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Coyote Healing Excerpt from Chapter 4, The Medicine Wheel

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One month later, Diedrick and I embarked on a 10-day intensive retreat, resulting in improvement that has continued years later, certainly related to my enthusiasm about the treatment's potential for success, and to Diedrick's believing that the treatment would help him. Since his healing intensive, Diedrick has not returned to the hospital, nor has he been arrested (as he used to be for his bizarre, public behavior). He was able to get a part-time job and to manage his life on his own. We started him on a healing journey, on which he learned how to connect to his inner healer through ceremony and song, learned tools to soothe himself (reiki, guided imagery, relaxation training, journaling), and learned how to establish healing relationships through body work, talk therapy, and biofeedback. He learned that people cared about him and that he could make contact with those people.

For Diedrick, and others, ceremony mobilizes and facilitates healing. Diedrick's faith and hope in what we were doing helped to activate his own self-healing response* or inner healer. Each specific technique paled in comparison to the power of his inner healer. Diedrick's newly discovered idea that he was a spiritual warrior on a journey to find healing gave him a sense of meaning and purpose much more powerful than his old vision of himself as a broken, psychiatric patient. It's so much easier to tolerate the bad days of suffering, when that day and that pain fits into an overall context of a journey that leads somewhere, that has meaning and purpose. We make the healing journey in order to feel meaning in our struggle with suffering, to grasp that our life has a purpose, and to find joy and peacefulness through the effort to fulfill that purpose.

Dr. Andrew Weil has recently emphasized these topics in his talks (Alternative Therapies Conference, New York, March 1999) as he mentions the importance of the art of medicine, the doctor patient relationship and the underused power of the placebo effect.

Against the rainy, gray sky background of his anguish, Diedrick learned that he could hope for his life to change. His desire for a girlfriend motivated him. This hope allowed him to drift backwards through the pain of his life where some of his gaping wounds could be healed. His paranoid talk about crimes his father and mother had committed resolved into talk about the pain of their divorce and his mother's drug addiction. He cried about losing touch with her because of her addiction. As part of our work together, we were able to find her and reunite them, somewhat to his father's dismay.

The opposite of hope for Diedrick was not "false hope." It was the suicidal despair he had learned from skeptical, doubting doctors, who gave him powerful psychiatric medicines with many side effects, but little help. These doctors lacked medicine for his soul. They didn't believe that he could undertake a quest for wellness. Their model rendered him genetically inferior and forever doomed to a life of medication and suffering.

Diedrick's story illustrates how healing the body begins with healing the soul. When the soul is well, death or insanity can be approached with peacefulness and love. Diedrick needed the hope that psychiatric medicine couldn't give him, in order to examine those aspects of his life in which everything had "fallen apart."

Despite the continued fog in his brain, Diedrick came to believe that he had sufficient strength to stay out of the hospital. In time Diedrick even found a girlfriend, ending his sense of total isolation from intimacy with other people.

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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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