The Healing Power of Standing Deer, Taos, and the 7 Sisters

Standing Deer Seven Sisters Painting

On my shuttle ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, NM, an indigenous passenger and I struck up a conversation about the different tribes that lived in the South West. Until that moment, I had been so excited about attending my first Creativity and Madness conference that the thought of meeting Standing Deer, a medicine man and artist who lives in Taos, a small town only an hour and half north of Santa Fe up in the sacred Taos mountains, had not crossed my mind.

I first learned about Standing Deer eleven years ago, right after my darkest night of the ego and my most expansive and ecstatic unfolding along my spiritual journey. I was certain that the Venus transit of a few weeks prior (June 2004) had energized my out-of-body experience. While my dear friend and body worker of several years, Mimi Stern, tried to integrate my bizarre, surreal stories and reground my energy, I rattled off that I had the sense that “seven cosmic sisters” had been with me in spirit through the whole twilight ordeal.

“I figured out who these supportive, powerful healer women were, and you were for sure one of them,” I said to Mimi. She abruptly stopped working on me, went into her bedroom, and came back with a small painting of seven shawled native women in the sky and said,"These are the Seven Sisters, the Pleiadian star constellation, the ancestors of the Tiwa people. The Tiwa people who live in the old pueblo and surrounding reservation areas in Taos believe that they come rom these stars. I purchased this from a Medicine Man named Standing Deer. He said that we had a Seven Sisters connection."

It felt like being offered a small, landing patch on planet Earth in the midst of a whirlwind of other-wordly mystical experiences. I grabbed it with both hands, and little by little began to sort through and digest the huge mystery that I had swallowed whole. I had no reason to contact Standing Deer back then. Just knowing of him and his cosmology was enough to get my feet back on the ground, and guide my esoteric exploration and studies for the past decade.

The thought of meeting him in person at this juncture in my life flooded my eyes with waters from a deep well within. This was my sure sign to proceed. I googled him and found his number.

"Hello, Mr. (?) Standing Deer. I just arrived in Santa Fe and have the whole day open. I was wondering if we could meet for an individual session," I said, feeling like a disintegrating heap of putty.

"Sure," said a warm and friendly voice on the other end of the phone.

"I still need to rent a car, but wanted to make sure that you are available."

"Yes, I am. Just make your arrangements and then call me when you are at the Chambers of Commerce in Taos. You can't miss it. I'll meet you there," he said.

No What's your name? Where are you from? How can I help you? My mind felt like a freshly erased edge-a-sketch screen. I liked it. It was forcing me to connect from the heart and spirit.

Two hours later . .

"Hello, it's me again. You won't believe it, but all the car rental places in Santa Fe are out of cars because of the Spanish Market. After I finally found one, there wasn't a single taxi available to get me there and the office is now closed," I said disappointed, but resigned. I had a feeling that my willful longing and planning to get to Taos and make the most of my free Sunday was not in alignment with what the Universe had in store for me. I started to get the impression that it was too soon to meet him.

"I'm sorry for messing up your schedule. Would you by chance be available on a different day in the coming week? I'll find out in a little while if I have some free afternoons."

"Yes, and don't worry about it. I'm home every day except for a few mornings. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday afternoons are all open. Any day is fine."


I reserved a car over the phone for Wednesday afternoon, my only free afternoon beside Friday, and we were set to meet at 2 pm.

Wednesday afternoon

"Hello. It's me. I'm starting to think that something doesn't want me to meet with you. I'm at Budget and my reservation disappeared into cyberspace. I don't have a car and no one has one until Friday."

"Do what you need to do. I'll be here. Friday is fine," Standing Deer said with saintly patience.

"Thank you so much for your flexibility. I really appreciate it."

Friday afternoon 1 pm. Actually, Friday, the 11th hour, because I was scheduled to leave early Saturday morning.

"I'm sitting in my rental car. It's really happening. I feel bad asking you this because you have already been so flexible, but I wanted to find out what your afternoon looked like. I feel pulled to drive the scenic high road through the mountains, which will take quite a bit longer, but I can take the (straight-shot) low road if you have other plans."

"No, I'll just be painting. Take your time. In Taos, everything moves slow. Do what you need to do. There are interesting villages and places along the way that you may want to visit. Just call me when you get here."

