Episode #94 Medicine Woman Speaks: Deena Metzger, elder, wisdom-keeper, poet and visionary brings 19 Ways to a Viable Future
How can we embrace our humanity and use it in service to the earth and all that lives? How can we bring the best of ourselves to the best of the Web of Life in full understanding of the chaos of the moment, with full and open hearts? Deena Metzger has given her life to finding answers.
From her experience at three years old when she saw the spirit of her grandmother at the foot of her crib, Deena Metzger’s life has been devoted to the exploration of the worlds of spirit and of humanity, combined, in search of an answer to the question: What is your Calling? Working as a poet, novelist, therapist, healer and visionary, she has brought together Nineteen Ways to a Viable Future – a route by which all of humanity can become the best of ourselves and thus be what the web of life needs of us.
In this conversation, we explore some of those Ways and the routes by which Deena reached them, together with her thoughts of the present and future as we move into the time of crisis.
In her own works, Deena Metzger is a poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman who has taught and counseled for over fifty years, in the process of which she has developed therapies (Healing Stories) which creatively address life threatening diseases, spiritual and emotional crises, as well as community, political and environmental disintegration.
Deena has spent a lifetime investigating Story as a form of knowing and healing. As a writer, she asks: Who do we have to become to find the forms and sacred language with which to meet these times?
She conducts training groups on the spiritual, creative, political and ethical aspects of healing and peacemaking, individual, community and global, drawing deeply on alliance with spirit, indigenous teachings and the many wisdom traditions. One focus is on uniting Western medical ways with indigenous medicine traditions.
Manda: My guest this week is an astonishing elder of our times and our people. Deena Metzger was born near Brooklyn in 1936. Of Jewish heritage, she grew up knowing about the Holocaust and the bomb. And then in 1957, she moved west to California, to find how she could best be away from the world that she had grown up in and be part of the world that could be. And since then, she has been evolving that world. She has written novels and poetry and theatre. She’s led a re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries for the first time it was done in 1500 years. She’s spoken at holistic medical conferences and conferences on the psychology of Human Animal Connexion. She’s been an academic, she’s been a psychologist, and most of all, she’s been a profound teacher to many, many people. This conversation felt like one of those where I was sitting at the feet of an elder teacher from whom I could have learnt so much for so long. We could have talked for hours. And I sincerely hope we’ll come back and explore again some of the themes that we touched on. But in the meantime, with our one hour together. People of the podcast, please welcome Deena Metzger.
Manda: So, Deena Metzger, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. It is such a pleasure to have you here. Can we open by asking what it is that brought you being the woman who has her poetry actually etched onto a pavement in Los Angeles, and who has created – or at least channelled – the nineteen ways to a flourishing future?
Deena: That’s such a complex question, I think for all of us, what is life at this time, morning or night. There has never been a time like this in the history of the world. So every morning I wake up challenged by what the future is, that there might be a future and grateful to be here. So this morning, of course, I was looking forward to speaking with you, to meeting you.
Manda: Thank you. So. Given that life is a complex thing and is becoming more so, and the only certainty is uncertainty. What we like to do at the start of the podcast usually is have a flavour, insofar as we can, of what brought Deena, as was, to Deena now. To being the person who has written some astonishing novels, many books of very powerful poetry; you have a poem as far as I understand it, embedded in a pavement, you would call it a sidewalk, in San Francisco. So, you know, you’ve got poetry that’s actually cast in stone. And you’re incredibly prolific and have some very intricate and deeply thought and deeply held and deeply shared concepts. Can you perhaps walk us through a little bit of who the person is who came to do all of this,
Deena: You know, even though it seems like an outrageous question, I actually spent yesterday and today thinking about answering that question. And what I would say and what came to me is that I don’t know how old I was because I was still in a crib. As I remember the story, I was about three years old and I woke up in the middle of the night and there was a luminous being woman, standing at the foot of my crib. And I knew she was a spirit. When morning came, I asked my father about it and he said, “Oh, that’s my mother”. And later on I understood what he meant by that; he really meant that’s a spirit and my mother’s spirit just come to take care of you. But I didn’t think that was his mother. But I did think it was a spirit. And so I had a sense from the beginning, of what I think is the real nature of of the world. And I also grew up with that complex, I suppose people would say, of needing to save the world. And I’ve been thinking about that lately, and I can’t dismiss that, because I think that’s what we must do. And it is neither arrogant nor naive to think that one might have a calling.We live in the world in a certain way.
