Friday, May 27, 2005
Jamie Sams is a Native American shaman of Cherokee and Seneca decent, who explains that medicine has to do with anything that makes us feel whole. Indians view medicine as a person’s gifts, including their inner strengths, talents, and abilities. "When we look at the idea of medicine," Sams says, "we have to embrace the total person: the body, the heart, the mind, and the spirit. When any of these part are out of balance, then there is a need for healing."
The processes used in healing depend on the type of illness. First a person must be diagnosed to see whether their sickness is physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental. Then it is treated accordingly. When the body is sick, herbs, flowers, and other plant matter can be used to promote recovery. Mechanical help is also used, such as setting bones when broken. Spiritual illnesses are handled by medicine people who may work with a person’s dreams, or with what they experience on other dimensions that need to be healed. Some tribes also take into account the influence of past lives. Emotional healing for family upsets, a broken heart, or other problems, and psychological healing for mental illnesses are handled differently still. "Sometimes we need to heal our impatience," Sams says. "And sometimes we need to heal our frustrations. Many times we need to heal the internal criticism that our brain is constantly carrying on, which makes us feel less than. But always, we need to take a look at that which does not work in our lives, and makes our behavior out of balance towards ourselves and others." Here, Sams explains important principles of healing for specific circumstances:
George Amiotte, an Ogalala Lakota from Pine Ridge, became a healing professional after a near death experience as a marine in Viet Nam. Upon his return home Amiotte searched for ways to restore his own wounded spirit and for a direction in life, when he was guided by Lakota elders to pursue a career in medicine.
This was a tall order to fill as Amiotte had only just gotten his GED in the Marine Corps, but he was able to enter and successfully complete a graduate program as a physician’s assistant. At the same time Amiotte studied medicine with Lakota elders. He, therefore, has a unique background that combines modern and traditional healing modalities.
Amiotte specializes in helping veterans overcome post traumatic stress disorder, a term used to describe combat fatigue. Most of his patients are Native Americans although he sees non-Native people as well. As a guardian of the sun dance, part of Amiotte’s work involves the use of the sun dance ceremony in healing. As a result, Amiotte has been able to achieve success where standard Veteran’s Administration programs have failed.
When an interested doctor from UCLA visited one ceremony, and was confused by what he saw, Amiotte explained to him that healing is more than a physical manifestation. Healing takes place on the physical, mental and spiritual levels, and a medical practitioner needs to consider all three aspects for optimum success. This is something western medicine fails to do.
Amiotte was then invited to see patients with gastrointestinal disorders who weren’t responding to contemporary western medicine. In a year’s time, his four patients responded beautifully to therapy, and the UCLA Medical Society woke up to the advantages of healing from a Native American perspective. Amiotte is now a member of a team of doctors that study and incorporate alternative healing methods into their western medical practices.
In a recent interview, Amiotte shared with me his philosophy of working with patients. His approach is to look at an individual on three levels. First, he checks to see that there are no physical problems, such as an organic disease; second, he interviews the patient to assess their state of mind; and, third, Amiotte looks at a person’s spirituality. Analyzing these factors helps him to put together an effective healing protocol.
"I don’t have one way ofworking," Amiotte says. "If a Native American wants to be treated by ceremony, I will set one up. That requires setting the stage for the individual to come to an alter, a physical area that is represented by earth, wind, fire, and water. Sometimes we use drum music. We acknowledge the universal laws, natural laws, our ancestors, the earth that we stand on. And we call in the healing aspect of this psychologically, physically, and spiritually.
Although trained as a healer, Amiotte acknowledges that healing depends upon God’s will and a patient’s receptivity: "I am a healer. But the reality of healing is in God’s hands. I’m a conduit, a hollow bone, if you will. For a patient to be healed, he or she must be receptive to a higher power. A person needs a relationship to God or a belief in a greater force."
Monday, May 23, 2005
Please always read things about Native traditions and culture with wisdom, discernment, and discretion.
Not all things written are fact. Not all things spoken are true. Your heart must weigh the entirety of a reading. Indeed we should read all things with care.
Once a friend told me all this in simple words: "You must chew up the meat and spit out the bones."
