The Art of Becoming Medicine.6

These next two pieces from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality include one by me and one by Joseph.

My painting, Creation, is a large, 30×40″ painting. The bottom of the painting somehow is cut off in the book, but below is the full painting. It has some glow in the dark paint – a phase I went through that is nice when you turn off the lights because it is like having a painting hidden within a painting.

Creation, D. Kopacz

Joseph’s painting is Sun and Dancing Moonlight on the People of Mother Earth, painted in 2006. Joseph developed a Sun Moon Dance and it is still performed by people he taught it to all over the world.

Sun and Dancing Moonlight on the People of Mother Earth, J. Rael (2006)

An excerpt from this section of the book will appear in the Fall issue of Parabola. Here is a quote from Joseph in this section:

Joseph is continually teaching me about the circular nature of reality, saying that we are “circle people,” that “what comes around goes around,” and that “everything eventually becomes its opposite.” He also points out how the difference between a linear and circular perception is based on the perspective or paradigm through which you are perceiving. “Look at how we move in a circle, but then look at it from the side and it looks like we are moving forward and backward, back and forth. It depends on your perspective of seeing.”

The Art of Becoming Medicine.4

Here are two more paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. The first is one of mine and the second one of Joseph Rael’s.

Rainbow Medicine Wheel, D. Kopacz c. 2016

Joseph told me that he uses four colors always in his rainbow paintings: yellow, orange, red, and blue – I follow his convention here.

Night Eyes of Direction Finder, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) 2006

I love this painting of Joseph’s and it starts of Part I Separation (Seeking). Seeking is the start of everything, the start of the book, the start of life – the start of what we are trying to do at this very moment in history – seeking peace and love to move through these challenging times. The painting comes right before chapter 1, “Becoming Medicine.” Joseph’s quote we start off the chapter with is below:

“The thing I should have said in my books is that everyone already has their medicine. The way you become a medicine person is you practice who you are because you are already medicine. No one gives it to you, you are already it.”

(Joseph Rael – Beautiful Painted Arrow)

The Art of Becoming Medicine.3

The “Introduction” to Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality is my story and path of how I came to meet and work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). Thus, more of the paintings in this chapter are mine. The two that follow are The Hero’s Journey and the Medicine Wheel of the Heart.

The Hero’s Journey, D. Kopacz, 2014

The Hero’s Journey painting was an example of the Hero’s Journey project that we invite veterans to do at the end of the 12-week Hero’s Journey class. The project invites the veteran to bring together the personal & universal into a creative project. Some veterans have done paintings, drawings, maps of their time in the service, writing and performing a song, and even multimedia art installations. I painted this as an example for the class. It is a 36″ x 36″ square canvas, divided into the stages of the Hero’s Journey and the quoted text around the circle is made up of various quotes by Joseph Campbell that pertain to that step of the journey.

Medicine Wheel of the Heart, D. Kopacz, c. 2016-2017

This was my attempt to bring together, in a visual format, Joseph Rael’s teachings about the medicine wheel. An earlier medicine wheel was published in Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. The Medicine Wheel brings together the four outer directions of North, South, East, West, and the four inner directions of Mind, Emotions, Physical, and Spiritual. Each direction also has a corresponding vowel sound: A (ah), E (eh), I (ee), O (oh), U (uu) – pronounced as the vowels are in Spanish. There is also a princple idea associataed with each direction: Purity, Placement, Awareness, Innocence, and in the Center – Carrying.

As I was working on Becoming Medicine, I conceptualized it as a continuation of the journey started in Walking the Medicine Wheel. In Walking the Medicine Wheel, we worked to integrate the four outer and four inner directions and ended with connecting to the “held-back place of goodness” in the heart. In Becoming Medicine, I saw us as entering deeper into the heart center. I found Joseph’s comment about human beings as “medicine bags” to be useful here and that the purpose of the book was two-fold: to find the “sacred objects” which are hidden in our own hearts bringing them back for communal healing, and to go even deeper into a state of non-duality. In Walking the Medicine Wheel, Joseph said, “I am my brother’s keeper.” Joseph wanted to teach veterans that we are all brothers and sisters and we are all related. Becoming Medicine is about going beyond the affiliation of relation into a sense of oneness, non-duality – this is the state that mystics and visionaries know and it is the place of ultimate peace. This insight, or enlightenment about our non-separateness from other living beings and the material world is an initiation into a new relationship with the land and into spiritual democracy. As with many mystical traditions, when you make your secret journey you will find that what you were seeking is already within the medicine bag of your heart.

