Monday, February 21, 2011

Tips from the Top - Narrative Medicine

Have you ever wondered why we humans seem to resist that which will heal us? Oh, you know it is true - I know that walking and meditating and doing my writing practice are the surefire heals for what ails me - whatever it might be. But when I'm feeling bad, sad, scared or obsessive - I will not go there. I will not plunk myself on my cushion, lace up my running shoes or dive into my words. Instead I distract myself with watching Dr. Who, knitting endless somethings, or even trickier - things that look like they might help - doing a spring cleaning or taking down the dolly shrine. You know - things that have to be done but maybe not right now.
I thought today - before I go off to work - I would dip into Lewis Mehl-Madrona's book 'Narrative Medicine'.  Lewis is an aboriginal psychiatrist who has written many books - one of the most well-known is Coyote Medicine. I met him at a Transactional Analysis conference last summer and was blown away by his intelligence and fresh approach. He is a narrative therapist which means he uses story to heal. That has to appeal to a writer, no?
The chapter I want to explore is Transcending Limitations. That sounded like what I needed, wanted - right now. One of the main tools that Lewis proposes for going beyond what we understand are our limits whether they be physical, mental or emotional, is the use of ceremony.
Yesterday I changed my shrine. I had bought new shrine bowls and I realized I wasn't happy with my shrine. So I recreated it with the trunk my dollies had been sitting on. I moved things and cleaned surfaces and put out what was important. We are to do this as we approach the Tibetan new year and I am just a bit ahead. This morning I was truly inspired to sit. It was good.
This afternoon when I come back I am going to clean my desk - take off what is not important - leave what is. I'm bringing up another table for my paperwork that isn't to do with writing and I will organize it as well as possible. I don't want one of those worlds touching the other. And this is a ceremony. A purification of my sacred writing space.
I want to deliver True to the fine-tooth comb editor in two weeks So I will create a space to do that in and I will focus my intention. I know that I've done this before but in the words of Lewis:

Tip: Ceremony is a process in which a collection of alternative realities is poised on the brink of coming into ceremony, repetititon leads to success.Through the healer's repetition of prayer and songs and the continued recurrence and repetition of ceremony and ritual, we slip through the cracks between universes to change the outcome to which we are currently headed. We shuffle the cosmic card deck in our favor.

Top: Lewis Mehl-Madrona


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I hear a lot about the importance of ritual--and I do try to work some into my life. Need to try harder, though!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

This sounds very interesting. I'd like to know more, especially how you think it worked (or didn't) for you.

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Elizabeth - you probably have more ritual in your life than you are aware of. Most people do - they just don't know it. Notice what you do automatically to prepare to write.

Jane - I'm still mid-process - getting a table. My 'writing' desk is cleared and cleaned with its bits and bobs that remind me that I chose this life BUT the paperwork mundane desk is still piles on the floor. However, today is a writing day with Gwen so the paperwork side of me will suffer a bit longer. I do feel more organized and slightly purified to have this side ready for action...

Talli Roland said...

I am all about ritual - I wonder sometimes if I'm a bit *too* much about it. Interesting post, Jan.

Hart Johnson said...

You know, in my day job, I study people living with pain and my boss has been playing with this idea of narrative medicine as a way to improve quality of life for people who have pain. I think though, this post actually helps me think about it in terms of something I HAVE to get back on top of (and had planned tomorrow as a start date)--keep your eyes peeled! (not literally--that would hurt)