I have been working on this concept of Circle Medicine since I had the realization that a number of different holistic models I was working with all included circles: the Hero’s Journey, the Medicine Wheel, the Circle of Re-humanizing Medicine, the Circle of Health, and Circle Medicine: the circle of circles.
In our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality, we have a table comparing Circle Medicine with Linear Medicine. Linear medicine is the predominant, biomedical approach in contemporary medical practice, however it misses crucial aspects of human being that are only found in holistic, circular models of medicine.
August 9th is National Book Lovers Day in the United States. I’ve been wanting to write a piece on books – specifically buying too many books, but then I came across an idea that maybe too many is nottoo many. Here are some ideas to make you feel better about having stacks of unread or partially read books – or maybe it will just be an excuse to buy more books!
“Eco’s library wasn’t voluminous because he had read so much; it was voluminous because he desired to read so much more.”
This idea of the benefit of the “anti-library” and unread books shows us something about the benefit not of knowing, but of wanting to know. A small, tidy library may be a sign of an ordered mind and tidy life, or it may be a sign of a lack of curiosity about the world and the world of ideas. Dickinson quotes Taleb:
“Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. [Your] library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”
Dickinson quotes Taleb, “We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended.” And further, “It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations.” Dickinson cites Jessica Stillman’s concept of “intellectual humility,” as focusing on how much we do not know, instead of how much we do know.
Dickinson then writes about the Japanese word and concept, tsundoku, referring to stacks of unread books. He says its etymology comes from “tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dukosho(reading books).”
Dickinson’s article, “The value of owning more books than you can read,” is a good read with a number of interesting ideas around the value of books beyond knowing the actual knowledge found in the books. I have not summarized the whole article, I’ll leave you to it if you are interested, or perhaps you would rather just go out and buy Taleb’s book and maybe read it or maybe not!
I thought today, National Book Lovers Day was a good day to write about this thought-provoking concept of the anti-library of unread books which teaches us about the value of having things we have not mastered, always having the next book (or three, or forty) you want to read, and it says something about the value of focusing on what you desire more than on what you have acquired.
Oh, and one last thing, I must have done this subconsciously, but I just realized I’m wearing the appropriate shirt today for National Book Lovers Day!
30 years ago, July 1989, I bought a Greyhound bus ticket and a backpack and rode 50 hours Chicago to Seattle. I was going to be starting medical school at the end of the summer. I felt a need to make some kind of quest, some kind of initiation into becoming a healer. I needed to get myself into a certain state of mind and a certain state of being in order to start medical school.
The trip was formative in many ways. Looking back it does feel like where I became an adult, a man, and a medical student. I met people from all across the United States and from all over the world as they traveled. I stayed with friends and family for a bit in Seattle and Port Townsend, then I set off for a 2 week solo backpacking trip in the Olympic National Park. I spent days without encountering another human being, but I had many companions along – my portable library.
I faced my racing thoughts, which for the first few days went berserk without having anything more to focus on than when to walk and when to rest. I faced my fears of death sleeping alone in the woods with no one around for miles. I put in at Sol Duc Falls, hiked up to Mink Lake and then up to the ridge that led to Hyak and the North Fork of the Bogachiel River. I remember waking up one morning and hearing what sounded like a Native American funeral procession by the Bogachiel River, when I was staying at the Flapjack campsite. I left the national park and hiked to Undie Road. After the beauty of the National Park, I then walked through the World War I trench war aftermath landscape of newly clear cut National Forest. I then hot-footed it up 101 while logging trucks raced alongside me. I reached Forks, but had blisters from walking quickly on the roadside. I limped along 110 as best I could toward the coast, where I was planning to spend a few days. The agony was too much with each step, so I reluctantly stuck out my thumb to hitchhike, because I knew I was not going to make it. The second or third car pulled over and I got in with an old fellow who said, “I’m not really doing anything, if I can help someone else out, I consider it a good day.” He told me how he had lived there his whole life and had helped to build the bridge over the river as he drove me to Rialto Beach. I then spent a few nights on the coast after limping up through the sand to a camp site.
My wife and I almost moved back from Seattle to the Midwest this past year. We where pretty far along in the process when we hit some snags and it fell through. We re-oriented and decided that we’ll stay in Seattle for the foreseeable future. I had blocked out a week of my clinic schedule which was going to be my last week at work and then I was going to drive our second car across the country. I kept the time off and wasn’t sure what I was going to do, until I realized it was the 30 year anniversary of my trip in the Olympics. Then I realized it was 30 years to the month and I knew I had to go and retrace my steps and go on a bit of a retreat, a re-treat, covering again some of the same ground. So I loaded up the car, brought along Henry Corbin, our fun-loving papillon and we set off to retrace our steps.
