Erin Hayford sends this beautiful personal account of Revival, a student-organized camping trip for naturopathic medicine students and doctors to reconnect with the power of their medicine.
Packing for Revival this summer felt like being a kid packing for camp. What will the other people be like? The activities? The food? I hope they have yummy dessert!
According to the checklist, this three-day trip was no ordinary camp. Towels for hydrotherapy? Check. Pillow for meditation? Check? “A beverage other than water.” Was this a clever way to say beer? OK, check. Time to hit the road.
I drove into the Cascade foothills to the house of Drs. Pamela and Bruce, our gracious hosts for the weekend of “restoring the vis.” The vis, or the vis medicatrix naturae, is the healing power of nature — the core philosophy of naturopathic medicine. This trip was a chance to reconnect with that awesome power. People slowly poured in, and eventually an entire field filled with tents — our own primitive Bastyr village in the woods. Dinner that night was a potluck feast — what talented and creative cooks we have in our community!
That evening we gathered around the fire. Looking at the glowing faces, I saw that we included people from all years of Bastyr’s naturopathic medicine program as well as alumni and teachers from our extended community. We met some of the speakers and the students who put this all together (throughout the year they made work trips to the property to create a garden, work on composting toilets, improved the hydrotherapy station and so on). As we sat and talked, it began to rain gently. And then not so gently. We wrapped up the fire gathering and headed for shelter.
An amazing thunder and lightning storm rolled in over the trees. From my tent I saw bolts of lightning so bright, and heard thunder so loud, it made me feel like I was home on the East Coast; Washington just doesn’t get storms like this! The storm grew stronger. Through the pouring rain and booming thunder, I heard music and singing and laughter. People were playing banjos and guitars. A woman’s beautiful voice drifted over the field. It was a magical first night.
Saturday began the official “reviving” events, although already we were feeling more connected and invigorated. After breakfast we gathered to hear about the talks we could attend. The presenters were able to conjure reminders of why we are doing what we are doing — from hydrotherapy (alternating baths of hot and cold water) to talks on midwifery, we remembered the various and vast-reaching corners our medicine reaches. We remembered how simple and yet complex our medicine is. We remembered how much help we can give simply by being present with another person and listening to them — truly listening — on a level that heals.
Around the campfire that night, people told stories of celebration and sorrow. It solidified our feeling that the speakers during the day began to brew within us — that we are all in this together. Although we didn’t all know each other, we all love and support one another on this journey. Our vis is our vital force. It is the energy we all possess that connects us all. It is our spirit, our empathy, our love, our passion, our joy. It is what we felt for each other that night around the campfire. It is what we felt that night as we fell asleep in our own sleeping bags but in each other’s hearts. It is why the weekend is called Revival.
Sunday brought more great talks, meditation, hydrotherapy and delicious food. We had a closing ceremony, packed our things and said our goodbyes. As I drove the dirt road toward the highway taking me back to Seattle, I could not help but smile. This is why I am doing what I am doing; this is why I love naturopathic medicine and our community. We are a community of revivalists; we are restoring the innate vitality that is in all of us to do and be the best we can. Despite how hard life can be, we are connected, we are equal, and above all, we are all in this together.
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