“I am you and you are me. There’s only one being here, and even though you have a different body, I have a different body, and a different moment, but we are in this together, you know, and people don’t understand that.”
Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)
(from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, pg. 379)
“My elders are convinced that the West is as endangered as the indigenous cultures it decimated in the name of colonialism. There is no doubt that, at this time in history, Western civilization is suffering from a great sickness of the soul. The West’s progressive turning away from functioning spiritual values; its total disregard for the environment and the protection of natural resources; the violence of inner cities with their problems of poverty, drugs, and crime; spiraling unemployment and economic disarray; and growing intolerance toward people of color and the values of other cultures— all of these trends, if unchecked, will eventually bring about a terrible self-destruction . . . the only possible hope is self-transformation.”
Malidoma Patrice Somé, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, 1.
In this week’s episode David Kopacz speaks with Joanna about: encouraging children to plant green living things; dancing with the trees; the dormant seed inside oneself; walking the medicine wheel; becoming a true human being; we are medicine bags; being and vibration; the cycle of rejuvenation; separation is illness, healing is coming back together; the archetypal template of spiritual democracy; the Refounding Mothers of Democracy; coming home to peace.“
Joanna had taken a break for a while and this was her first podcast interview, or gaialogue in a few months, so it was extra special. Thanks to Joanna Harcourt-Smith and co-producer, José Luis Gómez Soler. Here are Joanna’s and José’s bios, take a listen to my interview and check out the many other great podcasts, such as with Steven Herrmann, Charles Eisenstein, Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, Richard Katz, Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, Roshi Joan Halifax, Francoise Bourzat, Lyla June Johnston, and many, many others…
Joanna was born high up in the Swiss mountains on a snowy January evening. She grew up in Paris and speaks 5 languages. School was boring but her curiosity about life was not extinguished by the dullness of the education system. Nature was her teacher, trees, horses, dogs and the ocean gave her a sense of belonging that she did not feel within her birth family.
Joanna turned fourteen in 1960, she was in love with Marlon Brando and Rock and Roll. During her adolescence she was torn between a desire to die and an intense love of life. Because she felt lost between despair and passion she wrote poetry and continues to do so up to this day. During the early 1960s she lived in Spain and wrote “The Little Green Book” an answer to Mao Tse Tong’s “Little Red Book”. The Book was published in 4 languages and widely sold in France, the Netherlands, England and Germany.
In 1968 moved by the music of the times and the spirit of revolution sweeping through her generation she emigrated to the United States. Her exploration of mind liberating substances led her to find Dr. Timothy Leary who was a fugitive from prison in the US. They became in love and were kidnapped by American authorities in Afghanistan and returned to California where Timothy Leary went back to prison to serve a sentence of possession of 0.01 grams of marijuana. During TL’s three and a half years in prison Joanna worked tirelessly to secure his release, she lived in San Francisco where she collaborated, published and distributed the 6 books he wrote in prison. In addition, Joanna traveled to England, Italy and across the United states lecturing about the imprisonment of Dr. Leary.
In 1977 Timothy and Joanna’s love affair came to an end after he was released from prison. She then went down to the Caribbean and bough a magnificent wooden sailboat named Kentra. For several years she lived on her boat and sailed around the islands attempting to heal her broken heart. In 1983 she returned to the United States, surrendered herself into the path of life long sobriety and became a celebrated chef in Philadelphia and Santa Fe.
She practices Buddhism and the elusive way of loving kindness and compassion mainly for herself and for others around her. Joanna’s great question in life is “What is true Kindness?”
In October 2013 Joanna published a memoir about her adventures with Timothy Leary entitled “Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary” . Her book been has been optioned by the Oscar winner director Errol Morris. Filming began in December 2019.
She his currently writing another book entitled “Change your beliefs, change your life” Surviving Timothy Leary“.
She is also featured in Gay Dillingham’s movie “Dying to Know”, a documentary about Leary and Ram Dass’ lifelong exploration and friendship.
She is the author of several articles published in the online magazine “Reality Sandwich”.
David and Suzanne continue their moving discussion around ‘doing better than rushing to return to normal’ after things shift once again with COVID 19.
This episode dwells in the land of opportunity: What could things look like for us as a people, a world, an environment should we thoughtfully, purposefully move with the new things ushered in despite the chaos vs desperately trying to ‘get back’ to what was once upon a time—back then?
There is such beauty in their words!
I will borrow a saying from David: “Like pinatas of wisdom…”
Suzanne Richman is an education consultant, had founding roles within Goddard College in Vermont, she has expertise and passions within the realms of trauma, grief, social activism. She is a self-confessed recovering academic. You can contact Suzanne at : Suzannehummingbird@gmail.com.
Suzanne Richman is a passionate teacher within such realms as: Ethnobotany, Social and Ecological Medicine, Community Health Systems, Trauma and Transformational Leadership. She lives in Vermont, and is a TLA member. Suzannehummingbird@gmail.com.
Seattle psychiatrist David Kopacz and Vermont educator/community activist Suzanne Richman extend an invitation to us all. It is not a passive request. By its very essence, the word ‘invitation’ suggests action, a response. These powerful TLA thought leaders ask us to RSVP to the call to reflect before we return.
