours before leaving Ireland, as we walked quietly toward the past and what wisdom we might glean for the future, we were assaulted by the reverberations of shotguns from a hidden glen across the road.  Reverence on our side of the road and gun shots on the other intermingled in a constant rhythm for as long as we were there.

Then we went to the Grange Circle itself.  This circle is one of many stone circles and mounds, Newgrange, Loch Crew, Knowth and Dowth, that seem to have been erected as giant calendars to mark the coming of sunlight and or moon light on the quarter days, solstices and equinoxes of the year.  The farmer who owns the land upon which the circle sits was not there this Sunday.  Still, we put coins in the rusted money box, its donation slot barely visible, as we went through the gate onto the site where the sun enters the passageway on Midsummer’s Eve.

It seems to me that I learn more standing in silence and wonder, while holding the question of what vision has driven people all over the world to exert what seem like more than human efforts to erect stone monuments honoring the light, than I understand when I engage with the various theories and our desire to know.

***

In the classic tale, the sojourner goes out into the unknown to bring back the useful insight for the beleaguered and suffering individuals and /or community.  More so, one hopes, at such a time.  Might the old ways, even the one as simple as making the journey, help as tradition asserts, they have in the past?  What are the true and potent medicines for a world whose life is at great risk?

It is only at this moment, as I try to convey something of what might matter for all of us, that I see the familiar stations of this journey, but most strikingly, the entry into the unknown and the ways the light, sunlight or moonlight, only briefly illuminates the darkness, one hour, perhaps, once a year, perhaps, if the clouds disperse.  If the clouds disperse…. But, that one moment is sufficient for one’s soul.

***

Because I was suddenly charged with leading a writing retreat, scheduled to visit ancient sites in the Boyne valley and the Beara peninsula, places I had never been, I had to offer myself entirely to whatever might occur.  Just days before I understood what was calling me, I had decided not to read or prepare for this trip.  But then, grievous circumstances required that I step forward on behalf of someone who had originally imagined and arranged the trip. We could not cancel the trip, she had said, adamantly, and I trusted that she understood this in ways I could not then.  The learning curve was steep, and ultimately, I was relying on John Matthews’ book Taliesen, the Last Celtic Shaman.  Taliesen and Amairgin the Bold, both shaman bards, became ever present guides.  They teach the ways to negotiate the passage between this world and the other world, between, past and future, human and other, dark and light, life and death.  We needed these teachings because, as with the gunshots at the threshold of Lough Crew, death surrounded us from the beginning to the end – the ordinary deaths of two old men, the unbearable tragedies of two violent suicides, the great loss that come from drowning.

We had come to honor and attend the great mounds, all seemingly both tombs and corridors of light.  And death surrounded us on the journey.  Death surrounded us at Lough Gur.  And death and violence surround all of us, in extraordinary measure, in what passes as the ordinary world.

Sometimes for us, the deaths were highly personal, sometimes they were simply in the air we were breathing.  For example, the workshop that was to follow our retreat at Anam Cara, was cancelled when the leader, Irish poet, John O’Leary, drowned.

XXVII. (from Sea, 2003 by John O’Leary)

To Do List:

1.            find dragon and slay

2.            exorcise cat

3.            prove conclusively the identity

of Beauty and Truth.

4.            watch, fast and pray

5.            sail Atlantic single-handed

6.            write name in water

7.            return Teach Yourself Waltzing Tape

8.            weep for Adonais and feel bad

9.            write her a letter telling her

you love her

10.            go out into the midnight

and check for new stars.[1]

***

When you walk a labyrinth of wild grasses to its center, as you can at Anam Cara, you are at the center of the middle world between the past and the future.  Turn 360 degrees to see the mountains and sea, the cattle and sheep, the cemetery on the hill and the cascades at the bottom of the meadow. It is from this place that you can ask the question that your soul is carrying or the question that the world’s soul requires us to address.  Turn again and retrace your footsteps listening deeply to the words that pass through your heart but which originate elsewhere, somewhere beyond yourself.

When people die, we gather in circles to tell stories.  Perhaps because the Irish seem to have such a profound relationship to the spirits of the dead, it is a country of storytellers, musicians and bards.

We approached the top of the legendary Hill of Tara.  Gerard Clarke, former director of the Hill of Tara, stopped us so that we would proceed with awareness and concentration.  When you cross this trench, he said, you are entering into the other world.  We paused.  Language we had heard again and again was about to become real.  We were, indeed, about to step across.  This is not a frivolous or fantasy activity.  There are many who strive to separate the worlds rather than allowing them to intermingle.  We learned that the stone barriers that had existed here were not to keep the enemy out; they were to keep the spirits in. If one dares to cross over with respect, one may receive great gifts.

On September 21, we left our lodgings at 5 am even though the sky was covered and it was raining.  It had rained every day since my arrival on the 17th and would continue to rain each day, except for one brilliant sunlit day Saturday October 5th. You never know, Gerard Clarke said, what the weather will be at Lough Crew, (forty-five minutes away) even though he had last seen the light enter the mound fifteen years ago.  As we approached, the center of the sky cleared but a broad band of clouds remained in the position of 6 to 9 o’clock and 3 to 6 o’clock at the eastern horizon.  We climbed the hill in the mist, a fierce wind blowing, the temperature dropping.  We were among the first of a small shivering band (and a few dogs) that had come with hopes of seeing the sunlight of the Equinox make its way, illuminating the carved stone walls of the mound.  We would not have been surprised if it began to snow.

There is only a small sacred interval through which the light enters.  7:15am to 8:30 am.  Then the possibility is over for a year.  We made our offerings and waited.  The wide band of dark clouds remained as wisps of mist began to waft over the other megaliths just below us.  The sun climbed steadily and for a brief moment paused at an eye in the clouds but not close enough to reach the great stones.  And then at 7:30 when we had almost lost hope, a thin ray of light began to make its way toward the entrance revealing the spiral carvings at the stone entrance.  Six by six we were admitted into the tunnel to see the shining spiral at the back wall that had been viewed at equinox after equinox for thousands of years.  A miracle and a sign of grace and the awesome presence of the Divine as it must have been for those who built this tomb against all odds, bringing the massive stones uphill, without the wheel, from miles and miles away,

***

At Tara out guide alerted us to the entryways between the roots of the great trees where the fairies, defeated and exiled from this world by Christianity, by the fearful and violent disbelievers in and enemies of wonder who began to colonize Ireland in the 400s C.E.  The shaman bards tell us that like the light, the wee people emerge for only one day on Samhain / Halloween.  This day, the beginning of the Celtic new year, is also the day totake stock, settle debts and decide upon future activities. A general armistice during this period allowed for meetings at the Hill of Tara between sworn enemies, made possible diplomacy and social activities beyond tribal and political boundaries.

We have been warring for so long.  We have been exiling the light for so long.  Yet, thankfully, it persists.  The sun and moon rise.  The clouds part.

The roles of the Shaman bards are complex and profound.  The poets and story tellers are also singers, musicians, healers, prophets and diviners. They know the elements.  They write and read the Ogham, the sacred alphabet of the trees.  They speak with the birds, animals, plants and stars.  They dream.  They read the signs. They know the history and genealogy of person and place.  They keep the rulers honest.  They know the land.  And even thought they are often warriors, they are also called upon to mediate between warring parties.  They are born and reborn and reborn again and again. They remember.

The old tradition of story telling is still intact in Ireland.  We didn’t fully expect to meet story tellers, to meet shaman bards, but we did.  We didn’t fully expect to find magic, vision, healing, stories, music alive in the old ways but we did.  Ireland, like other countries suffers conflict, the tension between Dublin and the loyalists and the on-going legacy of British colonization.  It suffers poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, and other modern ills like deforestation and environmental decline.  Ireland’s young people are living a diaspora again,  leaving the country as they have in the past in order to make a living.  A mother I met said, her grandfathers had gone to work in the mines in Butte, Montana and now her sons are leaving to work in the mines in Australia.  There is concern that the influx of laborers from other countries, particularly from Russian and central Europe during the ‘Tiger’ years of economic boom, may be a problem now that the economy is declining.  All the problems of contemporary Europe are here, but the antidote is that the spirits are present and recognized and that the storytellers, musicians and poets thrive; the vitality of these ancient traditions make all the differences.

.

A story is told of the great Irish hero and wisdom carrier, Fionn Mac Cumhail, who was involved in great conflict and so was told, “he durst not remain in Ireland else he took to poetry.”  Poetry as strength and power that can protect and redeem a warrior.

Poetry the gift of the gods was sacred to the great goddess, Ceredwin of the cauldron, whose other faces are the Goddess Bride or Brigid and  Cailleach Beara or the Hag of Beara, who is also associated with stones and bones and who governs dreams and inner realities.  On one of her journeys, she dropped the stones she had gathered from her apron and they became the mountains.  Poetry, healing, peacemaking and smithery were sacred to Brigid as earth goddess and keeper of the eternal fire.  Saint Brigid, the disguised pagan goddess, kept these attributes and also took on the care of the poor.  Two sisters of the Brigidine order introduced us to the ways of their order, Solas Bhride, a Christian Center devoted which focuses on Saint Brigid and Celtic Spirituality.   We were taught how to make crosses, including the Mexican eye of god, out of rushes gathered by the streams.  Then we were taken to the holy wells where the sisters sang songs as we walked from stone to stone representing Brigid’s offices.

Brigid’s sacred fire/flame that had burned from pre-Christian times until the 16th century was re-kindled in 1993, in the Market Square, Kildare, at the opening of a justice and peace conference. The conference was entitled “Brigid: Prophetess, Earthwoman, Peacemaker.”

“How does the Church respond to your work?” We asked the sisters. “The Church is not enthused,” one answered, “but the Dalai Lama visited us.”

***

Mary Maddison, a thin, delicate woman, 72 years old, has storytelling at her house one Saturday night each month and music one Thursday night.  We sit in a circle on old couches, over stuffed or straight back chairs, on pillows and stools in the small room called The Rambling House, that also houses her collection of sea shells, some gathered into the shapes of animals and other beings.  Here the young people and the older ones are invited to speak or play music when the stone talking piece passed from one to another reaches them. In another room are her landscape paintings and another room is full of stones and gems.  In this room, Mary Maddison, shaman bard, healer and story teller, puts our feet into bowls of agate then tells the stories of our lives and futures by reading the stones that remain attached to us when we lift our feet.  She has been doing this since she was a child.  She saw the stones on the feet of those who walked the pebbled beach.  “I had thought everyone read the stories,” she said,

She shows me the small house which will hold the crèche at Christmas time, the outside of which might have been decorated by Simon Rodia who created Watts Towers.  Then we enter the mediation room with a pyramid glass ceiling and chant and pray together.  We tell each other stories for hours.  Stories of the everyday miracles and magic that occur when one honors the spirits that create and sustain the world.  The rooster crows, the peacocks call, the crows fly overhead cawing.  A magnificent sunset turns the ever present clouds red, purple, orange, amber.  As twilight darkens, Mary speaks of the lights of the fairies that come forth in her garden at night.  I am in the presence of a true shaman bard and she is one of many, of the tribe of shaman bards in Ireland.

Writers in the US are not asked to assume the complex and committed roles of the shaman bard. To the contrary, we often feel divided and quartered by what appear to be the conflicting demands that the shaman bard reconciles. The call to solitude, for example, challenged by the call to community.  Writers are often criticized for being political and it is rarely assumed that the poet is called to keep the rulers honest while also speaking with the animals and the trees.  Revealing truth, bearing witness, devoting oneself to matters of conscience are not always compatible with the commercial interests that dominate publishing.  But these are the essential concerns for the shaman bard and how lucky we would be if we could reinstate and be faithful to the tradition.

The old old ways still survive in sacred places and among indigenous people and cultures all over the world.  They survive despite the relentless wars against them, against the land and the natural world, by religion, science, the military and the nation state.  The fate of the earth, the life of the world hangs in the balance.  This journey to Ireland convinces me that it is time, again, to call forth and inhabit  the shaman bards in all of us.  No matter the risk, it is time to tell the true and lyric stories of restoration of the old old ways, to tell our own experiences of our true spiritual lives and our stories of experiences within the natural world.  It is the time to fully honor the rare, slender rays of light that come forth from the clouds to illuminate the old carvings, the old wisdom contained in the stones patiently standing in circle, these thousand of years.

To Consider 2012: A note to you.

This is just a note to you:  There are five posts on my parallel blog: To Consider  2012  http://toconsider2012.wordpress.com/   Because we are now at Day 102 before 12/21/2012, I want to keep the posts together of my ruminations upon my own attempts to meet this astronomical, astrological, mythic moment.  i am aware that writing the Blog, To Consider,  intensifies my own commitment.  It calls me to be awake.

We are all being called to transform so that there might be a future for our descendants and for all the non-human descendants.  The future grand grand grand grandchild of the Elephant Ambassador, for example.  That his ancestors survive.  That his ancestors not be brought to extinction by the warfare against the innocent on behalf of ivory.

This is not hyperbole.  Poachers are using advanced war technology to hunt the elephants.  (Just as wolves are being hunted from helicopters in the U.S.)

Stop for a moment.  Shape shift. Enter the bodies of these extraordinary beings and now imagine the helicopters and AK-47s coming after you …….

Thus we pray that there be Elephant Ambassador descendants, that they will be living in peace and will have adequate  habitats for the herds.  That we truly understand that zoos are not habitats nor are research laboratories.

Linda Hogan said, “If there are no animals, there will be no totem animals.”

That we learn co-existence.  That we give up making enemies or thinking only of our own welfare.  That we change and transform our ways entirely. Now. We have 103 days.

i will be leading a writing workshop in ireland for the next weeks.  At Lough Crew, i may be fortunate enough to see the light illuminate the darkness on the Autumn equinox.  i will post here or on To Consider 2012 when i return on November 20 – perhaps before.   Then we will have a month until 2012.  You will only  receive notices for posts on To Consider 2012 if you subscribe to it.

This is a critical moment in human history.  Let us meet it.

Peace and Blessings,

Deena

To Consider 2012

http://deenametzger.toconsider,wordpress.com

A new Blog:

Late 14c., from O.Fr. considerer (13c.) “reflect on, consider, study.” From L. considerare “to look at closely, observe,” perhaps lit. “to observe the stars,” from com- “with” (see com-) + sidus (gen. sideris) “constellation.” (see sidereal). Perhaps a metaphor from navigation, but more likely reflecting Roman interest in divination by astrology.

To Consider and to be Considerate:  To study and reflect and then align oneself with the stars, with the beauty and heart of the heavens (the essential goal of astrology), with the radiant will of Sprit and the Divine.

***

I awaken just as the sun rises over the hill to the east and a light ray illuminates a leaf of the bougainvillea that was until now in shadow, and so, momentarily, there is a single golden disc among the branches in silhouette.

It is July 30th, Day 143 before 12/20/2012. I am thinking of posting an on-going record of how I am trying to meet 2012.

Hubris, perhaps, to attempt a series of personal but public letters to assert the possibility that we may, as planet dwellers, have a future. You may call this a Blog. I call it a Letter.

The letter form, including writing an epistolary novel, (The Other Hand, Red Hen Press) has been with me since as a young woman, I first took myself seriously as a writer. A letter is intimate and, at its most authentic, is honest and true. I will try to speak from the heart about this difficult time and share my grief and my hope….

(See Blogroll to continue reading and subscribe.

ReVisioning Medicine: Imagining a New Medicine and Healing for All Beings

A core group of physicians and healers have been consciously exploring ReVisioning Medicine since 2004. Over time, we have come to understand that ReVisioning Medicine is a council that honors and relies on deep dialogue between medical practitioners and medicine people as peers. It is an emerging contemporary version of the old, old indigenous wisdom traditions that consulted and included all the elements in the little world that became a field of healing, a field from which healing emerged.

Healers and medicine persons were once the spiritual leaders at the heart of the community. They partnered with the chiefs so that the individuals, the community, the earth thrived under their care. The animals and plants, sometimes even the elementals, communed with them and they exchanged blessings and wisdom. They knew the spirits, the earth and all the members of the human and non-human community. They carried all the stories. They were as connected to the daily events as they were to history, myths, visions and dreams.

For the Navajo, the Diné, illness occurs when the sacred order has been violated. Healing occurs through restoring harmony and order. The first requirement is gathering the tribe. Healing cannot occur outside the community and healing is an essential beautiful process that requires everyone’s participation.

Healing does not create enemies but creates connection. For example, a Navajo professor of anthropology, skeptical of the old practices, decided to put his native medicine to the test. He had had a chronic skin condition that was not yielding to conventional medicine. The hand trembler (a Navajo diviner) who looked at his rashes told him he had offended the Red Ant people. When he made amends, he would be healed.

Well, the educator had offended the ant people. He used gasoline to burn an area where they had been living in order to create a place for his sleeping bag. Chagrined, he made the required offerings. The infected rash disappeared. Right relationships were restored. A healing occurred that all the steroids in the world had not been able to accomplish.

More than a physical healing occurred. The relationship between the man and his people was healed. Now our relationship with the old wisdom ways that are so despised by western science, is also being healed through this story. Healing, in the old ways, is systemic. Healing reaches back to the ancestors and forward to the future beings. Healing is round.

***

I had cataract surgery six months ago. The surgery went very well, but two days later, rather than my sight being restored, inflammation started and floaters, worse than I had ever had before, appeared and have not dissolved. I had had the surgery because I had been blinded by the light of the setting sun. Sensitivity to light did improve with the surgery but not as much as I had hoped. Something was not right. Inflammation continued and the drops that were to have stopped within a few days were to be continued. Four months later, I insisted on tapering down from both the steroid and non-steroid eye drops that had been prescribed when the condition didn’t heal. I reduced the drops carefully, but still more rapidly than a specialist, who had been consulted, recommended. Finally, against advice I stopped them altogether. When I went to the doctor a month later, the inflammation was abating markedly and it seemed to me that the hearing loss that I had noticed increasingly after the surgery was also improving.
“Hearing loss is not associated in the literature with the medication,” he stated.
“Actually, it is,” I countered, having read the literature.

My cousin had cataract surgery in another state, six months after I did, is very concerned with her hearing loss and heightened tennitis since her surgery. The same meds were prescribed for her as were prescribed for me.

The ophthalmologist, who had performed the surgery and whom I had seen regularly for ten years, noted that the inflammation was mostly gone and my eyesight had become 20/30. “Do you know why?” I asked. “Perhaps because I stopped the meds,” I continued.
“The surgery went very well.” He was repeating what he had said for months as we puzzled over the unexpected phenomenon. As the appointment came to an end, he looked at me quizzically, “Do you think the inflammation and the floaters are due to the medication from the beginning?” He could ask that question because he knows that we are both trustworthy. It is not a question a doctor can easily ask in these times of distrust and conflict, when such relationships that thrive only in mutual confidence, have become increasingly combative.
“I may have a paradoxical relationship to these medications,” I said, wondering whether my concern about western medicine, springing out of my awareness of the grave cultural distortions of our time, makes me particularly vulnerable to the increasing dangers of pharmaceuticals to all life, my own included. A paradoxical relationship to western medicine, to our medical system. This physician is entirely accepting of western medicine from which he derives his exceptional skill and competence. Nevertheless, he had been puzzling over the unexpected symptoms and the modest, incomplete healing that occurred.
“Sometimes patients have a different response to medication,” he offered.
“Please pay attention for your other patients,” I countered. “This was an iatrogenic event.” I am intolerant of the ways we are being acclimated to medical side effects and I know that what goes through my body enters the biosphere and negatively affects other beings without their permission.”
Some months later, a stitch that hadn’t dissolved was removed from my eye and an antibiotic prescribed against infection. I experienced a searing burning sensation as if acid had been dropped in my eye. I flushed my eye with water for twenty minutes and, of course, stopped using the prescription. The physician recommended another medication. I desisted, taking a risk, perhaps. No infection resulted.

***

In 1999, I called together a healing community we call Daré which means Council in the Shona language of Southern Africa. The community gathers for a day of healing on the first Sunday after the new moon. We have been meeting for more than 13 years. Whoever comes to Daré is welcomed as a member of Daré. Much healing occurs as we learn and apply the old, old ways to ease, relieve, cure as best as we can. It seems that miracles occur every month. Not everyone is cured. But then not everyone is cured by western medicine. But many people are benevolently affected on the physical, emotional, spiritual planes. Also community itself is healed as we heal. And additionally, as it is increasingly clear that the healing ways of western medicine are enhanced by the medicine we offer, alliances between the best of the two ways of knowing become possible. Such parallels between western medicine and healing ways are implicit in CAM, Complementary and Alternative Medicine. But they are still parallel events operating from different perspectives. ReVisioning Medicine that brings all the ways into a unified and dynamic council, is we, believe the future.

The ways of Daré are carried among us from month to month. We try to walk in the world as healing presences. We try to live according to the healing ways that are revealed to us. Although Daré only meets officially once a month, it is a 24/7 activity through which our consciousness develops.

***

As I write this, a colleague and long term Daré member, is trying to recover from serious auto immune responses to medication. The physicians do not have other medicines to offer patients even though they increasingly have to deal with side effects that are serious, sometimes more serious than the original condition. If we thought about illness differently, we would seek other interventions. We would invent other treatments. We would all be engaged in ReVisioning Medicine. This colleague came to see me because she was in increasing discomfort, pain, fear and anxiety. There were a scattering of potential diagnosis and an increasing negative response to the medications suggested. Autoimmune responses to steroids is the least of it.

We did what healers and medicine women have done from the beginning. We sought Spirit’s aid. We turned to divination. I suggested, as is my way, a series of questions that she could address over time. At the heart of our concern, was a piece from her early history. As a young girl, she had had the desire to be a medical doctor. It had arisen when she read and reread Microbe Hunters. Now in her sixties, after a long history of university teaching and activism related to social justice, her thinking has changed. A Daré member for many years, she has deeply assimilated the teachings that have emerged based on “all our relations.” She is committed to a revisioned medical practice that does no harm. She no longer wants to hunt and kill microbes. She wanted to know what peaceful co-existence might be.

Her insight and resolve came a short time before a different attitude toward microbes is entering the culture:

“I would like to lose the language of warfare,” said Julie Segre, a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. “It does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”

This new approach to health is known as medical ecology. Rather than conducting indiscriminate slaughter, Dr. Segre and like-minded scientists want to be microbial wildlife managers.

No one wants to abandon antibiotics outright. But by nurturing the invisible ecosystem in and on our bodies, doctors may be able to find other ways to fight infectious diseases, and with less harmful side effects.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/science/studies-of-human-microbiome-yield-new-insights.html?pagewanted=all

When my colleague addressed the question that affected her most urgently, “What am I called to in order to ease and bring peace to the distress in my body?” the answer from the I Ching, her augury of choice, was direct:

“Shake/rousing (51) describes your situation in terms of a disturbing and inspiring shock. The way to deal with it is to rouse things to new activity. Re-imagine what you are confronting. Let the shock shake up your old beliefs and begin something new. Don’t lose your depth and concentration. What at first seems frightening, will soon be a cause to rejoice.”

This advice was followed by: “This is a time when Noble One transforms anxiety and fear through adjusting and inspecting.”

Mysterious and ultimately incredible as it seemed, the pain she had been feeling disappeared with “Shock” from the I Ching. And then, also, the anxiety was gone. Three years ago, when she had been also suffering from diverticulitis, a Music Daré restored her to health that lasted until these last weeks when she has been highly stressed. Now again, the old, old medicine of Story and right relationship and community of all beings brought her back into alignment and health.

***

Some weeks before the cataract surgery, I had given the ophthalmologist, my novel, Feral, which is grounded in the particulars of the beauty of the natural world. The Girl in the novel has gone feral in order to ease the pain of her life. To live within the animation and beauty of nature was to be vitally alive. Happiness came to her from being companioned by lizards and a wolf. She had agreed to come down from a tree where she was making her home on condition that the Woman, a therapist, not confine her within the terrors and illogic of civilization. The young woman initiates her therapist into the true ways of healing through challenging psychology’s identification with pathology while insisting upon right relationships and alliance with and compassion for the earth and its creatures. Her agonies and distress derived from knowing that the animals are consistently hunted down, that humans are afflicting and terrorizing all life. That the violence she suffered as a child, is suffered by the natural world a thousand fold and without end.

“When you read this,” I had told the surgeon, “you will know why the surgery has to go well. I am a writer, I need to be able to see.” I had put myself in his capable hands so that my somewhat clouded vision might be cleared.” I had also given him texts of keynote addresses I have delivered to various medical associations on the loss of the soul of medicine, on the increasing gulf between the medical world and true ways of healing.

