ReVisioning Medicine

Previous ReVisioning Medicine Councils

About ReVisioning Medicine

Breast cancer in 1977 taught me that personal illnesses reflect social and political illnesses. Thus society requires healing if human beings are to be able to heal themselves. The patterns of disturbance in human diseases repeat and duplicate themselves in our cultural, religious lives, in Western medicine itself, and now, most tragically, in our environment.  I introduced the concepts and principles of ReVisioning Medicine because I believe that, together, informed by the spirits, by Indigenous ways of living and healing, by Earth wisdom, we can create medical systems that do not aggress, do no harm to humans or the Earth. We have very little time but it is enough for us to restore the possibility of a future for all beings.  Gifted with the opportunity to work as a healer of individuals and social systems for over forty years, I know that healing is possible.


ReVisioning Medicine has been convening for 17 years in Topanga, California as well as other sites across the country. 

Given the times and the increasing difficulties in medical practice and healing, we feel the necessity to gather more than ever. This is an urgent Call to practice healing medicine, to act with integrity, to gather in community, to protect what matters

In the old days, when a people were gravely threatened, the Chiefs, Medicine People, Healers, Shamans, and Elders, the spiritual leaders of their communities, called Councils. They looked for solutions by aligning themselves with the ancestors, the natural world and their wisdom traditions. They were careful to consider dreams, signs, myths and stories.

Recognizing that illness is often the consequence of having violated the earth, the community and the spirits, they searched for systemic responses to assure healing. The spirits, animals and plants, even the elementals, communed with them, extending teachings, blessings and wisdom. The people gathered in times of crises; we are gathering now.

Deena Metzger has been speaking since the late 1970s on the story illness is telling.  In 2004 she provided the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) where she identified both medical practice and the earth as the patients we are called to heal. Since that meeting, a core group of physicians, psychologists and healers have been consciously exploring ReVisioning Medicine.  Early on, Karen Mutter, DO and Kjersten Gmeiner, MD, and then Muz, Richenel Ansano, MAs, heard that call deeply and then a vital, visionary circle of health professionals including Lawrie Hartt M.Div, Naz Motayar, PhD, Marc Weigensberg, MD, Tobi Fishel, PhD, Sharon Simone, EdM, Danelia Wild and Cheryl Potts, Native Elder and teacher.

  • ReVisioning Medicine is a council that honors and relies on deep dialogue between medical and health practitioners and medicine people – healers, pipe carriers, shamans, energy workers, dreamers, story tellers, sound healers, indigenous elders and practitioners – as peers. To address and vision healing with heart, complexity and profundity, we gather a broad based healing community to inform and sustain each other, collaborating for the good of all.
  • Over the years, working with patients who were not healing fully by conventional means, we have seen the extraordinary benefits of weaving spirit, earth and indigenous ways with medical ways. Healing ourselves, each other, the earth and medical practice simultaneously is the goal.
  • Aware of the many problems and dangers of contemporary medical practices, ReVisioning seeks to restore and vision a new medicine that does no harm.  We are very concerned with iatrogenisis. Too many are suffering the side-effects of prescribed medicines, and/or complications from medical or hospital treatments. One physician, using a short hand, referred to the majority of her contemporaries as practicing “pharmaceutical medicine.”
  • ReVisioning recognizes that medicine, healing and culture influence each other through a constant dialogue. Actually medicine determines culture; how we heal manifests in how we live.
  • Our medical practices need to change for individual, social and environmental health to improve and flourish. Medical practice itself is one of our patients.  So we gather physicians who can carry seeds of change to create circles of support so that physicians and health practitioners can return to their original calling as true healers.
  • In a circle of trust and camaraderie, ReVisioning allows each person to examine the difficulties of meeting the original call to be a healer.  We will examine the increasing limitations and distortions imposed on medical practice by different aspects of corporate and institutional medicine, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and government. In addition, we have each experienced, participated in or witnessed unexpected healing events; this is a safe place to explore them and consider their import.
  • In the intimate process of physician heal thyself, we learn and carry each other’s stories, what we have suffered and how we have triumphed, recognizing the healer in ourselves and each other.  We imagine on-going alliances as we become true healers in a time of history that requires such transformation.
  • ReVisioning Medicine is reciprocal medicine.  Improvisational, impromptu healing teams gather around the patients and the practitioners as needed.  In the last eleven years, we have learned that community is essential to healing, and that community, itself, heals.  Such new communities, albeit far flung, continue to support each individual practitioner’s exploration and activity on behalf of a new medicine.
  • ReVisioning is an on-going creative, collaborative process. In February 2014 the Core Group met with local physicians and some of their patients. This has been so successful and enlightening that we have continued to schedule clinic time after each ReVisioning Council gathering. 


