The Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel - Introduction

The Medicine Wheel Ritual is especially significant in a group, but it can be done individually. This active practice has a few important purposes. One purpose is to give reverence and thanks to all the four directions of Great Spirit, relating also to the four great kinds of Life - mineral, plant, animal, and human. Great Spirit Sky and also Great Mother Earth all enter into this as well. Another purpose is to understand and balance the four great parts of our own being -- physical, emotional, mental, and soul power. So one purpose is to give respects to Our Relations, while another purpose is to develop balance and harmony in our own self.

Balance and wholeness is represented in the Native American Medicine Wheel, which is actually a healing tool as well as a symbol of holistic health. Medicine means good energy, or healthy, healing energy, and wheel signifies a dynamic flow of energy, so the Medicine Wheel is a dynamic power of healing energy. The Medicine Wheel is a sacred circle formed on the ground by placing at least four stones at the four directions. More stones can be added to form a circle. Something sacred or symbolic can be placed in the center of the circle, or it can be empty.

The Medicine Wheel is a sacred symbol, representing a variety of different meanings and relations, though not forgetting that it is used ceremoniously and practically for healing, prayers, celebrations, and other purposes. The simplest Medicine Wheel is made of just four stones or four signs of the four directions, but even in more complex wheels the four major directions have the greatest significance. The four stones or four directions divide the circle in four parts and they are placed equally and symmetrically around the circle. This creates a perfect balance of forces or parts of the circle. So, in essence, we have a circle which represents complete, interconnected wholeness, or unity, and we have four forces or directions of energy, each balancing the others and creating a balanced stability in the circle.

In the center may be placed a large stone, or some natural object or maybe a person to be healed. The Medicine Wheel, or circle, helps concentrate and balance the fundamental sacred energies of Nature or Spirit, as the circle becomes a sacred focus of healing. It is also meant to be an efficacious instrument to bring into balance and wholeness the four fundamental aspects or energies of Spiritual Natural Life.

From the four Directions, from the north, east, south and west, come the four great Pathways, the four Winds, the four Qualities, the four Powers of Great Spirit. Many different names might be given to these. They are the four aspects in the wholeness of Great Spirit, and the four ways that Great Spirit works through us.

Face the Four Directions

There is no exact right way to perform the Medicine Wheel Ceremony. Different tribes or different teachers may have their specific ways of doing this, so there is no 'absolute universal' formula and no exact right in this. What is important is the Intent, the Attitude, the Sincerity, and the openness to Spiritual Reality when doing it.

The fundamental ritual involves moving gradually clockwise in a Circle, stopping for a time at each major direction to give thanks and also to receive some blessing, or to invoke and receive from that power of Spirit. Different groups may have different versions as to which direction is to begin. The version here begins in the South and ends in the East. Ending in the East seems appropriate as the final direction, since it is the direction of Fire and Spirit. However, some ways begin in the East and end in the North, which should be tried as well. Or begin in the North and end in the West.

Face the South Wind and immerse yourself in this power of spiritual water. Allow your emotions or feelings to flow freely and emerge from within you, like waters from a spring. We begin with feelings because our feelings or emotions are what most gives us the sense of being uniquely who we are. The attitude in this allowing of emotions is the attitude of innocence and accepting ourself as a child of Spirit. We begin with innocence and self-acceptance, and we allow our feelings to freely emerge, to be acknowledged, accepted and understood. Spend some time in this direction of knowing yourself by knowing your feelings, and allow your deepest feelings to emerge. We all need to allow our feelings to flow and not hold them back or dam them up. This allows the spirit of water to move freely, which will become a key element in the nurturance of our spiritual growth. While allowing the emotions to flow freely, see if you can discover a deeper current of love and joy, and if you go really deep you may discover the deeper current of peace within.

Then, go clockwise and face the Spirit Wind of the West. Here we are faced with the needs of our earth body and the need to be practical in life. Here, we must reflect on what needs to be done and all that we so often wish to avoid or forget about. It is good to reflect upon the needs of other earth relations, as well as our own physical needs, and to root ourself in a practical sense of responsibility for the maintenance of this earth ecology. Here, we might reflect on what we can do for the good of the planet, and how we might give to life, as well as get what we personally need.

