Awakin Calls » Myron Eshowsky » Transcript
Myron Eshowsky: A Deeper Listening: Hearing's Loss to Healing's Gain
Guest: Myron Eshowsky
Host: Preeta Bansal
Moderator: Gayathri Ramachandran
Preeta: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you are in the world. My name is Preeta and I'm really excited to be your host for our weekly global Awakin Call. Welcome and thank you so much for joining us. Every story is the beginning of a conversation whether it's with ourselves or with others. Across time and culture, stories have been agents of personal transformation, in part because they have the power to change our hearts and our minds. The purpose of these weekly Awakin calls is to share stories from amazing change-makers from around the globe. Through guided conversations with them, our special guest speakers share their personal stories and inspire us through their actions, their experiences, and their insights. Our hope is that these conversations will plant seeds for a more compassionate and service-oriented society, while serving to foster our own inner transformation. Behind each of these calls is an entire team of ServiceSpace volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this beautiful space. We are thankful to them and all of our listeners for helping to co-create this space.
Today, we are grateful to have a remarkable guest with us, Myron Eshowsky, whose personal journey is not only inspiring but has had a tremendous impact on so many people. In a few minutes, our moderator, Gayathri Ramachandran, will engage in a deep dialogue with our guest Myron. This week’s theme is: A Deeper Listening. The theme inquires of us what the role of deep listening is in our lives, deep listening of ourselves and others. For those of you who don't know Gayathri, she is a gardener, by hand and by heart, and a scientist, by training, presently on a quest to align her life with her calling. As a way towards tapping into and honoring the sacred feminine, she has spent the last few years on a sabbatical from paid work engaging in meditative practices, learning non-violent communication, cooking traditional recipes, working in her organic garden with close to 100 species of native trees, shrubs and herbs, and volunteering with various ServiceSpace projects and communal tree planting initiatives in her native Chennai in India. We are very honored to have Gayathri here with us today. So with that I'll turn it over to Gayathri. Welcome!
Gayathri: Thank you Preeta and I am so happy and honored to interview Myron and have this conversation with him today. Myron Eshowsky embodies many roles: among them are those of a shamanic healer, a mediator, a consultant and an author. He serves currently as the co-director of the Social Health Care Program for Syrian Refugees and Families; based out of Jordan, this program provides trauma healing and local capacity building services for families displaced by the war in Syria.
Some other interesting facts about Myron include the following: Between 1987 and 1994, Myron worked as a shamanic healer in a community mental health center and thus ended up being the first shamanic healer to be covered by a U.S. health insurance plan, specifically for spiritual healing. He is the author of ‘Peace with Cancer: Shamanism as a Spiritual Approach to Healing’, a book that explores the spiritual, physical and environmental terrains of cancer and other chronic illnesses, whose writing was driven by the personal experience of watching his father struggle with, and ultimately succumb to cancer.
A fascinating nugget about him is that he was born with congenital severe hearing loss and learned to speak by using his hands, to match the vibrations he felt in his throat with those that he felt in the throat of his therapist. Fortuitously, his hearing loss became an advantage in cultivating the skill of deep listening, a skill or process he describes as listening with all of your being -- with your body, your feelings, your heart and something larger, ultimately requiring us to get to that place where our vibration and the other’s vibration are in harmony, thereby allowing the forging of a deep connection.
Myron has taken these deep listening skills to his work with the healing of trauma in communities ravaged by violence -- including gangs, child soldiers in Africa, and more. He uses them in his shamanic drumming programs in the US for the healing of hurt, wounded or at-risk youth. For the past many decades, he has also studied extensively how indigenous cultures address the healing of trauma and conflict. Welcome Myron and thank you for joining us today!
I would love for us to begin at the beginning. I notice that your traditional academic credentials are that of a counselor. I also gather from reading about your work that your introduction to shamanism was as a young child, through your great aunt Soshie, a self-proclaimed dreamer who taught you her spiritual practices of dreaming to the spirits and how she did healing work. Could you broadly trace for us how this early childhood introduction to shamanism led up to your academic training as a therapist and your chosen calling as a shamanic healer?
Myron: Ok. Um (pause). I think I'll just start by telling some of my story. Because I think it's the easiest way for me to answer this question. I just want to check, can you hear me okay so far? (Yes). Can you hear me okay, I just need to check that. (Yes)
Anyhow, when I was a year and a half old, I was hospitalized and I was clinically dead in a hospital and then revived. And after that time, by family description, I became this kind of odd child. Meaning that I would respond to people’s thoughts that they would have in their head and they wouldn't understand how that was happening. And my great aunt, in particular, who was a Jewish woman who practiced a very old, old tradition of healing began to just kind of notice that about me, and she would take me aside and teach me, what she called, dreaming. And in those times of dreaming what she essentially was doing was showing me the way where she would go to talk to the spirits directly. Where she would go to get direct spiritual information that she would use to guide her and help others. And, primarily she was a plant doctor. She talked to the spirits through plant. But she told me that she was teaching me these dreaming things because that was something that I needed to learn and that it would help me, but that I should never talk about it. So this was like a secret for a long time. At the same time, I didn't see her very often.
