The topic for the beginning of this year's blog is on ancient Southern African Healing Wisdom
Before starting a little background is in order.
In 1981 after teaching at Stanford and spending a year in Seattle I began a private urology practice in Santa Barbara California. Santa Barbara felt like home but a small part of me was still in Africa. After a mid-life crisis brought on by the hardships of private practice and a deteriorating marriage I took the American part of me back to the Kalahari desert to reunite with its African mate. I spent a precious month with the Kalahari San Bushmen, the last hunter-gatherers of a troubled continent experiencing their intimacy with nature and feeling their untainted spirit. From that experience I began to formulate a theory around the use of wilderness for spiritual practice and with my new-found yoga practice distilled this into a philosophy of the how to’s of “wilderness rapture”. This led to my first book about the "yoga" or healing power of nature. At the same time I founded Inward Bound and began to take people into remote wilderness areas for restoration and self-transformation. I continued my private practice with renewed equanimity and balanced my life with yoga and periodic trips into the big “gun” of self-restoration, the outback.
When I went back to South Africa with groups I began to consult the local shamans or sangomas. I would ask them questions that had to do with the upcoming Inward Bound journey (or about any conflict in my life.) They would throw the bones and answer politely and sagely. However, invariably they would look at me and add, “the bones, they say you should be doing this work, the bones say you should be doing African medicine, your grandmother’s bone is telling you to be initiated, your ancestors want you back here in Africa to complete this!” After the sixth such reading, all of them given by different sangomas, none of whom who knew each other, I began to pay attention. Eventually out of frustration for my reticence the ancestors revealed themselves directly through a woman sangoma who went into a trance. They told me in no uncertain terms that I was ignoring my destiny and needed to be trained or undergo thwasa. She added that until such time as I relented and committed myself my ancestors or thwasa sickness, viz. my severe migraines would not go away (she had no way of knowing I was getting migraines.)
I found an elderly Zulu sangoma in Swaziland who agreed to teach me if the ancestors agreed. He threw the bones and there was no dispute. The training began on the cusp of the millennium. P.H. Mntshali (below) my teacher said to me, “you have to tell the white people that they have lost the way. They need to know that the cause of many of the problems in the West is neglect of the ancestral spirits. This knowledge will help you get back to what we in Africa know.”
This new blog will be dealing with what this wisdom has to teach the West.