After reflecting in this practical manner, begin to see or visualize each of your practical needs being fulfilled, and you might even see the various stages to that fulfillment. And enter into a faith that the western Power of Great Spirit will bring your physical needs into fulfillment. Then, see the healing power of rainbow light come into your body, cleansing you and giving you all the vitality and strength you need on the Good Path of life. Accept this healing energy and be grateful for it. Have faith that the Spirit of healing will be with you always.

After giving some time to this direction, we then move to face the North Wind. This is the power which brings wider clarity of knowledge and vision. It is the power of truth and certainty. Here, allow the mind to break free of conditioned thinking and the patterns of mental worry. Let go of all limiting beliefs about yourself and others, and just be open to a greater vision and understanding of life. Be open-minded, and let truth be revealed to you, through symbols and intuition, as they come into the mind. But you will probably find that your mind scatters itself in repeated thoughts and worries, and cannot seem to become still and just receptive. This is reflective of your inability to break free of conditioned and habitual thought patterns, which makes problems remain as they are, because the mind is not free enough to allow in new intuitions and new visions of possibility.

The Spirit of the north Wind will come to enlighten us and teach us, but we can only hear this Voice or Vision when we are just listening and just conscious, and not talking, thinking or chattering in the mind. So the practice of facing the north Wind is a surrender of our usual thinking, and an emptying of mind, so that true vision and guidance may come through the receptive silence.

Once we have entered the great silence and have achieved a receptivity and clarity in the mind, and have opened the mind to greater wisdom and vision, we may turn to the East Wind of Spirit. From here comes spiritual inspiration, which emerges as a fire in the heart. This is the creative fire of Spirit and the will to bring good to the world. It is the will to create good and beauty in ourself and in the world. For as we are now allowing of feeling, and working toward getting what we materially need, and being receptive to the greater wisdom, all of which brings balance to the three needs of emotion, body and mind, we are ready to bring in the inspiring fire of the soul, which gives direction and spiritual power to personal expression.

Self-recognitions in the Medicine Wheel

In the medicine wheel, we can see the fundamental spiritual aspects of our self. As well, we can see the great Wholeness of life in the cosmic elements, and we might learn the balance of these in our own being and in our life. We can recognize each of these elements in us right now. Then we can strengthen each, and develop more of each element power in our being.

Related to the element of Air in the North, we seek an expansion of our mind and our knowing. Expansive mind leads to a unity of self within the great Mind of Spirit. This is Self-realization.

Next there is the element of Fire in the East. This is our self-passion and our inspired will. Without passion, inspiration, or spiritual purpose, there isn't much significance in life. This inner passion in us is the passion of Great Spirit. It is that part of the Great Passion which is yours.

Next there is Water in the South. This is the flowing feeling of our love and our loving relations. We all want to feel love and feel loved. We want to feel the water of love flow through us and move through others. We need this love, like we need water to live. And we need to share our love when we find it flowing in ourselves.

Next is the element of Earthiness, as found in the West. This gives us the ability to be practical, efficient and successful. Success comes in many ways. It is not merely about acquiring more money or possessions You decide on what success means to you. Combine this practicality with passion and determination from the East, and you will be moving toward success. Combine these with an expanded knowing mind and with the flow of love, and there will be true success on all levels.

Four powers in our self

In the balanced Path of the Medicine Wheel, we need to find and nurture four fundamental qualities within ourselves. These are power, love, wisdom, and beauty. Finding your own power, you can then make love, wisdom, and beauty manifest on Earth. Finding your own love and wisdom, you can then use power with good purpose and help the greater whole achieve beauty and harmony. Finding your own beauty, you can then appreciate yourself and share this beauty with others. All four are part of the sacred balance.

