The Medicine Wheel is a deeply symbolic tool and concept used by Native American cultures for centuries to find balance, harmony and meaning in life. This sacred circle is divided into four directions, each representing vital elements and stages of the life journey. Imagine a person in the middle of a wheel, trying to become more spiritually complete. They learn from each direction on the wheel and use those lessons to heal and live in harmony. Let’s look closer at the profound wisdom offered by the ancient Shamanic Medicine Wheel.
Discovering the Sacred Circle:
The circular shape of the Wheel reflects the natural cycles and circles visible all around us – the circle of life, the cycle of seasons, the path of the sun and moon. The circle symbolizes oneness, continuity, and equality. By honoring the wheel and moving through its phases purposefully, we embark on the sacred hoop path bringing all parts of our being into alignment.
According to Native traditions, the Medicine Wheel’s original meaning and purpose sprang from the Sky Beings, or Celestial Spirits, who shared this divine knowledge with medicine people to guide earthly tribes. The four cardinal directions were integral, with each direction stewarding elemental energies and stages of growth necessary for a balanced life.
Exploring the Eastern Gate: Spirit
In Native culture, the eastern direction represents first light, springtime and birth. It is the spirit gate through which souls enter this world. The east embodies wonder, growth, trust and new beginnings. From an eastern place of innocence and faith, we connect to the Great Spirit through intuition and mystic vision. Our spirit helps us think of new ideas and things we can do. When we can’t do things easily, feel unsure, or don’t know where we’re going, that’s when we’re not balanced. But if we pray, do creative things, and accept that life can be mysterious, we start to trust and feel more balanced.
Navigating the Southern Path: Vitality
The southern direction represents the full power of the midday sun, the passion of summer and the prime of life. It is the place of action, vitality, strength and motivation. The south embodies how we incorporate Spirit’s inspiration into worldly deeds, passions and challenges. It is the vital fire that energizes and sustains us. Imbalance shows as aggression, impulsiveness, burnout or lust without heart. We integrate the southern virtues by using our fire constructively and taking balanced risks as we walk the Wheel.
Entering the Western Portal: Reflection
Watery twilight, autumn and the sunset years belong to the reflective west. As we age and mature, we enter a time of harvest, wisdom and stewardship. West teaches us discernment, introspection, justice and integrity. Here we reflect on life’s deeper meanings and share the fruits of what we’ve learned. Imbalance manifests as inaction, stubbornness, cynicism or being stuck in the past. We honor the west by looking within, completing old business, practicing forgiveness and accepting impermanence.
Grounding in the Northern Kingdom: Wisdom
Just as winter strips trees bare revealing their solid trunks, the north stands for wisdom, inner stillness, perseverance and truth. The Sky and Earth come together in this place – our spirit is linked to the physical world, and we live our lives here on Earth. In the northern darkness, we connect with deep wisdom from our ancestors and the strength that supports us. When things feel off-balance, it might seem strict, inflexible, unwelcoming, or ungenerous. To bring balance, we embrace the north by practicing simplicity, being patient, staying strong, and finding inner freedom.
At the Wheel’s Center: Balance
At the circle’s center we find balance – the place of perfect stillness around which the Wheel constantly revolves. Here dwell harmony, oneness, and integration. From this quiet hub we can see clearly in all directions and walk a centered path embracing each aspect of life fully without straying too far toward any extreme. Staying grounded in balance allows Spirit to flow through us unimpeded as we live, grow, love and seek purpose along the Wheel’s sacred path.
Walking the Hoop of Life
The Wheel shows us that life is a process of constant movement and flux. As we walk the medicine wheel embracing each phase of the journey, we come alive to the unique gifts offered in every stage of life from infancy through elderhood. Yoga teacher training teaches us more than just moving through life’s cycles gracefully. It offers a template for finding the wholeness of body, mind and spirit as we integrate and honor all aspects of ourselves just as we do the four directions.
Each of us contains the potent energies of north, south, east and west. We each possess intuition, passion, wisdom and reflection within. But we often fail to harmonize these qualities, becoming unbalanced. As we go through each season, we learn from every direction. This helps us become complete and peaceful people who fit well in the circle of life. We connect to the Great Spirit above and Mother Earth below. The Wheel teaches us about balance – let’s all walk this path with wisdom.