Re-humanizing Medicine – bringing together the science of a good technician and the spirituality of a good healer.

I just came across this old review of Re-humanizing Medicine by my friend, Lelia Kozak. I was thinking a lot about this book of mine from 2014 this past week as a neighbor was interviewing me for a health professions class. Over the years I have deepened in my understanding of how we need to be not just good technicians, but good, well-rounded human beings, in order to give the best care possible to our clients and patients. We cannot give to others what we have not first developed within ourselves. Our evidence-based medicine is new and scientific, but it needs to be integrated with a human-based medicine that reaches back to the ancient wisdom of healers throughout time immemorial. Thanks, again, for this review, Leila!

Leila compared me to Larry Dossey, which is quite an honour and a little embarrassing as well to have someone compare you to such an influential figure. In his 1999 book, Re-inventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, Dr. Dossey describes three eras of medicine, Era I (mechanical), Era II (mind-body), Era III (non-local/eternity medicine). He points out that “the path of the physician since antiquity has been considered a spiritual path,” (228). He saw Era III medicine as a blending of spiritual, mind-body, and mechanical approaches. The reinvention in medicine was as much remembering our spiritual roots as healers as it was adding anything new. What is new is blending science and spirituality.

“I used to believe that we must choose between science and reason on the one hand and spirituality on the other, as foundations for living our lives. Now I consider this a false choice, because in my own life I have found that science and spirituality can coexist and even flourish,” (Larry Dossey, Reinventing Medicine, 12).

I was lucky enough for Dr. Dossey to write an endorsement for Re-humanizing Medicine! I do see a continuity in our work, but this has more to say about connecting to ancient healing wisdom than to anything particular about me as a person. Here is what Dr. Dossey had to say about the book:

“Modern medicine is engaged in a struggle to find its heart, soul, and spirit. This task must begin with physicians themselves. Dr. David Kopacz’s Re-Humanizing Medicine is an excellent guide in how this urgent undertaking can unfold.” ~ Larry Dossey, MD, Author: Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words.

Memorial Day Wishes of Peace for those on all sides of the Vietnam War – Bánh Xe Y Học: Hành Trình

On Memorial Day we remember those whom we have lost. Official reports of loss of US soldiers in the Vietnam War is 58,000+. A 2008 British Medical Journal study estimates 3.8 million total deaths during the Vietnam War (called the Resistance War Against America in Vietnam). The suffering of war continues long after the war ends with PTSD, Moral Injury, Agent Orange exposure, and even suicide. Controversy exists over the number of US Vietnam veterans who have committed suicide since returning home, with estimates from 9,000 (in a 1990 study) to over 50,000 reported in various places. As a psychiatrist who works daily with veterans, I see the long-lasting after effects of war. Brain science has been pushing back the age of full development for the human brain, with 25 years of age being considered brain maturity. Wars typically are fought by the young and after every war we have a generation of veterans whose developing brains have been shaped by war and the imprint of death. The casualties of war are the walking wounded as well as the deceased, and many of the wounds are not visible.

I just received a box of books from Vietnam, the Vietnamese translation of Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD (Bánh Xe Y Học: Hành Trình). It is really amazing to hold these books from Vietnam in my hands and compare them side by side. I work with so many veterans at the VA who served in Vietnam and to have the words of peace that Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have put together into this book translated into Vietnamese feels very important.

The work of peace is a continual work, like tending a garden. To receive a box of books from Vietnam about bringing peace to veterans is like getting a big packet of seeds to replant what has been injured by war. For Joseph, language is very important, not just in conveying meaning, but in creating spiritual realities. To have the healing properties of the medicine wheel translated into Vietnamese brings our two lands and peoples closer together in peace. Translators Huỳnh ngọc trụ & Lê Thục Uyên Phương have worked to bring American English and Vietnamese into resonance with each other. In his book, House of Shattering Light, Joseph wrote about how the war gods were first created out of the fear that people had, but that later they came home to peace and became peace gods. In Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, the title of chapter 14 is “Return to the Held-back Place of Goodness, which translates into Vietnamese as, “Trở Về Nơi Tốt Lành,” Return to Good Place.” Peace is this Good Place and Joseph tells us that we all have it within our hearts, we can forget about it, we can loose touch with it, but is always there. Our jobs as healers – both those working as healers for others, and those of us who are seeking to heal ourselves – is to find our way back home to this place of goodness, this place of peace. We are all wounded in one way or another, and yet we all have a source of goodness and healing within us – we are the medicine that we are seeking!

