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Coyote Wisdom: Healing Power in Native American Storiesby Lewis Mehl Madrona
from Chapter 1
. . . . I use creation stories to inspire people to uncover their own creation stories--the story about how their illness came into being. One of my favorites is the Hopi creation story. Since this is not a book about Native American stories but about how they are used for healing, I want to tell this story as I told it to Kathryn, a thirty-year-old woman with lupus.
To really hear a story and to absorb its fullness, we need to be relaxed. Our mind needs to be still. The brain circuits that make lists, plan our day, remember all of our errands becomes inactive during states of prayer and meditation. When this circuit is quiet, the right temporal lobe becomes more active. Our research has shown that an area in the right temporal lobe actually recognizes prayer even when the subject consciously does not. That area is very close to the area that recognizes language. We conclude that listening is very similar to praying, and that similar states of brain accompany both. My goal is to help the person enter this quiet, prayerful state to really listen to the story.
Having accomplished my preliminary goals, I began my story.
“Once upon a time, Kathryn, you were well. You remember that time though it seems like a long time ago. The birth of your lupus, was tumultuous, just like the Hopi story of the birth of the world, when the bellowing fire of the volcanoes and the roaring of the earth masses caused a huge tidal wave, and the winds began to laugh. Before you knew it, volcanoes were erupting in your knees and ankles. Pain roared in your hip joints. A huge tidal wave rolled over your kidneys throwing you into kidney failure. The wind blew across your face, scouring a terrible rash.
“This creation was nature at her best and her worst. The power of that display was awesome but the effects upon your life were devastating. Overnight, you were on an entirely different planet. Overnight, your life had changed. But, just as nature created the earth out of this turmoil, perhaps something good also came from the creation of your lupus that you will come to understand during the course of this story. Perhaps a part of you will begin figuring this out so you can tell us both later about ways that good can come from this illness.
“The creation of the lupus like the earth was both loving and angry nature. There were flashes of lightning and roaring of thunder, as earth was being born, like a new baby, crying and demanding. It must have been very much the same inside your body--flashes of light inside your joints, roaring of thunder inside your kidneys. All of your cells crying and demanding attention. And perhaps they still have needs to communicate to you. Perhaps already they are preparing messages to deliver about what they need to smooth over and soothe the disruptions of this illness.
. . . .They needed a song to actually bring about this Creation, a song that the created people could not forget, a song to keep inside themselves, lest they lose the way, else they would not survive. Similarly, you need a song to sing to your immune cells--song that could remind them of their ability to soothe themselves, to calm themselves. The younger of the twins wrote the song. Here is how the song begins (the other verses are locked inside you, inside each singing organ and dancing cell).
From the four corners of the universe:
From the East, for red is its color;
From the North, for white is its color;
From the West, for yellow is its color;
And from the South, for blue is its color;
Come the spirits and the ancestors;
Come the stones and the water;
Come the animals and birds, the plants and the water;
All to shape you; All to make you live.
“Perhaps, even as we speak, your inner healer is preparing a song that you can sing everyday to soothe your immune system.
“In our creation story, the counterclockwise motion of the Sun brought forth the four colors of the races of humankind and each of its leaders and its destinies. On still nights, on summer nights when lightning flashes silently in the distance, on winter nights covered with soft snow; and in the spring and fall when the leaves of the trees whisper, you can hear the song of creation. Even though they fought as was prophesied, someday they would unite. Then they will remember that Taiowa is their Spirit Father, Sotuknang is their adoptive one, and Spider Woman is the web that unites them all.
“As you sing your song, perhaps the intensity of the battle inside your body will abate somewhat, a little more each day in every way. Then you could imagine making peace with lupus and what that would look like.”
Creation stories such as this teach us where we came from and that we are free to make what we will. Collectively, we generate the tumultuous earthquakes, the erupting volcanoes, the tidal waves, the emerging mountains so tall they can be seen from far away. Through sacred forces barely understood, we collectively create the conditions of illness and of wellness--new challenges and new solutions for our perpetual improvement. Kathryn did devise a song to sing to her lupus.
Kathryn began singing to herself every day, participating in ceremony and ritual. She made the life changes I suggested. Her lupus disappeared. Twenty years later it is still gone.
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