The excerpt is entitled “The Gates of Paradise: Shamanic Memories from an Indian Visionary,” and is availabe online in Parabola Summer 2022 Edition with the theme of Ancestors. It is currently available online, but the whole issue is worth reading, with an articles on P. L. Travers, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, and many different topics on the theme of Ancestors.
The article also features two of Joseph Rael’s paintings, “Sage Woman becomes visible to – bless “the People,” and “Crystal Chamber,” which I’ll include below.
We are very happy that this book is getting some notice as it is an autobiography of Joseph’s life specifically aimed at passing on wisdom to the next generation, how fitting that it is in the Ancestors issue of Parabola: The Search for Meaning. The book was also recognized as a winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People.
It is a great honor to receive the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People – Grades 7-12 – for our most recent book Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons for Children Ages 10-100! This is an annual book award put on by the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey.
Paterson, is of course, home to the poet/doctor William Carlos Williams and the great beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
I visited Paterson in July 2017 when I was in New Jersey for work. I bought a copy of William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, and read it by the Great Falls of the Passaic River. If you can’t make it to Paterson in person, there is always the Jim Jarmusch film, “Paterson,” about a poet bus driver named Paterson.
“What do I do? I listen to the water falling. (No sound of it here but with the wind!) This is my entire occupation.” (William Carlos Williams, Paterson, p. 46).
Thank you to The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College for this award!
“Healing is a very simple thing – all you do is stop separating things – on whatever level the separation is occuring. Whether it is you viewing your body as separate from your mind or your spirit being separate from your mind, or you viewing yourself as separate from nature.” (David Kopacz)
I agree with Marianela – that whenever we talk – we could go on for 3 days! Such an interesting and heart-warming conversation! You can watch the video of the interview here.
Our next book has released! Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons for Children ages 10-100 is 130 pages of Joseph’s lessons for the people of the Earth. The book has 43 art works by Joseph and 14 photographs. We decided on the “ages 10-100” because we’ve also thought about writing a book for younger children. Also, this is our first book for children and it was challenging to bridge Joseph’s ideas and create a story that kids of all ages could enjoy.
Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) was born on the Southern Ute Reservation in 1935 and grew up at Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico. Joseph’s life took him across the country and around the world. After a vision in 1983, he built a Sound Peace Chamber, and then worked on building over 60 chambers around the world — leading to recognition by the United Nations for his work for world peace. Through his friend and co-author, David Kopacz MD, Joseph shares his life and lessons for people, young and old, growing through the transition from childhood into adulthood.
Joseph says that when he was sent to the Santa Fe Indian boarding school, they were trying to make American kids out of Indian kids, in this book, Joseph tells us, “I am trying to make Indian kids out of American kids.” Joseph passes on his wisdom and artwork to the next generations who will inherit the many problems that we have created in breaking the medicine wheel. Joseph tells us, “Let’s not leave the next generations in so much mystery about the physical and spiritual worlds. Let’s educate them from the beginning about the way of the shaman.” We are already born with everything we need, we just need to make sure that as we grow up, we don’t forget who we are.
Here are the generous endorsements we’ve received for the book:
In Becoming Who You Are, David Kopacz & Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), a Tiwa elder, have presented a series of marvelous stories for teenagers and young adults about how to become a human being. This is timely wisdom from Native America, and Joseph’s past, for an age in which the guidance is confusing and truth is optional. The stories help readers sort through the possibilities for who they will become, while learning about and valuing culture & diversity. They describe Joseph’s lessons learned from boarding school, World War II, Pueblo Ceremonies, life on the reservation, and the process of creating sound chambers on guidance from spirits. I heartily recommend it for readers of all ages. We all need the wisdom that David & Joseph offer us.
―LEWIS MEHL-MADRONA MD, PhD
Psychiatry Residency Training Director, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center Executive Director, Coyote Institute Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of New England Author, Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Narrative Medicine, and Healing the Mind through the Power of Story
Becoming Who You Are is a remarkable narrative that does not fall into prescribed categories—sharing Native American insights in an engaging and charming manner, always speaking to never down to kids as the rightful heirs to our planet. Joseph Rael and David Kopacz are healers and carriers of timeless wisdom working tirelessly for the betterment of life. They convey the becoming of being in lucid text combining autobiography, literature, ecology, spirituality, travelogue, history, magic and wisdom illuminated with beautiful art. Grounded, with shining optimism, this book meanders purposefully like a pure river sourced from a perennial spring of wisdom and will surely motivate kids to fall in love with the earth and—their own selves. In our ravaged age, the book reminds us of interconnectedness and that all that we need is—here—sacred and real—listen!
