WORKING WITH MEDICINE WHEELS
Jude Catallo & Scott Emerson
Ceremonies with Medicine Wheels open doorways and activate archetype guides to discovering your personal power, strength, wisdom, ethics and well being. Each direction of your Medicine Wheel mandala offers a unique perspective on any aspect of your life that you feel you are ready to change in order to affect personal healing. South, things you strongly identify with, West, things you are mentally differentiating yourself from, North, things you newly integrate into your life, and East, transcendence and full integration into your luminous energy body. Movement around the directions and perspectives of your Medicine Wheels over time possesses great power for spiritual growth. Eventually, as you spiral around and around the four directions in a series of private ceremonies, you will find your true authentic self within the center, or the eye of the Medicine Wheel. Here the gifts, teachings, and powers of the four archetypes converge in harmony and balance with a fifth unifying fundamental property of the universe. This is an expansive, infinite, frequency resonance that is alive and felt through the heart. A consciousness, a compassion, that links everything everywhere, and simultaneously stokes your own life energy. To have the most power Medicine Wheel ceremonies should be done by you privately, electronic gadget free, in a special natural setting, and accepting the Earth’s wildcard role in the process. The days of a new or a full moon, or solstices and equinoxes are preferred. It is most important that your ceremony be within a sacred space.
You can create sacred space as a healing bubble around your chosen Medicine Wheel site by “calling” to the four direction master archetypes (S-Serpent, W–Jaguar, N–Hummingbird, E–Eagle as well as down-Mother Earth and up-Father Sky). With humility and gratitude, ask for their power and assistance in your personal healing work. We have found soft rattling or drumming and offering tobacco gifts to the “spirits of the site” greatly facilitate this “calling”. Use a compass if not certain of directions. The creative and intimate process of constructing your Medicine Wheel in a natural setting, using natural items, that come to you at your chosen site, quiets the mind and creates a highly meditative state. In sacred space there is no time, and you can trust your instincts and synchronicity.
Know this. If your healing intention is pure, you can’t make any mistakes.
The physical world (the body) is associated with the SOUTH direction and is represented by SERPENT. In North America, the Lakota Sioux word for the South direction is Iktokaga, and is associated with noon, summer, and adolescence. The Lakota color for the South is red. This is the material level of perception where most of modern medicine resides, in anatomy, in physiology, biochemistry, surgery and pharmacy. It is the realm where reality is 99% matter and only 1% spirit. This perspective is where everything is exactly as it seems or is measured without any judgment or emotions.
The downside of this perspective it is that is heavily biased toward the physical or particle aspect of reality, which is very comfortable for most of us. It is easy to get stuck here and lose track of the authentic essence of our soul. We can begin to believe that our body, and it’s roles physically played in this life; a sister, a man, a grandmother, a patient or a caregiver etc. is all of what we are. We can easily fall into trappings and obsessions about the way our physical bodies look or move. We can hang on to toxic beliefs and reflex patterns of thoughts concerning aging or youth. Being stuck in this physical perspective, however obvious it may seem, creates suffering and can become destructive for us as well as others.
The Four Teachings of the South are: Non-Judgment, Non-Suffering, Non-Attachment, and The Beauty Way. This is the portal into the way of the hero, “who turns wounds into sources of strength and compassion”. Looking at everything with beginner’s eyes. Avoiding indulging or projecting pain. Locating your divine reference point beyond the ego. Discovering loveliness even in the midst of ugliness. Moving upon the Earth in beauty and discovering how beauty will then seek and find you.
Healing work with the Medicine Wheels always begins with creating a sacred space, honoring the South direction, the Serpent archetype, and creation of a mandala in the sand, snow or grass. Find one or two sticks to represent physical roles with which you currently identify, and that you mentally are ready let go. Now if you are ready, choose one or two additional objects (stones, acorns, pinecones etc.) representing one or two of the “Teachings of the South” that you feel you are ready to mentally accept. Place all these in the South portion of your Medicine Wheel and leave them overnight on your mandala.