“Becoming Medicine: When There is no Treatment, You are the Medicine” – Essay in Kosmos

Joseph Rael and I have a new essay in Kosmos: Journal for Global Transformation, called “Becoming Medicine: When There is no Treatment, You are the Medicine.”

Detail from In The Many Windows of the Dream Time of Mother Earth, J. Rael, 2005

I just came across Kosmos: Journal of Global Transformation in the past few months and we are so excited and honored to have this essay published in this journal with such a needed and important focus. You need to set up an account to view our article, but it is free of charge and Kosmos does not have any advertising in it – just pure ideas of goodness & transformation! I loved the first article I read, “What if the Virus is the Medicine: Humanity’s Next Initiation,” by Julia Hartsell & Jonathan Hadas Edwards – it seemed so resonant with the work that Joseph & I have been doing in our book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into A Living Spirituality. Then I read Martin Winiecki’s “Searching for the Anti-Virus: Covid-19 as Quantum Phenomenon,” which was also very good and features images from Jung’s Red Book along the margin of the page.

This current issue of Kosmos: Journal of Global Transformation has a beautiful essay by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, “The Labyrinth and the Black Madonna: Love and Earth Magic.” Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi mystic, is a wonderful writer, whose work I discovered late in the game of writing our last book, we cite his work a few times. He has written a number of great books, including The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul and Spiritual Ecology: the Cry of the Earth. Take a look at this and some of the other great articles as well in this issue of Kosmos, In the Labyrinth: Pathways to Healing.

And you can check out Joseph’s and my article, “Becoming Medicine: When There is no Treatment, You are the Medicine.”

“We are living in disruptive times, yet there have been other times as equally disruptive. People lived through pandemics, plagues, pestilence, famines, natural disasters, slavery, genocide, oppression, and wars upon wars. How did they do it? I believe there is a secret well of resilience and wisdom within the human being—located in the heart—where we find our medicine.” (Kopacz & Rael)

Binding Sites of Coronavirus COVID-19, D. Kopacz, 2020
Dream of a Bat, D. Kopacz 2020

Spiritual Democracy

“I am you and you are me. There’s only one being here, and even though you have a different body, I have a different body, and a different moment, but we are in this together, you know, and people don’t understand that.”

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

(from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, pg. 379)

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) & David R. Kopacz (photo K. Kopacz)
Earth Child of Spiritual Democracy, Joseph Rael (BPA), ©2020

Becoming Medicine: Initiation Ceremony Video

A video of Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) teaching about initiation into ancient wisdom.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) speaks on initiation and becoming medicine, joined by David Kopacz, MD at Joseph’s home in New Mexico. This video features an initiation ceremony in which Joseph tells the story of eagle-man who is initiated into becoming a true human being by the ancient one. The idea of becoming medicine is developed in the book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

You can watch the video through my website. We have a couple of other videos we will be releasing soon…

Happy World Book Day!

What a great week – Earth Day and World Book Day back to back!

The Earth gives us so much to be thankful for and her beauty is even more apparent and more easily appreciated during these times of a more inward focus. It is easier to hear the birds and working from home I look out my window often to see Stellar’s Jays, Chickadees, Juncos, and today I even saw an Audubon’s Warbler!

I’m grateful to have been able to bring forth, in these books, what is within me and to release this out into the world.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (The Gospel of Thomas, in The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels)

Gratitude and thanks to Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) who has been my co-author on these last two books: Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. All my books have the word “medicine” in the title, because they are all about healing the splits within our hearts, minds, societies, environment, and world. My first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, calls for a counter-curriculum of re-humanization – learning practices that help us connect to, develop, and sustain our inner spiritual humanity; and also was an open call for everyone to join the compassion revolution – bringing the heart and caring back into our work with people in the world.

A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds, Joseph Rael (BPA) 2009

Joseph and I are working on our next book together which will be a book of initiation and instruction for 10-12 year old children, drawing on Joseph’s experiences and what he thinks it is important for human beings growing up into this world to know about the world and themselves. We are calling it, A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds. More to come…

May the books of all of the authors of the world contribute to realizing our inner spiritual humanity, our outer spiritual democracy, and helps us to remove obstacles and division to allow us all to live in peace, peace within our hearts and peace within the world.