―USHA AKELLA MSt Co-founder of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective, Poet and Author, “I Thought a Thought,” Ek An English Musical on the life of Shirdi Sai Baba, The Way of the Storm: An English Musical on the life of Meera Bai, I Will Not Bear You Sons, The Waiting, and A Face that Does Not Bear the Footprints of the World
This story of two very different men with common visions, may serve as a guide for all who seek to continually learn about themselves through the lenses of their own history and the cultures of those around us.
―SHUYUN DAVID LO MD
Psychiatrist, University of California Santa Cruz Student Health Center
Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life and Lessons for Children by Joseph E. Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz MD is a book that shows us there are other important ways to teach that can speak to us all. Through storytelling, Beautiful Painted Arrow lays out many of life’s core values. We learn that the Tiwa word for God is Wah-Mah-Chi, which is also everything, and is the core to the love of learning which is the secret to being human. This lovely book is written for children, but the authors freely admit that it was written for those in the middle between the two worlds of childhood and adulthood, so it really applies to us all.
―BRADFORD FELKER MD
Psychiatrist, Seattle VA, Professor University of Washington, Captain United States Navy Reserve
As I read Becoming Who You Are, I envisioned myself sitting at the feet of an elder, asking him, “Tell me the story of your life―share your wisdom with me so that I may live it and one day share it with others.” Coming from years and years of Joseph’s sage wisdom and insights, this book is a beautiful invitation to not only learn, but also create your own story—through art, music, writing, reading—or however the spirit moves you.
―MAGDALINE DeSOUSA Author, The Forgotten Mourners: Sibling Survivors of Suicide, What’s Real, Mama?, What’s Brave, Mama?, and coming soon, What’s Wrong With My Family? Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home
The inspiring story and wise words of the elder, Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), speak to the heart of the child within all of us. His life’s journey and teachings give us hope for a better world, one where we live in peace and harmony with our fellow humans and the natural world.
—TWIN SISTERS, JANE LISTER REIS & MARGIE LISTER MUENZER co-authors of the children’s books, Si’ahl and the Council of Animals: A Story of Our Changing Climate for Children and Their Parents; Si’ahl & Friends Coloring and Activity Book; and Margie’s Nature’s Gifts: A Poetry Coloring Book.
We have a new article published at About Place Journal for their Geographies of Justice Issue – Volume VI, Issue III, May 2021! We are very excited to be published in this excellent and important journal.
We look at the relationships between land and health, private land/private health, and public land/public health.
When I spoke with Joseph about the topic of Geographies of Justice he immediately resonated with it. “All humans are looking for that – some justice, a just place where we can feel adjusted and feel safe. A just place is where you are adjusted to justice,” he said. Here are a few excerpts of Joseph’s thoughts on Geographies of Justice:
“There are a lot of resources on the land that we take care of and they take care of us.
We need to start with the origin of the land, the place before everything broke apart – Pangea. We start at 1 – that’s Pangea. Then the scientists say the continents broke apart, and then people came out of Africa, then the Indians walked across the Bering Strait into the Americas – that’s how the scientists tell it.…
We can learn from our environment, from our geographies. We cannot have justice unless we learn from our geographies. Pangea was created and all around it was Panthalassa, the great ocean. Then Pangea spilt and you had the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans eventually, and the Americas, North, South, Central, and then you had all these tribes in North America, and you had tribes in South America. For all these tribes, their religion was based on geography. The Eskimos had igloos and they would have ceremonies that reflect where they live, all the tribes would have ceremonies that reflect where they live.
There are different areas of land. You become your place before you live in your Mom and Dad’s house because they come from the land and you come from them. They teach you about the weather. The ceremonies are related to the climate of their place. First there was Pangea, and then it split and you had Europeans and Americans, but we are all from Pangea, we are all related...”
“Justice is right here in the room with me and it is right there in the room with you and it is right there in the room for all the people on the planet – it is here.“
The full moon this month is called the Snow Moon. Last night it was hazy, almost like an eye in the sky, looking at this blurry year of the pandemic. The light from the moon is reflected from the sun. It seems like this past year we have been fumbling in the dark, not seeing clearly, struggling with the disruption of the pandemic and the political instability.
My friend, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) is always telling me, “We need to teach people that they can go to the moon – not with rocket ships and technology – with their own consciousness through visions, like I do.” Joseph tells me he has been to the moon several times. One time he was sitting in his armchair in the Southwestern United States and then, pop, he was up in space, looking at someone who was aiming a camera at the moon and he was also seeing the Little People, the elves who were on the surface of the moon preparing it for human arrival. As Joseph looked at the scene, he realized that he was trilocating: he was the person with the camera and could zoom in and out, he was the observer seeing the person with the camera, and he was the person talking to the King of the Elves on the surface of the moon. The King of the Elves told him that the elves always go ahead to prepare reality for the arrival of humans and they were quite busy on the moon. Then, pop, Joseph was back sitting in his armchair.
