A core group of physicians and healers have been consciously exploring ReVisioning Medicine since 2004. Over time, we have come to understand that ReVisioning Medicine is a council that honors and relies on deep dialogue between medical practitioners and medicine people as peers. It is an emerging contemporary version of the old, old indigenous wisdom traditions that consulted and included all the elements in the little world that became a field of healing, a field from which healing emerged.
Healers and medicine persons were once the spiritual leaders at the heart of the community. They partnered with the chiefs so that the individuals, the community, the earth thrived under their care. The animals and plants, sometimes even the elementals, communed with them and they exchanged blessings and wisdom. They knew the spirits, the earth and all the members of the human and non-human community. They carried all the stories. They were as connected to the daily events as they were to history, myths, visions and dreams.
For the Navajo, the Dine', illness occurs when the sacred order has been violated. Healing occurs through restoring harmony and order. The first requirement is gathering the tribe. Healing cannot occur outside the community and healing is an essential beautiful process that requires everyone's participation.
Healing does not create enemies but creates connection. For example, a Navajo professor of anthropology, skeptical of the old practices, decided to put his native medicine to the test. He had had a chronic skin condition that was not yielding to conventional medicine. The hand trembler (a Navajo diviner) who looked at his rashes told him he had offended the Red Ant people. When he made amends, he would be healed.
Well, the educator had offended the ant people. He used gasoline to burn an area where they had been living in order to create a place for his sleeping bag. Chagrined, he made the required offerings. The infected rash disappeared. Right relationships were restored. A healing occurred that all the steroids in the world had not been able to accomplish.
More than a physical healing occurred. The relationship between the man and his people was healed. Now our relationship with the old wisdom ways that are so despised by western science, is also being healed through this story. Healing, in the old ways, is systemic. Healing reaches back to the ancestors and forward to the future beings. Healing is round.
I had cataract surgery six months ago. The surgery went very well, but two days later, rather than my sight being restored, inflammation started and floaters, worse than I had ever had before, appeared and have not dissolved. I had had the surgery because I had been blinded by the light of the setting sun. Sensitivity to light did improve with the surgery but not as much as I had hoped. Something was not right. Inflammation continued and the drops that were to have stopped within a few days were to be continued. Four months later, I insisted on tapering down from both the steroid and non-steroid eye drops that had been prescribed when the condition didn't heal. I reduced the drops carefully, but still more rapidly than a specialist, who had been consulted, recommended. Finally, against advice I stopped them altogether. When I went to the doctor a month later, the inflammation was abating markedly and it seemed to me that the slight hearing loss that I had noticed increasingly after the surgery was also improving.
"Hearing loss is not associated in the literature with the medication," he stated.
"Actually, it is," I countered, having read the literature.
The ophthalmologist, who had performed the surgery and whom I had seen regularly for ten years, noted that the inflammation was mostly gone and my eyesight had become 20/30. "Do you know why?" I asked. "Perhaps because I stopped the meds," I continued.
"The surgery went very well." He was repeating what he had said for months as we puzzled over the unexpected phenomenon. As the appointment came to an end, he looked at me quizzically, "Do you think the inflammation and the floaters are due to the medication from the beginning?" He could ask that question because he knows that we are both trustworthy. It is not a question a doctor can easily ask in these times of distrust and conflict, when such relationships that thrive only in mutual confidence, have become increasingly combative.
"I may have a paradoxical relationship to these medications," I said, wondering whether my concern about western medicine, springing out of my awareness of the grave cultural distortions of our time, makes me particularly vulnerable to the increasing dangers of pharmaceuticals to all life, my own included. A paradoxical relationship to western medicine, to our medical system. This physician is entirely accepting of western medicine from which he derives his exceptional skill and competence. Nevertheless, he had been puzzling over the unexpected symptoms and the modest, incomplete healing that occurred.
"Sometimes patients have a different response to medication," he offered.
"Please pay attention for your other patients," I countered. "This was an iatrogenic event." I am intolerant of the ways we are being acclimated to medical side effects and I know that what goes through my body enters the biosphere and negatively affects other beings without their permission."
Some months later, a stitch that hadn't dissolved was removed from my eye and an antibiotic prescribed against infection. I experienced a searing burning sensation as if acid had been dropped in my eye. I flushed my eye with water for twenty minutes and, of course, stopped using the prescription, taking a risk, perhaps. No infection resulted.