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Posts Tagged ‘healing’

McKenzie River, between Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls

McKenzie River, between Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls

We live in an area with lots of natural waterways, yet only one makes my heart sing: the magnificent McKenzie River.  As rivers go, it’s not tremendously long (just 87 miles), but it feeds me in a way that I cannot fully explain, and am not sure that I fully understand.

I love the geology of this river.  Borne of snow melt and rainfall, it originates in Clear Lake, an aptly named lake so clear you can see the submerged trees that have stood silent vigil since the lake’s creation by volcanic activity a mere 3,000 years ago.  The McKenzie flows south from this lake and tumbles over huge basalt flows and eroded granite boulders, dropping 100 feet at Sahalie Falls and another 70 at Koosah Falls a short half-mile down the road.  From there, the river rushes toward the Carmen Reservoir, then it vanishes below ground, seeping through the porous volcanic rock to re-emerge about three and one-half miles west at Tamolitch Pool, a clear, brilliant blue pool of icy cold water.  The river continues its swift path down the mountain to the valley floor east of Springfield, then meanders west to meet up with the Willamette.  There is a “fire and ice” element to this river that wraps around me; swirling energies of blue and red and black that almost lifts me off the ground.

I love the colors of this river.  From crystal clear water in all shades of blue to rocks of brown, orange, and grey shimmering in the depths, and the variety of greens lining the banks, there is a stunning palette of color.  The force of the water as it rushes down the rocks creates heavily oxygenated pools that are pale turquoise and full of bubbles.  The shadows of the tall firs that line the river give certain pools a more stately blue-green appearance.  The moss is a shot of bright green and the many twisted roots are a study in brown and white. 

I love the synergy of this river.  There is massive life here as seen in the abundant flora.  There is also massive death here, yet every death in this river feeds other life.  The living tree becomes the decaying log that creates a slow current pool or backwater where life can take root.

I love the sound of this river.  The roar, the gurgle, and the splash are truly music to my soul.  When I stand on the pathway between the two waterfalls, the roar is loud enough that I have to use my “outside voice” just to be heard.  If I could have that sound outside my window I would never have another sleepless night.  It sings: you just have to listen to hear it.  There is a pool above Sahalie Falls that whispers and splashes and entices you to come and play (although I don’t advise it).  It mesmerizes you and surprises you and changes every time you visit.

There are fish in this river, and my husband does his best to thin that population, but that’s not why I love it.  I love this river simply because it exists; because it sings and it dances and it laughs as it rolls down to the valley.  I love this river because it feeds a part of me that has felt empty for a long time, a part that the desert in which I lived for so long could not touch.  I sit on the rocks along the water’s edge and I listen to the sounds, watch the play of light on the water, and know that I am home.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately.  The stories we read, the stories we watch, the stories we tell others about ourselves, and, the stories we tell ourselves in the privacy of our own minds.  Before you decide that this is just another “change your script” post, I ask that you read a little longer.  I’m not here to tell you that in order to be happy/successful/whatever you need to change your story: that message is already out there for anyone who needs it.

I simply want to remind you of the power of stories in general. Little stories combine to make up bigger stories; my stories join with your stories and your stories join with the stories of other people, all to make up a complex tale of humanity.  Some stories are made up completely from our imagination, some have bits of fact embedded within and others are fully factual.

 We are surrounded by stories everywhere that we look: books, movies, and television may be the most obvious places to find stories, but we find them in the way that children play, in advertising, in the clothes that people wear, the way that shops are laid out and goods are displayed, the way that food is made, prepared, and consumed, and even the way that we drive and the routes we choose to take are all stories (or parts of them).  Our education is full of stories, too, and not just the literature and language courses but all courses: we hear science stories and math stories and history stories and social sciences stories and philosophy stories and…

 You get the idea.  Our lives are filled with stories, and these stories do more than entertain and educate us: they shape us, as do our responses to the stories.  The stories that I tell not only reflect reality, as I perceive it, they help to shape that reality.  When I hear a story, I choose whether or not to accept it as it is, or to change it internally.  If I read a story about a political figure, I can choose to accept it as it is written, disregard it as untrue, or accept that it may have some basis in “reality” as it is collectively defined but that it may not be complete.  In any case, once I make that decision, I then have to decide whether or not I internalize this story and incorporate its message into my own worldview or not.  Whichever I choose, I will most likely make that decision in the blink of an eye and without any input from my waking self.  This is an unobserved, subconscious act on my part, and when I later paraphrase that initial story in a story of my own, I may not remember where those ideas came from.

Part of how we construct our stories is where we choose to focus.  Over time, the area of focus will be determined automatically, based on where we have focused before.  A great way to develop a better understanding of oneself is to shift focus in the middle of an experience.  Let’s say that I am riding the bus, and I fall into the usual habit of focusing on how hot and uncomfortable I am.  If take a moment to shift my focus onto other riders, I will have an entirely different experience than I usually do, and I’ll add depth to my daily routine.  It will provide a perspective that I did not have before, and will pose questions that I might never have asked before.  My perspective can be further broadened if I am able to make the leap from simply focusing on others to imagining myself in their shoes.

 One of the things we need to move beyond is the idea that there is only one way to tell or interpret a particular story.  For instance, I will tell the stories of my youth one way, my mother will tell them another way, my father will tell them a third way, and so on.  And all of these would be “correct,” in that they reflect the perspective and the memory of the person telling it.  There is no single way to tell the story of me, just as there is no single way to tell the story of you.  My story will change over time, and not just because I will add new paragraphs; the earliest threads of the story will be altered as time and experience shift my gaze from one aspect of the story to another.

