Photo of Dacotah Building published in MNopedia Article

In 2013 I visited my sister in St. Paul, Minnesota and we made a bit of a literary tour, stopping at bookstores and also W. A. Frost where a young F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented when he was growing up in the neighborhood. W. A. Frost is in the historic Dacotah Building, built in 1889. I took a few photos and posted them in my blog, “A Literary Tour of St. Paul, Minnesota,” and MNopedia liked one of them and used it for their article on the Dacotah Building.

You can follow the link to the MNopedia article.

Here is my photo that was published with the article:

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Here are a couple other photos of the building:

Link to my original blog post from 25, May, 2013, “A Literary Tour of St. Paul Minnesota.”

“Coming Home to Peace” excerpt from Walking the Medicine Wheel published in Parabola Magazine, Fall 2018

Parabola Magazine has just published an abridged version of the “Coming Home to Peace” chapter from the book that Joseph Rael and I wrote, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD.

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I am so excited and honored that our work is being featured in this great magazine. I first read Parabola when I was in college. It is the journal of The Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition and always has great features on topics around “the search for meaning,” with past contributors including Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and Jacob Needleman. This current issue revolves around “The Journey Home,” and it is fitting to have our piece on the struggle of veterans to find their way home after military service. This issue features Parker Palmer, whose Center for Courage and Renewal has recognized my last two books as selections of their most courageous books of 2014 and 2016. I have also written guest blogs for their organization: “Recovering Hope, Poetry, and Connection in Health Care” and “Finding the Held-back Place of Goodness in the Broken Hearts of Veterans.” It is great to see Joseph’s and my work sharing space in Parabola with an excerpt from Parker Palmer’s new book, The Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old. Another author I have great respect for is featured in this issue, Kabir Helminski, with an excerpt from his book, Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation & the Challenge of Our Time. Peter Kingsley, author of Reality and A Story Waiting to Pierce You, has also been interviewed by Parabola in the past.

How exciting and rewarding it is to have Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD – this work of the heart that Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have done together – honored in this way, being published in a magazine that has inspired me since my days in college.

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I am also happy that we are able to promote the work of so many others in this Parabola essay. Ed Tick, John Wesley Fischer, Jonathan Shay, Bryan Doerries, Claude Anshin Thomas, Judith Herman, and Robert Jay Lifton are all cited and credited for their work. I am also happy that Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre, where I worked in New Zealand, is mentioned in the piece, as that is a place very dear to my heart.

Here is a quote from the article:

“We can assist returning veterans through creating an initiation and rehabilitation framework. In essence, we as a society, need to have some framework for accepting, understanding, and transforming veterans’ pain. Transformation means that we take something that exists in one state and transform it into another state. For instance, wee take something that is manifesting its energy in a ‘negative’ way and transform it so that it manifests in a positive way,” (Parabola, 88).

I wish we had a little more of Joseph’s words in this piece, but this was a section putting our work in the context of the work of others. Joseph says that we need to help veterans find the “held-back place of goodness” in their hearts. If you want to hear Joseph in his own words, you can watch one of the videos on the website for Walking the Medicine Wheel.

The Parabola editors choose one of our paintings from the book for the article. The painting below is my rendition of Joseph’s medicine wheel that I added some universal spiritual symbols to in the center.

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Cosmic Medicine Wheel, David R. Kopacz, © 2016

This issue of Parabola is not out on the newsstand yet, but you can see the cover and some of the current issue on their website and it should be on the newsstand soon!

 

 

Reading in Iceland

It is said that 1 in 10 people in Iceland will publish a book. The everlasting daylight of summer gives way to cold and darkness in the winter where people must get creative to occupy themselves. (There is also a high percentage of musicians in Iceland). Reykjavík has a lot of bookstores and there are many Icelandic authors – about half the books are in English and half in Icelandic in the stores.

I have long wanted to go to Iceland – something about the natural beauty, and maybe the creativity goes along with that in some way. In planning the trip, I had been more aware of my Welsh ancestry, but I do have a small percentage of Scandinavian DNA, 3% by Ancestry.com estimates. Maybe this was through various ancient European migrations, more recent linkages through my father’s Polish side (where we cannot get back much more than my Great Great grandparents who immigrated to the USA), or perhaps most likely through Viking raids into Britain (my mom has a surprisingly high percentage of Scandinavian DNA).

I walked through several bookstores, looking to pick up a book by an Icelandic author. Laxness novels were well represented, but what caught my eye was a trilogy by Jón Kalman Stefánsson and these books accompanied me throughout our journeys in Iceland, on the 8 hour plane flight back to Seattle, and for my first week back in the States as I finished reading them. I liked them so much that I will provide a short review of the books (possibly giving away a little bit of plot), or maybe just list a few of my favourite quotes. Not only were they great books that I found very gripping, but also, perhaps one gets a bit more of a feel for a culture reading its literature and going into the inner psychological and narrative realms, in addition to moving through the beautiful and awesome landscapes.

