This conversation took place on the evening of November 7, just after the U.S midterm elections. We started off by checking in with each other about the results. So much of what was/is at stake in the elections is at the heart of what needs healing — for us as individuals, as a nation/s, the earth. The nonhuman constituents also have a stake in what happens from this point forward. Just a few hours after our conversation, a gunman murdered twelve people in Thousand Oaks, CA—among them a young woman who was part of the early Daré community and was known well by Deena, Sharon, Karen and Lawrie. The next day the Woolsey fire, still raging at the time of this writing, broke out in Malibu, which neighbours Topanga, home to Deena and The Village Sanctuary. For now, they have both been spared —but they are not out of danger. So much feels precarious in this moment.
Our conversation is long and nonlinear (though we did edit it down), but we hope you will stay with it to the end. As context for those who haven’t read the issue it’s important to know that Sharon Simone’s article “Fired Anew,” which is the centerpiece of our section on Village Medicine (and which you can also listen to here)
Sharon Simone Reading
tells the story of her healing from stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her changing relationship to microbes—from hunter to ally—is central to this story. Also note that poet Christine Cummings was unable to be with us because the morning of our conversation she left for Peru to learn from an elder curandera of the Shipibo tribe about their plant medicines.
Deena: Two Muslim women in Congress. Two Native American women in Congress…. About a hundred women elected. Not as bad as it might have been.
Lawrie: Four women in Southeastern Pennsylvania elected to Congress for the first time in history. But I’m feeling for you Karen…
Karen: Not so good here (St. Petersburg FL) but they’re actually doing recounts and our democratic senator has not conceded yet.
Deena: And who knows what will happen now that the president is really going crazy. So … maybe this is the moment… this may be the explosive moment.
Eve: (Montreal, Québec) Even though we’re on the other side of the border here, we’re affected by it. I think everyone in the world is… Unfortunately, the effects of the Trump presidency are being felt in powerful ways here.
Andrea: (Port Hope, Ontario) We thought we were immune, that the border would protect us and we are so not. Contagion knows no boundaries.
Lise: Last night I unplugged—I had heard news that didn’t sound good and I knew if I wanted to sleep I couldn’t keep the TV on. So I decided to read your pieces instead. It was the best thing I could have done. Because what you’re saying about healing in these writings, whether you make the connection or not, has such powerful implications for planetary healing.
Sharon: I can’t compartmentalize what Karen and I have just been in from what’s happening in the country. We were in Palo Alto doing some beautiful work with Revisioning Medicine (http://deenametzger.net/revisioning-medicine). We were pondering how to follow up. Karen had said to me she sent her piece to a group in Boston and it completely revolutionized their way of thinking… So we were sitting there and I said “We’re going to Boston, I know it.” In that moment the text came to Karen from this woman in Boston asking could we come very fast. And so we turned around in a couple of days and were there.
Why that’s important: listening for the signs and the things on the edge that I talk about in my piece. This was an unmistakeable sign and call from the Village related to this work coming out in Dark Matter. So when I look at what’s happening in this county, I’m angry, but I’m not the same worried as I was before I understood how Village is working. Because we just don’t know. It’s life and death that we were called into and that I lived through. The country is in life and death. There are ways and means—the spirits and beings and elements also communicate, weigh in. That’s where I am.
Deena: I just have to add that Palo Alto, where we met for Revisioning Medicine, is the place where Christine Blasey Ford was teaching. The campus is on security alert as she’s underground. So all of that…was there. And is here…
Andrea: Yesterday I had an interesting experience with a dear colleague who was staying overnight with me. We lit a candle as we were holding space around the midterms and went into meditation. I felt myself drop way beneath the turbulence of the political turmoil and I felt all the creatures come. And I had the sense that they are astute politically, that they feel the political waves. We tend to think we are doing things politically to protect them. But in this place there was such an awareness of what’s going on in the political arena. They are directly aware and impacted by it. And I felt: my vote is with the creatures. This is where I cast my vote… It gave me an entry point for where my consciousness could go in agreement with that deeper level of the soul of the world…
Lise: Christine Cummings’ poem was the first piece I read last night: “How to Go On When It Keeps Getting Darker.” In a moment when I was convinced it was going to get even darker. And this poem speaks so directly and specifically to the present moment. Is it your intention to rape murder deal drugs be an animal infest. She’s referring to those “vermin” who are “invading” us, invading our borders… And I went right to your conversations with the bugs, Andrea, and how they instructed you…
Sharon: What I was struck by the most in that poem was “Make a blanket of your skin and drape it over the last of the species… hide them in your lungs, your spleen, your gallbladder, wherever you have a space they can shelter until the murdering is over.” The offering, the injunction of what we can do in the political context right now of the murdering, the devastation–we will make a blanket of ourselves, of our skin… And I noticed that she says this poem came to her at the height of the first round of family separations at the border.