My primary motivation in presenting him with several books and essays was to create a relationship with him so that healing could occur. He performs so many surgeries – and the great, great majority are successful – I didn’t doubt his expertise. But I was putting my eyes, my vision in his hands and in my philosophy that act requires connection and interconnection. For my comfort, we needed to care about each other. To be friends. That’s the way it used to be. That is the way it was when I was a child. My parents and our doctors were friends, neighbors and colleagues. Health developed among them.

As it happened, I had been so alarmed by the negative changes that were occurring after surgery, I used his offer to email him after office hours far more frequently than I could ever have imagined. He was always kind and immediately responsive even when he was visiting his family in another state. And so though my eye was not healing, my respect for him increased. And he has a sense of humor as do I. That always helps.

***

Before leaving for the appointment with the ophthalmologist, I had a conversation with a colleague about medicine and its dangers. We could have spent hours articulating the systemic problems, the pressures and expenses of the pharmaceutical, scientific and technologic research industries, the collusion of hospitals, doctors and insurance companies, the weight of the multiple lobbies, the entire system beholden to profit and power. She did not agree with her assigned doctor’s approach to illness.

“But we have to go to the doctor,” she said. She had no choice, she felt, but to accept treatment.
Technically, she has the right to refuse, even if emotionally she is tied in, as so many are by the reflexive warnings that our failure to follow medical advice will end in disaster. Maybe she has the right to refuse but the consequences of exercising it are extreme. A friend who wanted to refuse chemotherapy was told her insurance would be cancelled, and all her family members deprived of insurance if she did not comply.
“Do we have to go to the doctor?” I asked.

Do we have to? Do we always have to get so many x-rays? Do we have to have mammograms when there are other means of detection? My dentist advised me that he will no longer treat me if I refuse to have a full set of x-rays next time I come to visit him even though I have signed a paper refusing them. Do we have to get dental x-rays? Do I have to submit to a diagnostic test that will cause me harm and will infinitely damage the environment? The earth is a seething body of pain caused by all our tests and medicines. Who says I must! Why are they so certain? Why are we not committed to tests and treatments that do no harm to the earth? Why don’t we train our physicians and healers to detect illness in other ways, in the old ways that often served before current technology.

The US government paid researchers to mutate the Bird Flu virus so it would move down into the animal kingdom and be more deadly to humans. Do we have to get flu shots? Do we have to inoculate infants even if these measures may seriously damage their brains? Do we have to yield to chemotherapy and radiation? Who has the courage to resist these treatments? How many of us will have the courage to claim our rightful lives and deaths?

“The physicians have to change,” my friend asserted. “They have to resist and change their ways.”
“The patients have to change. The public has to change,” I suggested. It is up to us to support healers in searching for and providing a kind and just medicine that will serve the patient and the earth.

***

A physician friend had the following dream: A heavy energy field shows up in her office at the end of the day. All her patients have left. Her colleagues have slipped out of the back door. She is alone with this energy or entity. It wants something of her but she does not know what. She can’t escape it. The entity follows her into a hospital room. She is forced down on a hospital bed. She awakens very unsettled. Who will be with her? Who will stand by the physician?

What is the great weight, the energy or entity that bears down on the physician so that she is incapacitated? What is the great weight that is bearing down on physicians everywhere so that they cannot practice the medicine they committed to practice? What is the great weight that overwhelms and subsumes the very will of medical doctors so that they are daily forced to violate the most sacred injunction – First, do no harm!

***

When we cannot exercise free will in the deepest areas of our souls we are living under totalitarian conditions. Totalitarianism is not only related to dictatorships, the absence of fair elections, the military evidence on the street of a police state. Totalitarianism is systemic. It is a state of mind. It is present when the dominant ideology penetrates every aspect of our minds and lives. It is present when the assumptions, beliefs and attitudes of one group entirely control our thinking and we have no recourse. Often we don’t know that our minds are fully under a system’s control. It is present when we cannot act against the current of thought because we believe that doing so will cause great harm to us and those we love. Totalitarianism is present when its way is the way. When we are mandated to act against our core beliefs and better judgment “for our own good.” When commercial interets overwhelm human concerns. When to violate it is unthinkable. No one small group, even physicians, can resist totalitarianism alone.

Physicians also become patients. They also suffer iatrogenic events. An MD colleague suffered kidney failure from medication for rheumatoid arthritis. His own physician did not protect him from the medical treatment that was known to cause harm and he couldn’t protect himself either. This was the protocol insisted upon. He was its victim.

To almost every Daré gathering, someone has brought a story of having suffered recently at the hands of western medicine. Yes, they asked for treatment but they didn’t expect to become sicker, they didn’t expect to suffer from the medicine to which they had been forced to submit. Debilitating infections contracted during hospital stays. Sensitivity to pharmaceuticals. Children, everywhere, on drugs. An alarming increase in autism.

Medical research consistently denies the relationship between mercury in vaccines and autism. But ask the mother (in our community) who brought a healthy, vibrant baby to the post natal clinic for his shots and two days later had a lifeless baby who is seriously autistic twenty years later.

Medicine has hidden the ever present dangers of the thousands of chemicals used by industry because it itself is an industry that uses toxic chemicals in the form of drugs. …According to the New York Times a study by the Army surgeon general, conducted soon after 9/11, found that up to 2.4 million people could be killed or wounded by a terrorist attack on a single chemical plant. What could be released instantly in a cloud of death is inevitably released slowly in the environment and carried to our children through the air and through the many thousands of products including medicines, vaccines and dental fillings…. Today the nightmare for doctors, who have any kind of sensitivity to the realities that environmental medicine provides, is to diagnose problems and disease that are occurring against a background of chemical hostility including the ever-present serious side effects from medications. The general tendency of allopathic physicians is to deny toxicity while falsely elevating bacteria and viruses as the main causes of disease. Their failure to understand when chemicals are combining to overwhelm the health of any particular individual is tragic.
Multiple Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders
International Medical Veritas Association Mark Sircus Ac., OMD

This week there was a suicide in our kinship network. The woman, addicted to prescribed pain pills, could no longer bear her life. The question remains, wouldn’t we invent different treatment if we thought differently about healing? If we didn’t see enemies everywhere, might we create protocols that are not devastating to the body and the earth?

***

I am haunted by an image. I have had the great fortune of being friends with the extraordinary woman writer, Anaïs Nin. Anaïs’ life was committed to beauty and graciousness. She introduced her readers to the mysterious realms of the dream and inner life. In January 1977, she was dying of cancer. Before her death, her husband had built a Japanese teahouse outside her bedroom window that she would never enter. In the last weeks of her life, until I had to go to New York, I had been able to visit her every day to help her cross from one world to another. These were blessed moments. She had arranged her dying to accord with her living so that it would occur peacefully in the house she loved, by the miniature sand garden with sunlight and moonlight reflecting on the dark waters of the little pool outside. Her husband, who loved her passionately, had promised her that she could die at home. I called from Manhattan to say good-bye yet again. I could barely make out her voice. When I called the next day, I learned that in the last moment, her husband had panicked, had been afraid to defy the doctors, had called an ambulance and she had died in the hospital.

This is the image; I wasn’t there but it is one of my strongest memories: Anaïs is strapped onto a gurney that is being raised into the ambulance. Her husband has placed a red velvet bow in her hair. An IV is being plugged into her vein. Her eyes are wide open. Startled. Terrified. Later, her husband would say, “I knew from the way she looked at me, that I had entirely betrayed her.”

Betrayal is a word commonly used by people coming to Daré or ReVisioning Medicine. Betrayal is a word that veterans use when speaking of their military experience in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who come to Daré suffering PTSD, say they did not expect to be violating the basic principles of human community in a war whose motives they quickly began to distrust. Betrayal by family members who never learned the ways of healing, by physicians, therapists, priests, lawmakers, police, teachers, whose loyalties are to other than the individual patient.

***

We are not free to live or to die the ways we wish. We do not have control over our own lives. We are forced to yield to authorities we do not know and may well not respect. Guilds of professionals and politicians, often beholden to the pharmaceutical, insurance and medical industries, make strategic economic decisions that will decide our fate. When you are prohibited from acting on behalf of your own life, you are living in a totalitarian system. Despite what we have been led to believe, totalitarianism is very subtle. It seeps into our bodies and minds like an invisible gas. Like radiation that we cannot detect without a specialized instrument, that enters our bones, distorts our cells. “You must. You must not.” Even those who ultimately impose the laws and create the conditions under which we live, are not aware of the full impact of their decisions, actions and their consequences. It is the way of those who presume, without asking, to alter our food supply, to pollute our land, to envelop us in a chemical and electromagnetic soup that threatens all of us, our children, human and non-human.

In The Third Reich of Dreams 1933 – 1939, Charlotte Beradt, who kept a diary of patient dreams in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich and smuggled it out of Germany in code, traces the ways in which the rising tide of fascism infected the unconscious lives of ordinary Germans, how people, according to one reviewer, are remade from the inside out by totalitarian regimes.

In the time since I was young, western medicine has become a dogmatic system entering every aspect of our lives. If an individual or a family refuses certain treatments, they can be coerced into acquiescence. Children who are not vaccinated cannot attend public school despite the increasing evidence, scientific and anecdotal, of the relationship between the plague of autism and vaccinations. People can be denied their rightful and respectful death by being kept on life support or revived against their will and their instructions. We are injured and die of a host of medical treatments and procedures. Every prescription comes with a long list of possible side-effects, from mild to serious. Iatrogenic illness is the third most fatal disease in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

I must repeat this: Iatrogenic illness is the third most fatal disease in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

And yet, we have no freedom to refuse and no global imperative to undo the system that is killing us and the earth, but still calls itself medicine.

***

This morning, I awaken to the words in this essay streaming through my mind. I don’t know if I have dreamed them, but I must write them down. Everything is coming at once, the interaction with the ophthalmologist, the conversation with a Muslim acquaintance, who wears a hijab, but who is compelled by her HMO to put her naked body in the hands of a physician whose medical orientation is foreign to her. Fish, frogs, insects animals feminized, masculinized, their reproductive systems disrupted due to the hormones, endocrines and other medically related pollutants in the water table. 250,000+ human patients will die in the hospital of iatrogenic illnesses this year. Thousands and thousands of people are writhing now from pharmaceutical side-effects. Millions are using drugs that are making them ill as they try to heal from the horrific illnesses we are causing.

What will it take for us to step out of the system that is causing all life so much harm? What will it take to say No and seek other ways?

What if we gather together to step out of the dominant mind set that requires us to do harm or be harmed? What if we adamantly refuse any and all medicines and treatments that seriously harm the patients, communities and earth? We have to undo the authoritarianism of the current medical model that is doing so much harm and has corralled the global population into serving it. How many people are undergoing chemo and radiation to treat the diseases that we clearly cause? A horrific and continuous cycle.

What if we insist that all healing regimes must also benefit and or heal the earth? What if we direct all research to find only those medicines that consider the health of the future as well as the health of the patient?

***

Anaïs was vividly with me this morning though I haven’t thought of her for many months. As it is so many years since she died, I consider her an ancestor. It is cold outside. I build a fire for warmth and sit before it with the laptop that I haven’t used since December. An event reminder springs up to alert me: January 14th. Anaïs’ death!

Synchronicity. I know I am to write this essay now. When I tell my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill, about the confluence of events, noting that I awakened thinking of her for the first time in many months as this essay began to form in my mind and then opened the computer to a reminder of Anaïs’ death, he says, “Synchronicity is the antidote to totalitarianism. It is the voice of the ancestors from the other side.”

I speak of this essay and he adds, “Global warming is an iatrogenic autoimmune crisis, as is what is happening in the body politic and also in the body of medicine. And so in our bodies as well.”

Yes, Anaïs is an ancestor now. In the old medicine ways, we recognize that she has come as an ancestor to bring us wisdom and help set things right. Why has this ancestor arrived now? What might she want me to consider?

Her appearance as an ancestor references a different kind of medicine. Indigenous medicine not Western medicine. Revisioned Medicine. A spirit based medicine. A medicine that is kind and relational. A medicine that is integrated into the natural world and respects all beings. Everything about such a medicine is different. All the forms are different.

Imagine a medicine woman from your far lineage. Imagine you are ill and so are going to her compound. Imagine you may have to wait at her compound for a long time, because she has gone to the mountain to speak to the spirits. So, while you are waiting, you may as well cook a soup as she’ll be hungry and tired when she gets back from the mountain. Indigenous medicine is reciprocal medicine, is based on relationship. In indigenous or ReVisioned medicine, we take care of each other. When you understand this about medicine, it will be the right time for you to speak to the spirits as well. When the medicine woman comes back, she is going to ask you your story, what you think about your illness, what you have been dreaming, what the spirits are saying to you about your life, so you may as well be prepared.

This is not an impossible scenario. This is the way we live and offer healing at Daré. This is a form that informs ReVisioning Medicine. Such a medicine requires that we say No to what acts against all life and we be rigorous about bearing witness when it occurs. Then we say Yes to what sustains life, all life, and ally with others who do the same.

ReVisioning Medicine is a form that came to me some years ago. Perhaps it was when I began speaking to physicians about the story that the illness is telling. When I began to see that healing one’s life means healing our lives. It began when I began to collaborate with physicians in recognizing such stories and treating the patients accordingly. It began when we recognized that we could listen with the heart as well as our minds.

We’re only at the beginning of ReVisioning Medicine. We have to learn the old, old ways again and integrate them with the medical forms that can sustain us when they do no harm. We help each other say No and then say Yes. Tradition, vision, science and deep listening. Contemporary experience affirms that medical interventions are enhanced when the afflicted ones recognize the story they are living, the meaning that can be derived from their suffering, and see the way to healing. ReVisioning Medicine gathers everyone, the way we used to do when we sat around a fire and listened for the story that was going to nourish us for the years to come. We listen to the story the illness is telling hoping to set us on the right path.

***

A woman consults me regarding an interaction with a physician. Several years ago, she healed from multiple sclerosis. Afterwards she had cancer. This was treated; she is well. Now she is told that tests reveal that she has another serious illness. Its nature however is mysterious. The tests do not identify it. It has no symptoms. Or affect. She feels well. The doctors want to continue to test her, to look for the cause of the anomaly in her test scores. If she follows their regime, she will be completely enveloped in a field of fear and disease. She finally convinces them to leave her alone for six months. “Whatever it is, I will discover it and heal it my way,” she says. She has had many extraordinary experiences that support this.

One night she has a dream. An old man with wise and kind eyes, hands her a goblet of water. He says, “Drink this. It will cure all your ills.” She waits and does not take the water.
“Don’t you want to be well?” he asks.
“I do, “ she says. “But I don’t have time.”

Trained in divination, I ask her to select a card from a Tarot deck we both use. “Ask the spirits,” I say, “to tell you what I am thinking about your dream.” It is a risky gesture. But it is based on faith in the spirits, that they will speak truly and we will recognize their presence. It is based on the faith that the spirits want to heal and they want the earth to heal as well. They want a new medicine that includes the old wise ways that are aligned with the earth and the welfare of all beings. Indigenous people relied on divination because they listened to wisdom that comes from beyond the human mind. The wisdom of the ancestor, Anaïs, for example.
The card the woman chose is the nine of rivers from the Shining Tribe deck. “The nine of rivers shows eight broken pots, symbolizing the fragmented areas of our lives. But we also see one pot already healed.” In the image, the pot is full of light.
“We cannot predict the results of healing either our own or the world around us. We need to act for the sake of a redemption that will be a mystery until it unfolds before us.”
It had been clear to me that the old man in her dream was handing her the grail, the vessel of spiritual light and healing for herself and others. There is no conventional logic that can explain how she randomly turned over a card that would reveal the grail.
The text connected with the card continues, “The idea of a perfect vessel to hold divine light may remind some people … of the Holy Grail. Divinatory meaning: Healing.”
“When the grail is offered to you, you must take it,” I tell the dreamer. “I would have told you this, even if you hadn’t received that card. I would have used these identical words. The dream and the Tarot card are one.” She knows this. As soon as she received the card, she understood what she had to do. She had to trust her own deep knowledge. She had to find the time for healing. She had to accept the path of the Holy Grail.

***

Before contact with the colonizers, indigenous societies were able to heal disease. What they never could heal were the diseases of the colonizers. These are the physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses that are devastating us at this time. Healing will not come to us through the activities of the nation state because it is implicated in our diseases. We have to heal ourselves. However, such healing cannot happen under the auspices of an authoritarian hierarchy that does not recognize the profound wisdom and self-knowledge of each patient let alone all the allies needed by the circle. In the field of ReVisioning Medicine, there is an alliance between the patient, the physicians, the healers, the family, spirits, the earth and its creatures, the ancestors and future beings. ReVisioning Medicine brings together everyone who must speak and be heard in order for healing to occur.

Healing is intimate. It occurs within the heart. Each such healing opens the possibility of many others healing accordingly. Each such alliance creates the circumstances that challenge the ills of our time, circumstances in which the entire world can heal.

In the time of writing this essay, I have been approached by three women from very different parts of the country suffering unusual, mysterious conditions that seem caused or exacerbated by different medical treatments. Each woman cited severe pain, exhaustion, rashes, hives, especially in the mouth or throughout the body, and various vascular and circulatory, blood vessel anomalies, endometriosis like symptoms, painful eruptions, even of or around their nerves, that seemed to have no known cause. For each, fybromyalgia and lyme disease were ruled out as they seem to be the catch all for unknown suffering. In sitting with the afflicted one and listening deeply to every detail of the story they chose to tell, each also described a serious disconnection from the natural world which had sustained them earlier and their sense that illness will not recede unless they are able to reconnect with the earth.

I am increasingly pained by the extent of the grief and suffering that is in our communities and that is too often caused or intensified by the medical system we have created. We are all responsible. We all collude in the distortion of a system that was committed to healing and compassion but has been taken over, without our consent, by influences we believe are beyond our control. Physicians do not want to cause harm. They want to heal. Their original intention was to be healers not business people or overworked professionals in the service of an impersonal economic system. A physician, using a short hand, referred to the majority of her contemporaries as practicing “pharmaceutical medicine.” That says it all. We need to find the way back to the original call.

One of the women, a psychotherapist, who suffered these strange symptoms after capitulating to a surgery she did not want, is in the process of closing her practice and settling in a small town in Vermont in order to be on the land. The physicians she saw, and the insurance company she was affiliated with, did not see a connection between all her different symptoms, nor to the coercion that had led to surgery, nor the professional life style she had to adopt in order to serve her patients. They did not see and respond to the whole story and so the affliction was never really seen despite some perfunctory diagnosis, and she did not heal and did not think she would until she would be able to live and practice her medicine differently.

The person, mentioned earlier, who committed suicide had bought a house near the woods years ago. A town grew up around the person’s house and then a freeway had been installed directly behind the house. The freeway wall became the back wall of the garden. The family attributes the fatal despair to the strangle hold of urban life.

When I had breast cancer in 1977, I quickly learned the following: Heal the life and the life will heal you. We can scarcely fathom the extent and breadth of what we are called to heal so that we can all live vital lives. But every act that restores a bit of the natural world, that understands that relationship is medicine, that understands that community heals, that understands that we must not do harm, contributes to the healing of the world.

***

The next ReVisioning Medicine weekend for medical and medicine practitioners will be in Topanga California on President’s weekend February 15-17 2013. We seek a balance of medical professionals and healers, of new participants and members of the core group. If you are interested please write to me at deenametzger@verizon.net.

Our Exile. A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation

I met Ariel Dorfman in Santiago Chile in September 1972. I and my then partner, David Kunzle, had to prove that we were trustworthy and not working for the CIA. There were already indications that a coup, supported by the U.S. was brewing to overthrow the first democratically elected socialist government in the hemisphere. We didn’t know how brutal it would be. We didn’t know it would direct and change the course of our lives. We didn’t know how profoundly it would affect world history and conscience.

Very reluctantly, Ariel went into exile after the coup. Feeding on Dreams is his most extraordinary memoir of those terrible years. It is a story of exile itself. And so it is our exile. Not only his, and Chile’s and mine, but yours, and so ours. Our exile. The circumstances and powers that led to that terrible coup were not confined to Chile or to the 20th century but continue to thrust all our souls into exile and to insist that we live in profound disconnection from land, values, community, from all that matters.

In 1972, Ariel didn’t know that we would see each other again. We didn’t know we would become brother and sister. And I couldn’t have predicted that 40 years later, I would have the deep honor of writing this essay in response to one of the finest memoirs of our time, written by one of our finest writers, a man of great heart and wisdom even in the face of terrors.

“The twentieth century of exile and displacement bleeds into the twenty-first century. Great waves of despair, huge surges of people fleeing toward uncertain safety accompany innumerable individual losses of land, country, language, and culture. Increasingly, we are a world of displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants, and exiles. Alongside us, invisible animals, birds, and other creatures seek habitat and food as they are equally crowded out, hunted down, unable to adapt to the sudden and increasing changes in their environment. The very nature of their lives, and so their nature itself, is distorted—no differently than the lives of human beings. There are increasing numbers of citizens of nowhere and no place, and such diasporas add to our forgetting that land and place, country and territory, are essential to the stability and sanity of human beings.

Ariel Dorfman is one of our era’s many citizens of nowhere, and Feeding on Dreams is the story of his exile from Chile. It is the story of the recreation of a self under the pressures of dire loss and ongoing efforts to support, maintain, and protect those left behind. It is also the story and examination of exile itself in a time when such a state of disconnection and dissociation is commonplace….” Our Exile: A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation

SPIRIT SPEAKS TO US WHEN WE OPEN TO IT

SPIRIT SPEAKS TO US WHEN WE OPEN TO IT

For Heidi Hutner who inspired this scrutiny.

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45800485/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/scientists-test-sick-alaska-seals-radiation/#.TwJvPZi1n9I

This is the second day of 2012.

The way I live my life is causing great pain and injury to many beings.

I am hoping that the trajectory of our lives will change on 12/20/2012. This will only happen if we approach it deliberately.

Here is a first step. It is so simple and ordinary an act; it is a leap.

I have to do what I have been asking everyone to do:

I have to disentangle from whatever I recognize causes harm and injury to the earth. Why would I allow myself to continue to live in ways that agonize the beings of this world?

The seals are in great anguish. There are no painkillers for them. Little ones are in agony. Some have died. Who was with them? Who comforted the mothers?

The cause may be radiation from Fukushima. I have never advocated for nuclear energy or weapons. But the life I live and the privileges I accept, are congruent with nuclear energy. I have to begin to turn away from the life style that harms others so extremely.

Seals have lives. We have life styles. The discrepancy is intolerable.

I have to disentangle from the minds that can tolerate others suffering such pain or suffering for the sake of economic or military gain or …. I have to recognize and accept that they are mad. It is no longer important to know why they are mad. It is essential to know they are crazed and to step away from the circle of their constructions.

Every day another technological, economic, political, social event, activity or invention violently diminishes or harms life. Our lives disappear and what is substituted is a manufactured reality, increasingly the domain of the criminally insane.

Spirit disappears. It cannot exist in the unnatural realm. To do so, perhaps, would be to accept our life styles.

Conventional wisdom says that I have to acquiesce to the contemporary world, to how things are. It says, I have to submit in order to be effective, to create change, in order to survive. This is what you have to do to survive, it says, kindly.

This is not true. It is only true so long as we agree to live this way.

Spirit was the source of different lives. Spirit shows us other ways. Living each day and moment in a dialogue with spirit, responding as spirit would have us respond on behalf of Creation, is a Way.

We once were one with spirit. Each of us lived within the sacred conversation. We had the means and the understanding. That relationship was once intimate and continuous. No one was denied it. No one was outside it. We breathed it and it rained upon us. It was a great light. It was the comfort of being immersed in starry darkness.

A great distortion came into our midst and separated the human from spirit.

The moments of vision that we sometimes experience and call extraordinary reality, and that are so brilliant that a single instance can sustain us for a lifetime, are merely sightings through pinholes to the radiant world we once inhabited.

It was once this way. Then listening was forbidden. Then it was mocked. Then it was overridden.

Spirit speaks to us when we open to it. The way to disentangle from what causes such great harm and pain is to reconnect.

It is so simple.

A true and ordinary life is entirely connected with spirit that benevolently considers and praises all beings.

Nothing else is required.

Be with me as words enter the world through the invisible conduit that has always served creation and is sufficient.

