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In these uncertain times, it might be a good for us to familiarize ourselves with the teachings of the medicine wheel. In my last week of school before it was cancelled, our class was fortunate to have an Elder come in and teach us about the importance of living our lives in relation to that of the medicine wheel and I’d like to relay some of his important messages.

The symbolism of the colours of the wheel are similar across Nations but there are different variations. Each quadrant of the circle represents the four directions, the four seasons, the four elements, spirit animals and plants, and the four stages of human life.

The medicine wheel, like this sacred and historic site in Wyomind, USA, is a central concept in Indigenous teachings, columnist Catherine Lafferty writes.
Wikimedia photo

The circle starts in the East where the sun rises which is why the East is represented by the color yellow for the sun. The East represents spring. The birth and creation of all living things. The element of the East is fire. We all have a fire that burns inside of us and continues even after we are gone from this world. The eagle is the animals that represents the East as it is the animal that soars closest to the creator in the sky, because of this, the eagle can see far into the future. Some of us might be wondering if there is an end to this difficult time and we can look to the East for answers. When our foreseeable plans are cancelled, and we dread the future because our end of month bill payments are adding up we can look to the East and know that there will be an end to the hardships that we are going through right now.

Then we go to the bottom of the medicine wheel. The South. Red is representative of the South for the rich red earth that we walk upon in the summer seasons. Summer soil is a good time for planting seeds. It is a time of growth and change for the human spirit. It is the age of children growing up with curiosity, exploring and discovering the world around them. The animal most represented in the South is the deer. The southern portion of the wheel represents learning and having an open mind for receiving new teachings and lessons. It represents abundance and energy. The South shows us how we can improve on the choices that we make every day. We are all powerful in our own way and we can choose to use this power in a kind, good, and lighthearted way.

The buffalo is our cousin to the West. The West is seen as the color black. The West tells us to look inside for answers within ourselves. The West represents the dark stillness of night, but it also represents the water, where the moonlight directly affects the movement of water. It is a time to harvest and to be thankful for what we have. To be present. To count our blessings. To support and protect each other. To share teachings as a parent would do for their children. We must protect each other like the buffalo herds do when they join, strength in numbers, as a community to protect their calves when they are in danger.
The North quadrant of the wheel represents the color white for winter. White symbolizes spirit and wisdom. The winter wind is dominated by the crisp northern air that we need to breathe for invigoration and clarity. The North is where we find the spirit of the bear or the white buffalo. The North portion of the wheel reminds us of the spirit world through the constellations and northern lights and how we can find our way home through the lights above. “Old man winter” represents the Elderly and those that have passed before us. It represents strength and perseverance. The North reminds us to reflect on our lives and the world around us and now is a great time to do so. While we are at home in these difficult times, we can reflect on our lives, how far we have come and where we can make improvements. The North reminds us to listen to the guidance and wisdom of our Elders and ancestors.

Lastly, we can’t forget where our body, mind and spirit fits into all of this. The center of the wheel. If all directions of the wheel are balanced, then the core of our beings will be in harmony. The center of the medicine wheel represents who we are but since we are connected to everything around us, the elements, the animals, the spirit world, and each other, we are not fully balanced without one or the other.

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Trauma in any form can affect how we live within the medicine wheel. Turning to the medicine wheel can help us to heal the trauma we experience in our lives. The medicine wheel is about relating to all things associated in life and in the spirit world. If we are off balance, we can look to the four directions to help put us back into balance. For instance, if we are always travelling in the East and looking too far ahead into the future we might be worried about things to come, to help ground us we can look to the West where we can learn to still in our minds and be calm. We can look inside ourselves and make peace with the present moment asking for help from the community to support and provide us with assistance. If we are overly focused on having fun all the time and have too much energy bottle up we can look to the North for patience and wisdom from the Elders.

All things balance each other out within the medicine wheel. If we think of the world as one big medicine wheel we can see that it has been out of alignment for some time now and because we are not separate from the world and the world is not separate from us, if we put our own selves into alignment we are also helping to shift the world back into balance.

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