While many might think this sounds fantastic, or it was just Joseph’s imagination, he is adamant that this is an important part of his teachings and that people need to stop being so focused on their self-imposed limitations of the separation of the body from the Earth and the Universe. He sees human evolution as moving away from technological travel to spiritual or metaphysical travel.
Joseph has always been guided by his visions, from his formative vision in the early 1980s of buidling Sound Peace Chambers all around the world (over 65 have been built on four continents), to his visions of us entering the 5th world, the new world, and his trips to the moon.
I stepped outside into the cool Seattle night and looked up at the moon and thought about how Joseph keeps telling me we need to teach people that they can travel without technology, that they can travel in non-ordinary, visionary reality. I looked up at the moon and I was the person the with camera, zooming in through the haze to see the moon more clearly. It is a hobby of mine, trying to hold my breath, steady the camera, and seeing how clear of a photo I can get with the zoom on my camera.
I interviewed Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) for The-POV, the new interview site that Usha Akella and I have started. Parabola magazine has picked up this interview and published it in their Spring 2021 issue entitled “Wellness.” The interview is called “A Bridge Across the River.”
Please support Parabola magazine and pick up a copy of the Spring 2021 Issue!
This painting is accompanying the text of the “Entering the Heart Ceremony” that we close the book with. This exercise, or ceremony, takes you through a series of doorways through your physical heart, the heart of humanity, the heart of life, the heart of creation, and finally into the heart of the Creator and the heart of the medicine wheel. At this point, the journey that we started in walking around the medicine wheel in our first book together is complete as we progress through initiations into being a shaman, a mystic, and a visionary and end in the center of the heart of the medicine wheel. We’ll offer this ceremony to you here:
Entering the Heart Ceremony
Find a quiet place where you will be able to sit for a while, either inside or outside. Find the center of the space where you will be sitting. Orient yourself to the North and take one step in that direction, honoring the place of innocence. Turn around, facing South, and step back into the Center of your medicine wheel, honoring the place of carrying. Take a step to the South, honoring the place of placement. Turn around, facing North and step back into the Center, again honoring the place of carrying. Turn to the East, and take one step forward, honoring the place of purity. Turn around, facing West, and step back into Center, honoring the place of carrying. Take one step to the West, honoring the place of awareness. Turn around and step back into Center, once again honoring the heart of carrying.
Now you will walk the medicine wheel. Face the East and take one step forward, intone the sound of the letter A_aaahhhhhhhhh, drawing out the sound as long as you can as you step around the perimeter of the circle to the South and then intone the sound of the letter E_eeehhhhhhhhh. Follow the wheel around to the West and intone the letter I_eeeeeeeee. Follow the wheel to the North and intone the sound of O_ooooooooo. Now step to the Center and intone the sound of the letter U_uuuuuuuuu.
Now you can sit comfortably in the center of the medicine wheel, this is the place of carrying and it is the heart of the medicine wheel. As Joseph reminds us, the microcosm is the macrocosm, thus this is the heart of the medicine wheel, it is your heart, it is the heart of the Earth, it is the heart of the Universe, and it is even the Heart of God—Wah Mah Chi—if you can walk deep enough into the heart.
We will now be going through a series of doorways. First we will enter your personal heart and trace the flow of blood through the medicine wheel of the heart. Venous blood, after giving its oxygen to the body, returns to the heart from the Northwest, the place of connecting spirit and body, entering into the right atrium. Next follow the flow of blood into your right ventricle in the Southwest, the place of the connecting body and emotion. From here the blood is pumped to the North, the place of Spirit and Innocence. Here the blood enters into the lungs and is transformed as the inner venous blood connects with the outer oxygen- rich environment coming into the lungs. The venous blood now turns from dark to bright red arterial blood as it carries more oxygen as the physical matter of the body creates a container in which the movement of the blood connects with the movement of the breath—thus we have Breath, Matter, Movement, thus we have Wah-Mah-Chi entering at this point. Next, follow the blood as it comes back into the heart from the Northeast, the place of connecting spirit and the mind, as it enters into the doorway of the left atrium. From here the blood travels to the Southeast, the place of connecting mind and emotion in the left ventricle. From here the arterial blood travels North, to the spirit again, and then travels throughout the body, revitalizing it and carrying the breath into matter through the movement of the blood.
