Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ascetic, the Therapist, the Priest and the Possessed

What these people have in common is they’re all healers in a way. I’ve promised to write about the energy work I do, and I’ve been hesitating on either writing about it, or in some cases doing it. Part of my dilemma is I want to take it slow, the other is I’m still trying to make sense out of it. How does one write about such an important and huge topic and still sound genuine, when one doesn’t fully comprehend it oneself?

I’ve been truly blessed in my recent years to make the acquaintance of people who practice the healing arts. Genuine people. They hesitate to call themselves healers directly and I’m beginning to understand why. I agree with their choices for doing so. Their choice in some ways is my own. Why? In some respect, the practices I’ve been doing aren’t solely my own. In other ways, it takes two: a cooperative experience. It’s not something I do to someone, but rather something I do with someone. It’s also highly individualistic, what I do for one person would not work for another, but rather there would be a process of discovery to determine what the correct course of action would be.

So I’ve been hesitating for some good reasons and some bad. The good reasons are I’m taking it slow as I go through a process of discovery and understanding, the bad is I often neglect to be doing what I need to do, as often as I should be. This isn’t a talent that should be wasted.

The Ascetic

As I wrote in The Uninvited Guest, my wife’s disease has been going on for quite some time, almost 10 years in one fashion or another. Saum is one of the most wonderfully adventurous people I know. Camping every summer in the Rockies, love of hiking, an equestrian and an explorer: the woman knows how to live life to it’s fullest. Those of you who know her would not describe her as timid or shy. She loves to live.

This disease hit the two of us hard, making many adjustments in our lives as we worked around the disease. Along this course, we discovered New Orleans and Vodou. We have tried many alternative therapies, all of them failing for one reason or another. That lead us to the ascetic. This person was the first to make a huge difference. After a session with her, the pain would be gone – completely.

One does not need any more evidence than this. What she was doing could make a difference.

The problem was, she lived in a completely different city than us, one separated by thousands of miles. This made regular visits impossible. Yes the therapy worked, but there was no way we could do it often enough, unless we uprooted and moved. We both love where we live out in the country: the land, the home, the horses and our friends. This was not a possibility.

The Therapist

After discovering one practice that worked, we set out to search anew for something complimentary to what the ascetic was doing. We found another wonderful person much closer to home – within our metro area. This person practices cranio-sacral therapy, but to say that’s all she does is to call an artist a painter. Sure they paint, but we’re not talking slapping color onto a wall. She delves deeper into the energies of the human body to help find the rhythms and help free blocked energy.

With the therapist, we were also making progress against pain and the disease. With this wonderful woman and friend, we were able to take the cycle of surgeries from every three months to every 12-14. We had found something that was helping. We were blessed.

I see her as well. I have degenerative issues within my neck. I know first-hand the pain relief she can accomplish from a single session. I begin to understand how the freeing of blocked energy works for proper flow. In one respect I’ve come to believe that the blocking of energy is one of the contributing factors to the cause of many illnesses and diseases. Modern medicine is great for treating symptoms, not always so great at identifying root causes. I have begun to understand how these root causes develop into something much worse.

The Priest

This all leads to me, the priest. When I initiated as Sur Pwenn, I embarked onto a journey. I wasn’t exactly sure where that journey would lead, but the Lwa often push us onto new ground we didn’t intent to walk on.

I’ve chronicled some of this earlier, but I only skimmed the surface as I’ve also done above. Let me now dive into the depths.

For those of you who are worried, I don’t hear a chorus of voices in my head. That doesn’t mean the Lwa don’t speak to me. For my part, I have to listen to the various ways they do speak, and one of them is in dream. While sleeping one night last winter, I had a dream. In that dream it was revealed how I could help my wife. In The Uninvited Guest, I said I’d do just about anything for her, and in that vein the dream was revealing with some things I could do.  Of course, one does not wake up from a dream with a sudden understanding of the world, at least not me. I had to make sense of it. I had to roll it around in my head. Once that was done, I had to take it slow, learning and experimenting along the way. One could also call this: hesitation part 2.

I also like to think of myself as a rational person, and some of this can at times seem a bit irrational. My rational self has a firewall of sorts trying to make sense of what I’m experiencing. That is hindrance to being open to what I need to do.

When I initiated into Vodou, I understood the practices of healing from within the tradition: herbalism and root work. These were not my forte. I had this working against me. I felt that in this area, I was lacking some of the practices that my fellow Oungans and Manbos possessed.

I’ve written quite extensively on how meditation has played an important part in my life. I’m not one to practice everyday, but when I do it’s intense. My meditation took a giant leap forward during a 10 day silence retreat back in 2002. I was deciding what to do next in life, quit my business of seven years or continue. I do not recommend 10 days of silence for everyone. I had worked my way up to it over a period of years. One woman exaggerated her background, cracked and had a mental breakdown. I strongly recommend the practice, just make sure you do the preparations first: seek guidance from those who are qualified.

At the conclusion, I had decided to end my business. This was the beginning of this path I am on. My meditation has passed from the peaceful calming presence to the storm of kundalini. Sit, meditate and breath is all it takes to raise the storm. At first I was concerned, I sought my guru.