Deena: And in fact, in part, my work has become asking people to consider what their calling is. From the very little that I know about you I suspect you have similar, very, very similar. That you’re called. And I would imagine that you spend a lot of time saying, OK, what is the next step? What is the next step? And I understood early on, that the ways we were living our lives, ways we are living our lives…that the culture was ill. I think another major moment is – I was about eight years old… Nine years old. And there was a weekly reader that we got in school and the weekly reader had a picture of the atom on it. And now we’re talking nineteen forty five. So I knew that this was not the hope of the future. I must have known about the bomb. Must have known about the camps. In ‘The Other Hand’, which is a novel that I wrote, it says the two koans of the 20th century were The Camps and The Bomb; and that novel circulates around those two concerns. What kinds of minds would create those two horrors? And I think that we in the West have not taken responsibility yet for the bomb. Or The Camps, everywhere.
Manda: Yeah. Yeah. And our recreating them. In our own lands.
Deena: And so I live with that. That’s the flavour of my mind and heart.
Manda: Your father must have been an extraordinary man to speak to his three year old, who has seen the vision of a spirit at the foot of her crib and say, That’s my mother. In the world I grew up in, I would have been told I was imagining it.
Deena: No, my father was a Kabbalist. And he actually had family in London, and the family was very psychic. I think he was trying to reassure me.
Manda: Did it work?
Deena: Well, I wasn’t afraid. Ok.
Manda: And have you worked with that entity since?
Deena: You know, I don’t work with entities. I have a sense of a spiritual universe and invite the spirits. I know people work with entities, but I haven’t. But that’s a wonderful idea, Manda.
Manda: But she might have become the guiding light of your life; I mean, that was a genuinely open question, I didn’t know the answer, so I was trying to frame it in a way that kept it open, and doubtless she would be there…
Deena: You’ve given me a gift.
Manda: You are kind, thank you. All right. So even in those bits of opening, there are so many routes that we could take. So we’ve explored childhood. Where did you grow up? You have an accent that I probably ought to be able to place as a kind of East Coast American, I think?
Deena: East Coast. I lived in a tiny neighbourhood right next to Coney Island, Coney Island in Brooklyn, which has a certain flair to it. So I like to say I come from Coney Island. It’s a real sweet place.
Manda: Yeah, and quite urban, I’m imagining,
Deena: Well, it was a peninsula and I could walk it. It was surrounded by water on three sides, it was a little suburban area. But I would take the, you know, the trolley to the train, to the city. I would do that. And until I moved to California, I would walk through Manhattan and say, How could I be so lucky to be born here?
All the skyscrapers and concrete – Yay!
Deena: And then I thought ‘how far can I get from the centres of power in order to have a substantial life?’ And that’s what California was in my mind.
Manda: And have you found the substantial life, do you think?
Deena: Well, I live at the end of a dirt road, so to speak, surrounded on three sides by park. I live next to the wild. There are mountain lions and bobcats and coyotes and birds and everything. Yeah, I have a substantial life. I have a really – thank you – I have a really substantial life.
Manda: Beautiful. And so, from the weavings of that substantial life; from a childhood where you were nine in 1945 and now we’re in 2021; you’ve written poetry and novels, you’ve written plays, you’ve created teachings, you’ve set up what seems to me to be an elder circle. And you have, from a relatively white, western,Jewish background, immersed yourself – as far as I can tell – in the indigeneity, in the First Peoples of the Americas. When did that start and how did it arise?
