It seems that now, more than ever, it is important for physicians and health care workers and professionals to have a sense of professional identity that involves engagement and activism in the world to protect and promote human health. Human health cannot be attained in isolation from other humans and the community. This means that if any suffer, all suffer. Human health can also not be attained in isolation of environmental and ecological health. The word “health” has its roots in “wholeness” which situates the individual within the ecological.
If you are interested in health, the environment, and the medical humanities, consider joining the Doctor as a Humanist for our 2nd Annual Offering on Nature & Medicine a webinar on Saturday, November 5th, 2022 – register for free here.
Here is some background on my evolving work on the concept of medical activism and its relationship with professional identity – from a University of Washington-Idaho Psychiatry Grand Rounds 1/20/22.
I’ve been doing a few podcasts lately – which is always a fun chance to talk about some of the work I have been doing. I’ll include a few photos from the past year to remind us of the world within which we all live & work.
The soul is the thing that makes us alive and vital and engaged and connected around the world. When we lose that, we lose all those kinds of things that connect us to ourselves and to others…How do we bring the soul back? It would be what things make the soul happy, what kinds of things bring you joy? And so how can you build this into your life? I think the distinction is you could start with self-care to support the ego, in the sense of your personality, but I think of the healer, the role of the healers, to be honest with delving into what can be the breakdown of the ego, and then the rebuilding back as a healer.
Perhaps burnout is a symptom of a larger problem. Perhaps we’ve cut ourselves off from a root of support in our work, we have lost touch with a spiritual and humanistic dimension of who we are and that when one suffers, all suffer. We have lost touch with our interconnection, our non-duality. What did Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. draw upon when working with the immense suffering in the world? Gandhi spoke of satyagraha as “the Force which is born of Truth and Love,” and Dr. King, spoke of this as “soul force.” Perhaps we should consider developing some kind of non-dual medicine, some kind of practice of non-separation in our healing work.
I will be giving the keynote 1:20 – 2:40 PM (Pacific Time), “Burnout: Soul Loss & Soul Recovery in Mental Health.” I’ve been interested in exploring the significant overlap between the ancient condition of soul loss and the modern occupational syndrome of burnout. I will be discussing burnout and soul loss from a variety of perspectives. I will be presenting material from my next book, Caring for Self & Others: Tools for Transforming Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Soul Loss. I have signed a contract with Creative Courage Press for publication early 2023.
I was originally going to present 3/7/20, but this was just at the start of the pandemic and as many events at that time it was cancelled. I am so exicted to be able to finally present this talk and the concepts of burnout and soul loss have a much deeper and personal meaning to me, now, after recent years.
The conference is $20 for students and $60 for general public and professionals. 6 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) are available.
Here is a link to the Conference Schedule, the theme is “Maintaining a Soulful Approach to Psychological Research & Practice: Swimming Upstream in a Technological Society.”
“Maintaining a Soulful Approach to Psychological Research and Practice: Swimming Upstream in a Technological Society”
June 25, 2022, 8:30 am – 5:30pm, Seattle University
Oberto Commons – Sinegal 200
My talk on “Burnout: Soul Loss & Soul Recovery” seems even more relevant now than it did when the conference was originally planned for March of 2020 – at that time the pandemic was just evolving and we didn’t know one day to the next whether we would be gathering or not. I was already, at that time, beginning to look at the similarities between burnout in health care and the ancient concept of soul loss. After all, what is it that stops burning in burnout? What is it that we lose when we feel we are just pushing ourselves through the motions at work? Where have our hearts gone? Where have our souls gone? Now, after two years of pandemic life and social distancing, as well as the larger social injustice issues and division in the USA and war and conflict in the world, it seems even more vital than ever that we re-connect to that which makes us fully human.
