Veterans, Vairagya & Vast Self

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I have a new essay out in the quarterly on-line magazine, The Badger. This essay looks at the state of vairagya from Hindu philosophy, similar to a state of non-attachment and compares this with the negative vairagya state that many Veterans have upon returning home – they feel disconnected and detached. I also add some perspectives from my ongoing work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and that is where his concept of Vast Self comes in.

This is a piece I had written for Walking the Medicine Wheel, but we had to cut it down quite a bit and I thought this piece was worth publishing. I particularly like the idea of a Veteran Monastery – a place for quiet contemplation, healing, and recovery!

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Here is the link to the article.

Finding the Held-Back Place of Goodness in the Broken Hearts of Veterans

Thanks to The Center for Courage & Renewal’s blog post about Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD that Joseph Rael and I wrote!

You can read the blog here. It is an excerpt from the book that I edited and includes some quotes by Parker Palmer about the two ways the heart can break: it can shatter – injuring self and others, or it can break open into greater goodness and compassion.

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Center of the Heart by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

Courage & Renewal tweeted about the blog: “David Kopacz (and Joseph Rael) unpack the #courage of our veterans through the lens of @Parker Palmer’s ‘broken-open heart.'”

 

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Warrior Healing by David Kopacz

A Review of Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience

A Review of Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience

By David H. Rosen and Uyen Bao Hoang

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This is a new and updated edition of Medicine as a Human Experience originally published in 1984 by David H. Rosen and David E. Reiser with two guest chapters by George L. Engel (one of the founders of the biopsychosocial model still taught in medical schools). As a disclosure, one of the current authors, Uyen, is a friend of mine whom I know through living and working in New Zealand.

This new edition features a foreword by Andrew Weil, MD, who puts the book in context within the current frameworks of the biopsychosocialspiritual model of medicine and integrative medicine. Dr. Weil writes that not only does Patient-Centered Medicine “define the role of health professionals in the new model of medicine that is coming into being, it gives a great deal of practical advice about the attitudes and skills they should develop to care best for patients” (ix).  The current edition includes Norman Cousins’ (author of Anatomy of an Illness and The Healing Heart) original foreword entitled “Physician as Humanist,” which invokes the framework of humanism as a partner or counter-balance to the technological and interventionist aspects of medicine. Cousins stresses the interconnectedness of science and humanism, ending with the statement, “I pray that, even as you attach the highest value to your science, you will never forget that it works best when it serves your humanity” (xvii).

The book next includes a prologue, written by Dr. Uyen B. Hoang. Uyen tells of her own path as a healer, as a Vietnamese-born American, training in medicine, going through burnout in the contemporary practice of psychiatry in the United States, and then moving to New Zealand to practice, “in search of something greater, on a quest for expansion and truth” (xxv). With honesty and integrity, Uyen brings her own personal experiences of medical practice to the book which bridges the thirty-some years since the book was first written. Dr. Rosen also shares personal elements of his own work and journey to humanize the more theoretical aspects of the text.

The text elaborates the four essential principles of medicine as a human experience: acceptance, empathy, conceptualization, and competence, stating that these are required to prepare physicians to be “compassionate champions for health” (4). The grounding of the book is in the frameworks of humanism and the psychotherapeutic understanding of human relationships. George Engel’s two chapters give us the opportunity to read, in his own words, the ideas of the founder of the biopsychosocial model. Throughout the book, Drs. Rosen and Hoang focus on the idea that there is no separation between the humanistic and scientific approaches. Rather than a duality between the art and science of medicine, they offer the perspective that the therapeutic relationship is rooted in the human science of presence and connected observation.

What could be improved in this book for the next edition? I think the authors do a good job of retaining the focus of the original and updating it to the present times. I think a larger discussion of what is now called the biopsychosocialspiritual model that Dr. Weil mentions in his foreword could be helpful. Another area to consider is the work on compassion-based practices as an antidote to burnout. These elements are present in the book, but could be further developed. That said, this book easily joins the work of other healers such as Robin Youngson, Tony Fernando, Allan D. Peterkin, Andrew Weil, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, and the late Lee Lipsenthal who have been engaged in what I call the compassion revolution in medicine.

Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience gives the reader a great overview of biopsychosocial, humanist and psychotherapeutic perspectives of human interconnection and inter-relatedness. It combines the enthusiasm of the younger psychiatrist with the wisdom of the older psychiatrist in order to guide students, doctors, nurses, and clinicians through training and into practice. Patient-Centered Medicine is also a source of renewal for practicing doctors and clinicians, reminding us all why we went into medicine and health care in the first place.  Drs. Rosen and Hoang close with the following sentences: “We must encourage introspection, healthy relationships, play, openness, and joyous, creative expression. We must spawn a generation of doctors who are not afraid to love” (142).

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David H. Rosen and Uyen Bao Hoang

 

 

New Article in “The Badger”

“The End of E pluribus unum?

The De-evolution of “Out of Many, One” to ME First!”

My new article in The Badger examines the national and international movements away from seeing all people as interconnected (as One) to the separation of nationalism, racism, and xenophobia (fear of the “other”). The motto of the United States on the Great Seal is e pluribus unum, which means “out of many, one.” However, more and more, we are seeing an attitude of “ME first” which promotes bullying and selfishness above our motto of seeing unity within diversity.

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Spirituality Today Book of the Month: Walking the Medicine Wheel

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Spirituality Today has selected our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, as Book of the Month!

Spirituality Today is based in the UK and focuses on “Challenging Paradigms and Expanding Consciousness.”

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You can read the full review of the book at this link.

Excerpts from the Spirituality Today review.

In Walking the Medicine Wheel its authors offer an approach to repairing the shattered psyches of PTSD suffers through a number of different healing modalities. These are essentially anchored within and around the mandala of the Medicine Wheel of Native American Tradition – a map through which initiates can more closely understand and appreciate mankind’s relationship with those natural forces that permeate through the world of spirit and the psyche of man.

This framework is remarkably similar to many Western psycho-spiritual constructs and has a particular resonance with ideas expressed by Carl Jung in his philosophy of personal individuation. Here the concepts of the Four Directions within Native philosophy and the Four Functions in Jungian analysis merge and complement each other.

…within the pages of this book such sufferers may well discover a vitally important lifeline…the ideas presented here should demonstrate to everyone that opportunities for personal growth can emerge even from the darkest recesses of the sort of fractured mindset that trauma creates.

This book has been beautifully produced and has a real quality feel to it. The inclusion of the remarkable visionary artwork of Native American Joseph Rael has resulted in a publication that carries with it an energy that stimulates the soul of its reader along the way.

…a publication with a warm heart – one that beats loud and clear from within its pages and which I feel reaches out to those suffering in pain and torment as a result of the nightmares derived from their military service.

In short, Walking the Medicine Wheel is a remarkable and highly impressive collaboration between two insightful, spiritual-warriors ― two hardened veterans of front-line psycho-spiritual conflicts whose combined approach to the challenge of trauma has created a deeply moving and very humbling publication indeed.

Thanks Spirituality Today for the review!

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Link to our videos on Walking the Medicine Website.

 

Search for Meaning Book Festival

Yesterday was the 3rd Search for Meaning Book Festival since moving to Seattle. This is put on yearly by Seattle University and every year I learn about fantastic authors and have met amazing people.

I was getting ready to go in to see artist and author Salma Kamlesh Arastu’s talk on “Seeking Oneness,” when my friend and co-author, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), called me with a couple of ideas and visions for our next book, Becoming Medicine.  In one of the visions, Joseph said he saw Picuris Pueblo, where he grew up, but instead of houses, there was mist, and then cosmic beings came to him and said, “You are a Mist-ical Being, you are now responsible for the mist-eries we are bringing to the people.” He explained that people should be respected as they get older because they hold the past – however the older you get the more spiritual responsibility you have as well. What he said this vision showed him was that there is a parallel reality to this one because as the mist cleared, he could see the houses at Picuris, but that there was an exact copy of the village up above the village. He said the people in both villages go about their days without awareness of those living just above/below the reality that they are living. Joseph often tells me that we should be always seeking our Higher Goodness and I wonder if this is part of what this vision means, that there is a way for us to live that has more Higher Goodness in it than the way that we are now living.