Deena: In my first marriage, my husband was was a physician, and he was in residency at the same time as another man who decided to be a physician on The Reservation as opposed to being eligible for the draft. And so we went to visit him on the Four Corners Reservation. And the Four Corners Reservation is the setting for the book ‘A Rain of Night Birds’. Then other things brought me back to it. It’s an extraordinary place. It’s the Dine or Navajo reservation, with the Hopi reservation in the centre of it. And it’s utterly, utterly beautiful in a very non-European way of beauty. And the art is different in the way African art is; it has a different understanding and it went into my heart. But I don’t know when this happened. What I really began to understand as I read indigenous literature, as I listened to what the people were saying, that we have to step out of Western mind, we have to step out of Euro-American mind. We have to change our minds. And that if when the colonists came to this country, if in fact they yielded to the intelligence that was already there, the world would not be where we are. So the question I keep asking is how do we create ways of being and thinking, speaking, writing, living that do not lead inevitably to the destruction of all life? That do not lead to extinction. And I ask my students to scrutinise every action, every word to be sure that it is life giving rather than death given.
Manda: So we’re turning towards life with everything that we do. And you’ve created 19 Ways to a Viable Future for All Beings, the human and the more than human. And Beings in its widest sense; which I’m imagining has come out of your encounters with and immersion in First Nations culture. Shall we explore a little bit about what those 19 ways are for the listeners so that they can begin to understand how we can consider these ways to a viable future?
Deena: Yes, I just want to, if you’ll forgive me, correct you. I did not create it. I would never have…I don’t think any of us… Would have the intelligence to just ‘create’ this. So, it came through. I mean, I was there one day and it was a transmission and I wrote it down as fast as I could. It’s easy to say the 19 Ways…and…it takes years to allow our minds to actually change.
Deena: The first one is ‘Spirit exists’. To really understand. To look at one’s own experience, not because anyone told us, but to look at our own experience and to see those events that could only be from elsewhere; that we could not, did not, choreograph. To see all the experiences that reveal the presence of Spirit. And then if Spirit exists, how then shall we live? What is the true nature of the world in which such things as Spirit’s existence occurs, and how then shall we live?
Deena: The second, and these are essentially the order that they came in; The second is Community. Community is an essential vessel and a means of transformation. When we sit in the circle here, we say All the Beings that are here with us. And the wind and the Earth. And then what happens in your mind when you really get that? You’re a different person than the one that was born into a typical Euro-American culture.
Deena: The third is Council. When community is in a circle, and when we speak to each other in council, with that deep respect for what everyone is experiencing. We also say, that when when you really sit in council you have to tell the truth. So there’s a way of being present: deep deep deep listening, deep, deep, deep respect. And listening for all the voices. Because sometimes when you’re sitting in council, the ancestors come through or entities, spirits. You have to make room for them.
Deena: The fourth is story, and I would love to sit down with you for a few weeks some time and talk with you because you’re a writer about Spirit.
Manda: Sounds good to me. Definitely. Let’s do that.
Deena: So story is a pattern of events that come together when you recognise a pattern of events and you also see that it provides a path. So I will say something to someone like: “what is the story that your illness is telling?” Why did this illness come to this person at this time? What’s the story that’s being told? And then what’s the path? What do you call it? So the story that we’re living, that we find ourselves living, is the path that we’re called to. Shall I Just keep going this way?
Manda: Yes, you could, but could we take a slight sidestep there? ‘The story that we find ourselves living, is the path that we’re called to’. So in my potentially blinkered experience, particularly this last year, learning homeopathy. It seems to me that people often have the story that they think is true, and then the story that can take quite a lot of time to unearth and quite a lot of painful self-examination, and it’s only painful because we resist because we hold on to the old story. So how do you help people in your work to find a true story that is both the underlying story, but also true in the sense of not being the story that we want to think is true in our projected, ‘I am the saviour of the universe I will make everything right’ or whatever projections we have; that there’s a very fine line between our fears and our projections and our ego and our shadow and finding something that embodies our genuinely authentic self. Stepping out into the world is quite hard work, I think.
Deena: So I listen. And I listen and I listen and I listen. And then I hear something and I’ll ask a question, and we’ll follow it. And you know, ultimately, when that story is revealed there’s agreement. It can’t be denied. You know, so we could say, OK, so here’s a story of a woman that that saw a spirit when she was three years old. And where did that take her? Or my story could be just what I told her; that I heard about the bomb when I was very young…and it took me… And I can trace, everything that that came from that. People tell remarkable stories when they are also allowed to bring all the things together, all the parts together that usually they don’t get to tell.