Deena: The line about the blanket I could not help but associate with the concentration camps, the skin being made into blankets… how here we are actually being asked, and properly so, to give our lives on behalf of the natural world and on behalf of the attacks on… on everything.
Lise: I think she very much wants us to be thinking of the camps: “melt down the good solid fat of your body to slick the ground under the Soldaten’s boots.”
Karen: I think she also gives us a mandate to illuminate with our words: “Open the flashlight of your mouth and illuminate something…”
Eve: For me that line also set the scene—I was imagining the border patrol shining a flashlight.
Lawrie: So… Village Medicine. I was curious to know, Eve and Andrea, since you were relative outsiders, what was it like for you to encounter it?
Eve: I was very moved because my own journey over fifteen years was something that took place a lot in isolation. I always had this movement toward community, but it’s not part of the hospital model. I was moved that even though I wasn’t part of such a community there were so many connections between the stories you’re telling and my own experiences. I made a list: rituals, visions, dreams, animals, rivers, trees and the earth.
It just struck me through my own experience and the experience of others that there are many ways for us to be ill and injured but there seems to be a common path to healing. I was interested that these stories had so many interconnections when it came to what we reach for when we’re in a moment of extremity. There’s that need to reach rock bottom that others wrote about also. To sacrifice identity, a part of ourselves we considered essential, but that needs to be discarded if we’re to find a wholeness or inner core that’s necessary to our healing.
Sharon: I’d like to jump in on the heels of that. Because reading your piece, Eve, all of it was amazing, but when I got to this: “lie here, take in this humming abundance of stillness… endurance of ancient cycles that continue now…” it gave me chills. Your journey seemed quite alone and on the other hand you came to the exact same understanding as I did—what you needed to do was be here in the stillness. I go back to Deena’s introduction where she says “Village is a field, a state of mind.” In that way you were in the Village, in a particular field and nexus of relationships. It didn’t happen to be human beings so much, but it was all beings. It furthers my grasp of Village and how you lived it.
Lawrie: I was very moved by that last paragraph, as well, and as I was reading your piece I was thinking to myself: the question isn’t really “what does it mean to heal?” but “but what is healing?” I had the feeling all along that you were leading us to that moment. That somehow we are stepping out of an isolated mind and moving into a communal mind. You write: “there is no veil between me and the world.” And somehow when you “lie here in the stillness,” it seems to me that is the place where there is no veil between me and the world…. And that is the place where community lives in the broadest sense of the word.
Lise: But don’t forget the trees. Yes the stillness, but also the trees.
Deena: This is exactly what I meant when I said that Village is a field, that we’re in a field of consciousness because when I read this piece, Eve, I could not believe that we hadn’t been sitting together and that we hadn’t said to you, “Eve, you must write this piece.” Lawrie in her piece tells the dream she sings of living and dying and the rainforest appears, not different from the redwoods. And at Revisioning Medicine before I was about to give a talk I stepped into a tiny grove of redwoods and they said, “Tell them that we only have about twelve years.” They were referring to the IPCC report. I absolutely believed the trees were telling me this, that they are hearing everything and understanding where we are, as Andrea said, and are all listening very deeply to these conversations which are emerging from the common field we’re cocreating with everyone else. … So your piece was thrilling to me.
Karen: And I loved that you brought in Virginia Woolf. The idea of lying down and changing perspective. Hugely moving to me since that’s what healing really requires.
Lise: Could you read that part, Eve?
Eve: “For Virginia Woolf, being recumbent is the epitome of illness… from that change of bodily posture, a new orientation and identity emerges. In a horizontal position, ‘we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright… We float with the sticks on the stream.’”
Sharon: Unbelievable… just unbelievable.