The weather was very nice when we were in Iceland, but internally I was whipped by the cold sea water and snow and ice of Iceland winter as I read Kalman’s books. Death, life, poetry, the life and death demands of writing and reading, the struggle to find home, to find identity, and the struggle of creatives to find a place in society that often did not provide a place for creativity are some of the themes of these books: Heaven and Hell; The Sorrow of Angels; and The Heart of Man.

 

Heaven and Hell

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Our words are a kind of rescue team on a relentless mission to save past events and extinguished lives from the black hole of oblivion, and that is no easy task; along the way they are welcome to find some answers, then get us out of here before it is too late. Let this suffice for now, we’ll send the words on to you, those bewildered, scattered rescue teams unsure of their task, all compasses broken, maps torn or out of date, yet you should welcome them. Then we shall see what happens,” (3).

Thus begins the book which follows “the boy” (no name is given which makes him a kind of everyman/everyperson). He has lost everyone he cared about in his life. Father drowned at sea, he and his brother fostered out to homes in other villages. He receives letters from his mother, until she and his young sister die of illness. His mother wrote him about her and his father’s passion for books and reading.

We thought continuously about books, about being educated, became fervent, frantic, if we heard of some new interesting book, imagined what it might be like, spoke about its possible contents in the evenings, after you’d gone to bed. And later we’d read it in turns, or together, when and if we managed to get hold of it, or a handwritten copy of it,” (34).

The boy is befriended by Bárður, another lover of books, and they work on fishing boats, out in the sea, fishing for cod. One early morning they are preparing for sea. Bárður goes back to the house to read through some lines of Paradise Lost, to read to the boy and savour when they are out at sea with the crew in the small sixareen. Bárður remembers the poetry, but he forgets to bring his waterproof coat and a sudden winter storm lashes down upon the crew while they are pulling up their lines.

Bárður had taken the boy to the village to visit an old blind sea captain, blind like Milton was when he dictated Paradise Lost. Kolbeinn, the blind captain says to Bárður, “you see…it will change your life, which could certainly use a change,” (55). The book does certainly prove to change Bárður’s life. As they row out to sea, Bárður is thinking about the lines from Paradise Lost. Kalman doesn’t bother setting off quotes when someone is talking or reciting lines of poetry, it all runs together without clear separation of inner and outer.

“Bárður pants and mumbles something, in snatches of the strain…cowl casts…colour of dusk. All of their hearts beat fast. The heart is a muscle that pumps blood, the abode of pain, loneliness, joy, the one muscle that can keep us awake at night,” (50).

When the rain and snow starts, Bárður realizes he does not have his waterproof.

“Damned waterproof, I forgot it, and Bárður curses more, he curses having focused unnecessarily on memorizing lines from Paradise Lost, so focused that he forgot his waterproof…This is what poems can do to us,” (60).

It begins to become clear, quite quickly, that Bárður’s life is in danger. Their captain, a man of few words, begins to chant. He goes through a kind of shamanic transformation – such is the power of words when they are forged deep within the center of being. Words have an energy and his chants begin to build up heat as he recites the only poems he knows, at first about heroism on the sea, but eventually obscene verses. As the heat builds, perhaps the heat of these words can save him from the foolishness fix that carrying poetry rather than a waterproof have gotten him into…

“The verses gush out of him. As if to exorcise the arctic cold itself. The verses become steadily more raw, more violent, and Pétur is transformed. He is no longer a silent, serious skipper, the workhorse, something ancient and dark awakens in him, this is no longer poetry that wells up from within him, poetry is for laggards and schoolmen, this is a primitive force, a language with deep roots in a dim subconscious, sprung from a harsh life and ever present death. Pétur grows burning hot and he rocks rhythmically on the thwart, slaps his hands now and then on his thigh when the rhyming words become so heavy that it is difficult for the human body to handle them, because the human body is delicate, it cannot bear the impact of large rocks, cannot bear avalanches, the stinging cold, cannot endure loneliness, cannot endure rhyming words heavy with antiquity, saturated with lust, and this is why Pétur slaps his thigh, to bring words forth, and the five men start in surprise, everyone bound by this primitive power streaming from their skipper…Pétur has taken off his sou’wester, he has been sweating,” (63-64).

Maybe this ancient force of words that has awakened from deep within the skipper can save Bárður, but alas, a doubt arises in Pétur’s mind, in his heart, and the words sputter to a halt and Bárður murmurs

“nothing is sweet to me, without thee, mumbles Bárður, the line of poetry written in the letter Bárður finished last evening, addressed to Sigriður… (71)…Bárður always went out at 8.00 to gaze at the moon and at the same time Sigriður watched as well, there were mountains and distances between them but their eyes met on the moon, precisely as the eyes of lovers have done since the beginning of time, and that is why the moon was placed in the sky,” (103-104).

Bárður freezes to death and dies in the boat before they get to shore and the boy has lost his anchor to this world again.

“Some poems take us places where no words reach, no thought, they take you up to the core itself, life stops for one moment and becomes beautiful, it becomes clear with regret and happiness. Some poems change the day, the night, your life. Some poems make you forget your waterproof, the frost comes to you, says, got you, and you’re dead,” (85).