Aho.

A Tree with A Lot to Teach Us, D. Kopacz (2020)

Becoming Medicine in Pandemic Times: Overview of Becoming Medicine, Part III

This is the third overview of Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, writtenwith Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). Many of the concepts in the book seem apropos to these viral times of the pandemic. Here is a synopsis of the book in one long run-on sentence:

We start with an emptiness, a loss or a longing, a wounding or disorientation and this leads us into seeking. We embark on wonderful and terrible journeys, we descend in to the darkness in the center of our hearts, which is the center of the medicine wheel and we realize that our hearts are medicine bags, filled with sacred objects. Finding and receiving these sacred objects we learn to see light in the darkness; we are fully-filled with sacred objects and this fulfillment leads to us spilling over, returning and giving to the world the sacred medicine that we have found within ourselves. We realize that it is not our personal medicine, because the wisdom of these sacred objects of the medicine bag of our hearts teaches us that there is no self and other, it teaches us that we are all connected, it teaches us that we have a responsibility for all beings and the land and the cosmos and that we are all One.

Here is an overview of Part III of Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.

RETURNING/GIVING

Returning to the Land

When we begin our return journey, it can be difficult to find home. Odysseus took ten years to find home in the Odyssey, after he had already spent ten years at war in the Iliad. When we left home, in our seeking, we thought we knew what home was. Now, on our return, we find that we may not fit easily back into “home.” This is because our home has become bigger than we thought of before. As Bilbo told Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Joseph Rael describes coming home to Picuris Pueblo, after 36 years away, he said that he “rediscovered myself!” To be indigenous is to be “of the land.” While many native peoples understand the sacred relationship with the land, going through a process of initiation opens one’s eyes and heart to see that the land truly is our Mother Earth and that we should be in a proper relationship with her. We are made up of Mother Earth, our bodies, molecules and atoms come from the food that we eat and the food that we eat comes from Mother Earth. After passing through initiation, we realize that the land is our home.

Drinking from the flowering Light of Mother Nature, Joseph Rael (2005)

Spiritual Democracy

We realize that there is no such thing as “other.” In Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD Joseph said, “I am my brother’s keeper.” For returning war veterans we taught that one must shift from seeing “others” to seeing them as “brothers and sisters.” This naturally leads to spiritual democracy where we realize that we are all one, we are indivisible, and that it is up to us to work for justice for all. This is not just for people of one country, but we must work to become “planetary citizens,” even “cosmic citizens” Joseph tells us.

Spiritual democracy is an antidote for the current divisiveness and radical “othering” that is occurring in politics in the world. To dehumanize another is a very dangerous thing and the xenophobic fear of the “other” can lead to our country ripping itself up into smaller and smaller shreds of sub-groups of us and them. Spiritual democracy can help us move beyond what Martin Buber calls an “I-It” relationship to an “I-Thou” relationship and even to a sacred “Essential We.” We need to heal the rifts that are being torn into the fabric of the national and global community. This can only be done by realizing that we are each other’s keepers ― we are all in this together and we all are one.

Earth Child of Spiritual Democracy, Joseph Rael ( 1997)

Refounding A Living Spirituality

The subtitle of the book is Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. A living spirituality is a process of becoming, an always evolving path. Anthropologist and Catholic Priest, Gerald Arbuckle, writes of the importance of refounding in any organization. He says that institutions periodically lose touch with their founding vision and they require a refounding person to get in touch with the founding values of the organization. It seems we are in such a situation now. Arbuckle tells us that refounding synthesizes the authentic calling and mission of the organization with the realities and needs of the current time. This is different from fundamentalism, which is a rigid attempt to return to some fantasized golden age by blaming “others” for the current problems. Fundamentalism only looks backwards and is exclusionary, while refounding looks backward and forward and is inclusive. Arbuckle writes that we face “a global epidemic of fundamentalism both religious and political,” (Fundamentalism: At Home and Abroad, 28). He describes a typical fundamentalist leader as “a populist, homophobic, charismatic, authoritarian man who likes to bully,” (15). As an alternative to fundamentalist narratives he offers refounding narratives:

“Refounding is a process of storytelling whereby imaginative leaders are able to inspire people collaboratively to rearticulate the founding mythology of an institution and apply it to contemporary needs through creative dialogue with the world. The purpose of refounding narratives is to find a positive way out of trauma by allowing people to reenter the sacred time of their founding with imaginative leaders who are able to rearticulate the founding mythology in narratives adapted to the changing world.” Refounding narratives are “regenerative” and “differs from a fundamentalist narrative” which is “closed to dialogue and responsible dissent,” (Arbuckle, 93-94).