I rented a cabin and it turned out to be on the Sol Duc River, just as I had started 30 years ago at Sol Duc.
Since I had Corbin along, we couldn’t go into the National Park, except for some of the coastal beaches. We went to Bogachiel State Park, so that we could put our feet in both the Sol Duc at our cabin and in the Bogachiel River.
We spent some time out on the coast at Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach and Beach #3.
Then we took a hike up toward Mt Muller in the Olympic National Forest.
Then we drove up north, through the Makah Reservation, up to Cape Flattery, the Northwesternmost point of the continental United States.
I feel I should share some sort of insight or conclusion from this trip – I felt some pressure initially to do so, but once I realized that I was ending up at Sol Duc and Bogachiel, and that there seemed to be a hidden coherence in the trip, I decided to just see what happened. At one point I remember what I told my friends after the first trip, 30 years ago: I had reached a deeper and more meaningful level of confusion!
I did write something that seemed to summarize the trip:
Looking back, I realize now that I live in the place that was the place of my adventure 30 years ago – in other words, I am living my adventure. Who I am now and the amazing things and fascinating things I am doing in my life and work are just what I would have dreamed of for my future life, even more so!
Thanks to Lukas Budimir for this wonderful piece from the Seeds of Peace Newsletter, Issue 12, February 2019, reprinted with his permission and the permission of the editors of Seeds of Peace. For information about the newsletter or to subscribe, please email Marina Budimir at email@example.com
Healing Trauma with the Help of Ceremony from Lukas Budimir
There are so many ways in which beautiful painted arrows
have influenced my life and the way I do what I do that it’s difficult to start
writing about it.
Basically everything changes; not so much what I do, but how
I do it, because we are all connected with everything and everything comes back
in circles. And changes on the inside show on the outside.
You can only access the past and the future in the eternal
now – that is why ‘work is worship’ and the effort you put into things needs to
be balanced through the connection to your heart so that the seeds of peace can
grow out of the soil and bear fruit.
I am not special, I am like everybody else, with all the
tasks we have in our lives, because the tasks are there for me to learn and
become aware, to place myself in relations and to find a new beginning all the
time so I can come back to my childlike innocence. Perhaps I’m just as special
as everyone else.
Let’s look at an experience from my life: After caring for and working with people who have experienced severe brain damage for ten years, I decided to move from Denmark back to my native Germany and look for a new job. I thought, perhaps I could work with veterans, so I ordered the book Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing trauma and PTSD by David Kopacz and Joseph Rael.
What I did find was a job at an institute that claimed to offer homes to youngsters that can’t live with their parents. What I found was that I was working with traumatized youngsters with behavioral problems. My primary goal was to build a relationship of confidence with them. In doing so, I realized they had been hurt on different levels and didn’t, or couldn’t, react appropriately to normal situations.
One example of this is:
A young refugee from Afghanistan comes down the stairs with
a boom box on full blast. I tell him to turn it down. After telling him the
same twice, I touch him on the shoulder and say it a third time. He turns
around in combat mode with his eyes wide open, as if he wants to show me
something. And then he grabs me by the throat. Our eyes are very close, and I
look right into them. In a split of a second, I can see all the pain that he
and his people have experienced.
Reading the above-mentioned book, I finally get to page 161
and read about healing the soldier’s heart.
Here Joseph explains that in every person there is a held
back place in the heart where goodness is stored. No matter what we do or
experience. He describes how to blow light into the heart, suck out what is in
the way, and then, so that the hole does not stay open, seal the heart with
your hands. David then explains that there are multiple ways of understanding Joseph´s
exercise and how he uses it in his practice. I use it with the 17-year old and
he starts to change, becoming more and more what he really is. It becomes one
of my favorite ways to help people connect to the goodness that they always
So thank you Grandfather and thank you David for doing what
you do and being who you are. And a thank you to Life for its perfect timing,
for always giving us a solution just when we need it.
“It can be helpful to see the circle path of the hero’s journey as the healer’s journey, the path that we take through our lifelong medical education. For the true healer, this is not a journey we make just once, but periodically we embark on exploring new depths of the suffering of the world, reaching deep into ourselves to find new resources for healing to bring into our work and world.“
“Burnout as part of the healer’s journey: I have been thinking of burnout in this way. Maybe burnout is a necessary step for us to grow as healers. There are intrinsic elements in our work that change us, working with illness and death. When we get “infected” by our work, we incubate until we can find a cure and healing path. There are also extrinsic elements of burnout, such as institutional pathologies and frameworks. In modern times, healing has been regulated and institutionalized, and institutional economic and organizational demands are sometimes at odds with the demands of healing. We must continually work to reconcile the essence of our work as healers with the daily reality of the institution.”
