Ways of Knowing™ Symposium: Exploring Cultural Based Healing Traditions & Practice

Panel: Facing Health Care Challenges: Lived Integrative Care Stories

Panel: Facing Health Care Challenges: Lived Integrative Care Stories

Moderator: Dr.Marilyn Schlitz

Members: Atum Azzahir, Cultural Wellness Center;
Lorrie Eaton, D.C., Camp Camelot; Selma Sroka, M.D.;
Rev. Betsy Stang, Wittenberg Center; Eric Utne, Utne Institute

Eric Utne

Eric Utne

Eric Utne… Strange Growth on the Neck and Transformation
Eric shared that as a young man he had a strange growth in his neck. Doctors wanted to operate, but his mother resisted.  In pursuit of alternatives, Eric learned that you can be your own doctor with food.  Taken with these ideas and experiences, Eric moved to Boston where he studied and practiced macrobiotics and shiatsu. His health was restored, changing his view of health and wellness forever. While on a trip to Findhorn, Eric was asked to speak on macrobiotics. In the midst of explaining Chinese facial diagnosis he realized the importance of emphasizing what is right with you rather than what is wrong with you. This led him to abandon his acupuncture studies and take up journalism, working with a variety of magazines dedicated to personal and societal transformation.  His experience eventually led to the creation of the acclaimed Utne Reader.  In 2000 Eric’s self-evaluation lead him to conclude that his marriage, his work, and his goals were a mess. A trip to the wilderness where he spent time alone in nature reoriented his life.  He resigned from the magazine and dedicated himself to work on behalf of personal, societal, and planetary healing.  Eric now leads the formation of local and national Community Earth Councils, which bring together elders and youth to explore service for the common good.

 

Lorrie Eaton, D.C.

Lorrie Eaton, D.C.

Lorrie Eaton, D.C…Beating a Terminal Diagnosis from Hep C
Health and healing have been an interest of Dr. Lorrie Eaton’s all her life. During during a routine physical required for riding horses, she learned that she had Hepatitis C.  Her case was further complicated with a very painful case of vasculitis called cryoglobulinanemia.  The latter was so incapacitating that she frequently couldn’t use her hands, walk, or bear it if even a feather touched the inflamed area. Lorrie shared that in the years preceding her diagnosis she knew that her living situation was very toxic.  Her thoughts were filled with anger, and resentment,.  She often said to herself, “I know these thought are really toxic.”   In addition, the genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia had undercut her spiritual faith.  During this dark night of the soul, Lorrie lost her faith in a caring, beneficent, creative force . Lorrie’s personal and business life began to fall apart.

At the time of diagnosis, Lorrie was biased against allopathic care, so she undertook many alternative care programs including vitamins & supplements, the Gerson diet, yoga.  Her health continued to deteriorate. She was hospitalized.  She sold her house to cover the uninsured medical expenses and moved in with friends to reduce her costs. Eventually, she took interferon, but was told that she only had a 20% of getting better.  “Why can’t I be in that 20%?” Lorrie asked herself and assembled a healing team of an Erickson psychologist, an energy healer and massage therapist, nutritional supplements, Tibetan exercises, prayer and meditation.  When the interferon cycle was complete and could not be undertaken again because of neurological deficits, Lorrie became deathly ill for about 2 months.  She decided to view this as a healing crisis and, she deeply felt “I don’t believe that I am dying.”

Christine Harvey, who is like a daughter, had a prophetic dream that she would be well again with a few residual challenges in her legs. After a group meeting with her friends, she went into the hospital again, where they were at a loss to explain her illness and told her, among other diagnoses, that but she was in liver failure, kidney failure or had bone cancer. She did get plasmapharesis, a treatment that washed her blood, but she was not a compliant patient as she insisted on not taking a dangerous chemo drug in conjunction with the plasmapharesis. She came home and felt much better.  When, at a follow-up meeting, her world famous liver specialist said that the disease would return and she would die, “I felt like I was run over by a truck.”  Friends, including Betsy Stang, insisted that she fire this doctor and she did.  Years later, Lorrie’s blood tests remain virus free.

Lorrie is among the 20%, is living the prophetic dream, and is building a new life.

 

Selma Sroka, M.D.

Selma Sroka, M.D.

Selma Sroka, M.D….A Physician’s Journey to Wellbeing
Dr. Sroka, a family physician, went into medicine after three elders advised her to do so.  Although she had not dreamed of becoming a physician, she realized this was the right course for her.  Like many others report, medical training was traumatic for her.  After she became a physician, Dr. Sroka made an unusual choice—to broaden her understanding of health and wellness.  When she began attending weekly Saturday morning meetings at Powerhorn Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis, MN, Selma felt that she had found a place for herself. Although it was often hard to be a Western physician at the Wellness Center, Dr. Sroka stayed on and became part of community.

When Angles Arrien and Michael Harner, leaders and teachers of shamanistic principles, came to Minneapolis, Dr. Sroka felt called to Indigenous teachings.  She attended a seminal ceremony at Gray Horn Butte and began learning about the Lakota tradition. When she went to Bear Butte, South Dakota, she knew that she “had found her way home.” She undertook a Native American vision prayer staying out in nature for 1 night.  Later Dr. Sroka learned that she was committing to a process that required she would eventually spend four nights praying for all life up on the hill. She began doing that, but a major stumbling block occurred. Very close to the Native American family that had taken her under the wing, Dr. Sroka was pained to learn that her elder had behaved inappropriately and the relationship became estranged.