Fundamentalism is about seeing differences, whereas a living spirituality is about seeing similarities and interconnections. This begins in your own heart and then spreads outward  to transform national and global cultures. In Becoming Medicine we look at the lives, words, and works of many holy people who have put forward a vision of religious unity, such as Gandhi, Narayana Guru, Rumi, Wayne Teasdale, Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, William Keepin, and Matthew Fox. Those who drink from the fount of Living Spirituality realize that the only real religion is interspirituality and intermysticism. There is a story about Indra’s Net from Hinduism, that there is a vast of web throughout all of reality comprised of multi-faceted gems which reflect each other. Rather than a materialistic view of ourselves as isolated organisms, we can imagine ourselves as reflective and interconnective beings.

Out of One, Many, D. Kopacz (2019)

Finding Your Inner Secret Garden of Paradise

Matthew Fox was expelled from the Catholic Church for teaching creation spirituality, which rejected the idea of “original sin” and instead focused on the “original blessing” of being incarnate in sacred relationship on the Earth. Just like Adam, he was expelled from the garden. What creation spirituality teaches us is that we actually cannot be expelled from the Garden, that it is right here, in our bodies, and in our sacred relationships with other beings and the Earth.

This is the ultimate transformation of suffering, to find the Garden of Paradise within ourselves – an ever-renewing source of revitalization for ourselves. In tasting this medicine, we are becoming this medicine, for ourselves, for our human relationships, and for our communities, ecosystems, and for the planet, herself.

Heart Radiation, D. Kopacz (2019)

The Secret Garden

Joseph says that we should pay attention to children’s stories because they contain hidden wisdom that the elders pass on to the next generation. We explore a lot of peoples of transformation’s stories throughout the book and we end with a telling of Frances Burnett’s Secret Garden. In this story, two young orphans, who are of about the age of initiation of 10-12 years old. In the story, the children are initiated into a living relationship with the land, they borrow from many different sources of spirituality, and they go through a process of healing – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Colin, a young boy who had never been out of the old mansion in his life goes through a transformation. In the story they are talking about “magic,” but we can consider that the same thing as the way we are speaking of “medicine,” a healing and transformative force. In a ceremony in the garden Colin leads the children and animals, and the old gardener through this chant:

“The sun is shining—the sun is shining. 
That is the Magic.
The flowers are growing—the roots are stirring. 
That is the Magic.
Being alive is the Magic—being strong is the Magic. 
The Magic is in
me—the Magic is in me. 
It is in me—it is in me. 
It’s in every one of
us. . . . 
Magic! Magic! Come and help!”
Heart Radiation, D. Kopacz (2019)

Becoming Medicine During a Pandemic

Albert Camus wrote about a fascism in the guise of The Plague. Fascism is a hidden influence of our book and we hope that Becoming Medicine can be part of a cure for these times. The spread of a mental contagion is similar to that of a viral contagion – people can end up infected, spreading a disease, without even knowing they are ill. Camus wrote, “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.”

The risk is that if we do not go through initiation into becoming a true human being (as Joseph calls it) or if we do not go through the process of individuation (as Carl Jung called it), we are at risk of spreading the pestilence of fascism as well as the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The sprouting fascism and fundamentalism of our times and the spreading viral pandemic can be a call to adventure for us, a call to enter into the disorienting and often painful process of initiation. This can be a call for us to transcend our “self-imposed limitations,” or as Camus wrote, “What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.” We have no idea what the future will look like and we have no idea of what this “call” is asking of us.

Joseph Rael told me,The thing I should have said in my books is that everyone already has their medicine. The way you become a medicine person is you practice who you are because you are already medicine. No one gives it to you, you are already it.”

Camus wrote, “I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing,” (127).