Manda: Yeah. And probably don’t even know that they need to tell, because they’re not the stories they tell themselves all day everyday.
Deena: Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, we could talk about homoeopathy, for example. That for a long time you were studying a science, a western science that believes in spirits. Right?
Deena: So I could say – you know, I don’t know you at all, so forgive me audience for this – but we could say that this is a woman who looked for a way, a legitimate way in Western mind to recognise and work with the entities that are in all beings. And their influence. And that you began to see things as different from just some inert thing. They have essences and they affect us and you wanted to know the story; in order to know what medicine to give, you have to find out someone’s story, right?
Manda: Yes. And often my experience is that the healing comes in giving the space for someone to tell the story, exactly as you found. And the remedy is is often an adjunct. But the healing has begun at the point when the authentic story comes out. You’ve got to get through the layers of the story that’s been going around the tracks in their head and get to the underlying story. I spent quite a lot of time saying to my teachers that homeopathy seemed to me to be shamanic healing with a lot of books added, because, yeah, it is exactly as you said, it’s a way for Western people to engage with energy healing in a way that keeps their western minds happy.
Deena: And I suspect from time to time, you might, given who you are, dream a remedy for someone.
Manda: Oh Yes.Yes.Yes.
Deena: And not be able to explain why, necessarily, or have to work hard, but you dreamed it.
Manda: Yes, I think all the good homeopaths do.
Deena: There was a period of time when I was deeply connected with a nganga from Zimbabwe. Mandaza Kandemwa. He was a very unusual nganga or healer, in that he didn’t dream, but his wife Smakuke dreamed. And she would dream the remedies. And he refused to join the Nganga organisation because they wanted to codify the remedies. Someone comes to you with this and you give them that. No, he would say, you never know what it’s going to be. I see you shaking your head, right? You have to be there with the story and feel it, and then you go.
Manda: In agreement.
Deena: Smakuke would wake up in the morning and say, “Mandaza so-and-so is coming”. She didn’t know, of course, you know she wakes up and she says, “So-and-so is coming today and you have to go to that hill, and on the right side is a plant, and there are four branches. Take the second branch and bring it back”. That’s for that person.
Manda: So it was a healing team.
Deena: That’s real. And maybe because of that first spirit woman, I know that’s real. And I’ve known that that’s real for many, many years of my life.
Manda: And the interesting thing, I had a conversation with a man called Rupert Sheldrake, who was,yes, you know Rupert Sheldrake. So for those listening who don’t: Cambridge educated, Ph.D., who has devoted his life to exploring the bits that the rest of his contemporaries don’t necessarily believe. One of his most inspiring experiments for me as a former veterinary surgeon, is dogs who know when their owners are coming home. And he devised really a very good scientific basis for that; and he goes around the country to great big groups of hardcore Western scientists, and he tells them these stories, and they all sit there with their arms folded, shaking their heads, throwing, you know, energy at him, basically to shut him down. And he says, And then we all go to dinner and two glasses of wine later. There is a queue three times round his table of those same people wanting to tell him their stories of their grandmother’s spirit, who visits them at night; or the time when a friend died and that person, you know, connected with them on on the way out to let them know they were going and they were OK. Or their dog knows when they’re coming home. And it’s just – it’s fascinating, but also heartbreaking that we live in a world where that truth is known at a very deep level by the same people who will then go on to invent the Bomb and design the Camps of today. So we’ll come back to the list of 19 in a minute. But how would you, Deena Metzger, connect with those people who exist in this hybrid reality where one is what they do and the other is what they know?
Deena: Well, what comes of the moment is… One has to be trustworthy… And they have to be in such a relationship with you that they feel that you’re trustworthy. And then we try to make a safe place for them to explore what is so terrifying. You know, I’ve had this experience because I’ve had an unprecedented, incomprehensible experience with elephants in the wild. The shorthand is that I was with Mandaza, and I had this idea when I came to Africa that I wanted to sit in council with his people and with the elephants. And when he asked me what I meant, I said, I have no idea. So we went to Chobe, which is in Botswana, and it has the largest collection of elephants in the wild anywhere. And on the very last day, it was My Day and we were driving down the road and he saw a fisher eagle. And that’s his totem. And the eagle landed in a tree. And yes, it was my day, of course, but, wherever the Fisher Eagle was, we were going to be. So we sat by this tree; Fisher Eagle didn’t move. And then, all the way down the road, I saw a bull elephant. And I had this sense of fear because it started walking. I want to say there were, I think it was five or six of us. They’re witnesses to this, not just Mandaza only.