Anyway…I told Joseph, I better getting going to this lecture, it is on Seeking Oneness and if there is only One, I’m not sure what I’ll get if I am late – maybe just 0.95, that’s not the same as Oneness. We both had a good laugh at that and I went into the lecture.

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Salma Kamlesh Arastu is an amazing artist and an embodiment of Higher Goodness! She spoke of her artist’s journey from her work with Embracing All in the Rhythm of the Lyrical Line, to her Celebration of Calligraphy, her work with Turning Rumi, and most recently her Unity of Sacred Symbols and Texts and Unity Mandalas.

She said in her talk, “I speak the Language of the Heart and I know we all speak the Language of the Heart.” She briefly spoke of her journey in the world, from her birth in India into the Sindi.Hindu tradition, to her life in Iran and Kuwait, her marriage and embrace of Islam, to now living in Berkeley, California where she has her studio.

Her art journey started with loopy, calligraphy-like paintings of people, a style shown above. Her first art book, The Lyrical Line, illustrates her work from 1998 – 2008.

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She said she also started to copy Arabic calligraphy, marveling in its beauty without knowing the meaning of the words and this led to the collection in her book, Celebration of Calligraphy.

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Her next evolution in her work happened when she began turning through the pages of the poet, Rumi, and she created a series of paintings that were inspired by lines from Rumi. She also has been inspired by the Hindu saint and ecstatic, bhakti poet, Meera Bai. Her book, Turning Rumi: Singing Verses of Love, Unity, and Freedom collects her work of this period.

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Her most recent work has been to seek the unity in the world religions and to capture their words and truth in written words over beautiful multi-dimensional paintings. She says paints the same words over and over again, using thinned acrylic paint to create a multi-dimensional image. “Each prayer that I paint, over and over again,” she says, “is like a healing for me.” This has led to her book, Unity of Sacred Symbols and Texts.

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Verses About the Oneness of God

Salma said that as a child, her mother would tell her, “You are created for a special reason – it is up to you to find out what it is.” Salma Kamlesh Arastu’s artwork reveals that special reason that she was created.

Please visit Salma’s website and look through her beautiful artwork.

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The next talk I went to was by Corinna Nicolaou titled A None’s Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism & Islam, which is also the title of her book. “Nones” she says, are the fastest growing self-reported religious affiliation. This is the group of people who do not identify with a particular religious affiliation. However, this does not mean that they are not spiritual or do not pray or even believe in God. She says that Nones are different than Atheists, by ticking the box of “none” for religious affiliation, they are more rejecting organized religion than spirituality or God. She cites research from the Pew Research Center that 30% of people under the age 30 report no religious affiliation. She quotes Putnam and Campbell, from their book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, that Nones distance themselves from religion because “they think of religious people as hypocritical, judgmental, or insincere.”

She writes that she started her quest through “a desperate search for the bits and pieces that might make my pot whole,” (A None’s Story, oo5). With a sense of humor and the spirit of a true seeker, Corinna Nicolaou embarks on a four-year journey of church, temple, and mosque attendance, seeking to learn from the inside what each of these religions has to offer and to teach. In her talk, she said that “Religions provide a space to ask the questions about living and dying.” In her book she concludes “No matter what religious road I was on, it seemed to lead back to the idea that we come from, and eventually return to, a common source. We are parts of a whole. We can be different and still make up a healthy totality. I had long ago given up trying to make sense of how I might define ‘God.’ I figured God was too complex a concept and could be imagined a number of ways. I was driving in my car one afternoon not even thinking about any of this stuff when these words popped into my head: God is that which unites us all…I suppose that’s the best definition I’ll ever have of God,” (266).

A person in the audience at the talk asked about the loneliness of not belonging to a particular religious community. Corrina Nicolaou spoke to this and it sparked a question of my own that I wrote in my notebook, “What to do when no one religion feels like home, but all do?” In her book she writes about this. “To commit to none, but to call on all: what would that look like on day-to-day practical terms? With no official place of worship to call home, my spiritual practices will be mostly self-guided,” (283). She jokes about making the rounds of religious places of worship again, “A-to-Z,” and that she could “draw the boundaries of my spiritual identity ever larger” (285).