If you feel that one or more of these is lacking in your realization and expression, then face that Direction! Using the ritual tool of the Medicine Wheel, your power is in the East, your love in the South, your wisdom in the North, and your beauty in the West. Ask the Spirit of that Direction to emerge from within yourself. Give thanks as well, knowing in good faith that this Spirit is already within you. If you don’t have this faith, then at least ask to be shown this Spirit within you. If you ask sincerely and remain receptive for a time, then it will be revealed.

For some people it will seem that these Spirit-realizations come from outside of the self. For others it will seem that they come from within. Both perspectives are true, for they are within and outside as well. Try both perspectives.

If viewed as coming from outside the self, you will need to receive the Spirit into you. For example, affirm and feel, “I receive the Spirit of Love into my heart,” or “I receive the Spirit of Wisdom into my mind.” You will learn by experience how to do this, if you are sincere. But don’t just say it and expect it all to happen. You need to really feel it, or meditate in it, and you need to give it concentration and time. It is not like reciting some quick prayer.

Like all Native practices, there needs to be an intensity of personal experience, of feeling and realization. Once you open up to receive from the Direction or Quality you need, you need to experience it as present. This is completed when you can truly give thanks for what has been given. Once given, it is now recognized in yourself. Now meditate for awhile on this Spirit-Quality of yourself. Give the experience time to be fully digested or realized. You might also allow spontaneous images or symbols to emerge which are connected with this particular Quality. Fully explore the experience, enjoy it, and let it expand.

So even if you begin by viewing the Spirit-Directions as outside of you, and receive them, you finally experience them as inside or as being you. If you begin with the other view, that the Spirit-Quality is already within, then allow the Quality to fully emerge from within and expand in the space of Here and Now. recognize this Spirit as your own spirit-quality, and meditate in it, giving time for the feeling and realization to digest.

Once you learn how to do this with the basic Four Directions, then you can work with any Spirit-Quality. You can find the Spirit of Peace or the Spirit of Joy within you. You can find one of the Great Animal Qualities within you, or allow it to be received in you. The possibilities are almost endless, once you learn by experience how this magic works.

Wisdom, Power, Love, and Beauty

In this next ceremony, let us first face the North. This is the Direction of Wisdom, the wisdom of Great Spirit, the great Wisdom which creates and guides life. We let this Spirit Wisdom into our Medicine Circle from the northern direction, from where the great Spirit Chiefs sit in their Council of Wisdom. But we can also find this spiritual wisdom within our self, because as children of Great Spirit we have inherited the potential for divine wisdom. It is naturally within us. This can also be understood as the working power of our natural intelligence, as reflected in us from Great Spirit. It is our Spirit-given natural intelligence, the intelligence of nature within us.

So if we open our mind, in humility and in purity, to this wisdom-power of the North, then a connection is made between our limited mind and the All-knowing Wisdom of Great Spirit. Remember that we each need wisdom and intelligence to sustain our health and to make adjustments for healing imbalances. The body needs its natural intelligence, in order to stay healthy or to heal itself when ill. Each person on the Spiritual Path needs a developing intelligence, in order to coherently understand the sciences and laws of Nature, and in order to see the way to one’s inspired creative goals and dreams.

This intelligence, or wisdom mind, is one of the significant aspects which make up the whole person, and an awakened intelligence is necessary to holistic health, just as the inspired spiritual will is necessary. This wisdom aspect of Great Spirit and the whole person is related to the element of Air. Above us is the great space of the sky, which is the huge expanse of Air. This Sky of Air is the Mind of Great Spirit, and each of us has the mind potential to travel distances and fly to many different places through the Sky World of Spirit-Mind. The Spirit-Mind is a great expanse of possibility, of ideas, visions, and dreams, and our consciousness can travel anywhere within this expansive Sky of the Mind, sometimes called Freedom Sky.

The secret to this traveling, or free flying in the Mind, is thought and imagination. Thought and imagination have great power, because through these abilities new possibilities and new ideas and dreams are opened up and revealed. Also, our thought and imagination help pattern and direct creative energies, so that manifestation tends to follow thought. First the dream, then the doing, then the done.

