International Day of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace and I would like to speak about the peace work I have been doing with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) & David Kopacz, photo by Karen Kopacz ©2016

Joseph had a vision in the 1980s of a circular structure, half in the ground, half out of the ground, with men and women chanting for world peace. He brought this vision into reality and over 50 sound peace chambers have been built on four continents: North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. Joseph has been received a letter of recognition from the United Nations for his work promoting world peace.

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Sound Chamber, Mike & Marie Pedroncelli caretakers

Peace work can take many forms. In my first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine (2014), I sought to help doctors and clinicians find a way back from dehumanization and burnout to feel more fully human and to create a health care system that addresses the whole person. I spoke of a compassion revolution that was occurring—many people in health care are working to bring the heart back into medicine.

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In our first book together, Joseph and I worked to help create a pathway from war to peace for returning veterans by walking the medicine wheel. This book is called Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD (2016). One of the things that Joseph talks about with veterans is that they should get their DNA tested so that they can remember that we are all brothers and sisters—because genetic and archaeological science tells us we all came from Africa originally. Scientists even tell us that we all have a common mother, Mitochondrial Eve, some 150,000 – 200,000 years ago. Many Native Americans and other indigenous people talk about Mother Earth. Mother Earth’s initials are ME—the same as Mitochondrial Eve—“ME” is the same thing that each of us call ourselves. Joseph says this just shows that everyone really is related.

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In working with veterans, we wanted to help them in their walking around the medicine wheel, making the journey from being trained to protect us from the “other” to where we can all see each other as brother and sister.

Here is a link to a video of the two of us talking about peace, filmed by my sister, Karen Kopacz, from the website for the book.

I talked with Joseph this last week and he told me some things about peace. He said, “What we need to teach people about peace is open-mindedness. People are held back by their self-imposed limitations. The very thing that people are afraid of is what they should by trying to moving toward so that they can have an expanded awareness.”

I asked Joseph if he could say a few things about the dove as a symbol of peace.

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Dove of Peace, Joseph Rael ©2018

“The dove is a waterbird and it is bird that flies in the air because that is what birds do. The dove of peace. It drinks water and when we drink water we are doing what birds do. When we drink water it makes the sound with every swallow “Soul. Soul. Soul.” You can listen as you swallow and you will hear it. We, ourselves, are 70% water, our blood is water that circulates through our bodies, so the dove is reminding us that we are soul and reminding us to connect to our hearts which pump the blood and water throughout our bodies. The work of the dove of peace is to bring us peace and harmony.

When someone dies at Picuris, we wash the body in the river and the soul goes out of the body and down the river. The soul goes down the river to the ocean. It goes out into the ocean, it goes out to Baja. Then from the ocean, the soul, with water goes up into the sky and then it becomes clouds, big white fluffy clouds. The dove of peace is white, just like the clouds that bring the rain. The clouds rain and the rain falls back to the earth and we say that the rain is the ancestors coming back to us because they are our caretakers.

At the beginning of many of my visions I see the white dove of peace which opens a circle of light. The circle of light gets bigger and then I am going through it and I am somewhere I have never been before and I am experiencing something other than what I can experience here. And then I am back to where I started and the circle closes but I have gone somewhere new and experienced something new.”

Joseph reminds us that peace is always right here in our hearts. Whether we are veterans or just a human being who has lost our way, we can reconnect back to what he calls a “held-back place of goodness” that we all have in our hearts. The dove of peace comes from above, falling like the rain that is our ancestors, returning to be our caretakers, reminding us that we are made of water, reminding us that we can bring peace and harmony to our souls. With every swallow of a glass of water, we make the sound “soul, soul, soul.” On this International Day of Peace, we should all remember that we are here to do the work of peace. Joseph says that his grandfather would always tell him, “work is worship,” so this work of peace is a kind of worship, in which we are trying to remind ourselves that we are all brothers and sisters of Mother Earth/Mitochondrial Eve and that we all have a “held-back place of goodness” within our hearts. The work of peace is seeking to find this reservoir of peace within our hearts and to release this into the world, like releasing a white dove from the cage of our hearts.

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Dove of the Holy Spirit, David Kopacz ©2017 

Joseph and I continue our work of peace in our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine (due out early 2019) which plunges deep into the center of the medicine wheel, where not only are we all related, but ultimately we are all one.

A Review of the Work of Jaideva Singh: Dualism and Non-dualism in Indian Philosophy & Spirituality, PART I

PART I: Introduction

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This is a review (and expanded discussion) of two short books by Jaideva Singh (1893-1986), Indian musicologist, philosopher, and translator of many texts of Kashmiri Shaivism. Singh blended two careers in music and as a translator and philosopher of sacred texts. I could not find much in English about his life, the same biography appeared in Wikipedia and on a number of other sites. There is an edition of Sruti Magazine devoted to his life (Sruti, e-Issue 17, November 2013 – note that the page numbers are not always sequential in the pdf and some page numbers appear to be missing, e.g. #34). Dr. M.R. Gautam writes in an article, “A Great Savant of India,” that Singh was born in what is now known as Uttar Pradesh and that his grandfather, Udit Narayan Singh was beheaded by the British, his father was also supposed to be killed, but at 2 years of age, Gopal Narayan Singh was hidden under burnt wheat chaff in the village (21). During the course of Thakur Jaideva Singh’s studies he came under the influence of Theosophist, Annie Besant, as well as Babu Bhagwan Das, and that he became a vegetarian. In an odd twist, similar for Gandhi, it was through a Westerner that Singh came to a deeper study of Sanskrit and original sacred texts. He met a German scholar who encouraged him to study Sanskrit, which in fact he did. His life-long love of music led him to be the Chief Producer at All India Radio for about six years. In retirement he got down to studying and writing. He began to study tantra and yoga under Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj. He also studied with Swami Lakshman Joo and this collaboration led to English translations of a number of Kashmiri Shaivite texts, including: Pratyabhijnahrdayam: The Secret of Self-Recognition, Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness: A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga, Siva Sutras: The Yoga of Supreme Identity, Spanda-Karikas: The Divine Creative Pulsation, Para-trisika-Vivarana by Abhinavagupta: The Secret of Tantric Mysticism. The two books that this review will focus upon are Vedanta and Advaita Shaivagama of Kashmir: A Comparative Study and An Introduction to Madhyamaka Philosophy. Both of these books are far more accessible than the major translations listed above.

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Gautam writes:

Thakur Saheb was a voracious reader. His thirst for knowledge was so great that he wished to study the great works of renowned scholars on mysticism, music, philosophy and other subjects in their original versions. Therefore he learnt Greek, Latin, Persian, French and German in addition to English, Sanskrit, Pali, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu…and his library consisted of 6000-7000 rare books, (Gautam, Sruti, 24-25).

Singh was a true scholar of world religions.

He found a striking closeness of spirit between Christian and Hindu mysticism, as also Sufism. His mind was thus marked by the openness and universality which are the signs of great spirits. Being rooted in his own tradition, he accepted the truth, from whichever source it came. This, his openness, was also connected with the fact that he was deeply influenced by the thought of A.K. Coomaraswamy, with whom he entertained correspondence, as well as by Rene Guenon and the traditionalist school. Besides, he was a theosophist of a very free and non-sectarian type,” (Unknown author as previous page missing in pdf, possibly Dr. Bettina Baumer, Sruti, 35).

