Curanderismo class at University of New Mexico | Image source: Curanderismo at UNM Facebook page
For the last few years I’ve been researching and training in a practice called curanderismo. In Spanish curar means “to heal” and so curanderismo is the art of healing. Next week I’ll be in Albuquerque for a 2-week program called “Traditional Medicine Without Borders: Curanderismo in the Southwest and Mexico”. I’m very excited that I’ll be sharing my teachings and experience with MUSKRAT readers as I take this journey.
The tradition of this specific form of curanderismo has evolved out of a number of influences:
- Indigenous healing practices throughout the region
- West and East African traditions brought by Black peoples once enslaved in the region and
- Islamic medical science, which was practiced in Spain until the Inquisition.
- Spanish folk medicine as practiced at the time of colonization
More recently Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayerveda (traditional Hindu medicine) have informed the work of curanderismo’s healers. Since all of these practices are based on different knowledge ways you would wonder if they might be contradictory or at least confusing. But somehow they all work quite beautifully together. In upcoming posts we will look at what all these practices bring to the art of curanderismo and why we might consider it an “art”.
In this first post I’d like to share some basic teachings I am bringing with me into this course. None of these teachings should be new to Indigenous folks on Turtle Island. This knowledge and so much more has been understood by our healers for millennia.
First, all healing is self-healing. Other people can give you information, treatments, medicines and other supports (like prayer and ceremony) but the work of healing is yours. Even mainstream medical professionals admit that their drugs and treatments don’t compare to the body’s self-healing ability. Healing is an inside job. We are designed to self-heal and often it doesn’t take much effort at all. You heal yourself of potential illness every single day. Without you giving it a thought, your body routinely expels toxins, kills microbes and repairs tissue damage. Some of us even grow babies and the milk to nourish them.
What’s more, although everyone will experience illness and injury in life, most of us know that the prevention of illness goes well beyond the standard information we are given about diet and exercise. It also has to do with how we use our minds and hearts as well as the state of our relationships to land, life and Spirit Beings. We will explore more about this in upcoming posts.
Another principal underlying my healing work is that of connection: mind, body, spirit and environment are not separate from each other. For example, what happens to your mind, impacts your body; what happens to your body impacts your spirit; what happens to your environment impacts you and everyone. In curanderismo an injury to one is literally an injury to all.
All forms of life, all beings on the Earth and beyond interact with each other all the time, from moment to moment. The ways we do this are many. Some examples: we produce and receive particles of light that bounce around the universe exchanging information. Our energy fields like those of electro magnetism and what scientists are now calling torsion are in constant conversation with those of Our Relations, including the Sun, Moon, Mother Earth and all Sky Beings. Most of us are aware of how sound waves affect our feelings and thoughts but we are sometimes unaware that they also leave their mark on our physical bodies. We are in a constant state of communicating, adjusting to and affecting one another – for better and worse.
Finally, the word “healing” does not mean curing or fixing. Healing is a process of becoming well. “Wellness” in this sense is not a perfect state of health; it’s the ability to respond appropriately to what is going on within and around you, so that you can function as “well” as possible in your world. Wellness is also about growth; growing your knowledge, wisdom and spirit. In this way, healing and wellness is not something you leave to “professionals”. You have power over your wellbeing. In fact, you have the ultimate power and there are medicines all around you in the sunlight, water, plants, animals and our relationships that can empower you further.
In this series I look forward to sharing ways that we can access and BE medicines for the wellbeing of each other, our communities and the planet. Until my next post, check out the books featured on this page that have influenced my curanderismo practice.