Creation and manifestation begins with a dream, a vision, an idea, or a thought. The Medicine People say that Great Spirit in the Sky World first imagined the world and the various creatures, and then these Thoughts rained down onto the fertile soil of Mother Earth, where they grew upon the Earth into manifestation, and those imagined thoughts of the Creator continue to live within the seeds and eggs of each life. Sometimes the Creator slightly alters His Thought or imagines new forms and ideas to be grown on Earth. Thus, the Creator, the Great Creative Spirit, uses imagination and intelligence to invent new possibilities and to make pathways toward harmony and beauty. And so can you. As you work in this way, then the Creative Spirit can work through you.

Next, face the East. All of the directions are powers, but from the East is the power of Spirit within us to make things happen, or to get things done. So this is also called the creative power. It is the power of will and inner determination. It is our inner power, which can be understood also as our inner inspiration. When one is deeply inspired to accomplish something or when one feels inspired by a great purpose or aim, then this is truly a power that moves and activates many other energies.

One could also say that this power is the Creative Will and Determination of Great Spirit to manifest creative diversity, harmony and beauty, which can be reflected in and brought to life through the human spirit. Thus, its microcosmic reflection is found in the spiritual creative will and inspiration of man and woman. This aspect of the Spirit, within us, is related to the element of Fire, for it is the fire within our soul, or the fire within our heart. We can see this power of Spirit come through the eastern direction, where comes the rising sun. Our sun is, of course, the heat-giving and light-giving Source for our Earth Mother, and as such it actualizes the living potentials of the Earth.

For the creative will, one can ask for the Spirit-Fire of creative inspiration, that Great Spirit may awaken the spiritual will-power within. One can go deep within one’s own sacred space of the heart, to discover the spiritual fire within, the flame of spiritual determination, and to feel and know this fire or flame within, which is the will of the spiritual soul, the inner power, the inner desire of life to be creative and to journey toward self-wholeness and to help participate in the bringing forth of beauty, truth and goodness in the world.

Go within your heart and find the Rising Sun, the Fire of Spiritual Will rising from within deep you, finding your soul-purpose or the next step on your passionate journey to explore life and to serve life in some way or another. This discovery of purpose, of the inner Wish, and of your own determination to be and to do, to explore and to serve; this is your inner spiritual power, your true personal power. Nurture this power, this fire, and protect this central fire which will empower your envisioned aim and direction. Be true to the inner spirit, the inner fire, the inner wish, and allow it to grow strong.

Next, face the South. This is the direction of Love. This is another fundamental aspect or quality of Great Spirit, which is also within us. This is an unconditional love for all creatures, all lives, all parts of this creation. It stands to reason that the Great Creative Power and Intelligence, which creates and sustains creation, must also love creation. Love is the great motivating Spirit-Quality for creation. Great Spirit loves all its creation, and because of this love the Great Spirit seeks to guide all lives to their unique happiness and fulfillment. And since this creation is actually the manifestation of the creative potentials of Great Spirit, that creation reflects the essential unity of Great Spirit, and so Love is a Quality of this Unity.

This Spiritual Love can flow through us, if we allow it, and give us the divine feeling of unity and enjoyment in life. This love is actually inherent within the essence of all people and all lives, because Great Spirit, as Love, permeates all life. This love is related to the element of Water, and we know that our bodies are made mostly of water. This water carries the quality of love and it is meant to flow freely. Like water the Spirit of Love can flow through us and flow out from us to the world around us. The free circulation of love and joy within the unity is an essential purpose of this creation, and this can become our own purpose and motivating aim in life. Love carries the flowing water of healing, because deep healing is a return to the Unity of Life and a feeling of joy within this realized Unity.

This love flow, or love feeling, is one of the essential qualities of the One Great Spirit, which comes from the South into our Medicine Circle, into our life. And this love is an essential aspect of holistic health and healing. The feeling of love and joy is an essential aspect of the balanced and complete person. It is spiritually given and naturally inherent within us. But it has to be allowed to flow in and through us, rather than be suppressed or ignored.

