Seven Rivers of Healing
© 2008 Susun S Weed
Art by Josephine Wall
Whether we see ourselves as body‑machines, dirty temples, or ever‑changing perfection, we all want and need help with healing injuries, illness, and deviations from our healthy norm. But with a limitless number of techniques to choose from, not to mention a multitude of practitioners, how do we choose? Who can we trust? What do we do? The Seven Rivers of Healing give structure to our quest for health.
The Wise Woman Tradition encourages us to make use of every healing option. But we can't use them all at once. Where do we start? How can we gauge what is most appropriate? How can we avoid harming ourselves in our attempts to heal/change? The Seven Rivers of Healing is a ranking system, a way to order our choices and determine what to do first.
The Seven Rivers of Healing contain all the techniques and all the substances used for healing throughout all times and all places. They flow from the most ancient past to the inconceivable future, collecting every method of healing ever known and bringing them to us today. They apply to all aspects of our beings, all parts of our wholeness: physical, emotional, mental, symbolic, and sacred.
The Seven Rivers of Healing connect orthodox and alternative medicines. Their flow represents a truly complementary approach to health care. One that can carry us on the magic carpet of science into the Great Mystery. One that allows all people to honor their individual beliefs about life and death and what we do in between. One that honors the interconnectedness of all. One that helps us in our search for completeness and in our desire to leave the world a healthier place for our children and grandchildren.
The Seven Rivers of Healing offer us a truly integrative approach which invites the hard-nosed realist to try out energy approaches and brings the shaman into the operating theater. It arose, in part, from my distress over the lives lost by those who believed that modern medicine can only do harm. It arose, in part, from my distress over the damage done to those who believed that modern medicine can do no harm.
The Seven Rivers of Healing is a pattern based on the recognition that we can be harmed by that which claims to heal us. The Seven Rivers of Healing affirms that all forms of healing do work -- but not that they are all always safe or beneficial. The flow of the Seven Rivers of Healing follows the most important precept in healing: "First, do no harm."
The Seven Rivers of Healing are not limited to any one tradition. Whether you are most comfortable in the scientific tradition, the heroic tradition, or the Wise Woman Tradition, flowing with the Seven Rivers of Healing will broaden your vision of health and increase your healing options. For the purpose of this book, however, I will frame my discussion primarily from the viewpoint of the Wise Woman.
First, Do No Harm
Every healing option, every method and material has its place in The Seven Rivers of Healing. They are arranged in the Rivers according to the frequency and severity of their harm, including unwanted side effects. Thus, the First River carries healing options that never cause any harm. The Second River carries options that may occasionally cause very mild harm. The Third River carries options that may, at times, cause some slight harm.
The Fourth River carries options that sometimes cause moderate harm. The Fifth River carries options that always cause some moderate harm but rarely death. The Sixth River carries options that always cause moderate harm and can sometimes kill. The Seventh River carries options that always cause harm and frequently cause grave harm or death.
Techniques, treatments and diagnostic procedures from the first four Rivers, when properly used, rarely cause harm and rarely have detrimental side effects. (If they do, the effects are usually mild and short‑lived.) Techniques, treatments and diagnostic procedures from the last three Rivers, even when carefully and properly administered, almost always cause some harm, sometimes severe harm, as a consequence of their use. In addition, they usually have unwanted side effects that can be severe and long lasting.
Interaction with our physical being increases as we move through the Seven Rivers. In the First River, we are alone: not so much as the gaze of another person touches us. In the Second River, we open our minds: thoughts and ideas enter us, hands touch us lightly. In the Third River, we open our senses: vibrations, sounds, colors, and subtle energies move around and through us.
In the Fourth River, we open our mouths and take substances into our bodies: we move ourselves vigorously, circulating fresh blood deeply into our open and receptive cells. In the Fifth River, we enlist the aid of strong touch, powerful plants, even acupuncture needles to help us open and change. In the Sixth River, we disable or ignore our natural warning systems so we may ingest isolated, synthesized substances (drugs and supplements) which have powerful actions on our bodies and minds.
In the Seventh River of Healing, we are opened with knives, entered with needles and tubes, opened with radiation, penetrated with magnetic fields, altered with psychoactive allies.
Not only are we more at risk because we are more open (and more opened)--physically and mentally, emotionally and psychically--as we move from the first to the last River of Healing, but we are also more at risk because the currents of each successive River flow deeper and faster, sweeping us toward our goal with more and more force and urgency.
Each River increases the reality of the life/death struggle/union. In the first two Rivers, we encounter the thought of death, we learn about it. In the Third River of Healing we dream of death, we fear death. In the Fourth River we acknowledge that death is needed to feed life. In the Fifth River we are rescued from death by strong medicines and heroic measures. In the Sixth River, we brush death’s shoulder, using poisons for their healing power. In the Seventh River we mimic death with anesthesia. We break ourselves into pieces. We are killed and returned to life. Or not. All Rivers return to the ocean, to the All, to the Void.
Each River can take us to the healing we want. Each River alone could be enough to create the health we seek. But when we understand and use them all, sequentially, going only so far as we need to gain health/wholeness/holiness, then we find ourselves healing in unimaginable ways. With the Seven Rivers of Healing to guide us, we can remember the playful child we once were and explore our healing options with a light and amused heart.
Seven Rivers of Healing
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