Image: Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Los Angeles or Occupy Everywhere. There is no microphone. Someone, however, has a megaphone. A simple device. She, or he, says a short sentence. The crowd repeats it and amplifies it a thousand fold. Not only does everyone know what is being said, but everyone passes the words through their bodies. In this way, every word is understood deeply, is taken in, and what is being spoken is vital for everyone.

Spirit speaks. Spirit speaks when we open to it.

In this moment, something is being spoken that I did not expect. Spirit is speaking and I am passing it through my body as I write the words on the page. I am speaking them aloud as I type. Words doubly etched. An antidote for alienation.

Stay with me. If you like, repeat what matters to you. We are in a practice, an exercise that undermines possessions. The words are entering. They are entering in their own time.

I listen. More importantly I take the words into me. I want to understand and offer myself to be altered.

Of course, I have to trust these are spirit’s words, not my own or anyone else’s. Certainly, I can’t be sure., but they are surprising me. What is being communicated is simple and is startling.

I am coming to a standstill as if yielding to a wordless understanding that is beyond me. There is nothing I can do to invite it closer. We will see whether or not this comes to a conclusion. We will see whether the entire understanding will emerge roundly.

Spirit speaks. Because we have opened to it.

This is so simple, I cannot pretend I am inventing it.

I am afraid that this is so simple, and so familiar, that I will not be able to meet it. That I will not turn the 180 degrees that is required to meet it at this very moment.

I am afraid that I will ignore it. I am afraid I will say it is obvious and banal.

The challenge is to recognize this simple and yet enormous truth. I am afraid I will not understand that this is important enough to turn my entire life around. To turn my life around entirely, here and now.

Is it possible that the full realization of my life depends, now, on the simple gesture of turning my back so I face a life that does no harm.

Living with spirit is something we have known. It was of us but we separated from it. It became an idea and it was no longer a Way. We stopped living accordingly. Ideas that we do not live, do not matter. These words are insisting on being a Way again.

I was on the way to writing something else. But these words began coming and insisting themselves. This may be a reliable sign.

I think these words emerge from kindness. I do not think they will do harm. I see that it may serve to let these words pass through me and become the Way I will live my life. You can do likewise, if it serves you

To know serves us only when knowing is alive, when we live accordingly.

If something strikes you, let the words will pass through you also as they are passing through me.

These teachings come to us so quietly from ancient and indigenous wisdom traditions

Kabbalah says that Spirit descends into the world. A great light or rain or wind arrives from elsewhere.

Kabbalah says that we also rise up to meet the holy.

The way to disentangle from what causes pain is to reconnect with spirit. Spirit comes when we open to it and live within it as if it is the air.

Spirit exists and is entirely benevolent.

Beauty and Heart are one and interchangeable in the Presence.

The true and ordinary life requires us to be aligned, at each moment, with spirit, with what does no harm.

Nothing else is required.

I insist that I will find ways to sustain and be sustained as I return to the real world that was never constructed of others’ pain.

I can do this. We can do this. A new step each day away from what causes such pain. Step by step, we can do this.

This is what the Dine call the Beauty way.

THE LANGUAGE OF RELATIONSHIP: ENGAGEMENT WITH ELEPHANTS

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language
of bodies, of bodies on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is
the language of dreams, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten the language.
We do not even remember that it exists.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than Words.

On September 13, 2011 I traveled to the Chobe National Park in Botswana with Krystyna Jurzykowski, founder and former Chair of the Board of Fossil Rim, a preserve in Glen Rose Texas that was originally for endangered African animals and now includes animals from North and South America. I wanted to see if communications that had occurred between me and one individual elephant on three separate occasions, and whom, accordingly, we named the Elephant Ambassador, might occur and be witnessed again. I was choosing for the second time to be with the Ambassador on my birthday; Krystyna was also choosing to be with the white rhinos in the area of Ghanzi, Botswana, a week later, on her birthday. We dared not speculate about the meaning of such events except in the ways that they accord with the developing understanding about the mysterious nature of the world in which animals and other non-human beings reveal themselves capable of intentional activity and of originating inter-species communication. We chose to do this on our birthdays so that, if the elephants came forth yet again, we would be open to being catapulted onto new paths to realize the work of the rest of our lives.

It is difficult to speak of this because western languages lack the vocabulary for such experience. Indigenous people from many parts of the world would understand our journey having lived with such assumptions and experiences until imperialists, colonizers, westerners denounced, diminished, prohibited this knowledge and, ‘cleansed’ our language of the means of this discourse. In the way of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ the languages, and the beings themselves, are being disappeared. The right, the means, to speak with the animals and of the animals as sentient companions as essential to the planet as human beings, is regularly dismissed. It is replaced by the ever increasing human passion to dominate animals and the natural world, to use, consume, and enslave,or, at its “best” to confine these non-human beings in circuses and zoos for our entertainment or education. And finally, to only allow them to live in designated areas or on reservations that too often become the equivalent of displaced persons camps.

In this century, preserves such as Fossil Rim, or the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary are necessary tiny sanctuaries protecting the species’ existence, attempting to preserve the gene pool and to provide some peace and quiet for a few members rescued from the violence of habitat destruction and hunting. But they are not able to replace the wild and vital life that was once original to the planet. Traveling to be with the elephants in this way, Krystyna and I were treading in the area of the forbidden.

Both Krystyna and I have had many encounters with animals that could be considered a dialogue. Both of us know that animals are intelligent, sentient and adept at communication. However, this was different. We were traveling to the wild, or a small strip of what is left of it, half way across the world, with the hope of keeping an appointment that could be made only in our hearts but would call us to change our minds, and so our lives, in the most profound ways.

***

We have not yet learned fully why Krystyna was called to be with the rhinoceroses. The experience with them was different than with the elephants in Chobe. They live in the wild but this wild has to be fenced. Wherever they live, they must be protected or they will be slaughtered for their horns. For awhile, conservationists hoped that if their horns were removed, they would be safe from poaching; this has turned out not to be true. Poachers who track rhinos from the air have taken to killing those without horns so that they will not spend the efforts tracking them only to find there are no horns to be gotten. It seems hopeless.

Krystyna was greatly surprised to see that Edo’s Camp in the Kalahari near Ghanzi is a mirror image of Fossil Rim. Similar antelopes and small predators, like cheetahs, populate the preserve. Like so many private preserves, they were both once used for hunting. The question, in Africa in particular, is whether eco-tourism can finance what hunting once financed. Can preserving life be as profitable as destroying it? Krystyna was intrigued by the ways in which Edo’s Camp and Fossil Rim resembled and differed from each other and what might come of their learning of each other.

The first night we were there, we toured a small portion of the preserve, watching the rain clouds come in two weeks early, mesmerized by the flashing lightning and rolling thunder. A good sign and a relief to Krystyna because Texas had been in flames for the months before we left. (When we had arrived in Botswana, she received a text saying that an inch and a half of rain had fallen at Fossil Rim. Just days after her return, seven inches of rain fell. The pans were being replenished and the first tufts of new grass and red flowers were emerging.) We were at home at Edo’s camp: there were impala, wildebeests,

kudu, sable antelope, springbok, waterbok–

the antelopes that Krystyna knows so well from Fossil Rim.

Then at night, as the African sunset was bathing the earth in its red light, seven of the twelve rhinos moved with an unexpected determined grace down to the water hole.

Two of the rhino were pregnant, their young sons keeping close contact with their mothers, knowing that as soon as the birth contractions begin, they will be sent out to be alone. There are no longer small groups of bull rhinos to receive them and teach the ways of the species that existed for 50 million years. Rhinos are the old ones. The ancestors. These young bulls, however, despite their heritage, will be alone and lonely and untutored for the long time until they are ready to mate and then they will have to fight the dominant bull for a female to begin their own herd. There are not enough bulls to sustain this natural conflict and replenish the species without human intervention moving bulls from place to place.

Edo’s camp, like Fossil Rim, is one of the few places on the planet where rhino breeding has been successful. So again, Krystyna was at home there. When she had been drawn by intuition to this area of the Kalahari, she hadn’t known of Edo’s Camp nor was she aware that we would be with the rhinos in the (protected) wild. Another strange circumstance to be fathomed over the next months as she cogitates on the possible connections between these two preserves and works to understand where and to what the rhinos, so so so endangered, might be calling us in their own slow and powerful ways. What is rhino intelligence, rhino legacy and how might we meet it?

***

We were going to meet the Elephant Ambassador that I had met before on three separate occasions: Once on January 6th (Epiphany) 2000, with four other companions, a Jungian analyst, Michele Daniel, a shamanic practitioner, Amanda Foulger, my husband, a writer and RN, and a Zimbabwean medicine man or nganga, Mandaza Kandemwa. Again, in August in 2001, when my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill and I made the pilgrimage alone, the Ambassador came to our car from a great distance, aggressively pushed through a small circle of females to stop inches from the front of our car and trumpet. The third time, that we met the Ambassador was also on my birthday, was in September 2004. Filmmaker Cynthia Travis, also founder of the peacebuilding NGO, everyday gandhis and I had gathered a small delegation of Bushmen, Africans from South Africa and Liberia, and participants from North America to meet the Ambassador and encounter the wild. a similar group, including ex child soldiers and ex combatants, would travel with us again to Tanzania where we would once again have unprecedented real meetings with elephants.

Each time the connection was made with the elephants at the same place in Chobe, at the same tree, at the same hour 5 pm, which was the very last hour of the very last day that we could be in the park. That last time, there was material evidence of an incomprehensible but irrefutable exchange between the Ambassador elephant and ourselves. After becoming the audience for a carefully choreographed display or performance, we were thrown a bone. Literally. Those who know something of elephant culture, who know the enormous significance of bones to elephants, might guess what gifting us with such a sacred object implies.

This return to Chobe was six years later. As we entered the park, Krystyna asked if the elephant that had come the last time, was the same elephant. Did I recognize him by his tusks or ears? Did I recognize him at all? I didn’t know. “I believed it was,” I said, “but I don’t know. It may be that it is the same energy carrying the same intent but I do not know if it rests in a particular individual or moves to another or other beings.”

I was also wondering whether the elephant’s intention emerged from a single elephant, or arose from the consciousness and intent of the species at a critical time in their history, or was an expression of Spirit’s intent using elephant, or none of these, or was some combination of all. I continue to wonder if I will ever be able to answer this question with confidence. In the same way, I do wonder whether I am Spirit’s instrument or whether I am merely acting with human agency even though I always hope that I am aligned with Spirit on behalf of the future of all beings. Am I intuiting? Am I being guided? Are these my ideas? Is Spirit working through me? Can anyone of us answer these questions with certainty?

At our last meeting, the Ambassador had introduced us to his female partner, another younger female and a calf, a very young bull elephant who wanted to stay with his father. We had also been a tight knit group that afternoon, my husband, Cynthia Travis and shamanic practitioner, Valerie Wolf. The others in our group had decided to explore the park on their own. When we saw what was being presented, the four of us assumed that the Ambassador wanted our family to meet his family. We began to understand that our communication was to be focused upon family and its meaning among his people.

As I write this, I realize I had attributed all agency to the Ambassador without considering that the Matriarch might have been collaborating in the meeting, or that the energy and agency was moving through them, not only through him. The new understanding fits the social structure and wisdom of elephant culture – which is tribal at its best, is relational, not individualistic.

As a writer, I am immediately within the dilemma. I am comparing elephant culture to human culture, anthropomorphizing. The error is not that elephants can’t attain human development but rather the opposite; these experiences indicate that Elephant may be communicating beyond what we have achieved, that Elephant is a culture that may in many ways be more developed than our own. That Elephant may be coming forth to teach us as we increasingly fall into brutishness.

There – I have said it!

***

In the years that have followed this third meeting, there have been other experiences and many opportunities to compare notes with others who have found that the hierarchical thinking that places humans above all other non-humans is wrong and unacceptable. These hierarchies merely serve the industries that exploit animals and other beings as food, resources and subjects of experimentation Such hierarchies, and the criminal intentions they serve, are at the core of the myriad forms of racism, sexism, colonialism, economic and political exploitation. Science, for example, is not likely to recognize sentience and intelligence in the beings it tortures for prestige and profit.

The first three meetings with the Ambassador challenged everything I had been taught to believe. I was/ we were astonished and grateful. Those of us who were working with everyday gandhis would soon learn that elephants are seen as peacemakers in Liberia and that they have played a mysterious role in helping to end the Liberian civil war, 1989 -2003. As a writer, and Senior Advisor to everyday gandhis, I was trying to detail what was being revealed about elephants as I was trying to integrate these three experiences into my life. To be honest, I might have been trying to normalize them as they challenge the very basic assumptions of civilization itself.

It is easy to write such a sentence. It is very hard to live with it. The foundations of my life were shaken as my heart insisted that I meet what was being revealed sincerely and without bravado. It was very important to refrain from exploiting the experience or my knowledge for my own enhancement. My loyalty had to be to Creation, to the elephants, and the nature of what was being unveiled.

The first time we met, I had said to the Ambassador, “I know who you are. We are both from a holocausted people.” Then I continued, “Your people are my people.” I have to live according to my word. One does not want to invoke rhetoric with a species that knows truth.

This morning I spoke with a writer who said that truth is the entire foundation of culture and identity. Without truth, there is only violence, disorder and despair.

***

I understand now that it took six years to be able to return and be worthy of, that is readied for, what might occur. As I prepared, inner understanding cautioned me to be more concerned that the Ambassador would show up than that he would not.

I was preparing for another experience that could be entirely discontinuous with modern or post modern life, with Western culture, with the dominant assumptions of the media, and with current religious, scientific, commercial, political, technological and military ideologies (or ideology). I was preparing for the possibility of an experience that constitutes a significant cognitive and ethical challenge to our way of life.

In the intellectual and spiritual communities that I serve, we have developed a common response to extraordinary events: “What is the true nature of the universe in which such things occur. And how then shall we live?”

The advent of the Ambassador had been leading me to ask what is the real nature of the universe that we inhabit. What is the real nature of the universe in which such events are occurring? Hardly the first to ask this question, I was grateful to be companioned by Krystyna who has also been reflecting on this for many years.

I had met Krystyna in 1995 when I interviewed her for the anthology, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals. In her essay, “Dance with a Giraffe,” she wrote, “When I am in direct, intimate relationship with an animal I am more able to ask questions from within the cycle of nature. Animals take me into the nature of nature. The universal dance of form and relationship–creation and destruction, of which we are all part.

Krystyna’s words came out of her deep, unconditional respect for animals and the complexity and sentience of their lives. “Being with the giraffe, Old Nick, brought this feeling to me, especially when I was summoned to participate in his dance with death,” she wrote as she described the hours she had spent before he died with his head in her lap, as the other giraffes circled and circled him in the ritual moment.

Hearing this story from the Founder of Fossil Rim, who is deeply involved in conservation on national and international levels, was fundamental to understanding animal intelligence. We had not expected some of the conclusions that developed from gathering the essays for Intimate Nature: “At the center of empathy and compassionate understanding lies the ability to see the other as true peer, to recognize intelligence and communication in all forms, no matter how unlike ourselves these forms might be. It is this gift of empathy and connection, embodied in the relationship between us and other species, that enables us to thrive now and into the future.” Krystyna’s essay and her experiences were critical to our understanding of the field of relationship between women and animals that had been challenging the more conventional beliefs held by science and western culture.

If the Ambassador came again, in whatever way and form, I would have to transform my life entirely to meet this real event and its implications. I could not imagine what would be asked and was glad that I was not pretending to know. However, I am carrying the question each moment of each day since my return: How then shall I / shall we live now?

***

I am always alert to events at the threshold of a journey. Just days before the trip, I learned of an attempt in South Africa to save a particular bull elephant, the patriarch of a small herd, from being the object of a hunt. The price on Ngani’s head was $20,000+. He had been sold to a hunter by the owner of a small preserve who had been in financial difficulties. Now the old owner wanted him back but the new owner who had organized the hunt for very wealthy international clients, wanted twice the money he had paid. From the moment I learned of Ngani’s situation, I felt as if a brother of mine had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. I was impatient with all the maneuvering as everyone, even those with the best intentions, had agendas to fulfill through serving Ngani’s story; I wanted to secure the life of my kin.

The appeal for Ngani was prescient. Most of the conversations we had with guides and tourists in Botswana and Namibia centered on the economics of eco-tourism, buying and selling animals, stocking and restocking, hunting, canned hunting (shooting an animal such as a white lion confined in a cage) and the technology and munitions involved in the poaching of elephants, lions and rhinos. Poaching has become a militarized industry using advanced technology, helicopters and machine guns. Modern warfare at its most insidious.

At the time we left, we did not know the outcome for Ngani, but we did learn to our horror, at the end of the trip that even if he were to be ransomed, another elephant would be hunted in his stead. It was hopeless.

I had once dreamed that my father and I had been given the task by Nazis to choose ten people who would saved from the Death Camps. In the dream, we tried to find those who had the most life in them, who would live longest, who would be able to … who knows what. In the dream, the task was horrible and haunted me for a long time. Another instance was occurring in real life at a time when I was preparing to make an unprecedented alliance with another very intelligent, socially and ethically developed species.

Now we were both searching for ways to respond to Ngani’s situation and to hunting in general, an activity that Krystyna knew well from her professional history of animal activism. In her essay, Krystyna recalled a pledge she, as a child, had repeatedly made to a baby anteater. “You are my friend, you are safe here, you will be taken care of.” She has been living according to this pledge her entire life. But, at the very beginning of our journey, we were being challenged by the dangers that animals experience each day and were wondering if / how we could create safety for them.

(Editing this on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, I know the terrible outcome of the terrible situation. Ngani’s life was saved but another elephant was offered up. The hunter was given a “destruction permit” on the very last day that it could be issued. He came upon Beuga, the matriarch of the seventy elephants in the herd, darted her and killed her. (See http://www.corporate-wildlife-teambuilding-adventures.com/2011/10/further-elephant-communications-saving-the-life-of-ngani-and-beuga’s-plea/)

There are no words to describe this tragedy.)

When I was considering going to Chobe to see if I could meet the Elephant Ambassador on my 75th birthday, Krystyna had said, “I want to go with you. I want to meet him too.” When I heard her words, knowing who she is, I knew that we would go.

***

I traveled to Africa, this fourth time, with the stated intent or, hope, to meet with elephants, to sit in council with them, and to see how we might, together, act on behalf of a viable future and the restoration of the natural world. For the fourth time they came. They came even though we do not have, or I did not know we have, an established means of communication.

Krystyna and I could exercise our human will to the extent that we could board a plane and make our way to an established meeting place in Chobe. After that, what would occur was in the elephants’ trunks, so to speak.

We had three and a half days to stay in Chobe. We would go to the appointed place. We would see what if anything, outside the realm of tourism, might occur. I knew that we had to be very sensitive to any gestures, movements and activities so as to distinguish which, if any, were directed toward us, and which were part of ordinary elephant activity. Yes, we had come to see the elephants as they live their lives, but we had also come to be with the elephants.

We do not have a common language. If there were to be a conversation, a language would have to be created. And so it was. At first it was a language of gesture and response, then a language of event, then of events becoming motion. Motion and meaning became one. That one can also be understood as Story. Then all the other stories integrated to become one Story. Except by arriving each time, it was not a language that we initiated. The elephants had agency; we were the respondents.

I don’t know the first sentence of the communication between us, because I do not know if they called me/us or whether we called them. I know that each event or moment might have been understood as static, as a noun. Then the nouns gathered, one after another, like a procession that had a dynamic energy that could be called a verb. Syntax: noun – verb – object became verb, became dynamic, became resonant relationships, like an Athabascan language. Utterance by gesture, then reply and acknowledgment. And again. Call and Response, inseparable from each other. Music. A divine order that includes all.

We, the two humans, who met the elephants, as we had seemingly agreed, in the years before, at a certain place and at a certain time, did not create the language except by making the journey and keeping our word. This was already a great leap out of the conventional human world into another dimension. We went toward the elephants who, we came to believe, called us, with eagerness and without expectation. That they had come before had been an unimaginable gift, not for us alone, but for the future, for consciousness, and creation. That they might come again, might recognize the gesture we were making toward them, was more than we could hope. It was enough to see ourselves as willing to set forth because this alone might have the possibility of changing the field. But then they came.

Immediately, yes, but at first not from within Story. We were just, it seemed, passersby, even merely tourists, different beings in the same place at the same time. Then we realized we were in a dialogue. And the dialogue became a Story – a coherent, complex, inter-connected, resonant set of events that gathered meaning as they progressed. Then this story began to merge with the previous stories and we saw that we were in another field of knowing and being altogether. Story. Story as I have known it and have been teaching it for more than thirty years. Story: A series of comprehensive, interlocking events, experiences, and understandings that arise determinedly and spontaneously, from within and without one’s life, that cannot be willed or controled and that,ultimately, create, establish and reveal a little world, a singular and integral cosmology.

The reality, according to which humans, particularly westerners, have lived for several thousand years and which they consider absolute, was being shattered as these two humans and the elephants were considering each other as peers with the ability to converse in the ways and field of another dimension. We met in the field called trust. As humans, Krystyna and I hoped to be trustworthy. It is a new territory, a manifestation of ancient knowledge and current experience.

Needless to say, this is not the first time that animals and humans have had such an exchange. Such is the very basis of indigenous life, myth and spiritual understanding. Such meetings have been increasingly recounted in the last years. Nevertheless, the experience is awesome and those who participate are left undone – as they should be. It is required that we fall apart and reconstitute to meet the new reality. I knew this and Krystyna knew this and we offered ourselves to it.

***

After we left Chobe National Park, we were traveling with Wilem Barnard, the son of Izak Barnard who had introduced photo safaris to Botswana, and the grandson of Bvekenya Cecil Barnard, the notorious elephant hunter, who had given up elephant hunting when he saw that it had become a terrible, commercial business and was no longer remotely a sacred or respectable activity. At age 43, he had hunted a great mammoth of an elephant and at the last moment, Barnard recognized who, indeed, the elephant was and risked his own life by letting him go. Barnard quit hunting and forbid his sons to ever hunt again.

As I watched Wilem interact with the animals, and the ways he avoided our being surrounded by them, or the way he avoided elephants who were coming toward us, as he had to do as a responsible guide, I understood how remarkable the experience was that Krystyna and I had had. We had gone ourselves where few go unguided and mutual trust had allowed us to truly come together.

From the beginning, when we were alone in our car in the Park, we were always directed by mutual intuitions to be in a certain place when the elephants would also be there. Within minutes of our coming to a place where we felt we should stop, an elephant herd appeared and quickly and gently surrounded us as if we were not there, as if we were ourselves elephants. Though there were very young elephants in the herd, some nursing, and though the car often separated the young from the adults as they crossed behind or in front of us where we were parked, there was never a sense that we were disturbing them or intruding upon their lives.

In contrast, we saw a white car make its way down the road by the river when elephants were crossing to the waterhole blocking the road. The driver of the car insisted on continuing and we watched, alarmed, as a matriarch reared up and trumpeted in rage. Frankly, I was concerned for the consequences to the elephants should they have been provoked to defend themselves.

When it was time for us to leave the Park at 6 pm on the night of the 16th, we made our way carefully without incident. Soon, we found ourselves enveloped by elephants coming toward us – we stopped instantly – and then released toward the Park exit just before closing.

On the 17th, the elephants were always with us during the hours we spent by the river at our meeting place, the tree. Then at six, we made our way toward the exit. We were taking our last photos when Krystyna spotted another tree. “An elephant ears tree,” she exclaimed. I took the photograph. I was astonished to see that the tree appeared with a rainbow on it.

“Rainbow as a covenant” had been a theme for Michael and myself in the summer when we had gone to Canyon de Chelly. At the last hour of the last day we were at the Canyon, rain clouds had gathered, a greatly welcome sight at a time of drought and fires. As we stood at Face Outlook we watched a rainbow descend into the canyon and then rise up again making a double rainbow before us. Then the rain came.

I had met such a rainbow on the summer solstice at the Arctic Circle in 1996 and had written a song which ended, “Rainbow as a covenant/ God exists /And Beauty has won. / God exists / And Beauty has won.”

A rainbow preceded our journey to Africa after Canyon de Chelly and welcomed me as I was telling the story of the journey to Michael on our return.

The strange appearance of the rainbow on the tree caused by the light bouncing off the car mirror echoed the time in the Canyon and Topanga and alerted Krystyna and I that we were being asked to enter a covenant with the elephants.

