Today I hiked one of my favorite trails, and off to the side where very few people see, is a beautiful medicine wheel made from stones and pine cones. I have no idea who created it but am so grateful for its presence. I go there to reconnect to the idea that each of the four direction is distinct and offers its own gifts to the world. According to my Ojibwa friends in the northern woods of Michigan, East represents rebirth and spirit, with the natural element of fire. South is for emotional growth, with the element of water. The West is the physical world, represented by earth. And the North, associated with winter, is represented by air and wind.
During last year’s Soul Renewal Retreat (link), one of the participants, my dear friend Liz Monroe-Cook, noted that one of the most creative acts is thinking of something with a new lens – akin to standing at the medicine wheel at a different point. It seemed simple at the time, but as I put this into practice I see how powerful it is. Just this weekend I was reflecting on something in my past that I had come to think of as something that had made me stronger, but that was essentially a negative influence. It was something that, even after years passing, I still felt badly about. It occurred to me that there might be another way of looking at it and I tried Liz’s suggestion of looking at it with a new lens. I wondered – what would it look like if I thought of this as a positive influence? I journaled a bit and soon I had this marvelous realization that this “negative” thing that felt like it had broken me open had actually been what made it possible for me to change and become more open and loving. Without it, I might have stayed shut down and probably wouldn’t have the strong and loving relationships I have today. I’ve started to look on this initial experience as a gift….not that I’ve been able to leave behind all bad feelings, but more and more gratitude is seeping in.
The medicine wheel represents this process for me. How I feel about something usually is one point of view — being at one place on the wheel, one spoke. If I need more insight or want a new vantage point, I can move to another place on the wheel and imagine what a rebirthing of that issue might be, or if it were like water and flowed easily. What might this kind of reframing do if we all used it when we were feeling badly about something? I look forward to exploring it more.