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I would like to start by pointing out the difference between curing and healing. According to Frank Fool’s Crow (Wanabli Mato), the Ceremonial Chief of the Teton Soux, curing is relieving a person of the symptoms and the cause of an illness. But Fool’s Crow states that:
“Healing is purely spiritual and has to do with helping a person to be right with Wakan-Tanka [Great Spirit, God etc.]… He learns through the healing rituals to think in terms of the quality of life… Healing is a priceless gift that can be given to anyone who will accept it.”

Healing is similar to recovery as it is the recovery of the whole Self, including the God within. Here I would like to discuss two books that I have read. The first one is ‘Circle of Health – Recovery Through the Medicine Wheel’ by Caryn Lea Summers RN. The second one is ‘Where Two Worlds Touch – Spiritual Rites of Passage’ by Gloria Karpinski.

While Gloria’s knowledge comes from her many years experience as a counsellor, Caryn’s knowledge comes from direct experience of self healing, which is usually a sign of a true shaman. Here is what Caryn says in her preface to ‘Circle of Health’:
“Recovery means regaining the self, becoming who we started out to be. Through personal work with support groups, therapy techniques, religion, and mythology, we are all searching for the wholeness that emerges in the recovery of our unique identities.
“Nearly everyone has carried wounds of one kind or another from childhood into adulthood. Some wounds are significant. Others are hard to identify. 

As children, most of us learn ineffective ways to defend ourselves from traumas inflicted upon us. As adults, we tend to inflict additional wounds on ourselves by acting in similar ineffective ways. Often, behaviours that we learned become addictive – we keep recreating our childhood traumas and wound ourselves even further. Once we enter recovery, we begin to search for ways to unlearn those unhealthy – and potentially fatal – behaviours we learned when we were children.

“Healing from our childhood wounds takes a long time. It means uncovering the wounds, embracing them, and allowing them to dissolve. We have to find our lost and wounded child whom we abandoned long ago, and through our addictions, continue to abandon on a regular basis.

“Like many people, I have taken a number of such journeys. I made my first journey by taking a fourth-step inventory, using the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, I found that merely making a list of my bad side did not give a complete picture. It left out information about my good side, my abused side, and my hurting side. It didn’t include information that I really needed – that I was okay just the way I was, that I didn’t need drugs to fix me, that it was impossible to be perfect, that I was loved regardless of who or how or what I was…

“I began working with a shamanic teacher who suggested that I put my experiences into the form of a medicine wheel. What followed was a whole new level of healing. I started to use the exercises in public seminars. Then I knew that if I put the exercises together into workbook form, I would be returning to the universe the gift of healing that I had been blessed with.

“The journey to self-discovery is not an easy one. Ask anyone who has taken it. People often postpone their journey because they are afraid that the search will uncover only their dark side. A true search for the self, however, includes everything about a person – gifts as well as flaws.”

Caryn’s 'Circle of Health Medicine Wheel'  (see diagrams below) begins in the west with the Black Sun of DESPAIR. This is when we first notice, physically, the problems in our life that keep us in a “confused” spiral down into depression or physical pain. Then, when we realise this we seek help, usually from so-called specialists like doctors or psychologists. But the best and usually most appropriate help will come from God, who is within us. So the second stage is to SURRENDER at the Altar, to acknowledge or “accept” that we alone, without God, are “powerless” and we don’t have the answers to the problem. This is the stage I call ‘letting go’ of old habits and beliefs, which must be followed by what I call ‘opening up’. The opening up is what Caryn calls the Feather of OBJECTIVITY in the north, where one must get in touch with their masculine energy to “detach” and be an “observer”, preferably of spirit. This is where and when spirit guides can help you. From here we have the courage to look more closely at our beliefs and habits and to weigh the pros and cons, to “plan” and “change intention, therefore Caryn calls this stage the Arrow of CONFLICT. 

After we have weighed the pros and cons we can relax and assimilate, go within, to the Cave of Fire in the east, where the “spiritual” fire of INSPIRATION gives us the “courage” to “accept power “so that we can continue our journey of recovery. The next stage is the Mirror of AWARENESS, which needs the feminine energies of “reflection” and “receptiveness” so that we can look deep within ourselves. Hopefully, here, we “learn” to “change consciousness” with the aid of the new awareness that we see in the mirror. This brings us to the Cord of DISCOVERY in the south where we discover that all things are connected and therefore we realise that the black sun of despair was a necessary and binding part of our life that we could not do without. The cord actually has wings to lifts us complete, with “emotions” “attached”, to new realities and then takes us to the Key of DISCERNMENT where we gain the “wisdom” of good judgement and decision making so that we can “accept clarity”. The next stage is to integrate everything so far in the Cauldron of INTEGRATION. When everything is fully integrated we come to the centre of our being where we find the Crystal of TRANSFORMATION, which gives us crystal clear “clarity”. This clarity may or may not then show us another black sun to work on, which is where we “create” and can “change experience”.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
By: Reinhold Niebuhr.
As found in the front of ‘Circle of Health’.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
By: Jelaluddin Rumi. Thirteenth Century.
As found in the front of ‘Where Two Worlds Touch’.

Gloria Karpinski’s writing reminds me of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s, who wrote ‘Women who Run With the Wolves’, in that they both have a very good understanding of mythology; they both write in great length; they both include a lot of detail; and they both have learnt their knowledge from many years experience as a counsellor. However Gloria writes about initiation and Self-realisation, which is the first step to spiritual or God-realisation. But most of her book discusses her discovery or realisation of the seven (7) steps of conscious change, which after all is the only thing we can change.

