Tag Archives: healing

Nothing Virtual About It

Reid Dickie

Six weeks after I had double bypass heart surgery in 2002, I wrote this piece about healing and prayer circles.

Before we got our home desktop, whenever my computer-literate friends would talk about virtual reality, virtual communities, virtual museums, virtual anything, I would smile, nod and appear to know exactly what they meant. I didn’t, of course.

I understood the word ‘virtual’ and the concept they were using it to support but I was not adequate to their meaning of the term. It was the context I was missing. I didn’t have the necessary tool to create the possibility of something/anything being ‘virtual’ in my life. That changed the day I unpacked the computer. Soon I’d be keenly aware of the new meaning of this word ‘virtual’.

It was Valentine’s Day 2002 when I found out I needed double-bypass heart surgery. The stress test, angiogram and nuclear heart scan all pointed to the same conclusion: two of my coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. Surgery was recommended though not urgent since I could function with medication and moderation.

Ten years before, at age forty-two, I’d had a heart attack shoveling snow on another February day. It was my wake-up call! I paid attention. Changing my diet, habits and attitude, and walking twenty miles a week for a year at a rehabilitation-fitness centre saved my life. I had ten good years before my “genetic predisposition” caught up with me. The cousin who minds the family tree mentioned how many of my male predecessors had heart problems and attacks. The surgeon who performed the bypasses commented on how I’d gotten a bit of a raw deal genetically since I was slim, otherwise healthy and “young.”

There is a limit to the amount of responsibility for one’s situation you can attribute to “genetic predisposition.” The guilty food pleasures, the walks I should have taken but didn’t, the negative thoughts and aggression that always work against the heart; this is where my responsibility lay, how I started to jam up my own arteries. And now the consequence, the feedback was making itself known. Heart surgery!

Nothing virtual about it. This was a problem at the level of matter and meat. It was something we could fix, do fix everyday, almost routinely, with modern medical tools and skills. A re-arranging of arteries and veins, the right drugs for the various stages of the procedure and afterwards, the pump to take over from the heart and lungs, the drainage pathways required, the restricted movements to allow proper healing of bone and flesh – all this we are very accomplished at doing.

I had the surgery in mid-June. With at least six weeks of recovery after the operation, some financial planning had to be arranged and I needed to research the surgery and the alternatives. I spent many hours online reading about the heart, bypass surgery – often in full colour graphic detail – and the other resources available.

After weighing the alternatives, Linda and I decided the surgery would be my best option at this stage of life. I was strong and healthy enough to survive it intact, we were confident about the skills of the surgeon and the surgical staff.

One idea I came up with during this time was to create a prayer circle of family and friends online and elsewhere when the day of my operation neared; a ‘virtual’ prayer circle as one of my friends dubbed it.

As resilient and resourceful as the human body is, it necessarily houses a spirit that requires expression in the world and thrives on love exchanged between beings. That was what I wanted to tap into with the prayer circle.

I was on the cardiac surgery waiting list four weeks. On a Friday, I got my date. It would be in one week. Linda and I kept the date to ourselves during the weekend giving us a chance to mull it over and feel more settled about the whole procedure. It weighed heavy on my mind.

When we live more intensely, as in a pre-operative state, life begins to manifest itself in ways that are necessary and appropriate. As we began to inform family and friends about the surgery date, something wonderful happened! When we shared the burden of knowing, an increasing lightness started to grow in both Linda and me. The simple act of sharing the burden relieved the weightiness of the immediate future. With each successive person we informed, anxiety melted away. An unexpected confidence started to build in me, complete certainty that this was the right thing to do.

Two days before surgery I emailed the prayer circle request to about 25 family and friends. It was straightforward with date and time of surgery, approximate hospital recovery time and a simple sincere request:

“Please join together in a circle of love during and after my surgery with your prayers and positive energy. Your loving help means so much to us at this time and will aid in my full and speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing in my healing. Now that you have read this, the healing has already begun!”

Several people emailed me right back with their messages of hope and loving support. The rest I felt in my heart. On surgery eve, I was awash in the positive energies and expressions of love generated by the prayer circle; bliss in full measure took over my being. It was palpable. Linda felt it too. I had invoked the healing interplay between body, mind and spirit and wept at the sheer perfection of its unfolding. I was ready for the repairs!

