Indigenous “intelligence” appears to be making a comeback in public consciousness.
Deena Metzger is a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman who has taught and counseled for over forty years, in the process of which she has developed therapies (Healing Stories) which creatively address life threatening diseases, spiritual and emotional crises, as well as community, political and environmental disintegration.
She has spent a lifetime investigating Story as a form of knowing and healing. As a writer, she asks: Who do we have to become to find the forms and sacred language with which to meet these times?
She conducts training groups on the spiritual, creative, political and ethical aspects of healing and peacemaking, individual, community and global, drawing deeply on alliance with spirit, indigenous teachings and the many wisdom traditions. One focus is on uniting Western medical ways with indigenous medicine traditions.
With her husband, writer/healer Michael Ortiz Hill, she has introduced the concept of Daré, meaning Council, to North America. The Topanga Daré relies on Council, alliance with Spirit and the natural world, ancestor work, indigenous and wisdom traditions and teachings, music healing, dream telling, divination, kinship, and story telling to achieve personal transformation, community healing and social change.
She is the author of many books, including most recently, the novels La Negra y Blanca and Feral; Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems; From Grief Into Vision: A Council; Doors: A fiction for Jazz Horn; Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing; The Other Hand; Tree: Essays and Pieces, A Sabbath Among the Ruins, Looking for the Faces of God andWriting For Your Life.
Rob; I open the show talking about the dream community “workshop” I participated in the night before.
dream community– because we share dreams, a community was being formed– and that that community in terms of heart and connection to what matters, would remain a community– would remain in spiritual affiliation with each other.
astrophysicists talk about particles that, once they are connected, they are always, in some way, connected anywhere in the universe.
Every indigenous tribe, anywhere on the globe, understand that dreams are not manufactured by our psyche, are not psychological. They come from the spirit world, “over there,” from god. They are ways that the other divine world teaches us about the nature of reality and guides us. That’s the reason the Sgnoi listened” That also implies a benevolent relationship with spirit and human beings. We are being tenderly and beautifully instructed.
Rob: How do you respond to atheists?
They don’t have experience. I don’t think anyone should be told they should believe or have faith. Some are blessed, have the grace to have the experiences that we could not invent. Over time we see the benevolence, ” we see there are mysteries. I call it spirit. For me, in my teachings, I don’t have a theology. I offer that there are pathless paths and we can move on those paths and be guided on those paths and can learn to read the signs. Atheists, they have not had that experience. That’s sorrowful, that’s sad. That also applies to religious people who have never had the experience. They have dogma.
I am always ready to relinquish my plans or what my culture tells me I should do. No-one has walked this path I am on.
Trying to help restore indigenous ways of wisdom, understanding our right relationship to the earth, has led me to the hope that we can shift this terrible trajectory we’re on”
rob: How do you work to heal individuals and the planet” and please explain Dare’.
Dare is “council” in shona language of Zimbabwe. They say that when people gather in council, the spirits of the ancestors also gather in council as well.
I was leading a circle– what does it really mean to be a healer in the 21st century– one is trained by spirit, in the deep sense that indigenous people have been for centuries.
We gather because we can’t do the work without it. People as for healing– physical, emotional.
Coming together again and again– is a process in which our consciousness changes and we become a community, which is healed and the earth is part of it. We see and understand that that animals and trees and earth are part of this and they offer us healing.
In another part of my life, I have a true and real relationship with a herd of elephants in the wild, in Botswana. I can tell what happened, but I can’t explain it. The elephants, the owls, the wolves, the elementals were all in a relationship with each other and that heals the world.
Rob: How does that heal the world?
Healing means wholeness. When all the elements are in right relationship to each other, when one is not dominant with each other, then we have a healthy system.
Your commitment to bottom up is a to the diversity of all being in dynamic relationship to each other. But when you have monocultures or dominance, then you have an aberration and everything falls apart.
The great ecological fear is that our war against all the species will bring us to appoint.
Rob: talk about seeing through the mind of an indigenous leader
Understanding that we are all in t his together, about caring about the whole, rather than the individual– the instinct of a true elder– wherever you look in indigenous culture you will see people thinking about the tribe as a whole and the tribe’s relationship to the land and the land’s relationship to the tribe and the stories are in the land.
In Dare, we really believe that everybody who walks through the door is an angel, and our task is to see these qualities in each other.
People walk in needing healing. it’s quite different from walking into a doctor’s office where you’re seen as there’s something wrong.
