Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik, Whale Watching

I’ve long wanted to go to Iceland and we finally made it. About an 8 hour direct flight from Seattle. You have up to a week you can take as a free layover on Icelandair. The flight was not bad. Food options were a little meager compared to most international flights and there was no complimentary meal. Otherwise it was good. We landed at Keflavík and caught a plane to Gatwick on the way out, on the way back we spent 5 days in Iceland.

Our first stop was the Blue Lagoon. It is a big tourist attraction, but still quite pleasant and relaxing. The water temperature was not as hot as some thermal pools, but that does mean that you can stay in longer and wade over to the bar. There were some warmer spots around the edges. We splurged on a nice first meal at the Lava restaurant. The food was excellent – but be aware that everything is very expensive in Iceland and it is easy for a quick lunch to turn into a major cash outlay. Lava was worth it, we felt, but we started to try to eat breakfast and lunch at the guest house where we were staying and save our expenditures for coffee, a snack, and dinner.

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Iceland is a small country, with a population of 350,00 for the whole country, 1/3rd of whom live in the largest city and capital, Reykjavík. Reykjavík was surprisingly touristy. You were more likely to meet a tourist than a local in the city centre. Between that and the prices, 2 days was plenty long in the city. I found an amazing record/cd store/record label, 12 Tónar. They welcome you with an espresso drink and there is a cozy living room-like listening room with sofas and chairs. Such a great environment!

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One of the iconic buildings, which also has a great view from the top (small entry fee) is the Hallgrímskirkja church, just up the block from 12 Tónar. It has a statue of Leifur Eiríksson who sailed to North America in the year 1000. The statue commemorates the 1000 year anniversary of Iceland’s parliament and was a gift from the United States in 1930. 2018 is the 100 year anniversary of Iceland’s independence from Denmark, but the country was founded in 930 CE.

 

We took a boat tour one evening out of Reykjavík. Getting used to the long days was interesting, it never really got completely dark whilst we were there. We went out on the water at 5 PM and arrived back at 8 PM and it still felt like daytime. I accidentally stayed up a couple nights until 1 AM and it still was a little light. On the whale watching tour we got a distant view of a Humpback and Minke whales. We saw pods of White-Beaked Dolphins and Common Porpoises.

 

I’ll continue on in the next post about “Reading in Iceland” and also cover some more of our travels in Iceland…

 

 

 

 

Continuing Onward: Pentre Ifan to Manchester

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Pentre Ifan

I am slowly posting some of the photos from our recent trip to England, Wales, and Iceland. We pick up driving north from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Our first stop was Pentre Ifan – a megalithic monument from Neolithic times, perhaps as old as 3,500 BCE.

From there, a short stop in Nevern to see a celtic cross and Nevern Church.

We then drove up to Aberystwyth for a nice lunch at Ultracomida and then stopping in Holywell – the birth place of my Great Great Grandfather, John Roberts.

We then made our way to Manchester where we met up with friends we knew from New Zealand and Chicago.  I went into the city on a rather dreary day, fitting since most of what I knew about Manchester came from reading about the bands Joy Division and New Order (for some of my writings on Joy Division follow the link to my website). I bought a copy of Paul Morley’s Joy Division: Piece by Piece – Writing About Joy Division 1977-2007 at the Manchester Art Gallery. Morley, whose career as a music writer started about the same time that Joy Division ended, wrote:

“There’s no doubt though that Manchester moved into the future when for a time it seemed as though it was sinking back into the past it would never escape. The first people to really believe that Manchester could move into the future, that change was important especially in an area that had initiated some of the most important technological, creative and environmental changes in modern times – in a way, the birthplace of the modern – were those people that used punk music and then post-punk music, to work out how ideas and ideals would keep alive this progressive spirit,” (46).

Reading Morley reminded me of how important music was for me growing up and how much bands from this region were part of my life as a teenager and young man. This idea of rebelling against the constrictions and weight of the past and convention and struggling to find a way forward into the future – a way that was creative, bold, visionary, and meaningful – came to me through punk and post-punk music.

Given the rainy, dreary day, I spent most of my time in the John Rylands Library. A private library that Rylands widow created as a memorial to the entrepreneur and philanthropist and Manchester’s first millionaire (1801-1888) who made his money in the textile industry.

