Friday, April 10, 2009

Aboriginal healing restores natural balance

In Melbourne’s The Age, Andrew Stephens writes about a group of dancers and musicians, from Arnhem Land, visiting Victoria’s sites of the devastating bushfires in "Spirit songs of healing".
"Healing can seem largely mysterious. In a world where so much is deeply traumatic ― where wealth and poverty are in extreme, where fragile ecologies, economies and weather systems are collapsing, where faiths bicker, where our psyches and spirits are besieged ― the energy, respect and care required for healing and renewal might seem all too scarce and difficult.
Contemporary philosopher Thomas Moore writes in Care of the Soul(1992) that caring for ourselves ― not just for our physical bodies ― does not mean curing, fixing, changing, adjusting or making healthy. Instead, he writes, we need to attend to soul with "an application of poetics to everyday life". That sounds abstract, but perhaps it is about sitting with the emotions and evolving in some enigmatic way ― something the arts, beauty and sharing with other people might help us to do in addition to professional help.
Those who lived through the bushfires might naturally have incredible rage towards the brutal Australian landscape ― towards trees and fire and smoke and wind, towards the terrible confluence of circumstances that burnt so much life away. The indigenous approach to healing, in which everything is seen in relationship, perhaps has much to offer in its generous way. Land, people, spirituality: for our indigenous peoples, these cannot be treated in isolation.

It is a holism expressed beautifully by Gregory Phillips, a Waanyi and Jaru man from north-west Queensland who works in Melbourne as a medical anthropologist and who has long been involved with healing in Aboriginal education, land councils, youth and health sectors by developing community recovery programs. Healing of an individual, a family, community; or healing at a political level, or healing of country: they are all connected, he says. People, land, waterways, animals: they are in relationship together.

"Mainstream Western healing is concerned with the physical and the mental," says Phillips. "It doesn't understand or deal very well with the spiritual or emotional part of health. Aboriginal healing is essentially about restoring balance. It's all about relationships - about healing the individual, but also their relationships in the world. The thing is, in the Aboriginal world we are all connected, everything is connected.

"For us to survive, we have to look after our country. The land needs its people. For us, it's all about looking after those dreaming places we come from."

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