Bánh Xe Y Học: Hành Trình Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD – published in Vietnam!

Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, which Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I wrote in 2016 has been translated into Vietnamese – Bánh Xe Y Học: Hành Trình. This is important for healing the wounds of war and helping former enemies become brothers & sisters.

Zakir Hussain at the Moore Theatre, Seattle, 4/2/19

Zakir Hussain & Niladri Kumar with the image of Ustad Allarakha as a perpetual presence.

The Masters of Percussion 2019 – The Ustad Allarakha Centenary Tour came through Seattle this past week. The tour celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ustad Allarakha, Zakir Hussain’s father and internationally-renowned tabla player in his own right. Ustad Allarakha influenced Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead and had collaborated with Ravi Shankar and made an album in 1968 with jazz drummer Buddy Rich, Rich à la Rakha. Zakir Hussain, played with Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, as well as with Bill Laswell’s Tabla Beat Science. (Which was, incidentally, the first Bill Laswell album I ever heard, sitting in a cafe in Minneapolis).

The show started with Niladri Kumar on sitar, joined by Zakir Hussain, then added Eric Harland on a full drum kit, and the four piece Drummers of Kerala. It was a great show, filled with lots of beats. The musicians all were smiling and having fun and challenging and riffing off each other.

Zakir Hussain ended the show saying, “Rhythm is a unified concept, it is one language.”

Words Create Worlds – new essay in The Badger

“Words Create Worlds,” my new piece in The Badger, Year 5, Volume 1, is available now through the link, page 47. The title is taken from a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.  He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.  Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child.  They must be used very carefully.  Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[1]

Heschel points to the power of words to create good or evil in the world. My article is a meditation following the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand and the increasingly disturbing words of separation and “othering.” I have a special connection with Christchurch, having lived in New Zealand for 3.5 years and having visited Christchurch a few days prior to the second devastating earthquake in 2011. These words that separate us from each other are earthquakes and weapons, in and of themselves, and these words pave the way for future violent actions. You can read the full article in The Badger through this link (scroll to page 47)

In writing Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), I have felt obligated to write about “spiritual democracy” and the responsibility to act in ways that increase, rather than decrease, our inter-relatedness and oneness. A living spirituality is a call to action. Joseph Rael has been working for world peace for decades now, and working with him, I have taken on this responsibility as well. I plan to write more on the power of words, the ways that they can divide or unite us, and the disturbing trends towards fundamentalism and fascism in our world today. Here is the last paragraph from my essay in The Badger:

Over the next year, I would like to write about some of these topics of how our “words create worlds.” In working with Joseph Rael, writing our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[2]


[1] Life Between the Trees blog, https://lifebetweenthetrees.com/2012/08/06/words-create-worlds-monday-morning-parable/.

[2] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Red Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Gardens, 2011

Amazon Review of Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity

I recently wrote a short Amazon review for Peter Kingsley’s Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. I have been working on a longer review, but I’ll post this for now. This book is a great tapestry of wisdom, weaving together the work of Peter Kingsley, Carl Jung, and Henry Corbin.

This book reads like a mystery, following the path of Peter Kingsley as he follows the paths of Carl Jung and Henry Corbin. We think of the mystery genre as starting with a death and then a puzzle to be solved. The word “catafalque” represents a framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person, so there is an element of a crime mystery to the book. Kingsley’s subtitle “The End of Humanity,” tells us that perhaps the victim of the crime is humanity and the plot of the mystery is to find out who killed humanity. There is another mystery genre, older than the crime mystery, and that is the pursuit of the ancient wisdom mysteries. One entered those mysteries through initiation, and this book is a kind of initiation into wisdom.