It has to be felt, or allowed into feeling. It is the feeling of joy for being alive and the joy of being related together with all creation, with all the other lives of Nature, the feeling of being in the Unity and part of it. So the South Pathway of Spirit and healing is this flow of love and joy through the emotional life. It is way of healing the emotional aspect of the person, just as wisdom and the creative imagination is the healing of the mental life of the person, and just as spiritual inspiration and creative determination is the healing of the soul or will of the person.

And lastly we come to the Spiritual Pathway of the West, to complete the balance of the Medicine Wheel. This is related to the physical body and to physical health and vitality. Our physical body is also an essential aspect of being a whole person, and it too should be respected and cared for. Through the physical body one is able to manifest creativity, love, wisdom, and beauty in the world. Through the body one can sing and dance and make celebration, and enjoy life through the senses. Through our bodies and actions we can create beauty in the world. The world of nature is already beautiful, but we can also create beauty.

This is the quality of manifestation, related the element of earth. It is the spiritual power of embodiment. The earth, and all its physical forms, is the embodiment of Great Spirit. In our bodies and through our bodies and through our physical activities, we can manifest the qualities and potentials of Great Spirit. Through the physical we can do things and make things. This requires physical energy or vitality. So we can understand this aspect of the Medicine Wheel or of Great Spirit as physical vitality and manifesting energy. And for health and healing of the whole person to be complete, there needs to be this vital energy circulating through the body, which is the key to physical health.

By the fulfillment of each of these four fundamental aspects or powers of Great Spirit, each relating to a fundamental aspect of the whole person, there is complete balance and a continuous unfoldment of healing. And we can see how the Medicine Wheel symbolizes this wholeness and balance of the complete person, in their body, emotions, mind, and creative will. There are practical applications, involving these powers of Spirit, or powers of the Medicine Wheel. We can work with each aspect of the person, in turn, and very often it is possible to work with several aspects in combination.

For the creative and understanding mind, one must open the intuition and enter into the greater Mind of Great Spirit. One must free the mind from the bondage of old conditioned thinking and limited beliefs about oneself and the world. The mind must become empty and pure, by not dwelling on old patterns of thought and worry, and then allow truth and honesty to reveal itself in the receptive mind. Let the truth be known, and let the natural intelligence and intuition guide the way. The unfolding natural intelligence and intuition is the awakening and emergence of Spirit-Mind within us.

Be open to new ideas and visions, as they emerge from the Spirit-Mind of the Sky, or from Spirit Guides who speak through you, but always trust in your own sense of the truth and your own natural instinct for knowing the right way, for spiritual intelligence and wisdom is already inherent within you. As a healer, counselor or helper, one can give suggestions, opinions and helpful intuitions as to guide the person along a path to holistic fulfillment, but the ultimate help one can give is to help lead the person to their own Spirit-Wisdom connection and to the Voice and Vision of truth naturally within them, that is, to help awaken and bring forth their own natural wisdom and intuition, that they become self-sufficient in their own unfolding intelligence and connection to Spirit-Mind.

Let the mind and imagination explore the realms of possibility and learn from Nature Qualities and Powers of the Animal Spirits and Tree Spirits and Crystal Spirits. Let the mind explore the vast spaces and potentials within itself, and also let the mind explore the powers and beauties of Nature and the physical world. Let the mind learn from the senses and keep expanding awareness and understanding. Exploring, learning, and recognizing everything as a lesson for understanding, and that every presence of nature is a reflection of one’s own self-powers and self-qualities, as everything in the natural creation is part of the wholeness of One Great Spirit, and this wholeness is our own potential of being.

We are made of earth, water, air and fire, both physically and spiritually. These elements are all used in healing and balancing the whole person. The earth-mineral element is directly associated with the physical body. Water is associated with the feelings, especially love. Air is associated with the mind and clouds associated with the dream-world. Fire is associated with the inner will and creative inspiration. This Fiery Will comes directly from the Rising Sun in the East, and it is finally manifested in the physical dimension of the West where the Sun sets. Yet this manifestation requires the Air-power of mind in the North and the Water-power of feeling in the South. Thus we need a balance and integration of all Four Directions and Elements.

