by Janie Brown
For many years, I have been interested in how different medicine people around the world understand the concept of "soul loss." Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist, writer and teacher, studied the traditions of shamanic societies. These words from her book The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Healer, Teacher and Visionary describe the four universal healing salves:
“If you went to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, he or she would ask you four questions:
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
When we stop dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence we experience loss of the soul. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.”
I met Deborah Cohan in January this year, when a few of the Callanish team attended the Healing Circles Retreat at Commonweal, Bolinas, California, with people from other centres around North America doing similar work. I had encountered Dr. Deb (as she is affectionately known) a few months earlier, via a YouTube video that had gone viral. Dr. Deb’s story inspired me so much that I’d like to share it with you. I think she has figured out how to enliven the lost soul not just for her own healing but also for the healthcare professionals in her life. Needless to say, she got our group of forty dancing around the dinner table one evening!
In Deb’s words from her Facebook page ...
“After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my fantasy was for my friends and family to join me virtually while I danced in my little hospital gown and bouffant cap in the Mt. Zion operating room with the team before my double mastectomy. I asked my family and friends to play Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" and dance wherever they happen to be the morning of my surgery. I wanted to feel my community's energy just prior to surgery, I wanted to bring my full, joyful, open self to the operating room, I wanted to connect with my OR team using my favorite medium, DANCE, and I wanted to watch videos of my friends and family dancing while recovering after surgery.
My fantasy came true: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPdheFjRm4E
Learn more about Deb’s work: www.embodiedmedicine.org
Janie Brown is the Executive Director and co-founder of Callanish. She has worked with people with cancer and their families for over 30 years, including several years as a clinical nurse specialist at the BC Cancer Agency and over 20 years in her oncology counselling practice. She also writes for her blog www.lifeindeath.org.