The book is published in two volumes: the first is the text, itself, the second volume is endnotes. I am enough of a geek that I would carry these two volumes around and read them side by side. This gave the act of reading both a scholarly and a sacred aspect. It encourages the reader to approach the text on multiple levels, with Kingsley providing the text and its own exegesis. Being a mystery writer, Kingsley does not reveal the important things directly, but often buries them and interweaves them within the spaces of the text. In the ancient mysteries, the most important things were not what was revealed, but what was hinted at, pointed to, or was intuited. Carl Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self,” (197). Mysteries take us around in circles. In the crime mystery genre, everything is revealed in the end. In the ancient mystery genre, there is a continuing circumambulation around the center, everything is not revealed, but, perhaps, everything can be understood as one becomes the mystery which one was seeking.

I have to mention, Amazon took 3 months to deliver the book to me. I originally received it much more quickly directly through the author’s website. I bought a second copy for a friend through Amazon and that took 3 months – that is a bit of a mystery as the author apparently has copies in stock. One always has to be careful with the source of where one is seeking wisdom.

150 Years of University of Illinois

I was contacted by The News-Gazette from Champaign-Urbana and they are asking for reflections on University of Illinois for the 150th birthday of the University. I wrote a fairly long piece as I started to reflect on my time there.

Here is the link to the The News-Gazette UIUC 150 years & beyond website and here is the link to my page. 

Looking Back to University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

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David Kopacz, Allen Hall, 1986, photo by Mary Pat Traxler

The person who had the greatest effect on me at UIUC was Professor Peter N. Gregory in the Religious Studies department. The first class I took from him was Zen. As a freshman I thought it was amazing that I could come to university and study something for credit which I was also able to apply in my own life. Not only was the material fascinating, but Professor Gregory was a fabulous story-teller who made the material come alive in his lectures.

gregory

My sophomore year I took another class he taught, East Asian Religions. There I read the Tao Te Ching, The Analects of Confucius, and my favorite, the Burton Watson translation of The Basic Writings of Chuang Tzu. I have carried Chuang Tzu with me on many camping trips, travels, and free and easy wanderings throughout my life. This class also opened me up to the American Transcendentalists as Professor Gregory spoke of some of the similarities with the Taoist philosophers in the fundamental goodness of nature and human nature and the hazards of being overly civilized.

 

My junior year, I took the Introduction to World Religions class, which Professor Gregory coordinated. This further opened my world to many different religious traditions and this has given me a structure for my spiritual development throughout my life.

black elk speaks

One of the books we read for the class was Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Niehardt. I read this book several times, even making a pilgrimage to Black Elk Peak (then Harney Peak) in South Dakota, later in my life. I remember we also read the Bhagavad Gita translated by Juan Mascaró. As I was also interested in anthropology and was majoring in psychology, I was trying to understand what made life meaningful for human beings and how they described the sacred. I had a strong pull to working with Native American/American Indian cultures. By that time I knew I was going to apply to medical school and likely be a psychiatrist and I thought that I would join the Indian Health Service to be of service and to learn about indigenous ways of healing. This did not come to pass as I got caught up in life. However it did seem to set a template for later events that I will describe shortly.

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My senior year, a friend of mine, Glenn Girlando, arranged an independent study class with Professor Gregory on Carl Jung. There were three of us in the Psychology department who wanted to study Jung and the only person Glenn could find who could teach Jung turned out to be Professor Gregory. He had worked in a Jungian research lab earlier in his life. This turned out to be very formative to me. Jung has been one of my intellectual and spiritual teachers throughout my life. I have been reading Jung, off and on, since I was about 17 and his theories have been practically useful in my life. Jung’s work was not just on treating mental illness, but on how to create mental health. His focus on lifelong personal and spiritual development and his concept of individuation provided a conceptual framework that I have found inspirational and practical. The independent study class also gave us more personal time with Professor Gregory. I even remember discussing with him some doubts I was having about my career choice of whether I should go into medicine or philosophy/religious studies.