Deena: So the elephant comes and it stops in front of the car. I’m in the back in the flatbed and I put my hands out. To show him that I have no weapons. And the elephant comes close enough to be able to put his trunk if you want it around me. And he looked in my eyes. Ten minutes. Then he went to the back of the truck and I moved and then to the other side of the truck, so about 30 minutes all in all, like this. And I heard myself say to him, I know who you are. You come from a Holocausted People and so do I. And I want to tell you that your People are my People. I then went to look at the time, because we had to leave the park before it closed, and it was that time it was my gesture, he must have understood.. Anyway, he took off. We jumped out of the car, we were weeping, we were on the ground, we were beside ourselves.. And then we had to go. And as we start going, we’re going down this road; the road is along a stream and and there’s a hill coming down to the water. And as we’re going down the road, dozens and dozens of elephants are coming down the road.
Deena: And Mendoza says “we can’t go this way. You can’t come between a mother and her calf, this is very dangerous”. I said “they know we’re here, so we have no choice”. And we just go very, very slowly and carefully. And they literally lined up along the river and they bowed their heads and flapped their years and we bowed. And that was the first visit. I have had, I try to remember how many, but let’s say eight different experiences that are so narratively precise over about 20 years, going back again. First, we only went to Chobe; couldn’t imagine it happening anywhere else. Then we’ve had these experiences in Namibia, in southern Botswana, in Thula Thula and South Africa. I have to be able to tell the story to animal scientists. We actually had the experience where they changed the rules in Botswana, and we had to go with a guide and we had to go with one of their goats. And so we had to be able to enter into experiences that a trained guide would also recognise, and that’s pretty scary, because that guide probably had grandparents who talked to elephants, but they had to leave all of that, cos that’s primitive, right? But in fact, it’s real.
Manda: And did you have a similarly deep experience when you were with the guide? And is the guide still a guide?
Deena: Some are, because we’ve had it in various places. One went to take care of her mother and her kids, but I don’t know if that’s just how things would have been anyway. I’ve actually had many experiences like that. I’m thinking of an archaeologist who said to me..I would never have believed this…it was during The Eleusinian Mysteries, with a theatre director, Steven Kent. We had recovered them, and were enacting them for the first time in 1500 years. Towards the end of the mysteries, we were at Eleusis, which was the designation of the pilgrimage that the Mysteries were. And a young archaeologist and potter were doing the ritual that we had asked them to do; and she put her hand in a declivity, because she had dropped some corn seeds (we were planting corn seeds) and she wanted to make sure that it hit Earth, not stone. And she came up with a figurine. And so now we were afraid that we would be accused of stealing something; so we ran to the archaeologist and said, “we found this!”. She said, “That’s ridiculous. We have combed this place for 20 years. You could not find anything there at all”. “Ok, well, can we use it ritually?” ” Oh, sure, whatever you want.” So then we were in a circle and we were passing this figurine and she said, “Wait, a second, could I see that?” And we give it to her. And she said, “I don’t believe this. This is pre-Christian, probably 500 B.C”. So it was Persephone! And that was the core of the mystery: Persephone appeared. It was the ephiphany of Persephone. And she said, the archeologist, “I never would have believed this”.
Manda: Oh, I so want to know what an archaeologist is doing now! So I’m aware of the time, and I’m aware that we got to four of 19. And maybe, maybe this is more than one podcast. Because I have a question before we go back to it. I will link to the list of the 19 in case we don’t get through them all and listeners can find it and can read it and can immerse in it. And it seems to me listening to your stories and knowing through the richness of your website, that these stories have recurred again and again in your life: you are deeply spirit connected. And my experience over here in the UK is that over the last three years and with increasing frequency certainly in the last 12 months; those of us who are working, endeavouring to work in this way, have had more help from Spirit than the whole of the rest of my life. And I don’t know if I am delusional or not, but my inner belief is that we would not be getting this much help if it were a guaranteed fact that we were going to go over the edge of the cliff into extinction within five years.