The boy is driftless, without purpose, without connection to the social world. He decides he will kill himself, but first he needs to return the copy of Paradise Lost that Bárður borrowed from the blind sea captain, Kolbeinn. This book that caused the death of his friend becomes the thing that keeps him alive, at least until he can return it. He struggles over mountain and snow. Returns the book, but rather than kill himself he is taken in by a group of intellectuals, misfits, and very interesting people who live on the fringe of society. Like a band of punk rockers, they find companionship through the thing they have in common: not fitting into society.

One person he met had studied and journeyed abroad and was a reader of books:

“He’d been in the habit for many years of making long journeys, most often abroad, since there is nothing to see in Iceland except mountains, waterfalls, tussocks and this light that can pass through you and turn you into a poet,” (118).

I thought this line was quite interesting – the very reason that someone might have wanted to leave Iceland to see the world is now the very reason that so many tourists journey to Iceland: to see “mountains, waterfalls, tussocks.” I’m not sure if many of the tourists who venture through Iceland on guided tours notice “the light that can pass through you and turn you into a poet.” But maybe that explains why so many Icelanders become writers – this light that is turning them all into poets, poets, who, like all poets, have no choice but to let lose their words upon the world.

“But why tell you these stories?

What terrifying powers, other than despair, fling us over the Unnameable in order to tell you stories of extinguished lives?

 Our words are confused rescue teams with obsolete maps and birdsong in place of compasses. Confused and profoundly lost, yet their job is to save the world, save extinguished lives, save you and then hopefully us as well,” (95).

I won’t tell you the rest of the book and neither will I tell you more of the plot in the next two books, but I will share a few more quotes from the next two books.

 

The Sorrow of Angels

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Our movements may be uncertain, hesitant, but our goal is clear ― to save the world. Save you and ourselves with these stories, these snippets from poems and dreams that sank long ago into oblivion. We’re in a leaky rowing boat with a rotten net and we’re going to catch stars,” (10).

The book starts with what sounds like the dead speaking from beyond the grave, or maybe it is all the Writers in the world speaking out to all the Readers. The book has more harrowing journeys over snow and blizzards and sea. This book continues the theme of those creatives who have to write, who have to question the meaning and value of what is given them in this world and in the social structures.

“He who stays up too late is poorly fit for the next day’s work, but he who doesn’t follow his dreams loses his heart,” (24).

I will just provide one other quote from this book and we will skip the plot:

“Of what other use is poetry unless it has the power to change fate?” (26).

 

The Heart of Man

The Heart of Man

“Where do dreams end, where does reality begin? Dreams come from within, they trickle in from the world that we all have inside us, possibly distorted, but what isn’t distorted, what isn’t dented?” (9).”

This book continues on these themes of inner and outer reality,  of what is created and what exists, of the inner movements of the heart against the struggles against the background of the social and physical landscapes. The boy is growing up. As I read these books I’m reminded of Dostoevsky, Camus, Kafka, but there is a bit of playfulness here along with a struggle against ending up bitter, like Louis Ferdinand-Céline if he had remained a poet and social critic and had not become a nihilist and anti-Semite. Kalman has elements of Existentialism, but he has hope, hope that the poets words can be rescue teams, search parties, that they can somehow find and redeem the heart of humanity.

“A nation that translates little, focusing only on its own thoughts, is constricted, and if it boasts a large population it becomes dangerous to others, as well, because most things are alien to it except for its own thoughts and customs. Translations broaden people, and thereby the world. They help you understand distant nations. People hate less, or fear less, what they understand. Understanding can save people from themselves. Generals have a harder time getting you to kill if you possess understanding. Hatred and prejudice, I say to you, are fear and ignorance; you may write that down,” (163).

How appropriate is this quote is – written in 2011 in the Icelandic and translated to English 2015 – with the rise of nationalism in the United States and around the world! Would that help us in our current state of the rampant rise of nationalism, intolerance, and the radical “other-ing” happening across the globe? Where can we find the light to fight this darkness sweeping the globe?

“I don’t know where the darkness comes from, yet I think that it comes from the same place as the light, and I think it grows dark because we let it happen. I think that it’s difficult to attain the light, often very difficult, but I also think that no-one attains it for us…If we don’t set out on our own, life is nothing,” (333).

Like Carl Jung, Kalman sees the light and dark arising from the same place. As Jung wrote:

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

The boy, who often is more aware of his inner mind and heart as he struggles with the sea and the snow, which claim many victims throughout the books. He struggles to find out who he is, he struggles to learn love and his own heart, he struggles to find his way in a world that seems created for people who are non-reflective. As persistently the environment struggles to erase and eradicate life, there is this compensatory realm of the inner world of the heart and the way it journeys out into the outer world through word and stories – trying to find some meaning and truth.

This is a war against oblivion, in the hope that hidden within the stories are words that free us from our fetters. You as well,” (87).

This ends our review of Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s trilogy. I have material for one more post following our trip from Reykjavik to Vestmannaeyjar Island, the last leg of our trip that circles back around to Keflavik airport and back to Seattle.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

Ardhanarisvara

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).

Cover IJPHA

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…]

 

 

 

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.

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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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