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This weekend I led healing camp in New York City. Healing camp evolved from our need for people learn about about healing in the same time and place as others who wanted to experience healing. We wanted to evolve a non-hierarchical way to do this, which eliminated the distinctions of the mainstream society between doctors and patients, therapists and clients, teachers and students, etc. We wanted to equalize everyone. The first healing camp, inspired by our friend, Kitty Ketner, in Rhode Island, took place on an ashram/horse ranch. We began with a weekend workshop at All That Matters, a Wakefield, Rhode Island yoga studio and workshop boutique, and then moved into the Ashram for six more days of intensive interaction.

The concept is simple we need other people to heal. We cannot do it alone. The more people, the better. Imagine how much more powerful it is for 12 people to work on one person at the same time!

Where else could we find that experience than in healing camp or in a healing circle?

Our New York City healing camp began in the typical way with sage, the herb that stepped forward within the Lakota cosmology to rid areas of evil and bad energy. We burn the sage and wave the smoke over the person. Then we sing a song to honor the Four Directions, the Sky Spirits, the Earth, and all of our relatives. After inviting the spirits to join us, we did a talking circle in which people stated why they had come and what they needed. In a talking circle, a decorated and sacred stick (the talking stick) is passed around the circle. Whoever holds the stick may talk as long as they wish without interruption or response. This non-linear communication holds more potential for going deeply into important concerns than linear, interrupting cross-talking methods. It is more respectful and feels more sacred.

Of course, the people in the group wanted to do more than we could possibly do in the time allotted. That's typical for healing camp. We are so hungry to group experiences that give us a sense of belonging and connectedness, that we jump for it when it becomes possible. We settled upon my leading the group in a guided meditation/visualization that would include a traditional story. Several people had body parts that were "malfunctioning". They wanted to know what to do. One woman had recently had a breast cancer removed. Doctors were insisting on radiation therapy and tamoxifen. Another woman had fallen down some stairs when distractedly worrying and was struggling with shoulder and knee pain.. Three people were suffering from low back pain. Another had serious migraines. I was especially interested in the woman who had a cancer removed being able to dialogue with her breast about what it needed. Of course, on a rational level, I suggested she contact Ralph Moss, whose cancer reports are state of the art for knowing what the research literature supports (often not what doctors are promoting). I also mentioned to her a recent study I had read which revealed that only 1% of women who are prescribed tamoxifen actually take it. I wondered if tamoxifen were perhaps more obnoxious that was being revealed. Otherwise, why were 99% of women not taklng their medicine.

Nevertheless, I remarked to her, these were issues that could be handled outside of healing camp. Within this experience, we would find a way for her to dialogue with her breast to find out what it would recommend she do. We did that as a group experience each person having the opportunity to dialogue with his or her body part that was suffering or in pain. During the middle of this visualization process, I told a story from Coyote Healing. This story was told to me by Maria Yracaburu, a healer from the Apache Nation, and is about a time when an evil Being began to spread fear throughout the land, leading to violence and abuse. Nakia, a snake-human, journeys to the inside of a mountain to confront this evil creature and challenge it to a duel. Nakia is accompagnied by animal guides spider and mole. Both help him overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to vanguish the evil and remove fear from the land, thereby restoring peace and harmony, which is the point of our visuaization. Some organ dialogue did occur for people and then we did what we are calling "group doctoring". I take the word "doctoring" from its use as an English substitute for words that refer to the process of traditional healing. In our "group doctoring" that day in New York City, three people lay down on mats and blankets and everyone else "worked" on them. We are defining "work" in the broadest context as whatever you do that's potentially healing for others. "Work" could consists of drumming, singing, chanting, giving Reiki, meditating on the person's highest good, doing bodywork, leading imagery, doing myofascial release, reflexology, shiatsu, Cherokee massage, Zuni high velocity adjustment, or whatever you know how to do. What's marvelous to experience is the power of a group of 20 people working on three all at once. When everyone feels finished, a new person lies down and absorbs the good energy. It's so fabulous that the immediate first question after we finished was, "Why can't we do this all the time?"

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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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