When I was in my late thirties, I became certain that something big was on my personal horizon. I had no idea what it was but just knew it was out there waiting…and would change the very fabric of my life. I remained open to discovering what was in store because it was so compelling. But in another way…scary. It contained uncertainty. A few years passed when suddenly the threshold appeared. It happened quickly. It was palpable. I was standing before it, and all looked so much brighter on the other side…even though I still couldn’t make out exactly what was there.
I had entered liminal space, the territory that holds the material and imaginal worlds equally…until they come together as one. Once done, you can step blithely through the threshold, never looking back. To do so necessarily involves un-grounding, prying your feet off the soil you’d known in order to set the stage for a wider life. It’s uncomfortable. Depending on your nature, it can be downright anxiety producing. Then those internal looping messages start to roll and can be incessant as they attempt to keep you tethered to where you were. They may get their reinforcements from external sources as well.
But there’s another part that clearly knows the old ways no longer seem right. Stick with it and know this is a part of the process. In fact, the internal and external messages often exacerbate before they flame out and dissipate.
Even so, the new landscape hasn’t made itself quite visible yet. In this transition, the imaginal realm is your great ally. I tell people I’m working with to pay considerable attention to their dreams during these times, to inexplicable visionary experiences and insights that swim up from some place you can’t name to land solidly in your lap out of the clear blue. This is the great gift of bonding with your Core Self, learning to trust metaphoric or literal messages as guidance. Creating clarity is key at this point. The imaginal world is your friend. When you know – and recognize you know – a foundation starts to form.
In reality, the threshold didn’t appear suddenly. Coming to readiness is a required piece, getting unseated enough to wake up and discover it’s time to move. Life is happening without you. Readiness isn’t necessarily a smooth trajectory but may involve dancing back and forth until the call is just too insistent to ignore.
Rites of passage aren’t prevalent in Western culture. Whatever may once have existed has been forgotten or downplayed. Know what I’ve been discussing is a rite of passage. Call it so. The time when you are no longer who you were but who you’re becoming. This particular rite is completed when you step through the threshold and fall into the next iteration of your life.
If what I’ve written here sounds all too familiar…and you recognize you’re smack in the middle of it, just name it. You’re in liminal space. It’s sacred. Treat it so. Getting to a place of full knowing – recognizing connection with the unseen world that is more real than what your logical mind would have you believe – is integral to this rite of passage. You’re not alone in your experiences.
Here I am nearly three decades later, having recently passed a milestone birthday, looking back over the years I have thus lived. While the big rite of passage occurred all those years ago, putting me on the path I’ve been on ever since, there have been smaller rites along the way. They further aligned me to my intent. Be thankful when you sense your own threshold coming steadfastly toward you. I bless all of mine.
Maybe you’ve been in the same place or still are. I started experiencing a sense of generalized, underlying dread. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop. A kind of existential angst…over which it felt like I had no control. For months, I awoke in the morning and steeled myself to face the day. What new outrage would be presented? How do I navigate the low-level grief – or overwhelming waves of sadness and righteous anger – and be able to function reasonably in my everyday life? My energy was sapped by some stealthy foe.
Then I realized I’d started to grow numb to what occurred…and that’s not healthy. That would only indicate that it was becoming submerged to the point of becoming the norm.
That isn’t who I am or how I choose to live my life. I can pinpoint exactly when it began – and it turns out I haven’t been alone.
Oh, I’ve been through the intensity of the Dark Night of the Soul, thrashing around in the invisible landscape, and came out the other side. You can read about those years in my book Standing Stark. That’s not what this is about. Nor is it about all the times I stood at the threshold – restless for change – sensing, but not seeing, the next realignment of my life. Those times I actively chose. Those were personal. As much as any of us have any control whatsoever, I felt as though I was the rider of that horse who, in partnership, would take me where I was meant to go.
After the many months, I finally determined I’d relinquished the reins and wasn’t on the horse at all. In shock, I’d allowed myself to be thrown off by a dangerous runaway, out of control, underbelly completely visible.
Here’s what makes this different: This challenge was delivered at the meta level. It affects the world community and our collective future.
In June, I was in France for the month, the last leg two nights in Toulouse. A little rest before the long flight home. I was walking along the river when I glanced back toward the Pont Neuf bridge and saw the most curious thing. There at the edge of the circular opening between the piers closest to this side of the bridge sat a figure, its legs dangling over the edge. A red devil. At first I thought it was someone dressed in costume, maybe a street performer. I snapped a photo and posted it on my Facebook timeline, jokingly labeling it The Entrance to the Underworld. A closer look – and the fact it hadn’t moved the next day – determined it to be a fixture.