I recently had an article published in the Seeds of Peace Newsletter, which is dedicated to exploring the teachings of Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). I wrote about how I came to meet Joseph. I will paste a copy of the article below. Please email Marina Budimir if you would like to be on the mailing list of the newsletter: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the Teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow (in Circles):
I have been listening to Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted
Arrow) since I first met him in 2014, although I had already been learning from
him through his books since the year 2000 when I saw the cover of Being & Vibration by Joseph Rael and
Mary Elizabeth Marlow. I was entranced by Joseph’s eyes peering through the
opacity of the dust jacket and the book opened up a doorway into a living
I spent some years living my life, then moving from
Champaign, Illinois, to Auckland, New Zealand, where I was working as a
psychiatrist at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre. I was writing a monthly
newsletter called, “Thoughts from the Clinical Director.” I remembered Joseph’s
section on “Becoming a True Human,” in Being
& Vibration, and I wrote my penultimate “Thoughts” on that, as I was
getting ready to move back to the United States, taking a job in Seattle
working with veterans at the VA.
Back in the United States, I was going through reverse
culture shock. As I sat listening to veteran after veteran come into my office
and telling me that they felt out of place, that they could not relate to civilians,
and that they felt lost, I could relate, in some small way, to what they were
feeling. In New Zealand, I had been talking with my friend and colleague Bernie
Howarth about using Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey and
developing a class to help clients find themselves and their purpose as part of
the rehabilitation process. We never got that going before I left, but I
thought it would be perfect for helping veterans find their way home from war
to peace and I started working on that.
In Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, I came across another book that caught my eye—The Visionary: Entering the Mystic Universe of Joseph Rael Beautiful Painted Arrow, by Kurt Wilt. I quickly read through the book, noticing that Kurt described Joseph, at times, using Campbell’s Hero’s Journey framework. I sent Kurt an email, he sent one back, saying that he thought Joseph Rael would be interested in my work. Joseph and I exchanged a couple of emails and he invited me to Colorado. I thought I could maybe add a chapter to the hero’s journey on indigenous approaches to reintegration after war, and I set off for three days with Beautiful Painted Arrow in October, 2014.
My first day with Joseph was confusing and disorienting.
What were we doing and why were we doing it? Why were we driving around in
circles? Why were we sitting by the side of the road as trucks whizzed by,
looking at a barren hill where a house used to be? Joseph said some things that
first day that I am still trying to understand. One thing he said that sticks
with me was, “You and I are both crazy, you can tell that, we both love life!”
I thought, “Who is this guy? I can tell at least one of us is crazy!” Although
I am still coming to understand Joseph Rael’s kind of crazy (as well as David
Kopacz’s kind of crazy) that statement and laugh of Joseph’s warmed my heart
and I felt like we were two adventurers setting off to God only knows where.
After the first day of going in circles with Joseph, I was
writing up all my notes and I thought, “We should write a book together!” When
I mentioned this to Joseph, he simply said, “That’s what I was thinking.”
Working with Joseph Rael has been a disorienting process. The writing flowed smoothly, but when I turned it in to Paulette Millichap, our publisher, she said, “This is a very interesting book, but where is the book about the veterans?” “Oh no,” I thought, “Joseph kept me going in circles, writing about Pope Francis and St. Francis, about ETs, and how we don’t exist and we gradually shifted away from what we were supposed to be writing about!” I was learning that working with Joseph Rael was similar to what he said it was like being around his grandfather, “living with the unpredictable,” (Being & Vibration, 39). I went back to the drawing board with the book, kept part of it, wrote some new material based on a review of theories of trauma and my clinical experience, and then Joseph told me about a vision he had that God holds back a place of goodness in all of our hearts, no matter what we do or what is done to us. “Beautiful!” I thought, but then, “Gee, it would have been really helpful if Joseph told me that before we started the book because it is the perfect framework for healing trauma!”
One thing I am learning from Joseph is that we need to move beyond thinking of people as “other” and start thinking of each other as “brother and sister.” Joseph often says to me, “I am my brother’s keeper.” Eventually we published Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD in 2016, a book that helps us re-orient when we become lost in life. Our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, is due out later 2019. In this book I see us moving beyond even brother and sister to a place of mystical, visionary oneness that has something to do with the fact that we do not exist. We have a chapter on “Circle Medicine,” because I think this is one of the key points that Joseph is teaching me: thinking and being in a different way than the linear, separated, and reductionistic way that most of us live our lives. I am still following Joseph around in circles and still working toward being a true human. Joseph teaches us, “A true human is a person who knows who he is because he listens to that inner listening-working voice of effort,” (Being & Vibration, 68).