And I actually wasn't diagnosed as severely hearing-impaired until I was six years old, because my family unfortunately thought I was living in my own little world. And when I went through first grade, I was essentially flunking first grade because I wasn't able to follow anything that was going on. And, at that point, that's when I was diagnosed. But the reason I'm kind of telling it in this way, I think is -- because of my great aunt, because of the kind of area I grew up in where it was extremely poor and extremely Christian and there was a lot of anti-semitism, I spent a lot of my childhood living in nature. And I would go and go into the dream state that my Aunt taught me. That eventually meant that I was living more in the spirit world than I was in this world. And then at the same time, communing and having most of my relationships with helping spirits. Which in essence is what Shamanism is about. But I didn't even know that word until I was an adult, but I was just continuing to operate in that way.
When I was seventeen, I went off to college, to get more to your question. So when I went off to college, I went to Indiana University in Bloomington and at that time they were starting the first Native American studies department in the United States. And, a friend of mine who was taking the class said, "Oh, you should come.” And as a result of coming to see what was going on, the class at that time was being taught by Joseph Epes Brown but he was being assisted by a Lakota medicine man whose name was Ben Black Elk. Ben was the son of the famous Nicholas Black Elk of the book ‘Black Elk Speaks’.
So I went to this class, and we're sitting in circle, and he's doing a ceremony and I'm just sitting there observing and I'm extremely shy so I want to be as far away from all of this, as possible. But at the end of the ceremony, he comes up to me and says, "Oh, you already know how to do this." And, I of course, went, "No, no, no". But in the midst of that dialogue he invited me to spend the rest of the year in this class where he was essentially doing ceremony all year long.
But, you know, in truth, because of the experiences of what I went through, you know my own wounding, because of the fact that I was always so oriented towards social activism, I really had started out in school that somehow I was going to be a lawyer. When I went to law school, I was in law school for a total of three days which is probably the world record for the shortest attendance of law school. But, I was there.
The first day of law school, it was really hot and humid. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Dan Quayle who was later to become the Vice President of the United States came up to me and said I was a disgrace, because everyone was dressed in a suit and I was dressed in cut off shorts and a T-shirt. I just knew I didn't belong there. Because I was in a crisis at that point, I essentially went through all sorts of university catalogs and came across the idea of becoming a psychologist and realized, 'What if this is a way I can help people?’ That's essentially what launched my even going into the therapy work. I think I'll just stop there.
Gayathri: Oh, thank you, that was such a beautiful arc that you traced. And, I just love the story of how you were three days in law school! Well, so did you formally then study shamanism at some point, with other shamans, or was your only training from your aunt, your great aunt?
Myron: Well, the truth is that the ultimate training for anyone who’s on this path in an authentic way, is from the Spirit. And because of what I said in my earlier statement, a lot of my learning was directly from the spirit and it's always kind of been that way. But sure, starting with Ben, who I spent a good year with, through the years I've worked with a number of different shamans from around the world. I was initiated into two different traditions in Africa. I've worked with shamans from Siberia, from Central and South America, from Native American shamans. So, of course, there's been a process of cross fertilization and that's kind of the norm in this kind of work (some interference in the background). As, I was saying, yes of course I've worked with a lot of different elders and shamans through my life, but ultimately it's about your own relationship with the Spirit.
Gayathri: So I was also just wondering whether if the first time you family found out about your shamanic skills, since you said your great aunt asked you to keep it a secret between the two of you -- was that also when you were in college and when you met Black Elk?
Myron: Well, that's a good question. Fairly recently...I grew up with my paternal family, it was a very large family, they just all saw me as extremely shy and kind-of unusual. But one of things that had happened when I was young was my family was afraid of me, in some ways. Part of that fear was because it seemed that I was hearing something more than just what was being said. So there was a lot of withdrawal that occurred. People would pull away. They were loving of me and that sort of thing, I don't want to dismiss that at all.
But when I had the first family reunion of that particular part of my family, it was interesting to have some of my older cousins tell me, the ones who remembered what happened when I was one and a half years old and how different I was at two. And they had stories of how everyone was frightened of me. Because I was reading the Indianapolis Star every morning and came to know what was in the news and I would respond to things that they were thinking. So those kind of things, kind of identified me as odd.
When I came out, I didn't really come out with this part of myself, until I was in my late twenties. For a number of reasons, one because of the, kind-of, almost like a deep suggestion within me from my great aunt that I shouldn't talk about this, but also there were a number of spiritual events that occurred that kind of catalyzed my coming out. So I hope you don't mind me going into a long story, but I'm just going to go into a long story anyhow.
Gayathri: Oh please, yes!
