RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

Tag Archives: ReVisioning Medicine

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>

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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, https://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: 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 14-15 2015 with an additional clinic day,for physicians and their patients on February 17. 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.

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
 
 

 

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 where 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 and also through a direct and true relationship with Spirit.  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. SPIRIT EXISTS.  Spirit speaks to each of us in a particular and 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.

2. COMMUNITY. Recognizing and living aligned with community as an essential vessel and means of transformation.

3. COUNCIL.  Entering and trusting the ways of Council, Dare’ and Mandlovu mind.

4. STORY.  Story is a pattern of events and also 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.

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. Bearing witness to the horror and corruption of our history and these times and scrutinizing our lives accordingly.

7. 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.

8. 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.

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.  Changing the activities and forms of our lives accordingly from respecting and honoring elders to living prayerfully.

11. 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.

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.  Recognizing that Joy is Praise.

17. SILENCE.  Valuing and engaging in silence, solitude, formless forms and not knowing.

18. SANCTUARY.  Honoring, providing, becoming 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 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.

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.

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