Andrew Solomon’s experience with the Senegalese Ndeup healing ritual
Andrew Solomon won the National Book Award in 2001 for authoring The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. He is a great storyteller and there’s lots of laughter:
We have become so head-driven in modern western society that we seem to need a reason for doing anything, as if we have to ask permission from the stuff packed into our brains or from an expert before we make a move in any arena that has been claimed by ‘science.’ That often includes our health as if it were synonymous with modern medicine.
The heart and our feelings matter more in depression than our brains
It is so easy in modern western society to lose our feeling of what is real, healthy, vitalizing and uplifting. We carry the burden of over-stuffed minds that suck the life out of our hearts and bodies.
The dis-ease of the disconnected and disheartened
When I was most severely depressed and anxious it was because I was afraid I had missed my soul mate in life (at age 25) and might never be loved. That is a truly terrifying feeling for anyone to go through. It is absolute torture and gave me a nightmare that sent me spiraling into disordered eating and helplessness. This was not merely from a belief that anyone could have talked me out of. It is the fear and loneliness that one can cave into from not having others around who know how to actively lift you up in a dramatic way and reaffirm your worth to the world.
At 34 I was suicidally depressed from the suffocation of years of poor health, under-employment, isolation, alienation and loneliness. It was the love of my parents, their understanding, prayers and the kindness of an energy healer over and over again that helped me out of it. It took over a year to come out completely.
We have the right to joy. Circumstances are not a sentence to depression.
We must reclaim our birthright to joy, vitality and healing and understand that regardless of our current medical or health status there are ways to regain our joy immediately. Tribal peoples around the world understand this. We have created no rituals for healing this. When we get depressed in modern society, we isolate, maybe start drinking or taking drugs (Rx or other), we drop our previous pursuits and interests, even listen to less music or stop listening altogether – and stop dancing (if we ever did).
I had to say something, and what I had to say was actually to me incredibly strangely touching in the middle of this weird experience. I had to say, “Spirits, leave me alone to complete the business of my life and know that I will never forget you.”
— Andrew Solomon
Healers all over the world will recognize this as the touch of love and kindness that recognizes the relevance of the experience of depression in the person’s life yet also acknowledges their power to bid it goodbye. It has the mark of authentic spiritual healing that transmutes a negative into a positive through the participant’s own actions.
Tribal shamanistic societies get it, never lost it
Here are supposedly primitive societies that show more common sense wisdom than our entire collection of manuals and theories on treatment and their reliance on drugs, drugs, drugs. Get out into the sun. Get your blood moving by dancing. The community stops their work that day to come out, dance around you, give you energy and support to chase away the depression. You are important to the community. This is powerful stuff, not mere sympathetic words or wishes. These are powerful actions that say “You matter!”
Revive rituals. Create new ones.
We shouldn’t have to go to foreign countries for this. We can start creating our own rituals and ask the members of the community to participate. We can be advised by shamans and indigenous healers on how to do this in ways that are relevant and meaningful to our culture. There are many who are doing such things now.
The key elements of effective rituals?
- A prepared ceremony leader who knows what to do
- Outdoors in the natural elements
- Rhythm, dancing, music
- Energy raising (building intensity)
- Group support
- Active participation, personal intent
- Externalization of the dis-ease into the earth
- Gifting, gratitude