There are 3 parts to the core invitation. Each part is a meal-of-thought in itself.
Suzanne Richman has her roots in education. She was the co-creator of the Earth Justice and Health Learning Alliance, and facilitated learning in fields such as grief and dying, trauma, social activism, and community health systems. Suzannehummingbird@gmail.com.
My friend John Riggs just published ClearCut – The Wages of Dominion, a book that is both beautiful and terrible – it documents, bears witness to, clear cutting in the Northwest United States. John is facing the same problem that a lot of writers and artists are facing now – how to promote your work during a pandemic when you cannot go out and meet and speak with people. Consider buying his book to support the important work he is doing and his witnessing for the Earth.
John, a photographer by trade, starts the book with a guided meditation, guiding us through an invitation to enter into our complicity, then looking for a way forward, searching for the pathways of making things right, through forgiveness and then to the choice. John’s exhibition prior to ClearCut – The Wages of Dominion, was “Entering Old Growth – Meditations from the Ancient Rain Forest of the Pacific Northwest.” While most of the images in ClearCut are stark, black & white photos of forests that are reminiscent of World War I trenches, the aftermaths of battlefields, or tragic natural disasters, he reminds us of hope, now and again, like the growth that occurs on stumps, by including for contrast some of his color photos from his previous exhibition.
I can relate to John’s journey through the beauty of the forest only to feel one’s soul has fled one’s body upon stumbling across clearcut forest. When I graduated from college, I received a backpack as a graduation gift, bought a Greyhound Bus ticket from Chicago to Seattle, and spent 2 weeks solo backpacking through some of the land that John documents. I entered the forest at Sol Duc, hiked up over the ridge, and walked down toward highway 101, planning to go up to Forks and out to the coast. As I came out of the National Park and into the National Forest, I had to walk through miles of clearcut forest and it was inconceivable to me how anyone could use the forest in this manner. I won’t even try to put it into words – in fact, there is no need to, just look at John’s photos and you will feel it.
John is a poet and a healer as well as a photographer. He guides us through a meditation on who we are and how society is the way it is, and how we destroy ancient forests for our convenience and economic growth. To sit and bear witness with the destruction of a clearcut forest is to hear a message.
“In this vast and sudden transition moment there is a message coming our way. It is not my message; it is our loving mother, the living planet Gaia speaking. Speaking directly to us, speaking through many stern voices today, in many languages, shaking us all to wake up. They are all saying the same thing: ‘despair is the enemy, not others.'”
There is a terrible beauty in the book, but it is also a book about destruction and the selfishness that arises when we believe that the world is a thing for us to use and abuse at our whims. The mindset of separation and dualism, of us and them, naturally, or perhaps we could say unnaturally, leads to conflict, strife, destruction, and war – war between humans, but also the war of humans against nature. This mindset of separation is what allows us to treat other people as “things” and to treat the natural world without love and caring.
“ClearCut is an apt metaphor for our current human condition, and this exhibition is a guided meditation, a journey through despair to recognition and acceptance of our personal complicity in the fatal human character flaw of dominion. We pay a brief visit to the waystation of guilt and blame, and then on to the discovery of an urgent message our mother Gaia has been trying to deliver to us for generations: that the evolution of human consciousness must continue beyond dominion into communion if She – if we – are to continue receiving the gift of life and passing that gift along to our children and grandchildren.”
John is a hero as well as a photographer, a documenter, a witness, a poet, and a healer. In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the hero ventures off into an unknown world – for John that was into the beauty of the ancient rain forest – but he found an abyss there, a dark night of the soul, the clearcut destruction. Campbell taught that as the hero or heroine returns from their journey, back into society, they find that the wisdom of their message is rejected by society. Will we reject John’s message he is bringing us from Gaia, our Mother Earth – or will we go through the stages he outlines, through guilt, grief, atonement and reparations so that we can make a choice to follow the path of making things right?
Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) speaks on initiation and becoming medicine, joined by David Kopacz, MD at Joseph’s home in New Mexico. This video features an initiation ceremony in which Joseph tells the story of eagle-man who is initiated into becoming a true human being by the ancient one. The idea of becoming medicine is developed in the book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).
What a great week – Earth Day and World Book Day back to back!
The Earth gives us so much to be thankful for and her beauty is even more apparent and more easily appreciated during these times of a more inward focus. It is easier to hear the birds and working from home I look out my window often to see Stellar’s Jays, Chickadees, Juncos, and today I even saw an Audubon’s Warbler!
I’m grateful to have been able to bring forth, in these books, what is within me and to release this out into the world.
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (The Gospel of Thomas, in The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels)
Joseph and I are working on our next book together which will be a book of initiation and instruction for 10-12 year old children, drawing on Joseph’s experiences and what he thinks it is important for human beings growing up into this world to know about the world and themselves. We are calling it, A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds. More to come…
May the books of all of the authors of the world contribute to realizing our inner spiritual humanity, our outer spiritual democracy, and helps us to remove obstacles and division to allow us all to live in peace, peace within our hearts and peace within the world.