On the last day, we went toward our meeting place early but on the way we saw a herd of elephants out on the field across from the river and we stopped to be with them. They were not close but we did not feel we could leave unless we had permission from them. Much out of character, and perhaps playfully, I asked the elephants to give us a sign if we should go to the tree where we had met the elephants each time. We were aghast when the elephants broke out of the clutch they had formed and stood, evenly placed, in a line facing south to the tree. It would have been rude to ignore this sign and so we went to the tree. To the south was another group of elephants standing in random order. When we arrived, they also briefly formed a line and faced us. We were now, it seemed, in the right place at the right time. The area where we were at the water hole was, however, empty of animals.

In awhile, a small elephant, three years old perhaps, came down on his own to the water hole. We were alarmed. Lions had been in the area in the morning and they would not hesitate to take down a lone little elephant.

I began, we began, to pray for its safety.

Soon a truck came by with a guide and tourists. They stopped to photograph the baby and I flagged them down as they passed us. I asked why this baby might be alone and the guide said that it was probably ill and had not been able to keep up with the herd. From all appearances, however, despite his thirst, this little one was not in dire straits and the herd was not threatened and needing to go on without one of its own. Everything I know about elephants contradicted what the guide said, and we were troubled by this anomalous situation; elephant mothers do not desert their child, nor do the herd members, unless it is dire.

So, we continued meditating, praying both for the health of the baby and for the appearance of his mother. As we sat there, I found myself in the grip of strange emotions. I have been visiting Africa and participating in Safaris since 1985. I am deeply respectful of the rules and the ways humans are ethically required to behave in the wild. The first time on Safari in Kenya, we were witness to a young male lion testing himself by stalking a baby elephant behind his mother in the midst of a herd. Even when the lion was perched on a great rock above the little one, slowly hunkering down into leap position, we were enjoined to be absolutely silent and let the wild enact itself. Human restraint is essential. In that instance, just seconds before the leap, the elephant mother flapped her ears, even without looking up at the lion, and he slunk away.

Now I was observing a baby elephant without a herd and without his mother. What would happen if a lion came? I tried to gather myself into disciplined silence, but another part of me suspected that I might not be able to control my impulse to run out of the car and protect the elephant. It was a mother instinct that I had not known before with non-human beings. It would be wrong. it would be foolish, it would be dangerous, and it would be ineffective as the two of us might easily be taken by the lion. But something was occurring within me. The words I had first uttered to the Ambassador were becoming real: “Your people are my people.” These words were not sentimental. This was my kin. This was, as if, my child or grandchild were threatened. I had crossed the species border finally into unexpected and entirely, for my life, unprecedented relationship.

In about fifteen very, very long minutes, two older elephants came to the water, a mother, we thought, and a sister. They spent some time at the water hole and then went on toward the sand bridge that led to a wide plain along the river. Again we were alarmed as the baby did not move. But then the two returned and stayed with him.

At this moment, another white car approached and a stopped. A photographer stepped out of the car and approached the elephants closely. I yelled to him to return to the car, afraid of a repeat of the elephant anger that we had seen the day two days before. Ultimately, the man returned to the car and the car took off and we were left alone, again, with this tiny group. Soon the three began walking toward the sandy plain.

We watched them for a long time, relieved, as they were staying together. Then we were stunned as elephant after elephant came down to the water hole. So many elephants of all ages.

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

We were together for a long time when the sun turned orange and began setting and we knew it would soon be the end of the last hour of the last day we would be in Chobe. Then more elephants were coming toward us from every direction, as if all the elephants in the area were gathering around us. In the last minutes, we saw that the elephants with the small bull were returning.

The female we thought was a sister stayed at the break in the sand bridge, directly across from us,

reminding me of the photograph by Cynthia Travis of the Ambassador on the cover of my book, From Grief Into Vision: A Council.

The larger elephant had gone forward to join the others and we were enfolded, again, in a very large herd.

Now, it was time to leave. How very difficult it was. But if we didn’t leave, we would be locked in the park for the night. Not a comfortable situation. So I turned the key and began moving very, very slowly onto the road. Immediately, the largest elephant of the herd bounded up the incline from the water hole and stopped in the middle of the road. Others joined, including another little one, and we were effectively and adamantly blocked.

I remembered well the incident with the first white car and so I leaned out of the car and told them that I would not insist my way. We would not be willful. We would yield to their wishes. I turned off the engine and we sat looking at each other. Then they ambled down to the water again. Regretfully, I started the car and we crept slowly past the herd on the road they had vacated. When they were behind us, we stopped again. They were forming a long line with the great elephant in front and, we saw, the little elephant who we had prayed for earlier, the last, following the female elephant and kin up into the brush. Within a moment, they had all disappeared.

The next day as Willem Barnard was driving us on the highway that bisects the park, we slowed for three elephants crossing the road who looked exactly like the three we had prayed for the night before. They were together and it was clear the little one was healthy and vital.

***

Yes! Another part of the story inserts itself on October 10, 2011. I am writing this essay and looking at the photographs I took for the first time. I stare at the photographs and revisit the scene I could not concentrate on before because of my concern for the little one. The large elephant is a bull.

The smaller one, obviously now, the mother of the little bull.

We have been met by a family as we had been the time before. A most unusual circumstance and so an event to be noted and seriously considered.

Elephants do not travel in nuclear family units. The older bulls stay to themselves. Breeding herds consist of the females and the young ones including young bulls.

We have been in the presence of the Ambassador without knowing it.
The question I was asked before? Does the Ambassador always come in the same form? Will you recognize him?

The Ambassador came. It takes time to understand what is being said in the language of the Elephant People.

The Ambassador came and did not announce himself but engaged us in a Story, as is his nature, or is the nature of this gathering. We have been met again, family to family, and we have been taken into tribe. The great elephant who ran up to block the road and test us was probably also the Ambassador. We have, indeed, crossed the barrier and have become kin. I am awed and frightened in the way one is shaken by the Presence.

How, now, shall I live?

***

I am reminded of Krystyna’s questions upon the death of Old Nick. “Am I willing to imagine the possibility of true partnership in nature? Am I willing to engage in the mystery of language beyond words? Will I trust what I hear? What am I being called to remember?”

***

The first time we met the Ambassador, he had stood a few feet from the side, the back and then the other side of our own truck and looked in our eyes for no less than ten minutes in each place. Then he had disappeared. But as we drove along the river to leave the park, all the elephants in the area lined up along the river and bowed their heads and flapped their ears as we passed.

The second time we met the Ambassador, he came at the same hour from a very great distance, a mile away, perhaps, and shouldered his way aggressively through a group of female elephants at the water hole, then climbed up the embankment and stopped directly before our car and trumpeted, then disappeared.

The third time, as I have written, we were introduced to his little family and then were given a sacred bone.

We have had four remarkable, unprecedented, irrefutable meetings with elephants acting with agency, intent and grace. This time, we were enfolded into the herd. But also, they tested us, as well they should, to see if we are trustworthy. Would we be honorable? Would we yield to the circumstances they were clearly creating, even to staying overnight in the park if required? Would we follow their directions and their lead?

In the proximity of these great gray beings, I understand that they are not merely another species; they are a formidable and beautiful people inhabiting the earth with us, capable of complex communications and wiser than we can imagine. The Elephant People are essentially kind, exceedingly intelligent and conscious presences, increasingly maddened and driven to acts of unnatural violence by our destructive behavior, tortured beyond endurance by their clear understanding that the earth, all life, their little ones, will not survive unless we human transform entirely, become more like they are again.

( See http://www.kerulos.org/learn_more/elephants_edge_assets/BradshawSchoreEthology07.pdf&#8221;)

Krystyna and I were allowed to cross the barrier that humans beings created when they separated themselves from all life and manufactured cultures entirely incompatible with the life force. Barriers as hideous and real as the great stone walls we arbitrarily erect to isolate ourselves from all others.

In contrast, every gesture, every action from these great beings revealed or involved us in vital and dynamic relationship which is the very core of elephant life. The Elephant People made visible the depth and profundity of their connections with each other, they reached out to us and spoke to us in profound and irrefutable ways, and they reminded us that human beings have fallen out of the network of all our relations and the consequences for all life are tragic.

Their communications were clear and the language precise. As we were leaving the area, they appeared again, as to underscore what we could barely comprehend. The Ambassador and the Delegation from the elephants called us to them from across the world. And now I am transmitting their call to you. Come meet with us in the way of beauty. Be aligned fully once more with an inspirited world. Become whom you must become in order to communicate with these great ones, in the field of their understanding, in a language older than words.

This fourth meeting with the elephants, with the Ambassador, with his family in an unusual and notable configuration, and then also with an entire Delegation is the unequivocal answer to a prayer that we, as a species, might truly be in alliance with other species. That the human people might meet the Elephant People as peers. That the original ways of Creation can be restored and, together – “Your people are my people” – we might strive to help the earth and all its beings survive and flourish.

Another Meeting With the Elephants

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

Friday, September 30, 2011

THE ELEPHANTS.

These are the only words I have to speak from the cleft between awe and wonder. Soon, I hope, the Story will be able to be told.

i arrived in Africa on September 15th.

Many meetings with the elephants occurred over the first days when
Krystyna Jurzykowski and I were in The Chobe National Park, Botswana, with our own 4 x 4 vehicle. Some of the meetings might be dismissed as ordinary or happenstance, except that the individual events formed one indisputable Story enacted over those three days.

The final confirmation or small wonder occurred as our guides,having arrived for the rest
of the journey, were driving us toward our next destination.

At the last moment in the park on September 17th, the second day, my
birthday, an almost invisible event, but one no being could have orchestrated, occurred that was as true a sign as any I have ever experienced.

And again, on September 18th, as has occurred before at the last hour of the last
day on three different days of three separate years, there was a final event
that could stand on its own as a meeting and was, itself, incontrovertible. It transpired over the last two hours, 4 – 6 pm, of our last day in the Park.

The Delegates Meet Us Eye to Eye

We were not met by a single Ambassador, but by an entire delegation.

The elephants came. The message? That they came!

And so this event and its implications become the foreground of my life at this time.

***

Poem from Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems (Red Hen Press 2009)

MANDLOVU

Suddenly, I am of a single mind extended
Across an unknown geography,
and imprinted, as if by a river, on the moment…
A mind held in unison by a large gray tribe
meandering in reverent concert
among trees, feasting on leaves.
One great eye reflecting blue
from the turn inward
toward the hidden sky that, again,
like an underground stream
continuously nourishes
what will appear after the dawn
bleaches away the mystery in which we rock
through the endless green dark.

I am drawn forward by the lattice,
by a concordance of light and intelligence
constituted from the unceasing and consonant
hum of cows and the inaudible bellow of bulls,
a web thrumming and gliding
along the pathways we remember
miles later or ages past.

I am, we are,
who can distinguish us?
a gathering of souls, hulking and muddied,
large enough – if there is a purpose –
to carry the accumulated joy of centuries
walking thus within each other’s
particular knowing and delight.

This is our grace: To be a note
in the exact chord that animates creation,
the dissolve of all the rivers
that are both place and moment,
an ocean of mind moving
forward and back,
outside of any motion
contained within it.

This is particle and wave. How simple.
The merest conversation between us
becoming the essential drone
into which we gladly disappear.
A common music, a singular heavy tread,
ceaselessly carving a path,
for the waters tumbling invisibly
beneath.

I have always wanted to be with them, with you, so.
I have always wanted to be with them,
with you,
so.

***
Mandlovu is the word the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe use for female elephant, It is connected in resonance with Mambo Kadze the name for the deity that is both elephant, the Virgin Mary and the Great Mother.

***
Blessings,
Deena

THE WORK OF THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

The Work of the Next Five Years

A Letter from Deena Metzger   

Dear  Community:
 
If we want to change our mind, we have also to change the means through which the change occurs. In the process of real transformation, everything changes.

I moved to Topanga on April Fool’s Day, 1981. It is good to start one’s real life with a bit of humor.
 
Many visions and ways of knowing have been pioneered here related to writing, healing, council, peacebuilding, revisioning medicine and developing true and profound spirit-based relationships with the natural world, the ancestors and non-human beings.

In 1981, I was just beginning to understand the way the stories we live can reveal the ways to meet physical and spiritual illness, and beginning to conceive the forms that led in 1999 to establishing Daré – an improvisational healing community based upon dreams, council and alliance with the Spirits. Last week several of us acknowledged this site as a Village Sanctuary for the Future. Though I could not have imagined the point that we have come to, I have always known that we must search for the forms that invite and hold the visions we are given to carry. And also that these visions need to be on behalf of all beings and the future generations.
 
More than ever, I am looking for the right flexible and generous forms to hold the necessary work that calls to be done in the next few years. If we are fortunate, the essential work we are called to in the next five years will be realized. 
  
I have been devotedly following a dream since January 1, 2011.  In the dream, I am to be trained to live and work as an indigenous woman, according to the old, old wisdom traditions.  I am not to be trained in any particular way, but in the way that underlies all the old ways. 
 
The seeds of the dream lie far in the past, so far back I can’t identify the beginning.  But as everyone likes an origin story – (it’s like the Big Bang – all of life issues forth from it) – let’s say, the origin was 31 years ago when I first led a re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece, and verifiably experienced the real presence of spiritual energy and spiritual intent outside of liturgy but deeply connected to great respect and rigorous devotion. This continues into the present, and I have based my life upon it.  I carry two related and on-going question in the face of such continuous, unpredictable and radiant experiences:  “What is true nature of the world in which such events occur?  And how, accordingly, shall we live?”
 
The question of how we live is upon us as it has never been in the history of human beings.  We have never been asked to entirely change our culture within our lifetime – actually, to change even more quickly. There are no formulas and culture is so complex it must be not be defined or limited. This is an impossible task and we must pursue it.
 
The ultimate goal is the complex vibrant restoration of the natural world in all its beauty and intelligence with the human species in right relationship to all beings. The ultimate goal is that all life thrives.
 
In 2010, I developed 19 ways to the 5th World. You can read them here on this Blog.  They are an index to the work that I will be doing in the next years.  To work with me is to work in these realms in order to become adept.  To work with me is to pursue the unique and mysterious ways of Council and true alliance with non-humans and humans as a primary way of restoration. To work with me as a writer, is to work with the intention of imagining and participating in a Literature of Restoration. 
 
Emerging from a profound healing experience several weeks ago, I heard words in my mind answering a question I have been asking relentlessly:  “We cannot tell you how the times will change on behalf of the restoration of the natural world and the restoration of sanity for human beings.  These changes will emerge from myriad different, distinct, spontaneous activities on the part of so many human beings, they cannot possibly be predicted or articulated.  But your task is to recognize the validity of your experiences over the years and so hold to the knowledge that the change will come if all of you are devoted.”
 
I will be 75 on September 17th, 2011.  I mark the day by going to Botswana in the hope of meeting The Elephant Ambassador for the fourth time.  (Earlier Blog entries, “The Elephants are Calling Us Again”, and “Voices of the Elephants” will introduce you to him). I intend it as an act of reverence, deep respect and faith.  After such a life as I have had the privilege of living, I make the journey gladly — an offering to future. 
 
Whether The Ambassador comes or not, something will occur that will reveal the purpose of this journey and the hope it carries.  I am traveling with a friend who has also devoted her life to the animals and to consciousness.  Things will occur that we cannot possibly predict. We yield to what comes.  But she and I are thinking of ourselves, expectantly, as ambassadors to the future. 
 
My husband Michael Ortiz Hill and I just spent a week in Canyon de Chelly and were graced by the Presence once again.  A Story, as I have come to know Story in these years, manifested in such a way that I speak of it with the last lines of a poem I wrote at the Arctic Circle in Norway in 1996 when I was 60:
 
Rainbow as a covenant
God exists
And Beauty has won.
  
***

In the light of such events, aware of the preciousness of time, I am trying to determine – by deep listening – the exactness of my work as a thinker, teacher and writer for the next five years.
 
As a teacher my focus will be on training and mentoring. This will occur, for the most part, each month between Sunday Daré and the next Sunday’s Training for the 5th World. These nine days provide an opportunity for people to come to Topanga and engage intensely with me and with each other in the work of truly understanding, integrating and inhabiting the Ways to the 5th World.
 
These days will accommodate those who live in the area and work with me regularly and those who wish to come to Topanga for one or more short periods of time. It can include private work, classes, councils, solitude, and/or time on the land. We can meet in person and also by telephone and via Skype. There is a yurt that people can share, when appropriate, and there are hotels near by. Much of what you experience will come from your interactions with the members of the Daré community. I am looking for informal ways of meeting rather than creating inflexible structures. This flexibility allows us to meet the emerging work with the rigor and commitment required.
 
The Saturdays before Darés and before the Sunday Trainings will be designated for various focused councils and in-depth explorations in the hope of encouraging heartstorming and visionary, collaborative thinking by gathering those odd, unexpected and necessary companions to imagine and institute the future. There is an ancient symbol called the Flower of Life. It consists of a single form composed of 19 interlocking circles. I am hoping that the infinitely fertile communication possible from such interlocking councils will also be seeded here.
 
I will devote two weeks of each month to writing and some limited travel. That leaves a little time for improvisation and surprise.
 
I am trying to step out of a formal teaching or conference schedule into something more organic, compelling, profound, unexpected, conscious, and indigenous – as the dream directs.
 
When I first started living by council, I would speak of the tradition that so many, if not all peoples, had of gathering those necessary to meet a crisis. We are in extreme crisis. We have to gather, we have to learn, we have to transform. Such gatherings mimic, in the best ways, the dynamic complexities of ecotones and small niches of natural beauty. Let us bear with each other as we extract ourselves from and discard the limiting institutional ways and devotion to material things and violent solutions that have developed in the last years in order to find new forms for new lives.
 
We will be working in this manner beginning Dare’ week, Oct. 2, 2011. To make appointments, apply, to learn about the Sunday Trainings and other classes, or to explore possibilities that may not be articulated in this letter, please email or call Danelia Wild at 310-815-1060. (Different classes, circles, events are posted on my website www.deenametzger.com.) Please understand that we do not have a full-time staff person and are yet deeply committed to meeting what Spirit is asking of us, both individually and as a community.
 
Peace and Blessings
  
Deena
 
 

 

RESTORING NATURAL WISDOM

Deena Metzger speaks with Joanna Harcourt Smith about the characters of her latest book “La Negra y Blanca”, grounded visions, the coming shift, making alliances and restoring a right relationship with the Earth and all beings, “the conquest never ended”, the helping guide of the ancestors, the process of peace-making, “the way of story”…

http://www.futureprimitive.org/2011/08/deena-metzger-restoring-natural-wisdom/

19 WAYS TO THE 5TH WORLD

19 Ways to the 5th World

This is one guide to how we change our minds sufficiently to live differently and act in ways that will preserve the future and protect the earth and all beings. When we incorporate these ways of thinking, we will no longer be people who do harm. But again, we have to change our minds as we won’t fully know what to do or how to do it until we respond instinctively with different minds, values and reflexes. These 19 Ways indicate the areas were transformation can occur.

The changes required are systemic and cellular. Too often these days, the very framing of the issues limit the possibilities. How will we survive? How will we thrive? How will we prosper? may no longer be the questions, if the WE refers only to humans. We have to free ourselves from the programming, at the least, of the last century. It is a huge task and it is possible. We have allies. They are not all human. The future is possible BUT we have to offer ourselves to it, unconditionally. When we do, guidance occurs. Spirit speaks to us when we open to it.

*********************************************************

The changes we are called to make so that the earth and all beings might survive are extensive and extreme. They require comprehensive and global shifts of consciousness and activity. No one is exempt from such a challenge. As extreme, at this time, as are the dangers to all, are the signs of possibility we witness and experience each day. These are 19 ways that have been communicated to me over the years. They are certainly not the only ways but it seems that each one is essential. They represent a significant change in consciousness from seeking development or vision for oneself to seeking out the precise offering one is being asked to make on behalf of the future. It could take a lifetime to apprentice oneself to even one such way of transformation. We are called to meet each one of them – and perhaps more. We are called  to commit ourselves to recognizing and understanding the nature of each one of these, as best as we can, as quickly as is possible. Each day we have less time to enter these sacred ways. As indicated, these are Ways that can best be realized in community, that is with each other. Basic to entering and securing a 5th World are alliances with all beings and following the teachings of Spirit.

19 Ways to the 5th World

  1. COMMUNITY. Recognizing and living aligned with community as an essential vessel and means of transformation.
  1. COUNCIL.  Entering and trusting the ways of Council, Dare’ and Mandlovu mind.
  1. STORY.  Story is an event and a path. Learning to listen, to recognize, understand and attend the way of Story and the particular path of healing and transformation it reveals for each one.
  1.  SPIRIT EXISTS.  Spirit speaks to each of us in a shared language.  Entering into a dialogue with the divine. Developing and living according to a spiritual practice that develops from a real relationship with spirit.
  1. THE PATHLESS PATH.  Recognizing the path that one has traveled and seeing where one has been taken and the dynamic path that emerges from the journey. Attuning to, developing and being faithful to a spiritual practice on the pathless path.
  1. BEARING WITNESS. Bearing witness to the horror and corruption of these times and scrutinizing our lives accordingly.
  1. DISENGAGEMENT  Consciously ceasing our involvement with those forms and values that we  individually  believe do harm to human and non-human beings, the earth and the future.  Entering the long and exacting practice of bringing our lives into alignment with our beliefs and understanding.
  1. HEALING WAR, PEACEMAKING and THE NO ENEMY WAY Committing ourselves to healing war within us and in the world. .  Understanding and incorporating the No Enemy Way into our daily private and public ways as best as we can.    Committing ourselves to our transformation from war-traumatized people to peacemakers and visionaries.
  1. REVISIONING. Revisioning public institutions of thought and action.  Imagining and aligning ourselves with ReVisioned Medicine, Science, Law, Economic Social systems.  For example, a ReVisioned Medicine practices the No Enemy Way, does no harm and integrates the combined wisdom of medical people and medicine people.  Assuming the equal relevance of indigenous, earth centered, spirit centered wisdom in all reasoning and thinking processes.  Changing one’s mind.
  1. INDIGENOUS WISDOM TRADITIONS.  Studying, respecting, honoring, preserving, supporting, allying with indigenous wisdom traditions.
  1. DREAMS AND DIVINATION.  Living by Dream, Intuition and Divination.  Reading the signs and then following  other spirit centered ways of knowing.  Yielding to initiation and living accordingly.
  1. HEALING.  Recognizing the presence of healing.  Learning the ways of healing.  Seeking out healing.  Becoming a healing presence.
  1. MITAKYE OYASIN. Living according to All Our Relations.
  1. THE WILD.  Protecting, preserving, sustaining, bringing healing to the wild, the earth and all beings.
  1. THE OTHERS – NON HUMAN BEINGS.  Recognizing the intelligence and agency of non-human beings and living among them accordingly.
  1. BEAUTY AND CEREMONY.  Living according to Beauty, Creativity, Intuition, Prayer, Ritual, Ceremony, Loving kindness and Compassion as essential forms.
  1. SILENCE.  Valuing and engaging in silence, solitude, formless forms and not knowing.
  1. SANCTUARY.  Honoring, providing, becoming sanctuary for all beings by learning the way of the land.
  1. ALLIANCES. Fostering dynamic relationships with other groups and organizations working in parallel heartways.

THEN COMMITMENT  and stepping through the portal into a different field of understanding and assumptions. Living faithfully according to the laws of the 5th World that mandate serving Spirit and the on-going future.

RIFT VALLEY

RIFT VALLEY

Between one world and another,
Lies the rift and the increasing separation,
As the plates of one mind slip away
From the plates of another mind.
I do not question which way I am to go,
But call to my heart to act on the decision made
To follow the soul
Or I will be split apart too,
As so many are,
Between violence
And Beauty.
The violent demands of our everyday life
And the strange beauty of Spirit afar.
I must choose Beauty
No matter the cost in this life.
I must choose and leap
Across the widening valley;
We cannot rest between.
Leap!
Ah Beauty! Receive me in your open arms.

No Soy de Aqui, Ni Soy de Alla

I awaken to questions. That’s how writing begins – or ends. I awaken with the question that led to writing La< Negra y Blanca: Did I ever meet La Negra? Nine years later I am still puzzling the way a mysterious question, that enters one as if it were a scent, can manifest in a novel and call so much into being.

I awaken with the question of meeting La Negra still as vivid as it was when it first announced itself like a guest at the door who would never stop knocking. Then I learn that Facundo Cabral, the Argentinean singer, poet, guitarist was murdered in Guatemala and somehow the two become linked though I can not explain it, just that it is.

I’m trying to tell you about writing a novel and what it really means when I say that a novel is a little world. It is a life force. It is complete. It emerges out of a single image, sentence or idea, the way the world emerged from a point and all the wonders, that includes all life, materialized from the mystery of light becoming matter but not forgetting itself as light.