I kept looking at the back inside cover of the dust jacket. It is an irregular circle with colors of blue, red, yellow, and green in it. I thought, “Why is it irregular?” “Why this little splotch of splashed colors?” Ahh, I get it, the front cover of her book has four separate colors of circles and the one circle at the back brings together her journey into one mulit-colored circle, a little lop-sided, because we are not perfect and the journey is never over. Oh, yes, and I see that her name is written in four different colored letters! Beautiful, that visually sums up the journey!

Oh, yes, and one more thing, the talk that Corrina Nicolaou gave was in the Vachon Gallery at Seattle University and hanging behind her is a beautiful painting by Salma Kamlesh Arastu called “Equal Rewards.” I asked Salma, later, what the name of this painting was and she said, “Equal Rewards – men and women get equal rewards.” I think this applies to all seekers as well, no matter where you are seeking, you will get equal rewards because the reward does not come from the place you are seeking, but it comes from the journey of seeking and it is spoken, whispered to you, in the Language of the Heart.

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One last thing to mention, at both these talks I spoke with another audience member afterwards. Angie Louthan is quitting her job as a pre-school teacher in order to bring into existence The Kind Fest. You can contact her at: AngieLouthan@gmail.com, website still under construction for the event.

She is planning to host it in Everett, Washington in September. I think this is a much-needed event to focus on manifesting kindness in these times. I wrote about the Compassion Revolution in health care in the past and I am very concerned about the hardening of the American heart and the deafening of American ears so that it is harder and harder to hear what Salma Arastu calls the Language of the Heart. Actually, on the way to the Search for Meaning Book Festival, I had seen a yard sign in our neighborhood:

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Making a Choice for Peace & Truth

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Lately it can feel like Peace & Truth are being eclipsed, that they are in danger of being crushed by separation, division, and the darkness of untruth and un-peace. I have been thinking a lot about choices that we all make as individuals and collectively and how those choices can be made from a place of self-centeredness or a place of interconnectedness. I have thought a lot about my social media and on-line presence. On the one hand I am an author of a book on self-care for clinicians (Re-humanizing Medicine) and a book on healing trauma and PTSD for veterans (Walking the Medicine Wheel). However, on the other hand, I see myself my work as being an advocate for human rights and for peace – these are the larger principles that my work with the specific books grows out of. I don’t want to contribute to further divisiveness in the world by expressing partisan viewpoints. I also don’t want to alienate my readers who hold a different political viewpoint than I do. My political viewpoint is not an end in itself, rather it is the best choice of alternative options given my larger and deeper conviction around peace and universal human rights. I come to the conclusion that when peace and human rights are threatened, it is my responsibility, in keeping with my larger and deeper principles, that I need to speak up. Choosing sides between political parties is not my purpose or intent, rather I am speaking up in favor of Peace & Truth, and speaking out about the abuses and manipulations of un-peace and un-truth (which might be more grammatically correct to say war/conflict and lies). Therefore, I will be writing about political topics when they are a threat to Peace & Truth.

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I have been working with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) who is an international advocate for peace through his vision of the Peace Chambers and his work to bring his vision into reality in the Americas, Europe, and Australia where these chambers have been built. I just spent a weekend visiting Joseph and we took a road trip across the high desert of New Mexico. We crossed the continental divide – that place where the waters fall either to the east or to the west, depending on which side of the divide they are on. The health and prosperity of the country depends on waters flowing both to the east or to the west. We have this continental divide in our country and we are continually called to try to “form a more perfect union” of the two sides of our country. There is an imbalance in the country if goodness only flows in one direction. There is a loss of peace when a “Me First” mentality tries to take things from others and tries to divide and separate the parts from the larger connection to the whole. The motto of the United States is e plurbus unum and this means “out of many, one.”