Return the following day. Powerfully blow the mental and emotional attachment of your physical roles into the chosen sticks, but retain the all the lessons the role has taught you. Put them into the West space of the mandala. Next, place one or two of the “South teachings” objects into the West space as you also move these “teachings” firmly into your awareness. If you can’t honestly do this, leave one or both in the South space for future Medicine Wheel work. Savor in stillness, how this all feels. Leave and return the next day.
Feel if any further movement is possible (roles, teachings). Collect your role sticks and “teachings” objects. Destroy your Medicine Wheel. Leave no trace. Close sacred space by thanking and releasing the four archetypes as well as Mother Earth and Father Sky. Within the next two weeks, build a fire safely somewhere, open sacred space, and in a fire ceremony, throw your role sticks into the fire as you stomp your foot intending for your mental and emotional attachment to them to be destroyed. Retain the objects representing “teachings” as daily reminders, and to be used in the next Medicine Wheel. Now take the time to see how these mental and emotional changes begin to work in your life until your next Medicine Wheel ceremony honoring the West direction.
Know this. Wherever you place your personal intention, into fear and contraction, or, into expansion and light, you will give it power
The realm of emotions and thoughts (the mind) is associated with the WEST direction. Within the Americas, West is predominantly represented by the JAGUAR archetype. In North America, the Lakota Sioux word for the west direction is Wiyopeyata, and is associated with evening, autumn, and adulthood. The Lakota color for the West is black like our shadows.
For the indigenous peoples of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and South America, Jaguar represents the healing power of fearlessness. The perceptual state here is that nothing is exactly as it appears to be. This archetype journeys and can track through and illuminate our deepest personal shadows, shames, and fears. Jaguar medicine can also provide sudden leaps of clarity, especially when dealing with complex situations and confusing landscapes in our lives.
The Four Teachings of the West provide a portal to the way of the luminous warrior “who has no enemies in this world or the next.” They are: Fearlessness, Non-Doing, Certainty, and Non-Engagement. Because anger and violence are rooted in fear, letting go of fear allows us to approach people and situations as a luminous warrior, projecting our light instead of our shadow. Discovering the power of just observing the way the universe and events are flowing. Allowing time and the world to create some of its own resolution and being efficient with your energy. In communion with Spirit, knowing when to act, and how to use your luminous sword with efficient, ethical and impeccable action. Avoiding getting dragged down into the drama of rescuer, perpetrator, or victim roles.
After opening sacred space, healing work with the Medicine Wheel honoring the West and the Jaguar archetype begins with the creation of a mandala in the sand, snow, or grass, preferably with a westward vista. Reflect on your last Medicine Wheel honoring the South. How successful have you been with letting go of the conscious attachment to your roles you threw into the fire last time? Are you ready to let go of these further and relinquish not just the mental and emotional attachment, but also the feelings they may exert at a deeper level, masking the true essence of your soul? If so, find a stick for each of these roles, and place these into the North quadrant of the Medicine Wheel. If not, leave them in the West quadrant for a further time and a future fire ceremony.
What about the teachings of the South you may have placed in the West? Are you ready to move any of these from the level of mere mental acknowledgement to actually incorporating them into the way you act within life’s laboratory? If so, place them into the North quadrant of your Medicine Wheel. If not, leave the teaching objects from your last Medicine Wheel in the West quadrant for further work.
Lastly, are you ready to mentally and emotionally acknowledge any of the teachings of the West? If so, find one or more objects to place in the West of your mandala. If not, save these teachings for future work. Go and return the following day.
Powerfully blow the distortion your roles may be causing to your soul’s true essence into the chosen role sticks that have been residing in the West, but retain the lessons the role has taught you. Put them now into the North space of the mandala. Place any of the new “West teachings” objects into the West space as you also move these “teachings” firmly into your awareness. Move any of the south teachings from last time from their current position in the West into the North if you are now ready to fully incorporate them into your new life. Savor, in timelessness, how this all feels.
If you can’t honestly do this, and no further movement seems possible at this time, just leave things as they were with the last Medicine Wheel ceremony without adding anything new, and continue to work on those roles and teachings. Keep it comfortable and simple. Leave and return the next day.