When I wrote Ferall, I resided in a sycamore and then a Brazilian pepper tree in my mind

When I wrote The Other Hand I had to learn astrophysics and I lived among the stars for ten years. The stars and the holocaust – infernos of beauty and rage. Writing and contemplating, I spoke a language I didn’t understand and yet it became the equivalent of my mamaloshen, my mother tongue. It became for me a language of creation. And even now, like a particle that was once linked to another particle and so experiences parallel changes even if over a vast distance, I find myself thrust again into that energy, that light, that field of knowing in which I was immersed for those years. One merely has to mention a name, Daniella Stonebrook Blue, Cardinal Lustiger, Peter Schmidt, or a place, Palomar or Auschwitz, and the world that was The Other Hand springs into being and I am in that country again. Not writing, therefore, is an unbearable exile for then I am living without a country under my feet.

Each novel is a universe and the writer becomes a citizen whether or not she or he has a public identity in the book. At least that is the way it has been for me. As a writer, I live in the book. Once the territory is established, and the flora and fauna take root and thrive on their own – even if I may be writing about the threat to their lives by the ways we are living – as soon as their indigenous nature is established, I can make my home there. No, it is more than that. I have no choice. I become of it as I write it. I am shaped by it. I am no longer myself – I am its progeny, a creature of its distinct field of being and knowing. Another species from another universe, though all the references are to planet earth and its terrain, the more specific, the better.

And for a time there is no other world except that one, although it may occur that it, like a whirling sun, may gather other energies, other fields, other suns to it, so that they all become one. Like the meeting between Facundo Cabral and La Negra.

They say that there are many parallel universes, or one may be tucked within another, we do not know, but each has a sealed boundary, Each has its own cosmic laws so that the substance of one cannot accord with the other – and they cannot cross the boundary without being destroyed or undergoing a complete transformation – the one becoming the other. And as each novel, like each world, wants to remain separate, that is, itself, then I am called to transform completely each time I enter one of those distinct spheres of being.

Do remember that I am speaking about La Negra y Blanca and I am trying to explain why the book is a field of energy, is a way of knowing, is its own domain. This concern is what awakened me and further reminded me of other questions I have been carrying about what I call the Literature of Restoration, a shamanic use of language to restore the world that we are murdering.

The novel began with a question: Did I ever meet La Negra? It or I was preoccupied with the question – but not the answer – for nine years. And here is the book wrapped in beautiful colors painted by the Chilean muralist, Francisco Letelier. We are making a weaving of the brilliant and desperate colors of the sun. The colors are all dipped in blood.

La Negra y Blanca begins in Mexico as Blanca is traveling to Cuba or to Chile. Francisco is the son of the assassinated diplomat Orlando Letelier. Letelier was killed by a car bomb explosion on September 21, 1976, in Washington DC along with his US assistant, Ronni Moffit. You remember, don’t you? Members of the Chilean secret police, the DINA, were implicated as was Augusto Pinochet who led the bloody coup against the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende. He was not called to stand trial for this murder. A few were convicted and others went free.

The novel includes a sojourn to Lake Atitlan with Morena Monteforte the daughter of a Tz’utujil woman, Doña Rosa Chavajay and the former Guatemalan Vice President and novelist, Mario Monteforte Toledo. Allende’s death is part of the novel. Mario Monteforte Toledo and Salavador Allende were friends in the way I was friends with Morena. We sat at the same table together. When you break bread together, your relationship is true.

The image of La Negra on the cover of the book is from Francisco’s mural in Whole Foods on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, California. Blanca believed that if she could return to the moment of meeting La Negra, if La Negra could become real and enter the world in the manner that befits such a being or spirit then everything might change. That was one of the novel’s goals. We can put this in the realm of Restoration.

Then I found her portrait in Venice California, painted by a Chilean muralist who lives nearby. I remember well when his father died, but I didn’t know Francisco then. I remember meeting his mother in North Carolina years after Orlando Letelier’s murder; I think I met her there and then. I could have met the two of them in Chile in 1972. Maybe I did when we were all marching on behalf of the Unidad Popular or dancing in the mud on the stormy night of the Dieciocho, the Chilean Independence Day.

I never met Facundo Cabral though he is playing now from over there where the dead live. But I did hear Angel Parra play in Chile in 1972 before Allende was murdered. Angel and others. Then I brought home their music: Angel’s, Isabel’s, their mother, Violetta’s, the one who began Cancion Protesta – Gracias a La Vida. Inti-Illimani, Daniel Viglietti, Victor Jara. I knew Victor’s music before he was killed, before they broke his hands in the stadium, before…. And then afterward, Angel was in my house, and Viglietti, Inti-Illimani, I think, as well. I could be imagining this, – that is how a novelist is – but it actually happened. The real and the imagined, the known and the unknown, came together in the field that was Chile: With Poems and Guns, a film I worked on in 1973, the first film about the brutal golpe in Chile. Now I call this field La Negra y Blanca and it expands to something else with the addition of Facundo Cabral. The field becomes a sphere. It resonates with the music. How can we not believe in possibility?

So many of my novels have come out of music. They wouldn’t have existed if not for the sax, guitar or flute through which they were written. But the music of this book did not exist except for birdsong. Then last night, Facundo Cabral was assassinated and his music began to seep into the words as if the pages could have been a bandage to staunch the flow of blood.

Is it rhetorical to say that no matter how tortured these lands have been from the beginning of the Conquest and including the ongoing hemorrhage of pain and violence into the present, there is also a luminous plait of all the latitudes and longitudes of hope?

Let me weave another story into this world. I met a man who came from a war torn country in Southeast Asia. He had been adopted as a war orphan by an American military family and being well trained, they tortured him. He ran away many times. He couldn’t always escape. When he did, he made his way to an old Black woman who taught him how to play the guitar. The story goes the way such stories go. The guitar saved him again and again. The way another friend of mine, a Vietnam veteran was saved by deer; now he attends each road kill, each hunted deer corpse with the reverence one learns to bring to the holy.

I met the former orphan days ago and learned his guitar had been stolen. There was nothing to do but buy him a guitar. Don’t you think? And so, as I write these words, he is on the knoll at the edge of this land where we once planted an olive tree on behalf of vision. He is playing his heart out. I asked him to play on behalf of Facundo Cabral’s soul. Can you hear his notes?

As I contemplated La Negra and who she really might have been – whether I had really met her or not – whether anyone really knew who she was – what essence and future possibilities she carried – I understood that she was looking for a way into the world on behalf of Restoration. Oh how she loved the green loros, parrots, who came to her window each morning – no matter where she lived – to tell her their dreams!

If the world erupts from a point, and that point is the meeting with La Negra, then Restoration is possible because La Negra is the green wholeness of possibility. This is what Blanca began to understand and why she went back into the past to the time when she might have met La Negra and hunkered down in La Negra’s living room, behind the yellow chair where the Writer, Mario Monteforte Toledo, always sat, to observe La Negra long enough to be able to testify on behalf of the reality of La Negra’s life.

I woke up this morning as I often do, filled with fear and with hope. How can one not fear for the world when everyone is going mad and beauty is being systematically murdered? But I was thinking about La Negra and so I was in the field so carefully woven of the strands of color that streamed, as if from the sun, from Mexico to Guatemala to Chile and back.

The field of La Negra y Blanca is altered and amplified by the death of Facundo Cabral in Guatemala. It is another book altogether even if you never heard the music of Facundo Cabral and never will. Even if you will be unable to hear it when you turn the pages because it wasn’t there before the book was published, but it is there now.

I read about the assassination last night. Then Glenn Lopez, our dear friend, the MD who established health clinics on the banana plantations in Guatemala to treat the poorest of the poor, and now practices medicine in a mobile unit that he parks anywhere in the neighborhood he can, has come to gather up Michael to attend services at Agape. We haven’t seen each other for months. He enters singing “No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla.” I am listening now as I write so this essay, too, is in the rhythm of Facundo Cabral.

You can tell, can’t you, that I am on the edge of beginning another novel? That I am on the edge of stepping across a singularity into an infinite realm that I have never known? It seems that I am going to be learning about weather, about storm, cyclone and hurricane. These made an appearance in La Negra y Blanca but now they want their own text, as does the desert. It seems I am to learn about the Elementals, those great gods who occupy the four directions. I will have to find a language for them. Their own mamaloshen.

It is said there is a Fifth world waiting for us at the edge of where we are but we cannot enter it unless we are transformed according to its laws and it does not let in murderers. It does not let in those who take arms against the earth and its beings. But sometimes I think that those who have committed murder, and recognize what they have done, and change, are exactly those who can enter that new world. As I’ve written before, I met a man who said, he couldn’t go with me into that world because he had carried a gun. I didn’t know then what I know now about those who put down the gun to become true guardians of peace and the natural world. It isn’t easy, to say the least, but it is possible and actually we depend upon it happening.

I know nineteen ways to the Fifth world, and you have to manage all of them. There are probably more but I haven’t learned them yet. Kabbalists say there are fifty gates of understanding and they are all ways of exodus from slavery. We are enslaved by our own violence. We have to extract ourselves entirely from the culture and the ways we are living. Nineteen or fifty paths, it doesn’t matter. We have to manage them all. And whether we were murderers or not, we have to change down to our cores. Every cell must change. And we will sing and weep alongside each other as we try. I don’t know if the nineteen ways or the fifty paths are to be in the new book, but I do believe the book will be about Restoration or will be within the field of a Literature of Restoration. Why else would I write at this time in history and in this time of my life?

RECRUITING THE IMAGINATION TO UNDO OUR GLOBAL DEPENDENCY ON NUCLEAR ENERGY AND WEAPONRY

The imagination is a real place that can open the way. The imagination can be a way of prayer, activity and accomplishment. What begins to live in the imagination, can enter the daily life.
As we respond and live according to our assumptions, imagine common spiritual practices of undoing nuclear activity globally. IMAGINE, each day. Imagine this all day as we go about our lives.
Each day, imagine, steadily, carefully, exactly canceling all future nuclear plants, everywhere. Imagine dismantling all plants, older to newer, slowly and safely. Imagine safely storing and then neutralizing all nuclear fuels, rods, weapons. Imagine poorer nations providing safe sufficient energy for their people. Imagine each of us doing with far, far less.
Live and respond as if nuclear energy plants do not exist and so we will live without. Let us steadily and happily do without whatever comes to us now through nuclear power.
Let us not indulge disaster because of a failure of imagination.
Let us keep up such practices of the imagination and the necessary accompanying daily activities, responses and divestments, until the end of nuclear energy and weaponry is inevitable. Imagine this occurring in your lifetime, our lifetimes. Imagine we actively care more for the earth and the future than for our individual selves. Imagine.
Imagine all our new vital lives. Imagine the trees, animals, thriving. Imagine the earth, waters, winds relieved. Imagine the wild returning. Imagine co-existing happily with all beings. Imagine a viable future.

A DREAM ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

DREAM:
I have a book that has ten spiritual questions on the cover as its title. I am giving it to a friend who is deeply concerned with transformation. Then the door to the house opens, and President Obama enters, hesitantly, asking permission by his humble posture. He looks at the book and I see that he wants it.
“Take it,” I say.
I understand in this moment that he is longing for an opportunity for consciousness, for a way deep into his soul.
Later, he comes to the door again. His longing is visible.
Then he is standing on the roof of the ten story building across the street that is visible through a window in my house. He looks miniscule. A very small man at the top of the world.
He may be the most important man or most powerful man in the world, but he is such a small man, looking down on the street, the world, with such a sad expression. What he sees makes him so sad.
He feels the loss in the world and the loss of the consciousness he can’t access. He wants to access it. He wonders and I wonder, seeing him there, so isolated, so alone, so fragile, how to make a bridge to it.

***

If we believe that dreams are sent by Spirit to enlighten us, to teach and instruct us in how to live, this dream calls for empathy and deep compassion.
How might we find non-conventional ways to support the President so that he can act in accordance with the soul promises he made and believed in?
How might we help protect him from the exigencies, dangers, the insanity of these times, and from the old guard that always surrounds a president?
How might we be alongside him so he can be alongside himself? How can we be alongside him so that he can govern, as I believe he wants to do, with absolute integrity? How can we, together, step out of the pattern of fear, conflict, violence, and on-going judgement that is overwhelming the country, while also finding the viable ways to justice, peace and restoration?
How might we, together, read and live accordingly to the ten questions on the cover of the book? How do we incorporate the possible answers in our daily lives on behalf of the future and all beings?
**********
Here’s another question: What were the ten questions on the cover of the book that, if addressed, offer transformation?

******
Did you notice that if you put the cursor under ‘support the President’ you can send him a message?

WHY WE ARE REVIVING FIRE/WATER CIRCLES TO HEAL WAR – FOR ALL WAR TRAUMATIZED PEOPLE

REVIVING FIRE/WATER CIRCLES TO HEAL WAR – FOR ALL WAR TRAUMATIZED PEOPLE – TOPANGA CALIFORNIA

Increasing violence everywhere on the planet, increasing numbers of people who are victims of violence, whether they are civilians or combatants. Increasing violence in the home and in the streets. Increasing development of horrific weaponry that destroys people, souls and the earth. Increasing violence against wolves, elephants, whales, dolphins, rhinos, birds, trees, water, air, earth, against all the beings of the natural world. Increasing dissociation from the realities of our time, increasing lack of responsibility for our behavior and its effects on others and on the natural world —
— call us each to see what we can do to heal war and its aftermaths.

Members of the Topanga Daré community spent over a year and a half training to become people who could receive the stories of war so that those who have been wounded by war might transform into guardians of peace and guardians of the environment. Healing themselves, the earth, and the world at the same time. Our experiences listening to the war wounded have convinced us that those who know war can, in collaboration with others in community, transform culture so that a true and viable future will emerge for all beings.

Come, sit in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, under the night sky. Owl will come and the chorus of coyotes, those singers. Victim, perpetrator, witness, accuser, bystander, next to each other; the notion of enemy falls away. We are all suffering war. We all want to heal and we want each other to heal so that violence will fall away. Each one’s story breaks open the heart. Each one’s story, no exceptions.

Fire/Water Circles calls us to deep, compassionate, empathetic listening. Call us to community, council, story telling, dream telling, visioning, healing, renewed relationship to the natural world, ceremony and ritual. Our ancestors knew that sitting outside, in the dark, around a fire or by a body of water, unites the hearts of those in the circle and that meaning, peerage and communion, not otherwise available, become possible.

In June 2010, we held ceremony for a former African rebel general who now leads a peacebuilding team, of everyday gandhis that is devoted to bringing healing to child soldiers and ex-combatants, who seeks out former military commanders to examine their past, ask forgiveness, atone. He asked for community ritual and Daré activity so that he could begin to carry the ‘medicine’ of peacebuilding in true alliance with the spirits. He was transformed as he hoped he would be, and so were the members of the circle who received him. We could not ask him to put down his weapons without putting down our own in whatever forms we carry them. The days of circle and ceremony were and remain profoundly healing for all participants.

A mother attended the February 6th, 2011 Daré after saying good-bye to her son who has joined the Marines. She wept for the lies the military has been telling her son, the ways his sweet nature is being distorted and we wept together for his future. There is a photo on our Daré altar for a daughter of a Daré member who, after many tours, is in Iraq again. Each day, when I see her photo, I pray that she will do no harm and come to no harm. The two mothers looked into each other’s eyes from across the room. After the mother of the young marine finished speaking, we knew it was time to revive the Circles to Heal War.

The original Fire/Water Circle to Heal War came from a dream that I had had: “I met Navy Seals who were returning to Iraq though greatly wounded. They couldn’t talk to me or to Daré yet, but said they would be sustained by the knowledge that the community would be present to help them heal and make amends when they were discharged.”

Increasingly, we receive dreams about war and peacebuilding and we have been changed by these dreams. We invite the dreamers, anyone carrying such dreams, to join us as the dreams bring essential messages from the spirits.

Over the last years, many veterans, veteran’s families, victims of war have gathered at Daré. Too many of these veterans or members of their families or families of soldiers in active duty are of Native American origin. So many driven to the military because of horrific, unchanging, unending poverty. They often speak of carrying the double wound of fighting wars that they learn are illegitimate and so violate their warrior traditions, and fighting wars that desecrate the earth that Native American and Indigenous wisdom traditions are called to protect and preserve.

A Metis (Cherokee) woman who does shamanic healing work with veterans and military people said she is “unwinding the curse of the Trail of Tears.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War sent out the following notice today, February 11, 2011: “We are energized by the revolution in Egypt brought about by the peaceful mass movement of Egyptians from all walks of life. … we here at IVAW are drawing an important lesson that we hope Americans will take to heart — democratic regime change does not have to come with foreign invasion and overwhelming violence. However, 23,000 soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan to replace the 101st Airborne Division returning home this month. Many of these replacement soldiers have served in previous deployments and are suffering from un-treated trauma such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, and Traumatic Brain Injury….”

It is time to re-open the Daré door and our hearts to those traumatized by war. We are open to hearing the stories that must be told, the stories that are too difficult to carry alone, the stories at the core of the PTSD so many are carrying. We wish to do what we can to help heal these traumas and to be effective in changing the circumstances that create more and more trauma and violence at home as well as in combat. The planet cannot survive more wars- we know this – and we offer ourselves to meet this crisis. We want to collaborate to change consciousness and heal war.

Let us gather to meet this crises together. Please join us as we renew our efforts on behalf of peace.

If you are a veteran, a soldier, a member of a military family, the relative of a soldier, an individual or a friend or relative of someone who has been injured or traumatized by war, please come. If you are a member of Daré, please come to hear and receive the stories and to do your own work of giving up war.

For more information, please write deenametzger@deenametzger.com or dwild4deena@ca.rr.com.

***

As I posted this on Face Book, I began re-reading Judith Herman M.D.’s Trauma and Recovery, Basic Books, 1992.

After reading and contemplating the quotes that follow, it becomes clear why we are being called to meet in circle. Every unhealed victim of violence, every war-traumatized person, unwittingly contributes to the perpetration, intensification and recurrence of violence and war. Every person healing from trauma is a potential peacemaker.

***
Here are a few quotations to contemplate from her ”Afterword: The Dialectic of Trauma Continues”.

“The study of psychological trauma is an inherently political enterprise because it calls attention or the experience of oppressed people.”

“Only an ongoing connection with a global political movement for human rights can ultimately sustain our ability to speak about unspeakable things.”

“In the five years since the book’s publication, (1992) new victims of violence have numbered in the millions.”

“The massive communal atrocities committed during the course of wars in Europe, Asia and Africa …”

“Within the US, a number of large-scale community studies have demonstrated that, even in peacetime, exposure to violence is both more commonplace and more damaging than anyone would like to believe.”

“It has become clear that traumatic exposure can produce lasting alterations in the endocrine, autononomic and central nervous systems.”

“…dissociation lies at the heart of the traumatic stress disorders. Studies of disasters, terrorist attacks, and combat have demonstrated that people who enter a dissociative state at the time of the traumatic event are those most likely to develop long-lasting PTSD. … Though dissociation offers a means of mental escape at the moment when nor other escape is possible, it may be that this respite from terror is purchased at far too high a price.”

“The next generation of researchers [of dissociation in traumatic stress disorders] may lack the passionate intellectual and social commitment that inspired many of the most creative earlier investigations. Early investigators often felt strong personal bonds and political solidarity with trauma survivors, regarding them less as objects of dispassionate curiosity than as collaborators in a shared cause. This kind of closeness and mutuality may be difficult to sustain in a scientific culture…. Yet without it, the possibility of authentic understanding is inevitably lost.”

“The collaborative working relationship with the trauma survivor also remains the cornerstone of treatment of PTSD. The principle of restoring human connection and agency remains central to the recovery process and no technical therapeutic advance is likely to replace it.”

“Insight into the recovery process may also be gained by drawing upon the wisdom of the majority of trauma survivors worldwide, who never get formal treatment of any kind. …most survivors must invent their own methods, drawing on their individual strengths and the supportive relationships naturally available to them in their own communities.”

“…safety requires putting an immediate stop to the violence, containment if not disarmament of the aggressors and provisions for the basic survival needs of the victims. All of the classic political conflicts between victims, perpetrators, and bystanders have been reenacted in these most recent peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts. Once again, victims have been outraged by the apparent indifference and passivity of bystanders.”

“In the aftermath of systematic political violence, entire communities can display symptoms of PTSD, trapped in alternating cycles of numbing and intrusion, silence and reenactment. Recovery requires remembrance and mourning. …restoring a sense of social community requires a public forum where victims can speak their truth and their suffering can be formally acknowledged.

“Like traumatized individuals, traumatized countries need to remember, grieve and atone for their wrongs in order to avoid reliving them.”

“Perpetrators [of massive political crimes] will do anything in their power to preserve the principle of impunity. They demand amnesty, a political form of amnesia.”

“In South Africa the officially established Truth and Reconciliation Commission has offered perpetrators a limited time period in which amnesty will be granted in return for public confession. Implicit in this bargain is the belief that if full justice cannot be achieved, public acknowledgement of the truth is more important than punishment of the perpetrators.”

“… newly established democracies have had to contend with a past record of abuses that were endemic to the entire political system. … without some form of public acknowledgement and restitution, all social relationships remain contaminated by the corrupt dynamics of denial and secrecy. Our own society {USA] faces a similar dilemma with respect to the legacy of slavery.”

“The problem of coming to terms with endemic abuses of power also pertains to crimes of sexual and domestic violence.”

“…creating a protected space where survivors can speak their truth is an act of liberation.”

***

THE ELEPHANTS ARE CALLING US AGAIN

The Elephant Ambassador January 6, 1999, Chobe Botswana

It has becomes evident that the elephants and animals are truly calling us again in this time of such danger to the natural world. I take it personally, but I know I am not the only one to be called. Most importantly, I am not the only one to respond.

I started writing this to recount a series of events that confirm Spiritual agency and inter-species communication. I seem to be directed to review the ways that the elephants have come to me and the community in the last twelve years in order to understand what Spirit’s call might be now.

in 1999 I wanted to sit in Council with the Elephants. I went to Zimbabwe and from there we went to Chobe, Botswana, and that is how I met the Ambassador. He came to our meeting place at five p.m. at the Chapungu tree, at least three times in three different years. His appearance was incontrovertible. The last time and hour we were there in September 2006, he introduced us to his family and threw us a bone. These stories are told in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing and From Grief into Vision: A Council.

Some years ago, I was alerted to the concerns of elephants in Assam, India who had occupied an airstrip, not allowing military planes to take off or land. Also a standoff between villagers and elephants in India after the death of one of the elephants. Then there were other difficulties between humans and animals and a series of attacks on humans in India, and around the globe, that seemingly had to do with revenging earlier attacks on elephants, the interruption or prevention of mourning rituals, and loss of habitat. It seemed like a global organized activity on the part of the elephants, but it could also have been a sudden global human decision to notice, not the elephants’ plight, but their anger.

I was able to publish a letter or article in English in an Indian newspaper that suggested ways in which these situations might be remedied respectfully. It was translated and distributed in Hindi, and then the newspaper and my contacts disappeared. But the passage was open long enough time for my writing to reach readers in India though without my learning what impact, if any, it had.

However, it is clear to me that the elephants had put out a call, and several of us received it, were willing to ‘pick up the phone.” I am one of them.

Animal agency in initiating the contact and communicating the dilemma psychically is important here. At the same time of the instances of “elephant rebellion”, births and dreams of births of white elephants were noticed and regarded as were similar births of white buffalo in the United States. Spiritual agency and animal agency. Something beyond our understanding is afoot.

In 2006, the annual meeting of the peacebuilding NGO everyday gandhis, working in Liberia, founded by Cynthia Travis, and to which I am Senior Advisor, opened with Charles Seibert’s October 2006 N Y Times Magazine article, “An Elephant Crack Up?” There was much concern among us about events relating to the elephants including the news that the most revered elephant elder of Lofa Country, Liberia, had either died or been killed. Accordingly, there were many elephant dreams among the Liberians and the extended everyday gandhis network of West Africans and North Americans that guided us to remember how interconnected the elephant people and the human people had once been.

In a later annual meeting, the Superintendent of Lofa county, the Northern Liberian district where everyday gandhis is situated, expressed his desire to find ways for the villagers and the elephants returning from their war-long exile in Guinea, might co-exist. There were several dreams told in that meeting that called us to peacemaking on behalf of the seemingly conflicting needs of the two species.