 There was nothing virtual about it. The reality of love and friendship, expressed with singular intent across many miles from many sources, converged in me. This aura of love carried me through the surgery, the immediate recovery and onto the ward where I spent four days. I basked in the afterglow of this healing intent, aware of how it was fueling my recovery, abetting the natural regenerative abilities of my body and lifting me when I felt some post-operative depression.

This outpouring of loving support manifested in other ways. It helped me sustain a positive attitude during my hospital stay. The people who noticed this immediately were those angels of mercy, the nurses. They’d seen people deal with this same situation in all manner of ways, some more successful than others.  Maybe it was my spiritual preparedness or the intangible support that I brought with me; whatever it was, the nurses and staff recognized something extra was happening.

Looking back on this I now realize what was happening: the ‘virtual’ was being made real in the world. The prayers and loving intent that I asked for ‘virtually’ online became my reality. While the computer tool made the virtual prayer circle possible, it was the spirit and expression of our loving first nature that made it real in the world. I was living those special conditions.

And what was my responsibility? The answer came to me with such brash certainty I could not ignore it. It made perfect sense. The only way I could repay my family and friends for their limitless sharing of love was to recover fully, completely. It would answer their prayers. It was the exchange the special conditions demanded.

In the six weeks after the surgery, my recovery was nothing short of remarkable. My heart, with its new stamina, allowed me the increasing exercise I needed, the flesh and bone healed with little scarring and no infection. An unexpected benefit of the procedure was increased creativity. Suddenly I had all this extra blood flowing to my brain causing fresh new ideas to spew out of me. For a writer that’s almost a miracle! One of the risks of heart bypass surgery is cognitive decline. For the exact opposite to happen is an unexpected bonus.

The fact is, love lives large in the world and, when focused, produces amazing results! The love shared by my family and friends merged with Linda’s unconditional love and devotion resulting in a perfect healing environment for body, mind and spirit. Nothing virtual about it.

Read an earlier post about my heart surgery.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Family, Hope, Linda, Love, Momentous Day, Spirit

My Fixer-Upper – Nine Years Ago Today

Reid Dickie

Nine years ago today my body was opened and a man held my heart in his hands. Good Dr. Singh, with whom I had established an immediate positive pre-op rapport, sawed my sternum in half, separated my ribs and changed the landscape of my heart. Specifically he performed a double coronary artery bypass graft (CABG or double cabbage) by taking a vein from my lower right leg and connecting it to my heart so blood bypassed a blockage. He did the same thing with an existing artery behind my heart. During this procedure, my heart was stopped, a machine kept me vital while the reconstruction occurred. Then the team wired my sternum back together, closed me up and sent me to ICU where I remained all night until gaining the step-down room in the morning. That first day, one day after the surgery, they had me up and walking even though I was thoroughly attached to various medical devices. Four days later I was released from hospital and into Linda’s amazing care. I couldn’t have survived it without her constant loving presence and compassion.

The surgery was a real fixer-upper for me. I was given a new life! The two grafts remain open and functioning to their maximum as shown by an angiogram in January. On this anniversary I have great gratitude. Thank you Dr. Singh and your skilful hands. Thank you Linda for your sweet bedside manner and thank you to my friends who prayed for me and partook of the prayer circle that held me firmly in warm security.

Another post about my heart surgery is called Nothing Virtual About It.

You can read my account of a dream I had my first night home after the double CABG surgery on my About page.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Family, Hope, Life and Life Only, Linda, Momentous Day, Spirit

Finding Spirit on the Canadian Shield

Reid Dickie

Today my young friend Troy, who also practises shamanism, and I drove out to Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba which encompasses part of the southwestern edge of the vast Canadian Shield, the oldest rock in the world. Our intent was to visit Bannock Point Petroforms. The day was cloudy and cool.

To get to the site, we passed through Rennie, MB, proudly optimistic as you can see. Two hours outside Winnipeg we arrived at the petroform site. After smudging with sweetgrass and bringing ourselves into the moment we walked the short path to the stones.

Webbed Flight, my spirit helper, walked this very land 1200 years ago and today has free rein. He sings, cries, laughs, prays and dances around the large ceremonial circle laid out around a small stand of old pine trees festooned with colourful cloths. Webbed Flight’s gestures, postures, ancient language, song and spirit connection all found expression in me today around the old lichened rocks. Webbed Flight “lived again at home.”