Manda: So first of all, is that your belief also? And second, how do you see the pathway from here to there? Because I am feeling the need as a writer, as a creator to begin to write the pathways, to write the stories that give people a vision of how we could get to where we need to be, because otherwise it genuinely seems to be easier to imagine the total extinction, not just of humanity, but everything else than to imagine not being immersed in a capitalist system that’s, you know, maybe 300 years old at most. Even if we blame the Romans, as I do for pretty much everything, it’s 2000 years old. But, you know, in the history of of the Evolution since the last mass extinction, that’s a tiny fragment of time. So that’s quite a big question, but I’d like us to explore it if we can. So it was two part. First of all, is this your perception and your experience also that the help is getting more and faster and more evident? And second, if that is the case, how do you see us moving from here?
Deena: So what you said earlier is exactly what I say to people that because I’ve had so many experiences of Spirit’s existence and because all the evidence that I personally have had, or have seen; is that spirit is benevolent. I don’t believe that I would be given this vision cynically and so I think that spirit is revealing it because we are being called to help make some changes and they’re spirit guided. So, so much of what I do is tell the stories. And I think that is in part, my calling: that I am to make evident as best as I can the existence of Spirit. And then, well, you know, you just said when we were chatting in the beginning that a novel just came through and you just gave up everything to write this. You said something came. So apparently you’re being called to write this book. And I think the path is that we ask and we listen and we as and we listen. And I don’t know that there is a path.
Deena: The next of the 19 ways is the Pathless path. It’s not about ‘this is what your grandfather or the priest or the priestess said we must do’. There is a Pathless Path. It reveals itself. Spirit reveals itself. No one has walked it before, but it is true. And we learn to walk it and we learn to follow it. And we don’t know the ways, but because I do have the experience that spirit exists, I believe it is possible that we can reverse extinction and climate dissolution and we can restore a vital world.
Manda: Yeah. Or find the life…. Because ‘restore’ feels a little bit like going backwards, and I feel as you said, this is not a path anyone has ever walked before. We have to feel each step of the way. And it’s going somewhere we’ve never been. And we have to find that safe place that you spoke about when you were talking about the elephants. There needs to be a sense of it being OK to be in the unknown. How do you help people find that?
Deena: They say, “I don’t know anything”; I say: “Yes, perfect!”.
Manda: You can be wise and then in your wisdom people feel safe…
Deena: But you know what happens? There are meetings like this! We didn’t even have a pre-conversation, right? And you said, “Oh, it looks like we’re not supposed to”…but we’re meeting. And such a sense of of connexion and understanding each other. So how did that happen? Right? And people who are listening and who listen to you that are deeply sustained and live differently because of you, and right now they’re saying, “yes!”
Manda: I so hope so. Thank you. All right. So let’s move on because we got to five of 19 and we’ve been talking for 53 minutes and 46 seconds, but that’s fine. You know, editing is what it is. Let’s move down this list because there’s so many beautiful things here. So, number six is Bearing Witness. Talk to us about that.
Deena: That is so absolutely essential. We have to bear witness to the nature of the world at this time and to the criminal aspects of the cultures that we have been indoctrinated into. And to how we are called to living lives that are against what we believe in; against our original wisdom. And it’s so incredibly painful to do that and to hold science and the church and government and greed and things… To hold them responsible and to hold our collusion; to recognise our collusion.
Deena: And then Seven: disengage. How do we step out of it? And that’s an ongoing question. Looking at what is and saying “No”; stepping away
Manda: And are we stepping away or are we stepping towards life and in the stepping towards life, we are inevitably stepping away from what has been?
Deena: Yes, but I think for me, there is that stepping away, that active “No, I won’t do that. I will do this, but I won’t do that”. We may not know what to do. But we can say, no, I won’t. I won’t do that.
Manda: So, of the things that you have said ‘No’ to most powerfully. Could you let us know what they are?
