A Spoonful of Sugar: The Medicine of Our Time
In indigenous cultures if a member of the community has an emotional or physical ailment, the entire community gathers the person and brings them to the shaman or medicine person of the village or tribe. They gather and collectively hold healing ceremony because each person has a role to play and each person is an integral piece in their community. So if one person is ill it is a threat to them as a collective. Can you imagine this happening in our society? What would happen if you fell ill, were admitted to the hospital and an entire city stopped what they were doing and held healing prayers and ceremony for you?
Upon researching the definition of medicine in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the below explanation is given, noting the last item provided actually recognizes indigenous practices:
a : a substance or preparation used in treating disease
b : something that affects well-being
a : the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease
b : the branch of medicine concerned with the nonsurgical treatment of disease
: a substance (as a drug or potion) used to treat something other than disease
: an object held in traditional American Indian belief to give control over natural or magical forces; also : magical power or a magical rite (1)
In the western world we have tirelessly searched for the panacea to cure our emotional and physical ills. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar business crafting a pill for everything which we consider a malady. If there is an ill, there is a pill for it and each one comes with a riotous list of side effects. Illness is a result of imbalance in the body. While genetics can play a large part in illness, there has also been cell research indicating that our environment and what we ‘feed’ ourselves, physically and emotionally can result in dis-ease. Very often illness is a result of disharmony being stored to such a degree that it exacerbates or even causes physical ailments.
Connection to Earth:
Another examination of indigenous culture is that the community often found symptoms early enough to where a person could rebound more quickly with holistic practices. Indigenous tribes all over the world still exist with low rates of emotional and physical disease compared to the rest of the world. Our own Native American tribes survived for thousands of years acclimating and evolving around maladies they encountered. Not to say they wouldn’t always succumb, but certainly not at a rate which demolished populations. Yet within a few hundred years of the Europeans settling in North America the tribes became displaced from their habitats. Habitats in which they created relationships with the earth, plants, animals, and the spirits who inhabited them. Some would even say that these tribes settled into their habitats because of the vibrational coordinates of the earth underfoot and sky above them. Being displaced from something in which they were so connected caused intense emotions of anger and heartbreak. They were in constant warrior mode fighting these new men with horses and guns. You can see how after years of displacement and battle a population would be overcome by new diseases introduced by a foreign people and unable to create resilience and immunity. They didn’t have the time and resources needed to heal. Without their land and the information and medicine it provided their populations were essentially wiped out.
Disharmony & illness:
In our present society we are a population in practice of overconsumption. We are out of harmony with our planet from which we have derived. So of course as a modern people we lean inherently towards imbalance. As a rule, we rely heavily on allopathic medicine because it offers a quick antidote to the symptoms from which we suffer. In many cases by the time we are experiencing the physical symptoms, there is often little time for the deep emotional processing and energetic movement to unravel it from the body. More shockingly, even when we are told the cause of the illness and what we can do to heal and prevent it further, such as changing our eating habits or getting more exercise we’re not interested in making that shift. So we’ll medicate it and often suffer the side effects of a prescription drug and so goes the carousel!
It’s no doubt that death is imminent and illness is often the gateway to this impermanence. Our sorrow for those whom we believe are taken before their time can overshadow the broader picture of why their death has happened. The Buddhist practice of Phowa, the practice of conscious dying, views death via illness as an opportunity for us to explore and become more enlightened. Whether it be an emotional imbalance leading to physical malady or something in the genetic and perhaps karmic composition, there is always room for exploration in such a sacred passing.
A dear friend recently lost her husband after a long and tedious engagement with cancer. They chose a predominantly holistic path because of their belief in looking at the whole and also a lack of health insurance to afford the costly practice of allopathic medicine. So around them they gathered a community of practitioners with a variety of medicine amongst them. For four years as a couple they dove to the depths of his shadow unraveling imbalances through bodywork, energy medicine, food, herbs, breathwork, emotional processing. They amazed the doctors because with the type of cancer he had, the survival rate was low and their original prognosis gave him six months to live. Where the couple met resistance they listened to his body and maneuvered around it until another portal opened for them to explore. His energy fluctuated between being incredibly tired to being able to hike and even teach. In his last days as he began his ascent to the light, his wife gazed at her husband and realized that he had done his work in this world, professionally, emotionally and karmically to the best of his ability. She knew that the Divine and its guides would be very proud of their work. This space that was held so deeply for his personal navigation also became a death and rebirth for her and ultimately an inspiration for those in their community.
We are the medicine keepers:
In my work I’ve cultivated a practice to help people find balance in their lives. It’s become an amalgam of medicine which infuses the spiritual teachings of Buddha to Christ to Krishna. It’s a weave of light, earth, air and water. With the primary modality being Reiki, it shares space with Ayurveda, flower essences, shamanism, meditation and bodywork. Above all it is based in the sacred gift of the intuitive mind which assists others in lifting the veil that keeps them from their truth. It is this practice of honoring and quietly listening to the intricate complexities of our physical and subtle bodies that we may all continue to evolve as the medicine keepers of our time.