Asklepia Foundation
"Journey to the Healing Heart of Your Dreams"

THE EMPTY MEDICINE BAG

Graywolf Swinney, ©1990

This age that is drawing to a close, what we now consider the old age, seems filled with hucksters offering us an assortment of way to enhance our lives and to obtain power: the right car, the right deodorant or toothpaste.  And the hucksters of these power objects are only exceeded in number by those eager to pay their money to purchase them.

The ether is more than filled with the emanations of disembodied images speaking through the channels of television and radio sharing with us the wisdom of Madison Avenue and the opinion sampler-makers who tell us how to be popular and what image it is currently fashionable for us to assume.  We have yielded our power to the technology of science and its ideology which has fostered the illusion of power over and separation from natural forces and it leaves us unnatural, ungrounded, and alienated from our spirit.

"Cure me!  Make me better!  Give me the new wonder pill treatment to make my problems go away!"  We cry to doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists.  And indeed they accept this power that we hand to them and from it create the illusion of healing us.

It is said that we are now entering the "New Age," but I haven't yet figured our how this so called new age is going to be any different from the old we are supposed to be leaving behind.

The new age too seems filled with hucksters offering to help us fill our medicine bags with all assortments of power objects: crystals, amulets, bracelets and so on, all supposed to empower or heal us.  These salesmen of power are only exceeded in number by those eager to pay their money to purchase these self same power objects.  And the ether is more than filled with the emanations of spirits and alien beings speaking to us through a host of channels, sharing with us their disembodied wisdom, telling what is in store for us and what images and ways of being we are required to assume in preparation.  We delegate our power to the magic of psychic science as we alienate ourselves more and more from the material world and enter into pure spiritualism becoming increasingly unnatural and ungrounded in the process.

"Heal me!  Make me better!  Give me the magic elixer/spell to make my problems go away!" we cry to the shamans, witches and healers.  And indeed they accept this power that we hand to them and from it create the illusion of healing us.

"Yes, how is it different?" I ask myself "this 'new age' and the 'old age?"  The essential core has not changed in the slightest.  All that is different are the names and guises used by those who would accept power over us and our destinies, and our mad rush to give it to them.  But then that has been the weakness of all revolutions, changing one set of despots for another who claim to be better but eventually assume the same power that was held over us by the old regime.

Why do we always insist on giving our power over to others, the power to heal ourselves and to effect our own destinies, the power of the gods and goddesses?  Why do we lack so much faith in ourselves that we look to others and to outside objects and forces to give us that which is really within us all the time?

I remember back to my own introduction as a disillusioned scientist and business executive in the early seventies to the first stirrings of the 'new age.'  Back then it wasn't even called the new age but its seeds were sprouting in the human potential movement and the love generation.  We were an enthusiastic and eager lot as we broke loose from the strictures of the old science, technology, and moralities that had ruled our lives.  I gladly exchanged the yoke of the oppressive limits of reasons, structure, and rationality for the apparently unlimited infinities of unfettered mystical and magical thinking.  My then new profession as a practicing psychotherapist allowed me this leeway while allowing me to still maintain and use the earlier scientific training I had received as an engineer.

But by the early eighties the scientist in me was hiding in disgrace as I surrounded myself with crystals, feathers, prayer sticks and a host of other power objects in my relentless pursuit of the power path of shamanism.  I attached myself with breathless expectation to the words of my guru-teachers looking for the power that they would someday bestow on me.

Those around me, my clients and friends were awed by my changes and intrigued by the power I was reflecting and began to call me, too, shaman-guru-teacher.  I, too, began to spew forth the words of wisdom as my followers began to look to me for the power that I would someday bestow upon them.  And my medicine bag was rapidly filling as I groped for the ultimate in power objects and techniques, the ones that would fulfill the un-named dream.

It was right about then that I was to address a group of healers in Portland.  This address was to take place at an early morning breakfast meeting, so we had made the five hour drive to Portland the night before and stayed at a friend's house near the restaurant.  The back of our car was Filled with the contents of my medicine bag wrapped in my powerful coyote skin, and that night night I was too tired to carry it all in.  But they would be safe; after all, who would date to steal a shaman's medicine bag or his power objects?

I arose early the next morning and with about ten minutes to make the five minute drive to the restaurant, I approached my car.  The door was open, the contents of the glove compartment strewn over the front seat.  With a heavy lump of lead forming deep in my gut I looked into the back storage area where my precious medicine objects had been stored and the horror became truth.

THEY WERE GONE!  THEY WERE ALL OF THEM GONE!

An electric tingling sensation that began at the crown of my head began to make its way into my body through my spine.  My ears were ringing and I began to feel light headed, and the lightheadedness, too, followed the tingling and infiltrated my whole body.  Words entered my awareness and I spoke them as if in a trance.

"It feels like spring house cleaning," I overheard myself say to Jeannie Eagle and the others present and gradually awareness caught up to my voice.  The feeling of lightness was like unfettered flying!  I had let go and was free.

That moment began a transformation in my life that has paled most others into insignificance.  Burdens began to lift from my shoulders.

I felt as if I had been left with nothing except myself.  The last time that had really happened had been eight years earlier when I had gone into the wilderness of northern Ontario alone with only my canoe and met Graywolf.  So maybe it wasn't so bad.  Crisis in the Chinese written language is a combination of the ciphers for both danger and opportunity, and thus was feeling very much like it could also be an opportunity.