Seeking, Finding, and Becoming ancient wisdom and a unifying healing force and then Giving this to all equally is what this world needs right now. The book, Becoming Medicine, is as long as it is because of the dangers of these times we live in. Originally I was conceptualizing the book as being about initiation, about the first and second parts, but as history has unfolded around us, I realized that we needed to speak of the silent land who is our Mother, we had to speak of spiritual democracy as an antidote to divisiveness and “othering,” we had to speak for a renewed and refounded sense of unity and non-duality of all beings and all life, we had to remind people that if they go into the darkness, the darkness of these times and the darkness of their own hearts, they will see the light in the darkness and they can, care-fully, bring back this light from the inner self into our current darkness in which we are all fumbling.

Blessings for Drinking from Morning Star, Joseph Rael (2000) – text added, dictated by Beautiful Painted Arrow, transcribed by David Kopacz

Becoming Initiated to See Light in the Darkness – An Overview of Becoming Medicine, Part II

Overview, Part II of Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

After seeking comes finding & receiving, but this gift transforms us in ways we could not imagine. The old falls away in what can be a painful birthing process as we are born into a new state of being – this is the initiation process.

Table of Contents for Part II:

Part II: Initiation (Finding/Receiving)

  • 7  / Story Medicine
  • 8  /  Entering the Doorway
  • 9  / Guhā: Cave of the Heart
  • 10  / Enlightenment & Endarkenment
  • 11 / Initiation
  • 0   /  Na-yo ti-ay we-ah (We Do Not Exist)

Story Medicine

Transformation is difficult to put into words and that is why stories are so often used to capture that which cannot be explained and yet somehow it can and must be told. We begin the second part of Becoming Medicine by telling various stories from various parts of the world. As Joseph and I write,

“There is a growing field of medicine which is not new, but is rather the rediscovering and remembering of how speaking words and listening to stories can be transformational for the individual and society,” (175).

The stories we tell each other and that we tell ourselves have real effects. Stories are where our imaginations are activated where we can contextualize suffering and learn hope and healing. As Lewis Mehl-Madrona (who incidentally wrote a wonderful foreword to the book) has written,

“I saw that we create our own world . . . if we refuse to believe in healing, healing does not exist. If we sing and dance only of molecules and drugs, then molecules and drugs determine our fate and drugs will be our only hope. What we believe in is what comes true. . . . What we sing and dance is what will be,” (Coyote Medicine, 111).

We can look at the creation stories of the world as metaphorical descriptions of becoming initiated into being fully human.

Joseph Rael walking through Doorway

Entering the Doorway

To get from here to there, we need to find some entrance, some passageway. There are many different paths, but they only appear with seeking. A person can be a doorway, a book can be a doorway, even the solid walls of a solitary cave can become a doorway.

“When I first met Joseph Rael and thought about our writing a book together, the thought came to me: ‘We are doorways for each other.’ It was not a conscious, logical decision, more an instantaneous intuition that holds many levels of meaning. For me, Joseph is a doorway into a deeper spirituality. . . . I am able to bring elements of spirituality into our book that would be difficult to do as a psychiatrist trying to maintain a balance on the edge of medicine and healing,” (194).

When the Knights of the Round Table were setting off in search of the grail

“They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, Where it was darkest and there was no path. Where there’s a way or path, It is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon” (Joseph Campbell, in Phil Cousineau, ed., The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, viii).

Heart Meditation, David Kopacz, 2014

Guhā: Cave of the Heart

As I was following leads and threads that sometimes disappeared into mist, or sometimes became tangled knots that seemed to lead nowhere, I came across the Sanskrit word, guhā, which can be translated as “the cave of the heart.” I stumbled upon a thread of Christian-Hindu mysticism through the writings of Wayne Teasdale, Bede Griffiths, and Abhishiktananda. All three wrote about the cave of the heart and of finding the Divine within the darkness of one’s own heart. As I thought about the heart, I realized that our physical heart, as all of our inner organs, are immersed in the darkness of the inner body. While we often think of the heart, metaphorically, as a place of light and love, it is physically and literally in the dark. One of the aspects of initiation is being able to see the light within the darkness deep within the heart. The depths of the heart also are the place where our identity shifts from individual to universal, as Wayne Teasdale wrote, “the deepest center of ourselves is one with the deepest center of the universe,” (The Mystic Heart, 53).

