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Articles    H3'ed 12/19/14

Finding Magic in a Muggle World

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What if we could know the future? What if the future informs us how to reach it? What if the future reaches backwards in time to call us toward it? What if time doesn't even exist, but is an artifact of perception produced by creatures, who age? Are we like jet planes whose engines create a vacuum into which the plane is sucked in order to move forward.

Today, we are in Stone Ridge, New York, doing a workshop called "Finding Magic in a Muggle World". I am asking people to cross the bridge into their future and bring back an outcome that was magically produced, to bring back the story of how the magic unfolded and what happened to produce that outcome that was.

Imaging the future as if it's already happened is a very useful exercise. After painting a picture of the future, then we tell the story, as if we are telling about events from the past, about how that future happened. Telling such stories brings out the potential obstacles and how they were overcome. We need stories that celebrate our self-agency and present us as effective agents in the world, people who can get things done and get somewhere. Having such stories are preparatory for the "magic wand" question. The solutions focused therapy folks in Wisconsin, with whom I studied during my post-graduate diploma courses, would ask people, "if I had a magic wand, and could change anything for you, what would it be?" The point of this question is for us to become aware of what it is to which we are most committed to changing and how do we want it changed. This is akin to visioning a possible future. Waving a magic wand is probably not going to immediately get us there, but it's a good way to start the question.

I did the assignment, too. I'm bringing back a future in which I'm happy at work and people like me. "Yes, but," I can hear the spirits already saying, "you're not an easy camper to please. You have terms and conditions." Magic for me, in the workplace, is to have it all.

Let's play with one. I'm in an ocean port city. Barbara and I are working in the same agency. I get to do some medicine and some psychiatry. We're doing groups together. Our clients are underserved. Some are homeless and psychotic. These are the people with whom I've always worked. They are the people I want to serve. I have some time to do hospital medicine. I have some time to do obstetrics. Sometimes I teach residents and medical students. We live in sight of the sea.

I'm back in the job market, so I need some magic. I want to keep up all the skills I have spent so many years developing. I don't know how long I will be able to do this. I don't know if the changes in health care or aging itself or the demands of the market will force me out of some things and into others. But, still I want to try to have it all.

In doing the exercise, I requested magic. I asked the spirits to find or create a wonderful job for me despite my many specifications. I know how hard it is for them when the supplicant is so persnickety. Not only do I want all of the above, but I want time to continue to develop what I called Coyote Psychotherapy in a previous blog, the kind of psychotherapy that I have been developing for the almost 40 years now. We've also been calling it aboriginal inspired, body oriented, narrative and social psychotherapy, so as to be certain that it's impossible to trademark. It's what Coyote would do if he/she were a psychotherapist.

In the exercise, we ask what happened to create this envisioned future. Therefore, I have to ask myself what happened to land me this desired job (not perfect, for no job is perfect), but better -- full of colleagues whom I enjoy, patients with whom I can develop long-term relationships, the opportunity to sit in circle with some of them over time, the opportunity to contemplate existence and mortality with others.

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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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