I wondered how was I supposed to know the difference when I read so many things and have so much to learn. I don't feel like I have any wisdom. It did not seem so simple, and at times, it still isn't.
But I am learning. Bones will stick in your throat and choke you. You will not be able to breath in and out the very breath of life or pneuma. It will kill you.
False words and false teachings can be that way...whether written or just simply said. They will attack the soul and spirit and choke the very life that the Creator has given us.
((( I give God no name. I simply call Him Creator at this time in my life for He is all and makes all things and to Him all things come forth and return. )))
It is our responsibility to use wisdom and discretion, to weigh words with truth ....and see if the words bring life or death to the soul and spirit of a man.
It is hard to be sensitive to the spirit within us. The world around us calls and beacons and demands attention, while the still small voice of wisdom from the Creator is as a gentle breeze in the wind; almost indiscernable in the night.
At times I wonder what wisdom really is. But I think that it is the ability to feel the inner soul, to know the inner spirit. To listen to that inner knowing and trust it.
Poison can kill us, slowly or some types can kill us rapidly. Words are that way to our inner self. They can tear us down or build us up. They can give hope, or take away the desire to fight and live and become victorious.
Perhaps it is a duty to ourselves that the Creator gives us. To read and hear and listen and to speak in wisdom.
We poison our systems on multiple levels: "Bitterness, hatred, and resentment are toxins from our heart, while jealousy and greed poison our thoughts. Then we harm our bodies with unhealthy foods and artificial substances, and hurt our spirits with a lack of gratitude.
In this sickened state, human beings tend to lose balance, and begin to see the world around them as something to abuse as well. "The things that we have done to ourselves internally," notes Sams, "we have also done to the earth, which is our sustenance."
Native Americans realize that living according to right principles not only helps ourselves and our planet, but insures a future for generations ahead. Sams notes that, "When we gather herbs to assist someone, we thank each and every plant that the earth mother sends, and we pass the first seven plants to always remember to leave enough for the next seven generations. In doing that, we are honoring the ninth clan mother who looks toward tomorrow for what our children and their children will need on the earth."
Regarding humiliation, Sams writes, "Humiliation is the one event in human life that becomes unforgettable. The loss of human dignity at the hands of another can be forgiven, but it is rarely, if ever, forgotten. Healing humiliation and the loss of dignity is something that comes from inside a person. No healer, psychologist, doctor, medicine person or teacher can do it for somebody else. Consciously shaming another has dealt many a blow throughout time. Kicking people when they are vulnerable is a tactic of insensitive bullies. The world has been fraught with this behavior since its inception. It never seems to happen when we are feeling strong. It almost always happens when we are dealing with our own self-doubt and self criticism.
"We can heal the need to experience this reflection if we protect ourselves. The key is to notice that if we stop beating ourselves up internally the bullies of the world will quit picking on us externally. In Native American thought, we understand that the external world, and the things we experience in day to day life are mirror reflections that show us what we are doing to ourselves internally. If we honor who we are without an arrogance or sense of pride, but do it in a balanced way, and we walk life in a manner that allows us to honor and respect every other living thing, then we don’t bring the experience into our lives that would necessitate us being shown how it feels to be bullied or humiliated by another human being."
Healing Personal Integrity
"One of the things that human beings need to heal is the idea of hypocrisy. We say walk your talk. Don’t talk your walk. Human beings have learned over the years that spoken words are cheap and promises are often broken. And that, in many cases, is a commitment that is not being honored. So, many times we ask people who have walked the crooked path to heal their personal integrity. That’s a facet of healing that most people do not look at.
In our grandparents and our great grandparents day, a person’s word was their bond. But in this modern world, most times, if we give our word, we aren’t sure that the person we give our word to, and they give their word back is going to honor their personal integrity, because the sense of self has been eroded to the place where we cannot embrace the idea that integrity is everything, that if a person honors themselves, that promise is made to themselves. When you make a promise to another person, you are making it to yourself. That’s another aspect of the great smoking mirror. And when you do not honor your promises to another, you have reflected back to yourself through that great smoking mirror, what you actually think of yourself, which must be very little, because the integrity in your bond and your word was not honored by you, so how can others honor that same thing."
From the Site: Native American Healing