The Siebert article introduced us to the work of G. A. (Gay) Bradshaw. The Spring journal issue, Minding the Animal Psyche, Volume 83, which Bradshaw edited arrived as I was writing this. It contains an essay, “The Art of Cultural Brokerage. Recreating Human- Elephant Relationship and Community” by Bradshaw and Carole Buckley (Founder of the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary).

I had already read Bradshaw’s essay, “We, Matata: Bicultural Living among Apes” (Minding the Animal Psyche, Spring Journal Volume 83, Spring 2010, P. 171.) about the common research performed by Susan Savage Rumbaugh and three bonobos. Matata, Kanzi and Nyota Wamba, (Pan paniscus) who live in a “mixed Pan/Homo community.” in Des Moines, Iowa. This seminal essay and the quartet’s seminal work confirm animal agency and intent.

The brilliant title “We, Matata,” refers to Matata Wamba’s thinking in terms of ‘we’ as she was “wild-born in 1970 and lived in bonobo society in Zaire until the age of five. She was then brought with four other bonobos to the Yerkes “field station” at Emory University. Kanzi was born to two bonobos …in captivity at Yerkes….” Matata is “his adaptive mother.” In contrast to “…Kanzi, who is a ‘second generation’ bicultural bonobo, and Matata who is wild born, Nyota, Matata’s grandson is a “third generation” bonobo reared in a bicultural environment. ” The two younger bonobos were influenced early on by modern, western culture and so have, as we have, “been honed by modernity’s dualist traditions and the split world St Augustine. When Matata speaks, she speaks of “we” reflecting a concept of self found in collective, interdependent societies like those in free-ranging bonobo groups in contrast to the individualistic, independent, “I” centered culture of modern, western humans”

Bradshaw’s work records and substantiates animal intelligence and agency. It requires us to rethink and re-imagine the world.

What is distinct about my meeting with the Ambassador and the communication from the Indian elephants, is that these events demonstrate animal agency and transmission. Transmission, that is, receiving wisdom or information through invisible, distant or spiritual agency, is not commonly acknowledged by humans even among themselves.

In 2008, a trip to Tanzania was organized for the peace building team of everyday gandhis including Christian Bethelson, Bill Saa, J.F. Sawo, William Jacobs, and seven young, “Future Guardians of Peace” – all traumatized by the brutal Liberian civil war and yet working together on a multi-tribal peace building team. One goal of the safari was to introduce the peacebuilding team to the wild as the Liberian forests and their creatures have been, and are still being, devastated by the civil war and its aftermath, hunger, in particular.

Arriving earlier, Cynthia Travis, members of her family, and I were met by the young elephant, Spirit Sister, in the Ruaha who orchestrated our meeting and ceremoniously invited and then introduced her brother to us.

When everyone joined us in the Selous, we met the bull elephant, Delegate, after ceremonially bidding the seemingly hidden elephants to be with us. Delegate, who had been obscured in the bush, emerged. He came deliberately to within an inch of our truck. The young people knew we had called him to us and they trusted the moment because they were longing for such a reverential connection with the animal world. It was a matter of deep yielding and trust. Every moment tests us. Trust, however, is no guarantee of safety. One takes ones chances and tries to be alert, respectful and not naïve. This encounter is written about in everyday gandhis’ book, Tanzania Safari and in my essay, therein, “Alliance in the Selous,” where you will also find a photo of Delegate.

From Tanzania, we went to Liberia where we met and interviewed an elephant dreamer who had been visited and protected by elephants for all the years of the war. There, we were, once again, informed that the elephants were eating the crops of the poor farmers, but also, that the elephants no longer had the corridors through which they had traveled for centuries. In recent conversations, Superintendent Kortemai has spoken of the difficulties of providing and protecting the corridors which are increasingly interrupted by modern roads, expanding human habitat and other obstacles.

in July 2010, Cynthia Travis returned from Africa, alarmed by the news that the government of Tanzania has approved a major commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park linking the Lake area Victoria with eastern Tanzania. This will entirely interrupt village culture, the migration of the zebra and wildebeest, and the movements of elephants. (http://www.savetheserengeti.org/issues/stop-the-serengeti-highway/#ixzz176Xez6JY)

In May 2010, listening to the news on the way to the airport, I understood the gravity of the recent hemorrhage in the Gulf. I spent the next four months in active concern about the fate of the oceans and the horrific wound to the EarthSea Mother – its extent is still unacknowledged. (Two co-incident events this first week of January 2011: the announcement that deep sea oil drilling will resume though restoration has not occurred and safeguards – if they can exist – have not been put into place while tar balls are, once again, washing up on gulf beaches.)

In Connecticut, I met Ray Hardy, of The Deer Alliance, a Vietnam veteran who attributes his healing to the presence of the deer. He now devotes his life to their protection. His history, and his life, support the everyday gandhis understanding that peacebuilding, environmental protection and restoration are essentially interconnected.

In 2010, I spent the summer attentive to the many on-going environmental tragedies that are the consequence of human activity. They ranged from various oil spills in the U.S. and Africa, the possibly on-going seepage of oil in the Gulf, to the effects of uranium mining on the Reservations and the danger from radiation released from the fires that surrounded Chernobyl.

We know not what we do. Intellectual, emotional and spiritual numbing has resulted from our being immersed globally, for the last hundred plus years, in violence, cruelty, torture, killing and war. We accommodate, permit and perpetuate what was unthinkable a few decades ago. Violence, whether official, as in war waged by governments, terrorist, or individual, breeds violence. ( As I edit these words, we are learning of the shooting of an Arizona congresswoman, a federal judge, a child, and others in Tucson.) A new psychology that is a pathology, is increasingly dominating the human species. Crippling alienation is passed on between generations as the traumatic mind reproduces itself through the cultural change that it generates. This understanding is exactly articulated by Roberto Bolaño in his masterpiece novel, 2666.

Trauma and PTSD, as experienced by veterans and all war traumatized people, are similarly experienced by elephants and others animals. We learned this from Charles Seibert’s article based upon Bradshaw’s thinking and as further articulated in her stunning book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity. The effects of trauma in their different manifestations are also passed between generations and between species

In July 2010, grieving, lost, not knowing what I might do or write, I put myself “on the hill” for two nights and three days of solitude. I was, as the Lakota word, hamblechya, implies, literally crying for vision.

Three essential communications came to me on the hill. I have been contemplating them since.

The first was a demand to us from the wounded EarthSea Mother: “Don’t just bear witness. Be with me! Feel everything I am feeling. Recognize the physical pain of such wounding as has been inflicted upon me. Share my great disappointment in the human species. “Don’t just bear witness. Be with me!”

The second is a call to be a medicine woman for the earth. I extend this call here to those with similar inclinations and devotion: Let us become medicine people for the earth.

The third communication revealed that a reliable, hidden passageway to the restoration of a viable world is a true alliance with all the animals and other beings.

Indigenous people have known how to live in such alliances but they are almost entirely hidden from the western, contemporary world.

“Truly learn the way of alliance. Yield to the intelligence and agency of the other species. Consider the future of the earth, rather than individual concerns, in addressing all dilemmas and issues. Let your work be to bring other two-leggeds into such alliances. Help such true alliances become accepted cultural forms.”

At the end of August, I went on a walkabout to Canyon de Chelly with my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill. On the first night there, praying as I do each day for the restoration of the earth, a rainbow appeared in the sky though there were no rain clouds. We knew it was a covenant, but I still didn’t know, pragmatically, how I was to proceed.

On October 31, I dreamed an ocean of stones without any water. I walked far out on the stone sea, climbing to the crest of a great stone wave. From that perspective, as I looked away from the shore to horizons, I saw only wave after wave after wave of stones. If I went any further, I would be lost without any hope of return. So I made my way back toward the shore. An elder questioned me: “Why did you go so far?”
“I had to see,” I said.” I had to see what it there.” Without approving, he understood.

Recently, I felt the call to travel to the stones to see what would be revealed about the dream. I prepared myself for this journey. I also prayed that I would be given specific directions for these last active years of my life regarding the paths i am to follow to fulfill the mandate.

I went into the studio to journey to the stones. But when I began, the Ambassador appeared and insisted I continue the journey with him. I began again and journeyed accordingly. We met at the Chapungu tree as we had in Chobe. I climbed into the open back of the truck as I had when we first met and showed him, as I had, that my hands were empty, that I had no weapons. He looked in my eyes the way he had, in the flesh, ten years ago.

He reminded me that I had been called to make alliances with the animals, other beings and the spirits, and I had, instead, become preoccupied and overwhelmed with human concerns, activities and forms. Preoccupied with stopping or healing our criminal behavior, I was not able to give attention to what truly matters.

He reminded that on my birthday, I had, once more, asked for a path to assist the future of the planet and I had been given a mandate to learn the way of alliance. I had been asked to defer to alliance in order to find the hidden passageways to the restoration of Creation. When I had asked, it was explained to me that alliance, by its intrinsic nature, was a vehicle of transformation. But I had, it seemed, disregarded this mandate by being consumed with the terrible and grievous crisis of these times: torture, rendition, Blackwater, private armies, mercenaries, child soldiers, rape and mutilation, drones, robots, the wars and violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, and the on-going war against the land, the trees, the animals, the elementals; horror everywhere and without end. I was reminded of an understanding I had been given twenty years earlier when studying Kaballah and the Holy Letter Nun: “I had been serving Pharaoh when I thought I was serving God.”

Then the Ambassador took me back to the ocean of stones: “The stones are what the human race has become. You are no longer sentient creatures. You increasingly become the drones, the robots, the weapons that you have invented as you disconnect from, injure and attack the natural world and all its creatures. The only way to save Creation is to re-enter it.”

Then he turned, as he had the first time we had met, climbed the hill behind us and disappeared into the bush.

Within minutes, I received a note from a friend announcing the premiere of a film, “How I Became an Elephant,” that documents the horrific conditions of elephants in Thailand. Elephants used in the logging and other industries for years, no longer needed, unable to be return to the wild, constitute an abused, slave labor force performing in urban areas entirely alien to them.

I left the theater in a similar state of mind to the one that overtook me in 1989, when on a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of the holocaust.

This morning, a friend wrote that she had had a dream of an elephant in the woods. In any accompanying film by the same filmmaker, Coming Home, Lek, the elephant medicine woman of Thailand, brings several abused elephants home to the forest. She has rescued them from the horrific painful and inhuman treatment that elephants suffer in Thailand. She has convinced the local villagers to protect them, arguing that tourists will be far more attracted to their villages to see the animals as they are living in the wild than when the animals, in order to paint, play music, dance, do tricks and give rides, endure great pain and suffering.

After this email, another message from am acquaintance in South Africa included a photo of an elephant in Botswana.

Within another few minutes, Superintendent Kortemai and Christian Bethelson, a former General turned peacebuilder, called from Lofa County, increasingly worried about the elephants eating the farmers’ crops. I immediately told them about the film and the solution Lek is negotiating.

2011: The last few days have been filled with grave concern about global mass deaths of birds and sea creatures since December 31 2010:

Google introduced a map of 30 incidents of mass deaths.
Different newspapers cited:
Hundreds of confused birds plummeting to their deaths in multiple locations in the U.S.
8,000 turtle doves falling dead in Italy with strange blue stain on their beaks.
Two million dead fish found to have washed up on shores in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
100,000 dead fish in the Arkansas River.
Dead birds in Sweden exhibited signs of ‘external blows.”
Other events in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Brazil, New Zealand and England.

On Epiphany, January 6th, the day I met the Elephant Ambassador in 1999, I journeyed to him again in response to these tragedies. He said:

“Live according to the Code of Benefits. Examine every action and behavior: Does it benefit the earth and all beings? Does each activity benefit elephants, wolves, whales, birds, trees, bees, etc,? If no clear benefit is visible, don’t do it!”
“Why should we follow such a stringent regime?” we ask.
“Because otherwise you, your descendants, everyone will die.”

Then he added:

“Think like an elephant, not like a human. 
Consider each being in your heart. Let your thoughts emerge to meet them. To hold all beings intimately in your heart, at each moment, can provide the understanding necessary to meet this moment.”

The elephants are calling us again. Even now, in the midst of events we do not understand, the call and presence of the animals is heartening.

How have they come to you? How are you meeting the Call?

FIRE OVER WOOD – poem

FIRE OVER WOOD

If I don’t burn, where will the light come from?
Nazim Hikmet

for Danelia, for Kjersten, for Cheryl

It takes a long time for the fire to catch.
Then the entire stove is enflamed.
Every piece of wood,
alongside the first log, will burn.
Afterwards, there will be coals
to ignite another tender log, and so it goes.
The steadiness of the eternal flame
to stay alight, if sheltered, also in the rain.

I put the women up on the hill
and then the thunder came,
lightning, wind and, finally, heavy rain.
I kept the fire going, prayer, tobacco,
scrupulous attention. If the flame extinguished,
I couldn’t guarantee their safety, couldn’t swear
their own fires wouldn’t die down to low
in the ordeal of meeting the great Light
for which they prepared for months.

One buried the wounded heart of a warrior.
One, unexpectedly, prepared to don white moccasins
from an ancestor she’d never known.
Another learned the weather, learned wind and water
in the old ways. Blood rises hot in us from the earth.

Years earlier, my companion gathered lightning struck bark
and offered it as a gift that turned out to be a curse.
So we had to make amends. I asked, humbly,
if I could help the herb woman build the fire.
After awhile, she gave the task over to me.
I patiently gathered kindling from the dry earth
and fed the fire, twig by twig
until it caught enough for the branches
and then the logs. She offered tobacco then, and sang.

Afterwards, she agreed I might call rain to the land
as I had been given such instructions in a dream.
The dry thunder and dry lightning were far away.
When I returned to the hogan, my old gray silk blouse
was wet and plastered against me like another skin.
We said nothing. When we were leaving,
she kissed me between the eyebrows,
as the Tibetans, her language cousins, do
as a blessing or a transmission.
That’s what we did together:
we made a fire, and I called rain, and we left.

Plant and nurture more trees than you cut down
so when you leave, there will be forests again.
Burn hot and steady and long
so the other logs will catch in your presence
and hold the fire for the next generations.

I kept the fire down below,
while they each praised the land above
in circles of trees. Eucalyptus bark
fed the flames. The logs were from the pine
that had fallen and the dead branches were
of an old elm that had been pierced in loops and swirls
by a family of woodpeckers who’d come to the land
when I had, tattooing the tree for over thirty years.

Last night, the rain was torrential.
The roof opened, as I knew it would,
around the trunk of the jacaranda as
we had built the house around it.
We would not cut it down,
would not even trim the tender green twig
extending its green leaves over my altar table.

We have to live with whatever we wish to save.
The women on the hill were with the rain
as I was with the fire that stormy night.
Be with what you love.
Be immoderate. Avoid caution. Burn steady
so you pass on the heart’s flame.
Yet be vigilant, do not burn the forest down.

DEENA METZGER

A LETTER TO A YOUNG MAN ON MADNESS AND HEALING

Within the last months, so many lost young people suffering madness, addiction, rage, fear, so many variations on breakdown, have come into the field of our families and communities. Every small circle of people that happens to come together in our country has children suffering in one way or another. Our family secrets.

Today, a colleague wrote: “In the latest edition of Harper’s they list in their Harper’s Index the chance that an American teen suffers from a severe emotional or mental disorder is one in five! It’s too bad it has to show up as a one-liner in Harper’s.”

Desperate, lost, hungry, abused, anorexic, autistic, suicidal, paranoid, violent against themselves or others, environmentally poisoned and injured, drugged by doctors or dealers, unable to find work, meaningful labor or education, alienated from their families and communities, often without any alternative but going to war, they are the ones, by their very conditions, who are speaking truth to power.

In the last week, a young man has been writing to me of his uncontainable anguish, pain, overwhelm, anger and confusion. His letters could have come from any one of dozens of young people I know of, or know. He was writing of his great fear of the world. Of the ultimate uselessness of hospitals, pharmaceuticals, therapists, police and healers. Of his failure to find anyone to help him.

He is desperate. He is angry. He is overwhelmed. He is hearing a multitude of voices and they are driving him mad. He does not know if he is hearing Spirit or if Spirit is attacking him. He is out of control. He is lashing out.

His inner state is not unlike the nation states on the planet: Suspicion. Fear. Strike.

He has to heal as we have to heal.

This is a letter I wrote to him with the hope that he will find his way to sanity.

*********************

Psyche lost Eros because she was incapable of believing in, having faith in, the Divine that must remain invisible and because her jealous sisters insisted she challenge what appears only in the dark. Recognizing the Divine in the moment of loss, she had to engage in different tasks to restore her relationship with the face of God that had appeared to her.

The first task was to separate the beans from the peas from the lentils.

We are called to separate the destructive voices of the sisters, from our true internal understanding. We have to be willing to discern and trust the Divine when It appears.
We are called to separate the true voices of spirit from our own internal voices and from the external voices that are imposters. To separate the trustworthy internal voices from the internalized destructive voices. To separate the internal voice purporting to be, let’s say, the Dalai Lama, from the teachings of the Dalai Lama, from the spirit of the Dalai Lama who may also be speaking to you. Let each stand on its own and respond to each as it its due.

Sometimes the animals come to us, or the trees, or the wind. Learn to distinguish these spirit beings, from the embodied animals, trees, elementals that may also come and speak, and differentiate these from your fantasies or wild imaginings. This task, like Psyche’s original task, requires discernment and faith. If you have grounded faith in the existence of the spirits, it will be easier, ironically, to recognize the phantoms of your mind and others’ minds.

Sometimes the dead come to us with their agonies and demands. The dead want to be heard. They want us to help them cross the river, to transform, as the I Ching speaks about it, from ghost to ancestor. We do our best to meet their call, to distinguish the hungry ghosts from those who can and will transform. The dead come in great waves. Not only our dead. Not only the dead our ancestors may have injured or allied with, but all the dead, of all the races, of all of history.

These days, there are so many, we feel we are drowning too. It is true; there are too many of the anguished dead. Too many died in the most horrible ways in the last decades, in the last centuries. There are too many to acknowledge, hold, console, cross and mourn. Tell them this. There is no choice but to share the truth with them. You cannot do it all. Nor can we, your elders. But you can be aware of them, here, among us, clamoring and suffering. Tell them we know and this knowledge will have to be sufficient. And also, whether they are ready or not, you can insist they help us, just as you have to assist in healing the world. You are not ready, but you have to be.

How do we do this? Each person, like Psyche, must find his/her way.

You have to separate the dissonant voices you hear, whatever names they bear, from the real voices of spirit and health. You are called to differentiate between those who speak on behalf of your healing and those who are not committed to your healing.

I am not your enemy nor are any of those alongside you that you are ranting against. If you rant against those you are hoping will help you, you are creating the loneliness you are in.

Something inside you is no longer able to differentiate. Everything becomes everything. You are losing the ability to distinguish the beans from the peas from the lentils.

There is a healthy, strong self within you. Find that one. You can.

There is turmoil in the world. Yes. There is danger in the world. Yes. There are assaults on innocence and goodness everywhere. Yes.
.
We all know this. We are all concerned. We are each trying to find each of our distinct ways to meet the different crisis. We cannot respond to them all in all ways. No one can. We each work in different ways. This implies a council of response. You will find your ways as we have found ours.

If you continue to lash out at anything that moves, especially those who you think can help you, you will be part of the pattern of destruction that is driving you crazy

Though you don’t know this yet, you can chose to extricate yourself from the crisis, to find balance and insight inside yourself and so differentiate between what is no longer able to align with goodness and what is determined to align with goodness for all beings.

It is not your task to try to educate, to issue alarms or to rant now. We are not innocent or ignorant. We know the dangers, are bearing witness, are acting accordingly. Each, we hope, in our own, thoughtful, ways. Each, we hope, as careful as we can be.

It is your task to differentiate what is wise and kind, to support it and let its light reach you even from afar. If you do this, you will not feel so alone or endangered

Also you can’t use up all the space with your agony. We are all trying to meet the overwhelming anguish of the times. Take your formidable intellect and your love for the earth in hand. Focus the light of these into your psyche and find the sanity in the swirl.

Like Psyche, no one can do it for you.

When I was young, I once told a dear friend that I couldn’t bear a certain situation. I was afraid I would break entirely under the weight and anguish of it.

She responded, wisely: “Who asked you if you can bear it? Bear it!”

I learned to bear it. It doesn’t mean, I didn’t break from time to time. There is no way to do this easily. No one can be safe or comfortable in a world that is not safe.

I wish we could provide you with a safer world. But, alas, it is your task to do your part to make it safe. Start with yourself. This is the work for which your entire life’s suffering qualifies you.

I hope this letter helps you set out on what is for everyone a solitary journey. I believe you will find your own sanity as you search for it as Diogenes searched for truth.

When you return to the world having found the strength, sanity and healing that is indigenous to you, you will have proved to all of us that sanity is possible. I will look forward to hearing from you and learning of your ways.

.

YOU KNOW IT IS ALL GOING DOWN NOW, DON’T YOU? – Poem

You know it is all going down now, don’t you?

Where shall we begin the rosary of grief?
With the wolves they want to hunt from the sky?
When they disappear, so will the trees.
All beauty will go down in the bloody
grave of the natural world.

The deer, denied her rightful death,
is sighted in the cross hairs of the rifle
and sinks to her knees
before the hunter trained in Vietnam
or Iraq. A drone above his head
seeks out his body heat
and puts an end to it.
He knew, didn’t he,
what was coming?

On the ground, a robot moves,
unafraid, ahead of troops,
shooting straight at any movement.

In the short time before the enemies
have their own iron men,
we assume it will not frag the officers,
or indulge friendly fire,
but you never know.

Every nightmare we have imagined
is being birthed now, all at once.
What had been written as a warning
has become strategies, tactics and plans.
I did not wish to live to see this day.

Radiation burns.
Oil burns.
Phosphorus burns.
The earth is burning.
Everything is set on fire

Therefore, beat the man
almost to unconsciousness
then plunge his head in water,
until he prays to drown.

How many forms of torture
can you name
that are occurring now?

Your young child,
the innocent one,
a gun forced into her fists,
will do the same,
even to you.

Here are two Ways:

The Baal Shem Tov,
The Master of the Good Name,
speaks of the King who
refused the portion of grain
different from that
which would drive
all the people mad.

Though declining, he said,
“We will mark our foreheads,
and seeing each other,
we will know we are insane.”

Know you are mad
and live accordingly.

Also seek the hidden
Passageways of beauty
that insist you leave
everything contaminated behind.
Do not accommodate.
Step away and further away
each day.

There are the Beauty Ways.
Find them
and give them your entire life
today.

11/11 ELEVENTH HOUR REFLECTIONS

She wanted counsel and council on 11-11 at 11 am. I was ill but kept the appointment because we had set that time deliberately, though not revealing why. Reflecting on her life and the effects of war, she still suffered, she said, because her heart had been thrown on the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces by a man who couldn’t love her and couldn’t let her go.

I had just read a commentary on Veteran’s Day from the poet, Raphael Jesus Gonzalez: While WWI was officially over on June 28, 1919, it had ended in reality on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.

Veteran’s Day is Remembrance Day in Canada. Her lover had been in Vietnam and had been so wounded in the war he couldn’t function in relationship. “It was war, not the man, who wounded you,” I said.

Our conversation allowed for the understanding that she is a victim of war. Accordingly, she recognized, she was being called to heal what had injured her so. She was to pick up the broken pieces and reconfigure them. Healing is like a kaleidoscope, I said, the fragments reconfigure and then, viewed in the light, reveal a new beauty in relationship to each other.

The anguished and lonely women keep saying, “The men are so wounded.” It sounds like compassion, but it is also often complaint, sometimes condemnation. We cannot continue to make the other gender the enemy or censure the person for what he (or she) has suffered. If we do, we are committed to having an enemy, and that is the foundation of war.

In my play, Milk Fever, the handyman confronts the landowner: “Who do you get to do your killing for you, Lady?”

The issue of war and healing has been with me for years. Tree, the journal I kept when I had breast cancer, was published in 1978 with The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them.”

In Tree, I wrote: “To return to health, I had to scrutinize my life, root out the destructive elements, be surgeon and seer to my own psyche, make the necessary changes which the life demanded. I had to see the disease as metaphor, interpret it and act accordingly.”

The disease is the disease and is a metaphor. The war is war and is an on-going disease.

“Collateral damage” from every war is universal. The phrase “collateral damage” is an abomination. It is another horrific act of war against each person’s identity and humanity.