The next few years were very challenging.  Dr. Sroka found herself hating her boss, home, husband, etc.  This period of her life ended when she had a car accident. Four nights after the accident (four is a sacred number in many Indigenous traditions Dr. Sroka had a dream in which she heard a Native American female elder saying, “”You’re going the wrong way. You need to turn around, NOW!”  She recognized the truth of this advice and began putting her life together again.

Integrative healers were very helpful during this part of her journey.   Recently, Dr. Sroka was able to complete her commitment to her four nights of prayer on the hill. When she looks back on her life, Dr. Sroka states, “It took me 11 years to complete medical training (med school and residency training) which I consider to be my education in willpower, and it took 11 years to complete my commitment for Hanblache, which I consider to be my education in faith.”

 

Rev. Betsy Stang

Rev. Betsy Stang

Rev. Betsy Stang…Story of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Four years ago, Rev. Stang noticed a rash on her breast that wouldn’t go away, looked up similar pictures online, and diagnosed herself with inflammatory breast cancer.  She immediately called a local oncologist and a stage 4 diagnosis was confirmed within 1 day.  Betsy’s physician gave her the terminally ill ‘speech.’ As an interfaith minister, her first step was to request her friends and colleagues pray and perform ceremonies. Within days of the ceremonies, she was informed that there had been a mistake—she was only stage 3c, not 4, although in practical terms, she was assured that there was very little different in her prognosis.

She decided that the only approach which was reflective of her nature was wholistic—she would combine allopathic, complementary, and spiritual healing.  She assembled a team of an integrative oncologist, traditional oncologist near her home, an Israeli healer, Shumei jyorei healing, Tibetan healing, and Native American healers.  Grandfather William Commanda, in his 90s, came to her home from Canada, stayed for 4 days, and talked to her local oncologist.  Grandfather had been diagnosed with advanced cancer decades earlier, so he was familiar with Betsy’s situation. He did healings and came to be with Betsy during chemotherapy.

Betsy also worked with a circle of prayers during chemotherapy, thanking the yew tree which provided the root of the drugs, as a result during which the entire room glowed green.  Rev. Stang also had a wonderful team at her insurance company that allowed her to do experimental treatments.  She also worked on her personal and spiritual transformation focusing a great deal on gratitude.  One day she had an out-of-body experience, went up into the spirit world, and saw the elders she loved.  She was very happy, but a spirited Hopi elder told her she had to go back. He indicted that “Your life should be like the grain seed that grows the grass which feeds the animals that feed the people who make the children.” Betsy’s tests  indicate no evidence of diease.  She is on a low, maintenance dose of chemotherapy. The traditional oncologist that she works with now allows people to invite in the healers that they work with.  He invited Betsy to Feng Shui his office.

One important thing that she learned is anyone who said, “You can only do it this way and/or we have the answer,” could not be part of her healing team. One chemo therapy, no matter how recommended, made her so sick and depleted that she didn’t want to live, she stopped it and requested another type if it was available.  She had to become her own advocate and researcher. She was responsive to her body’s messages and alert to what made her want to live.  She also learned that “healing is not the same as curing and that cancer can be a journey into consciousness.”

 

Atum Ahazzir

Atum Ahazzir

Atum Azzahir… Justice, Love, and Response to Being Shot
Atum Azzahir opened her remarks with greetings and gratitude and then said, “I myself am a Khepra, an enduring soul…a soul that knows suffering.”  As such, Atum Azzahir establishes her relationship to the enduring souls of African Americans who have infused the nation and the world with the rich literature of jazz, blues, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll.  “My heart, my mother, is also a Kemetic ritual; may it not stand up to oppose me.”

Atum explained that she was born in Mississippi of a father who loved people regardless of what happened and a spirited mother who actively and judiciously opposed the injustice that surrounded her.  These two threads informed her life. “When I walked with my father, who was a very tall man, he had his hand on my head.”  She explained that her head, the 19th part of her, is where she is conscious of herself.  Her upbringing sowed the seeds of her perspective:  the intelligence of her heart will not allow her to hate.  Therefore, in her work at the Cultural Wellness Center and throughout her life she pushes for recognition of the enduring work and contributions of black people.  Upon studying history, she asked of herself, “How am I going to live in this world [a world of social, class, and financial injustice].” The ancestors told her, “You will.”

Today, she claims her direct heritage, her relationship with the water, and the knowledge that the state of perfection is here.  In 1978, her husband shot her and then committed suicide.  Lying in the hospital, she recognized that there was no place for hate and anger.  The teachings of Kemet, ancient Egyptian teachings that are of and from the African people, offer the explanatory power of how people of African heritage can get back to the water.  She also learned that, “my heart is my only source of truth.”

Atum is graced with 4 sons, 5 granddaughters, 1 grandson, and a great grandson.  One of her goals is to be a source of strength and love for her family.

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