Her experience as a counsellor not only bought her to realise the seven steps, but also that most, if not all, of her clients were aged 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56 or 63 give or take a few months. Thus indicating that we all go through major changes or rites of passage in cycles of seven (7) years. For a summary of the seven steps, here is what she has written in her introduction:

“How we perceive change begins with our understanding of who we think we are [Note shaman principal IKE – Reality is what you think it is. Ed.]. The collection of habits, attitudes, and beliefs we gather around ourselves tell us who we think we are. Events might come and go, but there is no real change in us until one of those events actually challenges our perception of who we are. It’s quite possible to simply endure with the same mind-set until the next big event. But once a deeply held belief about ourselves [and life Ed.] is really challenged, then the dance of change begins. We may resist, or we may join the dance – usually the former before the latter – but we’ll eventually resolve the conflict between the status quo and the challenge, commit to a new direction, endure the necessary purging of the old habits, and finally surrender fully to the new.

“It is this journey, through these seven stages of conscious change, that is the focus of this book.

1.The first step is the FORM. This is the basic belief we hold about ourselves on any subject. It defines the boundaries of our perception, dictates our opinions [our beliefs, which is our so-called truth Ed.], and, most importantly, establishes our personal reality. This is the point at which all change begins.

2. A sense of movement in the process of change begins with the second step, the CHALLENGE. Some event happens, or we are exposed to something or someone [like the Owl Ed.] that disturbs the status quo, and our original Form no longer works.

3. RESISTANCE, the third, and usually quite uncomfortable, cycle of change, when our old way of being and our new perception lock horns in a battle of ambivalence and indecision. Logic [the mind Ed.], conditioning, and history argue for the past, yet the strongest pull is toward the new.

4. Eventually we’re rescued by the forth stage – the AWAKENING. This is the exhilarating part of the cycle in which a breakthrough occurs in the previous struggle [usually with that AHA feeling Ed.]. At this point we make the critical shift from indecision to the new viewpoint.

5. Next comes COMMITMENT. This is the point in the cycle when we put all our resources – time, money, and energy – into the new direction. This stage presents us with a series of choices that help us bring our new goal into manifestation.

6. PURIFICATION is the inevitable next step – one that takes us totally by surprise. This is the time the actual transformation takes place. And it is often painful. Old hurts and fears repressed during earlier parts of the process rise up to be acknowledged and, ultimately, transformed. It is a time of dying to the old, a time that tests our faith in the new.

7. Finally we reach the last stage – SURRENDER. This is the point in the process of change when we actually become the new belief. It is characterised by synthesis and integration. The new becomes one with the whole being, and the old form is but a memory.”

It is from here that we may then see through the eyes of the Great Spirit to see yet another form that needs to change.
In looking back at my own transformation, which began at about age 34, it seems that my major FORM, which needed to be changed, was the belief that I grew up with, that if you work and try really hard in society – school and in a job etc. – you will succeed. My CHALLENGE came when I did the above to the point of being a bit of a perfectionist, but I still had no success, in fact I was lucky to hold a good job for six months. And even my work as a taxi driver, with long hours and only a low to average pay, only lasted nineteen (19) months. 

My RESISTENCE came when I tried even harder, applying for about four jobs per week. This was also the time when I had separated from my daughter’s mother, so it was about relationship success also. Then my AWAKENING came when I firstly ‘let go’ by seriously considering suicide, then ‘opened up’, feeling there must be more to life than what I was taught. This was when I started to read books, mainly on psychology and the mid-life crisis, and then discovered the work of Joseph Campbell. With this awakening I reached the COMMITMENT stage where I began studying psychology at Deakin University and when I made an unconscious pact with God that if He would give the new understanding I had about life to even one extra person I would gladly give my life, not take it. I later realised that this was in a sense giving my life to do this work I now do of serving. 

Then came the stage of PURIFICATION where I was trying to help someone who was beyond my help and I ended up being a prisoner in my own home and finally I needed hospital treatment for wounds and broken bones that he inflicted upon me. This was God or Great Spirit testing me as to whether or not I would hold my new commitment, whether I would continue to tell the truth, or whether I would lie just to give others what they wanted. It also taught me that some people couldn’t be helped or healed. Like Fool’s Crow says, healing can only be given to those who accept it. 

From there I finally reached SURRENDER, where I now have total trust and faith that everything is working out just as it needs to, and that only the impersonal aspect of God knows what everyone needs. This is when I stopped looking for work in the social system and realised that I already have my path, even if it is very lonely and at times frustrating and yet a totally ecstatic way to experience life. This is also around the time I moved into the bush and when I made my Sacred Pipe and accepted the responsibilities that go with it. And I feel I have just or almost completed a conscious change regarding my belief form that I wish to work harmoniously in a united way with other spiritual groups and people. But I now feel quite happy and honoured to work alone, if need be, totally surrendered to the will of Great Spirit or God etc.

In her section of the book on living with conscious change, Gloria uses the seven steps to explain our collective society’s belief about progress, noting that we are currently at the stage of RESISTANCE, so there is still a long way to go, but l feel that once we can reach that point where the ‘critical mass’ is totally surrendered to the new, the rest will be forced to follow or die very quickly. She also explains how the seven steps of conscious change can be applied to the Buddha’s enlightenment, and I hope to get permission to print these two parts in future issues.

Circle of Health Medicine Wheel


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