Overnight I’d done some research and learned of Notre Dame de la Daurade, less than ten minutes from my hotel, that contained a Black Madonna. Excitedly, I struck out the next day. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t noticed the church previously when it was located along the river, quite close to Pont Neuf. Then I saw why. It was a blocky building, looking more like a Masonic Temple or maybe part of the art school whose walls adjoined it. Plus, it was partially hidden by fences and restoration equipment. But the front door was open. So I entered.
The inside walls were shrouded in dirty draping, dust everywhere, building materials scattered on the floor. No pews. Nothing really. Not what I expected. The few workmen I saw paid me no mind. It took me a minute to get my bearings. I knew the Black Madonna was supposed to be in the southern transept and picked my way through. I was about to go through a small opening in the drapery that segmented the back part when a man, probably the one in charge, told me I couldn’t be there. I attempted to talk him into it, “Even for a moment?” But he was firm.
Disappointed, I turned to go. I was nearly out the front door when I felt a strong pull coming from my right. I paused to look around to see if the coast was clear…then followed the energy. That’s where I found her. She was stuffed into a dark niche, stripped of her finery, behind tall iron bars, a padlock barring entrance. It seemed so disrespectful. A couple of candles burned just outside. I stayed for a long time. If anyone saw me, they let me be.
Something bothered me. The only things of significance I took away from Toulouse were that devil – on which I could find no information online – and the Black Madonna. It just didn’t sit right with me. So I sat with it for several days through the first few days I was home. It hit me.
The devil guarding the gate. The Black Madonna and child locked up. Held hostage. Renovation.
I’m one for metaphors. When I’m involved in deep spiritual inquiry, that’s where my mind tends to go. This, coupled with all the environmental upheavals across the planet, brought me to focus. It’s not like I didn’t know this at some level. Now it’s no longer hidden. I’ve got it.
This is shadow work. We’re all being called to it: collectively and individually.
We’re being asked to consider:
In what ways we argue for our limitations;
The call to re-examine our cultural norms;
The willingness to avert our eyes;
The act of unconsciously filtering because we can’t contain it all.
I’m deep in the thick of it. Sorting. I don’t have any answers yet. Just the questions that have been there all along now made plain and visible.
For me, insights come in silence and solitude – in the early morning when all is still and little is fighting for my attention – still fresh from sleep where so much is recycled and put to bed. The way through reveals itself in the aftermath of meditation, in the process of writing or creating artwork, and during the method I use to clear my brain.
Whatever answers finally come are mine and may not be yours. But my deepest hope is that all will hold the core values that nurture the collective. In the meantime, these things I write of here are helping me fine-tune the path I take.
I’ve been considering lineage. First coming from Latin as linea, evolving to Old French lignage and English line to finally form lineage, meaning lineal descent, ancestry and parentage. It has to do with roots from the seed. What is the seed? Where are your roots planted, and how deep do they go? That’s underground. What is drawn up through those roots to make its way above ground? Heritage is a living entity. What does the bloodline produce?
I like this on lineage from biology: a sequence of cells in the body that developed from a common ancestral cell. I think about origins, and all the stories that are passed along a family line ⎯ said and unsaid ⎯ and those told over and over that bind a collective to each other. Influences. There are those stories best to learn from and let go. But that’s another piece of writing.
Here I want to focus on tradition as it speaks to lineage.
When we are rootless…when we don’t know where we come from and don’t hear the stories…we long for knowledge of the line that could give us spiritual grounding, heritage in the highest sense. If we never know…if we’re disconnected…then we’re left to take the solo journey toward creating a solid identity. Or, not at all and remain ungrounded. Some are fortunate to find community that sustains them. Floundering is often the norm until some semblance of foundation forms. Whatever traditions come of this quest are deeply personal and create stability through time. They give expression and instill what it means to be human.
There are multitudes across the world who can trace their lineage back hundreds to thousands of years. Most of these are tribal peoples. They are grounded in the very lands where they or their ancestors were born. Their stories are centuries old, some never written down, and endure. They know who they are at a deeply unconscious level, made visible through their traditions. Rituals ⎯ how a baby receives its name, crops are planted, dreams advise ⎯ provide the framework that guide lives. They are not alone. Ancestors are actively present. So is the community. The richness of lineage is told through dance, songs, music and art.