David Kopacz is a holistic and integrative psychiatrist who works at Puget Sound VA in Seattle. He is a national VA Whole Health Education Champion and an Assistant Professor at University of Washington. He is the author of Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine and, with co-author Joseph Rael, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and the forthcoming Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. His website is davidkopacz.com and blog, beingfullyhuman.com
I just came across this old review of Re-humanizing Medicine by my friend, Lelia Kozak. I was thinking a lot about this book of mine from 2014 this past week as a neighbor was interviewing me for a health professions class. Over the years I have deepened in my understanding of how we need to be not just good technicians, but good, well-rounded human beings, in order to give the best care possible to our clients and patients. We cannot give to others what we have not first developed within ourselves. Our evidence-based medicine is new and scientific, but it needs to be integrated with a human-based medicine that reaches back to the ancient wisdom of healers throughout time immemorial. Thanks, again, for this review, Leila!
Leila compared me to Larry Dossey, which is quite an honour and a little embarrassing as well to have someone compare you to such an influential figure. In his 1999 book, Re-inventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, Dr. Dossey describes three eras of medicine, Era I (mechanical), Era II (mind-body), Era III (non-local/eternity medicine). He points out that “the path of the physician since antiquity has been considered a spiritual path,” (228). He saw Era III medicine as a blending of spiritual, mind-body, and mechanical approaches. The reinvention in medicine was as much remembering our spiritual roots as healers as it was adding anything new. What is new is blending science and spirituality.
“I used to believe that we must choose between science and reason on the one hand and spirituality on the other, as foundations for living our lives. Now I consider this a false choice, because in my own life I have found that science and spirituality can coexist and even flourish,” (Larry Dossey, Reinventing Medicine, 12).
I was lucky enough for Dr. Dossey to write an endorsement for Re-humanizing Medicine! I do see a continuity in our work, but this has more to say about connecting to ancient healing wisdom than to anything particular about me as a person. Here is what Dr. Dossey had to say about the book:
“Modern medicine is engaged in a struggle to find its heart, soul, and spirit. This task must begin with physicians themselves. Dr. David Kopacz’s Re-Humanizing Medicine is an excellent guide in how this urgent undertaking can unfold.” ~ Larry Dossey, MD, Author: Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words.
On Memorial Day we remember those whom we have lost. Official reports of loss of US soldiers in the Vietnam War is 58,000+. A 2008 British Medical Journal study estimates 3.8 million total deaths during the Vietnam War (called the Resistance War Against America in Vietnam). The suffering of war continues long after the war ends with PTSD, Moral Injury, Agent Orange exposure, and even suicide. Controversy exists over the number of US Vietnam veterans who have committed suicide since returning home, with estimates from 9,000 (in a 1990 study) to over 50,000 reported in various places. As a psychiatrist who works daily with veterans, I see the long-lasting after effects of war. Brain science has been pushing back the age of full development for the human brain, with 25 years of age being considered brain maturity. Wars typically are fought by the young and after every war we have a generation of veterans whose developing brains have been shaped by war and the imprint of death. The casualties of war are the walking wounded as well as the deceased, and many of the wounds are not visible.
I just received a box of books from Vietnam, the Vietnamese translation of Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD (Bánh Xe Y Học: Hành Trình). It is really amazing to hold these books from Vietnam in my hands and compare them side by side. I work with so many veterans at the VA who served in Vietnam and to have the words of peace that Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have put together into this book translated into Vietnamese feels very important.
The work of peace is a continual work, like tending a garden. To receive a box of books from Vietnam about bringing peace to veterans is like getting a big packet of seeds to replant what has been injured by war. For Joseph, language is very important, not just in conveying meaning, but in creating spiritual realities. To have the healing properties of the medicine wheel translated into Vietnamese brings our two lands and peoples closer together in peace. Translators Huỳnh ngọc trụ & Lê Thục Uyên Phương have worked to bring American English and Vietnamese into resonance with each other. In his book, House of Shattering Light, Joseph wrote about how the war gods were first created out of the fear that people had, but that later they came home to peace and became peace gods. In Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, the title of chapter 14 is “Return to the Held-back Place of Goodness, which translates into Vietnamese as, “Trở Về Nơi Tốt Lành,” Return to Good Place.” Peace is this Good Place and Joseph tells us that we all have it within our hearts, we can forget about it, we can loose touch with it, but is always there. Our jobs as healers – both those working as healers for others, and those of us who are seeking to heal ourselves – is to find our way back home to this place of goodness, this place of peace. We are all wounded in one way or another, and yet we all have a source of goodness and healing within us – we are the medicine that we are seeking!