I sat and wrote at a little desk in a nook in the library, after I had looked through the special exhibit, “The Alchemy of Colour.” 

We brought to a close a wonderful trip to England and Wales, with beautiful weather, the only real day of full rain was in Manchester, but I didn’t mind – its seemed appropriate. The hot weather has continued in Wales and the drought has reveled signs of ancient civilization, revealing Roman forts and Iron Age structures.

 

Ancient Wonderings

Our view of history is often so short-sighted and narrow. Starting with my own thoughts of my genealogy that stretched back into Wales, Ireland, and England, I kept seeking older history. Lullingstone Roman Villa, Little Solsbury Hill, St. David’s Head, Pentre Ifan – these places on the land hosted human beings 2,000 years ago to 5,000 years + ago. We know so little of our ancient ancestors and of their ancient wisdom. I picked up James Canton’s book, Ancient Wonderings: Journeys Into Prehistoric Britain, at the Waterstones near Picadilly Circus. He concludes his book on his journeys into the past through the landscape of the present:

“I had dug ever deeper into the minds and beliefs of those souls who lived upon these lands thousands of years before us and it had become ever more evident that to understand the ancient British ways and practices, you had to see these lands in relation to Europe. Eight thousand years ago, Doggerland had physically linked Britain to the continent. Then Britain had become separated. In the Neolithic Age, while there had certainly been a sense of cultural practices being shared across these islands, as the spread of stone circles and the development of agriculture illustrated, Britain had been more isolated, then more inward looking. By the Bronze Age, travel had extended beyond voyages around the islands of the Britain and Irish archipelago…I saw a map of prehistoric Britain and Europe before me with a series of black lines criss-crossing and steadily enmeshing the land, which signified the journeys made in distant times, the movements of highly skilled people, of gold and tin, of the finest flint arrowheads, of Bronze axes and swords, of jet and of jewellery…and of astronomical instruments…I would venture over the seas, beyond the prehistoric worlds of Britain to those of mainlands Europe…” (321-322).

 

 

 

The Being Behind Becoming

A Review of Songs for Siva: Vacanas of Akka Mahadevi, translated by Vinaya Chaitanya (2017).

Songs for Siva cover

A small hardcover volume filled with poems seeking to move from duality and separation into divine union ― Songs for Siva is a new translation by Vinaya Chaitanya of the 12th century poet, Akka Mahadevi. She was known as “sky-clad” (digambaras), as she was of the tradition of the wandering saint, clad only with the hair she was given.

               If the cloth that covers them slips,

               Men and women become shy.

               If you, lord of life,

               Envelop the whole world,

               What is there to be shy of?

               If Channamallikarjuna, jasmine-tender,

               Sees with the whole world as eyes,

               What shall you cover and hide, O man? (145)

The foreword by H.S. Shivaprakash describes Akka’s writing as “poetic without being poetry, spiritual without being religious or scriptural,” (vii). Transcending duality, Shivaprakash further states that Akka’s pathway of Siva is “where heaven and hell become one in the clear understanding of continuous awareness, turning nectar and poison into each other,” (viii).

               You grasped the space within the space

               That no one knows

               And handed it to me,

               O Guru Channamallikarjuna, jasmine tender (92)

Translator, Vinaya Chaitanya, provides an informative and intriguing introduction to Akka Mahadevi. Chaitanya draws parallels between the 12th century Virasaiva movement that Mahadevi was part of, and the translator’s own wisdom lineage of Narayan Guru: speaking out against discrimination and oppression based on separation and difference such as “caste, sex, language or dress,” (xvi). Chaitanya quotes Narayana Guru, “Humanity is of one caste, of one religion and of one God,” (xxix). As well as looking forward to the present, Chaitanya also looks back to the past, describing the Virasaiva movement as a continuation of the pre-Aryan, pre-Vedic “older, more contemplative tradition associated with Siva,” (xxiii). This movement accorded equal status to the sexes and there are “thirty-three vacanakartis (women writers of vacanas)” whose poems are known, (xxiv).

               I saw the divine form…

               I saw the great one

               Who makes all the males female.

               I saw the supreme guru

               Channamallikarjuna, jasmine-tender,

               Ever united with the primal Sakti.

