Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
The mind has no freedom
By old ideas
— Fazil Husnu Daglarca, “Our First Bondage”
When someone lifts us
He lifts in his hand millions of memories
Which do not dissolve in blood
— Nelly Sachs, “Chorus of the Stones”
As I witness election campaigns here in the U.S., my belief is that we are watching years of “us versus them” rhetoric manifest as spiritual intrusion on the collective whole. The world of separation feeds on fear and hopelessness and expresses itself as raging anger. It is a cancerous rage that has permeated the larger social fabric, eating away at our common decency and humanity. This form of social cancer goes where the blood does not flow, eating away at our life force. It diminishes us all. The question of, “How do we extract this spiritual intrusion?” is not easily answered. At the very least, we must give back words born in fear and articulate a spiritual vision of working for the common good.
It is my belief that we must move beyond the personal to see the reality that we are all suffering from collective social trauma. Kai Erikson defines collective trauma as “a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damage the bonds attaching people together and impairing the prevailing sense of community.”
Collective trauma has many symptoms. To list a few: deep mistrust of self and others, even within family; self-directed violence i.e. suicide, risk-taking behavior; substance abuse; violence against women; unremitting grief; shame and humiliation; intergenerational conflict; cultural genocide, losing traditional values, desecrating land and institutions; leadership crisis; and a conspiracy of silence and numbness in the face of violence towards Blacks, refugees, etc. When trauma is collective as well as personal, it becomes even more invisible as each generation copes by pushing the pain further below the surface. That pain becomes indescribable in words and, once buried, haunts future generations.
Healing collective trauma calls for a larger group response to acknowledge its presence, dialogue, create community healing rituals, and restore a true sense of social justice. We are asked to witness the high rates of depression and anxiety within the U.S. and ask the question, “What is it about how we live that isn’t working?” These are not simple issues and they call upon our collective willingness to dream and actively engage in an interconnected world. This call to action asks us to say “no” to “get real and accept the world that is” and say “yes” to a dream of a better tomorrow. In those moments that challenge us most, we are asked to remember whom and what we love, and that which has heart and meaning for us. Love will keep us alive. And in that process, hold a hope of creating a way of life that works for the whole.
I recently went to visit my tree. It’s a story I’ve told over and over again. Its lesson: “what we give love and attention, we give life.” What we give love is something beyond words. It is easy to say “I love you”; it’s much harder to live it in our hearts, actions, and being. We have seen what happens when our attention goes to fear: it brings destruction. Collective trauma calls upon us to bring our hearts and creativity to service of our common good. To live a path of service gives meaning and possibility to creating a world that works for all.
As most of you know, I have worked with others to address the overwhelming challenges of offering psychosocial support and trauma healing services to Syrian refugee children and families. It is a massive human tragedy with well over half of the 9 million plus refugees being children, and 80 percent of those children have lost one or both parents. While we have more displaced people in our world currently than the end of World War II, my contacts within the international humanitarian services community are planning for a 20-fold increase in these numbers in our near future, primarily due to the effects of global warming. The Middle East is currently experiencing the worst drought in the last 500 years. Many cite the drought in Syria as the impetus driving large portions of the population to the cities where tensions fed the conflicts there.
War, drought, and flooding are becoming common challenges of our times. In the U.S. and the rest of the world, we are witnessing more and more stories of no water or water that is too tainted to be used. To put this into perspective, these potential number of predicted displaced people, would be three times the population of the U.S. We are already witnessing the stress and strain the humanitarian crisis is putting on the countries in Europe. The forced human migration that is already at historic levels will grow larger, and at some point the forces of understanding we are in this together will be larger than those who resist the changes our world is undergoing. These are not issues addressed by more and more humanitarian aid. They require our working together to address our common concerns.
As I wrote months ago, it was time to shift gears and let go of much of what I was doing. My heart and commitment has been to work with others in developing new models for addressing communal traumas. The Social Health Care Program for Syrian Refugee Children that I am co-developer is one piece of that work. At the same time, I am now moving forward to bring to completion many things that were put off in the past. Next year, for example, I hope to launch the beginning of healing history workshops at different sites around the world. One that I have begun to work on is to bring all interested parties (Jews, Poles, Germans, Roma, LGBTQ+, and others) to Auschwitz to work on healing history and bring healing to the future. These events will be facilitated in collaboration with colleagues. Other sites are being confirmed for future events. As these are solidified, announcements will be sent out.
