This is my first post. While I have wanted to write one for years about my work with historical trauma, it has been put off until my son Joe Raffanti and I got a chance to sit at our kitchen table so he could show me how to do this. Thirteen years ago when Joe was 13, he taught me how to edit movies so I could make Hozhahaslii: Stories of healing the Soul Wound.
I have spent over 20 of my 30 years as a psychiatrist working with indigenous people, first in New Zealand and later on the Navajo Nation. I currently do telepsychiatry with the same community on the Rez that I worked with when my family lived there from 1997-2000.
For the past four years, I have been following Anam Thubten, a Tibetan monk who travels throughout the world teaching dharma and leading guided meditation. I had been wondering how Anam Thubten’s teachings might help in the healing of the ‘soul wound’ (historical trauma) of the Native people I work with in Arizona and California. In April 2014, I attended a workshop in Santa Fe in which Anam Thubten spoke extensively about learning to ’embrace our pain and suffering’ in order to turn the ‘demons’ and ‘cemetary’ inside of us into sacred ground. During a question and answer period I wrote a very long note about a recent Wellness meeting I had attended with the Amah Mutsen tribe in California. It was the fourth session in which we had discussed the how the unhealed traumas of the past have resulted in epidemics of domestic violence, substance abuse, suicide and diabetes for Native people in the U.S. After a brief introduction, one of the elder men in the group began to tell the story of his childhood, talking about painful things he had never before shared. After he finished speaking, another elder man told his story, stating that he swore he would never do this. Both men freely showed emotion. Their sharing was immediately followed by several much younger men talking about their painful issues.
I shared the story of this meeting and then asked ,”Is this what you mean when you say we must learn to embrace our pain and suffering?”
Immediately Anam Thubten responded, “How relevant and timely! We are all dancing to the same music.”
In a few weeks, Valentin Lopez, Chairperson of the Amah Mutsen tribe, and I will meet with Anam Thubten to further this discussion.