Myron: So when I was young I had a special place that I went to. It was a circle of oak trees and I would be there and I would drum the earth and go into trance and one of my main spiritual teachers who really kind of kept me sane and together at that particular juncture in my life when I was in a lot of pain because of hate crimes, when I was eight years old he said to me, "I will be around you always, but I can't be with you directly because you need to learn about patience.". And I begged him not to leave me, I begged him not to disappear on me and he said, "No, no, you have to learn about patience." And patience is not one of my strengths, even now, sixty plus years later (laughs). I didn't see him again. I could feel him. I could kind of hear him in my mind, but I didn't see him.
When I was in graduate school and I was required to see clients for internship, I was secretly using my gift. But I still wasn't being out about it. When I moved to Wisconsin, one of the first things that happened was that I playing volleyball on a sand barge with some friends and was trying to walk across the sand hill which was across the river, to leave and I slipped and drowned in the river. I was pulled into the undertow. Down river, this young woman who heard me scream, she managed to pull me out of the river and do CPR. So she is doing CPR and she is reviving me. And there standing behind her was my spirit guide, my spirit teacher from my childhood who said to me -- "It's time to come out now." And I said a very bad swear word to him. The poor woman thought that I was saying it at her, which I had to apologize for. But that juncture, when he said it's time to come out now, I starting coming out. So at that point I thought of mixing openly my shamanic healing practice, my spiritual healing practice to be really accurate, with my psychotherapy.
Gayathri: Hmm...So I thought we could talk a little bit about this power of the method of deep listening as a way towards healing. Could you tell us a bit of the story of how you landed on this insight that when we've matched vibrations, we connect deeply?
Myron: Sure. As I said, I had to learn how to talk and lip read and all that sort of stuff. And the way that I hear is really kind of creative in this regard, in that, I can only discriminate certain sounds well and those sounds are the vowels -- a, e, i , o, u and y are the sounds that I hear. Those I can hear distinctly and some sounds I don't hear at all. Like 'h' and 'k', and 'th' sounds and 'sh' sounds or 'ch' sounds. There are a lot of sounds I just don't hear at all. And I've learned to kind of figure out what the words are based on the little bit that I hear of the word, and I listen a lot contextually.
When I was 6 years old, I began to go to school for an hour every day, before school had started, to work with a speech therapist who taught me to put my hand on her throat and my throat, and then focus on matching her vibration as she would make a sound, because I had to learn how to talk. One of the things I noted right away was that when we matched vibration, I became really connected with her. It was a feeling of connection in my heart, a feeling of love that I would feel for her in those moments, and it was just a subtle thing.
But later, the spirit kinda started teaching me and my great-aunt actually talked about it. And one of the things she would talk about is that in everybody's body are sick songs. And if you know the sick songs, you can heal anyone. I mean she would say that. Of course she never taught me the sick songs. That was unfortunate. She was quite old, so her role in my life was somewhat limited. But the idea of the sick songs always stuck with me. And the spirit started showing me that every illness has its own song, its own vibration. And that most illnesses, when we're sick, we vibrate in this kind-of constricted kind of sound, because a lot of our illnesses are reactions to trauma that we've had, subtle response to trauma that have been held in the body and so on. Then they said that if you can match that -- if you make harmony with that vibration, then you can do the healing. That's how I started.
When I went to Africa, one of the interesting things that I witnessed was -- I was in a situation when they were teaching children to put the top of their heads to each other, and one person would make a sound like "aaayyyyyeeeee" and the other person would try to match the sound. And what I'd immediately notice is that, when we matched the resonance, the resonance increases. When we come into harmony, our resonance increases. In this particular tribe they were teaching children that to make peace with another human being we have to match their resonance in that way. That we have to come to that point of harmony. I began to play with that in a lot of my conflict resolution work.
I'm going to use a kind of wild story as an example. I was invited to a prison outside of Erie, Pennsylvania, a federal prison, to do Shamanic work. To do healing work with men who were imprisoned, who almost universally, I would say that 90% of the people in prison, have trauma history. They've had wounds to the soul. And so they asked me to come and do spiritual development work and healing work with inmates who were in the drug and alcohol treatment program. And so for the first circle with 45 inmates, 44 of them were Black, African-American and one Caucasian, white man. And I thought to myself, this looks like a setup to me. But we did a healing ceremony. I did a massive ceremony to do what's called a soul-retrieval for all the men who wanted to bring back parts of their soul that had split up because of the traumatic things in their life. And I talked a lot about trauma and healing, and what happens to our spirit when we are overwhelmed.
And at the end of this 3 hours that I had with this particular circle of men, the one white man came up to me and said to me, "I hate you. I hate everything about you. I've hated people like you my whole life. But everything you said makes sense. Would you be willing to do a healing for me when I want?"
Gayathri: Oh wow! Go on...
Myron: He was fierce, he was fierce in his disgust with me. I had to, in that moment take a deep breath, but also to match him, to be in rhythm with him. I got permission from the prison to meet with him during the lunch break. That's when he told me how much he hated me and why he hated me and went into about why he hates Black and why he hates Catholics, and just went down his list. And I just sat there, just in rhythm with him. And just being in his rhythm, breathing in his rhythm, listening in his rhythm, talking in the same kind of pattern and rhythm as him, really just trying to be in harmony with him. Because he was the former head of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). He was imprisoned for murder and church burnings and a bunch of other things. And then I did the healing.