I say these are the sacred threads that hold the world together because it’s true. These timeless elements produce spiritual grounding and strength beyond anything material. Yet to the present-day mainstream majority these threads are unseen or valued least with little to no thought or understanding.
There are so many examples of detractors acting against the stability that we all seek at a core level. On the world stage, most of us (who would be reading these words) can name those most grievous actions and their perpetrators right off the top of our heads. The source is rootlessness, the disconnect of those who have chosen to stay ungrounded. I have to believe this because I can’t imagine that anyone who has pledged commitment to all that encompasses spiritual identity could even consider, much less act on, what tears the world apart.
The question becomes how do those of us who hold value for the planet and all beings, not only survive but thrive and stand up to what acts against all we hold dear. I don’t believe we do it by force. I don’t believe we do it by cutting ourselves off from what is going on in the world. By virtue of holding anything at arm’s length, tension is created by focusing on what we want to avoid…thereby naturally drawing it to attention.
I don’t believe we do it by allowing ourselves to be assaulted. I say this in particular because I felt that way for months in this last year when I’d learn day by day of yet another thing that went against my deeply held spiritual values. This wasn’t just an attack on my mind. I felt the attack viscerally. But going numb isn’t the answer either.
I’m writing of this because it’s been so much on my mind. It’s probably been on yours. As I have been attempting to grapple, accept, rise above…I can’t say I have answers. But in the midst of all this, something did present itself. I’ve been drawn to return to reading passages in spiritual literature, adding this practice in to my daily meditation as I did many years ago when going through difficult times. I do feel strengthened.
We find our true identity in lineage and tradition, the sacred threads that hold the world together, woven tightly and held lightly. I do believe this is what we’re called to do in these times, upleveling the breakthrough that must be on the horizon.
Synchronicity being what it is, as I was finishing up this piece, I received the weekly newsletter with an article from Yes! Magazine entitled Don’t Just Resist. Return to Who You Areby Taiaiake Alfred. I zeroed in on these words scattered through a paragraph.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT A Sharing of Medicine with Turtle Women Rising and Kenosis for Indigenous Women Veterans.
This is a grassroots effort. You are invited to help us create the first of many such healing gatherings to come for Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups. Please lend your help through donation and spreading the word. Ways to support are included below.
I am partnering with Eli PaintedCrow, Iraq War veteran and Co-founder of Turtle Women Rising in this grassroots effort toward generative healing of trauma and pain…that would positively affect individuals, families and communities. This is a suicide prevention effort
We are undertaking a pilot program merging the powerful, documented healing effects of the drum and a clearing method calledBrainsweep I’ve been offering with much success.
This first opportunity is offered to Indigenous women veterans living in California at no cost to them, to include teachings, materials, food, travel and lodging. We intend this gathering as a model to evaluate, expand upon and offer to other Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups. The application information is below.
A Collaboration Between Turtle Women Rising and Kenosis.
Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit extension of Kenosis, is the fiscal sponsor for Turtle Women Rising. Any donations are tax-deductible.
We create a safe haven within the timeless prayer of the drum. Science is catching up with what Indigenous peoples have known for millennia. Drumming has been shown to elevate moods, intervene with the use of numbing agents and guide us back to ourselves.
In the sacred presence of the drum, a set of simple, safe techniques called Brainsweep is taught. These interventions drastically reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with PTSD and other traumas. Working with the brain, they interrupt triggers and dissipate automatic responses to stressors. Easy to learn, they’re meant to be self-administered whenever needed. There’s no need to disclose personal history, and healing results are experienced without medication or therapy. When misguided, automatic fight-or-flight responses ⎯ emotional or physical ⎯ no longer occur, it paves the way for clarity, life-giving choices and a meaningful life.
Participants leave the gathering with a personal drum each has made, having learned ways to support health and wellbeing — and fully claim spiritual authority. We remember and regain the walk of our ancestors who wait patiently in our veins to be healed by us as we heal ourselves. We walk as one heartbeat, that of the Mother.
APPLY FOR A SPONSORSHIP. MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 4.
If you are an Indigenous woman veteran living in California ready to move beyond pain and disconnection, please apply. Go to the gathering program page and download a sponsorship application.
If you know someone who would be interested, please share this announcement.
HEALING WAYS THAT WORK.
Eli PaintedCrow has been invited to speak at the Native American Veterans Association Summit on March 29 at the Long Beach VA on her own PTSD recovery using the drum and Brainsweep.
They stood up for us. Let’s stand up for our sisters.
Not one more suicide, please.
MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION TO SUPPORT THIS GRASSROOTS EFFORT. THE WORLD NEEDS THIS WORK.
• To donate via Kenosis Spirit Keepers, go here and scroll down to Turtle Women Rising fiscal sponsorship.
THANK YOU for helping bring about this grassroots undertaking that ultimately can have a wide reach toward healing.
Especially in these times, we need it. The planet needs it.
Join me and accept our invitation to be part of something beautiful…something that brings hope…and know that you are supporting continuation of the invisible, sacred threads that hold the world together.
When someone quits telling their story of pain and trauma from a past event, that’s clear evidence they’re healed. Right? I say that in the sense they aren’t continually re-engaging with the painful past by bringing it up, hence reinforcing it. They’ve resolved it through some means, and integrated another way of living.
Not so fast. For many, that’s only partly true. A large part of them may have moved on, having found a way to reframe it. However, some part may have taken it underground…inconveniently emerging when triggered in any number of ways. It’s the survival response to a perceived threat, even if it isn’t active today. It can be as subtle as procrastination, varying degrees of physical symptoms or full-blown fight-or-flight response. It’s the slippery, tenacious residue that hangs on, not yet convinced its vigilance is no longer needed.
Close to two years ago, I became aware of an intervention called Brainsweep. It gained my interest on a number of levels. First, it was said to be quite effective for PTSD ⎯ so widespread in the world these days ⎯ and troubling memories that cause issues in present-day life. I know without a doubt…we’re holistic beings. If healing takes place in one area of our make-up, it will have an effect elsewhere within our system. That includes extension to family and others. So, that was attractive.
Second, it appealed to me because there was no need to disclose the content of the issue at all. No re-engagement of the problem. Finally, and perhaps the most important, it’s a safe, simple set of techniques you’re taught so you can do it for yourself whenever needed, or as a practice toward prevention. Once you’ve learned it, you’re not tied anyone…unlike other methods. You’re autonomous. You’re empowered.
The effect is immediate and maintains. There’s no need for the mind to understand the issue or know the cause. What a relief. No need to get wrapped around the axle. In fact, that would get in the way. Brainsweep works with the brain and an easy technique using the hands. That’s it.
I became certified in Brainsweep interventions. I’m offering it now under the life enhancement coaching part of my work, sometimes in conjunction with my Lifepath Design program. But before I expanded my practice, I wanted to make sure it works as reported.
The first stop was myself. I’ve undergone powerful, significant changes in my life, undertaken with intent, over the last 25 years. With all that, there were a few areas that I knew had not completely cleared, that still popped up periodically in annoying ways. In self-administering Brainsweep, they released. Circumstances that used to trigger a response…just don’t. Most profoundly though, I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable eye disease that had increasingly interfered with everyday functioning, aside from my ability to work. I returned to normal functioning after using an advanced level of Brainsweep over a 5-day period. You can read my story here.
Over the last 18 months, I’ve taught it to a number of people dealing with anything from PTSD to painful physical issues to disruptive behaviors. They’ve used it successfully to alleviate or completely expel their symptoms. You can read some of their testimonials here.
I’m now open for appointments to teach those who want relief and are committed to their own health and wellbeing. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, I offer sessions online via video chat. I also teach in-person sessions locally in the Prescott, Arizona area on a limited basis. Just get in touch.
There are people who belong to a place in such a way that they become imbued with the very energy resident there. It permeates who they are…and they’re generous with it. Over the years I’ve returned over and over to certain areas that are dear to my heart. In particular ways, I live vicariously through those I’ve known at some depth who have consistently played a part during special journeys. They ground me in the land. When I see them through the years, they reinforce all my experiences by virtue of their physicality. When suddenly that person is no longer there, it leaves a void and a piece of me goes with them.
Doña Panchita, curandera of Palenque, was one of those people. A couple of weeks ago, I received the sad news that she had recently passed. Annually during my Maya spiritual travel program in Chiapas, we would see Doña Panchita for an individual limpia, a clearing session.
We would go to her home just off the main street running through the town of Palenque and take our places in her waiting room, which doubled as a storage and laundry room. Sometimes kittens would scamper in as the kitchen and rest of the living quarters were through an open doorway on the right. A curtained door next to the washing machine led to the tiny room where she saw patients. We weren’t the only ones waiting. Locals often sat patiently, too. You see, Doña Panchita was respected in Palenque as a bona fide healer. She served her community.