 One of the ways that my story has changed is by becoming aware of the presence of all of the stories around me.  When I watch a documentary program on television, I am aware not only of the story that is being presented, but also of the stories that the filmmaker chose to not tell but that might have been.  Why this story and not one of the other possible stories?  What other possibilities were there?  In other words, why did the filmmaker point her camera in that direction, and what lies just out of the shot?  If this is a subject of interest to me, the knowledge of stories left untold can lead me to do personal research.  And if I choose to look at life in that way, it reminds me that there are countless angles and directions in which to point my lens.

When I realize that all my thoughts and words and deeds and beliefs are my stories, that gives me control over them.  I can rewrite my stories, if I choose to do so.  If my collected stories make me happy and help me to engage in activities that make other people happy, then it is unlikely that I will refocus my perspective.  Nor would I be expected to, although a shift in focus can always bring in new ideas.  If my stories don’t make me happy, if where I choose to focus my lens brings me pain or grief or anger, than maybe I need to shift my gaze a bit, widen the aperture, and let this new field of vision shape a new set of stories for my life.

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I was talking to a friend the other day who is dealing with a chronic back condition, and she said something to the effect of, “if my problem had some meaning, other than just pain, I could deal with it better.”  I realized at that moment that I have made a conscious choice to share my journey specifically for that reason: to give it meaning.

This little blog chronicling my journey is part of that meaning.  I share how I feel, what steps I have taken, and how it all has progressed, so that my words might be of service to just one PsA sufferer.  I know that my journey is unique, as is yours, but maybe something I’ve tried sounds like a good fit for your healing journey.  And I’m always open to a dialog with those who are trying to find their way out of pain.

I’m participating in the Personal Genome Project, in large part because I want to do what I can to help patients and doctors understand the genetic aspects of this condition (if any).  And I look for the connections in my mental, emotional, and spiritual states to see how they fit in with the physical condition at any given time.

Knowing that my experience, no matter how painful it may be at the time, might be of service to another person has made all the difference in my healing progress.  For that, I am truly grateful.

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I don’t really want to be an “ist.” I don’t want to be stuck in a box as an anthropologist, folklorist, mythologist, hypnotherapist, religionist, spiritualist, or any other kind of “ist.”

I think that this sort of division plays a big role in our inability to heal and move forward, both as individuals and as a species. There are divisions within the divisions and everyone thinks that their perspective is the best one for everyone.

How dumb is that? While specialists fight over which form of therapy is best, people are repeatedly given the message that their own innate knowledge is flawed and not to be trusted. Don’t go with the therapist that “feels right” to you – go with the one with the most diplomas on the wall or the most empirical data behind their technique.

The same can be said for religions and philosophies, too. And though people seem to be more accepting of dogma in religion or philosophy, those same dogmatic stances are no more logical, effective, or “correct” than those held by therapists, scientists, etc. (Dogma is dogma, anyway you look at it).

While all of these “ists” argue, there are non-standardized forms of healing that rely on community and belief (in the form, in the community, or in the healer) that work just fine. There are no empirical studies, no rigorous tests to “prove” this form works, yet the people who use it swear by it and do just fine, thank you.

I want to be someone who sees beyond the divisions and helps people find what works for them. I want to erase those divisions and bring folklorists together with physicians, mythologists together with psychiatrists, herbalists together with nutritionists, all working together to create a network of wisdom that everyone can access and draw on in time of need.

Of course, in order for this to happen, we need to let go of judgment and fear. We have to stop judging other techniques as “quakery” simply because there have been no empirical studies. Remember, there have been no empirical studies on the efficacy of aspirin (they’ve all been anecdotal), yet at this point no one questions aspirin’s usefulness. And we have to let go of several fears: the fear that this other form will be injurious to those who use it; the fear that it is “only” the placebo effect (more on that later); the fear that these other forms will draw income away from our own wallets; and, lurking deep down inside, the fear that these other techniques actually work and all of our beliefs about them have been wrong all this time.

This is where I think the study of belief, culture, and folklore all come into play.

Alan Lomax said that, “the folklorist has the duty to speak as the advocate of the common man,” and while I think the common man or woman is perfectly capable of speaking for him or her self, there is merit to this statement. I would change it a bit, however, and give it a slightly different perspective:

Folklorists have the duty to illustrate the relevance of the common: the beliefs, rituals, music, stories, customs, jokes, food, art and adornment of the everyday person. Through this illustration we find commonalities and see each other as much more alike than not; as having similar needs, hopes and dreams; and of being more “human” than previously thought.

The diplomat needs to know these things if he is to be effective in working with his counterpart from a vastly different culture. The military strategist needs to know these things to understand when and where military action will be most effective and when it will incur the greatest retaliation. The teacher needs to know these things to better communicate with her students of differing backgrounds. The doctor needs to know these things to use every possible tool to aid in the healing process. The attorney needs to know these things to better defend his client. The traveler needs to know these things to enhance her trips abroad. The clergy need to know these things to make sense of the different ways that people express their faith. And I need to know them to better understand myself, my family, my nation and how we all fit into the web of existence.

Therefore, I propose to use some other form if self-identification, regardless of any degrees or training I may accumulate over my lifetime. Something that doesn’t put me in a box, clearly delineated for all to assume judgment upon. Something that does not, by its very existence, create division and suspicion in others. Something more suited to my perspective and belief. Something like: Observer of the Way Things Are and Seeker of Why That Is.

How do you identify yourself, in your heart and to the world?

About the placebo effect: when will we stop saying that it was “only” the placebo effect that created wellness in a person? Why on earth should we disdain the power of the mind to effect positive change without introducing chemicals or involving invasive techniques? Shouldn’t we applaud the placebo effect? Here we have people healing themselves from the inside, all because they have faith in the drug/technique/healing professional – I think we should be delighted and study the effect more closely to find ways to use it on a regular basis.

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