Joseph’s painting is called “Spirits of Chimney Rock,” and is the second painting we have of this ancient site designed for lunar observation.
“Stars shine in the darkness of space. Joseph speaks a lot about space and the cosmos, using the sun and moon to orient us, and about our relationship and responsibility to the cosmos—because he keeps telling me We are cosmic citizens. There is a strong tradition in amongst the Southwestern Native American tribes of referring to the stars and the movements of the sun and the moon. I felt it was important for me to visit Chimney Rock, where two pillars of rock were used to track the changing patterns of the moon. Joseph told me to ‘note the mindset of how the ancient moon watchers used their insights regarding how they used the knowledge from moon observations.’ I visited Chimney Rock National Monument in 2015 for a dusk ceremony. As I sat listening to the Native American flute player, a small lizard climbed on to my backpack and then jumped on to my leg and sat there for a little bit. It felt good to gaze off at the pillars of Chimney Rock accompanied by this little rascal.” (Kopacz & Rael, 261)
I had painted a couple of different crow paintings and this is the second in the series, “Crow Flying Through Dark Matter.”
Joseph phoned me one night (2/18/16) as I was getting off of work and told me he had a dream or a vision in which God told him that there is a heldback place of goodness in everyone’s heart, no matter what you have done and no matter what has been done to you. When he told me this I knew we had the organizing framework and ending of the book! I grumbled a little, internally, thinking, “Gee it would have been nice to have had this vision when we started writing the book,” but I got over that pretty quickly. This vision meant that trauma did not destroy our goodness and innocence, although we can lose touch with it. It is waiting right there in the heart and all we have to do is make the inner journey to that place of heldback goodness. We further develop this idea in chapter 9, “Guhā: Cave of the Heart,” in Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.
The chapter starts off with a painting of Joseph’s, “Dreaming a New Future.” After Joseph phoned me about his vision of the heldback place of goodness, I quickly wrote out a number of related concepts in trauma and healing work: Peter Levine’s work on healing through embodiment; Donald Kalsched’s The Inner World of Trauma, and Trauma & the Soul; Richard Miller’s concept of the “inner resource” in iRest (Integrative Restoration/yoga nidra); Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s “inner healer;” Hindu traditions about the guhā (cave of the heart); and Martia Nelson’s Coming Home: The Return to True Self. Many different writers and traditions speak of an inner source of healing in the heart.
Here are some excerpts from chapter 14 “Return to the Place of Heldback Goodness:”
I madly scribbled down his words in a notebook. In talking about this held-back place of Goodness, Joseph spoke about how the sweat lodge can help veterans reconnect with this hidden place. He says that this goodness is hidden within the “cloak of Divine Energy,” and that, through the symbolic rebirthing of the sweat lodge processes, it can be brought back into a person’s life. Joseph describes how, in the sweat lodge, you sit on the ground in the darkness. At the end of the ceremony, you move from sitting to crawling on your hands and knees out through the flap of the sweat lodge door, moving from darkness and re-emerging into light. We do not remember our original birth, but this recreates our birth, crawling on hands and knees, struggling to our feet, and then staggering in our steps…
Joseph used to perform the sweat lodge ceremony at Indian Health Service hospital and clinics. He worked a lot with addictions. In the sweat lodge, there is first “placement,” in sitting, then crawling out into the light, the re-birthing process. He says that this is a “going back to Goodness, to the Source of Renewal.” This is the pathway to our inner home, which has been waiting for us and for veterans as they have journeyed forth into the world of war and trauma. We have to “repeat what we did as a baby” and this helps us reconnect to our inner home, to that place of held-back Goodness.
Joseph reminds me again to put in the book that he uses lava rocks for the sweat lodge and that these are “from the core of the Earth, the Mother of all of us. We reach through the center of her to her heart to heal.” The Earth’s heart, Mother Nature’s heart, our heart, are all the same. In connecting to Mother Nature’s heart, we can reconnect back to our own heart and heal. Joseph then said of veterans that the “Divine Mother loves them, and can wipe away their pain . . . all that is needed is a second or one or two seconds, or even no seconds, and just instantly we are forgiven.” Joseph reminisces that when he was growing up, he would meet people from many different tribes, but the Native American people were always the “most nature-oriented people.” He says that we must “Understand that we all belong to Mother Nature. We look like a beautiful man, or a beautiful woman, or a beautiful child, but still we are all Mother Nature’s children.”
“Dove of the Holy Spirit,” is a bright and vibrant painting – colors exploding out of the blackness of the void. I keep it by me, on my desk, where I work.
The next painting is, interestingly, a bird flying in the opposite direction to the first painting. I did a series of two paintings of crows flying through the darkness of the void. Joseph often speaks of dark energy and dark matter and is fascinated by these energies and spaces that we can infer but that we cannot see with our usual senses.
“Carrying is the same as initiation. At sunrise, the sun’s light initiates the day. At sundown, the sunlight initiates the night by ending the light of the day and beginning the dark of night. Similarly, life is carrying all that is; all plants, animals, and things. Life initiates us into linear time. We live from one moment to the next one. We live inside each moment, then it passes on so that we can become something new. A past moment that just died carries and becomes the foundation for the new knowing that was just born.”(Joseph Rael, p. 165, originally from Sound, p. 111).
Here are the next two paintings from Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, by David R. Kopacz, MD & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). The first painting is by Joseph, Where God and Humans Meet. This was one of the first paintings that Joseph gifted me when we first started working together. These paintings are found in chapter 4, Becoming a Visionary. Here is what I wrote about the painting in the book:
“Joseph’s artwork comes from his visions. What he sees in his visions he puts in his artwork. I keep a number of Joseph’s paintings around my desk. One of these is “Where God and Humans meet.” This painting is in the shape of a large vase, filled with tiny dots—like stars or molecules of gas. There is a central point, like a sun, which shines two rays downward to the top of two people’s heads and there is a little star where that divine energy enters in through the crown (7th) chakra. Arching upwards from the central sun is a divine being, God or Vast Self. As always in Joseph’s paintings, this divine being is looking upwards and has a large black eye (which is a black hole, Joseph says, and this black hole is about the same size as the light giving central sun). The edge of the vase and the back of this divine being are the same line, the vase grows out of the divine being which creates a container of and for existence. We are the vase that contains the space where God and humans meet, but from a visionary perspective, the material we are made of, the vase, is the material of Wah-Mah-Chi, Breath-Matter-Movement, in other words, God. Visions come from the divine and they reveal to us who we are.Visions are the soul drinking light, Joseph says,” (78).
The next painting is one of mine. When I was living in New Zealand I began reading Henry Corbin and was fascinated by his description of the ‘alam al-mithal, the place where “Spirits are corporealized and bodies are spiritualized,” (Corbin, Spiritual Body, Celestial Earth, 177). I would sit and meditate, looking out at the volcano, Rangitoto, and would try to find what this place of ‘alam al-mithal would be like. I painted 10 different paintings, but I’m not sure I could capture my vision.
“Visions are at the center of this book, just as the heart is at the center of the medicine wheel and our hearts are the center of our being. A vision is a little bit like a poem, or maybe a dream. It can be of brief, passing interest, or it can be an orienting structure for the rest of your life,” (78).