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Little in Dave Cumes's upbringing could have predicted the life he would follow after he turned 40. Trained as an M.D. and then a surgeon in South Africa Dave emigrated to California with his family in 1975 to begin a residency in urological surgery at Stanford Medical Center. After serving on the faculty at Stanford and spending a year in Seattle Dave finally settled into private practice in Santa Barbara. Once the practice began to be successful Dave returned to South Africa to fulfill a dream he had as a child. He wanted to spend time with the last of the hunter-gatherers of the continent - the Kalahari Bushmen.

Dave's quest began after this extended visit to the Bushmen in 1987 where he experienced their intimacy with nature and felt their untainted spirit. Here he was able to restore his relationship with wilderness in terms of what he had experienced in the Kalahari and what he termed "wilderness rapture." He began to formulate a theory around the use of wilderness for spiritual practice and healing which he integrated into both his yoga practice and his medicine. He distilled this into a philosophy of the how-to's of "wilderness rapture" and wrote books on healing, the first based on using nature as "medicine," and the second (The Spirit of Healing,) the general principles of what it is that makes us heal. After writing Inner Passages Outer Journeys he founded Inward Bound and began to take people into remote wilderness areas for restoration and self-transformation. Inner Passages Outer Journeys was the theoretical side of how this worked, and the Inward Bound trips were the experiential part of the philosophy. He continued his surgical practice with renewed equanimity and balanced his life with yoga and periodic trips into the outback.

On trips to Peru he was exposed to curanderos or shamans and began to realize they had deep knowledge of healing that in spite of all his medical training he was not privy to. When he went back to South Africa and began to consult sangomas about the logistics of upcoming Inward Bound journeys they would throw the bones and give good practical advice. However, in addition they would invariably look at him and add, "the bones, they say you should be doing this work; the bones say you should be doing African medicine; your grandmother's bone is telling you to be initiated; your ancestors want you back here in Africa!" After the sixth such reading, all of them given by different sangomas, none of whom knew each other, he was still not committed. After a couple of years, out of frustration for his reticence, the ancestors revealed themselves directly to him through a woman sangoma who went into a trance. They told him in no uncertain terms that he was ignoring his destiny and needed to be initiated. After this powerful revelation he relented.

He found an elderly Zulu sangoma in Swaziland who agreed to teach him. P.H. Mntshali threw the bones and there was no dispute. The training began on the cusp of the millennium. Since that time his life has changed profoundly. The journey which he undertook chose him, he did not choose it.

Dave was told by the bones and various expert sangomas going into trance that his grandmother on his mother's side was the one who would help him become a different kind of healer. Moreover, there was a foreign spirit, a black woman who had been a sangoma and a friend of his maternal grandmother. She wanted to be the guiding spirit for the divining bones. He was instructed to build an ndumba (healing hut) in California where the ancestors could feel at home and assist him. The bones were going to be his main tool for a new kind of healing, and Mntshali who was a master, was to teach him. Once he started the work, his incessant migraines, an indication of the "ancestor sickness," went away.

After being initiated Dave bought 3000 acres in the Soutpansberg mountains in the far north of South Africa where he built Tshisimane (The Source,) an indigenous based healing center. Although Dave has had to give up the Center, it still remains very much part of his psyche.







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