by Niklaus Towne
My anger consumes my life and I hate myself for it. As a child, I was hospitalized for my rage. I have tried therapy, group work, meditation, acupuncture, diet changes, exercise regimens, medications, marijuana — but self-control stays out of my reach. Whenever I become stressed, I throw a tantrum. I lash out, scream, and become dangerous. My wife and I want to have a child, but she confesses that she is hesitant to raise a child with a partner so full of rage.
By good fortune, I find myself at a weekend workshop for men on the Pine Ridge Reservation, not far from my home. I do not fully understand the program when I arrive with three of my students. I assume I will sit off to the side and watch them work through their troubles. But I am thrown in – surrounded by over one hundred men from around the world. We begin to go into “inner space” in hopes to become the men we are meant to be. The work is intense. It culminates in “Buffalo Work”, wherein the men push you into your own guts and your own heart.
I tremble with anxiety as I step into the circle. The Lakota elders bless the space and I feel the power in the room. The men begin asking questions and I reply only, “Shame, hating myself” before a physical transformation begins to happen. Blood rushes to my head and neck and my ears ring loudly. I cannot keep eye contact with the men and I shake violently. I pour water over myself and plead, “There is something in me, something bad, please get it out!”
Suddenly, I am in the air, held by my chest and my t-shirt. The man holding me pulls the anger from my body – running outside to throw it away. I crumple to the floor and the elders smudge me with sage, hitting it into my body with an eagle wing. Another man scoops me into his lap and holds me while I cry. Through my sobs, I say “I’m sorry”. The men forgive me and ask me to forgive myself. I do, and instantly I feel light and hopeful. As I start to recover, the men pick me up and walk me out into the sun, holding me high in the air. I am flying – held by the men who showed me such kindness. The warm sun is on my face. I am loved and accepted.
I am forgiven. The rage is gone. The men ask me, “What is your medicine?”