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Day 5 of the Australian Journey 2012

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I use my ceremony with Native American people though, as I said, it is not a traditional Native American ceremony.   I use it especially with people who have drug and alcohol problems because they are not used to saying anything positive about themselves.   The beauty of this ceremony is that it emphasizes one's good traits and deeds.   So many people are quick to tell stories about their faults and misdeeds, but isn't it much harder to tell stories about what we have done well, or times when we have been courageous, or strong, or compassionate, or protected someone or something else?   This ceremony forces people to reflect upon what is good about them and to share it with another person who only listens, standing in the position that symbolically represents one of the Directions.   Participants feel how it changes them to tell good stories instead of bad stories and they feel the camaraderie that comes from being heard without commentary or personal response and being accepted.   Those who have completed the process are led to a nearby part of the room where they can sing, dance, or help each other in some way.   We keep a continual steam of singing and dancing going, because, as a Sari elder told us in Mexico, you can never sing or dance enough for the spirits.   When we did ceremony with her, she would exhort us with "mas bailando; mas cantando".


We did this ceremony with the group and Auntie Jennie agreed that it did succeed in giving them some flavor of the transcendence and sense of group membership that participation in tradition ceremony in community provides.   People also spoke about how difficult it was at first to be positive about oneself and how embarrassed they were.   Isn't it interesting that we are more embarrassed to tell positive stories about ourselves than negative ones?!   They also spoke about how transformative it felt to actually get out the positive story and for it to be accepted. They described the joy of completing the process and being welcomed to the community.   For some that community will continue, since talking circles are held weekly for those who live in the area and efforts are being made to find constructive ways for people to spend time with each other.


Later that evening after the workshop, we talked with our hosts about the problem in aboriginal communities for some people that family gathering was centered around drinking or doing drugs. The physician in our party who worked in the aboriginal community reported that she wasn't permitted by some families to make home visits on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday because of the partying that they didn't want her to see.     In relation to this we talked about the power of ceremony, even the ceremony of drinking together, for it is, after all, a kind of eucharist or communion.   It's no accident that alcohol is called "spirits".   We talked about the necessity of engaging the elders to put healthier ceremonies back into place in communities in such a way that people can notice and can attend.


In Warburton, we finished the day by offering traditional pipe ceremonies for those present.   We left to return to Melbourne to prepare to travel into the East Gippsland countryside early the next morning for Culture Camp 2012.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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