We typically think of “medicine” as a pill or tonic we ingest in order to remedy a physical ailment. In indigenous culture medicine refers to anyone or anything with the ability to transform. In this way, even our words can be perceived as having medicine when we use them with the intention of bringing change.

There are also good medicines and bad medicines. Both bring change, but not all render a result that is necessarily intended or desired.

In our dominant culture we place a high value on professional achievement, academic accomplishment, letters after a name, books written, articles published, and so on. When a person is presented as having these accomplishments we perceive them to be an “authority” and we take their words as having value even if we may disagree with their positions.

“The ability of a person to heal, to evoke and to inspire with words flows from how a person uses their words.”

In the indigenous realm anytime a person says they are an “authority” people will tend to stop paying attention to them. The reason is because in indigenous thinking what gives a person “medicine,” or the ability to transform with words, has nothing to do with accomplishments or numbers of books read or written, but rather the clarity and focus of a person’s intention.

Words can harm and cause confusion and distrust.
Words can also heal and bring positive change.

Words can evoke and inspire.
They can also irritate and chafe.

Words can force us to look at things we would rather not have to look at.
And they can inspire us to do more, achieve more, and be more.

The ability of a person to heal, to evoke and to inspire with words flows from how a person uses their words, not merely what they have accomplished in the past. In this understanding everyone has the ability to use their words as medicine regardless of their position in life. In this understanding everyone is equal.

I have heard it said that we are able to affect people in powerful ways when we speak with clear intention. The question then becomes: What effect do we wish to have?

Tip of the Week

Imagine medicine as something unseen, like a magic potion that emanates from the tip of your tongue. Imagine that when you focus clearly on a healing intention for a conversation that this magic potion is issuing forth and blessing the recipient with the ability to transform in such a way that is to their greatest good. Meditate on this image for some time. Then think of a person in your life with whom you both could benefit from some healing between you. This is not about fixing the other person so you can feel better, but rather that you genuinely wish to bring healing between you. Then go and speak your words to this person with a highly focused intention of healing for the greatest good of the other person, and see what comes of it.