For a number of years, Seattle University used to host the Search for Meaning Book Fesitval that I attended regularly. It saddens me that SU is no longer running that program since 2017, but I am honored to speak there and be part of the tradition of inquiry into life’s meaning and greater purpose. Here is the abstract for the talk:
“Burnout: Soul Loss & Soul Recovery in Mental Health Care”
presented by David R. Kopacz, MD
Burnout and compassion fatigue are becoming the norm in healthcare after two years of a pandemic. The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” with feelings of energy depletion; increased mental distance from one’s job, negativism, and cynicism; and reduced professional efficacy. While many perspectives on burnout focus on prevention through stress management techniques, we can look at burnout as “soul loss” which can then become the beginning of a transformational healer’s journey. A transformational perspective shifts our focus to the care of the soul and on how to recover soul once it is lost – this is a valuable skill for us as healers to use in our own lives as well as in our therapeutic work with clients.
David Kopacz is a psychiatrist in Primary Care Mental Health at Seattle VA and a National Education Champion with the VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. He is an Assistant Professor at University of Washington and is certified through the American Boards of: Psychiatry & Neurology; Integrative & Holistic Medicine; and Integrative Medicine. David is a graduate of University of Illinois, undergraduate in Urbana-Champaign and medical school and psychiatric residency in Chicago. He has practiced in the US and New Zealand. His publications include: Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine; Caring for Self & Others: Transforming Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Soul Loss (in press); and with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD; Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality; Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons for Children Ages 10-100.
The excerpt is entitled “The Gates of Paradise: Shamanic Memories from an Indian Visionary,” and is availabe online in Parabola Summer 2022 Edition with the theme of Ancestors. It is currently available online, but the whole issue is worth reading, with an articles on P. L. Travers, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, and many different topics on the theme of Ancestors.
The article also features two of Joseph Rael’s paintings, “Sage Woman becomes visible to – bless “the People,” and “Crystal Chamber,” which I’ll include below.
We are very happy that this book is getting some notice as it is an autobiography of Joseph’s life specifically aimed at passing on wisdom to the next generation, how fitting that it is in the Ancestors issue of Parabola: The Search for Meaning. The book was also recognized as a winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People.
It is a great honor to receive the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People – Grades 7-12 – for our most recent book Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons for Children Ages 10-100! This is an annual book award put on by the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey.
Paterson, is of course, home to the poet/doctor William Carlos Williams and the great beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
I visited Paterson in July 2017 when I was in New Jersey for work. I bought a copy of William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, and read it by the Great Falls of the Passaic River. If you can’t make it to Paterson in person, there is always the Jim Jarmusch film, “Paterson,” about a poet bus driver named Paterson.
“What do I do? I listen to the water falling. (No sound of it here but with the wind!) This is my entire occupation.” (William Carlos Williams, Paterson, p. 46).
Thank you to The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College for this award!
“Healing is a very simple thing – all you do is stop separating things – on whatever level the separation is occuring. Whether it is you viewing your body as separate from your mind or your spirit being separate from your mind, or you viewing yourself as separate from nature.” (David Kopacz)
I agree with Marianela – that whenever we talk – we could go on for 3 days! Such an interesting and heart-warming conversation! You can watch the video of the interview here.
Our next book has released! Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons for Children ages 10-100 is 130 pages of Joseph’s lessons for the people of the Earth. The book has 43 art works by Joseph and 14 photographs. We decided on the “ages 10-100” because we’ve also thought about writing a book for younger children. Also, this is our first book for children and it was challenging to bridge Joseph’s ideas and create a story that kids of all ages could enjoy.
Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) was born on the Southern Ute Reservation in 1935 and grew up at Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico. Joseph’s life took him across the country and around the world. After a vision in 1983, he built a Sound Peace Chamber, and then worked on building over 60 chambers around the world — leading to recognition by the United Nations for his work for world peace. Through his friend and co-author, David Kopacz MD, Joseph shares his life and lessons for people, young and old, growing through the transition from childhood into adulthood.
Joseph says that when he was sent to the Santa Fe Indian boarding school, they were trying to make American kids out of Indian kids, in this book, Joseph tells us, “I am trying to make Indian kids out of American kids.” Joseph passes on his wisdom and artwork to the next generations who will inherit the many problems that we have created in breaking the medicine wheel. Joseph tells us, “Let’s not leave the next generations in so much mystery about the physical and spiritual worlds. Let’s educate them from the beginning about the way of the shaman.” We are already born with everything we need, we just need to make sure that as we grow up, we don’t forget who we are.