The atria and ventricles of the heart are empty chambers that can fill with blood and then empty, a continual process of accepting what life has to give, allowing transformation, and then giving goodness away to the rest of the body. These empty chambers might remind you of the word that Abhishiktananda used—guhā: the cave of the heart. Now that you have circulated through your own personal heart, the time has come to enter into the center of your heart, for it is here that you will find the doorway into the deepest chambers of the cave of the heart, which we can also call the secret garden. Move into the center of the heart, this is the still point at the center of all the circulating movement of the burning fire of the blood. In this still center-point, look around for a doorway. It is dark here in the center of the heart, despite the burning of the blood, you can look with your eyes, but you need to see with your inner, non-ordinary vision. You must feel into it with your non-ordinary senses. Locate the doorway—it might be on the wall, or the ceiling, but it could possibly be on the floor as it leads deeper into the heart. Open the door of your heart and step through the threshold into this next larger space of your heart, feeling the opening of stillness and space within your center. You are now in the heart of humanity. Feel your way into this heart of humanity where your heart and the heart of humanity are one.
Once you have acclimated to the heart of humanity, begin looking for the next doorway that opens into an even deeper stillness of heart. Using your non-ordinary senses, locate the door, open it, and step through, entering into the heart of life. Open up into the heart of life where the heart of every living thing is one. Even things that don’t have an obvious heart like plants have their center here. Open up into this greater spaciousness, feeling more space open up within your heart and feeling a vastness that you are entering. Take some time getting comfortable in the heart of life.
Start to look around for the next doorway, looking all around with your non-ordinary vision. Find the door, open it, and step through into the heart of creation—this is the heart of every physical thing, all biological beings and rocks, water, soil, and even space. Feel this space open up within the center of your heart as you step forward into this vast space. Spend some time enjoying being one with creation.
There is still another doorway as you begin looking around again with your non-ordinary vision. In this realm, you get used to letting go of your identity—moving from the personal, to humanity, to life, to creation. Find the door, open it, and step through, entering into the Heart of God,
the Heart of Wah-Mah-Chi—the Heart of the Creator. Here you are One with everything, resting peacefully in the light of the Heart of the Creator. You have taken four steps through four caves of the heart. You have been practicing heart medicine as you have been circling deeper into the heart medicine wheel.
Now it is time to go into the heart of the heart medicine wheel, taking a step into the center of the heart of the heart medicine wheel. By now you should be used to using your non-ordinary vision to find the door, open it, and walk through, as you do so. You now are entering into what Joseph calls Vast Self. This is the place of non-duality. There is not even oneness, because it is before the counting even began. Feel the peace of Vast Self, the place before Creation, the place that watches Creation being created out of itself and yet remaining the same. Be still, be still . . . still . . .
The last painting by Joseph is “One Sun and Four Moons” from 2018. It also features black holes. Joseph has told me, in the past, that the black eyes of his spiritual figures in paintings are black holes.
Although this is the ending of our The Art of Becoming Medicine series, working with Joseph is like always opening new doors. We are already nearing the end of a draft of our next book, Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons – a book for children of all ages, but particularly those in the transition from childhood into the teenage years. We have a rougher draft of a book for younger children called A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds: Learning How to Count to Ten in Tiwa. We have also started the talking and idea stage of a book on Art Medicine, which will focus on Joseph’s visual art and the healing properties of artwork. There is always more to do with Joseph! The ending is just the beginning…
The first piece is “In the Currents of Time,” from 2005. We see a medicine wheel of the seasons moving sun-wise (clockwise) and two fish, one swimming upstream and one swimming downstream. Although time flows forward in ordinary reality, Joseph says that time can flow backward in non-ordinary reality. Everything is circular – if you don’t get something right the first time, you will circle back around to it and some point. Similarly, the past of the country and the past of the land continues to exert an influence.
The next piece is “Breath Matter Movement and Space Time,” from 2014. Breath Matter Movement is how Joseph translates the word for God in the Tiwa language, Wah-Mah-Chi.
We only have four more art works to feature and we will bring this Art of Becoming Medicine series to a close.
Joseph and I have been working on our next book together. He wants it to be for 10-12 year olds and it will include Joseph’s life & lessons from when he was growing up and what he thinks kids today should learn. I think kids of all ages (meaning adults, too) would find this interesting because we are always learning and growing. We started out with a working title of Journey of the Holy Beings, then moved to A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds (we might still keep that for a younger kids book), currently the working title is Becoming Who You Are: Beautiful Painted Arrow’s Life & Lessons.
We are starting to look for publishers – young adult books are a whole different category from our past work. Let us know if you have ideas for publishers! Maybe we will get the book out within 2021!
The first is “Rainbow Makers of the (tutah) Rainbow Light,” a colorful burst that reminds us that Beautiful Painted Arrow can also mean Double Rainbow.
The next piece is the second in a series, “Candle of the World #2 – People of the Sand Place – Stars Who Live in the Heavens – They Travel to Planet Earth.” This painting reminds us of the Picuris Elders telling young Joseph that there is an equivalency between the stars in the sky and the sand on the ground. There was a movement of peoples from the stars to the sands of Earth and the destiny of the people of Earth is to return to the stars.