This last week has been pretty big one. We had a friend who went into a drug induced psychosis. We were in dialogue with the family and decided to try alternative natural treatment before going to the hospital. It was going amazing, and at some point, all progress fell into the rushing river, and we were searching for this person in the cornfields as they attempted to time travel. All these years later I was swimming in memories of my brother…..
When I was 20 years old, my brother Daniel began his journey with mental illness. My brother, who had been one of my closest friends. The class clown. Had a million friends, countless girls who had crushes on him, was zipped up in his black hoody convinced the world was out to get him. He was 15 years old, was on and off the street, eventually speechless, he would spend hours motionless, in an almost comatose state.
He had come to live with me at my university collective house, and my excitement of us sharing a home together, had soon turned into a horror movie.
I did not know what to do. And as time went on it only worsened. My heart ached and I would walk the streets calling out to God for his healing. Finally after countless tears and endless conversations of what to do. We knew had to get him to the hospital.
“Listen Doctor, I hear what you are saying. But I truly believe my brother is going through a spiritual crisis.”
Silence…….”We think that we will start him on some seroquel and see how he responds.”
“Doctor, in many traditions around the world, the ones deemed crazy were actually healers being initiated by the spirits.”
“Look, whatever you believe is fine. But it is not going to change that he is very unwell.”
“Yes I know he’s unwell, that’s why we are here. But could we just talk about alternative therapies as well. I mean all he eats is jello, white bread and canned vegetables. He’s on so many pills he can’t see straight!”
“Well this is what is available.”
And that is what was available. Looking back, We actually were very lucky that he was at the royal Ottawa hospital, one of the best hospitals in the country for mental health.
But for me it was a million miles away from where I felt my brother needed to be.
Yes he needed medication.
Then he needed to get his hands in the dirt and start gardening. Get massaged. He needed to go to sweat lodges and sit in ceremonies and sit with old elders who had been around the block. Eat organic food. Hear stories and songs of healing before he went to sleep and start his road to healing.
But most of that did not happen. He stabilized, and became functional again. We tried as much as could. But he never came back. In the end we did not have the resources on so many levels to offer him what he needed.
And so, though this may sound like another sad story.
It is and it isn’t.
I know there are those that will argue with me, and say its just a way to explain hardship in the world, and its taken me a while to wrap my head around this, but I really do believe there are these things called contracts. Agreements made before we arrived here on this planet earth.
The Shipibo, a tribe I work with in the amazon, say that your spirit can never be touched. Things will happen to us. People get cancer, they become mentally ill, there are wars, abuse, you name it. But beyond all we experience, Our spirits are on a journey, learning, changing and evolving through these experiences.
The journey with my brothers illness and my desperate attempt to heal him, opened up a world that may have taken me much longer to touch. Watching his immense suffering was excruciating at times, and I would sit and ask, why him. Why did he have to go through this? Why did he have to get so sick?
Moments, minutes, and years later, I found myself sitting in a Chanupa ceremony. A beautiful old pipe carrier with wrinkled skin and a twinkle in his eye sat with a group of young men and women and shared teachings.
This grandfather pipe carrier had sat in Japan with great masters. Learning from these old Native Japanese grandfathers he asked many question. One of which he shared with us.
“Why are there so many human beings on earth”
The master looked long and deep into his eyes and said
“Because not enough people are learning their lessons.”
And then this grandfather looked long and deep into our eyes and smiled.
We smoked the pipe and sat in silence. Sage burning and tobacco smoke filled the room as did the ancestors.
I have come back to that moment many times, reflecting on its meaning and its medicine.
And in the context of my so-called schizophrenic brother, I do have the feeling that up in space somewhere maybe during the birth of a black hole or the collapse of a multiverse. My brother said to me:
“Hey guys, So I was thinking, this time I’ll play this role, and you can play that one, as I have some serious things I have to learn.
When I sit with an old mamita whose back is collapsed from carrying potatoes, or a man who has walked 10 years in prison, or a child suffering of a terminal disease. I now try to see and respect their teachings, honor them for their suffering and pray for their grace.
I used to feel immense guilt and want to fix their lives in some way. I wanted to fix the world, and had so much anger for the injustice and pain that I saw.
But now I meet their eyes and I know that we are all on a journey together.
I can offer what I can. Maybe its a lot and maybe its a little this time around.
But pity and guilt are terrible offerings to another human being.
To act, and to act from love is a whole other way of life. And a much stronger force at that.
I know so much of my own struggles, my heartaches and pain have become my greatest teachers. Taking responsibility for our lives is an amazing way to walk.
To walk barefoot on this beautiful earth and trust the inner wisdom of the human spirit.
Remember that all of us will go back to the sun, and whatever your religion, Your Creed, your beliefs, your story, and whatever you have been through.
When you break down our bodies into molecules we literally translate into Star dust.
So to whoever you are. Whatever your journey. Thank you for taking this seat in the tipi. Holding the fabric of humanities story high to the heavens.Taking our turns as teachers and students in the circle of creation.
We will continue to dance this dance until the music stops playing.
Contracts and agreements. Joy and Suffering. Human beings. Another black hole collapses. Another star is born. A planet spirals among its moons and many suns and here we are.
Learning our lessons.