And he softened. And for years, because I could just be with him in that deep sort of way -- resonating with where he was at, in his pain and his anger, his aggressiveness -- we connected. And for years, he and I communicated by letter. Because he changed. So that was a teaching for me. A teaching that I have witnessed many times over and over and over again, that in situations that can be hostile, that even then, I have to make harmony with what's before me, what's around me. It's hard. Nothing is easy, but it’s telling to me about how important resonance and harmony can be in the most difficult of situations! I'll take a break...
Gayathri: These stories are so amazing and I was just blown away by the extent to which you seem to be able to keep focus on the fact that you want to be in harmony. But for those of us who are very regular sort of folks who don't have this deep ability to even be in the state where we harmonize at this point, where do we start? Where do we, those of us who want to listen more deeply, what are the things we can use, or what signs can we look for as we train ourselves to listen more deeply? What resonance signs?
Myron: Okay. Well, first of all I don't think it's a special gift to be a deep listener. These are skills that we could all learn. It's just that some of it, you know, even the stories that I just told, some of it is about the fact that I had to do a lot of work on myself. I had to be in a place of forgiveness with myself. I had to be in a place of forgiveness to those that had caused harm to me. I had to work through those things and to be able to stay in a place of peace and calm, and commitment to the path that I have been on. So to me, that's the kind of work everybody does.
You know, we are all working on ourselves to be better human beings but you know, I do think that it starts with the idea that we have to quiet our minds. To be honest, we have to quiet our minds. We need to learn how to move to slower. And my general experience is that we don't know how to move slow. I have to remind myself all the time to be in a state of listening in a slow way. I think of all the elders that I have been with, where I would be talking to them and asking a question and they would always just say to me, if it was a question that they thought was interesting, they would go 'Hmmm'. But if they thought I was saying something that was really off the mark they would go 'Uhhhh'.
I always thought that was kind of funny, but then maybe six months later, or two years later, they would start telling me a story that was roughly related to what I had asked them or talked about, way before. Meaning that they were doing what is letting it come in like a seed and just let it percolate, and percolate, and percolate without responding, you know, letting it just get in there, deep. And I think that’s part of it too. I find myself often remembering that -- that helps me to remember that and honor that.
I also, you know, one of the other things that kind of helped me along the way was -- I was on this bus trip, I was probably about twenty years old, and there was this one seat on the bus and it was next to this woman who I started to talk to, and it turned out she was a professional mimeist. And she had been studying with Marcel Marceau; and I was on this bus heading back to my hometown of Indianapolis. But I got off the bus with her and spent a whole day in Chicago, where she taught me how she would listen to people's bodies and movements -- and to see a movement. And then noticing how that influenced me. How I would feel influenced and affected by that. What did I notice about it? How did that feel in me? And then, and then to do it -- you know, to do the mime. And again it was a way of listening.
And it comes organically and is natural. I’ve noticed there have been studies where they’ve shown that if you come in harmony with someone, then you heartbeats beat in the same rhythm. And I think, in essence, when you're doing these kind of things, that is part of how we listen.
But there's a lot of things about listening that occur, that we don't always think about. For example, I talk a lot about the idea that we send and receive. I’ll be walking down a street. I hear somebody in my mind. I turn around and there’s my friend, a block or two behind me. They’re saying, “Oh, there’s Myron!” and I hear them calling me. We all have that, you know! My wife will often start to say something and then I hear it, or she’s not even saying anything and I’ll start answering her question. Or she’ll start answering my question before I even say it out loud because there’s a lot of in-speaking that happens naturally, with people we are close to. And that’s part of listening too. And those skills happen when we learn to be curious about how somebody else communicates, how do they imagine the world, how do they perceive things? Because their way of perceiving, we actually pick up on it. But we don’t really take the time to really notice it.
And then, of course, you know, because of my spiritual practices, there’s the core belief that everything is alive and everything has a spirit. So if I sat with a tree and I just listened, I will hear something. And if I sat with a rock and I just listened, I will hear something. All these are things to me that we can do to practice just listening. But listening requires that we suspend judgment, suspend the idea that we're making it up. Just being curious.
Gayathri: Yeah, I thought especially that last bit that you said which is suspend judgment but also suspend the idea that we’re making it up, because for those of us who have lived quite firmly in the materialistic world, all of this, even if we pick up some of this feeling that we’re sensing something, we just kind of put it under the category of some sort of mumbo-jumbo or... Like I think we just shut down that ability to tune it more deeply, by just being very suspicious.
But also, I think the inner monologue...There's a very core difference between the voice in your head and really tuning into the other person’s -- what they're sending or what they're saying. So, because you’ve said that so much of it is also, you know, a lot of it is also about healing yourself. And you have to do a lot of work on yourself, and maybe if you kind of clean up the dust, you become a finer instrument. So you sort of purify yourself, and then you are better and better at sort of being a good receiver also.