Working through prayer and clearing methods, she alleviated imbalances and dissipated blockages in the emotional and physical bodies, and dispensed with spiritual afflictions. She sent outside interferences packing, such as envy from others, etheric cording that drains, a hex from a sorcerer or any other detrimental attachments.
Doña Panchita was not given to talking about herself or how she worked. She was humble. In my experience over the years, she was no-nonsense and wanted to get down to business. I imagine this was especially so because she would already have had a full day from early morning working as a maid in a local hotel. That’s before she would begin seeing anyone in her waiting room. But one time her husband slipped in and sat down with us. He disclosed that the spirits of the house, or the small plot of land where it sat, had made their connections with his wife many years ago, and she worked through them.
She was Catholic, deeply religious. Along an entire wall from tabletop to ceiling, was an altar with religious statues and accoutrements of various sizes. She favored Mary. Framed pictures of saints also hung on the wall. I remember being overwhelmed by it the first time I entered the room. Other than the altar there were few furnishings. Mainly two chairs—one for her and one for her patient—and a small table to hold the herbs and other things she used.
I remember the first limpia with Doña Panchita maybe ten years ago. She didn’t know me, and I didn’t say anything about myself except whatever she may have gleaned from my request of her, something fairly benign. I closed my eyes and heard her praying under her breath then felt her brushing my body, head to toe, with a branch of holy basil. Once she was done, I opened my eyes. I remember feeling a bit spacey and had glanced over at the altar, which seemed to have come alive. She stood in front of me pointing to an ornate cross around her neck and told me in no uncertain terms that I must immediately buy La Cruz deCaravaca and wear it, that I needed to protect myself because of the work I do. She then called to a young woman, probably a granddaughter, and dictated a prescription instructing me to, once I returned home, bathe in the infused liquid she gave me and purchase some other things to add to the bath. I did both.
During my 2011 session, I told Doña Panchita that I had been feeling off for some time. Nothing seemed to be going well. At every turn there was a roadblock. Sometimes it was worse than others. It didn’t feel like it was something of mine generating the problems. I always look inside myself first to evaluate.
What I had not told her was how uncomfortable I also was in my own home as though I was unwelcome. I often felt on edge. I would frequently wake up in the middle of the night on high alert as though there was an intruder in the house. Sometimes there would be popping noises or the bureau in my bedroom would crack loudly like it was splintering.
I had barely stopped talking when she took hold of my head on either side and began shaking it, making guttural sounds, growling, into the crown of my head. Then praying fervently and whacking me with a water-drenched holy basil branch. Understand this was rough treatment coming from her. She was normally quite gentle. When there was a lull, I opened my eyes to slits just in time to see her holding scissors a foot away from my body. As she began to slice through the air, I can only say it was like floodgates released⎯and whatever had been there…vacated. I felt immediate release…light energy…and extreme relief.
When she was done, she took an egg from the table and cracked it into a glass of water. After a few moments, she showed me the glass, and based on how the egg appeared, that all was well. I don’t know how to read such things. But I certainly took her word for it. I’ll never know the cause of all those troubles and didn’t ask her.
Before I stood, she asked me to open my hands and placed a white flower across my palms. She closed my hands together with her own and said, “For your work.” I was so very touched by her blessing.
After that journey when I walked through my front door, everything looked brighter in color and had a sparkle to it. Really. Whereas, for years I’d been experiencing the things I’d mentioned, from that time forward all has been clear. No more cracking furniture. No more high alert. I am home.
I hold much gratitude toward Doña Panchita of Palenque. I know others do, too. She blessed many with her attention, kindness and skill. She was the real deal and is missed.
This 2001 film by Everyman, BBC Two, is for today. Right now. The times, the unprecedented questions and emotions, that must be dealt with are still relevant. The more that we challenge ourselves to face them, the more we can individually change the world⏤one by one, step by step.
In October 1984, Sir Anthony Berry was killed, with four more, by a bomb planted by IRA bombers at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England where Margaret Thatcher’s party gathered for a conference. Patrick Magee, one of three bombers, was caught. The other two never were. Convicted of murder, he was remanded to prison for 8 life sentences with a minimum of 35 years. But in 1999 he was released under the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement.
In the expanse of time from her father’s murder, Jo Berry held the desire to understand why such a thing could happen. She wanted to hear directly from the one who committed the act. She wanted to move through trauma and despair. She wanted to open her heart.
This is a documentation of meetings between Jo Berry and Patrick Magee that began in 2001. It’s an opportunity for us to witness two people speaking directly to each other, dealing with the action that brought them together and all the resulting emotions on both sides. It can give us courage to do the same in our own lives where it’s needed.