Karen: It’s in such contrast to what you wrote about the redwoods and how upright they were though they had no deep taproot. Just this “fibrous latticework bracing them from below.” When I read that I thought yes that’s the Village. And you somehow knew to go there. That’s where you were called. That’s just beautiful. One more thing I wanted to add. You wrote: “to heal, focus cannot be only on the site of injury.” That is exactly the philosophy of osteopathic medicine. How different that is from allopathic medicine: one has to look at the whole being. In our medical system we go right to where we think the problem is and have a very myopic view of this being in front of us who’s suffering.
Eve: Osteopathy was a big part of that process for me; I learned a lot from the people treating me, not only anatomy but wisdom. Andrew Taylor Still (the founder of osteopathy), though he was influenced by medical books, was in conversation with the Shawnee and spoke their language. He looked to indigenous culture as a source of knowledge or modes of healing that the current medical authority wasn’t providing.
Andrea: I appreciate in the whole of this issue that there isn’t an either-or split, in your story, Sharon, and in yours, Eve, there is a both-and… a kind of a dance between the two, this agile sensing—is it the redwoods, the lidocaine? I think this is really important as women witnessing and going into the dark matter—and disease has got to be some of the darkest matter there is—that we’re not preachy or fixed on a certain thing but we’re just saying this is our experience, what worked for us… I think that’s very compelling. There’s a quality of beauty and authenticity that comes through the words and carries real gravitas. It’s evidence of the illness and the deep work shaping the language we’re speaking. And the language we’re speaking is part of the Village returning too.
Deena: Just to weave it, this is from your piece, Andrea: “Quiet and still as a tree, I let my entire body resonate with whatever I’m focusing upon…” So… it feels like it’s music that’s occurring, as all the pieces resonate with each other. Not only that it’s not either-or, but that it is everywhere a woven complexity of the whole that needs to be considered.
Andrea: That deep synchronicity that you’re speaking of is the Village experience. In fact it’s rising everywhere, this consciousness of the power of prayer, people saying “yes” in this wonderful way.
Sharon: In your piece, Eve, you said the lidocaine was a system reset. Which is exactly what the Bear said was going to happen to me when I did the Bear dance—and I was not the kind of person who ever did such a thing… I thought, oh my god. That is beyond synchronicity. It’s a clear teaching from the other side, a way of knowing, really a consciousness rising, as you just said, Andrea. What is needed now is a complete system reset.
Andrea: Back when you were talking about you and Karen going to Boston this past weekend, you said something about how quickly it all happened. I just wondered if anyone else noticed how quickly things are happening now.
Deena: I don’t know if it’s that we’re listening or we’re so deep in the field that time doesn’t really exist anymore. There is a simultaneous communication between more of us every day who are listening and attuned and willing. It comes to those who are willing to say “I’ll get on the plane…”
Lise: And we don’t have any time to waste, do we?
Sharon: Deena writes, “There is always an invitation but the task is to accept it.” I feel like that’s in the field. More of us are understanding that it’s not just doing a tweak of your life. It requires this incredible “yes” and in that “yes” I do believe there’s more access to the communication, and the communications are faster. I think they’re always there, but we’re hearing, because we said “yes.”
Karen: I love how the trees have woven themselves through every story, and in Deena’s last sentence she writes “outside among the trees the old ways of being flourish.”
Deena: And in our circle we’re all reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory.
Andrea: I was just going to bring it up! It’s brilliant.
Lise: Karen, in your piece, extraordinary as it all was, it was the tree scene that moved me most of all, you finding the right tree and bowing to it and drumming before you go in to see Sharon.
Andrea: The courage to stand outside on a street and go nuts with your drum.
Karen: That was because of the Village.
Deena: That’s not the first time. You have drummed in the lobby of a hospital.
Karen: There was something different about drumming out on the street with people walking by.
Lawrie: Karen, when you wrote about going around the hospital to find the right tree I thought of Sharon and the Guardian Tree in Topanga. Somehow it seemed to me in your drumming you were calling forth that guardianship of the Village Sanctuary.
Sharon: Beautiful. It’s very humbling, the whole thing, very humbling…
Andrea: I’m just feeling the warmth of being with all of you in the Village right now.
Lise: I’ve been feeling that throughout this conversation, and it feels like the threads are being spun so fast I can hardly keep up with them.
