I have always been fascinated by the mysterious images and myths of ancient Egypt, especially the myth of Isis and Osiris. And as I look back on my life, it is so clear how the myth of Isis and Osiris has been the perfect metaphor for my own healing journey, and the healing paradigm shifts that have emerged along the way.
A quick synopsis of the part of the myth that fascinates me the most: Isis and Osiris are king and queen of Egypt in a remote golden age, and all is right with the world. Yet their brother Set murders and dismembers Osiris into fourteen parts and scatters his body parts throughout Egypt. Devastated, Isis searches for and finds all of his parts, then “magically” resurrects Osiris.I recall reading sometime in the 90s that the deeper meaning of the myth is that the opposite of remembering is not so much forgetting as it is dis-membering, figuratively slicing off or excluding parts of others or ourselves. And in this myth, it is implied that some the deepest wounds happen in the family context, and healing is often a question of being willing to look for, re-member and resurrect our lost parts. But we can’t always do it alone, and there will be times when we will need to make ourselves vulnerable to an inner circle of trusted others. So in a deeply symbolic way, Osiris and Isis are you and me, and anyone on the healing journey.
I believe that when we are young, we all start off as an Osirian golden child, whole and majestic in spirit, mind and body—”his majesty the baby,” as John Bradshaw called it—and so I was no exception. But from about the age of 6, parts of me began to split off as I silently observed my dad’s emotional wounds gushing out, and lashing out, in our home. Not to discount my experiences, but I know now that my dad had very few choices, and was just acting out the wounds that he could not get therapy for when he was young, for not only were these healing resources not created yet back then, but generally speaking, it was just not a part of the culture of that generation. It took years if not decades, but I have compassion for my dad now, and have also come to believe that I really wasn’t a victim: I believe that I incarnated into this context to awaken deep sensitivity and experience wounding, trauma and emotional pain for myself so that I could later be there for others. Yet at that time of my life, the reality was that no one was emotionally available or present for me to process and heal everything that was happening in my home and inside of me, and I felt buried alive by the crushing weight of grief, anger, fear and shame. With no one to turn to, my right-brain, feelings and other vital parts were “sliced off,” while I sought relief through praise, approval and recognition for academic and athletic performance. So like millions of others in similar or worse situations, I gradually became a human doing, a member of the walking dead, loyal to the dysfunctional family rules of “Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.”
Fortunately, when I was 7, my mom started attending Al-Anon and took my sister and I with her to Ala-teen meetings. Although it was all very confusing at that young age, I see now that its gift was that I knew I was not alone, and I came to believe that healing is a program and a lifestyle, not just an occasional event. My other takeaways were “Take what you like and leave the rest.” And somewhere inside I also internalized that “Easy does it.”
When I was in high school, my dad went into treatment, and looking back, it seems very symbolic to me that when everyone else was on spring break in Florida my senior year in high school, I was in Family Week at the treatment center. I understand now that from a very young age I was taking the road less traveled, and I am so grateful to my mom for inviting me onto the healing path, being the first of any generation in my family to break the cycle of addiction and abuse. For seen through the eyes of this myth, my mom was the first ‘Isis’ of my life, and she gave me a magical and life-saving gift that helped change my life script from the unconscious Set/Osiris—predator/prey, victimizer/victim script into the conscious Isis/Osiris—healer/healed script.
Teachers and coaches also played the role of Isis for me, especially Kitsy (Osborne) Parrish, Kevin Kronauer and Donny Kahlbin. And my first glimpse of experiential/holistic healing came as a junior in high school when another teacher (Louise Hazelwood) stepped into the archetype of Isis as she guided us through a progressive relaxation. I deeply relaxed, entered a state of consciousness that I never had before—one of exquisite relief and well-being—and I returned to waking consciousness transformed and centered, thirsting for more. A few years later as my dad’s healing journey continued, he also got interested in progressive relaxation, and I borrowed a recording from him that I still use to this day. Progressive relaxation, and affinity for movement and a natural ability to teach were his greatest “Isis” gifts to me, ones that I gradually grew adept at and began passing on to others.