               Seeing him, I am saved. (141)

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Ardhanarisvara

One of the fundamental human differences that is frequently a basis of discrimination is male and female. Chaitanya writes, “It is the dialectics between male and female that makes for the creative evolution of the world. When these opposites are united in harmony, there is peace and contentment; when the balance between them is lost, there is suffering,” (xii). The longing for union that Akka Mahadevi expresses toward her Lord Siva, whom she calls Channamallikarjuna, goes beyond the union of male and female, which is still a form of separation and dualism, to a state of mystical union with the Divine. A.K. Ramanujan translated Channamallikarjuna as “jasmine-white Lord,” in his translations of the 1970s, whereas Chaitanya chooses a slightly different translation, “jasmine-tender,” and continues to use the original in the poems as well, Channamallikarjuna (“Channa means ‘beautiful’; mallika is jasmine; arjuna meaning ‘bright’ or ‘white’”).

               My mind is unhappy.

               It cannot become empty

               Forgetting the two.

               Show me how you can become me,

               O, Channamallikarjuna, jasmine-tender. (10)

Like another Bhakti poet, Mirabai, Akka Mahadevi was married to a husband, but considered herself married to God, in Mirabai’s case Shyam (Krishna) and for Mahadevi, Śiva. The poems are called vacanas, meaning “to give one’s word” or “to make a promise or commitment,” (xxiii).

               Like treasure hidden by the earth.

               Like taste hidden by the fruit…

               Channamallikarjuna, jasmine-tender,

               Hides as the being behind becoming;

               No one knows him. (9)

Aside from the timeless beauty of these poems, which express the ancient mystical longing to transcend dualism, these vacanas are topical today ― when we live in such a time that focuses so very much on walls and borders, differences and separation. We need reminders of our human unity and of the sacred and divine Oneness that transcends and swallows all our differences into the vast Cosmic Ocean of Being, out of which all this becoming arises.

 

 

 

 

“Sage – The Wise One”

Sage

Sage, photo © David Kopacz, 2018

Joseph Rael and I have just had an article published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy entitled, “Sage – The Wise One.” (IJPHA, Volume 6, Issue 4, Spring 2018).

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The article is only available through subscription to the journal, or it will be eventually available as a back issue after the next issue is published.

I will just give a few excerpts here:

“I have been working with Joseph Rael, whose Tiwa name is Beautiful Painted Arrow. Joseph is of the Southern Ute tribe, but spent much of his childhood at the Tiwa-speaking Picuris Pueblo, in northern New Mexico. I asked Joseph for some teachings about plant medicine for this article. Joseph often teaches using the medicine wheel and I thought maybe he could teach me about a plant for each direction of the wheel. However, he went straight to the heart, straight to the center of the medicine wheel, and said there is only one plant that we really need to under­stand with the medicine wheel—Sage.”

Sage Smudge

Paua Shell and Sage, photo © David Kopacz, 2018

“I recently visited Joseph in Colorado. While driving around he always talks about different ideas and teachings. Several times he commented on Sage as we were driving. He said when an area opens up, for example if there is a fire or a place is abandoned, “Sage is the first plant to fill in the empty spaces.” That reminded me of something else he had been teaching lately, that “God is in the empty spaces, not in the words.” The word for God in the Tiwa lan­guage of Picuris Pueblo is Wah-Mah-Chi, Breath-Mat­ter-Movement. Breath is one of the ways that we come into a relationship with the plant world. Breath is one of the functions of God, Spirit, or what Joseph sometimes calls “Vast Self.” Breathing in the scents and aromas of plants is therefore working through the spirit of Wah Mah Chi—it is breath moving the matter of plant medicine, connecting inner and outer worlds.”

Sage Woman Becomes Visible to Bless the People

“Sage Woman Becomes Visible” © Joseph Rael, 2008

After speaking about Sage, Joseph continued by speaking about the secret mys­teries:

Mysteries—you get insights into consciousness, but you will not ‘get it’ until you get to a certain level of essence and spiritual understanding.

Secret—in your work, in my work, in everybody’s work, you have to dig it up, you have to bring up the secret from the darkness of the earth and bring it up.

Power of the Purple Sage Being

“Power of the Purple Sage Being,” © Joseph Rael, 2016

We close the article with the following:

“May we have the Sage wisdom to find the place of goodness within our hearts and bring it forth into this divisive world of trauma and suffering. Aho!”