Eve: One of those threads in Karen’s piece is the thread of the dream: “A dream like a blood test or X-ray can provide invaluable information.” The power of dreams. They almost have a diagnostic quality but in a realm that goes beyond what a blood test or X-ray can reveal. Powerful to hear this from someone who both drums and has to order some of those diagnostic tests.
Deena: Lawrie, could you read from your piece about your dream of the rainforest?
Lawrie: “In the dream I was invited to join a circle which had gathered around a patient for healing. The teacher asked me to listen for my death song which I knew somehow was also my life song and then to sing that song into the heart of the person in the middle of the circle. He then asked all of us to sing our songs together. As our voices rose and fell, a cascade of melody and sound swirled around and above us…I realized that we were surrounded by rainforest. The plants and trees had been dry and bare, but now… the rainforest was waking up. The patient in the center was healing. There was no separation. Everything and everyone was healing together.“
Andrea: That is so powerful to hear you read that. I’m also very moved by how often sound comes up, the power of our voices… The chakra that is involved actively in communion with all the kingdoms is our fifth chakra our throat chakra. It’s what I was exploring in the work with the bacteria.
Lawrie: Two years after that dream I walked into a healing circle in Topanga and there in the community that is called Dare which gathers for healing and the telling of dreams, there were people in a circle singing into the body of the person sitting in the middle of the circle. So there is really a complete connection between the realm of the dream and the realm of the Village. The Village that is constellated in one form in Topanga but also the Village that is the reality of the dream world. The dream world itself is of course a Village, that’s how I’ve come to see it. It’s not just part of the Village, it is a Village.
Karen: I think the dream speaks to one of the other central themes that we’re all writing about. That there’s no separation between the one who heals and the one who is healed. It’s such a profound change of view about medicine and healing. We can’t parse it out. Everybody in the act of healing is receiving healing together. Deena writes: “community heals and is healed simultaneously.”
Lise: Funny, because in the call for submissions I wrote “both transitive and intransitive” – implying a split between the person who heals others and one who heals herself. And now you’re saying that’s dualistic and it’s not really like that. Healing is healing.
Eve: I also like that line in Lawrie’s piece “Medicine is not merely a potion that is prescribed.” This reminder that medicine has a magical quality as well. There are certain rituals that give it the potency it has.
Lise: And when Lawrie visits Sharon in the hospital she begins singing a river song, because Sharon has this great love of rivers, and she ends up singing to the chemo bag and “inviting the presence of the rivers into the flow of the liquid soon to enter Sharon’s veins…”
Andrea: The instrumentation we have is so coarse but still it would have been interesting to measure the IV drug after that, how it would have shifted. The confidence to sing into it, to bring river into the drug—it does molecularly alter it.
Karen: We know that from Emoto’s work.
Lawrie: For me it goes back to what Deena calls the field or what I call the stillpoint. In that field everything is possible. It all exists. It then becomes the process of being still enough or listening acutely enough so that the particular manifestation can come through on behalf of healing. And Eve, I’m still sitting with what you said at the beginning of this conversation about how your journey was so often solitary. I think there’s a way in which time isn’t linear and whatever community we’re holding now I want to somehow bless back into your past.
Eve: I think that’s possible. In dipping down into the past for the writing process I think I’m going to experience some of that in connection with this conversation tonight and feel that I was perhaps more accompanied than I knew.
Lawrie: In Stan Rushworth’s Going to Water, he writes about that. Healing is larger than linear time and therefore is not limited to the location of past, present or future.
Deena: So that an activity that looks like it’s healing the past directly is healing the present and by implication the future is changed. All in what you’re calling the stillpoint.
Lise: So we’ve come back to the stillness, that moment of deep stillness that was part of the healing for each of you. And which is part of the process in your listening, Andrea.
Lawrie: Andrea, that video with the eyes of that dragonfly was so astonishing to me. I began to think of a line from Rilke, about a Greek statue of a torso: “…there is no part of him that does not see you. You must change your life.”
Andrea: It really was as though the dragonfly wanted this message to go out…
Lawrie: You can feel the presence of that being.
