I had been having some correspondence with Carl Hammerschlag, M.D. post our working together with Syrian refugees in Jordan that struck a chord with me. Carl had sent me his recent bookKindling Spirit which I found to filled with wisdom. I shared some stories with him that his book had evoked in me. Carl shared “it is our obligation to tell those stories because that’s what they were gifted to us. I think our survival is not ensured and transmitted through our DNA, but rather through our stories.” I will always remember a moment sitting with Carl on the bus visiting Syrian refugee areas in Jordan where we both acknowledged how we could never have imagined ourselves, as two older Jewish men, being privileged to bring healing in the Arab world.
Stories come in all sorts of ways. In the recent Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the Social Health Care Project (SHC) providing trauma training and treatment for Syrian refugees, I had a number of emails from people that essentially said, “I don’t want to give my money to support terrorists.” I understood how easily this thinking pervades our country. We listen to the news and words like Islamist/terrorist/Arab Spring/jihadis are often used together in reports. Our times are filled with distrust, cynicism, and division. This too factors into thinking that makes people an “other”.
I am reminded of my own life growing up in a poor white neighborhood being on the “other” as the first Jew many would know. To them, I was the “Christ killer demon” and the physical violence the dished out was their righteousness. There came a point, when a former American soldier moved into the neighborhood with his Japanese wife and their children. To be Japanese in the 1950’s was a step lower in the hierarchy of “other” and acceptance came my way. Yet when the anti-Japanese sentiment turned into violence(rock throwing) at the young Japanese-American children. I walked away as I understood the dynamics of making someone a “them” meant it would come back to focus on me.
When we make someone an other, whether it is a Muslim, a homeless person, a Black man, or an ex-con, we are isolating, marginalizing, insulting in ways that lead to suffering. Fear becomes the filter through which we see the world.
I often say that when one understands the reality of the invisible world, we begin to see that things are not always as they seem. When we categorize people we lose our ability to reason, feel, and empathize. Indigenous wisdom teaches the way to peace and healing is to walk in the moccasins of the “other”. When we do this, it lets understand every story has different nuances in each person’s perceptions. It raises the question of how do we not allow ourselves to be pulled into the kind of “other” thinking which can lead to tremendous suffering and death of many. It requires being conscious of when we make generalizations about groups of people. We are challenged to be replace our biases and judgements with curiousity. What happens if we sit with a person living on the streets or a Tea Party member and simply be curious about their story. We are challenged to be compassionate with ourselves and others as this bridges our divides. Lastly, we are challenged to question everything we believe and told.
Through the years, I’ve been blessed to travel around the world. Mark Twain once said, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Recently, my paternal side of my family was sharing stories of how our grandparents took people in (often new immigrants) and helped them out when they had no place to stay. It was a trait my father continued as well as other aunts and uncles. I often think of the ones who took me into their homes in times of distress. I think of Mrs. Smith, an old Black grandmother who saw my pain as a child and shined on me as she would feed me along with her many grandchildren. Or the Puerto Rican family in Spanish Harlem that fed me and housed me for a couple of weeks as I pretended to be deaf and mute (the alternative to not speaking Spanish) . They shared their joy and love in a dark period of my late adolescence. It is a trait that I have witnessed many times over in working with refugees.
There is a story out there that few understand. In the midst of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, barriers and borders are being crossed. How many know of the humanitarian aid being shipped from Israel to help the Syrian refugees and the number of intergovernmental negotiations and engagements for this to occur. Or of the many seriously injured Syrians who have received free medical care in Israel. The crisis is creating opportunity to break old barriers and prejudices between people. There is a new story emerging that is invisible to most because the old story keeps being told in the media and elsewhere. What if this were the story being told in the midst of massive misery and trauma?
News and Events
The second annual Community Shamanism Training Residential Retreat has been scheduled for August 21-24, 2014. Last year’s gathering was a huge success. This year we are working to make the event family friendly as philosophically we believe its important that children develop their own spiritual life and not be separated from the spiritual lives of their parents. We will have programs for children up through high school age and they will be welcome in the adult training events as well. I will be teaching shamanic traditions of peacemaking, Jewish shamanic healing techniques, community ceremonies and African dream circles. A flyer will be ready soon with a list of trainers, costs, housing details,etc. If you want to receive a flyer soon, email: email@example.com
Recently, I was recently working on cleaning out my old emails and old folders. One that struck me was the realization that I had received 1500 emails since the publication of Peace with Cancerfrom people throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada. The book is currently being translated into Hebrew and Arabic and copies have been distributed throughout the Middle East. I’ve attached a recent article on the issue of cancer and its treatment which many of you may find helpful. I am grateful for the kind response the book has received. http://nyti.ms/1f3vKyG As heart disease and stroke are beaten back, cancer vies to become the final killer.
Last year, the various campaigns to raise funds for community gardens on Pine Ridge Reservation, help provide trauma treatment and training for Syrian refugees, to provide funds for creating mobile one room homes for the homeless in Madison raised 15,000 dollars and I want to express my deep heartfelt appreciation to all who participated. Recently, SHC (the program I co-direct to provide trauma training and treatment to Syrian refugees) was asked to participate in a Global Giving challenge. In March, if we are able to raise 5,000 dollars as well as get 40 or more donors, we can become full members of Global Giving which gives access to a range of fundraising campaigns including corporate giving. An announcement of this campaign will be out soon and a number of you who said you wanted to give in the last campaign will hopefully participate in this event.
In November 2014, I will be offering a full residential training based on the new book I am currently writing, History Never Ends: A Training in Healing Transgenerational Trauma on the Personal and Collective Level. Time does not heal all wounds, decades and even centuries after wounding the psychological, spiritual and social damage of trauma may continue. Unlike traditional western psychotherapy, we will look at individual issues as possibly being unhealed, transmitted material from previous generations calling for our attention. Utilizing tools from psychodrama, family therapy, Indigenous healing approaches, literature and drawing from numerous case studies, the training will explore:
The training will be intensive and limited to 20 people. Much of the material will be new teachings based on extensive research on this topic and its application hands on in work with various traumatized populations.
Continuing to maintain office hours during the week, but days available will vary week to week due to demands of writing or commitments to the Social Health Care Project. To set up an appointment, email is preferred at: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call 608-469-1627.
*Please note that the last several weeks I have had a number of problems with all my email accounts. I may either have not received your emails or in a number of cases people are telling me they have not received mine. If this is the case for any of you, please resend any emails you may have sent and I will get back to as soon as possible.
One of my colleagues has had the same problem and we’ve been working through a number of channels to get this cleared up.