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Mary Sojourner M.A
Mary Sojourner M.A

Mixin' Up Some Medicine:with George, Peter, Rumi and Silence

Good Medicine; there is no prescription.

i'm curious as to whether silence ended up being a useful tool for you, or whether it remains a place of terror? i suspect that the terror it inspired was a function of the crazy whirl of your life at the time, and that it became kindlier as you were able to forsake the whirl. i think of silence as binary: first it's an absence of other, often confusing, inputs. Second, it's a world unto itself, which opens you to inputs you want and need, but in such a way as to allow understanding. that's understanding as opposed to control: 'perfect' silence as i see it is a perfect solvent that always breaks down illusions, including that of control. ---George Michelsen Foy, comment on Mystery Tramp

Poisons and medicine are oftentimes the same substance given with different intents. -Peter Mere Latham, physician and educator (1789-1875)

It takes more than one alchemist to mix up good medicine. Good medicine is the potion that does not cure you instantly. Good medicine will not require another medicine to undo its side-effects. Some good medicines are, in the wrong amounts, at the wrong times, poisons. Good medicine will not add to the bulging coffers of a corporate pharmaceutical company nor allow that company's CEO and primary share-holders to buy their fourth mansion in a gated Western fortress. Good medicine is an elixir you may want to take for the rest of your life.

When I wrote my first Who Are You? post, a few readers responded. I'll protect anonymity for those who wrote, but when George Michelsen Foy commented on Mystery Tramp, I knew some connections had begun to light up and I asked him if I could quote him. An old friend once wrote me: "I don't think we toss out threads and receive them. I think the threads are already there and for some reason, who really knows why, some of them begin to glow." George said, "Yes, of course."

This post is the first in a series on good medicine. You may have found yourself in a time when nothing works. You may long for mending. Perhaps external losses have gutted you. Perhaps the complex chemistry of your brain has you reeling. Perhaps you are consumed with old rage, with hopeless longing, with a nattering in your mind that won't leave you alone. You've tried so much - therapy, medication, yoga, positive thinking, taping affirmations to your mirrow that remind you that you are good enough or god doesn't make junk or today is the first day of the rest of your life. And still you brush your teeth, suit up and show up and wonder why you would want the rest of your life to be like today. It's not that you don't want to live. You just want a break.

In future posts I'll teach you about the muddy cow theory of mending and the magic forty minutes that always works and the stolen-from-a-wise-woman- action-that-you-won't-want-to-do---and when you do it, you can't understand why you haven't done it before. None of these good medicines are some shocking new discovery. They are old. Ancient. They are the medicine you already contain in your body and your wise hungry mind.

We will start with the good medicine that is almost impossible to swallow. Why not begin with the most difficult? By now, you know that palliative measures only give you temporary relief. (Forgive me if I assume that you and I are kin, that we want, as all wise animals want, only to be fed and warm and comfortable).

I woke this morning afraid. I wake every morning afraid. It's the nature of my nervous system. It's the nature of this first years of gambling recovery. There is a postcard on the wall next to my bed on which there is a sumi stroke of purple iris and the words:

Today like every other day
We wake up empty and scared.
Don't open the door of your study
And begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do
There are hundreds of way to kneel
And kiss the earth. ---Rumi

I try to go back to sleep. You may know how that is. The bed is warm, the Northwest April air coming through the window wet and cool. I turn on one side, then another. The nattering has already begun. What if what if what if... Rumi's words are empty. I'm weary of what doesn't work. I want to feel better now.

I get up, put on my friggin' de-caf coffee (caffeine kicks up the nattering), start a fire in the woodstove, take seed to the birds, pick up three logs for the fire, come back into the little house and feed the cats. The nattering persists. I want to check email, check Facebook, check how many people have read She Bets Her Life - I want a fix.

I bring de-caf and prayer beads to the rocker in front of the stove. I have to be at my other job in three hours. Writing ratchets in me like a case of internal poison ivy. I want to get busy, be productive, push the emerging new book on aging into shape. Instead I begin my morning mantra: for the furthering of all sentient beings; and the protection of earth, air and water---and stop. Even the mantra is another hedge against what's inside me. I set the beads on the old roll-top desk and fold my hands in my lap. I sit with silence.

Perhaps a half hour later, I pick up my prayer beads. There has been no miracle. My head aches. I want to run. I want control. But,there is one consolation:

You already have the precious mixture that will make you well. Use it. ---Rumi

About the Author
Mary Sojourner M.A

Mary Sojourner, M.A., is the author of She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction (Seal Press/ April 2010) and Going Through Ghosts (U.Nevada Press, 2010).