My meditation has been an intensity of power and energy every since. Within me sits the fire, the Agni that blazes to life. At times it has caused me to abandon my practice, other times it ignites marathons of sitting within the divine around me.

Enter the disease, enter Katrina, enter New Orleans, enter Vodou: if you need to know more about these entrances, read the blog. All has lead me down the path to where I am today: and the dream I spoke of. When I had the dream, the Lwa spoke to me not of herbalism, not of root work, but of the skills I already possessed: the eastern traditions of prana, kundalini and energy. It spoke of the physical and subtle bodies. To me some pieces started to fall into place and made sense. It offered a deeper understand of the gros bon ange and the ti bon ange, the two parts of the soul we talk of in Vodou.

Within the dream the spirits had spoken to me: I needed to become a healer. Or rather: I am a healer – I need to practice it.

I started slowly practicing my art. I took it one step at a time, slowly discovering what worked and what didn’t. It’s a cooperative practice. It takes both people for it to work. Most healing practices in Vodou work this way, those that need something need to take an active role for it to work. This isn’t something done to you, but something you do with yourself. You must allow it to happen. In popular culture, this is deeply misunderstood. The priest or priestess never casts spells upon you, you open yourself to let it happen. You are the key ingredient.

You now begin to understand the work I do. With cooperation, I can help assist the release of blocked energy. I can help heal. The tools I have are an extension of the spiritual and meditative work I have done, the product of years of practice. None of it happened overnight, as if in a dream. The roads have led me to where I’m standing. I continue to walk them, every time I get over my hesitation.

I continue to struggle against myself. At times I lack confidence in what I do: this is when I hesitate. I need to be fully conscience, fully awake to gain any efficacy. The disease we struggle with directly fights against that. I must be completely present to be able to do the work properly. I sometimes struggle with my own self doubt, even though the evidence fully supports the work I am doing.

I am my own worst problem.

The Possessed

skull[28]Skull on a Halloween journey in northern Minnesota 2010

The title of this piece has meaning in what I’m writing. Today is the day of the dead. This is the time of year when the veil is thin. Last year, I found myself alone in northern Minnesota, trying to come to grips in my own disease with alcohol. This year I’m back at our temple in NOLA. Day of the Dead is a special celebration, and I try to honor my ancestors, the dead who have departed before me: my father, my grandparents and all of those before them.

It’s also the time of year when we have our fundraiser for the New Orleans Healing Center: Anba Dlo, a celebration of the rebirth of the city after hurricane Katrina. The second celebration on this year’s trip was a wedding. A good friend and Manbo in our temple was married on Sunday.

Indian weddings are said to comprise several days of revelry. On this trip, the wedding was done in Indian fashion, not just in dress, mood and décor, but also as three days of festivities. A regular three ring circus.

The wedding beautiful, the mood enchanting, it brought tears to my eyes. A small private ceremony in their home – similar to the Hindu wedding we had in the back yard of our own house some 16 years ago. I wore the same clothes that I myself was married in back then. Saum dressed in full sari and wedding jewelry. After the ceremony, we paraded from the house to the healing center where no less than four live bands played in both Fatoush Restaurant and Café Istanbul, the very places that were festive a mere nights before during Anba Dlo. It seemed right that this wedding took place the year the Healing Center opened.

During a break outside I was accosted by a possessed man. He proceeded to get up into my face and tell me how I was failing in my duties as a healer. He was right. I was letting my own hesitations and self-consciousness get in the way of my practices. The man told me if I didn’t exercise my healing, it would eat me up.

This sudden wake up call was enough to jar me into myself. I had been waiting to talk to the Ascetic and the Therapist: I had been wanting to learn more about what I was doing to better understand it and make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The wake up call? There is no one that can guide me except myself.

Every person I strive to help will be different. There is no school that can help me learn; there is no one that can teach this art. I need to step up and start doing what I can to help those around me. I need to get over my insecurities and get to work. This isn’t something that I can allow myself to hold back on, I just need to do it.

Am I the same person I was 10 years ago sitting in silence? No. Am I the same healer I will be in 10 years? No. I need to start walking this road or it will destroy me. I am doing more harm to others by holding back, than I can do in practicing.

I know the power of the breath, the prana that flows inside me. I know how to wield it to help others. This isn’t something I can learn somewhere else, this is a gift, a talent that must be used or it will consume me. I have to stop waiting for guidance, for more self assurance. I have to begin my journey down this road.

I stand on the cross-roads waiting for the spirits to appear. Only they already have, and I’ve been sitting with blind eyes and closed ears to the instruction that’s already been given. It’s time to use my gifts, or I will be consumed within my own fire.

It’s easy to write, so much more difficult to practice.


  1. What a fantastic writer and person you are.

  2. I was only going to skim over this blog post, but then I became enthralled. "you open yourself to let it happen. You are the key ingredient" Very true words. I enjoyed what you had to say and heard my own thoughts and dreams echoed. Not only do I and Saum need to talk, but so do we, Urban! I think you'd get along just fine with me. I've long had an interest in Vodou, especially ever since I've developed (or I should say He developed) a relationship with Gede and other Lwa, many of whom I did not know were Lwa until they told me who they were.

    I wish you and Saumya many blessings! I look forward to our continued correspondence, too.