But in this whole question of healing, I’ve often wondered -- how much of it is something we can really contribute towards by bringing awareness to the patterns of our mind and how much of it is truly grace or guidance coming from the larger interdependent cosmos we are embedded in? What is your opinion on that?
Myron: I’m sorry. I don’t really think I understood the question, to be honest.
Gayathri: I was trying to say that when we feel we need to heal certain spiritual illnesses or certain patterns of behaviour of the mind, how much of it is really something we can do and how much of it comes as grace? And if it’s the latter, how much of it comes as guidance from the outside world -- it happens and we just allow the process.
Myron: I'm not sure I really understand the question but I’m going to answer it the best I can (laughs).
Myron: Are you asking how much of it is personal work and how much of it is the larger context of what’s going on in the world, and what is going on in our families, our ancestry - those kind of questions?
Gayathri: Yeah...I just emailed you briefly what I was trying to say. But also…
Myron: Ok, let me look...Also?
Gayathri: I meant more in the sense of -- because you do so much work with spirit guides and you say a lot of your life’s work is guided, through that, by them -- for those of us who want to invite the same kind of grace in, how do we do that?
Myron: Well, let me, let me go to what I think...I'm looking at your email so...You know, in these traditions, the general belief is that everything is part of the larger community. So when there’s an imbalance in me, it just means in a sense that I’m carrying that sickness but it reflects a sickness that is larger than me. And that maybe the real source of the sickness may not even be in me personally. But rather a reflection of something much larger. And that’s kind of a weird concept in a way, but if we think of it in terms of like environmental toxins...I might have cancer, but the environmental toxins at a particular area in a particular place make the illness worse for some people who live in that area. So we would say yes, I have cancer but it is also related to the cancer in the land.
Or an illness that I’ve had in my lifetime was -- I used to have asthma. And shamans will often talk about asthma as being - the trees are dying and because the trees are dying, you have sickness. In a funny sort of way, that’s true. When the trees are dying, the air isn’t as pure because trees are so directly involved in purifying the air on the Earth; not all the trees, but many of the species of trees. Therefore, the air isn’t as good and when the air isn’t as good, we struggle with breathing. That would be a very shaman way of looking at it.
But all healing, even though, you know, I'll see people individually, the truth, the truth of the matter is -- all healing is seen as a communal issue, as a larger family issue, that is manifesting in some way, in you. For whatever that reason might be, you know, spiritually. And I would say that most of the time, it’s an ancestral thing. The trauma is an unhealed issue from previous generations that will continue to ripple through the generations until they get healed. And your key patterns of illness, whether it’s physical or emotional, that continues through generations.
And even, even without the actual context. You know, there’s a very famous study that was done in Israel where they were seeing third and fourth generation post-Holocaust children, who from the age of five were manifesting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they hadn’t been exposed to anything that would explain why they would have post-traumatic stress. But they were having nightmares and stress and some of the symptoms that one would see in PTSD. So there’s more instances of this whole thing - can trauma come from unhealed issues being passed down through the generations? That’s something I think, more and more, we are seeing accepted into the mainstream therapy world.
But, your question -- I think of, for example, Malidoma Somé, who is one of the African teachers in my life, from the Dagara people in Burkina Faso, who’d often talk about the fact that when there was a conflict between two people in the tribe, it wasn’t seen as a conflict between those two people, but rather as a sickness in the whole tribe. And if they didn’t heal that conflict, it would become an even bigger sickness in the tribe.
Because when we have these unhealed conflicts, like a divorce, for example, often we don't talk to the people who may have had problems with different people. But because of the discomfort of the divorce, families break apart, friendships break apart. These kind of ripples that happen. That’s the easiest way I can talk about this question.
Gayathri: Yeah, so definitely I think a lot of what you said, answered some of the thoughts I had...I thought this was a very good juncture at which to ask you, given the state of the world today, you know, the time of the 6th mass extinction, massive climate change, political upheaval, everything -- it definitely feels like the entire human tribe is in disharmony. So where does anyone start?
A lot of us who recognize the truth of what you are saying, and also given a lot of the work you have done on how the spirit of a place, like you said, essentially, has an effect on the people. So the Earth’s imbalance caused by humans is rippling back on us -- and so where do we start? What can any of us do, at a spiritual level maybe, to heal the Earth?
Myron: (laughs) I’m only laughing because it’s such a big question!
Myron: It usually helps me to answer some of these questions with stories. But, in truth, I think, you know, part of what I think is happening in our world right now, or the way that I talk about it is that I believe, because of dreams I’ve had, and things I’ve been tuned into, I believe that we are in a time of what I would call the ‘Great Migration’. And as people, we’ve always migrated. But in this particular time, life is becoming uninhabitable because of the lack of water, becoming uninhabitable because of human conflict and war.