Feel if any further movement is possible (roles, teachings). Collect your role sticks and “teachings” objects. Destroy your Medicine Wheel. Leave no trace. Close sacred space by thanking and releasing the four archetypes as well as Mother Earth and Father Sky. Within the next two weeks, build a fire safely somewhere, open sacred space, and in a fire ceremony, throw your role sticks and their perspectives into the fire as you stomp your foot, intending for a mental or a soul’s attachment to them to be destroyed. Retain the objects representing “teachings” as daily reminders, and to be used in the next Medicine Wheel. Now take the time to see how these mental, emotional, and soul-liberating changes begin to work in your life until your next Medicine Wheel ceremony honoring the North direction.
Know this. When the ego weeps for what it has lost, the soul rejoices for what it has found.
The realm of the soul is associated with the NORTH direction. Among many indigenous people of the Americas, HUMMINGBIRD is recognized as the archetype of the North. In North America, the Lakota Sioux word for the North is Waziyata, and is associated with night, winter, and old age. White is the Lakota color for the North. The language of the North is art and myth.
When we connect with the energy of Hummingbird, we experience the pure sweet essence of our soul, the place where the divine resides within us and where we also gain the awareness that we are eternal beings. The perceptual state here is that things are what they truly are. Hummingbirds possess a beautiful resilience and great endurance for long migrations between North and South America each year, yet can hover and change directions quickly. This archetype feeds on the flowers and the sweetness of life and ignores that which is not supportive of life. Hummingbird represents the courage, determination and guidance required to embark, endure, and succeed in the voyage of our divine essence through sacred space and timelessness. This archetype teaches us how to be in right relationship with the sweetness of ourselves, the natural world, evolution, and community as we co-create with the Great Spirit on this grand journey.
The four teachings of the North provide a portal to the way of the seer “who enters the stillness of the soul and dreams the world into being”. They are: Beginner’s Mind, Living Consequently, Transparency, and Integrity. Become more childlike. Refuse to allow the baggage of your stories and preconceived notions to weigh you down and cloud your assessment of fresh ideas and opportunities that present themselves to you. Recognize the impact of each thought, intention and action, and be sure that they are in a supportive and healing relationship with all of life. Refuse to hide parts of yourself from others. Be who you are and say who you are. Be true to your word and recognize its power to create reality.
For so many of us the momentum of our life is on automatic cruise control leading us to a fate as opposed to our higher purpose, or our destiny. In order to change this momentum we must get rid of some of the mass of our life (physical stuff, roles) that no longer serve us, as well as decoupling ourselves from the time sickness of our culture. The tools we have to make big positive changes in our lives, to slow or halt our momentum towards fate are; de-cluttering our physical space and letting go of roles that are draining our energy, and, a regular meditation practice that will facilitate an escape from the time sickness.
Open sacred space. Healing work with the Medicine Wheel honoring the North and the Hummingbird archetype begins with the creation of a mandala in the sand, snow, grass, or forest floor. Find a stone to become your essence stone. Hold this stone with eyes closed and begin the 4/4/4/4 box breathing pattern. That is; 4 count inhale, 4 count hold, 4 count exhale and 4 count empty. Do this for at least 4 cycles as you slow the count and let go of your mind and thoughts. This also works well as an eyes open, walking meditation technique, using your footsteps to count your breath pattern. Focus only on the counting and the breath. As you hold at the top of the inhale and again at the bottom of the exhale (empty of breath), try and let yourself slip between the moments, or counts, into timelessness. What do you see or feel here? Repeat this until you begin to see and feel your authentic self and perhaps even a different higher destiny for this self, or your soul. Now blow any of these images or feelings into your essence stone and place it into the North quadrant of your Medicine Wheel. If you saw or felt nothing, blow that and your memory of this breathing pattern into your stone and place it.