In September 2015, we at Kenosis Spirit Keepers collaborated with the Quad-City Interfaith Council to bring Jo to Prescott, Arizona. We viewed the film Beyond Right and Wrong in which they are featured. Then she took questions. You can see that video here.
In Facing the Enemy, Jo spoke haltingly of all the pain Patrick’s release from prison brought up for her, even though she thought all the grief was squeezed out, and so many years had gone by. Patrick received the expression of Jo’s pain and spoke of his own. Both of these individuals possess enormous courage not only to face each other as they did. But also having chosen to work together all these years in the hopes of allaying such tragedies in the world. Since then they have appeared together more than 150 times.
Truly, this video should be viewed as widely as possible. Recently uploaded for streaming on You Tube, 60 minutes. If you’re unable to see the embedded video below, go here.
Note: Jo Berry will be in Arizona, Washington and Colorado in October 2017. If you would like to book a venue in the US with Jo, please contact Karen Marchetti via email imaginepeace0928 (at) gmail.com.
In 2012 I was invited to South Louisiana by Shala Fontenot and Faith Moody, who had been on one of my Peru journeys. I still carry gratitude for their generosity. It was the start of a love affair. I quite fell in love with the people and rich culture of those lands. While there I interviewed Becca Begnaud during her monthly Healing Arts Collective gathering. Becca is a Cajun traiteur, a tradition indigenous to the area that I didn’t know existed. Not only is she well versed in her healing art, Becca is a wealth of information on Cajun and Creole history and lifeways.
Traiteurs are faith healers, a heritage in danger of sliding into extinction. These days they have few, if any, apprentices willing to undertake a trade that involves a lot of personal sacrifice. Most are way up there in years. Traiteurs are known to selflessly give of themselves – many on call around the clock – caring for those in need. If they’re paid for services at all, it’s customarily a chicken or other practical item. They heal through what they call “the gift.” A prayer comes through them for the person it’s meant, often by laying on of hands. But there’s no requirement for the person to be present. Long distance healing is often done as well.
Below you’ll find the original interview I did with Becca during which she talks about her own process of taking on the mantle, and the origins of those who live in the area.
A few days ago, Becca sent me a note about coverage on traiteurs in a local publication. You can read it here. Her message gave me the final nudge to write this additional article, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.
Just prior to my return to Cajun Country in 2013, my friend Shala called and said a few cryptic words, “There are some folks I want you to meet.” Nothing more. After arriving, I discovered she’d set up sessions with three traiteurs. Her method: She put out a general announcement to friends and acquaintances, a request for names. When she received the same recommendation three times, she arranged a meeting. Luckily, I had my recorder with me, and they freely answered my questions. I asked each one about the same things: any criteria for being a traiteur, how they received the gift, and what effect it had on them personally. They filled in the gaps.
We pulled up to an unassuming house in the small town of Opelousas, the home of Sostain and Dorothy Lemelle. Mrs. Lemelle greeted us at the door and brought us right into the kitchen where Mr. Lemelle sat at the table. She returned to watching a TV show in the seating area just beyond, but piped in periodically as we talked with Mr. Lemelle.
He was 83 years old at the time, having begun his healing work suddenly at the age of 10 when a veterinarian was unable to staunch blood flow from a horse’s deep wound. His mother told him to point his finger at the horse and send the prayer. He did, and the bleeding stopped. He’d been doing his work ever since. Mr. Lemelle said his mother told him his daddy died six months before he was born, and that’s why he had the gift. No other reason and nothing else specifically done to learn his craft. But he was known many places in the world, regularly receiving calls from far-flung places.
From left to right: Shala Fontenot, Sostain Lemelle, Becca Begnaud and Carla Woody.
I experienced his work myself. We sat knee to knee in that kitchen, TV going in the background, as he passed his hands over me and said prayers. I felt an enormous amount of energy, a force moving though my body, flushing out anything that could be out of sorts. Later, I asked him what he felt himself. He smiled and said, “Nothing.” I queried him, was he sure he didn’t experience any sensations, any energy? He smiled even more broadly and insisted, it wasn’t for him, only for the one who sat in front of him. So he didn’t feel anything. About that time there was a knock on the door, someone else showed up for healing. We placed the chicken we’d brought on the kitchen table, thanked him profusely and left.
Mr. Lemelle, a sweet humble man, passed this life in August 2014. He was kindly remembered in the world and left a gap hard to fill. Our unedited interview is below. A bit garbled in the beginning, it’s well worth the listen (27 minutes) and gets clear the more this elder launched into recounting his life.
