Available 2019

Becoming Medicine

Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality

By David R. Kopacz, MD and Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

Psychiatrist and integrative physician, David Kopacz, and Native American Visionary, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) team up again to follow pathways of initiation into living spiritual experience. Initiation is the transformational process through which we can all access direct, personal spiritual experience. The book starts with David and Joseph’s own paths, but then branches off into a variety of lives and stories of many mystics, visionaries, shamans, artists, scientists, and musicians.

Initiation is a path that begins with separation from ordinary reality, initiation into non-ordinary reality, and then the return back to where one started, however now having been transformed. Visionary and mystical experiences can be healing in and of themselves, but true initiation leads to a new sense of identity and purpose and requires the return to ordinary reality as an agent of transformation. Seeking leads to finding and receiving, which in turn lead to an obligation of giving back. David and Joseph speak of Spiritual Democracy, our interrelatedness, and healing our relationship to the land (Mother Earth).

Photo: Karen Kopacz

Photo: Karen Kopacz

David R. Kopacz, MD is a psychiatrist at Seattle VA in primary care mental health integration. He is also board certified in holistic & integrative medicine and is an assistant professor at the University of Washington. David has worked in many different practice settings, including VA, holistic private practice, and as clinical director at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. He has been working to develop holistic approaches to help Veterans return home and to take charge of their own well-being through classes using a patient-centered, whole health model and adapting Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a framework for helping veterans transition home.
Joseph Rael, whose Tiwa name is Tsluu-teh-koh-ay, Beautiful Painted Arrow, is a visionary healer. He brings together in his person the Southern Ute tribe (through his mother) and Picuris Pueblo tribe (through his father) and is a citizen of the world. He is the author of many books, including Sound, Being & Vibration and Ceremonies of the Living Spirit. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin. He has worked to create holistic health care using Native American traditions to help those suffering with addictions. He has been recognized by the United Nations for his work creating Peace Chambers on four continents.

Becoming Medicine Video

David and Joseph share stories and discuss key artworks within their book on healing and personal history. (Length: to come)

Coming soon.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Introduction: The Secret Journey

Part I: Separation (Seeking)
1 / Becoming Medicine
2 / Circle Medicine
3 / Separation
4 / Becoming a Visionary
5 / Becoming a Shaman 
6 / Becoming a Mystic

Part II: Initiation (Finding/Receiving)
7 / Stories of Creation, Initiation & Transformation
8 / Entering the Doorway
9 / Guhā: Cave of the Heart 
10 / Enlightenment & Endarkenment
11 / Initiation
0 / We Do Not Exist

Part III: Returning (Giving)
12 / Returning to the Land
13 / We Are All Pangeans; We Are All Related
14 / Spiritual Democracy
15 / Refounding
16 / A Living Spirituality
17 / Returning to the Garden of Paradise
18 / Secret Journey to the Secret Garden


Becoming Medicine is a great compilation of contemporary medical science and ancient spiritual wisdom. This book is written from the heart like a prayer, if you are a seeker of a living spirituality and want to magnify your power to heal, read this book.

Carl Hammerschlag, M.D.

Author of The Dancing Healers, The Theft of the Spirit, and Healing Ceremonies.

This is a remarkable and deeply engaging account in which a Native American shaman and his psychiatrist apprentice plunge deep into the heart centre of a living wisdom. Replete with questor myths and mystical adventures, this passionate, richly cross-referenced and spiritually inclusive book becomes a vibrant junction of intersecting journeys from diverse wisdom traditions. Circling age-old themes of separation, quest and spiritual homecoming, it is an invitation to trust the non-linear journey of inner transformation — one that turns us, eventually, into our own medicine. Marked by an authenticity that readers will instantly recognize, here is a genuine watering-hole at which seekers of all persuasions can pause and ‘drink the light’.

Arundhathi Subramaniam, M.A.

Author of When God is a Traveller, Sadhguru: More Than A Life, and with Sadhguru, Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga. Editor of Eating God: A book of Bhakti poetry.

Behind the words and images of Becoming Medicine is the wisdom of a man fearless enough to break down all the barriers between what he knows and what he is. Joseph Rael is a unique island of beauty and sanity in our crazy, uncultured culture. And that island that he is, is vaster than the whole world.

Peter Kingsley, Ph.D.

Author of Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity, A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World, and In the Dark Places of Wisdom

In this wonderful book, Picuris/Ute medicine man Joseph Rael reveals that each of us is an embodied human being who is in fact a medicine bag, a container in which we carry sacredness. By walking into the center of ourselves, into the center of our hearts, we cease to be ourselves and are instead becoming medicine. It is something that is done every moment. Becoming Medicine means that we are becoming capable of being a place for the Breath-Matter-Movement of the vast spirit to manifest and reside for a moment. This is a fabulous book for our times. 

Hank Wesselman, Ph.D.

Anthropologist and author of nine books on shamanism including The Re-Enchantment: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder, The Bowl of light: Ancestral Wisdom from a Hawaiian Shaman, the award winning Awakening to the Spirit World (with Sandra Ingerman) and the Spiritwalker trilogy.

Tragically the odious divisive social diseases of the 1930s are returning. Nationalistic, racist and fundamentalist movements are rapidly dividing communities. Innocent people feel more and more lost, alienated, powerless, lonely. They yearn for healing. But how can this healing begin? This is why Becoming Medicine by David Kopacz and Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) is so timely. It is a truly remarkable book, so relevant, so grounded in experience. The medicine of healing begins within each one of us. There we discover our true selves, our unified oneness with all humankind and the universe itself. This is not a healing that is confined to one event. On the contrary, it is a call to a transformative, ongoing, lifelong initiation of discovery. Each discovery leads to a deeper personal and social healing.

Gerald A. Arbuckle, Ph.D.

Refounding and Pastoral Development Unit, Sydney, Australia. Author of Fundamentalism at Home and Abroad: Analysis and Pastoral Responses (2017), Loneliness: Insights for Healing in Fragmented World (2018), and Humanizing Healthcare Reforms (2012). 

Like the wondrous journeys of the spirit it describes, this book escorts the reader along a path to new understanding and, ultimately, transformation. Along the way, we are reminded of our true nature, our kinship with everything around us, and our power to navigate through our own tumultuous times. The path can be bumpy. It can be circular.  Sometimes it is dark. This book helps light the way, and every page is a step toward something meaningful. Where will your journey take you?

J. Adam Rindfleisch, M.Phil., M.D.

Medical Director, Integrative Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Becoming Medicine will help you think in circles, dream-journey in technicolor, speak your vowels with mystic awareness, listen to music with more heart, and feel your heartbeat with more awe. The wonderful paintings of Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz are a generous offering to linger over. I am grateful for their creative friendship and commitment to share a depth of spiritual, psychological, quantum physics, and visionary teachings. Becoming Medicine is a call to community, not only so that we seek out companions to slowly explore the insights and stories in this book. But so that we each take an inner journey into our hearts and return as the visionary healers the community of earth is calling for. 

Shelly L. Francis

Author of The Courage Way: Leading and Living With Integrity (2018). 

This is a book that can really change your life. David Kopacz and Joseph Rael’s Becoming Medicine is a remarkable collaboration between two brilliant and courageous pioneers. The information they provide opens a doorway to a healing path that unveils the hidden potential of the human spirit. Blending together knowledge that is ancient and sacred within the backdrop of modern day psychiatry, it is deeply illuminating. It is a must read for anyone interested in embarking on a journey of transformation and becoming medicine for the world.

Shilagh Mirgain, Ph.D.

Distinguished Psychologist, Assistant Proferssor, University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Becoming Medicine by David R. Kopacz, & Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) is a powerful illustration of the title through the authors’ sharing of their own stories, beautiful art and text, using examples from scientific and humanistic/spiritual literature. Its message is not about becoming a doctor or a healer, but the path to becoming the medicine itself. This is a profound exploration of the journey to Become More — Medicine to self, others and the world, integrating personal examples with multiple cultural traditions present and past. In Becoming Medicine, Kopacz and Rael detail not only the journey for individuals but a path for a disoriented and fragmented world to engage in transformation towards wholeness and unity. Health workers and all seekers alike will benefit from this work.

Michael Hollifield, M.D.

(Long Beach, California & Angel Fire, New Mexico), President and CEO, War Survivors Institute, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.


Becoming Medicine is a bridge between many dualities including: the conscious and the unconscious, the scientific and the spiritual, the ordinary and the non-ordinary, and the Western and the Indigenous. Intricately referenced and yet personal in narrative, David and Joseph weave us through distinct world traditions to reveal the interconnectedness in stories of healing. This bridge is likely to most benefit those of us educated in western contexts, where our minds have been trained to neglect the wisdom of circles and spirit. Whether readers begin as healers or seekers, they will realize the congruence of these paths. Becoming Medicine inspires us into our own shamanic journeys. 

Neeta Ramkumar, Ph.D.

Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

Dr. Kopacz holds the space between the mystery and majesty of shamanic tradition and the study of anthropology and medicine. His writing brings the reader into sublime experiences that Dr. Kopacz holds in his body. He walks the walk between the seen and the unseen, transforming life along the way. Prepare to be fascinated. Prepare to be amazed. You’ll return over and over to the information on the pages and between them. 

Henri Roca, M.D.

Functional Medicine Specialist, Shamanic Journeyer, Clinical Assistant professor, family and community health, Louisiana State University School of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.