Reflect on your last Medicine Wheel honoring the West. How successful have you been at letting go of either the mental and emotional attachment of roles that remained in the West quadrant of your mandala? Are you ready to work on the distortion they may be causing to your authentic self? If so, find a stick representing the role, powerfully blow your new intention into it, and place it into the North quadrant. How bout those roles you placed into the North quadrant that you determined were distorting and masking your soul’s true essence that you threw into the fire last time? Are you ready to permanently free your soul from this distortion, remove this energetic imprint from your luminous energy field, and change your fate? If so, find a stick representing this role and powerfully blow your new intention into it. Place it into the East quadrant of your mandala. If no movement is possible, leave the role sticks where they were last time.
What about the teachings from the South or the West that you may be working on at the level of mental acceptance? Are you ready to begin experimenting with these in your daily life? If so, move these objects you have retained from last time into the North quadrant. Are you ready for any teachings that you moved into the North last time to transcend from the level of just feeling and experiencing the way they are working, into a new you, that actually becomes these teachings. If so, move these teaching objects into the East part of your Medicine Wheel. Lastly, are there any of the teachings of the North that you are ready to work on and accept at the mental level? If so, find a new object representing each new teaching and place it into the West quadrant. If not, leave these for future work. Go and return the next day.
Pick up and hold your essence stone and repeat the breath work exercise. Again blow any images or feelings into the stone. Place it into the center of your Medicine Wheel. Gaze at your Medicine Wheel and appreciate its timeless pattern of sticks and objects without thinking about them. Appreciate how it is a reflection of your current self and how it may feel different from your authentic self. With gratitude, turn your gaze out and appreciate the natural setting that you are “finding yourself” within. Savor in timelessness the experience of moving from thinking into feeling into being. Leave and return the next day.
Destroy your Medicine Wheel and close sacred space. Take your essence stone as a sacred object to retain as a gateway to your authentic self. Collect your role sticks for the fire ceremony, and teaching objects as previously described, for your next Medicine Wheel ceremony honoring the East direction.
Know this. The actions of the molecules in your body are influenced by the status of your energetic biofield.
If you have been reading the first three parts of this series, and more importantly, if you have begun working with Medicine Wheel ceremonies, you can understand their simple yet timeless quality. They have been used by many generations of indigenous Americans for thousands of years over wide geographic areas. They have great power to bring healing and spiritual growth to the individual as well as communities at large. When something works, it persists.
The realm of Spirit is associated with the EAST direction. For most indigenous people of North America, EAGLE is recognized as the archetype of the East. The Lakota Sioux word for the East is Iwiyohiyanpata and is associated with morning, spring and childhood. The Lakota color of the East is yellow, like our sun rising into the sky each day. The language of the East is energy resonance.
When we connect with Eagle we experience the place of becoming, and reality reveals it’s underlying true energetic essence that is 99% consciousness and only 1% matter. Eagles with large powerful wings soar high above the mountains, rivers, forests and lakes, yet with keen vision, can spot fish in the water 2000 feet below. The ability of Eagle to see the big picture and the small details simultaneously, urges us to rise above the mundane battles that occupy our lives and gain the view from the heavens close to the Great Spirit. When facing any difficulty, the closer we can get to the energy of Spirit, the less energy we need to effect change and the universe seems to conspire in our behalf.
The four teachings of the East provide a portal to the way of the sage, “who transcends to become resonant with Spirit bringing wisdom, healing and beauty into our world”. The four teachings of the East are: Mastering Time, Owning Your Projections, No Mind, and Indigenous Alchemy. Understand what the sages and the scientists know, that beyond cause and effect, coincidence and synchronicity are also qualities of time that operate in a circular and simultaneous fashion from future to present to past and also all at once. This is what quantum physicists call temporal entanglement. Develop a regular meditation practice to silence your mind, and become familiar with your luminous energy field and its projections. Resonate with Spirit, and see infinite possibilities to bring beauty, balance and grace into yourself and all our relations. Embark on a sacred journey.
Spirit is a fundamental property of the universe. It is an expansive, infinite, creative, matrix of resonating energy, a consciousness that keeps the cosmos evolving and renewing itself. You can trust in Spirit’s power and wisdom. This is brought into focus by creating your Medicine Wheel and gaining awareness of your energy body within a sacred space.