Also, all of these Elements are both Cosmic Powers and individual powers. In the Native View, self-discovery and understanding comes from a study of the whole world around us, including the Sky-world, as well as a study of ourself. Thus, self-truth is both within and around. The Big-Self is all around us, and the little self is within or wherever you stand. Yet the little self is a reflection of the Big-Self. Just as our own powers are the Powers of Great Father and Great Mother, Great Sun and Great Earth, and all of this is really a reflection of the One Great Mystery-Spirit, the Essential Being at the heart of all powers, all beings. So we respect the Unity and the Diversity, the Within and the Around, which is the all Great Amazing Mystery.

Inner and outer relationships

Remember that Great Spirit is alive and conscious throughout Mother Earth and in all natural things, so when we give thanks to Great Spirit or to the Mother Earth, or to any of the giving Nature Spirits, our gratefulness is heard, when it comes from the heart and from love, and this is partly how we can give back love to Mother Nature and to Great Spirit. Recognition and appreciation for love given, is love returned.

So be grateful for all which is provided by Mother Earth and All Our Relations. Give thanks to each of the kingdoms of Nature and to all the powers of Great Spirit. This is how the nature powers will hear you and know your sincerity. And this is the way you can give your love to Great Spirit and all the Relations of Mother Earth, for we give our love through our gratefulness. And through gratefulness we open the door to greater love, wisdom, and spiritual power.

Recognize and reflect upon what is given by each Relation and Power of Spirit, then simply and sincerely say in your heart, “Thank you for being and all that you give.” This is the key to opening that particular spiritual power and quality. Know that recognition and gratefulness is the key to receiving the special power of any form or presence in Nature. Then, an added energy and quality begins to awaken within yourself.

The inner and outer worlds each affect the other. This is a very important Spiritual Law. The Native peoples very directly realized that their natural environment, and their group cultural rituals as well, profoundly affected the individual psyche and well-being of each person. The body of nature, that is, the environment of animals, plants, trees, geological formations, and weather, all have profound effects on the human mind and the emotional feelings of well-being. You cannot really separate the mind from the body, or the human psyche from nature. Our outer environment affects our inner being. But also, our inner being affects the outer environment. Emotional attitudes, feelings, and good thoughts have significant effects on the natural environment.

Feelings of respect and gratitude towards nature-spaces, trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, etc, actually open up communication with nature spirits. The whole Spirit of Nature comes into radiance when our minds and hearts are humble and receptive. So, let us realize the interrelation between the physical natural environment and the spiritual-psychic life of man and woman. We each can observe this relationship and feel the affects in ourselves.

The interconnected Circle

We need to remember that we each are equal parts of the greater Circle. We each are unique, but within the one Spirit and Circle of life, and we each are nourished by the one central Spirit within the circle. If we form a circle with others and face each other, we can realize our interconnection and realize that we are each fed by the same center power of the circle. This circle is the Native Medicine Wheel, formed by the diversity of life, and at the center of the Wheel is the power of the One Creative Spirit.

We all must remember that we share in this One Great Spirit, then be grateful for this, and grateful for the connecting circle as well. And we can also realize that we can enter into that great center and be as the center itself, with the Four Winds of Spirit around us, nurturing and protecting us, and all of life around us. And we can move freely and creatively in life, as the center of Spirit, or as Spirit springing forth from within and giving to all life. Know and meditate upon these two perspectives in the wheel of life. Know that you are part of the interconnected circle, and equal to all others of this circle, and allow yourself to be nourished by the One Great Spirit at the center of all life.

Receive from this One Spirit and give back your gratefulness and appreciation. Then enter into the spiritual center of life, and live from this center, radiating out your love, your wisdom, and your creativity. This is the realization that the Great Spirit is within you and springing forth spiritual love, wisdom and power, through your own self-expression. This is not mere ego-expression, but is the expression of Spiritual Truth as it emerges and flowers uniquely through you. Take some time to meditate on being the Medicine Wheel, both as being the center and as being part of the circle.

We might even gather people together to form circles or Medicine Wheels, so that we can experience in community this wisdom and power.