How I Found My Medicine Wheel (unfinished article circa 1994)


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How I found my Medicine Wheel

We all have our own medicine wheel.  We all live it, some say it is actually our life  or life’s path.  The Medicine Wheel is the most basic way we orient ourselves within the space-time continuum.  Almost every society has oriented themselves around seven directions: east, south, west, north, below, center and above.  We can orient ourselves in this way due to simple observations of the natural world.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  Almost regardless of where we sit on the globe, as an individual, there are four phases of the moon and four seasons to which we orient ourselves.  So the medicine wheel is about the natural world.  So we live the Medicine Wheel in our relation to the natural world.

These directions orient us in space.  This is a cross cultural phenomena.  We are most familiar with the semantic term “Medicine Wheel” in relation to Native American culture.  In fact we see medicine wheels manifest in most cultures around the world.  Examples are…

The Medicine Wheel can be a mental construct that helps us to face the amazing infinite nature of the universe we live in.  It can be used as a tool to help our limited minds grasp the infinite.  Or maybe a toy to play with that helps us deal with the mysteries we face, the things we can’t or don’t or won’t understand.  So it can be a way of looking at things.  A way of organizing constructs to help us see order in a chaotic universe…or to accept the chaos more gracefully!  Used in this way, the Medicine Wheel can be a physical construct as well.  Such as the sand painting mandala’s of Tibetan Monk’s, the native American Medicine Wheel, or a Mesa (portable alter) used by coastal Andean healers.  Making a physical construct of your own personal medicine wheel can be very fruitful work.  Your Medicine Wheel is a personal energy vortex, portal and mandala all in one.

When someone chooses to work the Medicine Wheel Archetype, they explore what wisdom each direction of the wheel holds for them.  The archetype is practically used to help understand, and deal with, specific life circumstances (e.g. jobs, relationships, illness).  The archetype is also used to contemplate the flow of events unfolding over the years of a lifetime, or lifetimes.  Our consensual experience of the physical world determines a lot of “what goes where” on the medicine wheel.  In Native American culture they will have very specific things in each direction, including animals, plants and colors.  Working the medicine wheel archetype is accomplished in both consensual reality and through personal introspection.  There are ‘tribal’ medicine wheels and personal ones.  There is bound to be a lot of overlap between the two.  In the final word, only YOU can develop and work your wheel.

Assigning significance to each direction is easy initially, because it is determined by the natural world. . Because it is universally experienced it is greatly influenced by consensus reality.  Thus the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  In the east are dawn, spring and the seed being planted.  In the south are the daytime, summer and growth.  In the west are dusk, autumn and harvest.  In the north is nighttime, winter and enjoying the fruits.  These are all things in the external world that we can relate to in a common, consensual way.  We can even relate this wheel to phenomena occurring within us.  The seed of an idea (east) being planted, nurtured growth (south) allowing the matured ideas to manifest in the world (west) then to be utilized and enjoyed (north).

As an obstetrician I see this wheel as conception (e), pregnancy (s), birth (w) and family (n).  I see it manifest energetically throughout the wisdom of the hormones and menstrual cycle.  Ovulation and conception occur in the full moon of the east.  Menses occurs in the new moon of the west.  This cycle is clearly manifest in relation to other physiologic processes.  The Medicine Wheel archetype can easily correlate what is happening physiologically at the level of the monthly (lunar) rhythmic flow of events related to a woman’s menstrual cycle.  This allows seeing these things in a new way that is more easily understood because it is related to things we all experience, that is to say, it is related to the Medicine Wheel.  This includes how we see what is happening at the level of the hormones, the lining of the uterus and the ovary.  It allows us to see these events in a functionally coordinated fashion.

As discussed, the medicine wheel is about learning how we are connected to the natural world, and applying the knowledge as wisdom.  This is particularly important in our modern times because, if you are like myself, and most people I grew up with, we are NOT very connected to the natural world.  In the not too distant past, that connection was SO important because it determined livelihood and life itself.  It is only with city life and technology that we are able to easily able to disconnect.  We disconnect from the flow of day and night.  Our world is oriented by the clock and not by the light cycle.  The light cycle fails to exist due to our use of electric lighting, and the general ‘light pollution’ that it causes. 

Obtaining food doesn’t have anything to for us with the nature’s rhythms.  The seasonal flow only becomes about recreation, or inconvenience (let’s just say our relationship to it runs ‘hot and cold’).  There are many rhythms we can’t escape because they are inside us.  This includes hunger and elimination as well as sex and childbearing.  But we certainly are not intellectually or spiritually insightful to how these things connect us to the natural world.  The entire field of “Ecopsycology” explores our relationship to nature and how being disconnected from it creates problems for people.

Using the Medicine Wheel Archetype as a tool, allows us to focus our intent around becoming more connected, to ourselves and to natural order.  …………………

Seeing things in this way allows it to make sense.  It helps women understand what is happening on a monthly basis which helps to bring insight into what is happening in the short term (day to day) as well as over a lifetime.  There ARE certain times of month when it is better to schedule business meetings and important decisions (it is around ovulation).  And it is only natural to at other times of month (the menses) to be more focused on receiving and introspections.  This is only a simple example which does not hint at the richness of these associations.  Gaining knowledge and insight into these issues can help order ones world.

The Medicine Wheel Archetype is also about orienting us in time.  It is about stepping outside of our usual linear, clock oriented approach to viewing time.  Using this paradigm, all time is manifest within the Medicine Wheel here and now.  All our past experiences are manifest in how we see our wheel at this present moment.  And in the wheel also holds space for all future potential outcomes.










Om Lotus



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