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After college, I went up to University of Illinois Chicago for four years of medical school, then four more years for psychiatric residency. I was still thinking about the Indian Health Service, but my wife, Mary Pat Traxler, whom I met at UIUC (we both lived in Allen Hall), accepted an internship in Omaha, Nebraska and we moved out there. I worked for the VA and University of Nebraska. After two years we returned back to Champaign-Urbana, I worked for Christie Clinic for three years. When I left that job I had a two-year non-compete clause so I could not work within 30 miles of Christie Clinic. We did not want to move, so I commuted down to Paris and Mattoon, working in rural community mental health. After my two years were up and I could return to work in Champaign, I started a holistic psychiatry private practice on University Avenue near West Side Park. We were very settled and happy there and I lived near my college friends Rick Valentin and Rose Marshack and we even got the band back together, so to speak, when Rick, Mike Barry, and Doug McCarver and I did a few shows with our band Vibraking. Eventually, though, as happens sometimes in Champaign-Urbana, people come and go, and many of our friends moved away. We were very comfortable living there, but I still felt the urge to live in another culture and Mary Pat and I moved to Auckland, New Zealand for three years and I worked as a psychiatrist with the district health board there. When we returned back to the USA, we moved to Seattle, where we have been living for the past six years. I started working again for the VA and have an assistant professor position at University of Washington. I published my first book I 2014, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. I have been working on the implementation of Whole Health at the VA with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. One interesting thing happened in the Pacific Northwest, and it is the reason that I am telling so much of the story of my life after having left Champaign-Urbana. Through a series of events, starting with picking up a book at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, I came to meet Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). Joseph grew up on the Southern Ute reservation as well as at Picuris Pueblo in the Southwest. He is the author of a number of books on Native American/American Indian healing and he has become a mentor to me, bringing things full circle from reading Black Elk Speaks in Professor Gregory’s class when I was at university. Joseph and I have published one book together called Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and we are nearing publication on our second book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. The influence of University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and Professor Peter Gregory has continued throughout my life and seems to culminate in this idea of A Living Spirituality—the study of a practical application of finding the sacred meaning in life as a form of life-long work.

 

David R. Kopacz, MD

UIUC class of 1989

UIC Medical School class of 1993

 

 

 

“Cultivating Caring,” my new article on CLOSLER

 

View St. Brides Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid)

Saint Brides Bay (Bae Sain Ffraid), Pembrokeshire, Wales, David Kopacz, (2018)

A short article I wrote just went up at CLOSLER, entitled “Cultivating Caring.” CLOSLER, out of Johns Hopkins, is named after Dr. William Osler, is a Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative promoting importance of the doctor-patient relationship.

The article focuses on how caring and compassion are resources that we need to attend to and cultivate, particularly in the healing professions. You can link to the article here.

Review of 2018

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Photo credit: Mary Pat Traxler

On this first day of the New Year, January 1st, 2019, I thought I would take a look back at this past year. 2018 was filled with a lot of travel. We took a trip to England, Wales, and Iceland in May that I have blogged about. I have continued my work as a Whole Health Education Champion with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation and teaching programs took me to Madison, WI; Portland, OR; Nashville, TN; St. Cloud, MN; and three times to the Boston area (including an evening visit to Walden Pond). My mother had a couple of surgeries, which went well, but took me back to Illinois three times during the year.

As far as writing goes, I continued to work on the next book with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). My sister and I took a trip to visit him in October.

We finished the book on the Winter Solstice and I am now gathering a few endorsements for the book and we will be starting the publication process now. The new book is called Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality. Here is a copy of the table of contents, and the cover we are working with.

