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The Sun Interview

Altered States

An Interview On Shamanism With Leslie Gray

As a Native American with a PhD. in clinical psychology, Leslie Gray has made the journey from scientific methodology back to the healing ways of her indigenous ancestors, and calls herself a “bridge” between those perspectives. Besides teaching anthropology and research methodology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and lecturing in Native American Studies at UC-Berkeley, Gray provides a form of therapy she calls “shamanic counseling,” an adaptation of traditional shamanic practice for contemporary urban dwellers. Her careful discrimination and forceful, articulate self’ expression gave me a clear insight into just what shamanic practice can do for one’s personal power.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Editor’s Note


It’s the heart of our kitchen — an ordinary table, made of sturdy pine boards, solidly joined, built to last. Though it’s scarred and scratched, Norma says she likes it that way; she wants to read our history on it, the way you read the lines on someone’s face.

On Being Unable To Breathe

Something was drastically wrong with my lungs: every night, they made sounds like a basketful of squealing kittens. I was always coughing, had pains under the sternum, and could not push a car or even run up a flight of stairs without gasping like an old melodeon full of holes. This condition came on slowly; no single daily or weekly change was ever big enough to scare me out of my habits. For three years after noticing these symptoms, I continued smoking pot.

From A Distance, Paradise

There is a hospital in Haiti, on the edge of the Artibonite valley. If you walk up in the hills behind it, past the painted mud huts roofed with palm fronds, past the goats flapping their ears, and the laughing little boys, up the rocky paths through the sugar cane, and you look back into the valley, you will not see the hospital, only the water tower rising above the trees. Beyond the trees, rice paddies glow brilliant green in the sun, lined with irrigation ditches and coconut palms. Then, bending and twisting through the valley like a series of lakes and flood plains, flows the Artibonite itself. In the distance rises the Massif des Montagnes Noires, and away to the west lies the blue Atlantic. There are no cars, no power lines, no billboards, no smog. No airplanes or traffic break the silence, only the occasional bleating of a goat or crowing of a rooster. From a distance it is paradise. Up close it is not.

The Child In The City

The things I did during childhood do not seem as important to me as the overall mystery of existence. I went from one thing to another, as the Buddhists say, like a drunken monkey. Toys, games, junk food — this is what we are raised on in the West, and in much of the world it is considered the acme, and worth re-writing history for.



Even your body belongs to them.

Your mother tugs down your shirt, pulls up your socks. She pushes the hair away from your face.

Your Great Aunt beckons. A warning glance from your mother propels you across the room.

Your Great Aunt holds your cheek between two bony fingers. “She’s gorgeous, Eve.” Your mother smiles and does not rescue you. Your Aunt pats the sofa beside her, and you sit. She pulls your skirt over your knees, and licks a smudge off your black patent leather shoes.

A Little Irish Water Music

Mother wanted a good life, with lace tablecloths and marmalade. Instead, we smeared jam on a linoleum table. She consoled herself by thinking that if blessings came too soon we would only run roughshod over the manners and heirlooms that made a miter’s corner out of life. She would wait for my father to bear us up, slowly, strongly, like a hymn. Occasionally, when Dad belted up his trousers with twine, she turned as brittle as snap bread, but in those early years, she was usually willing to dismiss our days as the pruning from which decorous bloom must one day erupt.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

First Memory

What I used to call my first memory was the time my sister and I (ages five and two) walked up the road to a gas station and bought a bottle of pop. I know it was a real memory, instead of something someone told me, because it had an inner dimension: I pretended the pop was beer and I was a man. Now I remember only the memory of that day.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


Transcendence or detachment, leaving the body, pure love, lack of jealousy - that’s the vision we are given in our culture, generally, when we think of the highest thing. . . . Another way to look at it is that the aim of the person is not to be detached, but to be more attached — to be attached to working; to be attached to making chairs or something that helps everyone; to be attached to beauty; to be attached to music.

Robert Bly

More Quotations ▸
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