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The Flute and the Drum

It has been a little over one year since I first began working at Vista Taos Renewal Center as medical director.  I came to Vista Taos from having grown up in a culture that is further separated from New Mexico than the 1500 miles I traveled to arrive here. It is a different landscape, different people, different dress, different food and a different connection to life. What was not different was the passion for recovery exhibited by those working at Vista Taos. It was clear that the desire to help others did not stop at cultural boundaries, but there was someone that from our first meeting touched something special within me. I have had the good fortune to have known a number of individuals over the years that made a lasting impression in their commitment and compassion towards those suffering from addictions. Patrick Shendo is one such person. He first reminded me of “Chief” on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, only much better looking. His appearance was somewhat imposing until he smiled and I saw the twinkle in his eyes. I felt like I had known him for years. Officially, his title is Residential Director but unofficially he is the heart of Vista Taos. His personal recovery has led him on an extraordinary journey from humble origins to musical fame. As a native member of the Puebloan people, he was raised in the Native American culture of Jemez/Taos Pueblo. Music and its spiritual connection to his people has remained a vital component in his personal spiritual journey. Although he is a recognized artist by the Native American Music Association and has performed across the United States he feels most at home in his role as a spiritual sponsor in working with those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction who come to Vista Taos for recovery. Each morning he holds a meditation group in which he utilizes his musical prowess with the flute and the drum to create a meditative experience that cannot be produced by words alone. His music resonates across the sagebrush, from the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into the hearts of everyone present. The astounding beauty of the surrounding landscape is exceeded only by the obvious love and humility present in this amazing man. He has touched my life as well as the lives of many others as he carries the message of his and his people’s spiritual growth through the humble power of the flute and the drum.

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