THE LIVING WELL HEALTH CENTER
I figured out real quick that I was the mechanically inclined one at the Well. But Patty Salas is the snake handler. I was in bad health, overweight, and very resistant to believing health was possible. I was already pretty hopeless about established modern medicine. But I have always been interested in healing. I wanted to be a pediatrician at one time. Medicine and science or how things work have always fascinated me. I was told to ask a lot of profound why questions when I was a little girl. So seeing that there was a lot to do at the Well, I began to move and fix things.
I love to make things beautiful again. The Living Well has had to been started from the ground up and there is always lots to do just on the physical property alone. So that is how we seemed to have find our niche.
When we get tired of meeting and talking (I like this about us), one of us gets up and starts doing something we like doing better. Not that our meetings are boring. But we all like to do things here with our body. Shamaan starts watering the houseplants. Patty washes the dishes or sweeping. India starts hanging pictures or planting things. I like to clean the pool, cut the grass, trim the trees, or go the garden. Then India is usually the first one to bring us back inside to meet again. One of the nice things about working at the Well is in making decisions together. We respect each other. We all take part in the planning. Sometimes its slow because there is so much to do and what do we do first? 23 acres and a house need a lot of work.
In addition, India and I take care of the bookkeeping. And at other times its we need a plumber! Should I get a chainsaw and cut the trees towering the driveway so a firetruck can come thru the driveway in case of fire or do we get a professional ? Am I professional enough? Is 5’2 tall enough? Is this a new skill I want to learn or have to learn? How much is it gonna cost? Do the others agree? The garage door need to be replaced. I am glad I love power tools. Am I gonna see another snake?
THE FEMINIST MEDIA POOL
The Feminist Media Pool originally began as the First Feminist Video Distribution Conference in order to establish a woman’s video distribution in the summer of 1992, at Stonehaven Ranch. Catherine Russo, Trella Laughlin (of the Foundations’ “Let the People Speak!” video project) and other women across the country, such as third World Newsreel and Women Make Movies, were the first organizers. And it was here that a group of women, who had mini meetings at the pool, came up with the ” Media Pool ” part of the conference.
In 1992, I joined the Foundation and started working with Trella Laughlin and the”Let the People Speak!” video studio. And part of my new duties was to organize the 2nd Media Pool. I had done video for many years in public access, some with Trella. And after spending some time in California, I had made some contacts with media women of color.
Establishing contacts with women of color in media into the pool was a priority to Gen and money was set aside for airfare scholarships and a toll free number was set up so that we could be sure we attended, got information, or at least on our mailing list. I spent a good 4 months calling women who were doing social change issues through their work. Women had a hard time believing we existed and that we would pay for their flight for a (oh my goodness!) feminist media conference. In addition, we also intended for the conference to develop grassroot activists media skills and for women already in media to do some training workshops such as Fundraising or sighting for Film/Video. Women also got to view their film and videos on screenings held nightly during the conference.
The second conference was attended by 50+ women, the majority women of color with a group of women from Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, and Chile as well. At this conference we were interested in the distribution, as well as women in other media, so a few women in radio joined us too. The highlight for me was telephone interviews conducted by a wonderful woman named Maria Suarez of F.I.R.E. (Feminist International Radio Endeavor) which is another project funded by the Foundation. We later heard ourselves on shortwave radio.
The third conference was also attended by mostly U.S. women with still an emphasis on women of color. Special attendees were Gail Hanson and Gorgiana Saba from Woman of Power magazine. We slowly were warming up to bringing printed media women into the pool. At this conference more women in radio attended time such as Frieda Werden from W.I.N.G.S. (Womens International News Gathering Service) and Dorothy Abbott from Florida.
The fourth conference was to be a local conference because after the Foundation organized the Breast Cancer conference, we realized our local media contacts were scarce. This was a small conference and our first effort to seek out women in our own backyard. We had 3 main media workshops-radio, video, and computer networking. Most women in media want to get trained in all kinds of media. So we were able to have the group do all the workshops and learn outside their fields. Here are excerpts from two letters from this years attendees:
Organizing and meeting these women in this field has been very exciting and inspiring. It is a lot of work to just make the contacts. Its not a lack of feminist women doing media. It seems that its just that women sometimes do it, but think their contribution is insignificant or not worthy. They are in the closet, so to speak. In addition, this is a new field of activism and without an arena or screen the status quo refuses to acknowledge their ideas or issues. The women I have met are so damn courageous to refuse to get off the air when the pressure is so intense md funding is so competitive. At the conferences, there is always a buzzing of excitement and creativity that makes it all worthwhile.
As a Registered Nurse, I Joined the Living Well Health Center to specifically work in nursing and to help provide healing to others. I have been actively involved with renovation of the dwelling and property, with designing and cultivating a garden, and with many of the administrative duties incumbent on a new, non-profit health facility.
Shamaan, Ari, Patty, and I invest a lot of care into providing a safe and nurturing work environment at the Center. Those who come to the Living Well can sense the commitment, respect, and care we have for each other. I believe that this helps them to more easily proceed with their own healing.