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A Short Trip to Walden Pond

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I was in Bedford, MA for work recently and it turned out that Walden Pond was just 7 miles away. Our team was able to get away after the course finished one evening and had a lovely time visiting Walden Pond.

I had been to Walden Pond once before, almost 6 years ago to the day: 06.26.12 and had put up a blog about that visit.

This time it was getting near dusk and the light was beautiful on the pond and through the trees.

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There was cloud iridescence over the pond.

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We walked back along the pond trail to the site of Thoreau’s original cabin. There is a long-standing tradition of putting stones near the original site of the cabin.

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I had purchased Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls and read a little bit of it sitting by the cabin.

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Here are a few quotes from that book:

“Everyone who comes to Thoreau has a story.”

“By the time Thoreau built his house on Walden Pond at the edge of town, he had come of age among a circle of radical intellectuals called ‘Transcendentalists,’ for their belief in higher ideas that ‘transcended’ daily life.”

“Moving to Walden Pond thus had a double purpose: it offered a writer’s retreat, where Thoreau could follow his calling as a spiritual seeker, philosopher, and poet; and it offered a public stage on which he could dramatize his one-person revolution in consciousness, making his protest a form of performance art.”

“In writing Walden, Thoreau encouraged his readers to try the experiment of life for themselves, rather than inheriting its terms from others – including himself.” (Walls, xi-xiii)

[I will pick up the thread of the recent trip to UK and Iceland soon in another blog…]

 

 

 

Journey through Cymru (Wales)

After visiting Little Solsbury Hill, we continued on to Cardiff (Caerdydd), Wales (Cymru), where we stayed with some friends of ours who had recently moved back to Wales after a number years in New Zealand. We spoke about transitions, about what “home” means, and about working to transform the health care system. They graciously let us stay at their cottage in Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) and we drove out to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro).

First, however, we stopped in the town of Neath (Castell-nedd), which is where my Great Grandfather, Iorworth Roberts was born. He immigrated with his family to the USA when he was about four years old. A wrong turn and we ended up at Neath Abbey (Abaty Nedd), so we got out and looked around. The abbey was established in 1129 CE, disestablished in 1539 by Henry VIII, it thence became an estate and in the 1700s was used for copper smelting. It is now a ruins.

We then proceeded to the city where we had brunch, walked around and saw the ruins of Castell Nedd (Neath Castle).

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Castell Nedd

We carried on to the cottage and I took a little drive around through Broad Haven (Aber Llydan) and Little Haven (which had the most hair-raising intersection – a narrow, blind T-intersection on a hill with a manual transmission). A lot of the driving was challenging – rather than a proper two lane road, I got to calling the roads 1.5 lanes, or 1.25 lanes, sometimes one lane, and sometimes it even felt like I was driving on a 0.75 lane road! I do recommend being very cautious on these roads. There are periodically little widenings in the road and if you meet an oncoming car, one or the other of you has to back up until you can pull slightly off the road to let the other car pass. I took a little walk along the cliffs, got some groceries and headed back to the cottage. The grounds had a beautiful mural of a badger on the side of one of the buildings.

View St. Brides Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid)

View of St. Bride’s Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid)

BadgerBadger Mural

The next day I headed up to the city of St. David’s. St David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) is the patron saint of Wales and lived c. 500-589 CE. He is often portrayed with a white dove on his shoulder and founded a number of monasteries and churches.

St David Stained Glass @ St. Non's Chapel

St. David Stained Glass, St. Non’s Chapel

Legend has it that St. David was born during a great storm on the coast at a site which now contains the ruins of the Chapel of St. Non, which was built on a pre-Christian site, in the centre of a circle of standing stones. A holy well is located to the east of the ruins.

The Chapel of Our Lady and St. Non was built nearby in 1934. When I was buying some chocolates in St. David’s city, in the course of the conversation I mentioned to the shopkeeper that my name is David and that I have Welsh heritage. She looked deeply into me and said, “You have to go to the Chapel of St. Non, it is a very spiritual site. You have to go there.” I was already planning to and it was a beautiful walk from the city to the coast and well worth it.