We have more people in movement right now than we've ever had in the history of the world. And that fear, I think, is in the undercurrent. You know, the fear of what this place may mean and how that affects us. It’s growing. And usually, when people respond to fear, they respond to fear with constriction. With doing, what I think we're seeing politically in different places. We say we don’t want the ‘other’ here, whoever the other is. The other might be Syrian refugees since I work with Syrian refugees. It might be Africans, it might be Mexicans. Whoever the other is...In places like Poland or, you know, Germany, which is going through its own difficult transition, or Israel, which is using this against Africans, or here in America where the anti-immigration feeling is so strongly there now. All that is because of that.
To be honest, I think our response is that if we really believe that we are all interconnected, if we really believe that we are all of the same oneness, then the choice really is to extend kindness and welcoming, in any way that we can. To me that is the main thing that we can do right now, to express that sincere spiritual act of welcoming the stranger and being open to values we bring, to ride the surf, so to speak.
But I think also that with your question of the Earth itself and what’s happening. I have a story I like to tell, which is many years ago, through my international work, I met this man, Roger Chennells, who was this white South African anti-apartheid attorney, who when Mandela came into power, there was no need for him to be an anti-apartheid attorney. So he had to reinvent himself. He reinvented himself by working with some of the tribes in South Africa around regaining their land rights.
And in this particular situation he was working on, it was with the Bushmen and the Bushmen of this particular area wanted their land back that had been taken away from them and it was a dried-up desert. And he said to the elders, “Why do you want this land? Everything is dead here. There is no water, there are no plants. Everything is dead.” And they said, “When we get our land back, it will come back.”
And he thought they were crazy, but he kept working on their case and the government, with a little resistance to do a whole lot of change in the beginning of the Mandela era, but after about two years, he found that they finally won their case. And so he flew on a little Bush plane back to where they were. And he comes and says, “We're going to win the land back. We're going to win the land back. The land is terrible and there’s nothing there.” And they said, “Well, when the land comes back, when we get the land back, it will rain.”
And all of a sudden, there was this one cloud in the sky and it started raining. But it only rained on him. And he was like, “Is this what you are saying? This is what you are saying?” And they said, “No, no no. This is just to show you. When we get our land back, it will rain.” So two, three months later, they get the land back and it started to rain gently for six weeks. The grasses started to grow again, the animals started to come back, the water hole started to fill up again and the people returned.
The reason I like that story is because when we know a place, when we we are in relationship with a place, if we take care of it, if we are in relationship with that place, if we sing to it, if we play to it, and if we listen to the place, it can come back, it can come back. And I just heard a beautiful story about Tanzania where Jane Goodall’s organization had been working for 25 years, and they reforested literally hundreds of miles of land, and the rains have come back. And all sorts of industry has come out of that. They’ve been restoring the land, step by step. So I know it’s possible. Because I know we have time.
Preeta: Thank you so much, Myron. What a beautiful story and thanks for your amazing wisdom. I'm going to open up -- the queues are open right now so if anyone who’s listening in on this call would like to ask a live question, please press star six on your phone. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. You can also submit a question via the live web stream form. While those are coming in, Myron, I'd love to just take this opportunity to ask you -- you talked about the need for people to do their own work, and specifically the work of forgiveness of the self and of others who may have harmed them. And I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about your own journey in terms of forgiveness. Of those, of yourself and others.
Myron: Sure, sure. Because of the violence that I grew up in, even though I have always been a sensitive and kind person, I have what I would call a hate spirit in me. And that hate spirit meant that I would dream everyday of killing a particular person. Because most of the people who did violence to me, by the time I left high school, were either dead or in prison. There was only one person left to focus on in my mind and so that’s where my focus went everyday. I thought about killing him. I had a dream that I would go to my tenth high school reunion and shoot him with a gun.
About maybe five years after I’d left high school, probably more, maybe 6 years, at this point, I was done with graduate school and my father had died. I’d moved to Wisconsin and I got word that my mother had cancer. And so I drove from Wisconsin back to Indiana. I got to the big 1000 bed hospital that she was at, got to the sixth level of the parking garage and parked my car. And the person I’d been dreaming about for all those years, of killing, showed up. He was pulling into the same hospital. He got off from his car and he started yelling and screaming at me, using pejorative words and threatening me about how he's going to beat me up again.
And I just started laughing because I had never had an opportunity to fight one on one. And the more I laughed, the louder he got. And the louder he got, I got laughing harder and harder. And then he broke down. He started weeping and ran away. And the hate in me disappeared because I found I felt something for him. Years later, he would actually call me because he found out I was coming to teach in Indiana and he called me up, he found out where I was and he asked me for forgiveness for the harm that he had caused me. He was an alcoholic. He was in recovery, he was doing his amends.
But from the point of my telling of that moment in that garage, I have never been able to feel hate again. I could only feel forgiveness for what had happened and treat it as a learning. Certainly, for myself, in the African tradition that I am most aligned with, they believe we should always go to the water spirit and ask for forgiveness, because we are all imperfect beings. And I often go to the water spirit when I feel like I didn't do my best and I need to kind of work with myself and pray. And I certainly will go and ask people to tell me if I have hurt them -- I will ask for their forgiveness. Certainly not by conscious desire to hurt others, but there are times when we don't always know that, and that’s a kind of personal practise that I always do.
Preeta: Beautiful, and when you say that you’ll ask for their forgiveness, I assume that is in the spirit world. Or do you actually reach out to them?
Myron: Directly. I will just say, “What I did there, when I did that, I think I may have hurt you. If I did, I am really sorry. Please forgive me.” And if they have bad feelings, I will sit and listen. It is uncomfortable but I listen. But I do that as a personal practice. Fortunately, I don't have to do it too often (laughs). But I do do it, because it is important to me.
Preeta: That's great, we have a couple questions that have come in on the live web but before we get to that, I just want to take a moment. I was so moved by your story about being at the federal prison and building a relationship with the man who was the head of the KKK. And you talked about how you had to kind of really get in rhythm with him in every respect like listening, breathing, speaking and I couldn't help but think that this might be one of those ‘Don't try this at home, kids unless you know how!’ moments. And I'm curious if you could give me a little more detail as to what that really means and how one practices that.
Myron: First of all, I think it is important that you start from a place of never taking on a challenge that is bigger than you can handle. I studied Aikido and in Aikido, if the challenge is more than you can handle, if it’s more than you can stay centered in, you back off. And I think that it is really important to know your own limit. I always say that I really feel that Spirit will give us the challenge that we are most ready for. And if we are in that state of readiness, then we will be able to handle it. Go ahead but you have to have enough self-awareness to know, to use an American idiom ‘to know when to get out of Dodge’, when to get away, when to run. Other than that -- I think one must know how to stay calm, how to stay centered, how to keep your sense of your own power in yourself and to not give it to fear. And if you practice that, and that is something that we all can develop, then I think it gets easier and easier to handle these kinds of situations.
Preeta: Thank you. So one of the questions that came in on the web was how to hold trauma and it seems like as you have healed so many people and guided so many people and possibly in your own life, one has to become very skillful at holding trauma and holding that space, and I wonder if you have any insights about that.
Myron: Well it's a good question because we sometimes forget that when we witness the trauma of others, we can get secondary trauma. We ourselves can be affected by it, and in that case it really becomes important that we do self-care. In my work, in a really profound sense, I do believe that my work for a really long time was about healing the world, and that meant healing the pain and the suffering in the world, and to do that, over time, has meant that I’ve been a witness to an unbelievable amount of pain and suffering. And there are sometimes when I feel that it is more than I could hold.
And because of how much I have done, I think it is gotten to where I'm able to stay present and be in it. I am going back to what I was saying earlier about knowing your limits. To do a quick little story, when I was dealing with the refugees situation, I met this little boy who was wrapped around a cord in a refugee camp. They had at anytime, about a hundred and eighty thousand refugees. And he was in a fetal position, crying around a tent cord while the other children were playing. And he had bruises all around his body because in this case, his father who had all this anger from the torture that he had gone through, was taking it out on his family. I wanted to take that boy home. I mean I brought him (some relief), I did healing work in a very subtle way with him and he got lighter and started playing. But the thing is that I really wanted to bring thousands of these children home with me because I made a promise to myself that I would never let another child suffer the way I had. So I had to kind of back off with that.
But when you are exposed to a lot of trauma, then you have to do the best you can at staying present and understanding that sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. You don't have to know what to do, you can just listen and be present with another human being because so much of it just needs to be shared and to be honest when I go home from such spaces, I go get healing for myself because it is more than I can take in. So self-care becomes part of it too.
Preeta: Yeah, I'm curious as you're speaking. You've done a lot of interesting peacemaking work throughout the world. You're trained in psychotherapy and then you have this amazing spirit gift of healing. How much are you called into situations because of your kind of worldly knowledge like of psychotherapy or peacemaking and how much are you called in because of your spiritual healing?
Myron: Well, to be honest, it is much of the latter -- the spiritual part. Times have changed in the world and there is more acceptance of the idea that these questions are spiritual. And the other thing that is kind of weaved into this too is when you have situations that are overwhelming, when people don't know what to do, because the standard kinds of models that we use to deal with the human crisis aren’t working, a lot of systems become much more open to anybody who wants to come in, rather than just give up. And so a lot of the situations that I have been invited in are because everybody else is ready to give up. But it has always been about the spiritual part of my work.
I use gangs as an example because I worked with gangs for about 25 years or so. A lot of times with the youth at-risk, the community or the service providers give up on these children, and they'll start talking that we got to do programs with they are 5-6 year olds. We got to give up on the teenagers, they’re lost already. And I'll go in and I'll work with the teens, with these gang members and almost universally every time that I work with the gangs, one of the children will say 'Our problem are so big that only God can fix them.' Meaning that they know that the problem is the spiritual one inside themselves and so much universally the invitations I get are because of my spiritual work.
Preeta: That’s fabulous. You recently went to the Gandhi 3.0 retreat hosted by ServiceSpace in India and I wonder if you could describe briefly your experience with that.
Myron: Uh...well it was interesting because first of all my wife made me promise before I left that I wouldn't do any, I wouldn't show off any of my spiritual side. Meaning that I would just go and just immerse myself in the experience and just be present to it. And in some ways I was much more held back then I might have normally been, but it was a life-altering experience for me.
I've never have experienced so much kindness that was genuine particularly about my hearing loss, you know. I talk all the time about my hearing loss but because people see me functioning so well in the world, it's like an invisible disability. Over and over again, I had the experience of having people asking me, 'Would you like to come over here, maybe you could hear better.' I'm not sure if you just heard what they said, but this is what they said. There was this kind of you know tender care of me that moved me to tears really. And I shared about one of my great aunt's teaching about kissing your tears because they're gifts of the soul. But it was just amazing and they were amazing people. I fell in love with everybody who attended, volunteered and all of us who were invited.
It was a time of great heart. I got inspired. I continue to feel inspired because I just deeply appreciate the depth of the work that is being done already and the bigness of the vision because I think the next step is that we have to move away from the history we've had to something that really offers people a genuine relationship, you know a genuine way of being that really nourishes all of us, and it was by far the most amazing thing I have ever been at.
Preeta: Really, it's beautiful to hear. Umm..you mentioned kind of the beautiful story of growing up and having your Spirit Guide leave you and kind of be present in your dream and then reappear later in your life. Is that Spirit Guide still someone you see?
Myron: Yes, of course. Well maybe I shouldn't say of course. Yes. I have certain guides that have been with me, my whole life and they’ve been integral, you know, to me. But, and everything that has happened in my life, you know, they come to me in my dreams, they come to me in my spiritual time and whatever they tell me has always come to fruition, in some sort of manifestation, after I see them, talk with them. They’ll tell me what they want me to do next, so to speak and then it just starts to happen. And so, somehow I haven't quite answered your question but if you get it, just saying that yes, I do see them. I do talk to them all the time.
Preeta: That's fabulous! I would love to ask you to close with sharing with us some of your beautiful shamanic drumming but before we do that I'm wondering if there are other any parting advice you can offer those of us who are, you know trying to get in touch with our spirit more and to find our guide.
Myron: Yeah. Well, you know. I don't think there's a simple answer to that question. I think a lot of it is about taking the time, making the space for it. Our lives have gotten too busy, so we have to plan time to slow down. I don't think there is one spiritual method that works for everybody. You know there's no one size that fits all. But, one thing that I think is particularly helpful from the way I work, is to really take time in nature. To really get away from the hustle and bustle in our lives and to be in nature because nature has a way of healing us and teaching us and connecting with us. And if there's any one thing that I would recommend, Preeta, in finding the way that works for you, it would be to spend time in the natural world.
Preeta: Wonderful. With that, I wonder, if you can, as we move towards the close of our session together, if you would share some of your beautiful drumming with us.
Myron: I will be glad to and I am just going to share a couple of words about it and then I'll start drumming. But, you know, in the shaman tradition, they use the drum in most cultures, it's not all of them, as a way of helping us go into a light trance. And because of the some of the questions that were sent to me, I am going to ask everyone to -- when your eyes are closed and you listen to the drum, just to imagine a place that you feel connection with, that you would like to help that place. And imagine the spirit of that place and ask the spirit guarding that place if it has anything it wants to give you as a message about how you can tender and take care of that place. So I am going to drum and hopefully it can be heard through this. [Beautiful drumming at this point]
Preeta: Thank you so much. Even through the phone I felt very powerful vibrations.
Myron: The drum was happy, so happy drum today!
Preeta: Thank you. So just as we close one final question for you, for those who have been very moved and as I am sure everyone is by your words, if someone wants to work with you for personal healing, do you respond to those kind of inquiries?
Myron: Yeah, when I am able to, I do. If they look up my name online, they'll find a website with my name and they can email me.
Preeta: Right, and then one final question we ask all of our guests, 'How can we, as the broader ServiceSpace ecosystem, help support and amplify your amazing work in the world?'
Myron: Well..umm..to be honest you know my, you know, one of the things I am working on right now with the refugee project is, we are working on trying to develop some co-operative economic, kind of model for Syrian mothers who now have to generate income through their craft, art, cookbook that we are working on. And anyone that can help with web design ideas about how to, maybe have been doing those types of things, it would be great to have that input.
And, the other is hoping to put on a major music concert in 2019 for the refugees, in Jordan, with Nimo, for those of who you know Nimo, who has been coming there. We would like to bring more and more musicians, both from the region and from outside, who want to be part of that. Both of those visions, anyway that anybody can support those visions, it would be great.
Preeta: Fabulous! Myron and Gayathri, thank you so much for a beautiful conversation. Myron, thank you for sharing your phenomenal journey with us.
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