If the woman seeking counsel is still carrying the wound, thirty-five years later, imagine the man who went to war, did what no human should be asked to witness or enact. Or imagine the fate of his victims who may not have been lucky enough to die after what they experienced or saw. Just the thought of the weaponry we have created, not what is unleashed through their use, but just the idea, their intent, is enough to destroy a mind and leave it unfit for life in community.

At the beginning of WWII we were horrified by Guernica, aerial bombing, attacks on civilian populations by the end we were asked to accommodate to the Camps and the Bomb. During the Vietnam war we accommodated further to Agent Orange and other atrocities. In the last years, we accommodate to genocide, DU, water boarding, torture, the violation of the Geneva Convention and drones. This is not normal behavior – if one can say – even for war. We are maddened creatures.

Roberto Bolaño’s brilliant novel, 2666, details the cause and continuity of the great world trauma that began in 1914. Every weapon we have invented is a betrayal of our souls. The ratios of those who have been damaged by war, directly or indirectly, are out of proportion to the healthy and vital minds that remain, if any, unscathed.

Add to this the pre-natal and post-natal damage we inflict that comes not from weaponry but also perhaps from the electromagnetic and chemically toxic fields we invent and inhabit, that increasingly emerges in so many tragic ways including autism, “impaired social interaction and communication,” or as one site describes it, these children “lack empathy.”

A dramatic rise in autism occurring at a time when our culture becomes increasingly impaired in social interactions and increasingly lacks empathy and compassion

There is more to our suffering and our children’s suffering. Every child that watches murder on television, or plays violent video games, becomes a victim of PTSD. Every such child is recruited, while watching, into being a child soldier. As adults, we are increasingly entertained by murder.

Elephants, like dolphins, among the kindest, most cooperative, compassionate of living beings, but who have been the victims of culls, who have witnessed their people killed, who have been chased by helicopters, as wolves and people are now being chased so, turn rogue, go against their innately kind nature, their profound instinctual and thoughtful concern for the social fabric of life; they become aggressive, commit acts of rape and violence against each other and other species.

So now, there are also the animals, the vast cauldron of pain they suffer, the distortion of their nature by our activities. Every animal on this planet is a victim of our madness.

Afterwards, becoming wounded, one can be completely unable to function on behalf of a sane and caring society but without knowing the harm that has been done to oneself, and without realizing one has become a perpetrator.

As we try to identify causes and lay blame, let us imagine that every criticism reveals an area or person that needs healing. Like or dislike, there is a great wound, as great as the wound to the EarthSeaMother in the Gulf. We each carry it. It has gone viral, and the wound wounds everyone. Shall we not, each of us, take on the task of healing?

There is no one to blame. We are not born with thoughts of inventing ways to destroy people, animals, the earth. All Our Relations is an indigenous understanding that is innate to every newborn and then, as the indigenous people suffer everywhere, it has been and is being conquered.

If we could only listen to the children before they can speak, we would know what a pure soul is and live accordingly

If WWI is one of the great unhealed planetary wounds, and before it, five hundred years of Conquest and Inquisition and, before that, Rome – and then if we consider the explosive consequences of everything after WWI – we have a great deal of healing to do and extend to each other and our ancestors, in a very short time, or the entire planet will perish very soon.

My husband and I marvel at the differences between us, our different values and assumptions, that arise because I was born into a worldview of hope as I was born in the U.S, before WWII and the Camps and he was born in the U.S. after the Bomb. My family found safety and sanity, they thought, in the U.S. After WWII, they thought insanity was mostly elsewhere. My husband grew up in New Mexico knowing there isn’t any safety or sanity here. Still, he writes about compassion and tries to teach it to those who are concerned as we are. Michael Ortiz Hill’s latest book is Conspiracy of Kindness: The Craft of Compassion at the Bedside of the Ill.

Sometimes I think PTSD results not only from being forced to commit the unthinkable, but from burying fleeting moments of insight and compassion that precede their acts of horror. Healing, then, would also consist of re-viewing one’s instinctual recoil from inflicting pain and cruelty, from bearing one’s innate kindness.

I didn’t expect to write this, but the other night, I saw Tsotsi, written by Athol Fugard. The young man’s nickname or war name,” Thug”, came from his desperation, and that desperation, from his father’s desperation. Cruelty is not an innate condition. It is a curse upon the person who suffers it, the perpetrator and then the victim. It is contagious and is passed down. A terrible legacy. If too few remember, experience and adamantly hold kind and compassionate ways of being, if too few face their own complicity and heal themselves, cruelty will overwhelm us.

“Decency? Do you know what decency means?” one of the gang members asks after an entirely heartless murder was committed.

Yesterday, I read two sentences in Peter Matthiessen’s, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, (page 6) that will haunt me forever, even though I spent years studying the Holocaust day and night, and went on a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of Europe, then wrote The Other Hand:
“Spotted Tail, chief of the Brule band, … had led a great raid in 1864 on Julesburg, Colorado; this raid reflected the widespread outrage among Plains Indians caused by the slaughter at Sand Creek of an unsuspecting Cheyenne camp by an armed mob of Colorado irregulars with subsequent gross sexual mutilation of men, women and children. (“Cowards and dogs!” declared Kit Carson, whose own regular soldiers known to the “Navajo as “Long Knives” had sometimes played catch with the severed breasts of young Navajo women.)

This IS the history of the Americas and the Conquest.

Maybe people have always fought, but not this way. It is not that they didn’t have such weapons, it is that they wouldn’t invent them. It is not how people are because it is not how animals are.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it is said: Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.”

We are wounded. Our wounds wound. How shall we heal in order to protect others?

A general, who had committed the unspeakable, came to the Topanga Daré to be initiated as a peacebuilder. For years, we have been training as a community to receive those who want to heal from war. A basic premise is that we must know such transformation from within ourselves: We must recognize our own war wounds, how they were afflicted, and what we have done, are doing, to heal our warlike ways. We could receive the general with integrity because we acknowledged our commonality of pain and betrayal.

A veteran who had served in the first Gulf war, surrendered his own sword in the traditional way. Another woman symbolically surrendered her sword and for weeks later said she didn’t know who she is or how to respond without having a sword – “just in case.” Last week, another woman surrendered her sword, also in the traditional way, and now there are two swords on my altar.

In Liberia, the women fed up with war, sat and danced in protest in the streets, in grueling sun and pouring rain, and also took the weapons from their sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. And so the civil war ended.

A woman who came to Topanga last night, for a Music Daré, our “indigenous” healing form, had fled the war in Somalia as a child. She also set this date, 11/11 for her healing. Recently, she gathered and the money and resources to return to her country on her own. She put on a burqa and traveled alone for 4 months and 4 days. Often she couldn’t speak, afraid that an English word would escape her mouth and reveal her identity. If so, she might be raped, kidnapped and held for ransom. “So many women are willing to marry and have children at eleven or twelve to escape being raped. Still life goes on. Life goes on.”

She stayed for a while in the village of the tribe that had killed her father and was treated with kindness. What healing we were able to offer her was through our recognition that she is, herself, a profound healer of war.

I am writing this at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Who will you devote yourself to healing today? As we say in Daré, “Wash your dish and someone else’s.”

Heal yourself and give equal time to offering healing to others. If everyone on the planet would take responsibility for healing oneself and one other person of war ….

MOVE-ON ASKED: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ELECTIONS? MY ANSWER

MOVE-ON ASKED: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ELECTIONS: Here is my answer.

For the last two years, I have seen how exhausted we have all become fighting issue by issue, needing to raise funds, mobilize day and night. Ultimately, we couldn’t do it and while we may have saved something here or there (California for example in this election) we didn’t have the means to meet what was threatening democracy and the earth. Also we know that those that had the unlimited resources, had gained them from the diminishing resources of the earth. This cannot be the way – even in defense.

( I was disturbed by the number of individual fundraising efforts for different non-election causes – in the last week when so many of us who don’t have the money were looking to see how we could contribute to the necessary campaigns. I was grateful that ACT Blue suggested the option of dividing funds among progressive candidates, and at the last moment I found some extra for Harry Reid, Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold – had I not, had Sharon Angle won, I would have felt worse than I do now, as Grayson and Feingold were taken down. But in the future, how do we avoid the financial drain that such an election caused? What viable infrastructures can be put in place now so that these expenditures and energies that could go elsewhere on behalf of everyone’s future become unnecessary.

How do we by law and by suasion, absolutely change the rules of the game?

In my life and in my community, we live by Council. That means the wisdom of the circle. It means alliance. It means All Our Relations. An on-going question: How do WE work this out? How do we think and respond on behalf of the whole? How can we be energized, sustained and nurtured by taking care of and supporting each other, our communities, human and non-human, the earth, the future? We are not rich. It is not about surplus or overflow.

How translate this into irresistible political force and action? How might move-on create such consciousness?

I think we could save our democracy and the earth, if we started recognizing alliances now, and began the groundswell of engaged, very determined, fierce, compassionate political, spiritual consciousness that would entirely support the President to move to do everything, by all the means he has, to enact enlightened measures on behalf of the future. How can he truly know that the people are awake, conscious, and behind him? I am imagining an engaged and benevolent power behind him and those who align with a viable future for all beings, that cannot be resisted … so one acts on behalf of, as if breathing.

This would mean true alliances – or recognition of common or related, resonant interests – shall we name a few — of working people, the unemployed, the foreclosed, the direct and indirect victims of the Gulf oil hemorrhage, environmentalists, animal activists, miners, spiritual leaders, physicians, health practitioners, patients, peacebuilders, union people, healers, social security recipients, teachers, students, migrant workers, farmers, veterans, those suffering PTSD, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Native American activists and elders, white people, twelve-steppers, etc etc etc.

The trick is not identifying with a particular issue or profession or group, but finding the common base of values and making that plain and urgent. The common field from which possibility emerges.
A different but pertinent understanding of The Commons.

Diversity is not about special interests, it is about the unique gift each can offer.
When people see that no one is required to do it all, that each of the others can carry our unique part, that wisdom emerges from the unique contributions, that the parts interrelate and intersect, then reflexive responses develop for the good of all and the future.

Issue based politics is exhausting, but consciousness, complexity and compassion based politics can energize us.

One example: in our Daré (Council in Shona language) community, we offered Fire/Water Circles to heal war. Veterans, ex-combatants and war traumatized people come together to tell each other their stories and to imagine, together, what peace might be. Who can truly imagine the real and pragmatic ways of peacebuilding, but those who have suffered war? This alliance is a real alliance. The NGO that I work with in Liberia – everyday gandhis – operates on the evidence that ex-combatants – generals and child soldiers – can become guardians of peace. They do this with those who might have been their victims once. Together they know more than they know individually.

I have spent several years calling together (unlikely but therefore most likely ) councils of people to vision their /our future together. I am imagining common interest gatherings, unlikely alliances and councils, in which we see wisely through each other’s eyes and experiences, hear each other’s stories and create a wide and fertile field of deep knowledge and pragmatic responses.

I have also initiated ReVisioning Medicine – medical doctors and medicine people – a shorthand would be M.D.s and healers coming together as peers in diagnosis and treatment to create medical/medicine practices that accelerate cure, offer healing and do no harm. The bottom ground is providing healing to individuals, communities and the earth with each gesture. This is another example of alliance.

Two other points: It is necessary for us to see what Obama has been up against and so to hold him fast and safely in the current of our consciousness and dedication to the future. Let us not make him an enemy. How can we be true allies together, everyone recognizing it?

I practice The No Enemy Way. It is a rigorous path but the consequences can be thrilling.

And let’s free Michele Obama to be her brilliant self and ally in the world.

Finally, how do we live now, each day, each moment, according to our deepest principles and heart, no matter who is in office? This will be our Council question at Daré this coming Sunday.

The Chilean Miners – Ourselves

The Chilean miners.
Consciousness demands that each one of us descend into the dark. Myth calls us to descend alone and then emerge in our own ways, with the treasure, or transformed, and into a new life.

The miners have been trapped in the dark with each other. Others are digging the new shaft through which they will be raised up.

Before emergence, an explosion will occur, deliberately set. The miners are being called back to their old lives though they may never descend again.

Are we in a new myth? Has the old myth come to an end? Did we lose sight of the reason for descent? What is the treasure? Was it true? For whom was it sought?

What will we learn from the long, long dark with each other? What questions are we to ponder in the dark, then while emerging and afterwards in the light? And with each other? And, finally, alone?

Healing According to the Original Wisdom of This Land

In my kinship network, I have three women friends whose children are in the military. All the mothers are heartbroken. Each young person recognized that they had no other way to make a living, each one believes(d) they are protecting our country and all “good” people. All these mothers are of Native American descent.

At the end of September 2010, several of us introduced ReVisioning Medicine to Minnesota. The local man who offered himself as the subject of “Indigenous Grand Rounds” – where all present, medical people and medicine people, search out the story of the illness and the path of recovery for the individual and all beings – had been a soldier in Viet Nam. Within days of entering active service, he saw a huge Shell oil tank upriver when he was delivering arms and realized he had been betrayed by the US and the military. Thirty-five years later he is experiencing symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning, but he can’t get the medical help he needs. When he returned from Viet Nam, he learned the family secret – he is of Mohawk descent. At Indigenous Grand Rounds, the man’s stories of three trees became one Story: the dark corpses of trees in the defoliated jungles, the Sundance tree he slept under before he pierced, and a recent dream of a new relationship to a Tree of Life that described, or perhaps mandates, particular healing paths. It was as if the War was asking him to devote himself even further to the Red Path in order to heal War itself and also as a way of making amends for his participation in the war, though had been innocent, and had also been betrayed.

When flying back to Los Angeles, our airplane had been locked down for take-off, when a water leak was discovered in one of the bathrooms. Repair took just enough time for my seatmate to make his connection. Settling in, he looked at me hard and said, “You’re Native American. I can always tell. Me too,” he turned and smiled. “Look at my cheek bones.”
(I also smiled, but internally, marveling that spiritual connections and dream ancestry can appear to manifest in features and bone structure.)
“Supposedly all the Susquehanna Indians were murdered in the Lancaster massacre, but they were taken in by the Amish and the Mennonites as farm hands and their identity suppressed. So my history was a secret until recently. But all our family portraits show our true identity,” he said. “When I was in the marines in Vietnam, I could smell every being in the jungle. I had that extreme sensitivity to the land.” He paused, searched my face and took a chance, “The wars are entirely wrong,” he asserted. “Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.” For the duration of the plane ride, lamented DU and Agent Orange together.
“I stayed in the military to work from the inside,” he confided. “If you want to make a difference, you have to respect everyone’s culture and bring all the tribes together to work collaboratively.” We entered that rare and precious exchange that sometimes happens between strangers, though I believe I will see this man again at Daré or Fire/Water Circles to Heal War, in time.
On our return from Minnesota, we learned that another friend had been arrested for being ‘indigent’ by which the police officer really meant ‘indigenous’.

ReVisioning Medicine is collaborative medicine that takes the Hippocratic oath very seriously, so that healing does no harm to the patient, the community or the environment. Story expands the boundaries of what must be considered when offering medicine. It takes a while to be able to give a Story the same respect as a medical chart, or to consider a dream with the seriousness that symptoms and protocols demand. The Story that develops of and around the illness can direct us to the healing paths that will serve us and all our relations. Working together as peers, doctors, healers, physicians and shamans can develop a medicine practice that is simultaneously healing for the individual, the community, all beings and the earth.

Healing Stories ask us to seek out and make the connections. The medical doctors at ReVisioning Medicine did preliminary research on Agent Orange. It seems that an accidental and prohibited component of Agent Orange attacks the mitochondria that, in turn, becomes cancer-causing agents. The mitochondria provide energy for the cell. But though they are in every one of our cells, they are not of us. They are distinct. We might say they are old ancestors. Healing from Agent Orange, healing the effects of Agent Orange, call us to heal the ancestors, to engage in parallel healing processes to undo the damage that occurs when the ancestors are attacked. Medical people and medicine people have to partner for such a healing event to manifest fully.

We are being called to a non-linear healing standard – one that is inclusive, round, circular and global – a medicine wheel: Add to the criterion of “cause and effect” the axis of “All my relations” and “Unto the seventh generation.” Then true healing becomes possible.

***

Meeting the Deer Mother: A Letter to Laurie Markoff

Dear Laurie Markoff:

Your letter, (below,) raises the questions that have to be raised: What difference do consciousness and heart make? What is their pragmatic value to a world that is increasingly mired in brutality?
In Liberia, the elephants have been coming to the people in just the ways you describe, asking them to restore the contract or asking that the old ceremonies, sacrifices or offerings be restored. These were interrupted by the horrific civil war, though they were already yielding to more practical concerns and large scale land clearance on behalf of farming, manufacturing, mining and other human activities. It is hard to make offerings to the elephants with one hand, or to read them the Koran, while holding an AK 47 in the other. Each demands its own logic. The AK 47, designed to kill humans, certainly does not value elephants. Standing before the question of expanding territory, hunting meat, procuring ivory, the AK 47 mind wins. The AK47 exists in a field of ideas that include dominance, control, self-interest, entitlement, superiority, power.
Reading the Koran to the elephants, assumes the animal’s intelligence, understanding and sacred nature. The elephant whisperer that I met, who read the Koran and attributes his survival to this activity, also credited the elephant with protecting him and his family during the war, advising him when to flee and where, when to return, and where to farm. What the elephant couldn’t do, however, was protect the whisperer from peoples’ envy and their accusations of witchcraft.
Another distinction arises. The elephant whisperer and his family were not as hungry as the poachers were. Alliance with the animal world protected the whisperer, but would such alliances protect an entire village? Some think it would but only if there were enough land to grow food for each person AND enough land for the elephants. The elephants need a vast territory so the trees they tear down and eat this year will be fully grown by the time they return. A 200 year migration cycle is best but this does not suit the needs of corporate farms and plantations, landless people, expanding towns and cities. The people and the elephants are displaced from their land, separated from their rituals, deprived of their elders, and are without food and water.
Their common suffering pits them against each other. We have not learned how to relieve each other’s suffering through alliances. What would an elephant/human alliance around such issues look like?
We do not have the means to act on the basis of our heart alliances with non-human beings. The elephant asked you to fulfill your contract and you don’t know how to protect them from poachers or guarantee their territory.

But …

There was a time when people talked with the animals because they saw them as kin, peers or holy creatures. Understanding these relationships, they lived accordingly, honoring the animals and respecting the animals’ needs for territory and independence.
I don’t know the answer to your anguished question, but I do believe that engaging the non-humans in heartfelt interchange and speaking of this freely, creates another intellectual and spiritual environment that will influence our responses. When we think differently, when we carry different assumptions, we act differently.
When Linda Hogan, Brenda Peterson and I published the anthology, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals, in 1999, almost no one recognized the extent of animals’ intelligence or their spiritual nature. At that time, Jane Goodall’s essay, “I Acknowledge Mine,” astounded us by documenting instances of chimpanzee compassion AND their great suffering. One essay after another asserted the reality of complex heartful intra and inter species relationships and the pain we subject them to. In ten years, so many more of us are aware that we torture the natural world and that the natural world is sentient. Just as we have become aware of our cruelty and obliviousness, our hearts and minds perceive the animals differently and our formerly thoughtless behavior becomes untenable. In 2010, we are living in an ever deepening, ever expanding field of respect and love for the animals. Because of the field, we respond differently. Your experiences and your willingness to speak of them, make an important contribution to this field.

So now we have the Deer Mother. Wasn’t she also an ambassador to you? Will people reading our correspondence invite her and her fawn into their consciousness so that, without remembering why, they might act to preserve the deer, or refuse rat poison, or leave the deer the woods it needs, discourage hunting, allow the deer to nibble their roses? Might it not become commonplace to speak about the Deer Mother and her family in the ways we speak of our own friends and family? Can we doubt that this will make an enormous difference to the Deer Mother’s life?
There is nothing I can or would do to ease your grief. Understanding our role in these tragic times is essential. And also, I will do everything to defend the reality and profundity of interchange between you and the Deer Mother. Also, this year, I am not the only one who thinks this way. There are many of us now, a mere ten years since this understanding burst into print.
Your heartbreak is an essential medicine for the violence of this time. It is not the only medicine we need, but it is a medicine. We are creating a field of co-existence, of ‘all my relations.” Thinking this way will have repercussions though we don’t know where we are being taken and how the world will reconfigure itself in the light of such alliances.
Thank you for writing, Laurie. Please tell the Deer Mother that I hold her and her little ones in my heart and prayers.
Mitake Oyasin,

Deena
(Letter from Laurie Markoff) “Dear Deena,
It is strange that you have been writing this letter to me, as I have been writing a letter to you in my head as well. I have been re-reading “Ghost River” (maybe this is the sixth time and each time it feels like a new book, but perhaps that is because I am different.) and this time it feels like it explains what is happening to me, how I am becoming undone and feel both strongly called to respond to these times and deeply unsure that I know what to do. It is not that I don’t see the signs, it is that I do not know what the signs are pointing me toward. I go and pray for forgiveness for my people at every body of water I encounter. I dreamt that Mandaza was pouring water over a bunch of miniature rose buds between my naked breasts and saying “This is medicine for your people” and so I found a miniature rosebush and we will make a flower essence in that manner. At the SpiritSong retreat, when I was singing, the elephants came and surrounded us, and when I finished singing they spoke to me and said ” If your people will restore the contract, we will do our part.” But how do I make that happen? What am I to do? When I took my daughter to college, early in the morning, as she slept, I hiked up in the woods that the college owns. I saw one or two young people hiking up there, and was thinking of how the woods and the farm there (where my daughter teaches children how food grows) are teaching and tending these young people, and I stopped and made an offering by a tree with roots like the feet of an elephant, thanking the land for tending these young people. Later, a deer stepped onto the trail 20 feet from me and made eye contact. I spoke to her in my mind, introduced myself and she nodded at me. And then I said “You look like a mother. I am a mother too, and I am here to thank all of you for tending my daughter while I am not here. And she nodded again, and her fawn stepped out of hiding and looked me in the eye as well. We stood like that for while, and then someone shouted in the distance and they bounded off. I could not stop crying. In my dream group, in all of my communities, many of us are all having encounters like this. As if the animals are coming to us to make alliances. I am grateful for the signs, I am listening as hard as I can, but I do not know what they are calling me to do, only that it is urgent. I am hoping somehow, Deena, that we will find the answers here. If nothing else, it makes me feel less alone with my questions. So thank you.

WHY AM I WRITING A BLOG?

I HAVE BEEN WRITING A LETTER TO YOU IN MY MIND, EVERY DAY. I began it on the computer, last month. But it wasn’t really a letter, and it wasn’t really a letter to you. It was an informal essay passing as a letter. But that is not my intent. I am hoping to write a real letter to you. Even though I don’t know you. Or I don’t know that I know you as I won’t know when you come to the site which will be for us the same as if you, at another time, picked up a sealed envelope and opened it, though it was not addressed, and reading it, realized it was intended for you.

Spirit works that way. It speaks to us through coincidences and strange, encounters, occurrences we could not have designed, possibilities far beyond us. A book falls off the shelf into our hands and our lives change. This happened to me. It took me to Latin America. My life took a 180 degree turn. Maybe something similar happened to you. In our circles, so many events happen so many connections that can’t be explained, so many inexplicable signs, leads and blessings, we continually ask:  “What is the true nature of the universe in which such things happen?”  Or, in another mood, we say, “You know, you can’t make this shit up.”

So you come across this letter and or the ones that will follow and or … who knows .. maybe it will save our lives.

Spirit says that there are hidden passageways that we can discover to take us toward the restoration of the earth and our real lives.

I spent the summer praying for such possibilities. I went into silence on the hill behind my house. I made a journey to Canyon de Chelly. I spent days in prayer asking for signs. I had other things planned for the summer, but this is what I did. I was given signs.

There are hidden passageways to restoring creation. We have to find them for ourselves and we cannot enter them without changing entirely so that we are aligned with the possibilities of a future and not the trajectory of the past and present.

I STARTED WRITING THIS BECAUSE I AM ANGUISHED ABOUT THE STATE OF THE WORLD AND SO ARE YOU. I cannot imagine coming to the end of my life and realizing that I didn’t do everything I could have done, that I was distracted or preoccupied and I didn’t become everything I could have become in order to help save the natural world, the environment, the earth, all life, Creation. You reading this feel the same way; so let us begin and proceed undaunted on behalf of Beauty.

