My initial professional work with health and wellbeing started when I was a personal injury claims representative for Union Pacific Railroad. That led to collaborating with an interdisciplinary team striving to deal more effectively with employees who had suffered back injuries. Not only did we encourage interdepartmental communication, but also we provided learning opportunities based on current research about holistic quality back care.
During this time I studied for and received a Masters in Human Relations. This degree had a two-pronged approach grounded in human relations information, skills development, practice, and supervision. The macro strand addressed organizational transformation issues, while the micro focused on individual and interpersonal transformation. I incorporated much of this learning in my organizational work, and I also became licensed as a professional counselor.
Around that time, my shamanic work in Omaha put me into contact with numerous holistic practitioners, who were committed to addressing the issue of health and wellbeing from a collaborative and integrated perspective. As a result, I had the opportunity to explore with others the possibility of establishing an Integrated Healthcare Center.
Soon people from various health organizations and from the University of Nebraska at Omaha started inviting me to speak about shamanism at their health fairs, organizational conferences, and university classes in religion, counseling, and social work. There seemed to be a hunger for exploring what a holistic approach to health, healing, and wellbeing might include.
Through my training in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy, which began in 1979, I have experienced many powerful examples of how experiential action methods can help heal individuals, relationships, and ultimately, our society. Consciously coming together to explore personal and collective stories in action consistently yields heart-warming results that help us connect what we value with how we choose to live our lives.
My connection with dying has seemed most relevant in my own family, during my years of psychodrama training, while working shamanically with dying people, and when I served as a chaplain. I often have been asked to coordinate collaborative planning and then help with the funeral or memorial service for family, friends, and others in need of that support. Many times that has included providing the music.
When I taught a Death and Dying course as part of the religion curriculum in a Catholic high school, it became a place where students could talk about their experiences of losing loved ones, along with their questions about death and its meaning. We all found it freeing to address a topic that otherwise seemed off limits. Later, facing my own death became part of the shamanic training I undertook.
For several years I have been part of a Dying Well research group in the UK, and I also have participated in a series of documentary film showings and workshops, which have focused on death and dying. These were sponsored by Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Edinburgh. I also have been a supporter of the documentary film Death Makes Like Possible, which will be released in early 2015. See Selected Resources to view the trailer.