Attachments, Symbiosis and Healing

This morning we discovered a tree had fallen across the community path, and into our yard. The tree was growing in shallow soil near the base of our hill, and the incessant rain had weakened the earth enough for the tree’s roots to pull free. This afternoon I cut the tree into manageable sections and removed it from the path and our yard. I had every intention of leaving some cornmeal as an offering to the tree’s spirit and did not. The tree, a birch, would soon die even without my removing it’s trunk and branches. I spoke to the tree about my actions, and expressed sincere regret at its fate.

As the afternoon has progressed, I have felt increasingly sad, and I am wondering whether I am feeling some of the tree’s grief. This is one of those times when I am aware I live in two worlds. One world is the Western world of science, a world in which trees are not sentient, and do not grieve or have souls. The other is the world of many Indigenous and shamanic peoples, a world where everything has soul, feels, and acts with intention. It is a world where one may leave an offering of tobacco or corn meal as an acknowledgement of the sentience of the tree. Continue reading

Responsibility, Reparation, and Forgiveness

I often work with couples and families, and inevitably, they bring hurts to heal in our work together. The work of healing includes finding stories that allow for forgiveness without requiring  forgetting.

A couple of weeks ago I chanced upon a blog post by Practical Narrative Therapy. The post was a discussion of forgiveness and story in narrative practice, and said in part: Continue reading

Ceremonies of Renewal

Today is one of those spectacular late winter days, where the sun sits high in the southern sky, just in the treetops, and light snow falls in large flakes. There is enough light through the thin clouds to cast shadows across the snow covered landscape. The seed in the bird feeder dwindles steadily as the birds seek breakfast. It’s cold, 15 degrees this morning, but the wind, which made yesterday feel frigid, has calmed. After breakfast, one of us will fill the feeder.

I’ve been reading Laugrand and Oosten’s book, Inuit Shamanism and Christianity. This book discusses the synthesis of Christianity and shamanism in the Canadian North, and the resulting movement to heal the people and the land. My finally beginning to read this book, about the interweaving of Christianity and traditional beliefs amongst the Inuit people, coincided with a recent conversation I had with one of my friends from the Six Nations. He is active in his local Christian community, yet considers himself very much a traditionalist as an Indian. He also works very hard to keep the two sides properly apart, as is his understanding of the Mohawk way. Like those discussed in the book, he sees much good coming from both traditions, even as he acknowledges the harm done by some in each community. Continue reading

Healing in It’s Own Time

It’s mid February; the sun  is much stronger than it was a month ago. Each day, it rises higher in the South, throwing long shadows from the trees. Today is frigid, with a strong north wind. Tomorrow, we once again warm up, as we enter that late winter up-and-down temperature pattern, heading for Spring.

Lately, I’ve been working with some individuals and families from extended families long governed by multi-generational violence and abuse. Some of these families have their roots in the First Nation, and the colonial experience. Like most Northeastern Native people, the ethnic histories of these families are complex. Complex, for all of the families, First Nations or not, are the histories of alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse, and suffering. Continue reading