Here are the generous endorsements we’ve received for the book:
In Becoming Who You Are, David Kopacz & Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), a Tiwa elder, have presented a series of marvelous stories for teenagers and young adults about how to become a human being. This is timely wisdom from Native America, and Joseph’s past, for an age in which the guidance is confusing and truth is optional. The stories help readers sort through the possibilities for who they will become, while learning about and valuing culture & diversity. They describe Joseph’s lessons learned from boarding school, World War II, Pueblo Ceremonies, life on the reservation, and the process of creating sound chambers on guidance from spirits. I heartily recommend it for readers of all ages. We all need the wisdom that David & Joseph offer us.
―LEWIS MEHL-MADRONA MD, PhD
Psychiatry Residency Training Director, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center Executive Director, Coyote Institute Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of New England Author, Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Narrative Medicine, and Healing the Mind through the Power of Story
Becoming Who You Are is a remarkable narrative that does not fall into prescribed categories—sharing Native American insights in an engaging and charming manner, always speaking to never down to kids as the rightful heirs to our planet. Joseph Rael and David Kopacz are healers and carriers of timeless wisdom working tirelessly for the betterment of life. They convey the becoming of being in lucid text combining autobiography, literature, ecology, spirituality, travelogue, history, magic and wisdom illuminated with beautiful art. Grounded, with shining optimism, this book meanders purposefully like a pure river sourced from a perennial spring of wisdom and will surely motivate kids to fall in love with the earth and—their own selves. In our ravaged age, the book reminds us of interconnectedness and that all that we need is—here—sacred and real—listen!
―USHA AKELLA MSt Co-founder of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective, Poet and Author, “I Thought a Thought,” Ek An English Musical on the life of Shirdi Sai Baba, The Way of the Storm: An English Musical on the life of Meera Bai, I Will Not Bear You Sons, The Waiting, and A Face that Does Not Bear the Footprints of the World
This story of two very different men with common visions, may serve as a guide for all who seek to continually learn about themselves through the lenses of their own history and the cultures of those around us.
―SHUYUN DAVID LO MD
Psychiatrist, University of California Santa Cruz Student Health Center
Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life and Lessons for Children by Joseph E. Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz MD is a book that shows us there are other important ways to teach that can speak to us all. Through storytelling, Beautiful Painted Arrow lays out many of life’s core values. We learn that the Tiwa word for God is Wah-Mah-Chi, which is also everything, and is the core to the love of learning which is the secret to being human. This lovely book is written for children, but the authors freely admit that it was written for those in the middle between the two worlds of childhood and adulthood, so it really applies to us all.
―BRADFORD FELKER MD
Psychiatrist, Seattle VA, Professor University of Washington, Captain United States Navy Reserve
As I read Becoming Who You Are, I envisioned myself sitting at the feet of an elder, asking him, “Tell me the story of your life―share your wisdom with me so that I may live it and one day share it with others.” Coming from years and years of Joseph’s sage wisdom and insights, this book is a beautiful invitation to not only learn, but also create your own story—through art, music, writing, reading—or however the spirit moves you.
―MAGDALINE DeSOUSA Author, The Forgotten Mourners: Sibling Survivors of Suicide, What’s Real, Mama?, What’s Brave, Mama?, and coming soon, What’s Wrong With My Family? Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home
The inspiring story and wise words of the elder, Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), speak to the heart of the child within all of us. His life’s journey and teachings give us hope for a better world, one where we live in peace and harmony with our fellow humans and the natural world.
—TWIN SISTERS, JANE LISTER REIS & MARGIE LISTER MUENZER co-authors of the children’s books, Si’ahl and the Council of Animals: A Story of Our Changing Climate for Children and Their Parents; Si’ahl & Friends Coloring and Activity Book; and Margie’s Nature’s Gifts: A Poetry Coloring Book.