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 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.
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.