We spent two hours communing and being present with Spirit, ending off with Troy and I drumming around the circle. We came away feeling refreshed, regenerated, very calm and peaceful. This evening, as I write this, the relaxed and happy feeling from Bannock Point and its ancient rocks still floods my consciousness. I am grateful to Spirit for yet another rejuvenation. It was a good day.

I took a few pictures of the various animal and human forms. The first is a horse, maybe, with a smaller version below its mouth. Next is the torso and legs of a human form, the rest of the body disturbed. And last is an abstract shape I found near the ceremonial circle. Click to enlarge.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Local History, Old Souls, Parks, Sacred Places, Spirit

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY NINE

MINTON TURTLE EFFIGY

July 19, 2010

“Stoned in the original sense of the word”

“The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.”

Sioux proverb

            Cast 65 feet across the top of the highest hill around lies an intact outline in stones of a huge turtle. Its shell is a large rock carapace out of which grows a bluff of chokecherries. While some smaller turtle effigies were markers to indicate water in the direction the turtle faced, this site, over 2000 years old, served a more spiritual purpose. This is a dancing ground, a ceremonial site.

This stock picture shows the stone Turtle effigy laid out with the pile of stones at the centre of its shell. The head is in the foreground and the body  widely surrounds the bushes and rockpile.

             I imagine the undulating hills around filled with angular tents and soft plumes of white smoke and above them, the sacred turtle. The hill I stand on and those I see to the northwest are part of the eastern edge of the Missouri Coteau. The Continental Divide passes just north of here. Below and to the south of the effigy you can see the white alkaline east end of Big Muddy Lake. Since the effigy is next to a plowed field, I always express gratitude that is remains here at all and recognize how close it came to being destroyed. I never miss the irony of our modern definition of energy as it is pulled out of the ground and stored in the oil storage area below the effigy.

            The hills around the Turtle Effigy are velvet and verdant this year with all the moisture. Sloughs that haven’t existed in decades reappeared this year. Rolling hills and the good gravel transport me to the site. That old familiar tingling in my hips and spine and the skin tightening around my face starts as I near Turtle.

            One change since Chris and I were here a month ago is the access road, then knee deep in weeds, now graded with the weeds towering along the side of the short trail up to the site. I park several hundred feet away from the site.

            After smudging myself with sweetgrass in the car, I approach Turtle singing my power song. Overhead a red-tailed hawk, eternal guardian, cries on the updrafts. I walk the outer circle of stones as I sing my power song. I feel recognized and welcomed as I stand at Turtle’s head, waiting. I am welcomed into the effigy.

                  Illustration of Minton Turtle effigy

           At the centre of Turtle is a pile of rocks out of which grows a thicket of chokecherry bushes. On the leeside there is an indentation in the tall grass. I left this indentation there a month ago, maybe it has been reinforced by sleeping deer. As happened last month, I am thrown to the ground on this spot and lay on the hot earth with the hot sun pouring over it all. Out of the wind with the grass walling me in, I am filled with amazing warmth that transcends sensation and just simply is, here and now. I feel blissful in my little space, enclosed but connected, at home, at ease.

            After a few minutes I stand, rather wobbly, and thank Turtle for the healing. It’s time to leave an offering but not before I walk back to the car and take a breather from the intensity of the place. I must be vigilant about how much of this energy I can handle at one time. Turtle will provide but in small doses.

            As I meditate on an offering in the car, the prairie breeze weaves the tall grass into a subtle floating song. A month ago, my offering was a flyaway – some beads and feathers I strung together – which I left flying from one of the chokecherry bushes on the carapace. Though tangled it still flutters there.

            Turtle indicates an offering of water would be appropriate this visit. I fill my water bottle from a jug of Winnipeg water I carry with me. Singing my power song, I approach the head of Turtle and spray water on the rocks that form its large head. Once the water is gone, I stand, eyes closed, still, silent, present, waiting, waiting.

             Turtle’s message to me is sudden and clear – be happy! It’s not a reiteration of Linda’s “be happy” but an entirely new kind of “be happy”, one that grows out of me, a happiness that burns from within me. I start to laugh and laugh. When I open my eyes three little yellow butterflies dance happily, dizzily, in the air over the grass. I start to laugh at their perfect antics and they become funnier and funnier. I am stoned in the original sense of the word.

