The Medicine Wheel
We gathered at dusk, under a full-moon October sky, coming together from diverse lives to share what is common to all humans, a thirst for connection. Some faces were familiar, some new. All were there in a willingness to join hearts in the sacred circle.
The Medicine Wheel came into being as a vision of contemporary medicine man, Sun Bear, of the Chippewa tribe. He and his medicine helper, Wabun, have written books and held Medicine Wheel gatherings nationally to teach this life tool to all who are ready to receive it. The teaching and sharing of the vision is being carried on by the Bear Tribe in gatherings throughout the country. Walking the Medicine Wheel on our life path gives humans a means to feel connected to our instinctual wisdom, the cycles of life, the seasons, and to all of our relations: plant, animal, mineral and spirit.
As a member of the Bear Tribe, I attended my first Medicine Wheel weekend several years ago. I came away (reluctantly) with a deep feeling of harmony, balance, a knowing of my place in the scheme of creation, and a desire to share the power of ceremony and ritual.
It was an honor to be invited to a Medicine Wheel gathering hosted by Pam Flaming Love on her beautiful wooded property, and firekeeper, David Heart of Fire, with their guest wisdom-keeper, Seneca Elder, Fred Kennedy. Fred is a respected activist, a healer, and sits on several elder councils. An instant connection was established between Fred and I when we discovered that I grew up only a few miles away from where he lives on the Cattaraugus Reservation in Western New York and for the rest of the evening he referred to me as his "cousin." Fred was only too happy to spend a few minutes before the ceremony sharing his thoughts on my questions about native spirituality.
JR: How do you see that the Medicine Wheel can become a tool for people to heal individually?
FK: With atonement in your mind it's open for you to find what you are looking for. Your mind gets clearer and you stop worrying about things. That's what happens, worrying shuts mankind and everything down. Before entering the circle, one is smudged, or cleansed and purified with the smoke of sage. This symbolizes releasing fears, heaviness, and worries into the smoke to be taken to the Creator so that the mind, body and spirit can open in trust to wisdom. In the ritual of walking the Medicine Wheel one is opened to the energies of each direction, each position, and as you accept those energies into your Self, a being becomes in tune with the cycles of nature and of life, allowing that which is not serving to fall away and becoming stronger in a place of balance and harmony with all of creation.
JR: What makes ritual important in our lives?
FK: The most important ritual is when you first put your feet on the ground every morning. You've been given another day to be grateful for. Every moment is new, a new beginning, a new ceremony.
JR: How does the Medicine Wheel foster a sense of community?
FK: You have seen this. When somebody holds a Medicine Wheel, people just flock there. In this country and in Europe the people are coming together more and more in small circles to connect with their own spirituality. The smallest thing that you need to move is your bedroll by the door. That is the teaching right now. Just have your bedroll by the door. Be ready. Some people say, well you know, I can't go, I have my beautiful house, I can't do this, I can't do that. And when the time comes, it's just going to pass them by - they won't see it; they won't be ready to go. When you become thankful for the simple life, you tell the Creator that you are totally thankful for what you have. This is giving an indication and when he sees that you do this, he knows that you are ready.
JR: The teaching of the Iroquois Nation says that big change is coming and we need to be ready. The preparation is about detaching from external things, simplifying life and being strong in your center of trust that needs will be met by Creator.
How can we prepare for the changes that are happening?
FK: If you pray, I know I've been through it, pray for one thing and you give it over, then all of a sudden you take it back and try to deal with it, and you give it over and you take it back. Pretty soon the Creator says, "Ok, keep it. Stop teasing me with saying that you don't want it." He never takes anything back. When he gave us life, he doesn't let you live part way and then says, "Ok that's it for you, I'm taking it back." We have to be very careful what we ask for. We need to simplify our life, and enjoy it. We are to become sovereign.
JR: Could you explain more what you mean by sovereign.
FK: The thing is that you have been given the gift of sight and what you see in your sight is sovereign. Only you know how to deal with it and you are given the way to do it. Some people have said to me, well, you lead us, and I say no, no, no. The thing is all you've got to do is go on your own sovereignty, what's inside of you. Then you won't have to worry about anyone ever blaming you. Be you own leader.
Using the ritual of the Medicine Wheel is a way for us to step into our sovernty by activating and listening to our inner wisdom, that which guides our thoughts and actions. By connecting with this inner voice, we can become our own leader, living a life of authentic empowerment.
While Fred and I were chatting, David Heart of Fire had built the sacred fire in the center of the circle surrounded by the majesty of oaks and pines. We rejoined the group of 25 people where everyone was smudged before walking three times around the fire in both directions to establish the energy of the circle. Upon entering the circle, Pam Flaming Love honored and invoked the four directions, Mother Earth, Father Sky and Creator. Fred opened with a traditional prayer asking the Creator to be with us. He then spent about an hour speaking and answering questions. His message is simple:
"Be grateful for each moment of each day as a gift from the Creator. Simplify life, be ready and trust that the Creator gives you what you need. Be sovereign of what you see by listening to what is inside of you. Be your own leader and take responsibility for your life and what you create."
The gift of the Medicine Wheel is the feeling of connection to the deeper self, to each other, to all of the kingdoms of Nature and to Creator. Fred travels the country serving on Elder councils, speaking for political and environmental causes and teaching his healing ways. Fred can be contacted through email@example.com
To learn more about the Medicine Wheel I recommend Sun Bear's two books: The Medicine Wheel - Earth Astrology and Dancing with the Wheel.
May the warm winds of heaven blow softly upon you with sunrise ever in your heart, and may you walk in peace upon Mother Earth.
Ona, Mitakuye Oyasin (all things are related)
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