I just finished the second annual retreat for healthcare professionals entitled, “Sacred Healing: From Torah to Tipi.” I led the retreat along with Rabbi Gershon Winkler, Dallas DeLowe, and, this year, a new relative, Miriam Maron. I look forward to doing this event for the entire year, because I love to listen and watch them.
Together, we tell our story about how people get sick and how they get well from the perspectives of modern science and ancient shamanic traditions. Seamlessly picking up the thread line of each other’s thoughts, we flow from brain imaging to biblical tales, to drumming, dancing and native ceremonies.
Gershon was ordained in Jerusalem in the Orthodox tradition and is an initiate into Jewish mysticism. Fluent in Aramaic and Hebrew, he has served as Scholar-in-Residence at colleges and spiritual retreat centers all over the world. He currently directs the Walking Stick Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the dissemination of aboriginal Jewish spirituality.
Dallas is a spiritual leader in the Native American Church and a healer who has shared his vision with audiences in Europe, North and Central America, and Canada. We have known each other for more than 25 years — he conducted my daughters’ wedding ceremonies and has been instrumental in teaching me how to pray (by which I mean to speak from the heart without thinking about it first). This year Miriam joined us; she’s a nurse, musician and exercise physiologist who integrated movement, chanting and imagery into our healing work.
The year before last, the majority of the participants were Jews. This year, the attendees were equally divided between Jews, Gentiles, Buddhists, Wiccans, and a Muslim. At the retreat’s conclusion, we actually create healing ceremonies where everyone has the opportunity to integrate and practically apply these basic principles.
Participants were arbitrarily divided into small groups. One of the groups happened to end up comprised of five Christians and one Jew. The volunteer “patient” asked for this ceremony because she needed to say goodbye to her old life and face her fear and uncertainty about the future. The group came up with the idea of a new baptism ceremony and translated her wish into story, poetry, chanting, and drum beat. At its conclusion, each member poured water over her head while giving her a personal blessing. For the only Jewish participant in this group, it was the first time she had ever shared this powerful symbolism, and was so moved that she will include its metaphor into her therapeutic repertoire.
The power of these ceremonies is always intensely moving for both “patients” and healers. A room of 30 teachers, rabbis, chaplains, counselors, social workers, dentists, doctors, a deacon, and an Indian chief, makes for a powerful healing gathering. Perhaps the experience is best captured in this poem written by a participant:
This day I see, with third eye,
This day I hear, with other ear,
This day I smell, with scorched nostril
This day I taste, with stinging palate
This day I walk with Hermes’ feet
This day I think with Carl’s soul
This day I talk with Gershon’s tongue
This day I feel, with Marta’s nerve ends
This day I pray with Dallas’ universe
This day I sing with Miriam’s rapture
This day I dance with the sparks off the rocks
This day I love with thirty hearts
This day I live in ceremony
This day I heal me, then you
This day I am spirit