Following the Teachings of Beautiful Painted Arrow (in Circles) from Seeds of Peace Newsletter

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: mayarinabudimir61@gmail.com.

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 spirituality.

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.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

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!”

David Kopacz and Joseph Rael, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

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 and Joseph Rael, photo by Karen Kopacz (2018)

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

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