TIME: The Primary Ingredient for Healing

by Lewis Mehl-Madrona

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Part 2 of 3

In organic and biochemistry, an energy of activation is required to initiate a reaction. Once initiated that reaction may proceed irreversibly to completion without much further energetic input. Without sufficient energy of activation, the reaction never occurs. A cake without sufficient energy of heat remains mush. A minimal level of heat is needed to actually cook the cake (transforming the internal arrangements of its molecules). The healers loved these comparisons to chemistry, and reflected upon how nature is the same at every level. In systems science, we say that each layer is isomorphic to the other. 

The healers related that they typically stayed with the sick person until the job was done. They rarely helped more than one person at a time, and people often traveled great distances to see them. These great distances necessitated an intensive approach, since the journey from home to the healer could not be made many times. The healers would concentrate their work over a number of consecutive days with multiple hours spent each day on healing. Ceremonies often took place every night. Lakota healers would do sweat lodge ceremonies at night, sometimes followed by yuwipi ceremonies. Dineteh healers would perform nightly chants lasting as long as ten days as in the Blessing Way or the Coyote Way. When sufficient progress had been made, the person would be sent home with instructions to return at a later date for further treatment. Because their healing was more directive, their patients would leave with specific instructions for tasks to complete during the interval apart. 

The traditional healers emphasized how they helped people become aware of their inner world – their anger, sorrow, bitterness, rage, and hatred, so that it could move again. They pointed out how modern American culture teaches people to ignore their inner world and their feelings. Children are taught in school to ignore their body needs for elimination until it is convenient for the teacher. They are taught to ignore their wish to play until scheduled recess. Civilization, as it is now constructed, requires a level of ignoring emotions for smooth functioning that the Traditionals found sad. Traditional healers pointed out how strange it is for a secretary to be unable to take time off if overcome by sadness from a tragic case history she was typing. In this example, they thought it was odd that the bosses could imagine that a human being could type a document without entering into the story that the document conveys. They reflected on how emotions got in the way of efficiency in the modern world. They related how their society used to be less hurried. Hurry has become the watchword of modern society, since the faster we go, the more money we make. 

In the days before modern pharmaceuticals, rest was a key ingredient of any therapy. Healing may best begin by putting the client to bed. This disturbs daily routines and breaks old habits. It allows the body's repair mechanisms to take over from the defense mechanisms; the parasympathetic nervous system to calm down the sympathetic nervous system. Traditionals mentioned the importance of a number of ceremonial procedures, including purification ceremonies, which are also important for the inner life. They see becoming well as a journey – a journey that takes time.

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