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In order to introduce who I am, what I do, and how I might help you I’d like to begin with sharing a few of my values.
I’ll begin with Connection. As you’ll see in my story in the section below, I was healed through deepening the connections in my life on a number of levels:
• Healing relationship with self
• Healing relationship with the Sacred
• Healing relationship with community
• Healing relationship with the Planet
• Assuming personal responsibility and sharing with others on all levels
I believe that the choice to heal ourselves is to affirm the purpose of our lives. In addition I feel that it’s a process that leads us to help others.
I also believe in the social equity of all voices being heard on the subject. Perhaps that’s what initially led me to the field of anthropology to study healing in non-Western cultures all over the world. I want their voices and their rights to be affirmed in the wider global community.
I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from many indigenous wisdom keepers and healers. I’m committed to continually working with them so that they can share with the wider world whatever they choose in alignment with their visions with the wider world. That’s why I have engaged in partnerships over the years in providing presentations, workshops, courses and classes with indigenous people on topics related to healing and spirituality.
Because we live in a world with unequal access to resources including health and healing, I’m also committed to educating others in how indigenous peoples have suffered and continue to be mistreated in the modern world today.
My road to becoming a healer was not a direct one. It began with an interest in non-Western spirituality that many years later led me to embrace the wounded healer archetype: to seek my own healing and eventually share that healing experience with others.
EARLY LIFE AND INFLUENCES
I grew up in what could be considered a broken and dysfunctional family (as I dare say did most people I know). My childhood was marked by loneliness and a series of what I will refer to as moments of Susto, a word I like to translate from Spanish as “Spiritual Fright.” (Unresolved experiences of trauma). During that same period, I had a rumbling of spiritual yearning even as a young child that was expressed in questions about life. The answers I received from the brand of Christianity of my youth left me unfulfilled. Starting at the age of 13 I sought alternatives found in Yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. In college, I majored in anthropology with a minor in philosophy to pursue those same interests academically. I traveled to India to learn about Hindu spirituality in its mother land.
I practiced yoga and meditation, and took up martial arts. I also sought escape in the usual ways of the counter-culture of the 1970’s. I realize now that everything about my pursuits at that time was about escaping this world. Even in my deep thinking and philosophizing, I was looking for something outside this world of pain. I used spirituality to try to go to another realm––a better place (I thought)––in what I now describe as a vertical notion of spirituality. This idea says that I can go from here––an imperfect, profane world of pain and suffering––to there, a world above which is sacred and better than anything in this world. I had gotten caught up in a world-negating kind of spiritual by-pass. Somehow my own emotional wounds from childhood had become entangled in my notions about spiritual evolution.
THE FIRST BIG SHIFT
I went on to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where my path took a major turn. Since Oklahoma is home to more tribes of Native Americans than any other, I decided upon what I thought would be a short-term project to conduct fieldwork among one of the tribes living in the region. My area of interest was the intersection of spirituality and healing. Eventually I met Oliver Pahdopony, the last surviving medicine man of the Comanches, who adopted me as a grandson. My “Grandpa Chief” as we called him, was healed of “incurable” cancer through his encounter with a healing spirit at a sacred site. His tradition required of him that he repay that favor by healing others in his community until his death. The many lessons I learned from him became a lifelong inspiration that continues to guide me to this day.
As fate would have it, graduate school introduced me to the lifeways and spiritual teachings of other Native American peoples. I was still deeply wounded, but the kindness that my Comanche family showed toward me initiated my process of healing. My notion of spirituality slowly changed also as I developed an understanding of the sacred as connected to place. I spent a lot of time alone in the Wichita Mountains––lands considered sacred to the Comanche and Kiowa people. I had a series of profound awakenings during my interactions with the spirit of that powerful landscape.
I left Oklahoma with a Master’s degree in anthropology and a new notion that for me, spirituality was found through a connection with the Earth and in meaningful social relations with others. This was very different from my earlier idea that the sacred was to be found only in a world up above.