Karen: I love his last words to you: “some of the most meaningful experiences happen at the edge of death.” And it feels like that’s where we are now. The message Deena got from the redwoods. And we’re having this meaningful conversation because of that, because we’re at this precipice… So it was really poignant to encounter that dragonfly, and also to receive those messages from the insects. About paying attention to the littlest things.
Eve: I also love the passage about the voice and how we learn to censor our voices: “Throttling our voices becomes a lifelong habit.” I never thought about why of all the animals in the jungle it’s (Dr. Seuss’) Horton who’s able to receive this communication from this other world and of course it’s because he has these large ears… It made me think how the full gift of our biological existence is a gift that we often squelch. I read your piece as I’m reading Katy Payne’s work about elephants. It’s really a time when we need to look both within for the possibilities and the gifts we’ve forgotten we’ve had and outside to the various creatures… to hear the messages that are there for us if we can listen as elephants do.
Andrea: Actually I think the elephants listen through their feet. I think Dr. Seuss hadn’t figured it out at that time.
Deena: Eve, if you’re reading Katy Payne you also have to read Bradshaw’s Elephants at the Edge. She shows how the elephants are suffering what we are suffering because of what we do. So it takes us back to the microbes.
Kristin: When I read Andrea’s piece for the first time what jumped out at me was the connection she was making between the insects as other and how we dismiss them and try to destroy them –and that spoke to me very deeply about Sharon’s experience with the microbes and how we dismiss or destroy them not only at their peril but our own.
Lise: And you also made the connection to those “dark invaders” at the border Just to come back around to where we started.
Kristin: Yes, it was touching off all these connections for me about what is happening politically and more broadly in the Zeitgeist. The fear of infestation. We’re dealing with it personally and as a nation as well so it felt incredibly timely and relevant.
Andrea: We haven’t said much about Sharon’s piece.
Lise: That’s funny. It’s felt to me like we’ve been talking about Sharon’s piece all along… even if we haven’t referred to it specifically.
Sharon: Everything we’ve said since the beginning of the conversation has to do with messages, signs finding the way through. The messages are what matter, how they came through as our particular stories. It gives me a lot of hope in terms of what do I do right now. This life-and-death twelve-year-period ahead of us.
Kristin: One of the things that has been so profound for me with this particular issue is the underlying message that we cannot foreclose on the possibilities… Remaining open to them is so incredibly important because we don’t know, we can’t know… Sharon, you write “When I read the literature on the dismal survival rate for pancreatic cancer when first diagnosed, I made an important decision to depart from my reliance on science. I chose to not know what the outcome would be for me. It was predicted by a surgeon that I would die in two months. I did not….It is predicted that the Great Barrier Reef will succumb completely and soon to the impact of climate change, but perhaps it will not. We don’t know the outcome and if we foreclose possibilities, as I might have done with my diagnosis/prognosis, we may also foreclose the potential for — and the enablement of — miracles and healing.”
Karen: Another theme that comes through so strongly in your piece, Sharon, is how we are changing our minds from the imperialist ways we’ve all been indoctrinated in: “being with nature loosened the heavy cloak of civilized ways of knowing and living from my shoulders.” The healing that was required to change your mind – it’s something that comes through in all of the writings.
Lawrie: Going back to your piece, Eve, all these stories together are the latticework. Whatever trees spring up of individual story, underneath is this latticework.çƒIn Sharon’s piece just the first four words had such a powerful concision to them. “Healing is a river.” It’s an image I’m really going to take away. Also how the rituals for the saints can be adapted to intoning the names of the rivers—that’s so beautiful. That image of the river is in some ways the most powerful. And “loosening” is of course what rivers do over time; there’s a loosening that can bring change and healing.
Andrea: And alongside the loosening there’s also the call to attention. Again it’s the dance, a beautiful tension there…
Lise: There’s so much more to say; we could obviously go on talking for hours and hours and hours. But our time is up!
Andrea: I feel this conversation is a blessing for the whole issue; we’re sending it out with a very different energy. This is the gravitas that sends the elixir of healing right into humanity.
Deena: And you know what I’m hearing. I’ve had years of conversations with women in these times and so often it’s what we’re against, or what’s coming at us. But there is a quiet authority that’s come out of the entire discussion about what the true nature of the world is and how culture functions and the reality of the field that we’re talking about… There’s no apology, there’s just a quiet absolute authority about the nature of the world. And I think that changes everything.
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