            How seldom we find perfection yet, here, atop the highest hill within view, I have found perfection – simple, direct, unmitigated perfection. I feel the presence and love of all the generations who came here before me to pray, to worship, to seek this perfection. Laughing voices ripple up the side of the hill toward me. Now and then, a sharp keening quells the laughter and a moment of sorrow arrives, abides then passes. Perfection.

             I return to the car for a break and sip home water for the day is hot, the sun very near today. I approach the effigy again, singing my power song and am asked to attend the heart stone. Every effigy I have seen has included a heart stone placed where the heart of the animal would be. In Turtle’s case, the heart stone is a small bed of stones about three feet square on the upper left side of the form. I stand at the heart stone, waiting. I have sat on this heart stone before and been given gentle direction and urgings. This time the message is immediately clear.

            Battleship clouds have sailed by all day, their moving shadows I can see coming for miles across the rolling land. I am told to lay my naked body on the heart stone in the sunshine. I stand and wait for the cloud to pass, strip and lay face down on the heart stone. The tall grass encloses me. The energy of the stones overwhelms me, I am immersed in a heat that burns somehow outside and inside of me at once. I begin to sweat, especially my face, arms and chest. The hairs on the back of my neck bristle and I feel a little nausea arise. I realize I am also crying a little.

            In a few minutes I am covered in shadow again, present and aware, still sweating, waiting for the return of the sun. In sunshine, I roll onto my back. At that moment, I realize what is happening to me. I am purging small painful knots of grief. The heart stone is pulling me fiercely toward it. Sun and stone hold me in place, in safety. I feel relief, a lightness I haven’t known in months. Be happy.

            Turtle’s heart stone drained me of some aspects of grief I had been struggling with the last few months. Specifically, Turtle relieved me of the remorse and regret that frequently overwhelmed me. Though mild, my depression lessened significantly after this day. Nature abhors a vacuum. My sorrow was replaced with love, Linda’s love, Turtle’s love, elemental love the springs from simply being, as Spirit just reminded me.

 Incredible 10-mile vista from Turtle effigy! That’s Big Muddy Lake in the middle distance, most summers a dry white bed of alkali but this wet year filled with blue water.

            I wait for the next shadow then stand a little unsteadily. As I thank Turtle for the generosity and comfort, I look down at the heart stone and, darkening the rocks, is my sweat. As it evaporates in the heat, I feel even lighter, freer, knowing I am leaving behind something I no longer need.

            I am leaving something else of me as well. The shape of my body is pressed into the tall grass growing out of and around the heart stone, my delicate effigy carved in grass, humble, unsubstantial. 

            How did this happen? These experiences are so site-specific that it is usually quite hard to reduce them to words. It is elemental. Earth, air, water are evident elements that exist in our bodies. Fire is somewhat different, more obscure. Often this refers to the fire that burns at 98.6 degrees within us but we are able to burn in other ways. Fire connects us to more evolved parts of ourselves.

            One aspect of shamanism is the ability to create, under certain circumstances, inner heat that radiates outward into the world. When combined with specific intent, our inner heat can burn away unwanted or unnecessary parts of us, purging them, healing us. That is what happened at Turtle that hot July afternoon.

            Humans have used burning grounds through the millennia as a way of cleansing ourselves. Sometimes Nature purges imperfections from our bodies with high fevers. From my power song and my open awareness, Turtle recognized what I needed to burn away and offered the means for that to happen. All I had to do was be present, aware and open in the burning ground and Spirit moved through me. The experience integrates the three basic elements of my being: physical contact (naked on the heart stone), mental settling (being present and open) and spiritual touching (purging the grief). Such a simple technique. Call it an inner technology.

            My role in this, besides grateful, present recipient, is to integrate those three parts into a whole and healthier thing called Reid Dickie. I’m up to the challenge.

DAY TRIPPING

NEUBERGTHAL

July 13, 2010

            Neubergthal is one of the best preserved single street Mennonite villages in North America. Located southeast of Altona, the tiny spot is part of the West Reserve set aside for Mennonites when they immigrated to Canada in the late 1800s.

          The outstanding features of Neubergthal are the eight intact housebarns aligned along the street, actually Provincial Road 421. The traditional building style shows characteristic Mennonite architecture with house and barn connected. In the 1990s, local people organized to save the buildings, many of them unique in Canada. Today a fully restored housebarn interpretive centre complete with a functioning Russian bake heater offer visitors a glimpse into a bygone era and lifestyle.

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Filed under Pioneer Village, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism