Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA, RH (AHG)
Clinical Herbalist, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Inspired and guided by the healing traditions of her Slavic, Mexican, Dine and Magyar ancestors, Atava has a healing practice at The Goose Sisters Healing Center in Oakland, where she treats clients using herbs, flower essences, acupressure, massage, dream work, prayer and ritual.
Atava is a popular teacher who conducts herbal education classes throughout Northern California. With a background in healing and spirituality, Atava also teaches classes on Indigenous Science, Environmental Intimacy, Slavic Ancestral Remembrance, Dreams as Mythic Metaphor, and Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Healing. Her venues include UC Berkeley, Naropa University Oakland, the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium, the Bay Area Herbal Symposium, the Upaya Center for Wellbeing and Klub Gaja in Bielsko-Biala, Poland. Currently, Atava is a core faculty member for the Indigenous Mind Concentration at San Francisco's Wisdom University.
Atava's quest to understand the true nature of healing began as a student at Stanford University. She looked for the essence of healing in her psychology classes, but failed to find what she was looking for in academia. She became interested in hands-on healing when she took her first shiatsu class in 1988. After graduating from Stanford in 1990, Atava received both basic and advanced certifications in acupressure from the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley.
In 1995, after attending the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium. Atava became a student of western herbal medicine and flower essence therapy. She began her herbal training with herbalist Karyn Sanders. Curiosity about the healing traditions of her own ancestors led her to Mexico in 2000, where she participated in a two week Traditional Indigenous Healing seminar in Cuernavaca. She began to work with Mexican curanderas Estela Roman and Enriqueta Contreras and to study indigenous Mesoamerican healing philosophies and techniques. Later, Atava was trained as a western clinical herbalist at the Ohlone Center for Herbal Studies in Berkeley.
As a student in the Indigenous Mind Master's program at Naropa University Atava continued to be taught by traditional elders and healers from around the world, including Hawaiian kahunas Auntie Mahi Poe Poe and Mr. Hale Makua. In 2003, Atava received her Master's degree in Indigenous Mind from Naropa University Oakland. Her master's thesis was an in depth exploration of the earth-based spiritual roots of her Polish Slavic ancestors. After graduation Atava began to teach in the Indigenous Mind program and to work closely with her mentor, Dr. Apela Colorado, founder of both the Indigenous Mind Concentration and the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network.
Later, Atava co-founded the Polish Ancestral Healing Project with her friend and colleague, Maura Singer Williams. Atava's professional work has expanded to include teaching people how to remember and reconnect with their own indigenous roots. She also continues to research, travel and teach to build upon the body of work she began in graduate school.
Musings on Healing
Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA
"Healing is the restoration of the balance of all the forces that impact human life- the physical, emotional, biophysical, psychic, spiritual, natural and cosmic."
Charles Finch, MD, Author of The African Origin of Science & Mathematics
What does health look like? What causes illness? What is healing? These are questions I have pondered during the years in my healing practice. Often I see that a person's health is a composite of many factors: their diet, lifestyle, relationships, family, community, history, ancestors, work, race, class, gender, and spirituality. When one or more of these factors is out of balance, often one's physical health suffers.
When a person suffers from illness and seeks allopathic medical care, the focus is on treating the symptoms, which often are not the underlying cause of illness. Western medicine does not encourage people to take personal responsibility for their own health. Instead, allopathic medicine fosters people's dependence on chemical based pharmaceuticals to help "cure" their illness. Frequently, a "cure" is often only a suppression of symptoms. Silencing symptoms without listening to them can often delay healing. In holistic healing, symptoms are important because they help reveal the root cause of an illness. In my work, I encourage my clients to pay careful attention to the messages from their bodies. This practice of listening to and understanding symptoms empowers each person to reclaim responsibility for their own health.
In my practice, I help my clients understand the factors that make up their current state of health. This often takes time, investigation and reflection. Next, I help facilitate my client's connection to their sources of healing. These healing resources could be medicinal herbs, flower essences, or organic food. Meditation, prayer and spiritual practice can bring a sense well being to many people. Healing can also come from nature, friends, play, laughter, and creative expression such as art, writing, music and dance.
In people's lives, many times the onset of an illness heralds a cycle of transformation and self-discovery. The journey of healing, of returning to balance is a complex and multifaceted journey. My role is to guide and support people on this journey.
Central to my practice is working with the healing power of plants. Human beings' relationship to plants is ancient and instinctual. Since time immemorial, the lives of humans and plants have been intricately intertwined. Human beings breathe oxygen that comes from plants; plants survive on the carbon dioxide that humans exhale. Plants are our healing allies, conduits of the healing and spiritual power of Mother Earth. All ancient cultures across the world understood this and many traditional and indigenous cultures still practice this kind of plant based healing today. In working with herbal medicine, I offer my clients the opportunity to remember and reconnect with the plant world. I encourage my clients to develop relationships with the plants that are their medicine.
My calling in this life time is to remember and resurrect the ancient healing traditions of my ancestors. The earth's living wisdom keepers inspire me: the indigenous healers and elders who have kept alive their language, stories, ceremonies, plant lore and healing traditions. Many of these practices have endured in spite of thousands of years of colonization, re-location, enslavement and genocide. I believe that this knowledge, the knowledge of the indigenous, earth-based people holds the key to our survival as a planet. I honor the spiritual and healing knowledge of my ancestors: the Magyars of Hungary, the Dine' of Turtle Island, the Otomi from Central Mexico, and the Polish Slavs. The memory of their knowledge lives in my bones.
In 2008, Atava was accepted as a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG). She was admitted as a registered herbalist (RH) to the Guild after a lengthy application process in which her work and knowledge was evaluated by a panel of renowned and expert herbalists. She is honored to be part of the AHG and to share in their goal to promote the education and practice of herbal medicine.
I dedicate the merit of my work to the benefit of all living beings. May we walk again in beauty on our beloved Mother Earth in harmony with one another and with the plants, animals, elements of nature and with All My Relations.