Cliffs St Non's

Cliffs Near St. Non’s Chapel

In the 6th century CE, Dewi Sant founded a community near the place of his birth. It was sacked by Vikings a number of times over the years. Construction of St. David’s Cathedral began in 1181 and it is still a functioning cathedral.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit St. David’s is that I have been working on my family tree and genetic heritage. I found a branch of the family tree that goes back to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132-1197), leader of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth. He fought a long war with the English. He was defeated and imprisoned by Henry II, eventually released and won back his land. He maintained peaceful relations with Henry II after that, but went on the offensive and captured a number of Norman castles in a war against Richard I. Rhys ap Gruffydd is buried at St. David’s Cathedral and there is an effigy of him there. My sister thinks there is some family resemblance, particularly when I pull up my hoodie!

I drove out to Whitesands Bay (Porth Mawr) and hiked along the coast to St. Davids Head (Penmaen Dewi), a finger of cliffs that divides the Irish Sea (Môr Iwerddon) to the north from the Celtic Sea (Y Môr Celtaidd) to the south. This was a beautiful walk out to a site of a series of stone circles which were possibly the foundations of Iron Age buildings. There are also Neolithic structures, such as Coetan Arthur (Arthur’s Quoit) burial chamber which dates back to 3000 BCE. (I unfortunately didn’t realize how close I was to Coetan Arthur and did not see it and had to make my way back to meet my wife for dinner, I spent a lot of time sitting in the stone circles and climbing about on the rocks above them).

Sun Being

St. David’s Head

We had a lovely dinner at Druidstone Hotel and had magical views of the sunset from the cliff, our last night in Wales…

Druidstone Sunset

Druidstone Sunset

Druidstone Wall

Druidstone Wall and Steps

 

Trip to UK & Iceland

We just got back from a holiday to England, Wales, and Iceland. I’ve got quite a few photos, so I’ll post them in several batches. We had 5 sets of friends we visited, most we knew from New Zealand, although Roberto is an old friend from back when we lived in Chicago.

One of the most striking things to me was how familiar England felt, even though I had only been there once when I was 16 years old. That trip I was very focused on punk and new wave music and came back with a suitcase full of vinyl. I was also interested in castles and we visited quite a few of those. That trip with my family came about because my Great Grandfather, Iorworth Roberts, had passed away and left my mom some inheritance and she felt a good use of it would be to visit the land of his birth: Wales.

England felt very familiar this trip. I think this was partly due to all the accents we were surrounded with in New Zealand. Almost every place we visited reminded me of someone’s accent we heard in New Zealand. Forty percent of the population of Auckland, New Zealand was born in another country and there is a sonic landscape of different accents there. Another factor is that New Zealand, as a commonwealth country with close ties to the UK, has many cultural similarities with the UK. New Zealand also has many UK brands and shops and a few things I thought were New Zealand brands actually turned out to be from the UK, so even shopping at the grocery I found things that reminded me of “home” in New Zealand.

I will share with you, Dear Readers, some of the photos and itinerary of the trip. We will start with England. We took Icelandair, a direct flight from Seattle to Keflavik, with a brief layover (we stayed 5 days on the return trip), then on to Gatwick. I had come down with a bad upper respiratory virus, so the first week and the traveling was a bit rough. We first stayed in Sevenoaks, a little town south of London. We visited Knole Park, with its over 500 year old house.

Knole House

Knole House

Knole Park

Knole Park

We took a day trip to Hever Castle, the family home of Anne Boleyn, who was executed by Henry VIII who then took possession of Hever. Henry the VIII had 6 wives, two of whom he had beheaded, which was part of his break with the Catholic Church. Henry VIII also began the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. Many of the Abbeys eventually fell into disrepair and are now ruins. It is worth noting how much chaos one man in power can create.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

We took a day trip up to London on the train, disembarked at Charing Cross, walked through Trafalgar Square, through St. James’ Park, past 10 Downing Street, and back to the train. We stopped in a couple book stores and cafes along the way.

Train to London

Train to London

Picadilly Circus

Picadilly Circus

St James Park

St. James’ Park

After leaving the Sussex area, we hired a car and drove West, stopping at Little Solsbury Hill on our way to visit friends in Cardiff, Wales. This was the site of an Iron Age hill fort, dating back to 300-100 BCE. The name “Solsbury” is thought to be related to the Celtic goddess, Sulis, who was worshiped at the thermal springs in what is now called the city of Bath. The etymology of “Sulis” is as follows: “the exact meaning of the name Sulis is still a matter of debate among linguists, but one possibility is “Eye/Vision”, cognate with Old Irish súil “eye, gap”, perhaps derived from a Proto-Celtic word *sūli- which may be related to various Indo-European words for “sun” (cf. Homeric Greek ηέλιος, Sanskrit sūryah “sun”, from Proto-Indo-European *suh2lio-).”