Deena: Early on, I said no to the university, I left it
Manda: No to a life of academia
Deena: And began teaching on my own, and I did therapy for 18 years without ever having taken a psychology course.
Manda: But you were a therapist. Do you mean you offered therapy to people?
Deena: So, you know, I said ‘no’ to The Profession. And I say no to a lot of Western medicine. Yeah, and I try everything I can to say no to x rays and radiation. And and I will if I ever have to say no to chemo, I won’t do that to the Earth. And I say no to war. Yeah. And I say no to guns.
Manda: And in your culture, saying no to guns is a big thing. You had an experience of being irradiated by accident when you went to visit a nuclear site?
Deena: I went to visit Hanford nuclear site. It’s one of the 10 most polluted sites in the world; the most polluted in the United States. They keep saying they’re going to fix it, but they won’t. It’s up in the north, in the border between Oregon and Washington, and the Columbia River is the boundary and it’s radiant. So when I spoke to native people, I was told the story that at night, when the salmon are hanging and drying, you can see the light shining from the salmon. But the people, the traditional people, won’t stop eating salmon because salmon is sacred. Though they do come in jeopardy, I guess; the salmon are irradiated, so the people are irradiated.
Manda: But then you’re irradiated if you’re anywhere near the water anyway.
Deena: Right. And and then we get to number 13: Aho Mitakuye Oyasin – ‘All my Relations’ which the Lakota people say all the time. We say bless you or thank you or whatever; they say ‘Aho Mitakuye Oyasin’. All my relations. So they’re always saying everything is related. It’s an ongoing reminder. And I think that if we did nothing else but incorporate that knowledge, All My Relations, everything would work.
Manda: The world would be a different place if we genuinely believed that. But we would have also to treat our actual human relations with respect and decency for that to count, which means also we’d need to treat ourselves with respect and decency. It’s learning the respect and the decency and then extending it outwards. There’s a beautiful Buddhist meditation, ‘the heart-based meditation’ that begins to do that; we learn the nature of love by extending the circle to which we can extend it. We got to 13. We jumped there! We jumped from number eight: healing, war, peacemaking and the no enemy way, which in a way we covered a little bit in what we were saying no to. We jumped Revisioning. Talk to me about number nine: Revisioning.
Deena: Look at all the institutions and see if you can find how they should be, according to what they say they’re about. So all you have to do with Western medicine is ‘do no harm’. If you apply ‘do no harm’ to Western medicine. What if law pursues justice? What if government was interested in the welfare of all the people, all the people, all the time and justice? So it’s a call to deeply… What if academia really wanted to communicate wisdom? What if it was not a power system? What if it didn’t have special interests? What if it wasn’t about getting grants? What if it respected the students and what they know? So it’s a call to Re-vision. And if you’re part of an institution to live with, work with, real consciousness.
Manda: Yes. Wouldn’t that be interesting? The world would be a very, very different place. We always come back to that we’d have to change the nature of the economic system for all of these to apply, but that’s a different podcast. Let’s not head down that rabbit hole. I was trying to remember… We did a podcast about this time last year with a wonderful man who set up something in Oregon, where they basically turned all of the intersections into public parks. And they did it in large part by going to the local authorities and going, “your remit says that you want to increase connectivity, you want to increase community, want you want to stop local crime, you want to get people more engaged with each other. If we can stop the traffic and build a park. It’ll do that”. And they did. They did! It’s astonishing. And they started off with one. And last thing I heard there were over 100, and it’s it’s completely changed the nature of his part of the world. It’s brilliant. So skipping a few others, we have indigenous wisdom traditions, which we, I think would entail an entire podcast, which we will come back to. Dreams and Divination. You spoke about that a little bit earlier.
Deena: Right. And they’re the ways that connect with the spirits. So if you’re a diviner, you become an adept at being able to have that conversation. And and so to be able to hear what the spirits are saying and to live accordingly. So in our community, we not only tell dreams, we live by dreams. And if there’s a problem, we’ll say to someone who’s a dreamer “Have you dreamed about this?” Or “could you dream about this?” And then we really follow it.
Manda: Yes, because once we start to honour our dreams, they start to honour us.
Deena: Yes. And you probably could talk about that. You came to this country to teach Shamanic dreaming, right?