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After my visit with Joseph I stopped at Petroglyph National Monument and walked around looking at all the different petroglyphs, estimated to date back 400-700 years per the park brochure. These different symbols and images were made by human hands and they still speak after hundreds of years, although we do not always know what they are saying. What I heard them saying was a reminder about our interconnection to each other and to the world around us. As I walked south, the Sandia Mountain was off to the east in the distance and I walked along a smaller ridge to the west covered with boulders which were in turn covered with these drawings of human beings long dead who were still speaking if we would listen. I heard about the interconnection of east and west. Joseph says that the east is our mental dimension and the west is our physical dimension. I could hear how the petroglyphs spoke out to and witnessed the rising sun and I could feel the correspondence between this small ridge and the larger Sandia.

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Sandia Mountain, looking east, note the cloud figure. 

As I was going through the photos I saw the similarity between the cloud figure (above) and the petroglyph (below). Although I cannot tell you everything the cloud and stone were saying to each other, I can tell you it is ancient and it is about interconnection and our place in the world relative to all of our brothers and sisters, which includes not just all of our human brothers and sisters, but our brothers and sisters of the plants, animals, stones, and clouds. It is an echo of the dialogue between Father Sky and Mother Earth. It is a sacred song, a sacred story, and we would do well to listen to it.

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First I walked from the spiritual north to the emotional south, as I walked this path, a road runner was scooting about in the brush. Eventually, I lost track of it, then heard it calling, perched up above on the rocks, silhouetted by the brilliant blue sky.

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Joseph Rael describes the road from the north to the south as the “red road.” This balances out our usual black  road connecting our thoughts and the physical world (which we so often manifest through black top roads across our country). A little bird hopped around in the scrub to the east while the road runner called from the west.

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I was particularly looking for a rock that had a number of hands carved on it.  Joseph says that we are all “holy beings.” He says that when he was growing up on Picuris Pueblo, he was taught that all children were cosmic beings. An elder would talk about the stars in the sky and the sand grains on the ground and tell the children that they are cosmic beings, that they are the grains of sand just as they are also the stars in the sky – the children were taught that they were “cosmic beings” who were related to the earth and the sky.

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I turned back around and started walking south to north. Now there were two road runners rushing about in the brush. Seeing a road runner is supposed to be good luck, and here were two of them running back and forth the path in front of me.

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It was getting close to time for me to head home. Joseph says that in the Tiwa language, the meaning of the word “home” is “the self-loving place.” How well are we loving ourselves – not selfishly, but selflessly, loving ourselves in a way that includes love for our human brothers and sisters, for our animal and bird brothers and sisters, for the stones who are our brothers and sisters, and for the Earth and Sky which are our parents? I can’t comprehend the current policies of the United States which seem more like the Divided States, that seems to value separation and division over unity, that seems to value conflict and threat over Peace, and that seems to value “alternative facts” over Truth. Joseph will often joke that people call him a shaman and he will say, “I don’t know about that, I just work here.” I guess that is the approach I am taking – I don’t understand why there is such an appeal in the United States for bullying, divisiveness, and conflict, but “I just work here,” and my job is to be seeking Peace & Truth. My job is to be speaking Peace & Truth. My job is to be walking Peace & Truth.

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The End of E plurbus Unum? The De-evolution from “Out of Many, One” to ME First

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By U.S. Government – Extracted from PDF version of Our Flag, available here (direct PDF URL here.), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41373752 

The motto of the United States is E plurbus unum, which is Latin for “Out of many, one.” Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have written about the importance of this motto in our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. This motto is of crucial importance for helping veterans return home after war and reconnect to their own hearts and to society, which is why Joseph and I wrote about it, but it is also crucial for all of us and the very fabric of democracy. Veterans were trained to view other human beings as “the enemy” and this sense of separation is what makes violence possible. It is this sense of separation that makes violence continue and it is the opposite of peace. There cannot be peace when others are seen as separate. There cannot be peace when people are viewed as “others.”  “The heart of violence is the divided and separated heart,” we write, the heart of violence is “the heart that cannot see other hearts as interrelated and interconnected.”

Violence has its roots in the false idea of separation. Physically we appear separate, but even physically we are in a complex web of life with animals, plants, and the earth. When we begin to speak about human realities beyond the physical: emotion, heart, intuition, and spirit, the idea of ourselves as separate beings no longer makes sense. One can only be violent against someone or something seen as “other” (Kopacz & Rael, Walking the Medicine Wheel, 214).