Triangulation Stone Solsbury Hill, Bath

Triangulation Stone, Little Solsbury Hill, Bath in the distance.

Solsbury Hill was also the site of a spiritual experience that Peter Gabriel had around the time (1975) he was leaving the band, Genesis, and starting his solo career. He describes climbing up Solsbury Hill, seeing an eagle fly out of the night and having a visionary experience of hearing a voice that gives him guidance, saying “Son…grab your things I’ve come to take you home.” The song “Solsbury Hill” was his first solo single. Gabriel said the song is “about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get … It’s about letting go.” The song also works with the theme of “home,” whether our home is here amongst our “things” or whether it is elsewhere.

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When we climbed up on Solsbury Hill it was warm and sunny, skylarks were singing. I found a stone outcropping on the North side of the hill. I sat for awhile in the warmth and meditated, trying to reach back into the ancient past of the hill and the humans who have lived on and around it.

From Little Solsbury Hill, we traveled West and crossed the border into Wales and we will continue with the journey in the next blog post.

2017 in Review

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Copalis Beach, Washington

2017 was a busy year with lots of things coming together and many things nationally and globally falling apart. I added a new piece to my job at the VA this year. I am speaking now, not as a federal employee, but as an independently licensed health care provider. I have a 20% position with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation as a Whole Health Education Champion. You can learn more about the VA Whole Health program here. This job entails traveling to different VAs throughout the country and learning how to teach the several courses the Office promotes. I traveled to Madison, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Boston, and New Jersey and I will be going to Nashville later this month. I continue working in Primary Care Mental Health Integration at the Primary Care Clinic in Seattle. With the University of Washington I have moved from an Acting role to an Assistant Professor this past year.

I continue my work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), and we are well into the work of our next book which should likely be out later in 2018. Joseph is a continual joy and inspiration to work with and is often sending artwork and ideas for us to use in the next book. We easily have enough material for several more books. Another piece of news is that Walking the Medicine Wheel is being published in Vietnamese! I have yet to see the book, though. This is very important as the land and people of Vietnam and the Vietnam War are intimately intertwined with so many of our veterans’ lives and the history of the United States.

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) walking into his garden dome to perform Arbor Day Ceremony, April, 2017

I did a book tour, of sorts, for Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. I made the trip back down under and saw some old friends and made some new ones, too. I took off from Seattle, almost missed my connection in Honolulu and landed in Sydney, Australia on September 13th, 2017. I went there for the biannual Australasian Doctors Health Conference, my fourth time presenting (I blogged earlier about this here). The conference was held at Luna Park, an amusement park in North Sydney with a great view of the city. My mate, Hilton Koppe, and I presented a workshop “The Hero’s Journey of the Healer,” that used Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey to look at burnout and mentoring in health care workers. I also presented “Circle Medicine,” bringing together the holistic approaches of the medicine wheel, the VA circle of health, and my earlier work with Re-humanizing Medicine. It was great hanging out with Hilton and co-presenting with him, it was an extra treat when he stopped through Seattle on his way to some conferences in October. Here is a link to one of Hilton’s written pieces.

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View from my hotel in North Sydney, looking out at Luna Park (lit up), the Harbour Bridge, and Sydney.

I was also able to meet Father Gerry Arbuckle, whom I had been corresponding with for a few years via email. As well as being a Catholic priest, he has a PhD in applied cultural anthropology. He is the Co-director of the Refounding and Pastoral Development program. Gerry wrote a book called Humanizing Healthcare Reforms (2013) that I found very helpful in writing my Re-humanizing Medicine book. Gerry was also kind enough to write an endorsement of Walking the Medicine Wheel. His book Fundamentalism: At Home and Abroad is highly relevant to understanding political movements in the United States and throughout the world. I wrote a review of that book that can be found here. Gerry is from New Zealand, originally, and has now lived in Australia for many years. His next book is on loneliness and picks up on themes from his book on fundamentalism. He and I had a great chat, over 4 hours, and I hope we have a chance to meet again before long.