And my drum, which is seen as a vessel or carrier like the canoe, according to some Native American shaman teachings, was safe because I taken it into the house with me to keep warm and tight so that I could use it in my presentation.  So there I was again, as with my meeting Graywolf, alone in the wilderness with nothing but a canoe.  Last time I had met the wolf who had changed my life and led me to develop an intuitive and mystical side of myself.  What would the universe hand me this time?

Now free of the bonds of my medicine objects I began to notice things.  For instance, it was the people who were looking to me for power who gave me the greatest feelings of power, and those to whom I looked for power who left me feeling most disempowered.  And it all felt like an illusion.

I noticed that in my work with people, I was drawn m ore and more to my old standby as a psychotherapist, their dreams.  And as I worked with these dreams I sensed that there was a hidden depth far deeper in the dream than the symbols and the story line.  The few times I strayed deeper into this dream reality, the most bizarre and interesting things would happen and we all came away feeling empowered and somehow more healed.  I began to contemplate that my own real power had come from a wolf vision and I had never been entirely sure whether that had been a dream within a dream - a product of my imagination and fear, or a real wolf.  It didn't seem to matter.

And so I began to refill my empty medicine bag first with dreams.

I began to explore deeper and deeper into my clients dreams, past the plot, past the symbols and into the deeper energies that had thrust these symbols and stories into their awareness.  The symbols, I recalled from my earlier training in psychology, were meant to fool the ego with censored energies and material from the unconscious.

"What was this unconscious material-energy?" I wondered.  I learned how to guide my clients deeper into their dreams and past the symbols to directly experience the realms of the unconscious and we found among many other remarkable things, healing.  They would feel things: tingling sensations, body rushes and emotional states which brought much ease to their dis-eased minds and bodies.

The journey is into the fear and pain because the pain shows where the healing energy is needed and the healing force is right there inside the pain.

The scientist in me, reawakened by my curiosity, returned to grace and began working, now in cooperation with the mystic.  I developed consciousness maps and new models of the ego to understand these new phenomena and they seemed more complete and explained more of the full nature of humanness than the older models from either my psychological or shamanic training.  As I did this I became aware that it was not I who was the healer, but the energy in the dreams and the dreamers themselves.  Gratefully, I retired from healer into the role of guide and mentor.  In doing so I felt more empowered, as did my clients.

Some of the states of consciousness we found within the dreams even began to sound like what is described as God, Nirvana, or the Tao.  From these states my clients would return deeply changed.  For example, one client was unable to talk or form words for almost thirty minutes after returning and then could only break the initial silence by laughing.  Prior to this journey he had been in deep depression for several months.

AND THIS DEEP GODLIKE PLACE WAS ALREADY THERE, DEEP INSIDE EACH OF THEM!

I continued to notice things and soon found that imagination was another path into these deeper realities, what I now recognized as seep and unusual states of consciousness, states that exist in each of us and that are beyond the structure and limitations of space and time.  My canoe/drum had begun opening these doorways and I soon found I could dispense with the drum.  Imagination was all that was needed and so it, too, was added to my medicine bag.  My ego and consciousness maps became even deeper and more refined and generalized.

I have now dropped the name or title of healer or shaman entirely, although people usually get healed when we journey together an I am now just a guide or mentor for the inner journey to self empowerment and healing real-ization.  The journeys inside that lead people to this state of the realization of their own healing, power, and goddness are usually scary, just like someone's first trip with a river guide in the white water rapids of the lower Rogue River.  But the river flows and even if you get tossed our in the middle of Tyee or Wildcat rapids, the current still carries you past the rocks and into the next calm.  And the river guide is there to teach you and keep you safe until you learn how to ride the current on your own.

Each journey is unique and a product of our mutual creative energy.  It is a terrain in which emotions may be colors, pain a giant yellow sun about to explode, and shadows may be filled with light.

The journey is into the fear and pain because the pain shows where the healing energy is needed and the healing force is right there inside the pain.  But we usually surround the pains we experience with fear and that is what keeps us away from them and the healing that is within them.  We give our power to our fear and so our power is held hostage by that which we fear, and these fears direct our lives.  To get our power and lives back, we must face the fears and move through them.  Thus, in exploring, the expanding yellow sun of pain releases the pressure/pain and the middle back and neck problem eases.   And the lighted shadow side reveals not demons, but inner allies who light the way with their wisdom and guide us to our power.  It is a path directed by love, trust and faith in ourselves and what we really are.

The essence of what I have learned on this path, then, is that there is an immense and limitless source of power in all of us.  We don't really need to look outside for what we are needing for our empowerment, healing, and evolution; it is right there inside of each of us all the time.  This healing god-force is founded in, and emanates from that part of ourselves we call our creativity.  And that makes a lot of sense; every religion I know about or have studied has one common denominator, one of the main aspects of the god definition is always the role of creator.

Within us, that personal force of creation or God seems to express itself most profoundly, vividly, and real-istically through our dreams and our imagination.  And no matter how deeply buried that is something we all have.  That is why my medicine bag is really quite empty, because all we need to heal and empower ourselves is just that, dreams and imagination, and they don't take up any space at all.



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Created 4/9/01    Last Updated 4/9/01
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