I came to reading Jaideva Singh after a conversation with Richard Miller, PhD, the developer or iRest (Integrative Restoration), an adaptation of yoga nidra which has been studied with military veterans and active duty military personnel as well as other populations. After reading Richard’s books (Yoga Nidra: Awaken to Unqualified Presence Through Traditional Mind-Body Practices and The iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma), I was curious as to the historical background and spiritual tradition that the concepts came out of and Richard mentioned a few different sources, including those of Jaideva Singh. I made my way, slowly through Pratyabhijnahrdayam, Vijñānabhairava, Siva Sutras, Spanda-Karikas, Para-trisika-Vivarana. These texts are dense with layers of the original Sanskrit texts (generally from around 800-1200 CE), commentaries by ancient sages, and then modern commentary. I found them difficult, but worthwhile and found various gems throughout. I then turned scholarly texts by Western professors on the subject and found Paul Muller-Ortega’s The Triadic Heart of Siva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir and Mark Dyczkowski’s The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of the Doctrines and Practices Associated with Kashmir Shaivism illuminating.

There are a number of contemporary authors studying these same ancient texts and offering contemporary translations for a more general, than academic and esoteric, audience. Daniel Odier’s Yoga Spandakarika: The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra is very readable and accessible. I have recently read once through Lorin Roche’s The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight, and this includes a review of previous translations and tracing the lineages from Lakshman Joo, including Jaideva Singh’s Vijñānabhairava. I am currently making my way through Christopher D Wallis’ The Recognition Sutras: Illuminating a 1,000-Year-Old Spiritual Masterpiece, which is strikes a middle ground between academic rigour and accessibility.

Why have I spent so much time reading through these translations of ancient texts of the Kashmiri Shaivite tradition? This tradition is also one of the major sources of the concept of “Tantra,” which is a more popular term. Tantric traditions are found in various branches of Hinduism and Buddhism. Two of the primary reasons I have immersed myself in these writings and teachings are: non-dualism and sound mysticism (the relationship of sound, word, creation, and reality). The primary focus of this review is on non-dualism, we will have a brief aside on sound mysticism and then focus on non-dualism and two of Jaideva Singh’s books for the remainder of the review.

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) & David Kopacz

My work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), a Native American mystic and visionary, who comes from the Southern Ute and Picuris Pueblo cultural traditions, has led me to expand my studies into various cultures and traditions to try to understand and contextualize some of his teachings. Joseph teaches that the sound energy of the word contains meaning. The signifier (the word sound) is not separate from the signified (the meaning of the word). Joseph teaches me to listen to, rather than think about, reality (this is a challenge for me as an academic and Westerner). Joseph often speaks about the differences between Western languages which are noun-based and focus on people, places, and things – this is great for science and for dividing reality up into separate pieces, but it loses something of the heart and soul and living spirituality of verb-based languages. Many indigenous languages are verb-based – they focus on processes, flow, and relationship rather than on fixed, separate objects. This has profound and far-reaching consequences, the most tangible being the European view of land as a “thing” to be owned” rather than Mother Earth being a living being who is our source and to whom we are all interconnected and interrelated. The most esoteric, and yet perhaps the most fundamental, of Joseph’s teachings is: “we do not exist.” This is a koan-like statement that I continually turn over in my mind and heart and which I have come to understand in many different, multi-layered ways. One way of understanding this statement that we do not exist is that we do not exist as nouns (as fixed, concrete, boundaried objects), but that we do exist as a kind of continually changing, flowing, and pulsating verb that is in relation with everything. The Native American concept of interrelation is quite well-known, for instance the Lakota saying mitakuye oyasin, often translated as “we are all related.” Joseph takes this interrelation a step further to the point that we do not exist in separation, but we do exist in a kind of unity in which there is no difference between the individual and what Joseph calls Vast Self (God, Creator, the One Being creating and observing reality).

Joseph is very interested in science and is always giving me references to articles he reads in various science magazines about dark matter and dark energy. These are forces that “don’t exist” from the perspective of our everyday senses, yet we can infer through scientific observation and study that these unseen forces do exist and influence visible reality. This parallels Joseph’s teachings around ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Ordinary reality is perceptual reality and non-ordinary is the reality that we can reach through intuitive and spiritual methods that exists in a different way. Much of his teaching with me has been on being able to move into a state of non-ordinary reality and then back. My sense is that, ultimately, non-ordinary reality is the source of the momentary manifestation of ordinary reality.