During the past nine months, other duties have taken precedence over any significant practical application or teaching application of my extensive nursing skills, however. In the past, I have worked with teenagers and have taught numerous classes on women’s health issues. I view my experiences in the community as one that aids me in doing meditation work, providing creative resource management, staying clear about my goals, and helping others remain goal-oriented.
My focus for this upcoming year is to continue herb husbandry – both Chinese and domestic – with special attention on indigenous herbs and their medicinal qualities and preparations. I also will continue to maintain the land at the Living Well in a state of healing so that wildlife can return to our creeks and wood lands. I feel that this – though also important to me – is a high priority for the Center, requiring knowledge, vigilance, and careful “non-tending.”
Another theme concurrent in all of our work is the effort we take to maintain the position of “unity while honoring diversity.” Clearly stated, this means we are deeply convinced that, through the power of healing, people will gain and regain an appreciation for each other on a broad scale, thereby reducing the grip of exclusionism and fear.
I am also the mother of three teenage sons and in the Cella program working on another degree in Women’s Studies.
I am of Native American (Shoshoni), Irish and German heritage, I have felt most drawn to the Native American Way. I follow the “Good Red Road” in my spiritual life, but the wisdom and teaching of many peoples. While I was in Mexico, it became clear that my life path was to serve others as helper, healer, teacher, spiritual guide. To become what is called in this time and place “holistic healer” was my purpose – the Good Red Road, my way.
To accomplish this, I spent more than seven years studying, apprenticing and often just absorbing the methodology of herbalists (Maria De La Cruz, Jorge Bustamonte) and chiropractors (Drs. Patrick Reilly in New York, Darrell Diedrick in New Mexico). Medicine men and medicine women contributed greatly to my learning and preparation (Rosalyn Bruyere, Rolling Thunder and an Ojibway medicine man by the name of “Little Spoon”),
Along the way, I acquired a massage license, considerable skill and knowledge of methods of natural healing, fasted, prayed, meditated, and did purification rituals and inner journeying, along with vision questing to prepare to fulfill my life path’s purpose.
For the past 22 years, I have been hard at work trying to do just that. I have been in private practice as a “holistic health care” worker, shaman, vision quest guide, and spiritual teacher. (I am a legally ordained minister.) Ironically, I have become a teacher, but not the kind intended by my parents and college professors, I deal with what I call Living Knowledge – the kind every human being has within themselves.
My areas of expertise are: Dream analysis (Jungian/Cayian/Native American approach), which I have taught for the past 23 1/2years; the I Ching and other methods of accessing inner wisdom; personal herbology – tailoring herbal formulas to suit individual body type,; body and energy field alignment; massage; shiatzu; acupressure and Medicine Wheel Journeying (I am co-founder of the Medicine Wheel Dream Institute, an organization dedicated to furthering the understanding of dreams and the role they play in healing.). during the course of my career, I have conducted special programs for inner city youth for the City of San Francisco, done retreats for East Austin youth, taught dream interpretation at the Jung Society, as well as courses on the I Ching, Symbolism, and the Tarot.
I have appeared on numerous TV, radio, and lecture programs; been interviewed for newspaper and magazine articles; passed a special test designed by several physicists to confirm my psychic abilities, conducted dozens of vision quests for both groups and individuals, helped numerous clients avoid surgery or more serious health problems, performed as a bridge between dimensions in assisting both the birthing and dying transitions for many people; conducted weddings, baptisms, mourning services, initiation ceremonies for adolescents entering adulthood and adults entering their second adolescence, and acted as guide for hundreds of individuals seeking to find and fulfill their own life purpose and path. But of all these things, the most significant to me is the creation of the social action group called The Keepers of the Dream. This group is composed of private citizens from all walks of life who donate their tune, energy and often money to the cause of healing the separation between the races.
These are the experiences that I bring to the Foundation For A Compassionate Society. I feel it is my role as a “Keeper of the Dream” that makes me part of the same cause espoused by the Foundation. Specifically, the cause of creating a most just, healthy, harmonious society is a shared cause and the belief that we can solve any problem that we humans face if we can come together, is the core belief that I draw upon as I now seek to join with others in creating a more humane model of a health center.
The LIVING WELL HEALTH CENTER
The Living Well Health Center is a unique, vital approach that acknowledges the roles that tribal (i.e. community) and spiritual life plays in the healing process. One that recognizes Mother Earth as a healing force, and seeks to maintain a good relationship to the natural world by developing sane environmental practices that protect the purity and beauty of Mother Earth. And, perhaps most importantly. The Living Well Health Center is a project committed to the goal of bringing into the healing process people of color and other minorities who have not been actively included in the “holistic health” movement. Because the health center is located ten minutes from downtown Austin, yet is nestled on 23 acres of beautiful rolling hill country, and surrounded by running spring water creeks, trees and ponds (yes, the Well is alive and full of good, pure water!), it offers the opportunity for people from ALL walks of life to have access to the healing powers of nature, as well as to health care practitioners.
