The Medicine Wheel is rooted deeply in antiquity, its presence evident in most every ancient culture, though it is known by many names. The symbol of a circle which comprises the Medicine Wheel carries great power and mystery, from microcosm to the macrocosm. The paths of protons/neutrons, of planets and galaxies, the shape of unity (as with a wedding ring) or of destruction (as with a tornado)—few symbols can match such complexity or breadth. Traveling around the medicine wheel, though, can sometimes seem like walking through a labyrinth with our eyes closed.
Discovering the holiness of the Medicine Wheel comes with what I call the Sacred Passage, and is a way for the spiritual warrior to at least approach life with his or her eyes wide open. I thank the late British shaman Kenneth Meadows for inspiring my thoughts about this.
Entering onto the path of the Wheel does not guarantee an instant fix. Rather, it’s an outline for developing an effective means of ridding yourself of negative energy as well as returning to your center. It can become a way of life, a way of the spiritual warrior. If you would like to try to walk the warrior’s path around the medicine wheel, give a few minutes of reflection before starting.
Also, as options, if you have a drum, give it four loud raps when you arrive at each of the cardinal points (or clap loudly four times if you don’t have a drum). You can light a candle at each of the points, too, as you reach them, while also lighting a larger, prettier candle in the center.
Playing a drum can get you started on the journey.
Starting the Journey
The warrior’s journey begins in the North, the place of battle.
For this short piece, not meant to be the end all of discussions on the subject, concentrate on the North in terms of the ego. That is the trigger point for bad energies to begin with. Bad energy begets bad energy. If you truly wish to be in harmony—and, after all, all warriors would rather have harmony than war—you should understand the importance of sublimating the ego in favor of healing and service. It’s not an easy task, for sure, nor quickly accomplished. Sometimes, it is not even obvious that you are in a battle! Rather, you merely sense that something is amiss, you don’t feel centered, or you sense bad energies.
For now, be content with beginning in the North and simply acknowledging that you may have to return here often to face the battle with our own ego, prejudices, angers and other emotions which require attention. You will automatically find yourself here when you perceive yourself surrounded by negative energy.
The goal in the North is to be both strong yet humble with the heart, at which point you can overcome the negative energies. Put your mind in neutral and open your heart, the place of your power. Ask for help! Say it out loud, like this: “Grandfathers, grandmothers, I need help. Great Spirit (or whatever term you prefer for the divine), please help me to find the answers to your mysteries so that I may be in service to all.” Then be in silence and contemplation.
In time, which can range from minutes to even hours or days, you will be led around the circle to the West, the place of change and transition. Often associated with death, this direction marks the end of things, closure. It is a relief when you can move the battle here, for you will be empowered to let go of the negative and allow for positive change, if you are open that is. It’s the place where you leave old baggage behind, the graveyard for things which no longer serve you. Light a candle then write down a list of things that are bothering you. Then burn the list, or bury it. Stand over the remains and say a prayer of thanksgiving for what you learned. Symbolically, you have buried the dead. Blow out the candle then turn your back and walk away.
Next, to fully integrate the change, you must then move to the East, the place of fresh new beginnings.
That will move you through the Center, a most holy place long known in Celtic lands to represent the “King’s” or “Queen’s” position, or the “sovereign center.” Other traditions know this space as Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit, Mother/Father, God, or the “sacred center.” Light your candle there, then move on, as you’ll discover more about the Center later on in this outline.
Arriving at the East, light the candle and watch the rise of the bright light of promise and the start of a new way of being. It represents the rising sun. So, linger with the light and allow it to chase away any darkness. Offer gratitude. If possible, have a small bowl of fresh spring water placed beside the candle, and after lighting the candle, symbolically wash yourself with it after first raising it upwards and asking that it be energized and empowered for your use. Dip your fingers into the water then close your eyes while you slowly run your fingers up your arms, up along your neck, cheeks and to the top of your head. Allow yourself to feel the cleansing power of the silvery water. Be with the silence. Grace will be your reward.
And if you nurture it, you will soon find yourself moving to the South, the position of creation, expression and abundance. Such a lovely place to be! Light the candle, feel its warmth like that of the sun, of growing things, of life itself! The South is the place of music, too, so sing aloud and feel the up-welling of beautiful positive energy embracing you. Oh!
But life seldom remains the same, and before you know it, you may be drawn around the circle to the West once again, where change awaits. Whereas the East gave a new beginning to fresh ideas and inspiration, and then the South gave rise to the full flowering of your intentions, all things diminish over time.
This time, the change may be the falling away of things you would rather hold on to, but you must recognize the lesson inherent in such circumstance. If you can do so, then you can move once again through the Center and back to the East where, inevitably, the promise of something new awaits. Should you remain open, perhaps you will grow faster than you ever imagined. If not, and if you instead choose fear or become confused as to what to do next, you will once again find yourself returning to the North, where you must renew the battle.
Life has a way, as do our choices, of moving us around the Wheel and of teaching us these wonderful, if sometimes perplexing lessons. And throughout our journey, we do occasionally find ourselves in the Center, the place where we are in union with All That Is. It is a great irony that although the Center is our true nature, who we are, we seldom feel worthy of staying there.
Then again, if we feel overly worthy via our ego, we cannot occupy that place, no matter how hard we try or may desire to. Thus, to “find one’s center,” one must actually not look for it! You will simply know when you are there. And that is the place where healing occurs, where the warrior comes to know peace and discovers a higher purpose in service to others.
All together, these travels over our lifetimes form the shape of a figure eight, (8) the sacred symbol of infinity. No beginning or end. It is the sublime symbol of existence that we carve while making our Sacred Passage. Being in the flow of it is the secret to your spiritual warrior’s heart and the beautiful expression of beautiful you!
Aho & Namaste,