Currently in the world, we are seeing more division and separation than coming together in unity. The ban on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering our Nation of Immigrants is the latest and most extreme example of this. This breaks my heart and it breaks the heart of democracy. I worry for the future because, through my work with Joseph, I know that peace depends upon unity and that the current mania for separation and division is very dangerous. The rise of nationalism has historically been associated with violence for the very fact that an over-emphasis on “me first” leads to seeing “others” as getting in my way. We teach our little children, “Don’t rush to the front of the line, don’t push others aside.” We teach our children to respect others, and yet respect has been one of the first casualties in the current national and world-wide Me First Movement. In a very, very short time, the public dialogue has shifted so far toward disrespect and hatefulness that people feel justified in hate speech and separation speech.

We are seeing the rise of nationalism world-wide: Brexit, throughout Europe, the Philippines, the United States, Russia, and within the European Union. Nationalism very easily leads to violence against “others” and once the mad dog of nationalism is let off leash, even a country’s own people can all too easily be labeled as “others.”

Our institutions of unity and collectivism are being seen as obsolete, holding us back, ineffective. The institution of democracy, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union―these are the organizations that we have created to moderate human selfishness in order to promote peace and equality. Parker Palmer, in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, writes that democracy is one of the ways that we, as human beings, seek to civilize ourselves. Palmer sees democracy as one of our best tools of civilization and that these tools “constitute the core self-hood called the human heart” (Palmer, 81).

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive―and we are legion―the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life and for our nation. (Palmer, 10).

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How much are we the people of the United States of America making decisions from the heart? To what extent are our current elected officials leading from the heart? What will happen to us if we give up on unity, if we glorify everything falling apart? Louis Ferdinand Céline, writing about World War I, wrote that people had become “madder than mad dogs” because dogs don’t worship their madness.

Could I, I thought, be the last coward on earth? How terrifying! … All alone with two million stark raving heroic madmen, armed to the eyeballs? With and without helmets, without horses, on motorcycles, bellowing, in cars, screeching, shooting, plotting, flying, kneeling, digging, taking cover, bounding over trails, root-toot-tooting, shut up on earth as if it were a loony bin ready to demolish everything on it, Germany, France, whole continents, everything that breathes, destroy, destroy,  madder than mad dogs, worshipping their madness (which dogs don’t) a hundred, a thousand times madder than a thousand dogs, and a lot more vicious! A pretty mess we’re in! (Céline, Journey to the End of the Night).

Céline bore witness to the brutality of World War I and he calls himself a “coward” because he doesn’t want to join in the blood bath of killing “others.” However, non-violence has been raised to a spiritual virtue and political power by people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. (Céline did succumb to his own madness and cowardice in turning against the Jewish people in the lead-up to World War II, and citing him here in regard to World War I in no way condones his later anti-Semitism). I choose to quote Céline because his phrase “madder than mad dogs, worshipping their madness (which dogs don’t)” keeps echoing in my mind this past week. There is something very scary about a strain of U.S. politics that is worshipping madness, division, and hatred. This is happening in the United States of America―right now, yet it has roots going back over the past decades, and honestly back to the history of the European colonization of this land.

Going back to the early days of the U.S. “war on terror,” journalist, Andrew Cohen, wrote “Our journey toward Abu Ghraib began in earnest with a single document — written and signed without the knowledge of the American people” (The Atlantic, “The Torture Memos, 10 Years Later,” February 6, 2012). Cohen continues:

On February 7, 2002 — ten years ago to the day, tomorrow — President George W. Bush signed a brief memorandum titled “Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees.” The caption was a cruel irony, an Orwellian bit of business, because what the memo authorized and directed was the formal abandonment of America’s commitment to key provisions of the Geneva Convention. This was the day, a milestone on the road to Abu Ghraib: that marked our descent into torture — the day, many would still say, that we lost part of our soul.