We seek sometimes seek “Volunteer Patients” to be the healing focus so that together we might discover the deep story of an illness and illuminate the coexisting paths of healing that extend beyond the “patient” to the people and the earth. Particularly attentive to and respectful of what the patient knows about his or her affliction, we listen carefully for the Story. Other times we seek an Informant to train and educate us as to the true nature of the condition we are investigating and what healing events might be appropriate.  And sometimes we who gather consider ourselves both the patients and the physicians who are learning how to meet the common afflictions. 

  • We call these exploration Indigenous Grand Rounds.
  • ReVisioning Medicine is in the tradition of Narrative medicine.  From its inception, we have recognized that the entire Story of an illness includes personal, familial, communal, social, political and environmental histories in order for the healing path to be revealed.  We seek to expand the narrow medical focus, looking beyond symptoms, the physical and emotional components, beyond testing, seeking many ways of knowing and a range of possibilities for treatment.
  • Over the years, we have worked with such Volunteers who have been afflicted with various cancers, heart disease, leukemia (from playing in uranium tailings on the Reservation) Agent Orange poisoning, (Vietnam), chemical sensitivities, and other ailments. A good percentage of our Volunteers have been also been participants working in conventional medical fields. We always try to focus on someone whose affliction has ramifications for the society as a whole and to see how non-conventional ways of healing might inform us and the patient in new ways.
  • A Volunteer Patient for Topanga 2014 was a forty-year old woman suffering extreme and chronic fatigue, depression and multiple digestive difficulties. Formerly an outdoorswoman, river/mountain/dog sled guide, she is a skilled and devoted naturopath, who in the past years had exhausted all conventional and traditional treatments to no avail.  In December 2013, she had written that she had lost faith in healing.  In February 2014 before our meeting, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.  She believed, and ReVisioning, concurred, that this was another factor in her illness, but there was not and could not be a single subsuming diagnosis.  ReVisioning gave her an opportunity to explore the relationship between physical illness, emotional distress, personal history, ethical concerns and spiritual wounds.  It also immersed her in a supportive and respectful community.  She now had trustworthy peers and colleagues.  After ReVisioning, she wrote:

“Something beautiful is happening.  I cannot describe or explain it, but there is a river flowing inside me again, and the barren landscape that has been there for so long is shifting.  The waters are beginning to flow, the ground is becoming dense with nourishment and new growth is germinating. That I can feel for sure.  It is new life stirring before the birth, and it is giving me new purpose.  All feels different.”

This VP’s healing began when she wrote the desperate letter asking for help and continued through the ReVisioning weekend and beyond.  The ReVisioning weekend was critical and what transpired before and afterwards was in accord with the healing principles we explore and practice together.   Putting her “On the Hill” to quest helped complete the healing cycle and confirmed the power of land based medicine.

  • ReVisioning in Minneapolis 2015 was unusual because of the number of medical people attending who also asked for healing for themselves.  The Volunteer Patient had been Director  of  Volunteers for the American and International Red Cross. She presented a family history of cancer and its healing that had not been perceived wholly before.
  • One participant, a director, trainer and facilitator in the field of Mind Body Medicine and children’s mental health, revealed a story of governmental / institutional mental and medical abuse.  She had suffered many ills over many years including being  the victim of nonconsensual radiation experiments. ReVisioning Medicine provided the platform for her transformation from a victim of a system to a forthright witness to its violence and exploitation.
  • At Palo Alto University in 2017, we realized that we did not know enough about PTSD (which we re-identify in the manner of Dr. Ed Tick as Soldier’s Heart), suffered by combatants and non-combatants in warfare or about Continuous Colonial Traumatic Stress and sought instead to inform ourselves before offering healing.                                 


At ReVisioning we have addressed and continue to address the following questions:

  1. Can medical people also be medicine people?
  2. How can we restore the role of community as integral to healing?
  3. Can physicians and health practitioners serve the community in the best ways that medicine persons served their tribes or indigenous communities?
  4. Can we speak openly, honestly and from the heart about the grief and vision we carry about contemporary medical ways and healing?
  5. Can we examine, together, what we want to change and what we must reject?
  6. How do we determine the entire story of the illness or the affliction so that we can truly open the door to healing, which also implies wholeness?
  7. How can we be as skilled in accompanying patients who are dying as we are in pursuing healing?
  8. How can we include the conversation around death and dying in the healing process?
  9. How can medical practices be informed by spirit and earth centered practices?
  10. How can we incorporate indigenous wisdom traditions, ceremonies and rituals into medical treatment?
  11. Can we begin to create medical practices and treatments that do no harm to people or the environment?
  12. Can our souls bear it, if we can’t?
  13. How do individual, cultural and global healing intersect?
  14. How can we restore right relationship with the Earth as essential to healing?
  15. How can we bring ReVisioning understanding to medical training?
  16. What is our calling as healing presences at this time in history?



ReVisioning Medicine seeks to bring medical wisdom together with time tested indigenous ways and contemporary vision. Based on Council principles, everyone’s unique intelligence, medicine tradition and wisdom are appreciated. Cooperation between western medicine and non-western healing practices is implicit in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but these are still parallel systems operating from different perspectives. A new collaboration is essential.

ReVisioning Medicine is a spirit-based medicine, as healing is a spiritual practice for medicine people. It promotes alliances between the patient and physicians, healers, the family and the natural world. Such partnership has major implications in terms of diagnosis and treatment, as does including ritual and ceremony in the healing process.

If we are free to think differently about the nature of illness and healing, as well as the relationship between common illnesses and modern life, we must seek alternate interventions, invent and re-discover alternate treatments that do no harm to individuals or the planet.

Integrating the old, old medicine of Story and right relationships and respect for the communities of all beings can bring us back into alignment and health. Aligning medical and medicine ways heals community and many of the grave ills and illnesses of modern life. ReVisioning Medicine is, we believe, more than the next step after CAM; it is, we hope, the future.

We have been meeting in Topanga for seventeen years.  The land has supported and held this work with love and generosity.  The animals on the land are a constant presence in the work.

With the help of the land, the animals, and the Ancestors, we expect this gathering of medical and medicine people from across the country and even the world will deepen our understanding of how we may collaborate to create and restore a medical/medicine culture that seeds health in every interaction.

Peace and Blessings,

Deena Metzger, PhD


Recommended Reading

Recent Essays by Deena – Extinction illness: Grave Affliction and Possibility and Slam Dunk: – Covid-19. Other essays on ReVisioning Medicine and healing can be found at Deena’s website and her blog including The Soul of Medicine (Deena’s address to the AHMA in 2004). Her books related to healing include, Tree: Essays and Pieces, a journal of surviving breast cancer, Feral, a novel of a reciprocal healing relationship between a feral woman and the therapist who befriends her; Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, and From Grief Into Vision: A Council. Her new novel, A Rain of Night Birds, confronts Climate Change and the differences between Indigenous medicine and western medicine.


Note: Kjersten recommends that everyone read the Soul of Medicine, which in its way started this entire path.

Dark Matter: Women Witnessing Issues #6 and #7 include pieces from four of the ReVisioning Conveners. See the essays in the sidebar under “Village Medicine.”

Issue, #9, of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing is a response to Deena’s essay, “Extinction Illness, Grave Affliction and Possibility,” from the January issue of Tikkun.