In Dare, a person can come in for healing and then ten minutes later offer healing to someone else. There’s no hierarchy.
Rob: How did you get into this indigenous point of view?
Spirit. I wrote a play, Dreams against the state. In the play, dreams become illegal, so dreamers have to go underground.
Eleusinian mysteries-– were practiced until about 326 they were practiced, then the Christians banned them.
The structure of the play had the mysteries in mind.
That led to me learning about indigenous cultures– went to Africa, met a healer there” Mandaza Kandemwa”
Rob: can you talk about story and community and how they tie together?
I came to understand what story could be through having breast cancer. There was a story around the illness and it was profound. it opened the path for me and it was also a world. Story is a little world. It is not a linear line, It is not what happened,. it is a magnetic center where many stories that are given or brought to us come together. i discovered I had breast cancer after I finished (writing) a novel asking the question “Why do wonen get cancer when they are so young. ” cancer came out of silence– the prohibited words and life festered– when things are prohibited, they get destroyed, they get named and the cancer cells burst out in unstoppable growth. So I knew that cancer and silence were related. So I took my typewriter to the hospital and kept two journals. One in which i shrieked and moaned and one in which I carefully journaled and that became the book, Tree. Insipred poster
Because the story is complex in many levels, that’s what a community is. It has many, many parts. People are resonant to each other. They form a whole. They carry story, develop identity through sharing story, dreams.
Community is an essential vessel and means of transformation.
Thich nhat Han says, “I am because you are.”
What is so lethal about imperialist culture is that it assumes and values independence– that we be independent and separated from each other. The pathology is the ongoing alienation that we see.
To think that I could go through everything I’ve gone through and experience everything I’ve done alone– is ludicrous.
Lakota Sioux– “all my relations” Mitakuye Oyasi
To recognize everything as a relation of you, you think about everything differently.
What happens now, in imperial, dominating culture, everything is manufactured– always, what the culture thinks– it’s the difference between real grass and the plastic lawn they put out.
How do you take off the blindfolds that were put on by the school system, by the media, by the culture?
everyone has a path. For some Buddhism will do it.
There’s no formula but there are guides and we just start listening.
One of the great instruments of opening the path to consciousness is life threatening illness. And this is one I learned with I had cancer. These illnesses break you down. If you you’re lucky, you see that you were not living your real life. And the path to healing is finding your real life.
Healing is contagious. When you start out on a healing path and change your life, that’s good for everyone.
Occupy, might well be the seeds of bottom up energy and vitality of something new.
What are the new forms and how will we find them? We can’t only think our way out of this. How is spirit guiding us? What alliance can we make with other beings so new ways of knowing and being can be offered to us.
I had idea that I wanted to sit in council with people in Zimbabwe and the elephants (It’s a long story I tell in Entering The Ghost River book.
An elephant came and we interacted in ways that were undeniable. Since then I have met the elephant or a community of elephants on last day of my trip to Botswana.
I tell the story on my blog– deenmetzger.wordpress.com
My question is what wisdom, what alliances can we make? Indigenous people have known this. I learn about family and community, about how to treat the dead. I’m not at the stage where I learned this or that. Maybe what I learned is that we can do something together. I don’t know what yet, or how humans can put it into speech?
Rob: How has this changed your life?
It’s changed everything. I now carry a non-human intelligence– i’m just learning it, just beginning to learn it, having a relationship with non-human beings.
Rob: a lot of what you say is described in the book Ishmael.
Well it’s not private property– these ideas– we are called to tap into it on behalf of the future. We’re going to come to it in different ways but we’re going to come to it together.
We don’t lose anything by collaborating with each other. We come so much more ourselves, just as we become so much more ourselves when we yield to spirit.
Rob: What does it mean to yield to spirit?
There’s a way of beauty and wisdom that is real and i try to strip myself of whatever impedes my relationship to that. It’s like diving into the ocean and spirit is the ocean and I learn suddenly I can breath under water and in that medium and fulfilled by it. Spirit is love.
I was in this beautiful canyon and heard this phrase– This beauty has a great heart
Rob: Who are your heroes?
the time of the hero is over– the elephant ambassador, the people who sit in community with me. I don’t think in those terms of heroes. To watch of the coming and going of the different elements, stories, dreams, people as we come together and leave each other in this world the navajo people talk about great beauty and balance– the sun and the moon and the stars, the trees. Cherokee
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