Cover Screen Shot

Joseph Rael’s painting, cover for Becoming Medicine

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abbreviations
Foreword by Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Acknowledgements
Introduction: The Secret Journey
Part I: Separation (Seeking)
Chapter 1.         Becoming Medicine
Chapter 2          Circle Medicine
Chapter 3          Separation
Chapter 4          Becoming a Visionary
Chapter 5          Becoming a Shaman
Chapter 6          Becoming a Mystic
Part II: Initiation (Finding/Receiving)
Chapter 7          Story Medicine
Chapter 8          Entering the Doorway
Chapter 9          Guhā: Cave of the Heart
Chapter 10        Enlightenment & Endarkenment
Chapter 11         Initiation
Chapter 0          Na-yo ti-ay we-ah (We Do Not Exist)
Part III: Return (Giving)
Chapter 12        Returning to the Land
Chapter 13        We Are All Pangeans; We Are All Related
Chapter 14        Spiritual Democracy
Chapter 15        Refounding
Chapter 16        A Living Spirituality
Chapter 17        Returning to the Garden of Paradise
Chapter 18        Secret Journey to the Secret Garden
List of Sound Chambers

We had an excerpt from Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD published in Parabola magazine, which was very exciting. We’ve also given permission for the book cover to appear in a movie about someone healing from PTSD and we’ll give more information about that as it becomes available. We had an article called “Sage—the Wise One,” published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy. I gave a workshop for Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Behavioral Health on “Circle Medicine for Healing Trauma.”

journey-home-cover-large

Mary Pat and I took a very restful trip to the Pacific coast near Copalis Beach just last week and I’ll post a few of those photos.

Corbin and I took a hike up Fletcher Canyon near Quinault. We couldn’t go far because there were a lot of trees down. We scrambled over a few before turning back after about an hour of walking up hill.

We stopped on the way back to take in the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree, estimated to be 1000 years old.

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1000 year old Sitka Spruce

One morning, I heard a raucous cacophony of crows cawing. I quickly ran out to see what was happening. I saw a flutter of movement on the ground and an eagle flew off, leaving a stunned crow. I watched over the crow for a few minutes, eventually he flew off, a bit unsteadily, and then the eagle gave up and flew off in the other direction. These aren’t shots of that seen, but other photos of an eagle and some crows.

Who knows what 2019 will bring, likely lots of changes, as well as the publication of Becoming Medicine!

New Mexico

Sandia Selfie

Sunset from the top of Sandia

I took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico last month, to do some work with my co-author, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). My sister met us there and we did some photos and video in preparation for our upcoming book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality. I should be getting the final edit back any day now and will be taking one more review of it and then it will start getting formatted – it should be out in the first half of 2019. It is always a lot of fun working with Joseph and I am always learning new things and ancient things.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

The area is very beautiful and my sister, Karen, and I took a couple trips, driving up the back side of Sandia Mountain and to Petroglyph National Monument.

Tree Spirit Sandia

Tree Shape on top of Sandia, a little snow in the background

We got up to the top of Sandia with about an hour or so left of daylight and we saw an amazing sunset and beautiful views.

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Looking South from Sandia

Sandia Western View

Kiwanis Rock House, Looking West from Sandia

Sandia Sunset through Trees

Sunset through Trees, Sandia

The next night we went to Petroglyph National Monument, again near sunset.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

Sunflower

Sandia means “watermelon” in Spanish and you can see how this mountain got its name when you see it at sunset.

Sandia from Petroglyphs Sunset

Sandia Mountain at Sunset from Petroglyph National Monument

Having visited Sandia and Petroglyph several times, I always feel as if there is some kind of connection of communication between all the petroglyphs facing Sandia. This night there were light streamers visible above the mountain as the sunset behind us.

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Sandia as Sunset Continues

We went to visit our friends, Mike & Marie Pedroncelli and spent some time in their Sound Peace Chamber, built with consultation from Joseph Rael and based on his visions he had in the 1980s of building circular structures, half above ground and half underground where men and women come together to chant for world peace. There are over 50 chambers on four continents that have been built.

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View through top of Sound Peace Chamber