Resilience and Story

Spring_StoriesLast evening I went for a walk along the lake. It was chilly and there had been snow earlier in the higher elevations. Still, a few people were out, some with their dogs. This morning dogs, and their people, were out in force. Spring must truly have arrived! (I just looked out the window and noticed a large raptor circling while being harassed by the inevitable smaller songbird.)

I’ve been noticing how human I am. Even though I am in my late sixties, spring brings out the younger man in me. As the weather warms I become more playful, get out and about more, and begin to notice other people. As a result, I am reminded that I am a primate, biologically hard-wired to be social. Dogs, while not primates, are similarly wired. They can tell when one enjoys their presence, and will often, with the permission of their owners, reach out to make contact. For us humans, to take a dog, or a baby, out for a walk is to invite social interaction with others. Continue reading

Teaching the Medicine Wheel

Early_Spring P1090422Tuesday my class met with Alicia Daniels from the University of Vermont. Alicia is a field naturalist who has devoted many years studying with Indigenous healers, and to understanding the Medicine Wheel. Now she respectfully shares its teachings with students and elders.

We met in my classroom, then, needing a place to construct the wheel that was out of the public eye, walked down the hill to the land that was recently sold for development. The students led us to a small grove of trees, prickly ash and aspen, sheltered from view. Continue reading

Holding Place Dear

Spring_ShootsA lovely, chilly, raining day. It is good to have rain, as the Earth here has been quite dry, and the fire danger high.

Saturday Jennie and I hosted a workshop focused on using personal stories to nurture and protect beloved spaces. Those gathered shared stories of the places they hold dear, and the fates of those locales. Some of the places remain, others have disappeared under the miner’s or developer’s bulldozer.

Holding places as sacred is a risky business. So often, that copse of woods, lake, or deserted lot we grow to love are taken from us. Yet, given the opportunity, we humans seem hard wired to fall in love with landscapes, corner lots, and ecosystems. We form deep bonds with boiler rooms in a tenements or the Natural world, including parks; sometimes they are our only childhood refuge. Continue reading

Richly Storied Places

EveningIndigenous people give value and preference to story. Stories arise from place; it is often said they come from the land, but it is more accurate to say they arise from places, which might include the water. Seafaring peoples depend on water for food and commerce, and many speak about the ocean as a First Place, a location of origin. These notions of storied places are inherent in shamanism and other Indigenous healing traditions, although they are largely erased from New Age and neo-shamanistic renderings. It is easy to forget, or ignore, that in the Americas, Indigenous healers have traditionally been instrumental in both resisting colonial power, and in healing individuals and communities harmed by colonial violence, including racism. In this context, shamanism is inherently political.

It seems to me that our preference for stories is difficult for folks of European ancestry to grasp. That is true for Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and folks from the U.S.. Many of us Native people understand ourselves to have been born from place, our tribes emerging from specific places: mountains, springs, caves, inlets. We traditionally understand the Earth to literally be our mother. If one stops to think about this, it makes profound sense: at the very least we are birthed from the stuff of this planet, the building blocks of place; clearly, one should not harm one’s mother, should not act in ways that defile the physical or spiritual environment. Continue reading

Making Space for Difference

Spring!This is the second of a series of posts about this year’s ASGPP conference.

One of the things that has drawn me to Psychodrama over the years is that it is rooted in the desire for social equality, freedom, and community, and deeply embedded in hope. Indeed, most of the people engaged in the discipline are fierce advocates for these values, and are, thus, visionaries. They are also human, given to the same foibles that plague most of us. Continue reading

Whose Stories ?

Awaiting_Spring

This is the first of a series of posts about my experiences at, and thoughts about, the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama annual conference this past weekend.

After a day in airport purgatory we made it home from the ASGPP  conference shortly after midnight this morning. The conference was exceptional. It was also eye-opening.

The first evening was devoted to a “diversity event”.  As usual, I was the only person who spoke to identifying as Native, and  of a very few who identified as physically disabled. Not that I was alone in my difference, rather, there were a variety of alonenesses identified by people; it turns out that groups marginalize folks for all sorts of reasons. Continue reading

Soul Loss

Snow-BuddhaI’m sitting at my desk in the study, watching the sun descend over the mountains and lake. The light is soft and rich, a glow that persists off to the west. I’ve just come from teaching my college class; today I feel emotionally satisfied enough to put off dinner for few minutes in order to write this brief piece.

After class, a graduate student and I spoke for a while about soul retrieval and substance abuse. I explained that I often wonder exactly what is being retrieved. I imagine that we are calling back a part of self that left the body because of fright or other insult. But what part, and how are we to think about it? Continue reading