Manda: I did. I did. Yes, before COVID stopped that kind of thing. I did. To some very wonderful people, I have to say. So. I’m aware of the time and I’m looking down this extraordinary list, and I absolutely encourage everybody to come and find this on the website. So we get to number 19 Heart Mind. Speak to us a little bit about what Heart Mind is to you.
Deena: Ok, so for African and for Native American people, the heart is the centre of intelligence. I’d say probably for indigenous people. Not the brain. You know, Rupert Sheldrake also says, you know, the mind isn’t in the brain, the mind is out there. The brain is just an umbilicus that connects to the greater mind. So if you make a decision, if you think about something but you think about it with your heart, you come to a different conclusion. And that feels essential.
Manda: Yeah. So in the world, as we move forward into the world as we wish it to be, everyone not only has the ability to listen to their heart mind; they live in a world where they can follow through on what they hear, in a way that is healing for everyone around them. That would be amazing.
Deena: Right. And love is a real force and it’s an intelligence. And to work from that.
Manda: Beautiful. I had one question that arose out of your book, where it became quite clear that explaining these concepts in indigenous language, was far more straightforward than trying to explain them in English. That our western languages, I’m sure French, German – any of the the western and cultured languages – have built into them conceptual boundaries, that we then have to kind of do linguistic leaps to overcome. That if one were speaking, I’m guessing, pretty much any indigenous language; from the Africas, the Americas, the antipodes, anywhere; there is built into the rhythm and the structure of the language assumptions that make these things clear. First of all, did I understand that correctly? Second, did you learn Navajo in order to be able to understand that? And third, given that most of us are speaking Western languages, what can we do? To open our language out.
Deena: Well, I think the first thing that we have to do is accept that spirit exists. And then we have to become Earth centred, so that those two conditions; let’s say ways of being or knowing or entities or whatever; are in everything we say. So we have to bring the wild in here. The wild, the natural world is essential, not arbitrary. It’s the very core of All Life that requires respect. And so I’m actually trying to create something called ‘The Literature of Restoration’, in which though we’re speaking English, we’re trying to create literature that has many of the qualities of indigenous thinking. And wisdom.
Manda: Brilliant. Yes. Ok, I would like to read that. I’d like to read everything that you ever create, Deena. It’s been so wonderful. An honour and a privilege to talk to you and a great, great joy. And thank you so very much for your time.
Deena: Thank you. Thank you and thank you for what you’re doing and who you are. Many blessings and many blessings to the readers, to the listeners.
Manda: Yes. And and as I was taught to say, it always had an o at the front: It was, ‘O Mitakuye Oyasin’,we said, when I was learning. That’s ‘For All Our Relations’. And so this podcast: definitely O Mitakuye Oyasin, For All Our Relations. Thank you.
Deena: Thank you. Aho.
Manda: And that is it for another week. I am so grateful to Deena for her time and her wisdom. As I’m sure has come across in the podcast you just heard, she is an astonishing individual with an extraordinary depth of life experience and the compassion that arises from being genuinely connected to The All That Is. I wholly recommend that you visit her website, that you read her poetry, that you find her book, ‘A Rain of Night Birds’and read it, because it is genuinely beautiful and moving and touches on many of the things that we discussed today. And if you’re in North America, as I know, many of you listening are, than she does do workshops and special events. And if you have the chance, I would heartily recommend that you attend them either in person or online. And then, as ever, we will be back next week with another conversation. And in the meantime, as always, thanks to Caro C for the music at the head and foot and for the sound production. Thanks to Faith Tillery for the website and the tech. And thanks to you for listening. If you want to connect with us, if you want to know more about the membership programme or more about the Shamanic Dreaming or anything else that we do; the website is accidentalgods.life. You’ll find the show notes there, links to the membership programme and links to the events page. The next event after this is ‘Dreaming your Death Awake’ on Sunday, the 31st of October, the day when the veils between the worlds grow as thin as they ever do. And it’s going to be quite a different course since I started the book, because now I’m writing about what it is to be dead, which is a whole new experience, I have to say. So if you want to embrace death as your teacher, which I think is the only way to learn to live absolutely fully, then do come along. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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