Since it is clear that alternative health care is the wave of the future in medicine (for reasons too numerous to examine here). The Living Well Health Center is extremely well-positioned to help others help themselves care for their own health. Our focus, although oriented toward alternative health care methods, seeks to integrate both allopathic and alternative practices. While providing such services as massage, herbal and nutritional counseling, midwifery, hypnotherapy for stress reduction, support groups, counseling services, dream therapy and other means of alternative health care, we will also provide such traditional techniques of health maintenance as breast cancer screening, blood pressure exams and monitoring, diabetic screening and monitoring, basic physical exams. Although we do not currently have a M.D. on staff, a long-range goal is to have a rotating corps of physician volunteers who will spend one day a month at the Well offering general practitioner medical services.
Other long-range goals include:
A playground and baseball field for the Dove Springs neighborhood and surrounding area youth.
An arts and crafts program for East Austin youth.
A dream temple (a place to go for healing dreams).
Youth sex and pregnancy prevention counseling programs.
Healthful aging program.
Adolescent to adult initiation ceremonies.
Women’s complete health program.
Wayshower’s program – an AIDS program that focuses on people with AIDS as resources and guides to the rest of society, rather than as victims.
Menopause in men workshops.
Healing the wounds of racism program.
PATRICIA ANNE SALAS
My resistance to oppression began at a very early age. By second grade I had figured out that I could escape saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag by claiming I was a Jehovah’s Witness. In the fifth grade I was given the opportunity to paint a mural on the hallway of my elementary school. I used the space to honor my indigenous heritage in painting a mural that contained a simple pyramid and the Mayan number system from 1-20. The mural is still un the wall at Becker Elementary School, sixteen years later. And I am still resisting the oppression.
I was employed by Genevieve and The Foundation for a Compassionate Society (FCS), in 1990. I had met Genevieve and some of the Foundation staff when I was working with a group of Chicanos on the Veteran’s Peace Convoy to Nicaragua in 1988. Our organization had been asked to host the convergence of the four routes coming from the northern parts of the United States. We received tremendous organizing support from Luz Guerra, a former staff person, Marsha Gomez, and many others. In addition, Genevieve donated a vehicle which I co-drove to the Bertha Calderon Women’s Hospital run by AMNLAE in Managua Nicaragua. In 1989 I helped coordinate the subsequent Women’s Convoy to Central America, which again received support from both Genevieve and the FCS staff.
I received a personal grant from Genevieve in late 1989 to attend midwifery school. I had been approached by some midwives in Austin about considering training due to the absence of a Spanish speaking midwife in our area. Jackie Starnes, the director of the Austin Women’s Peace House, encouraged me to approach Genevieve with a proposal. I studied at Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, Texas from September 1989 to September 1990.
When I returned Genevieve offered me a staff position. I spent the first six months working at the Peace House. I organized a visit and lecture with Diane Holzer, a midwife/herbalist who spoke on herbs for women’s health. I worked with Angelina Mendez of Informe Sida, an AIDS education agency, on a weekend retreat for teenagers at Alma de Mujer. I collected educational materials on health and spoke in junior high school classes on special invitation in El Paso, TX. I emphasized respect for traditional methods of healing and spoke to them about how the Spanish Mission period in the Southwest gave Spanish last names to a lot of Indians, but that didn’t make us more “hispanic” than Indian.
In April 1991, I moved to Brownsville, Texas on the bank of the Rio Grande River to begin working on the Casa De Colores Project, I arrived at the beginning of the peak of anencephalic births which were effecting border families in that area, and at the time when a large colonia in Matamoros, directly across the border, was being threatened with relocation and extreme health hazards as a consequence of a “chemical row” of U.S. based industries. Doing public education about these issues occupied much of my time as repairs on the mansion home which houses Casa De Colores were being completed.
In November 1991, I was one of fifty young women selected to participate in the international conference “Global Assembly of Women & the Environment” in Miami, Florida. At that conference I was chosen by my peers as spokesperson to present our final resolutions to the entire conference body. I was honored by that because our meetings had been marked by so much pain, frustration, and anger because the very conference we were gathered at was partially sponsored by companies such as Waste Management Inc., and others who haphazardly disposed of hazardous wastes for profit. I continued to work at Casa De Colores for the next three years. My first coworker there was Gregoria Rodriguez, a Ph.D candidate in Epidemiology. She hooked us up to Peace Net and gave me my first lessons. We worked on the land, and on programming to fulfill the vision of a Resource Center for Indigenous People and Training in Alternative Agriculture and Technology.
My second coworker was Helga Garcia Garza, an artist I had met during the protests against the celebration of the 500 years of “discovery” in 1992. Together we continued the work on the land and the programming. I left the Casa in June 1994 to return home to Austin.
I currently hold prenatal and well woman clinic hours three days a week at the Living Well Health Center. I am again researching information to be able to have on hand for visitors who need more information about maintaining their health. I enjoy working at the Living Well because the staff, despite our sometimes uncorresponding schedules, make time to listen to each other and communicate openly about our dreams and visions for a more just and peaceful world, and how to contribute through our work at the Well.
My work with me Foundation for a Compassionate Society has allowed me to better understand how to work with women from other cultures. I have learned that my contributions to mv community cannot be directed to only those with whom I share the same history but also with those who share similar histories all over the planet.