More Thoughts on the Medicine Wheel

Alicia at the Medicine WheelTuesday my class accompanied our dear friend, Alicia Daniel, to Rock Point to build a Medicine Wheel. In a couple of weeks Alicia and I will hold a public workshop to teach others about the Wheel.

The day began on the cold side, then warmed to a very pleasant afternoon. Across the lake we could see the sun settling down towards the horizon, and autumn color easing down the mountainsides. The late day sun sparkled on the water and burst into the glade at an obtuse angle, illuminating the very air.

The remainder of the week has been warm. Autumn continues to unfold before us. As I write I can look through the office window and see that the maples on our street are showing bright reds and oranges. Already the flowering crabs are dropping their leaves. Somewhere beyond them lies the lake.

When I first moved to Vermont, thirty-five years ago, warm, dry spells like this in Autumn were a cause for celebration. In some ways they remain so. Yet they also carry a sense of discomfort, even threat. Global climate change has dramatically altered our seasonal round, and the change appears to be accelerating. How often we now hear the phrase, “It’s too warm for the season”. Many tree species are stresses, especially our beloved maples; our cherished way of life seems threatened.

The Medicine Wheel reminds us that our lives follow the seasonal round and are interwoven with the lives of all beings. We are made of the land, and the complexities of the landscape mirror the mystery of our awareness. The Wheel reminds us that our actions affect all beings and return to us. The appearance of separation is part of a grand paradox in which we are both individuals and All That Is.

Now, as been so for hundreds of years, we may say that Indigenous people and Europeans live in different life worlds. The European vision is one of straight lines and progress. Indigenous people tend to live in a world of circles Early Autumn Glade, Vermontand spirals, themes repeating across lifespans and generations. I hold both visions, yet I find the thought that history and life are linear to be increasingly disturbing. As I have aged I have come to understand that sometimes, when the scope of the Wheel of Life is great enough, our path seems straight. Yet, when we climb the mountain and see the trajectory of our lives for what it is, we realize that we have been on the curved rim of the world the entire time. On Pachamama, straight lines are an illusion.

The medicine Wheel teachings point always toward interconnectivity, demanding demand compassion. The Medicine Wheel points always toward arising, incarnation and reincarnation. Given time, we will encounter everything that is available to be experienced by human beings. Perhaps, given even longer spans of time, we will engage life through the eyes and sinews of all life forms. The Medicine Wheel reminds us that although we tell stories about the nature of life, they are simply tales pointing towards Mystery. Our stories are never big enough to encompass the Mystery, to imagine otherwise is to ignore our interconnected birthright and to create great suffering.

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