After receiving my degree in anthropology, I returned to New York. I continued my interests in Native American lifeways and returned to Oklahoma frequently. I was later adopted into families from other tribes including that of my adopted Kiowa uncle, medicine man and family historian Richard Tartsah, with whom I wrote a book called Big Bow: The Spiritual Life and Teachings of a Kiowa Family. A Caddo elder Fred Parton adopted me as a son at a Native dance one year on Father’s Day. After his passing another elder Moses Starr, a Cheyenne spiritual elder took me as a son. Being adopted into various families of different tribes became the impetus of a great deal of my own healing. Somehow these adoptions continued to heal the sense of isolation and woundedness that stemmed from my childhood. Becoming a part of that indigenous world also helped me to view spirituality as an essential aspect of relationship with others. I discovered and directly experienced that the sacred was to be found in community.
Parallel to my interest in the Native tribes in Oklahoma, beginning in graduate school I also became interested in Curanderismo, the traditional healing system found in Mexico. Over the years, my involvement turned from academic interest to apprentice and eventually practitioner and teacher. My first teacher was La Golondrina in San Antonio, TX (featured in the book They All Want Magic by Elizabeth de la Portilla). Soon after I began an apprenticeship with Elena Avila, author of Woman Who Glows in the Dark. I went on to learn various aspects of Curanderismo including the way of the temazcal (traditional Mesoamerican sweat lodge) from Laurencio Lopez-Nunez from Oaxaca, Mexico and Rita Navarrete Perez from outside Mexico City. Over the years, I also studied various healing arts from far and wide including Medical Qigong, Sound Healing, various types of Energy Healing, Neuro-linguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis.
THE BIG DOUBT
After years of learning concepts, teachings and techniques of so many different healing modalities, I still doubted my ability to take on the role of a healer. I asked myself if I was “good” enough. Did I have the substance of the master healers I had come to know? Was I trying to use a healing technique from one culture incorrectly to heal a problem in a completely different culture? Was it even ethical to consider? What would it take for me to have a healing system that was truly my own? I spent a long time ruminating over these questions.
Later, in two separate all-night healing ceremonies I attended, I prayed fervently for answers to these questions. In both cases, I received answers. Voices speaking directly to me. A body-felt response that told me very specifically what techniques to utilize and how. But I still hadn’t received an answer to the deeper question that I had failed as of yet to ask. At least now I could articulate the most important question of all: How has the journey of my own healing set the stage for me to step into the role of healer? Or to put it another way: How did my wounds and subsequent healing open up the road I would find as a healer?
THE BIG AWAKENING
In looking back over the course of my own Journey, I realize now that my spiritual explorations were, underneath everything else, deep yearnings for my own healing. In the course of learning these spiritual healing traditions, I was fortunate to meet, observe and learn from healing masters (some of whom considered themselves “healers” while others didn’t). In the process of learning, I received many layers of healing that I didn’t even consciously realize I needed. I also discovered that my own healing was the key to uncovering the uniqueness of my own healing “way” to utilize in working with others. In other words, I came to embody the “wounded healer” archetype.
Healing my wounds helped me to understand my own suffering and how to help others to heal and grow. Through continuous practice and steady growth, I’ve developed a simple but effective structure to use in healing work, both with groups and individuals. The method is a reflection of my experience and is therefore culturally informed yet at the same time, it is individually my own. It’s spontaneous, intuitive and fluid, yet contains echoes from all of my mentors and teachers along the way. Over many years, I’ve learned to apply the principles that healed me in the work I do with others. Over time, I have attracted clients who are healers seeking their own healing. I spend a great deal of my time and energy in helping them to draw upon their own innate healing power.
I’ve developed a process that helps clients to uncover their own wounds, heal them, and use the insights from that process to discover their own unique healing method. I guide them through a step-by-step process that has universal aspects yet leads to a formula that is unique to each person as a healer. I now guide each of my clients to uncover their unique “medicine” to use in their healing practice by connecting their own healing experiences to a form that serves as a container for all of the healing techniques in which they have trained. This leads to a healing method that is as unique as a fingerprint and is connected to a very specific niche in the healing spectrum.
I remain today committed to this path of healing. I adhere to the notion that anyone who is healed has an obligation to help in whatever way possible in the healing of others. Perhaps that’s why I love the healing work I do and remain dedicated to it as my life path. My commitment is to the individuals who come for healing, the sacred circle of community that we build as well as working toward the wider healing of our society and planet. I hope you’ll view your healing in the same way.
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