I was finally giving myself full permission to focus on where I was at in the big, big scheme of things, and what I needed rather than where I wanted to be. My solitary, slow drive, undulating through the stacked mesas of vast desert canyon, felt like a pilgrimage, the continuation of an intense week of inspiring, groundbreaking talks that had uplifted my soul and expanded my mind. Layer upon layer, I car-climbed these mesas, like the steps of the Coba temple that I had climbed just 6 months ago in December 2014 during Tracking Wonder's Quest 2015 month-long challenge. Just yesterday, I'd completed a similar Dare to Excel quest, and I'd given an offering of gratitude and praise to the ancient spirits of the South West. After an hour of driving, my journey snaked and blurred into an abstract, recognizable path that I'd been traveling my entire life. Perhaps life times, blending and culminating into one.

Friday 3:15 pm.

"Hello. I didn't feel compelled to stop anywhere on the way here, just took my time to reflect. But I do feel a strong urge now to visit the old pueblo. I'm not sure when I'll be back and will really regret it if I don't. They close at 5 pm, so that means I'll need to do that first if I want to squeeze it in. Is that ok with you?

"Yeah. Go see the pueblo first. We can meet afterward. It's not a problem."

"Ok, thank you." I knew that he meant it, even encouraged it, and stopped apologizing.

Old Town Pueblo Taos

The old pueblo, despite catching it on an cloudy afternoon, was a breath-taking sight, a bucket list must-experience as the only thousand-year old, continuously inhabited world-class heritage site in the US. I met Bertha, and had her delicious traditional fry bread with beans and the works. Her warm demeanor and savory food reminded me of my aunties and their traditional home-cooked food. Of course she knew Standing Deer. As a matter of fact, everyone in the pueblo knew and loved Standing Deer. He was a respected elder who was born and raised there.

The crisp summer air and soft drizzle had freshly baptized the adobe homes, creating shadowy, organic patterns in the straw-speckled mud that reminded me of my porous skin. I wished that I too could be gently warmed from the inside out by a small, burning fire in a volcano-shaped horno, clay oven, just like their cozy, earthy homes during their six month long snowy winters.

The last stop of the tour was at a stream of life-giving water that vigorously flowed from the sacred Blue Lake in the Sangre de Cristo mountains all the way to the pueblo. After a thirty year struggle, President Nixon returned the Blue Lake sacred lands to the Tiwa people. Witnessing the Tiwa's ancient unbroken traditions – living in total harmony with nature and able to rely on Blue Lake's gushing, pristine water for all their needs, drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning – reset all my inner elements into their proper place. I was finally ready to meet Standing Deer.

I got in my car, my eager foot leading me down the main road to our meeting place. A few minutes later, a blue and red swirling siren and a $15 fee reminded me again to slow down, this time to 35mph, the speed limit on the reservation.

Marti White Deer painting

"Follow me," Standing Deer said through the open window of his station wagon, not at all

frazzled that it probably took me three times as long to get to the nearby Shell station. He led me to his modern adobe home on the southern end of Taos, and warmly introduced himself and his wife, Marti White Deer. While surrounded by both of their stunning, visionary paintings covering the walls of their living room, I told them about my first introduction to Standing Deer's art, about the impulse to see him, the crying, and my pilgrimage that seemed to have been significantly slowed down and guided by the spirits, all for good reason.

Standing Deer chuckled as if he'd been aware all along what was going on.

“How are you feeling now?” he asked.

“Great! Much more in alignment and ready for this.”

“That kind of crying is not about you.” Marti commented. Her words resonated the moment she'd uttered them. I'd realized that before about my crying and other symptoms, and often told clients who seemed to be channeling Mother Earth's pain and humanity's imbalances that their crying was about their calling.

Standing Deer pulled out a thick bundle of dark, long eagle feathers. He asked me to stand in the door sill, and with firm, brisk strokes, brushed me with the feathers from top to bottom, front and back. He explained that his father, a medicine man, had passed them on to him when he was 50 years old, and that they had been in the family for eight or so generations. He had brushed off anything that I had picked up along my journey that wasn't mine and that didn't belong in the house. I had a feeling he meant {life-long} journey.

“So, now tell me, what can I help you with,” Standing Deer asked.