Five in the afternoon, we see an owl in the old oak in the meadow. An hour ago, a deer and two giant bunnies grazing on the hill. Yesterday at the ocean, we were greeted by dolphins, and for a moment I saw the long body of a sea lion in the translucent, turquoise waters just by the shore. Pelicans in formation. Gulls; God’s hungry angels, I call them. And then, remarkably, entirely out of season, there in the distance, a whale spouting. But overhead, army helicopters. Just as they grind overhead at the moment of writing these words. The animals want to live and so we have to stop the wars we are engaged in everywhere against all things and all beings.

You are not asked to sacrifice your life or anyone else’s for Creation. Actually, you are asked if you will live your life fully on behalf of Creation. You are being asked if you will live fully on behalf of all our relations. What does that Lakota phrase, mitakye oyasin really mean? As you enter into its meanings, everything will change and become filled with light.

In a prior version of this blog, I listed many of the horrors. I will again because we have to face the whole picture together especially as life is killed off one being at a time. We are so divided trying to save this and then that, that we cannot save the whole. The changes we are called to are systemic.

I am reading One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton. At the beginning, we see that he couldn’t even save one inch. I don’t know what happens at the end, but I know that I have never been anyplace where there is complete silence, as he says, for fifteen minutes.

EVERY TIME I CONSULT AN AUGURY, THE DIVINATION SAYS I MUST DISENTANGLE FROM THIS CONTEMPORARY LIFE: LEAVE WESTERN CULTURE; IT IS MAD, VIOLENT, DERANGED AND DEBASED.

The deer looked me in the eye and I opened my heart to it. I must leave these ways if not on my own behalf, at least so that it can live. It can’t live alone on this planet, as we think we can; it needs everyone, the bunnies, coyotes, wolves, deer ticks, squirrels, bees,  grass, rain, sun, light and dark, birdsong and stillness. It needs the whole life for its whole life. It knows this so it is a holy creature.

I began this letter on August 8th, which is directly between Hiroshima Day on August 6th and Nagasaki Day on August 10th. On August 6th, we dropped an atom bomb and on August 10th we dropped another. That is, we, the citizens of the United States and our ancestors. In order to do this work of Restoration, we have to know we did this.

Today is September 11th. The day, in 1972, of the horrific golpe (coup) that, with covert US support, overthrew the first democratically elected socialist government in Chile headed by Salvador Allende and threw Latin America into a turmoil of torture and violence. Friends of mine were tortured. Imagine torture! We torture. We are torturing. At this moment. Please don’t look away.

On this day in 2001, a plane flew into the twin towers in NYC. They say there were two other planes but what happened to them, we don’t really know. We don’t really fully know what happened on September 11th 2001, how or why. I was in Africa at the time and wrote the following in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, which was published on September 11, 2002: “Two stories intersected in that moment: a story streaming toward destruction and a story streaming toward healing.”

I AM WRITING THIS BLOG SO THAT YOU WILL MEET ME IN A STORY STREAMING TOWARD HEALING. Spirit says it is possible. I do not write this to give you false hope or to discount your fears. Your fears are appropriate. The situation is dire. All of creation is threatened at this moment.

Still, Spirit says, there are hidden passageways to restore creation.  But … entering them asks everything of me and of you.

***

I AM WRITING TO YOU BECAUSE I HAVE THE STRANGE BELIEF THAT SOMETHING UNEXPECTED, AND EVEN HOPEFUL, MIGHT OCCUR IF WE LOOKED AT THE WHOLE, the entirety of what we are facing and heartstormed together. I am writing because I can’t look at the whole of it alone. I am writing this letter and those that will follow because Spirit says there are ways, hidden passageways, to save Creation.

Here is a short list of some of the unbearable events of the last few months. One leads to another, relentlessly.  Let’s locate ourselves so we can reverse the order.  Iraq. Afghanistan. Thousands and thousands of civilian deaths. Agony.  Depleted uranium in our weapons leaving radioactive fields. Unprecedented suffering and horror, madness, violence, suicide experienced by our soldiers and veterans, men and women, largely unacknowledged, untreated, untreatable at the moment – the shorthand is PTSD. Leukemia, cancers, other terrible diseases in the areas around uranium mines, Native American reservations in particular.  Water, earth, air poisoned. The Gulf hemorrhage, its hidden oil plumes under the sea, the incalculable effects also of the dispersants, the death and suffering of the fish,birds, animals, humans  and more ‘spills’ than we know, everywhere. Incalculable effects on all life. Global extinctions proceeding at lightning speed. Hate bubbling up in Arizona and other states against the poor, the desperate, the non-white. Economic turmoil.  Poverty. Walls going up at the Mexican border, at Gaza. We are imprisoning ourselves everywhere. Global loss of control over our food – genetic modification, cloned animals. Increasing numbers of autistic children born. Increasing numbers of people suffering mental illness, depression, despair. Radiation and chemotherapy have become normalized procedures as if everyone living should look forward to such treatment. Plagues of cancers, auto-immune diseases, other horrors. Wolves and elephants hunted and culled from airplanes. Six northern white rhinos remaining. How many tigers? Women raped, mutilated, brutalized, enslaved in the Congo and everywhere. Human trafficking. Child soldiers. Domestic violence and physical abuse.  Parents, priests, ministers, religious leaders, medical people, educators committing sexual abuse of children. No safety. Global warming, flooding, drought, famine, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, glaciers melting, ice shelves falling into the sea, fires, the radioactive forests surrounding Chernobyl burning.

THE EARTHSEA MOTHER SAID:  “DON’T JUST BEAR WITNESS.  BE WITH ME.”

In the face of all of this and more, Spirit says, There are hidden passageways to end the horror and restore creation.  (The owl living in the meadow is calling out.)

When people suffer life-threatening illnesses and want to heal and live, they often recognize they must change their lives entirely. They make the extreme offerings. Sometimes they live long lives. At the least their lives are extended. Meeting death, if that is the ultimate fate at that moment, they can meet it at peace with themselves and the world. They know they have made an offering to the community and the future in their living and in their dying.

A man in my kinship-net who was gravely ill, got up from a coma and completely changed his life, did what he wished he had had the courage to do forty years earlier. Mysterious. Then he followed equally mysterious and challenging instructions that came in dreams. This connected him with Spirit in ways he had not imagined. This gave him time and his soul. It gave everyone around him new life and the courage to live it. The vital two months he received changed everything for everyone. It was a miracle.

The changes we are called to are radical and ethical beyond anything we have ever imagined.  We have been thinking of what to do for a long time, and we can’t stop thinking, but our thinking is paltry before this crises. We have to find the visionary ways to the visionary ways. And the courage to live them without compromise.

Engage in this thought experiment with me: Imagine that you have been born at this time so that your life will make a significant difference on behalf of the future of all life. What are you called to be, do given the alarming state of every aspect of our lives and your heartbroken desire and intention to be a remedy and a healing for this time?

From the beginning, I mean from the time I was three, I assumed I was here for a purpose on behalf of the world and each day of my life has deepened my belief and commitment. I am writing to you because you feel the same and always have, whether or not you are willing to admit it to your family and friends, or the public, to me or … to yourself.

I mean, why would you have been born in such a time if not to – if I put it crudely – be part of those who are going to … fix it, heal it, rejuvenate, revive, restore all life? Would anyone sign up for this nightmare if they didn’t have such a purpose in mind and a sense that they could accomplish something whether or not they got the credit a lot of people want more than the change?

I was born in 1936, the year of the Spanish Civil War and the Hitler-Stalin Pact. A few years later, when my father learned about the death camps, the gas chambers, the Holocaust, he had a breakdown. What mind could incorporate the realities of 1939 to 1945?  After 1945, the Holocaust was the constant subject in our household. 65 years later, the Holocaust and so many other holocausts and genocides, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain in the air like radioactive poisoning. As a species we no longer exercise restraint on the horror we are willing to inflict on each other, on animals, on trees, on beauty, on the earth.

But still …. Here we are. In as much as the trajectory that we are on, which is leading to the death of nature and the extreme violation of heart and beauty, is unacceptable, what are you, I, we going to become and, how will we live accordingly?

THERE ARE SECRET PASSAGEWAYS TO ANOTHER VITAL LIFE FOR THIS PLANET.  You have to find yours and burrow through. You have a unique way waiting for you that belongs to you. It is the exact fulfillment of your life, experience, understanding, suffering and heart. As I have mine. Each of ours is distinct, but aligned and harmonious with each other’s. Restoring Creation is what we will do together.

My husband, Michael Ortiz Hill and I were at one of the overlooks at Canyon de Chelly on August 27 2010, praying for the earth, asking for guidance, and a sign. At sunset, we looked across the canyon at some small clouds in the distance. We were beneath a rainbow but there was no reason for a rainbow. A rainbow is a covenant. A covenant has two parties. It was a sign from Spirit. Let us meet it.

***

This is the beginning of this blog. I don’t know how it will continue. Other letters.  Poems. Comments. Notes and dreams.  Some of you will write letters back. I will post some or excerpts. Answer others. Idiosyncratic,irregular co-respondence. This beginning.

Thank you. Bless you. May your dreams show us the ways.

Deena

THE VOICES OF THE ELEPHANTS

Dream Voices of the Elephants

John O’Neal, actor, director and founder of the Free Southern Theater that accompanied the Freedom Riders in their quest for civil rights, says the following in his play, Don’t Start Me to Talking or I’ll Tell Everything I Know: Sayings From the Life and Writings of Junebug Jabbo Jones: “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you. Then I’m going to tell you. Then I’m going to tell you what I done told you.”

This is what it takes, he knows, for us to hear.

The elephants first came to me in 1999.  I was so sure I understood what they were saying, I wrote about it and then I acted on it and went to meet them. On Epiphany, in the year 2000, the elephant, we now call The Ambassador, and a small group of us met in Botswana. Then I met the Ambassador again, and then again, and then there were other elephant encounters. I speak of these events repeatedly because they are such extraordinary events that we cannot, even ten years after that first experience, claim to understand within the ordinary reality in which we live day to day.

The advent of the patriarch, the Elephant Ambassador, the circumstances of his arrival, his appearance, again, to my husband and myself in the summer of 2001, were events so compelling, demanding and humbling that a small delegation of the wide ranging everyday gandhis team from North America, Liberia and Southern Africa traveled to Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana in 2006 to document, if we could, the reality of the Ambassador.  The Ambassador came again, and introduced us to his family, entwining his trunk with his mate’s, and acknowledging their two young calves.[i] Witnessed and photographed, he then astonished us by engaging in ritual contact, literally “throwing us a bone.”

We caught it!

It must be noted here that it was an ancestor bone, an elephant thighbone,.  Thus he called us into a sacred event of the highest order, offering us a mandate whose nature we cannot entirely understand yet and shaking the entire foundation of our thinking about the true nature of the world.

We did not know how to meet this event; we continue to ponder it actively. Accordingly, however, Cynthia Travis and I took the ‘Future Guardians of Peace’ – five ex-combatants and one former child refugees and other members off the everyday gandhis peacebuilding team on safari to Tanzania.

Another reason we went on this safari with the ex-combatants is that the appearance of an elephant and her calf during the Liberian civil war caused the LURD rebel Minister of Defense, known as Master General, now on our peacebuilding team, to tell his 36,000 soldiers to lay down their arms because, elephants are a sign of peace.[ii] The indigenous wisdom tradition of Liberia, as in much of Africa and many parts of the world, is based upon being guided by dreams, divination, signs and unusual events, such as the appearance of these elephants “The war is over,” Master General said. He considered this a message or commandment from Spirit that he could not refuse

The young men and woman who came with us on safari had never seen an elephant in the wild.  Though elephants are native to Liberia, the war had destroyed their habitat and they were hunted for food. The elephants who survived had gone into exile in Guinea.  That is another but related story of how the elephants in Liberia, as elsewhere, exiled themselves during the war and returned when it was safe … or so they hoped.

While waiting for the ‘Future Guardians of Peace’ to join us in Tanzania, we spent a few days on safari at the Ruaha game reserve.

We hoped but could not ‘expect’ the elephants to meet us as they had in the past. But they did. The elephant we call Spirit Sister came to me, Cynthia Travis, her son and his fiancé in the Ruaha.  The one we called the Delegate came later in the Selous reserve.  We name them thus because of the undeniable intentionality with which they met us.

Though quite a young elephant, six or seven years old, Spirit Sister, left her mother and approached us as we were parked above a watering hole.  Alternately, she drank water and sprayed us for twenty minutes or longer.  Then she, her mother and two other siblings climbed up the embankment and waited alongside us as her twin brother approached from the bush.  We were all so close they could have stroked us with their trunks as these introductions were being made.

Later, we met the Delegate, a bull elephant, in the Selous reserve.  Some hours after engaging in ritual activity of invitation, we came upon him in the forest.  Solemnly and carefully, he advanced on our open trucks, his tusks almost grazing the rails and our arms.  We all recognized him as a delegate from the animal world coming to meet his counterparts, the young, healing future guardians of peace. This encounter is documented with photographs and text by the young people in everyday gandhi’s Tanzania Safari: Future Guardians of Peace. 2009.

Since the advent of the Ambassador, we have received many dreams, testimonies and recounting of personal experiences and associations with elephants.  Shortly after being in Chobe and receiving the ancestor bone from the Ambassador, we gathered in Santa Barbara for the eg annual meeting and were astonished at the threshold of the meeting by the remarkable article in the New York Times Magazine by Charles Siebert, “An Elephant Crackup?”

We immediately understood that the stresses that elephants and ex-combatants and child soldiers suffer are the same, that their anguish, its symptoms and consequences are the same, and that the ways of healing are the same and equally valuable for all beings and the restoration of the earth.

After reading Siebert’s article, I contacted Gay Bradshaw whose work was the foundation of Siebert’s article and brought her into our circle of consciousness.  Her remarkable book, Elephants at the Edge which details the similarities between elephant suffering, behavior and healing, and human suffering, behavior and healing, was published in 2009.

This incomplete chronicle does not, however, bring us closer to comprehending the reality that elephants and other animals are  coming to us.  Perhaps seeking alliance with us is a last resort for them and the planet. Writing an op-ed for a newspaper in Assam, India, after elephants had taken over the runway at a military airport, interrupting border skirmishes, I suggested that we may have been ‘contacted’ by elephants making a broad sweep, offering up a universal SOS, to see who would respond.  I like this idea because it removes the human recipient from being special and honors the elephant as the originator of the energy of connection.  Each time the Ambassador has come to meet us, he has demonstrated will and intention. A daunting idea, but, perhaps a necessary one, especially for these difficult times in human history when we are traveling so quickly away from our original interconnections with all life and all beings.

Now, additionally, we are being called to consider the plethora of dreams regarding elephants that are emerging in our far-flung community.  We have communicated some of them and we are being guided according to the deepest held principles and understanding of many of us associated with everyday gandhis.

Ki’na Dark Cloud, Cynthia Travis, Elenna Rubin Goodman, Lawrie Hartt, Christian Bethelson, and others connected with everyday gandhis and the Topanga Daré[i] have had significant, even startling, dreams about elephants that have called us to a deeper consideration of the issues confronting us.

Ki’na Dark Cloud dreamed a young female who was dying of thirst because she couldn’t drink from water holes bloodied by war.  A man pitied the little one and pledged to bring her water while her elephant mother took on the care of the man’s son.  Cynthia dreamed that Bethelson was heading a phalanx of humans meeting a similar phalanx of elephants coming to each other to make peace.  Another dream from a Liberian, J. Flomo Sawo described elephants carrying delegates to a peace conference between tribes when the roads were obstructed by heavy rains.  As dreams teach us the mysteries of peacemaking to which everyday gandhis is devoted, we are increasingly aware of the appearance of elephants signaling peace.

For many, many years, I have honored the dream life, have lived my life accordingly, have written novels and a play that emerged from dreams given to me in the night.  Every workshop that I lead starts with dream telling.  However, in the past, we looked to see what the dreams mean. Although we didn’t seek psychological meaning, leaving that to psychotherapy, we still stopped after being satisfied about meaning.

This spring I wrote to the members of the dream class that I teach as follows:

“This circle seeks to restore the deep ethics and spiritual development of all dream cultures. Together we will re-enter the dreamtime, explore the dreams sent to us for the sake of community and the future according to the old, old ways and new vision.  In the past, dreams served to reveal the soul’s path, to protect individuals and communities, to alert people to future events, to teach people how to live in the heart, to link people and communities over time and space, and to reveal the true nature of reality.  We hope to be able to revive such dreaming skills and use them to bind community and communities together.  Finally, we will learn what it means to live by dream as individuals and as a community.

“This morning, I responded to three elephant dreams, one from Ki’na Dark Cloud. The second dream is from Ki’na’s uncle, Ti’an Dark Cloud, a traditional Native American man living on the Navajo Reservation who never has thought about or dreamed of elephants. The third is from Patti Sheinman, new to our circle, who contacted me and came to Topanga for Daré mentoring after reading about my connection with the Ambassador.  She dreamed the dream in Topanga.

“Ti’an Dark Cloud’s dream: “There were four bull elephants coming into a village where there were men with guns.  Each elephant got in front of a man and turned to the side so that the men could not see whom to shoot.  Then the men tried to hit the elephants with the guns because it was illegal to shoot them. The elephants made the men mount them after setting down their guns. They took the men away from the village to where the other bull elephants stayed when they went crazy.  It was a place where they could get away from all the input of hate.”

“Ki’na Dark Cloud’s dream: “The same night as Ti’an’s dream, I dreamed that a family of elephants, including the aunties, were on a long walk trying to find a safe place for their brain injured loved ones.  The brains had been injured from the repeated sound of gunfire and they were wailing from grief.  The sounds were very similar in the elephant’s minds. An old female, a true grandmother, walked with the injured and made a chuffing sound that was soothing.  I found myself following them and looking for my mother. An auntie began to walk with me, so that I would not be alone and outside of the family. We came into a place with pools of water and abundant foliage to eat. The healthiest of the family led the brain injured to the food and water and waited patiently for them to get their fill. Only after the injured had fed did the rest of the family feed.  Then the healthy members encircled the injured and lay down around them so they would know they were safe.”

[We have to note that too many soldiers from Iraq are now suffering similar brain injuries and trauma from gunfire and explosives. DM]

“Patti Sheinman’s dream: “I’m in Haiti, a few days after the 2010 earthquake, standing on a mountainside, crying as I look at the mass graves. As I look from afar, I see elephants coming toward the graves. They stop at the graves and with their trunks, begin to cover them with leaves and brush until the graves are covered with their offerings.”

(Six months after this essay was published in the everyday gandhis newsletter. Spring 2010, Ki’na’s father, Awé Che, a traditional Arikara elder, who was in no way concerned with elephants or the dreams referenced here, was astonished by a dream of an elephant calling him to climb Many Ghosts Hill on the Four Corners Reservation in order to sit in council with all the animals that the elephant was leading up the hill.  Though very ill, Awé che, made the arduous climb up the hill in the company of a medicine man, to honor this call.)

“I don’t know what these dreams are really calling us to become though they are calling us to something of great importance, and we are to give up the lead and self-congratulation. Also we can’t explain the dreams away by thinking they come out of our own concerns, no matter how deep our concerns are. These dreams are not of our own creation; they are not from our unconscious or from the collective unconscious, unless you fully include elephant conscious and unconscious in the sacred collective. These dreams are not from ‘us’ alone.

“I don’t claim to understand fully how these dreams are from the elephants themselves, though I believe we are receiving them as such and this requires us to undergo a total change of consciousness and live accordingly. I hold these dreams as sacred. I am humbled before them. I see where we are being taken — as long as we don’t lead. A billboard in Botswana outside of Chobe, shows a procession of elephants following the elephant Matriarch who says “Follow Our Lead.” I am staying in ‘not knowing’ and also trying to follow her lead.

“The dreams indicate that despite ourselves, the elephants take us on their backs, transport us, and surround us because we are violent, crazy and brain damaged.  Despite ourselves the elephants come and help us bury our dead in the profound and beautiful ways they bury their dead.  They help us remember what we have forgotten.  Following their lead helps me deal with the unbearable pain of knowing who we have become and how the animals are suffering from almost every movement we make.”

As I wrote this note to my students, I understood something I had not understood before: We are the hate-filled, violent and maddened, the brain injured, and still we are being surrounded by the elephants, we are being transported in order to engage in peacemaking. Thus they, the elephants, are healing us.  The way they are healing us is through the dreams!

We are the mad ones.  And we can be healed.  We are brain injured and they are trying to take care of us. The very act of dreaming the elephants is placing us within the circle of their dreaming, their being, their healing.

“I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you.  Then I’m going to tell you. Then I’m going to tell you what I done told you.”

The elephants told us what they were going to tell us.  Then they told it to us.  Now they are telling us again what they have told us. Again and again, until we understand.

When I had almost finished writing this essay, I dreamed that I saw a small elephant walking down the boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.  I tried to catch up to her, but she was far quicker than I.  She had a familiar bounce, and she was smiling, satisfied that she was pulling a fast one on me.  She lived on the land of a woman whose last name was Ruachitta.  I repeated the name again and again in the dream so I would remember it when I awakened.  Cynthia and I had gone to the Ruaha in Tanzania. and ruach means wind, breath and spirit in Hebrew. I began writing about the elephants and dreaming and dreamtime and Spirit Sister come.

Perhaps I hear their call:

We will gather all the dreams and elephant experiences that have come to all of us.  We will make their circle of healing accessible to all, so that we can be immersed in their healing activities, so we can heal.  We will do this even if we cannot yet understand what they are saying to us and how we are being led.  When we heal, we change, we transform.  To immerse ourselves in such healing will be to experience, and later, identify the transformation.

In immediate response, I am initiating a project, Healing Voices – Dreamtime – The Elephants, under the auspices of my non-profit organization, Mandlovu[iii]. If you have dreamed the elephants or experienced their influence, if they have come to you in any way, please write to me at deenametzger@deenametzger.com [Needless to say, if you have had healing dreams from other non-domesticated animals, from animals in the wild, do send those dreams as well.]

We will gather these sacred moments and experiences and bring them together, as we are guided, as we seek to understand the true nature of the world and its creatures and follow their lead.

***

This essay was written originally for the everyday gandhis newsletter, Palaver Hut,  Spring 2010.  everyday gandhis is a Santa Barbara based NGO supporting grassroots and indigenous peacebuilding activities in Liberia and West Africa.


[i] Daré means Council in the Shona language of southern Africa.. The Topanga Daré relies on Council, alliance with Spirit and the natural world, the rituals, practices, ancestor work and teachings of indigenous and wisdom traditions, music healing, dream telling, divination, kinship, and story telling to achieve personal transformation, community healing and social change.

[i1] I have written about this encounter in my book From Grief Into Vision: A Council, Hand to Hand, and in previous editions of the everyday gandhis newsletters.

[iii] The understanding of the role of elephants in peacebuilding in Liberia is documented in the everyday gandhis film, The Dead Will Guide Us, that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 7, 2010.

[iv] Mandlovu is committed to the exploration, revitalization and preservation of indigenous wisdom and medicine traditions as paths to planetary healing and peace-making on behalf of all beings. Mandlovu is an African Ndebele word for elephant, and also is the name for the Great Mother.  In addition, Mandlovu describes elephant consciousness – the spiritual group mind that arises spontaneously from the individual intelligences of all its members.

HEARTSTORMING

Each day I’m drawn and quartered between the ruin, beauty, horror and possibilities of these times. Some consciousness is eluding us. How can we become responsible as individuals and a species for the global consequences of our behavior and technology? Mobilizing to meet each issue exhausts us. Our best theories and forms of government and governance fail us. Some entirely new thinking – heartstorming – is required.

HEARTSTORMING can only happen among us, that is in a circle, that is in a community. It begins by remembering, speaking by heart. Together we seek the intelligence of the heart. This is not linear or developmental, it is circular and resonant.

Heartstorming is a cordial process. The realized vision generously includes each and every being. Heartstorming is accountable to all beings. Within the heart there can be no enemy, although there may be heartache or even great heartbreak. Have the heartrending courage (heart) to apply compassion to each action. Heartstorming seeks what can be lived, is vital, passionate, strong, that which is hearty; the solutions hearten us. In the Medicine Wheel, the heart and hearth are aligned, are heartfelt. Seeking the intelligence of the heart, setting out from the heart, so much love flows to heighten possibility. Then, aligned with you in common, if too often uncommon, loving, the love to which you are also committed, flows back to us, encouraging (heart) us.

Thinking with the heart is a fierce practice and rigorous ethic. Challenge and test every great idea, every scientific discovery, every amazing invention, every brilliant insight, every brainy theorem and theory – their functions, methods, purposes and implications – through the wisdom of the heart. Thinking everything through wholeheartedly is a Way.

%d bloggers like this: