My name is Russ Reina, and I refer to myself as "a firetender."
I really hope this "firetender" thing catches on. Here's my Vision:
It's a hot, midday on a Boulevard teeming with pedestrians. A distressed cry goes out: "Firetender!" From all four directions come people to the stricken one, each saying, "How can I help?"
Get it? It's not really about ME.
This web site is my way of sharing my experience in the healing arts. It began when I was 17, in 1969, working as an Orderly in a nursing home. "firetender" is the metaphor I use today that reflects who I wished to be then and aspire to be still; one who tends the fires of spirit when called upon.
So there's no confusion, I'm a Brooklyn born Italian and have no Native American blood -- though my spiritual Unci (Grandmother) has called me a WOPaho! firetender is based on my experiences living and working with her traditional Oglala medicine family on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota at various times during the 1990's: Chips (a truncated geneology is here.) I tended fire for their sacred ceremonies. Terminally diseased people were healed.
(Quoting John Lame Deer, from the book "Lame Deer - Seeker of Visons" :
"One of our greatest Souix holy men was old Chips. Without him, maybe our religion would have died out. During the darkest years he kept his vision alive, worked it for the good of the people. He was a real wicaasa wakan. If he hadn't taught us, there would be no be medicine men left among us now. He did it almost all by himself. Well he passed the power on to his son, Ellis Chips, and he is a good man. But the real power of the old holy man went to his grandson Godfrey.")
I was graced with a glimpse into indigenous ways of healing, passed down over perhaps hundreds of generations. Through these times, I learned some of the ways that connection plays a role in transformation of illness into health. Within it, I had an elemental experience of preparing sacred space so that others may live. The lessons learned there were ancient concepts with very real applications in today's world; even in a Cardiologist's office!
|The family I worked with modeled the art of building
"One Mind, One
Heart" for everyone involved in the healing process. Healing was
never presented out of the context of community. My experience was a potent
revelation to me of how far away and quickly we have travelled from the
ways healing was
practiced for millennia
before it got
Westernized, Mechanized and Litigation-driven. Medicine was once person
to person; not something "delivered".
But even more indicative was their emphasis that (paraphrasing Godfrey Chipps, the Yuwipi Man): it's not about you being healed, it's about you deciding to live. I learned that to be a healer is to be a vehicle, NOT a Director with a Capital "D", and the will of the person seeking healing is paramount to the end result!
For a better understanding of my relationship with my Lakota teachers, please read my article A firetender's Lesson (Part I). You can easily get to the full series from there. I respect and credit my influences, and DO NOT in any way present myself as an authority in ANY indigenous people's medicine. I only have my own to offer.
Once I got out of the ambulance, I was introduced to fire through this family. Working with fire is working with both the seen and the unseen, with a primal force that moves freely, slips in between and through all worlds, affecting everything it touches as it does so. Most important, it's all about the moment. And within the context of sacred ceremony, each moment is focused on strengthening the intent of the participants to effect healing.
In sacred ceremonies, the firetender is that person who prepares a sacred, safe and nurturing space for forces of guidance and healing to visit. That's what this site's about; that's what I've prepared for all of us. Did you catch that? In the sacred space I create, I make sure there's room for me, as well!
When I'm tending fire for an Inipi (commonly, but inaccurately described as "sweat lodge") and someone calls out "firetender!" my attention immediately moves to the moment and seeks the place that I can contribute. I know I'm being called upon to do Something, but my purpose as firetender means that my focus becomes, "Where do I fit in, as only I can, in service to healing?"
It's a "What will you have me do?" sort of thing.
This site is meant to reach firetenders like myself -- of whom there are many! No, there's not a course, diploma, secret handshake or that secret little tatoo. You know who you are. Maybe you'll find a part of yourself here.
Can you see what's going on here? I'm hoping you'll enjoy this, my Mission Statement, and that you'll take the time to develop one of your own. Find a metaphor in your life that captures what it is you came here to do. Explore how it came to you and what it expects of you as well. It gives you something concrete to come back to during times of doubt or exhaustion. It gives you things to remember. Perhaps most important, it is the foundation upon which you build everything that follows as you gather and use new tools. As you can see, it doesn't have to be prefect, but it's got to ring your bells!.
So, let us who express ourselves as vehicles through which healing energy flows, no matter how that manifests, come together in community so we can learn from each other!