I’m going to call her Mrs. Benoit, then a 78-year-old traiteur who preferred to remain nameless and didn’t want the actual recording on the Internet. I’m sharing some of her story.
I come from family of 10 and have 10 children of my own. My mother was a traiteur who would treat just two things—the blood and the burns. That was back in the day of the horse and buggy. They would turn into their drive calling out ‘Madame, Madame.’ And my mother would look out the window. If she saw red, then she’d know it was a bad cut. Walking to meet them, she would already be working on the wound. I’d run beside her. I found it fascinating! When my mother got to the buggy they would be squeezing a bandage that was dripping blood. But when they unwrapped it, the wound had closed!
I said, Mama! How did you do that?
She said, it was just prayer. It’s a treatment that was handed down to me from the elders.
Mama, can you teach me?
I’m sorry. I can’t. I can only teach someone of the opposite sex.
So I had to learn from a man or a boy older than me. A woman couldn’t teach me. But they wouldn’t teach me then because I was too young, they’d say. But finally someone taught me at 7 years old. I first learned for the blood. I saw a dog get hit by a car and it was bleeding. I treated him and it stopped immediately. Thank you, Jesus!
I learned one at a time from those who would teach me.
Then my sister-in-law was somewhere and saw this old man. She asked him if something was wrong. He said he was sad because he’d traveled the world and learned all these treatments. But he didn’t have anyone to pass them to.
No one ever asked me, he said. I’d love to meet a woman younger than me who speaks both French and English that I could pass my treatments to her.
She said, Oh my God. This is my sister-in-law’s answered prayer! She’s been praying for years to meet an angel that would tell her treatments from the old days. And she’s never forgotten a treatment she learned.
Thank you, Lord, I said. I called him until he got home. I went and spent 3 days with him. He even taught me the treatment for cancer. When someone needs to come, God sends them.
A woman came to my door. I could hear her coughing before she got there. I said to her, that’s a heart cough. Not a lung cough. She’d just spent 5 days in the hospital, but she was no good. I told her I learned a treatment from an old lady who lived with the Indians. She taught classes, and I went to all of them. I told her, there’s a treatment for that cough you’ve got with some tea. It was blue malva tea. I treat 3 days in a row, pretty much at the same time of day. If they can’t come here I treat them here [long distance]. In 3 days this woman was not coughing. I treated her [with prayer] and she drank that tea.
This lady called me one day when I was doing reflexology. She said [crying], I was making some roux and the pot fell on my shoulder. It burned so bad! There’s nobody around! I’m by myself! Can you treat me?
This lady I was working on [with reflexology] was a very religious lady. I said, we’re going to treat you. We’re going to pray for you. Me and my friend are going to hold hands. And I’m going to pretend to hold your hand. Did you remove that roux on your shoulder?
Yes, but it burns so! It burns through my body!
I asked the lady to pray with me for the burn. We did it 3 times. She had stopped crying. We did it 3 more times. She came and showed me the next day. It didn’t even blister. I’m overwhelmed when I see something like that! She said when we stopped praying it was no longer there! So it works.
Rebecca Henry is known as a Creole folklorist who runs the Creole Heritage Folklife Center in Opelousas. Located in an old home, it contains items from the early parts of the last century that document African American life of the times. But Mrs. Henry is also a traiteur, and certainly a clairvoyant. Unsolicited, she told me things about myself that she had no way of knowing. I regret not writing them down. While she gave permission for me to record our conversation, and openly spoke of hidden things the others hadn’t, I could see she wasn’t sure about my motives. And even though the recorder batteries had plenty of juice, the record light was on…and even tested prior to beginning our discussion in earnest…when I went to listen to it later, nothing was there. Blank. I tell you this was one powerful woman that I look forward to visiting again.
I have a very strong pull to spend more time in that region. The folks there were liberal with their storytelling. Still, I have the distinct sense that the stories proffered were an invitation to go deeper. I’ve been in such places before. I recognize the waters running there.
The Horse Boy came to my attention through one of the travelers on my Peru spiritual travel program. Françoise Moreels told me she was so inspired by the story, centered around autism and Mongolian shamanism, that she was compelled to journey to Mongolia herself. With an introduction like that, of course, I was drawn to read it to see what was so remarkable. And truly it is.