Joseph Rael frequently will say, “We are the microcosm of the macrocosm,” and I have always struggled to understand how the personal becomes the universal. In many ways this is the more amazing thing to me. I have come to terms with the fact that there is light in the darkness, but how incredible it is that when we go into our deepest heart center we reach the Divine and a state of non-duality/unity with all things!

In this chapter we look at various holy people who went into the darkness of caves in order to see the light: Abhishiktananda, Ramana Maharshi, Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, and Saint John of the Cross who went into the metaphorical cave of the “dark night of the soul.” In Pueblo tradition, initiates would go into the darkness of the kiva and Joseph had those experiences as he was growing up. There is also the ceremony of the sweat lodge which is done in darkness.

Joseph Rael teaches that the center of the medicine wheel is the heart and that the heart is a “medicine bag” which is an empty, dark pouch, which carries “sacred objects.” With the guhā we add the cave of the heart.  Joseph told me about the meaning of the word “cave.”

“Nah au kwee leh neh is the Tiwa word for cave. Nah means ‘self.’ Au kwee – means ‘curved.’ Leh neh means ‘straight like a fence.’ Nah means that when we enter a cave, we are entering into ourselves and we should think of the cave as our self. We should expect that when we first enter the cave it will turn every which way and it can get confusing, but eventually it will straighten out and you will then find what you are seeking,” (210).

Heart at the Center of Dark Matter, David Kopacz, 2016

Enlightenment & Endarkenment

In this chapter we look at different traditions relationships to wisdom found in the light and wisdom found in the dark. Perhaps enlightenment is the transformational realization that light is found even in the dark. Joseph is always talking about what he learns about physics and astronomy and how that fits with the traditions he comes from and from his visionary experiences. We also look at dark matter and dark energy in this chapter and draw on the work of physicists like David Bohm and Stephon Alexander. Alexander wrote The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe and this leads to a nice riff on physics, metaphysics and jazz and we blend in a bit about John and Alice Coltrane. From everything I have learned from Joseph and everything I have read, at the core of enlightenment is non-duality, coming into unity with all beings and creation.

Blue Feather, David Kopacz, 2017

Initiation

Initiation represents one of the most significant spiritual phenomena in the history of humanity. It is an act that involves not only the religious life of the individual . . . it involves his entire life. It is through initiation that . . . man becomes what he is and what he should be – a being open to the life of the spirit, hence one who participates in the culture into which he was born,” (Mircea Eliade, Rites and Symbols of Initiation, 27).

The entire book, really, is about initiation. In this chapter we look at the role of ceremony in initiation, as a way of connecting two different elements or realities into one wholeness. We review the concept of liminality (the space between two states of being) and liminal beings (those like mystics, visionaries, and shamans who become at home in these in-between states and serve as guides for those being initiated).

As I worked with Joseph, I began to realize that the whole process of writing the book was an initiation.

“Writing this book is part of my initiation with Joseph. Initiation is a new state of being and a new sense of one’s interrelationship and nonduality. Initiation is to realize that each of us is “the light of the Ancient Ones shining forth into the present.” Initiation is entering into a living spirituality where there is no separation between mind and body or between spirit and matter. Initiation is not something you do once and are done with; rather it is an understanding that “we do not exist” and yet we are perpetually coming into being and being reborn every moment.”

Crow Flying through Dark Matter, David Kopacz, 2018

Na-yo ti-ay we-ah (We Do Not Exist)

This is an often repeated saying of Joseph’s. In this chapter I look at it in context with concepts from Buddhism and Hinduism on the nature of reality being maya, illusion. I open the chapter with a discussion with Joseph on the word “zero” and this phrase “we do not exist.” Joseph became energized and did some heartfelt explanation, at some point saying, “There’s something going on here that I’m not even going to try to explain,” (309). While he kept on talking with only a brief pause, I am going to stop with that statement!

Next week I will publish Part III of this overview of Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.

How can we Transform Suffering, Fragmentation, and Painful Inner & Outer Separation? An Overview of Becoming Medicine – Part I

How can we transform suffering, fragmentation, and painful inner & outer separation? This is the central question that Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I address in our new book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. Suffering is the flip side of initiation and enlightenment. If you are seeking to become enlightened, the door that you often enter through is some form of suffering, separation, and fragmentation.

