by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Religion does not heal. People heal people. They do it through love, generosity and acceptance. Look. Listen. Heal. Oh so simple yet so difficult to achieve.
For four days we were with a group out of Canton, Ohio who were conducting a conference called the Warrior’s Journey Home. It started with the interesting collaboration of a church pastored by Dr. John Schlup and a Seneca wise woman, Shianne Eagleheart. Through Shianne’s sharing, she taught several members of the congregation the spiritual and physical healing of the Healing Circle. My brother, John, has been a living example of the power of Native American spiritual customs and blessings in Hot Springs, South Dakota.
The purpose of the Healing Circle is to give an individual a safe, nonjudgmental place to be – to listen – to learn and to share his/her trauma experience(s). Sharing is not an expectation like in many traditional therapy groups. It is merely an invitation if one is inclined to disclose his/her words. The sharing is only for those in the circle to hear. Stories must never be disclosed beyond the circle unless given permission by the person speaking.
So here is the really cool part of the sharing, there is a hand carved stick that looks like a walking stick. However, this stick is truly special because the only person who can speak is the person holding the talking stick. There are no time limits a person has to hold the stick and no one can get up and take the stick from that person. When the speaker is through disclosing his story he will place the stick back in its place or hand it to another person.
Oh, and another powerful trait of a Healing Circle is questions are never asked of the speaker. Wow, unlike modern therapy, there is no interrogation, advice, or “extra” comments. One may be given a hug or a small a glass of water by a listening member, but that’s it. By moving through the circle an environment of listening and caring is generated. Perhaps this is why the Healing Circle is such a special experience for veterans.
To make the experience even more powerful a drum and drummers may be present. Shianne’s partner, Bob honored the group with his handmade drum. Healing Circles often begin with native songs and drumming. The beat of the drum mirrors the rhythm of the heart. This mimics the ancient ceremonies meant to simulate a mother’s heartbeat when the warrior was in her womb. It calms the thoughts and anxieties of the attendees, and gives each person a way to begin and end the Circle experience. Like the mystical poet, Rumi, advises, the circle empowers many thoughts:
“What you seek is seeking you.”
“Most people guard against going into the fire, and so end up in it.”
One of my favorite old Chinese proverbs says it all,
“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”
by Jim Fountaine, Vietnam Veteran
A man of eighteen years, barely dry behind the ears hears Uncle Sam’s call and in eight short weeks the change is as radical as a caterpillar into a Butterfly. Only this change has no beauty to it. A young boy is transformed into a soldier, an instrument of war.
The days of taking his girl to Lover’s Leap, skipping class to go fishing are gone. He is thrust into a world of violence against his fellow man. He begins to see the ravages of war. He learns to kill, not for sport or for food, but for territory, ideals. He does learn these skills with dedication and without question because he is doing what he is ordered to do!
Then, suddenly, he is thrust in a world of pain, death, blood and pure fear. He sees things that no amount of education or training has prepared him for. His friends are now few and close, yet distant because getting too close will cause pain when that friend is no longer there. The cold, damp, heat, loneliness become his constant companion. Sometimes he tries to deaden the pain with booze. He fights himself to bury what he sees. He keeps doing his job without emotion because he feels if he feels he’ll go nuts.
Then suddenly it’s all over and he sheds his uniform and finds himself back on main street U.S.A. When he sees his old school mates he finds he no longer has anything in common with them. He cannot talk about his experiences because they won’t understand. He finds he has had his youth robbed from him. He no longer trusts those around him with the ease he once did.
He has wounds you cannot see; not wounds of the body but wounds of the soul, the mind and the spirit, and no one can see them. No one can see the scars. He drifts back into a time when he felt the pain for real. He seeks out answers he cannot find. At times he feels out of control, so tries to find things he believes that will give him control like booze, drugs or he buries himself in work almost to the point of exhaustion.
He withdraws from relationships for fear of loss. He rejects authority for that authority brought him harm in the past. He feels alone in a vast world that doesn’t seem to care. He hurts, but no one can see the wounds; no one hears his cries for help. He is judged by people by what they see on the surface. They don’t see the Unseen Wounds in him. They don’t hear his silent cries and all he can do is ask, “Why can’t you see what this is doing to me?”
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Why is it so dang tough for some of us to make peace with ourselves. It can be over the simplest of actions, such as burning dinner, forgetting to do something, saying words that you immediately wish you could retract. This is a test I often seem to fail. There are those individuals who never seem to take responsibility for their deeds. It is always someone else’s fault. There is little to no personal accountability. They seem to sleep better at night than I do. For me, I usually bring out the emotional “whip” and thrash myself while banging my head against a brick wall. These behaviors don’t achieve much except a sore body and a terrific headache.
This thought keeps playing over and over in my mind like a messed up CD stuck on the same sound or word. How can we get rid ourselves off the destructive self-talk when it is not productive? What can we do to silence the negative voices that seem to thrive within us whenever we are not perfect? And where in the heck did we ever get the notion that we had to be perfect in the first place?
Today, I was having one of those times when I, no matter how hard I tried, could not fully expel the wicked witch of annoying edicts. So I did the things that normally comfort me… I took my crazy lab, Bailey on a long walk.
Then, returning home, I pulled out my various, positive self-help books and began reading a few excerpts. It never seems to amaze me that random pages open to read are exactly what I need at that moment. In the book, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach there were these words:
“I’m not suggesting that we suppress our negative feelings. But the petty stuff we’re often foaming at the mouth about isn’t worth the breath it steals. Our words are powerful, so powerful that they can change our reality — the quality of our days and nights.”
But my all-time favorite adage that most often makes a difference for the day is:
This too shall pass.
And — it generally does… pass.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
I saw God today. He appeared in many forms and shapes. Some were tall with crippled arms and legs. Some were young with broken hearts and tangled minds. One was weathered with a long, white-bearded, grizzly face. Amazing how God changes and morphs into such diverse appearances. Yet, each face had eyes that seemed to explain wisdom, pain, and hope.
As with such celestial beings, God tends to surround himself with legions of angels. They support, guide, and maintain an environment of light and joy. You see, God cannot do all the tasks he has to accomplish without some assistance.
Such was my experience with the second annual Wounded Warrior Event held in Saratoga,Wyoming. The faces of God traveled in metal chariots through high mountain ranges and wide fields of swaying hay. When the convoy arrived at their destination they were welcomed by the hosts of the Saratoga Resort. Once settled in rooms filled with cowboy furnishings, God was taken to the beautiful Upper Cedar Creek Ranch owned by Tom and Dixie Arthur. Horses and a special mule named Henry awaited His arrival ready to gently carry God to a pristine mountain lake where he could rest, fish, and replenish his mind, heart, and spirit. Angels continually encircled him, focused on quietly serving and ensuring His few hours on the mountain were peaceful and revitalizing.
The following morning God had one more opportunity to experience the splendor of hisWyoming landscape where He engaged in amazing fishing at Big Creek Ranch. New adventures lead by Mark Dunning facilitated hours of fun and entertainment. The day culminated in an evening barbecue with appreciative community members and the staff of the Saratoga Resort led by general manager, Susan Wallace. Each simply sought one last chance to say thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your courage.
Finally, God was sent on His way with a goodbye breakfast provided by the town’s American Legion Post.
Yes, I saw God today and I was blessed, both by his presence and his multitude of angels who continue to give so much to keep us safe and free. And once again I realized how even God within every individual needs time to rest, to replenish, to experience peace in order to persevere with the journey ahead. As you go through your hectic days, take time to see God in those who pass your way and be grateful for the divine in each being’s special presence.