Imagine a young couple completely engaged in life. Rupert Isaacson was a journalist and activist for Indigenous land rights, particularly for the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. Kristin Neff was a professor in educational psychology at the University of Texas. Their young son Rowan just wasn’t developing the way other children did and displayed behaviors that led to a diagnosis of autism in 2004. The book is intimate in detailing all the heartbreak and frustration that comes with parenting a child with such a condition—the daily travails that are so difficult. My great respect certainly goes to these parents.
It became the father’s quest to find a way to heal Rowan. Rupert’s work being more flexible, he stayed home with Rowan much of the time. Unexpectedly, an incident occurred that eventually pointed to a path of healing. One day, Rowan broke away from his father and ran over to a horse named Betsy on a neighbor’s property, a mare known to be difficult. Strangely, Betsy was submissive to the child. And the child’s stemming and outbursts calmed. Rupert knew horses. He grew up with them in South Africa. He asked the neighbor if he and his son could ride the horse, and they did. Consistently.
It had such a positive effect on Rowan’s functioning that, after a time, Rupert had a brainstorm. Why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the place where horses were first domesticated and had become integral to the culture—and particularly their powerful form of shamanism? It took Rupert a few years to convince Kristin enough for her to reluctantly agree. But in 2007, the family began a physically and emotionally challenging odyssey across the remote steppes of Mongolia in hopes their son would be healed.
This is a story of strong intent played out against the backdrop of Mongolian shamanism. I highly recommend the book, also produced as a documentary. As a result of their experiences, Rupert Isaacson founded the Horse Boy Foundation working with autism and equine therapy. Kristin Neff founded Self-Compassion offering training in mindfulness and acceptance.
The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson is available on Amazon and elsewhere.
I think some stories are best read aloud. For me, this was one of them. I came to this conclusion before I knew that the author herself reads all her work aloud as she writes chapter to chapter. And she was the narrator here. Who better to know how to make her point? After the fact I also learned that author Ruth Ozeki is a Zen Buddhist priest. Then so much of the knowledge dropped in unexpectedly, almost casually, made sense if it has its place in the everyday underpinnings of someone’s life.
I count the coincidence lucky. I’ve just started listening to audio books. I wouldn’t have used the right inflection for the Japanese names or words in my mind. I might have glossed over them. But also because there were things inserted softly that caused me to stop and listen. There’s another layer here, I’d thought. I rewound and took it in again.
There was the clever double entendre: A Tale for the Time Being. We’re all Time Beings for the time being. And it’s a novel that involves time, how we experience it, the ways it warps. But you don’t realize it until you’re well into the novel. It’s subtle until firmly anchored.
A Japanese American novelist with writer’s block named Ruth walked the beach near her home, a little populated island off British Columbia, and found a carefully wrapped, albeit battered, package washed up on the shore. It wasn’t long after the 2011 tsunami and the resulting meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It contained a Hello Kitty lunchbox, the diary of a conflicted Japanese American teenager living in Tokyo named Nao (Now?) and more. That is the launching point that draws us into the shame-suicide culture of Japan, the suffering of a “living ghost”, and the darker underbelly of Tokyo. If the book had only been these things, I probably would have quit after the first chapter or so⏤stopped short from finding out what it was really about.
I would have missed Jiko, Nao’s 104-year-old great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who peppered her conversations with koans drawn from The Shōbōgenzō written by Japanese Zen Master Dōgen. And how Ruth lost the experience of her own now, the more obsessed she became with Nao’s, and began to realize she was “playing origami with time.” Or the strange phenomenon she experienced of changing places with the young girl, populating her dreams, and finding them much the same. Or Ruth’s disclosure of another weird instance, which validated my own, when being so immersed in writing a story that, upon waking the next morning and opening the computer, she found herself wondering who had written the words…
This is a novel about living in the midst of contrast in this modern world, the time of our being and the choices we make, along with a real indoctrination to Japanese culture. I have to end with this because it’s such a great quote:
The ancient Greeks believed when you read out loud, it’s actually the dead borrowing your tongue in order to speak again.
Available in print, e-book and audiobook from the public library, Amazon and elsewhere.
The Lifepath Dialogues offer an invitation toward embodiment of all that is life-affirming and the deeper meaning of sustainability. Themes are drawn from books "Calling Our Spirits Home" and "Standing Stark" and 20+ years as a conscious living mentor leading spiritual travel journeys with Indigenous Wisdom Keepers serving their communities, group and individual programs. Carla specializes in working with people who seek to live through their deeply held values. For more info see the “About” tab. The author may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow this blog by becoming a fan on the Kenosis Facebook page.
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