Not terribly long ago, I came to the conclusion that my life's work is all about seeking the healing arts wherever they are found. The overwhelming thing about the concept was that I found them everywhere!

All of the individual paths that I had thought I had been on in my life were just one big Superhighway designed to exercise, channel and hone my ability to articulate my experience of the vast world of the healing arts. I just happened to be bouncing from guardrail to guardrail, across and under lanes and back again, moving forward, and by the grace of the Gods, not hitting anything substantial!

The metaphor I kept coming back to was my times on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (SD) during the 1990's as firetender for sacred ceremonies. That's the person who works with the elements to prepare, maintain, and energize a sacred space for others to experience the deepest part of themselves in connection with all their relations.

When in that role, were someone to call out "firetender!" I would quickly turn and prepare to find out what was needed and where I fit in. At some point, I realized that this was a stance in life, when applied to my skills in the healing arts, that would serve a lot of people AND myself.

So now, I often refer to myself as "a firetender" not THE Firetender, or Mr. Firetender, but just one of many whom I believe are out there. My vision is that some day in a crowd an alarmed voice will call out "firetender!" and many people will respond from each of the four directions. I don't ask others to speak of me this way, but I appreciate it when they do, it's a wonderful reminder of that whom I wish to be.

Life presented me with an enormous number of gifts that could be employed to help others experience themselves in new ways. Most of them were from the most potent lesson of all; changing my personal pain into power. If there was a thread that connects all my personal themes like cable, it would have to be I have been gifted many stories to tell about this.

It took me a long time to figure out that it is all one story, the story of a firetender. At first mastering the skills of not being burned, he learned to work with the fire of life living in him and others, for the good of all.

And firetenders are asked to work with many different kinds of materials, under all sorts of different conditions. In my case, every foray into trying to “establish" myself or distinguish myself in one or other of a specific form of the healing arts led me to still another form that I was compelled to explore.

The drive had to be all about the exploration then, didn't it? Lots of doors slammed in my face. With each, I learned better to take a step around the house and look for another door opening rather than pounding on the closed door to get it to open again. So I found myself stepping into a tremendous variety of rooms in the process. In each room I found a new fire and materials that I had to learn to work with.

After about twenty years of doing this, even I got to recognize the pattern. Success or failure was irrelevant. All that was important was that I was building a body of useful experience.

Every step along the way, there were always people nearby who had use for what I had, or even just learned. As I grew, there was no lack of recipients. It was M. Scott Peck who said something like once you give yourself to spirit, it continually asks more and more of you. I'd like to add to that that more tools and strengths are revealed with each request.

It was not up to me to decide the best application of the tools I'd been given, nor even define what "success" meant. In fact, from where I sit today, what looks like "failures" were amongst my most potent teachers. “It will all find its place,” I reassured myself night after night. And it did!

I won't kid you about the agonizing months, sometimes years, of despair. Picture yourself working for nine years on getting a movie you had written made. Its world premiere was as the opening night film of the 1994 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, complete with klieg lights, studio moguls, limos, and soon-to-be-dead, along with up-and-coming movie stars. Being the prestigious opening night film was what killed it the very night of its birth!

There are so many metaphors and lessons in that slice of my life, and, like you with your life, all I have to do is look for how those lessons could be valuable to others...and then USE them!

Being a firetender is more of an aspiration than a realization. It's a guiding spirit, if you will. In the process of gathering a body full of sacred scars from getting burned from the flames, comes knowledge of how to teach others to safely work with them.

Author's Bio: 

With more than forty years exploring the healing arts, Russ, whose day job is as a Tour Guide on the island of Maui, simply makes himself available for those who need what he has to offer in service to healing. He is an ex-paramedic, writer, photographer, speaker, counselor, workshop leader, musician, and spoken word artist.