Wow. And here I'd fantasized that by the end of this arduous pilgrimage, I was as pure and clear as the creek's gushing waters. Whatever he cleared was related to self-doubt. I could feel my own power emerge more clearly. My mind derailed for a moment, and I imagined holding my energetic boundaries with the same intense fierceness and compassion as he was, briskly brushing people off before they entered my space. Wow wow wow. I still had a long ways to go.

“Well, I had not really thought much about it, but I'm getting an image now of my field on this side having arrived at its furthest cutting edge, like one side of a bridge, and my holistic healing and shamanic work with the spirits on the other side of the bridge. They are so close to meeting, holding up both arms and showing him the tiny gap between my finger tips.” The first time I had a vision of this bridge was eleven years ago, and strongly felt then that this was my purpose, the work that I'd been called to do, and I have been preparing myself for it since then.

Standing Deer and Loraine Van Tuyl

“I just became a certified CEU trainer, and can start training others on a larger scale, and work with indigenous communities as well. I feel like I either need to be cleared or be blessed by the spirits and the Seven Sisters in a rite of passage or a threshold ceremony. I know that I'm 'ready,' but there is a part of me that doesn't feel ready, that feels presumptuous about taking this on without the blessing of an elder.”

“That's funny, I'm painting the Seven Sisters right now, coming out of the kiva and flying back to the sky. I'd been painting other things for a while. We can take a look at the paintings later. Come here and place your hands gently on the drum. I'm going to sing an ancient healing song to help you stand in your power,” he said.

I placed my finger prints on a large mother drum adorned by colorful palm prints. By the fourth drum beat, waves of emotion emerged from deep within and for about ten minutes washed over me as evenly as the waves of the sea.

“Hm, you felt, huh?” Standing Deer said.

“Hmmhm. I was focusing on bringing the energy down into my feet, but felt my heart expanding.”

“That's where the work is. In the heart, integrating the upper and lower,” Marti commented.

“So a CD is for sure one of the things that I'm getting,” I said, sniffling and chuckling.

Standing Deer had gotten up and was standing by a coat closet.

Standing Deer and Loraine Van Tuyl

“How about this?” while holding up a light tan jacket. On the back were two medicine birds, facing one another. “I usually paint them back to back, but these two are looking at each other, communicating, like you and me. They are the medicine birds of both worlds. These seven feathers on top are the seven sisters.”

I picked my jaw up from the floor, and exclaimed, “This is it. I love it. I don't think I need to see the paintings anymore,” I teased, and slipped on the jacket. It was a perfect fit. “I love that I can wear this on me rather than have it hang on a wall,” feeling knighted and caped when he said it will help me do good work.

“The jacket was waiting for you. He painted it in 2009 just before we went to Sedona for a year. He painted it for me but it never felt like mine. I'm happy that it finally found its person,” Marti revealed later.

“That just gives me chills. Thank you for your integrity so it could find me and I could find it,” I responded, feeling more humbled, honored, and baffled than I thought was humanly possible.

Standing Deer Painting

We walked into the garage/studio where Standing Deer's signature Medicine Bird and medicine stick prominently empowered his bright, contemporary paintings with symbolic messages. He showed me a drum that he was about to paint.

“I'd love for you to paint me a drum,” spontaneously slipped out.

He still didn't know my “real name,” my credentials, or what I did exactly, but he had gathered key information that mattered most as a healer. Was he really going to get all of it on the drum? A rainbow Eagle medicine bird, the moon, primordial sky, Rainbow Crystal Woman instead of his signature male medicine healer, 7 deer hoves representing the 7 sisters, my sea turtle guide, and traces of a white buffalo?

“I'm going to surprise you. I know exactly what I'm going to paint on it,” he said. I can't wait to see it, but I'm practicing patience to the best of my ability.

Marti White Deer Painting

Our meeting came to a natural close. Standing Deer and his wife needed to be right next to the restaurant where I planned on meeting a new Artmark friend. After a lovely dinner and another heart-felt, serendipitous connection, I drove back to Santa Fe while listening to Standing Deer's songs, letting the tears freely stream down my face. That kind of crying was perhaps not about me, yet each heave and release cleared my inner channel of lingering reason-related blockages, and stretched the outer limits of my soul to taste its vastness, its infinite love, and Oneness potential. Feeling blessed all over again by a deer standing close to the road, I slowly descended, layer by layer, back into my ordinary life, bursting with love, fierce compassion, wisdom, and clarity to share with others.