Initiation is the process of becoming more fully human. It is a common process in indigenous societies and in religious traditions. Anthropologists, such as Victor Turner studied initiation, as well as scholars of world religions, for instance, Mircea Eliade. Joseph Campbell popularized the process of initiation as the Hero’s Journey, comprising three primary stages of separation, initiation, and return.  Campbell sought to find a way that we “modern” people, who lack religious and sociocultural ritual frameworks for initiation, could transform suffering into personal and spiritual growth. Psychologists and psychiatrists became interested in the concept, as it applies to the presenting common concerns of those seeking psychotherapy. Carl Jung saw the need for initiation and transformation, as he wrote about throughout his career in books such as Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and his posthumous journal, The Red Book.

We live in a disorienting time and we seek to get our bearings again. In our first book together, Joseph Rael and I wrote about his practices of using the medicine wheel as a kind of compass for inner and outer orientation. When we find ourselves disoriented, we need some organizing framework to help us re-orient. The outer directions are North, South, East, and West. There are also the inner directions of spirit, emotion, mind, and body. Joseph also teaches that the center of the medicine wheel is the heart and embodies the principle of carrying. When we enter into the center of the medicine wheel, we realize that our hearts are medicine bags and they are filled with sacred objects. The initiation is the process of “finding the held-back place of goodness,” as Joseph called it in our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. Initiation is when we go into the center of the medicine wheel to find our medicine, which we come to realize is an ongoing process of becoming medicine – becoming the very thing that we so desperately need.

David Kopacz’s adaptation of Joseph Rael’s Medicine Wheel

We structure the book around the framework of initiation that Joseph Campbell, Victor Turner, Mircea Eliade, and others have described: separation, initiation, return. However, Joseph Rael comes from what he calls a verb language tradition – a language that is full of verbs like breathing, transforming, and becoming. It is a language of connecting, rather than how he describes noun language (English and German, for example) as languages that separate our living and interconnecting world into separate and discrete: people, places, and things. (The process of turning people into things is the topic of dehumanization that I explored in my first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine). Given Joseph’s predilection for verb language, we adapted separation, initiation, return into: seeking, finding/receiving, and giving. What one seeks with and within one’s heart, one eventually finds and receives, becoming healing medicine, and then as one is fulfilled with this, one overflows with fullness, giving to others what it was that we were seeking. In part III we examine how the personal medicine is also the universal medicine. The medicine that we become is the medicine that the world needs, and we find it through the journey of initiation into our hearts.

We live in a disorienting time and yet maybe instead of trying to go back to the way things were, we can go deeper into transformation, into the way things might be. The idea of initiation is consistent with Jack Mezirow’s model of transformative learning – that one enters into transformation through first becoming disoriented. And we have plenty of disorientation that we find ourselves in the midst of at this present time. Mezirow studied ten stages of transformation and we can break these down into three stages that parallel the stages of separation, initiation, and return. One way to understand transformation is that it is a change of who you are. This can be contrasted with simple change – where you remain the same, but you just change something you do. One can change without being transformed, but transformation is the ultimate change. Disorientation is the first step, according to Mezirow, for transformation. In that sense, maybe we are exactly where we need to be and things are exactly as they should be in order for us, as individuals and collectively, transform.

Adapted from Mezirow, Jack. “Transformational Learning Theory,” in Jack Mezirow, Edward Taylor, and Associates eds., Transformative Learning in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

Here is the table of contents of Part I of Becoming Medicine:

Part I: Separation (Seeking)
1 / Becoming Medicine
2 / Circle Medicine
3 / Separation
4 / Becoming a Visionary
5 / Becoming a Shaman 
6 / Becoming a Mystic

After studying the various forms of separation/seeking, we look at how ancient and modern people have gone through the process of initiation of becoming visionaries, mystics, and shamans. We define visionaries, shamans, and mystics broadly, with the understanding that anyone can develop these human capacities. We examine my experiences learning from Joseph, as well as Joseph’s life experiences. We review a number of different spiritual teachers, musicians, and healers and their processes of initiation and becoming, including Carl Jung, Henry Corbin, Hildegard of Bingen, Miles Davis, Ben Lee, Evelyn Underhill, Dorothee Soelle, Juan Mascaró, Krishnamurti, and Matthew Fox.

In the next blog post, I will give a brief overview of Part II: Initiation (Finding/Receiving).