The Social Health Care Program for Syrian Refugee Children, for which I am co-developer, is expanding its services and scope. We are now working with a Jordanian university (with certification by U.S. universities) to develop a graduate school program addressing the trauma-informed care needs of refugees in the Middle East. Additionally, we are now working with people in Germany and Greece to address the challenges of integrating the refugees by creating culturally appropriate trauma treatment services that meet the overwhelming needs being witnessed on the ground. In the coming months, we will be offering new and expanded trainings to the grassroots staff, students, and volunteers serving the refugees in Jordan and Greece. A new conference, the “International Conference on Communal Trauma and Forced Migration: Crisis in Europe and the Middle East” is being scheduled in Germany for early November 2016. The conference will include trainings to accomodate the needs of the
refugees in Europe and launch a Europe-Jordan bridge of services to assist mutual needs among refugee populations. (To follow these developments and learn about the conference, see www.cbiworld.org).
We are in great need for volunteers to help with a special online fundraising appeal (for SHC) being held June 15th. Global Giving will be having a matching funds day, allowing donations to be matched up to 50 percent. Because we are expanding rapidly due to the demand for SHC services and training, we are setting a goal of raising $15,000 on that day. Help get the word out with friends, family, spiritual communities, and other fundraising efforts; it would help so much. We need volunteer advocates to help get the word out to as many potential donors (large and small) as possible. Please consider being an advocate for the June 15 donor day. Contact me if you would like to volunteer and help with this one time event.
Syrian Cookbook Fundraiser
Additionally, we are working with a number of Syrian refugee mothers to create a Syrian cookbook as a fundraiser for these women as a way for them to earn some income. Many have been forced for the first time to be the head of their households and what is generally true for refugees is the lack of work available. Most host countries do not allow refugees to work in their countries. Creating cottage industries is a part of helping to create economic support. Anyone who has experience in layout and design and publication who wants to help with this project, please contact me.
I have been writing and it has taken a number of new directions. I was invited to write chapters in two upcoming books. It also became clear that the book I have been writing is two books. Additionally, I have written a couple of journal articles to be published later this year. The “Peace with Cancer” book I wrote years ago has two international publishers interested in printing it, and I’ve put them off by saying they need to be revised and expanded upon based on new understandings. Simply stated, episodic announcements of book releases will be sent out.
Soon to be released is Shamanism and Ancestral/Transgenerational Integration, edited by Thierry Gaillard, Geneva, Eco-edition Press, 2016. I have a contributing chapter titled: “History Never Ends: Healing Transgenerational Trauma in Community Life”.
Special Fundraising Sale:
Peace with Cancer: Shamanism As a Spiritual Approach to Healing
I have become aware of a number of people diagnosed with cancer who are in need of financial support for rent, food, and other basic needs. For the first time, the World Health Organization is predicting expanding rates of cancer worldwide in the next few years. Rates of cancer have stayed remarkably stable forever, so this is a new development. I have decided to sell the remaining copies of the book and donate all profits to funds to help people facing these challenges. If you want to purchase copies of the book, the books are $20 a piece (includes shipping). Contact me for payment firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to make credit card arrangements, email me and I’ll send you an online invoice.
The trainings listed below are last time offerings on these topics that a number of people have requested . Registration will be limited and early registration encouraged.
Jewish Shamanism : Indigenous Wisdom and Healing
TBD (Madison, WI)
Shamanism and Cancer Healing Training
TBD (Madison, WI)
Based on “Peace with Cancer: A Shamanic Approach to Healing”. Workshop is open to practitioners as well as persons with cancers who want to work on their own healing.
Registration for both events can be done by emailing me at email@example.com.
African Water Ritual and Dare
TBD (Madison, WI)
African water ritual and Dare’ on the topic of spiritual activism. A Dare’ is a form of spiritual community dialogue practiced amongst the Shona people in Africa. This is a community event to explore living our spiritual activism to bring healing, peace, and justice to our world. Donation only. All donations will go to the Social Health Care Program for Syrian refugee children. To register, send an email to my address above.
Details of where/when we will meet and what you need to bring will be sent August 1.
Due to extensive international travel this year, workshops on shamanic approaches to healing trans-generational and ancestral trauma will be pushed back into 2017.
Being a Blessing
If you ask for rest, I will sit with you
If you ask for comfort, I will stay with you
If you ask for stillness, I will breathe with you
If you ask for peace, I will dream with you
If you ask for joy, I will laugh with you
If you ask for healing, I will pray with you
If you ask for warmth, I will become a blanket
If you ask for refuge, I will become a shelter
If you ask for help, I will become a blessing.
— Alden Solovy, tobendlight.com
Demand for the training and services offered by SHC has grown throughout the region. The needs for psychosocial support and trauma treatment for the millions of refugees are immense and many have praised the SHC model for its efforts to build capacity from the grassroots up and the high quality of trainers in trauma informed care from the international community. We are now at a juncture where expanded funding will allow us to expand services to people most in need and help expand the pool of trained personnel on the ground. Please give what you can to our current Global Giving Campaign .