When I was in my 40s, I made my first trip to Germany, my ancestral homeland. It took me that long to overcome my rage and judgmentalism. This is not something I say with pride, because if you carry that much anger inside of you it compromises your ability to be a healer. It was only when I came to work with American Indians that I saw it in a new light. Native people judged me in the same way I judged Germans; they saw me as another white man who shared responsibility for what happened to their people. I resented being lumped into that stereotype, but only then did began to look at my own.
Over the past 25 years, I have returned to Germany to visit and teach. Over this time I have learned to face some of my deepest wounds and let them heal. As much as I have come to love this place and people, I still get a visceral response when the Nazi memories come up. When they do, it invariably erases my good feelings and makes me sad.
I just returned from conducting a healing workshop with my Turtle Island Project colleague, Claudia Weinspach. We were at a retreat center in the beautiful forest town of Steyerberg. This picture-postcard alpine village is the home of Lebensgarten (the Garden of Life). Lebensgarten is a communal settlement founded 22 years ago under the principles of tolerance, love, and living cooperatively on the land. There are now 70 adults and 40 children living here; there is no Guru — people respect one another, seek consensus in decision making, and are ultimately answerable to themselves,
The community is welcoming, responsive, awake, and there is a palpable sense of peace and love. Each day, there are times for meditation, tea ceremony, singing in the Kapelle, and whoever shows up is welcomed. The community sponsors retreats, concerts, lectures, and runs a Gaia University program. In the afternoons, fresh fresh-baked pastry is served in the Garden, which in the evening is transformed into a pub.
The people and place moved me, until the second evening when after dinner we heard about the history of Lebensgarten. During World War II, it was a slave labor camp where the Nazis produced ammunitions. The older homes were built with German precision craftsmanship and are still touted as solid engineering marvels.
Listening to this story sent Goosebumps tingling down my spine, and I immediately felt myself in the belly of the proverbial beast, standing on the bones of my relatives. This response snuffed out my good feelings which were replaced by the ugly history of what happened here. At that moment it didn’t matter to me that no one in the room was even alive then or that I long ago gave up the whip of collective guilt.
I don’t want to forget what happened here, but I also want to embrace what’s happening here now. I want to give up my ugly reflexive response which keeps me from being present in the moment. This time, in the Garden of Life, I was able to move more quickly from reflexive pain to redemption and joy. I’m still moving ahead on my healing journey.
Last Mask of the Authentic Healer
Nov 30– Dec. 2, 2007
Franciscan Renewal Center, Phoenix, AZ
“This unique, experiential workshop is designed for healers and
those who are interested in expanding their therapeutic repertoire.
In the language of ritual and ceremony, we will explore the many
ways you can magnify your healing power.
MORE INFO and Registration