In the summer of 1984 when I was nineteen, my mom arranged for my sister and I to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) group therapy, and I began to process and talk about the feelings and Osirian wounds from my past, and get some of my parts back. At the end of that summer, I was fortunate enough to study in France, and that experience was profoundly transformational for me, helping me to access parts of myself that I never knew existed, opening my eyes, mind and heart to healing and other realms of possibility. Especially helpful and memorable books in the years that followed were Illusions and other books by Richard Bach, John Heider’s The Tao of Leadership, Gayle Delaney’s Living Your Dreams, and an amazing book my dad discovered, Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy.
As Sting wrote in Be Still My Beating Heart, “I’ve been to every single book I know to soothe the thoughts that plague me so,” and that verse defined a few years of my life. But self-help books and my left brain could only take me so far, and in truth, they were the equivalent of Osiris trying to heal himself. I didn’t understand that I was really starved for connection and for right-brain, heart-oriented experiences, for in so many ways I felt dead inside.
Seeing my pain and knowing that I wanted to break my unhealthy family patterns and feel fully alive, my mom encouraged me to return to ACOA group therapy. In 1988 I did return, and I was fascinated that the sessions had evolved to include new experiential components, which I deeply benefited from through 1994. I cannot overstate the importance of those experiences and having a safe place to have them, and how it was the first place that I could verbalize, vocalize and physically express my pain, rage, shame, fear and sadness… where I could own them fully without being shamed, shut down, discounted, minimized, made fun of or have someone try to take them away from me so it wouldn’t trigger their own pain. I began to understand then that you can only take someone as far as you have been, the need for a community of like-minded others on the healing path, and, in the words of John Bradshaw, that “If you don’t work it out you’ll act it out… or you’ll act it in… or project it onto other people.” And with my therapists in the role of Isis, I began to re-member and feel my parts coming back to life. But at the same time, I felt great sadness as I realized that, besides my mom, I could not talk about my healing journey with my family or the friends I grew up with; for, as I tried, friends would drop like flies and family members would show terror in their eyes or run screaming from the room… as some people undoubtedly did as they began reading this. But I know that it’s not for everyone.
In 1990 at the age of 25, I also began experiencing “Isis” from a different angle: learning chi gong and tai chi from Michael Whiting, and I am so grateful for his mentorship and expertise. And six months later, I also began teaching water aerobics as healing movement became a lifestyle and integral part of my healing process. And I will never forget the day in November 1992 when, while practicing a chi gong movement, I felt chi for the first time—an experience I never knew was even possible—and I understood that it was my gift to be a holistic healer, and I chose not to waste it. In 1993, with another “Isis” friend Debby Day, I began acupressure classes with the amazing healer Steve Schumacher, followed by powerful metaphysics classes with Carl Thomas, Reiki classes with Robin Tucci and Patti Hutt and yoga and acupressure certifications. I didn’t forget all I learned and experienced in therapy: I just built upon it as a solid and powerful foundation, and I would return to an even further evolved version of it in a few years.
As my healing journey continued and I performed my daily tai chi movements (which had been referred to by Bill Moyers as “physical attitudes” and “connecting to nature through movement” by Dr. David Eisenberg in the PBS special “The Mystery of Chi“), a thought began to creep up in the back of my mind… “What if there was a way to connect to human nature through movement?” In other words, what if there was a way to become a better person and to combine personal growth and movement? And the answer to that question would begin to show up in 1997, when I was introduced to professional astrologer and Shadow Work coach Jeff Baugher.
A retired engineer who had been on the holistic healing path for over twenty years, Jeff was fun-loving and extremely grounded, and referred to the signs of the Zodiac as instincts and archetypes that are our birthright. And as I began to study with him and contemplate the archetypes of the Zodiac, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection between the body parts associated with the 12 astrological signs and the 14 body parts of Osiris. Then one night in January 1999, I had an epiphany that brought together everything that I had been experiencing into one cohesive healing model. “What if,” I thought, “there was a movement for each sign of the Zodiac? And what if performing the movements that represent those signs could bring more of you to life and help you move into balance? What if that was all a part of the deeper meaning of the myth of Isis and Osiris, and perhaps a forgotten legacy of the Egyptian mystery schools? In other words, what if the 12 parts of the Zodiac + you (as Osiris) + a partner (Isis) = the 14 metaphorical parts alluded to in the myth? What if these movements were a part of the healing magic of the myth?” The epiphanies, possibilities and creative bursts went on and on.
Long story short, I had experienced first hand with Jeff that the easiest time to connect with our intuition and the energy of a sign/archetype was at the corresponding new moon, when the moon (representing the unconscious mind), and the sun (representing the conscious mind), come together in the same sign. For me, this was not some abstract theory: through Jeff’s new moon workshops, each month I DID have visions and intuitions related to each sign, and combined them with goal-setting as Jeff suggested. So beginning with the new moon in Aries in 1999, it became my goal to intuit and develop—one month and sign at a time—the movements that we now call Astrological Tai Chi. And in 1999, with a “I think you’re onto something Daniel,” Jeff joined me in this creative/intuitive adventure.
In 2000, just as we completed developing the movements, Jeff also invited me to join him in experiential healing in The Mankind Project, while he and his wife Becky simultaneously trained in Shadow Work, and its powerful experiential exercises to integrate the archetypes/parts of the self known as the Lover, Warrior, Magician and Sovereign. Becky, by the way, also became a participant and leader in the Mankind Project’s sister organization, Woman Within, and Jeff and Becky soon offered to incorporate some of their new wisdom and experiential processes into our exercises. Also in 2000, with Debby Day and Steve Schumacher and others in Louisville, I began a three year training in the mindfulness-based Hakomi body-centered psychotherapy which has brought me my deepest healing experiences and even greater depth and meaning to these movements. For example, as people perform these movements with us in a private session, sometimes in their body they may feel weaker or stronger, or a memory, sensation or core belief that no longer serves them may emerge, and we have the option to use Hakomi principles and tools to invite people to move into mindfulness and experience the movements on a much deeper level. But the movements continued to take on a life of their own, and we began to make the movements even more inclusive by using non-astrological language and combining them with affirmations, mission statements, sacred wisdom and other inspirational material that you can read about on our website.
I benefit from all these unique healing practices as much as anyone. And after all these years, I think that the best thing about these healing tools is that they are simple, fun and easy to experience and learn, so in themselves they are a new paradigm for healing. With simple step by step instructions and breathing patterns, our movements are an easy way to RE-MEMBER the beauty and lushness of life, who we are and how we feel, and feel into and bring to life parts of us that may have been metaphorically dis-membered. And there is a simple program to learn these movements: learn all 12 movements step by step; then the 6 pairs of opposite movements; then, if you like, the Most Important Movements of Your Life (the movements for your sun sign, moon sign, rising sign, and north and south nodes); then the AM and PM forms and the 4 Element and 3 Mode forms and all the partner forms. These fascinating forms feel like Isis looking for and re-membering our parts, so as we move, we play both the role of Isis and Osiris, healer and healee. The movements blur the boundary between fun and personal growth, mind and body, conscious and unconscious. So as you perform these relaxed fluid movements, spontaneous memories of the beauty and lushness of your life can sometimes spontaneously emerge.
For example, just recently as I introduced the Cancer movement and its themes of nurturing, mothering and tenderness to a client, tears of love filled her eyes as the movement reminded her of babies in general and her children in particular. And as I invited her to experience the other side of the Cancer movement—where we step back as a reminder to also step back to allow others to nurture and care for us as well—a tenderness for herself and how well she parented showed up, and a resolve to allow more down time for herself… it was time to go out and get that massage! Later, she posted on social media, “These movements will change your life!” So I am amazed and in awe of how powerful these movements are and how they can access great reserves of energy and body wisdom. And I am so grateful that I can share them with others, and how they help people get in touch with the inner sovereign part of themselves, whatever you want to call it, as the movements support their life, dreams and goals and help people take their life to the next level.
So I love these movements and opportunities to share them. And as my healing journey continues, and I now regularly step into the role of “Isis,” this ancient paradigm for healing has become such a vital part of my healing vision that the image at the head of this article has also come to adorn the wall in my healing space in Louisville, Kentucky. Here, I integrate and teach everything that I have learned and experienced, and offer movement and mindfulness as an invitation to connect to nature and human nature, “re-member” our parts, move into balance, celebrate and tell the stories of our lives, and connect to heart memories and body wisdom. And whether or not it was fate, chance, dumb luck, the stars aligning or a combination thereof, regardless, Jeff and I were simply in the right place at the right time to stumble upon and resurrect these ancient healing movements and help turn them into a living, breathing reality. And to this day, it seems like it was there all along, just waiting to be re-membered.
The only strange thing for me though, is if this is indeed an ancient healing legacy, I would have never thought that even after 5,000 years that these movements would still be so way ahead of their time.