DEENA METZGER'S BLOG
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.
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 email@example.com.