White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales wrote that the Geneva Conventions should not restrain the United States any longer in how we treat prisoners. “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions,” he wrote. I remember this as a very disturbing philosophical position our government took as it eroded the work of many countries and peoples work to prevent war crimes. When we stop appealing to our higher humanity and to our collective sense of ourselves as brothers and sisters―even while temporarily enemies―we not only take away what makes others human, but we lose our humanity as well. This is because humanity is a two-way street of interaction and of unity. Humanity is a state of being and when we take away this human state of being from others (whether they be Muslims, women, African-Americans, American Indians, people with different sexual orientations or identities, or anyone who disagrees with us), we lose our own humanity as well and we risk becoming mad dogs worshipping our madness as we have let ourselves of the leash of humanity. It is difficult to understand the current anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. because anyone who is not a full-blooded American Indian is an immigrant to the United States. The current president of the United States is an immigrant, as are most of us who have come together as one people in the United States.

It breaks my heart to see the people of the world turn our backs on the institutions we have worked so hard to create that call forth our higher humanity and work to promote peace. What we are witnessing is a kind of war of the many against the One. This break-down of our sense of shared humanity paves the way for dangerous economic and social policies and paves the way for violence against “others” whose humanity we have taken away, thereby losing our own humanity.

One of our primary global institutions of peace is the United Nations. The United Nations includes 193 states and serves as the earth’s only inclusive organization that promotes peace between countries and condemns violence. The newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley threatened the organization in her first speech, saying that “we are taking names” and repeating that “this is a time of strength” (Somini Senguptajan, “Nikki Haley Puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. Is ‘Taking Names,’” The New York Times online, January 27, 2017). The speeches and positions coming out of the current administration sound more like those of school-yard bullies than of elected democratic officials. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength,” this motto of George Orwell’s dystopian society in his book, 1984, warns us about the kind of rhetoric we are now hearing from the Nation of Immigrants. The ME First Movement does not play well with others and it distorts facts and reality to suit its needs.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) was recognized by the United Nations in a 2/20/89 letter for his work promoting peace through building Peace Chambers on four different continents. What Joseph has taught me is that the work of peace is spiritual work, and spiritual work is what makes us true human beings. Peace requires us to be seekers of our common goodness, our common shared humanity. The place that we find this common goodness and unity is in our hearts.

If we remember E pluribus unum on the Great Seal of the United States, we will remember that we are called to work toward an ideal that moves us from our many individual identities into a larger Union. E pluribus unum is Latin for “Out of many, one.” This identity is not just the social body of peacemakers, it is also the mystical and spiritual identity of visionaries and mystics. This is the realm of unity that Joseph is familiar with as a visionary and healer, (Kopacz & Rael, 215).

If we focus on separation and division, we not only destroy peace, we promote violence. This is why Joseph and I say that we all must move from seeing each other as “other” and move toward seeing each other as brother and sister.

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Walking the Medicine Wheel selected as one of Courage & Renewal’s Favorite Courageous Books of 2016!

It has been a busy couple of months with the book launch, with the biggest news being that Walking the Medicine Wheel was selected as one of Courage & Renewal’s Favorite Courageous Books of 2016!

I did a book event at University of Washington Bookstore on 12/7/16.

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Joseph and I did a book reading at BookWorks in Albuquerque, New Mexico  11/10/16 and that was great fun presenting together!

I presented at the 3rd annual Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine Symposium with the title, “Walking the Medicine Wheel & the Hero’s Journey: Models of Initiation for Veterans’ Homecoming.” This was on 11/4/16 and I really enjoyed it and I met some great people with good hearts. For instance, I met artist Richard Retter who led us in some creative painting exercises.

I also found a statue outside in the desert garden called, “Transformations of the Shaman.”

In Albuquerque I met a Dine (Navajo) Code talker and visited the small Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe that had a stained glass moon phase calendar.

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The last big news is that I have a new addition to my job. I have a one day a week appointment at the VA as a Whole Health Education Champion, which will mean I will be conducting training in the larger VA with the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. I am very excited about this opportunity!

Becoming Medicine in The Badger

The Badger is an on-line magazine on spirituality and the arts out of Italy published by Antonella Vicini. Antonella has worked with Joseph Rael in the past and I will be writing a quarterly column in the magazine under the title, “Becoming Medicine.”

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Click on the Badger link to check out the column which talks about how Joseph and I met and came to write our first book together, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD.