WALKING MY MEDICINE
I am an apprentice to the Earth. Within that relationship I'm often asked by Spirit to take the time to be with the Elements that make up the fabric of her skin. In the teachings I've received that’s often referred to as walking your medicine.
What does it mean to "walk my medicine?" The word "walk" reminds me that I'm going on foot. I only have to think a few minutes about what it means for me to walk into town (a 20 minute drive in the car) to be reminded that walking that distance would take much longer. I'd see every nuance of the landscape around me, feel the heat of the sun on my back, feel the texture of the ground under my feet. That car-fast 20 minutes would unfold like a good book. I'd get tired, have to rest, wrestle with my mind who likes to sprint instead of crawl. I'd want to eat a snack and drink some water. I'd also probably like to get to my destination way before I would be able to arrive on foot. Walking would remind me to look around, take in the landscape one bite at a time. Walking might even remind me that it's not about actually arriving. Instead it would invite me to slow down and appreciate the journey.
The word "medicine" comes to us from the Latin, "medicina" which is the art practiced by the "medicus" or physician. The root of that word is "media" which is the middle way or balance. This balance could be restored by the "medicus" who would give us herbs and prayers to balance our dis-ease. So, suddenly, as I "walk my medicine" I am a healer (both to myself and others who come into my circle of life). Medicine reminds me it's an art. It's not a rule book, a diagram or a list handed to me by anyone else. It's art! Something I'm passionate about. It's creative. I get to explore it. The painting arises from within me and takes form out in the tangible world, on canvas, where others can see it.
Just a simple understanding of those words reminds me that when I walk my medicine I'm passionate about it and I'm engaged in the longer journey of exploring how that medicine rises within me and moves out into the world. I have known women with a lot of different kinds of medicine they devote their lives to: dance, song, organizing, raising children, quiet contemplation, drumming, carrying pipe. The list of medicines is endless; the common thread is passion and devotion.
One of the medicines I walk is Fire. When I focus on that experience I can see threads that remind me about what walking fire medicine is all about. It is a journey that has arisen from within me through an invitation from Fire itself.
I am a Physician of Fire. I know at least five other women and one man who walk with the same medicine. Each of us sees and respects that the other carries fire even if each way looks different. One woman can sit with fire deeply, build a campfire, know the structure of its bones and the way the fire will choose to consume the wood. One woman's gift is sparking fire from flint and steel, knowing how to tend the singular spark until it ignites in the palm of her hand and is fed to the wood until it becomes heat for everyone around. The man who carries fire carries many tools to spark fire with and knows ways to bed down a fire so it emerges quiet again in the sleeping morning.
My gift of walking fire has taught me about the moment that the flame consumes the wood, the moment that the hard physicality of the wood opens wide and wild like a door and becomes big like the night sky. My medicine of walking fire is about the process of transformation. It's taught me how each person lets go of what is old and gradually integrates what is new. Fire teaches me that the tangible physical reality naturally releases into flames, smoke, ashes, prayers and a new life through the heat of experience and relationship with others.
Walking any medicine gives me something to be in deep conversation with for a long time. I heard a woman say, "I know fire. I've tended fires." In response I would say, "I'm learning fire. Each fire I tend the rest of my life will have something different to teach me. If I watch closely and tend the fire as if it's my best friend the fire will show me its many different faces, will teach me how to be in relationship with its unique personality in this moment." And from that careful attention I will be blessed with lessons and stories I can apply to my life, the way I live it each and every day.
You can know deep inside you have a medicine to walk. A friend who really sees you can call you out and encourage you to further explore a gift they see you have or Spirit can call you into a medicine in the most unlikely way.
When I was in the midst of a three day vision quest I was told by Spirit that flute was my medicine. The only thing I could do on the mountain that day was laugh. I'm not musical at all. The voice that told me about my medicine was very specific: go buy a Native American flute within three days, don't use any sheet music or get a teacher to help you learn to play it, sit in nature and find your way, don't let anyone else blow through that flute, don't drum or rattle or play any other instrument than that flute for six months.
Truthfully, I was afraid about how specific and unswerving that voice was so I followed those directions. It wasn't an easy path. When I first played the flute the only thing it would do was squawk. There were so many days I just wanted to look on the internet to find music to play so it would sound like something, but instead I listened to the voice. After playing the flute for just a few weeks I was told to take it to herb school with me and play in the garden. My response was, "No way. There will be at least twenty other people there and they will hear me."
What I've learned from taking the flute into the garden to play for the plants is that the humble sound I made actually touched the people who heard and the whole earth around me was blessed. The flute has taught me how to live my life as a hollow reed with Spirit blowing through me. I've whistled in fires with the flute, the way you'd call a friendly dog to your side. I've learned that the air blowing through my flute can actually draw wind out of a stone still sky. I have musical conversations with bees, the sky and grasses which just helps me pay attention deeply to life around me. I carry my flute as often as others carry their cell phones.
Walking my medicine is magic. It blesses me while it teaches me to be awake. Carefully laying a fire, lighting it attentively, tending it intuitively, feeding it with chocolate and copal, watching until the very last of its light dies to black and ash is medicine that heals those around me. I don't have to tell anyone that's my medicine. Tending the fire with all my attention and love speaks all the words that need to be said. What is your medicine? Are you willing to pick it up and see where it leads you this next month, next year, next four years? In exploring your medicine you already share its healing with others. Who are you? Physician of.....