Sound is one way that we can travel from ordinary to non-ordinary reality. Ordinary reality is not separate from non-ordinary reality, it is a manifestation of it. The sound we hear with our ears contains within it esoteric teachings about reality. Joseph speaks of principle ideas that various sounds contain and that more complex concepts are created out of the building blocks of the principle ideas contained within the sounds. For instances, when Joseph teaches the medicine wheel each direction has a vowel sound associated with it and each vowel sound manifests a principle idea. A (ah) is east, mind, spring, purity; E (eh) is south, emotion, summer, placement; I (ee) is west, body, autumn, awareness; O (oh) is north, spirit, winter, innocence. Thus, the outer direction of east corresponds to the inner direction of mind, these are not two separate things, but inner and outer manifestations of the principle idea of purity.

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Joseph Rael’s Medicine Wheel, Rendition by David Kopacz ©2016

The four inner and outer directions of the medicine wheel are interrelated, just as the four seasons are interrelated – they are different “things” in a way, but they do not exist in and of themselves, but only in relationship to each other, just as what we call “winter” cannot exist without a relationship with “summer.” Joseph says that the reason we have war and violence is because we misperceive ourselves as existing and separate from “others,” whereas we do not really exist as separate beings, but only in relationship with others. We talk about the medicine wheel and coming home from war to peace in our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. Using the four directions of the medicine wheel, we can bring ourselves back into harmony internally and externally, bringing peace to ourselves and to the world as we come back into interrelationship and interbeing.

The next level of work I am doing with Joseph starts at the end of Walking the Medicine Wheel and continues on in our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine. This is the movement from interrelationship to oneness and unity: non-duality. After walking the four inner and outer directions of the medicine wheel, there is a further journey – which is the journey of the mystic, the visionary, and the shaman – into the center of the medicine wheel, the very heart of reality. Joseph teaches that the sound of the center is: U (uu) center, heart, carrying. Moving into the heart of the medicine wheel first comes to the level of our personal heart, but as we go deeper it is revealed that our personal heart leads to the universal heart and it is through the universal heart that we are not only interconnected with all of reality, but we are one with it. This is a place of non-duality.

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© Joseph Rael

There is a common tension between the spiritual concepts of immanence and transcendence that seems to be found in all major religions. Immanence is the concept that all materially reality contains spirit within it. Transcendence is the concept that there is a spiritual realm that exists above and beyond material reality. As with all dualisms, immanence/transcendence leads to violence and we see this throughout the history of humankind and the history of religion. The ossified teachings of most religions teach that material reality is sinful, evil, or irrelevant (e.g. maya, illusion). The Fall in Christianity teaches us that the body is sinful and evil, that we are trapped in matter that is constantly trying to lead us to sin and that salvation leads to rejecting or controlling the body and being “good” and getting to heaven after death. In dualistic versions of Hinduism and Buddhism, material reality is considered maya, illusion, and that the religious path is found by detaching from the physical and focusing on the spiritual. We can look at secular materialism as a form of radical immanence (without the recognition of the sacred). Capitalism that is unbalanced by another belief/value system teaches us that the ultimate good and goal of life is to accumulate as many things and dollars as possible. Much of the blending of Christianity and Capitalism results in a dualism with a dissociation of business (Capitalism, Materialism) and spirituality (going to church and being “better” than those who don’t go to Church and being “better” than non-Christians). It is a puzzling observation that the “founders” of religions are generally mystics and visionaries, but later on the followers lose the mystical thread of living spirituality and fall prey to dualistic conceptions of us/them that leads to so many inequalities and wars. Consider the fact that Jesus in the Bible cannot in anyway be considered a Capitalist or Materialist. He is far more of a Socialist, but ultimately he was a renunciate (an anti-Materialist) – who rather than amass wealth and belongings taught that we should love one another and not cast the first stone of dualistic judgment. Sufis, Tantriks, Christian mystics all broke down the boundaries of dualism that divide us and separate us from the Ultimate spiritual Reality. Native American teachings highly value immanence, the sacredness of the physical world, which includes our physical being. Joseph Rael also includes transcendence, that physical reality is sacred, but it also does not exist and that there is another, non-ordinary reality, which is hidden within ordinary reality. He does this in a way that does not create dualism, but rather is non-dualistic.