Open sacred space and create a Medicine Wheel honoring the East and the Eagle archetype, preferably with an eastward vista. As you create your Medicine Wheel ask, who is making this? Then ask, who is asking this? Stand on the East side of your Medicine Wheel. Begin the 4/4/4/4 box breath ( 4 count inhale, 4 count hold, 4 count exhale, 4 count empty) for 4 cycles. Extend your arms and look at your hands. Now close your eyes and feel your hands as vibrating energy. Next, with eyes closed rub your hands together briefly, extend them apart and slowly bring them together. Note any subtle tingling or vibrational sensation changes as you bring your hands toward each other. Do you feel any repelling or resisting force as they come near each other? Try to sense this same sensation in your shoulders & chest. Repeat this exercise often to become more aware of your underlying energetic nature. Experiment with something that triggers anger or fear as well as gratitude or love and feel the different effects on your energy body. Learn to actually see your own, or your pet’s energetic aura – easiest against a backdrop of snow covered ground, or at dawn or dusk.
Focus only on the roles or beliefs about yourself and the teachings that you moved from the North into the East quadrant of your Medicine Wheel last time. Have you been successful in relinquishing into the fire the roles that are no longer valid? Have you become those teachings as you walk on the Earth? If so, find a role stick(s) to hold with the object(s) representing the teaching in your hands along with your essence stone. Powerfully blow these new energetic patterns into the stone. Place the stone into the center of the Medicine Wheel. If no transcendence yet, also blow that into the stone. Leave and return the next day.
Meditation is absolutely essential for work in the East, and is greatly facilitated by opening of the 8th chakra and heart presence breathing. Meditation has been found to disrupt the default mode network (DMN) in the brain that creates repetitive thoughts focused on the projected, and protected self, or our ego. The DMN can waste energy and lead to depressive and anxious states.
The 8th chakra is a glowing sun-like sphere just outside the body above our crown and is known by ancient medicine women and men as the place where the divine resides within us – our soul. To expand it to form a sacred, healing bubble surrounding you for your personal work, thrust both arms together up over your head, expand this sphere with your hands and use your arms to slowly pull this energy down over your entire body to your feet. Then slowly return your hands to the mid chest over your heart.
Feel how this feels and then begin the 4/7/8 heart centered breath. That is 4 count inhale, 7 count hold, and 8 count exhale. Stand on the East side of your Medicine Wheel facing east. Close your eyes and breathe in with the in breath feeling to come through the front of your chest wall over your heart. Let the breath expand briefly as a light within your heart as you remember anything of beauty you have experienced in your life. Exhale out through the front of your chest overlying your heart. Repeat 7 cycles, then stop the counting, and retain only the pattern of breathing for several minutes. Heart breathing has been shown to create strong resonant coherence within your energy body bringing brain and heart intelligence into synchronicity. Also, in our experience resonance with Spirit is felt through the heart more than the mind.
Now repeat the exercise for experiencing the energy body from yesterday. Retrieve your essence stone from the center of the Medicine Wheel and hold it next to your heart, and continue the heart centered breathing pattern or the box breathing pattern. Call to the Eagle archetype to come and wrap her wings around you and allow you to experience the world of Spirit. Journey safely with Eagle, and just let go. Dissolve into the energetic field state to the place of becoming. This is the world of an infinite, conscious, energetic matrix of wisdom and creation where everything everywhere is intertwined. Center everywhere, circumference nowhere. It is timeless. Resonate with this immensity for a few moments, and then return to your Medicine Wheel with Eagle. Allow this experience to move down into your body. Embody it. This is indigenous alchemy.
Your essence stone now has become a medicine stone storing your new energetic resonance pattern. It is a power object you can hold and consult at any time to help preserve what you have accomplished, and store future changes and personal course corrections as you complete future cycles around the Medicine Wheel.
Destroy your East Medicine Wheel, close sacred space, leave, and walk upon the Earth in beauty until your next Medicine Wheel ceremony honoring the South direction.
Know this. While you may find our suggestions for use of this ancient healing technique a helpful guide, discovering your unique personal path around the Medicine Wheel is what gives it real power.