Novelist, Poet, Community Healer & Medicine Woman

Deena is a wise woman in every traditional and modern sense of the word. She’s one of the many healers and leaders who inspire me as they revive the ancient practice of community elderhood.

As a poet, writer, and developer of therapies she calls “Healing Stories,” Deena’s work with community, dreams, oracles, divination, omens, and the collective field of healing has profoundly impacted my own healing practice.  The Community Healers’ Council I held monthly in Calgary was deeply shaped by the week-long Healers’ Councils I attended at Deena’s house in Topanga Canyon, just north of LA.

The question Deena poses: “How do we become the ones the Spirits trust to carry the healing into the future?” may be the most important one modern people can ask ourselves in these times. If we are to act on behalf of a healthy future for all beings, we must fundamentally change who we are and how we live in our world. It’s not about what we do, it’s about who we must first become in order to to see and follow the path that will truly bring healing.

As Deena teaches, the answer is to be found when we can truly enter into council with all beings, seen and unseen, past present and future. When we learn to hear all the stories and all the voices, then the excluded parts can be brought home and healing can happen. We must learn to think in stories, and to honour that both the causes and the healing of the afflictions we face are held in the small and large stories we tell ourselves about them.  And it’s not a linear process.

“We are called to share the stories we carry so that we can live within them.” Deena writes, “We need to speak the stories that shape us as a people and teach us how to live with the earth and each other. We are called to story, to language and to enact the new, true, ancient, desperate beauty ways that we are called to live. We need to be with each other in the story and language that describes and so creates the world for which we are longing.”

Deena says, “Beauty appears when something is completely and absolutely and openly itself.” I see that truth again and again in my work with dying and grieving people and their families. When they can find the courage and support to meet what really is, as it “completely and absolutely and openly” is, beauty can emerge from even the darkest and most difficult situations.

The ability to see illness and loss as a means to profound spiritual transformation, when held in the alchemical container of community ritual,  is one of the many gifts I’ve gratefully received from Deena.

To learn more about Deena and her work, visit her website.

Deena has written many books, two of my favourites are: Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing and From Grief to Vision: A Council

Finally, you can listen to an interview with her here: Seeing through Indigenous Eyes: Weaving Community Dreams, Stories and Spirit