 

 

“Coming Home to Peace” excerpt from Walking the Medicine Wheel published in Parabola Magazine, Fall 2018

Parabola Magazine has just published an abridged version of the “Coming Home to Peace” chapter from the book that Joseph Rael and I wrote, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD.

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I am so excited and honored that our work is being featured in this great magazine. I first read Parabola when I was in college. It is the journal of The Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition and always has great features on topics around “the search for meaning,” with past contributors including Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and Jacob Needleman. This current issue revolves around “The Journey Home,” and it is fitting to have our piece on the struggle of veterans to find their way home after military service. This issue features Parker Palmer, whose Center for Courage and Renewal has recognized my last two books as selections of their most courageous books of 2014 and 2016. I have also written guest blogs for their organization: “Recovering Hope, Poetry, and Connection in Health Care” and “Finding the Held-back Place of Goodness in the Broken Hearts of Veterans.” It is great to see Joseph’s and my work sharing space in Parabola with an excerpt from Parker Palmer’s new book, The Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old. Another author I have great respect for is featured in this issue, Kabir Helminski, with an excerpt from his book, Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation & the Challenge of Our Time. Peter Kingsley, author of Reality and A Story Waiting to Pierce You, has also been interviewed by Parabola in the past.

How exciting and rewarding it is to have Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD – this work of the heart that Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have done together – honored in this way, being published in a magazine that has inspired me since my days in college.

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I am also happy that we are able to promote the work of so many others in this Parabola essay. Ed Tick, John Wesley Fischer, Jonathan Shay, Bryan Doerries, Claude Anshin Thomas, Judith Herman, and Robert Jay Lifton are all cited and credited for their work. I am also happy that Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre, where I worked in New Zealand, is mentioned in the piece, as that is a place very dear to my heart.

Here is a quote from the article:

“We can assist returning veterans through creating an initiation and rehabilitation framework. In essence, we as a society, need to have some framework for accepting, understanding, and transforming veterans’ pain. Transformation means that we take something that exists in one state and transform it into another state. For instance, wee take something that is manifesting its energy in a ‘negative’ way and transform it so that it manifests in a positive way,” (Parabola, 88).

I wish we had a little more of Joseph’s words in this piece, but this was a section putting our work in the context of the work of others. Joseph says that we need to help veterans find the “held-back place of goodness” in their hearts. If you want to hear Joseph in his own words, you can watch one of the videos on the website for Walking the Medicine Wheel.

The Parabola editors choose one of our paintings from the book for the article. The painting below is my rendition of Joseph’s medicine wheel that I added some universal spiritual symbols to in the center.

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Cosmic Medicine Wheel, David R. Kopacz, © 2016

This issue of Parabola is not out on the newsstand yet, but you can see the cover and some of the current issue on their website and it should be on the newsstand soon!

 

 

Review of Walking the Medicine Wheel by Michael H. Cohen

Thank you to Michael H. Cohen for his kind and thoughtful review of Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. You can read the entire review here. A few excerpts below.

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CAN INDIGENOUS HEALING SYSTEMS RESOLVE COMPLEX, MODERN CLINICAL PROBLEMS SUCH AS TRAUMA AND PTSD?

“Answering this question, as part of a larger inquiry into integrative medicine, psychiatrist and integrative physician David Kopacz, and Native American visionary Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), have written Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD.”

“Importantly, the book notes that ‘the real importance of ceremony is that we are not just going through meaningless motions, but that our motions are full of deep meaning, our motions are the motions of creation.’

Healing not only helps the person – it changes the cosmos.

That is why this is such an important book. Walking the Medicine Wheel shares wisdom from two divergent traditions—one clinical and the other focused on healing through imagery, sound, poetry, introspection, visioning. The quest is nothing less than clearing the fog of the aftermath of war, instilling sacredness, and reclaiming the whole self.”