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Berkelouw Books, Sydney

Dr. Asha Chand organised a talk for me at Western Sydney University (see earlier blog on this here). It was great to meet faculty and staff there and have a chance to talk about “Caring for Self & Others” which is an adaptation of Re-humanizing Medicine. My friend, Laura Merritt, in Seattle has done a lot of work with me on putting together a workbook version that I drew on for that presentation. WSU recorded the talk and Asha has said we can share the links to the talk for anyone who is interested:

Caring For Self & Others, Part 1Part 2, Part 3

After Australia, I flew over to Auckland, New Zealand and straight away met up with some of my best friends. I did a talk called “Life After Rehab,” at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre, where I served as Clinical Director during my time in New Zealand. I also did a book talk at Time Out Books, where a group of us used to meet monthly for the Auckland Holistic Writer’s Group.

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View from Te Pane o Horoiwi (Achilles Point), St. Heliers, Auckland, New Zealand

My next stop was somewhere I have never been, but have wanted to travel to: Fiji. I flew into Nadi airport on the Northwest of Viti Levu, caught a short flight to the Southwest, to Suva. Dr. Neeta Ramkumar met me there and she had organised a talk and workshop for me at the University of the South Pacific. The talk was called “The Transformational Power of Stories in Clinical Work, Teaching, and Community Building,” and the following workshop was “Bringing Ancient Traditions of the Hero & the Warrior into Modern Day Life.” I very much enjoyed meeting all the wonderful people of Fiji and the University of South Pacific and felt honored to be able to speak there.

Bringing Ancient Traditions

Finally, I had a bit of a break from the speaking tour and from all the busy socializing with friends. I took a 45 minute boat trip out to Leleluvia Island and just relaxed. I snorkeled twice a day at the reef just off the island. I walked around the island several times and also kayaked around once. Such a beautiful place! I’ll share some of the photos from the trip and I hope you enjoy them!

After Leleluvia, I went back through Suva, hired a car, and drove back to Nadi, seeing the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple (which was scaffolded under construction), but I still walked around and had a nice lunch there. I also stopped for a walk through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant with its orchids prior to heading to the airport, flying back through LAX and to Seattle.

This next year promises to be quite busy again with travel: Nashville, Portland OR, Madison, and back to the Boston area two more times. Joseph Rael and I continue to work toward peace and world peace. As Joseph says, “A lot of people have tried to bring about peace, and it hasn’t worked! But you and I are too far into it to stop now, so we’ll have to keep going.” May you find peace in your heart and in your life this coming year, and may we all have some peace in this world that seems so focused on the opposite of peace at this current point in history.

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South coast of Viti Levu

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Copalis Rock, Washington Pacific Coast

Australasian Doctors Health Conference, Sydney, Australia, Sept. 15-16, 2017

I recently returned from a trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. I started in Sydney, Australia at the Australasian Doctors’ Health Conference. The conference was held at Luna Park in North Sydney with a great view of the city and the opera house.

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View of Luna Park (lit up below bridge) from the North Sydney Harbourview Hotel

I did two presentations at the conference. The first was a workshop co-facilitated with my mate, Hilton Koppe, called The Hero’s Journey of the Healer, where we looked at burnout as a necessary stage of the healer’s journey and also at the important role that mentors can play on the journey. We also made a distinction between instructors (who train you to do the technical job) and mentors (who help you find yourself in the work and sustain your humanity).

Title slide Healer Hero

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I have recently come across the concept of transformational learning as defined by Jack Mezirow it includes several steps that parallel the process of initiation and the hero’s journey: a disorienting dilemma, realization that disorientation is part of the growth process, and then a reintegration with a new, transformed identity.

Transformational Learning Model

The second presentation was Circle Medicine: What’s Good for the Client is Good for the Clinician. This presentation reviewed a few of the circular models of healing I have been using lately: the Hero’s Journey, Whole Health, and the Medicine Wheel. I believe that we need to include both linear medicine and circle medicine in order to best serve our clients.

Circle Medicine Title

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I had a great time at the conference, caught up with some old friends and made some new friends. I also spent a few hours speaking with Gerald Arbuckle, author of the book Fundamentalism that I recently reviewed. Gerry and I have had an ongoing correspondence since I used his models of medicine concept in my book Re-humanizing Medicine, and also he wrote an endorsement for Walking the Medicine Wheel. It was great to finally meet in person and have a really good chat!

More blog posts to follow from this trip!

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