Veterans, Vairagya & Vast Self

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I have a new essay out in the quarterly on-line magazine, The Badger. This essay looks at the state of vairagya from Hindu philosophy, similar to a state of non-attachment and compares this with the negative vairagya state that many Veterans have upon returning home – they feel disconnected and detached. I also add some perspectives from my ongoing work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and that is where his concept of Vast Self comes in.

This is a piece I had written for Walking the Medicine Wheel, but we had to cut it down quite a bit and I thought this piece was worth publishing. I particularly like the idea of a Veteran Monastery – a place for quiet contemplation, healing, and recovery!

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Here is the link to the article.

Finding the Held-Back Place of Goodness in the Broken Hearts of Veterans

Thanks to The Center for Courage & Renewal’s blog post about Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD that Joseph Rael and I wrote!

You can read the blog here. It is an excerpt from the book that I edited and includes some quotes by Parker Palmer about the two ways the heart can break: it can shatter – injuring self and others, or it can break open into greater goodness and compassion.

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Center of the Heart by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

Courage & Renewal tweeted about the blog: “David Kopacz (and Joseph Rael) unpack the #courage of our veterans through the lens of @Parker Palmer’s ‘broken-open heart.'”

 

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Warrior Healing by David Kopacz

Spirituality Today Book of the Month: Walking the Medicine Wheel

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Spirituality Today has selected our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, as Book of the Month!

Spirituality Today is based in the UK and focuses on “Challenging Paradigms and Expanding Consciousness.”

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You can read the full review of the book at this link.

Excerpts from the Spirituality Today review.

In Walking the Medicine Wheel its authors offer an approach to repairing the shattered psyches of PTSD suffers through a number of different healing modalities. These are essentially anchored within and around the mandala of the Medicine Wheel of Native American Tradition – a map through which initiates can more closely understand and appreciate mankind’s relationship with those natural forces that permeate through the world of spirit and the psyche of man.

This framework is remarkably similar to many Western psycho-spiritual constructs and has a particular resonance with ideas expressed by Carl Jung in his philosophy of personal individuation. Here the concepts of the Four Directions within Native philosophy and the Four Functions in Jungian analysis merge and complement each other.

…within the pages of this book such sufferers may well discover a vitally important lifeline…the ideas presented here should demonstrate to everyone that opportunities for personal growth can emerge even from the darkest recesses of the sort of fractured mindset that trauma creates.

This book has been beautifully produced and has a real quality feel to it. The inclusion of the remarkable visionary artwork of Native American Joseph Rael has resulted in a publication that carries with it an energy that stimulates the soul of its reader along the way.

…a publication with a warm heart – one that beats loud and clear from within its pages and which I feel reaches out to those suffering in pain and torment as a result of the nightmares derived from their military service.

In short, Walking the Medicine Wheel is a remarkable and highly impressive collaboration between two insightful, spiritual-warriors ― two hardened veterans of front-line psycho-spiritual conflicts whose combined approach to the challenge of trauma has created a deeply moving and very humbling publication indeed.

Thanks Spirituality Today for the review!

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Link to our videos on Walking the Medicine Website.

 

Re-humanizing Medicine & Walking the Medicine – Books of the Month in the Royal College of Psychiatrists Newsletter

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Pan American Division Newsletter, February 2017 (Issue 26)

RCPsych PanAm Book club: Book of the Month

This month’s recommendation was sent by Dr. David Kopacz who responded to our call to “rediscover the soul of daily practice” and to connect with more members of our Division. Dr. Kopacz is a psychiatrist working in Primary Care Mental Health Integration at the Puget Sound Veterans Affairs in Seattle, Washington, US. He is the author of our two books of the month:

  • Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD By David Kopacz and Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) Millichap Books/Pointer Oak, 2016
  • Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. By David Kopacz (Ayni Press, a division of John Hunt Publishing, 2014)

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Thanks RCP!

The End of E plurbus Unum? The De-evolution from “Out of Many, One” to ME First

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By U.S. Government – Extracted from PDF version of Our Flag, available here (direct PDF URL here.), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41373752 

The motto of the United States is E plurbus unum, which is Latin for “Out of many, one.” Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I have written about the importance of this motto in our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. This motto is of crucial importance for helping veterans return home after war and reconnect to their own hearts and to society, which is why Joseph and I wrote about it, but it is also crucial for all of us and the very fabric of democracy. Veterans were trained to view other human beings as “the enemy” and this sense of separation is what makes violence possible. It is this sense of separation that makes violence continue and it is the opposite of peace. There cannot be peace when others are seen as separate. There cannot be peace when people are viewed as “others.”  “The heart of violence is the divided and separated heart,” we write, the heart of violence is “the heart that cannot see other hearts as interrelated and interconnected.”

Violence has its roots in the false idea of separation. Physically we appear separate, but even physically we are in a complex web of life with animals, plants, and the earth. When we begin to speak about human realities beyond the physical: emotion, heart, intuition, and spirit, the idea of ourselves as separate beings no longer makes sense. One can only be violent against someone or something seen as “other” (Kopacz & Rael, Walking the Medicine Wheel, 214).

Currently in the world, we are seeing more division and separation than coming together in unity. The ban on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering our Nation of Immigrants is the latest and most extreme example of this. This breaks my heart and it breaks the heart of democracy. I worry for the future because, through my work with Joseph, I know that peace depends upon unity and that the current mania for separation and division is very dangerous. The rise of nationalism has historically been associated with violence for the very fact that an over-emphasis on “me first” leads to seeing “others” as getting in my way. We teach our little children, “Don’t rush to the front of the line, don’t push others aside.” We teach our children to respect others, and yet respect has been one of the first casualties in the current national and world-wide Me First Movement. In a very, very short time, the public dialogue has shifted so far toward disrespect and hatefulness that people feel justified in hate speech and separation speech.

We are seeing the rise of nationalism world-wide: Brexit, throughout Europe, the Philippines, the United States, Russia, and within the European Union. Nationalism very easily leads to violence against “others” and once the mad dog of nationalism is let off leash, even a country’s own people can all too easily be labeled as “others.”

Our institutions of unity and collectivism are being seen as obsolete, holding us back, ineffective. The institution of democracy, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union―these are the organizations that we have created to moderate human selfishness in order to promote peace and equality. Parker Palmer, in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, writes that democracy is one of the ways that we, as human beings, seek to civilize ourselves. Palmer sees democracy as one of our best tools of civilization and that these tools “constitute the core self-hood called the human heart” (Palmer, 81).

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive―and we are legion―the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life and for our nation. (Palmer, 10).

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How much are we the people of the United States of America making decisions from the heart? To what extent are our current elected officials leading from the heart? What will happen to us if we give up on unity, if we glorify everything falling apart? Louis Ferdinand Céline, writing about World War I, wrote that people had become “madder than mad dogs” because dogs don’t worship their madness.

Could I, I thought, be the last coward on earth? How terrifying! … All alone with two million stark raving heroic madmen, armed to the eyeballs? With and without helmets, without horses, on motorcycles, bellowing, in cars, screeching, shooting, plotting, flying, kneeling, digging, taking cover, bounding over trails, root-toot-tooting, shut up on earth as if it were a loony bin ready to demolish everything on it, Germany, France, whole continents, everything that breathes, destroy, destroy,  madder than mad dogs, worshipping their madness (which dogs don’t) a hundred, a thousand times madder than a thousand dogs, and a lot more vicious! A pretty mess we’re in! (Céline, Journey to the End of the Night).

Céline bore witness to the brutality of World War I and he calls himself a “coward” because he doesn’t want to join in the blood bath of killing “others.” However, non-violence has been raised to a spiritual virtue and political power by people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. (Céline did succumb to his own madness and cowardice in turning against the Jewish people in the lead-up to World War II, and citing him here in regard to World War I in no way condones his later anti-Semitism). I choose to quote Céline because his phrase “madder than mad dogs, worshipping their madness (which dogs don’t)” keeps echoing in my mind this past week. There is something very scary about a strain of U.S. politics that is worshipping madness, division, and hatred. This is happening in the United States of America―right now, yet it has roots going back over the past decades, and honestly back to the history of the European colonization of this land.

Going back to the early days of the U.S. “war on terror,” journalist, Andrew Cohen, wrote “Our journey toward Abu Ghraib began in earnest with a single document — written and signed without the knowledge of the American people” (The Atlantic, “The Torture Memos, 10 Years Later,” February 6, 2012). Cohen continues:

On February 7, 2002 — ten years ago to the day, tomorrow — President George W. Bush signed a brief memorandum titled “Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees.” The caption was a cruel irony, an Orwellian bit of business, because what the memo authorized and directed was the formal abandonment of America’s commitment to key provisions of the Geneva Convention. This was the day, a milestone on the road to Abu Ghraib: that marked our descent into torture — the day, many would still say, that we lost part of our soul.

White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales wrote that the Geneva Conventions should not restrain the United States any longer in how we treat prisoners. “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions,” he wrote. I remember this as a very disturbing philosophical position our government took as it eroded the work of many countries and peoples work to prevent war crimes. When we stop appealing to our higher humanity and to our collective sense of ourselves as brothers and sisters―even while temporarily enemies―we not only take away what makes others human, but we lose our humanity as well. This is because humanity is a two-way street of interaction and of unity. Humanity is a state of being and when we take away this human state of being from others (whether they be Muslims, women, African-Americans, American Indians, people with different sexual orientations or identities, or anyone who disagrees with us), we lose our own humanity as well and we risk becoming mad dogs worshipping our madness as we have let ourselves of the leash of humanity. It is difficult to understand the current anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. because anyone who is not a full-blooded American Indian is an immigrant to the United States. The current president of the United States is an immigrant, as are most of us who have come together as one people in the United States.

It breaks my heart to see the people of the world turn our backs on the institutions we have worked so hard to create that call forth our higher humanity and work to promote peace. What we are witnessing is a kind of war of the many against the One. This break-down of our sense of shared humanity paves the way for dangerous economic and social policies and paves the way for violence against “others” whose humanity we have taken away, thereby losing our own humanity.

One of our primary global institutions of peace is the United Nations. The United Nations includes 193 states and serves as the earth’s only inclusive organization that promotes peace between countries and condemns violence. The newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley threatened the organization in her first speech, saying that “we are taking names” and repeating that “this is a time of strength” (Somini Senguptajan, “Nikki Haley Puts U.N. on Notice: U.S. Is ‘Taking Names,’” The New York Times online, January 27, 2017). The speeches and positions coming out of the current administration sound more like those of school-yard bullies than of elected democratic officials. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength,” this motto of George Orwell’s dystopian society in his book, 1984, warns us about the kind of rhetoric we are now hearing from the Nation of Immigrants. The ME First Movement does not play well with others and it distorts facts and reality to suit its needs.

Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) was recognized by the United Nations in a 2/20/89 letter for his work promoting peace through building Peace Chambers on four different continents. What Joseph has taught me is that the work of peace is spiritual work, and spiritual work is what makes us true human beings. Peace requires us to be seekers of our common goodness, our common shared humanity. The place that we find this common goodness and unity is in our hearts.

If we remember E pluribus unum on the Great Seal of the United States, we will remember that we are called to work toward an ideal that moves us from our many individual identities into a larger Union. E pluribus unum is Latin for “Out of many, one.” This identity is not just the social body of peacemakers, it is also the mystical and spiritual identity of visionaries and mystics. This is the realm of unity that Joseph is familiar with as a visionary and healer, (Kopacz & Rael, 215).

If we focus on separation and division, we not only destroy peace, we promote violence. This is why Joseph and I say that we all must move from seeing each other as “other” and move toward seeing each other as brother and sister.

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