Linda Neale's Blog

You are the Medicine Wheel

Linda Neale - Monday, December 03, 2012

On Saturday, December 15th, Rod and I are doing a workshop on the medicine wheel.  I've lived with the wheel for decades now, but until ten years ago, I never understood what Rod meant when he said "you are the medicine wheel". Until then I thought the wheel was something to memorize, and that somehow I just couldn't get it "right".  Was white in the east, or in the north?  Where did the eagle belong on the wheel?  The bear?  If the west was about the elder and darkness, then what was the north?  I was confused.

Rod wasn't just talking to me, sharing the "secret information" that so  many people long to learn from native elders, he said that to each person who asked him for teachings about the wheel.  The truth is that there is no "right" medicine wheel.  There are many different models of the medicine wheel: African, Lakota, ancient pagan (consider Stonehenge), Ojibway, and more.  They are all used for various spiritual and ceremonial purposes, but especially for healing. 

How can a symbol help a person heal?  In most indigenous culture, illness is thought to spring from the person being out of balance, and the focus of the healing was on treating the core of that imbalance, not the symptoms. This is not unlike modern naturopathic philosophy, where the focus is on restoring the natural balance of the human body, so that healing can occur. 

Everything -- everything that we've ever had happen to us, everything about ourselves, is on the wheel.  It includes the four directions, the four stages of life, the races of people, the seasons of the year, our birth and death, all the animals and plants, the four parts of the self (emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual), everything. Our Self (with a capital "S") is somewhere in the middle of all that.  We are a collection of our experiences.  Unfortunately,  this culture presents us with many easy opportunities to collect experiences that create imbalance.  Sometimes we have to search for the positive.

The medicine wheel can help us re-focus on the balance of all things. When we develop our own wheel, we have a healing tool that helps us remember what is positive and good in our lives.  And as the cognitive-behavioral psychologists would tell you, focusing on the positive is in itself a healing process.

As I was considering our upcoming workshop, and how to communicate the idea of the medicine wheel to Western-educated people in a period of only three hours, I came across the book "Fools Crow:  Wisdom and Power" by Thomas Mails.  Fools Crow asked that the stories and teachings in this book only be released posthumously.  Mails calls him "the old lord of the holy men"; he was a Lakota spiritual leader born in 1890 who lived to be 99 years old.  A good friend of mine was able to spend months with Fools Crow before he died, and told me that many famous people made pilgrimages to visit "the old man", that he treated all people equally, and that he did not hesitate to share with others. My friend remembered Fools Crow's teaching about the "hollow bone", that all of us are capable of connecting to the Great Spirit if we can just get our own egos out of the way.  At the very end of the book is a description of how Fools Crow used the medicine wheel for healing.  Reading it, I felt like I had been given a great gift and my intuition confirmed, since they way he used the wheel was so similar to my own guidance.

During his four day healing ceremonies, Fools Crow had his patients make a medicine wheel that reflected the positive aspects of their lives -- their achievements, their good relationships -- things that reflected health, happiness, and fulfillment during the four stages of life.  Anything attached to the wheel was thought through carefully beforehand.  When the wheel was complete, Fools Crow asked people to hang it on their wall to remind them of the things in life that are worthwhile.  That way, when the patient looked at the wheel, the illness was placed in its proper perspective, as a small part of life.  "This reflection on the joys and accomplishments of a lifetime also reminds us of how much we have to live for..."

I am in the process of reflecting on my own life, and making my own medicine wheel.  I find it challenging to list only the positive things -- I find myself wanting to say, "But what about the abuse?"  Or, "What about when I was disowned?"  Surely all the negative stuff is part of my wheel as well.

It is.  It's all a part of me, and I cannot pretend otherwise.  But, it's incredibly healing to see all the wonderful aspects of my life in one place on my own medicine wheel.  It does put my current problems and issues in perspective. I encourage all of you to make a medicine wheel this way.  Thank you, Creator, and thank you, Fools Crow and Thomas Mails.

If you're interested, contact me, go to my home page, or visit for more information on the medicine wheel workshop.


Linda Hayden commented on 07-Dec-2012 10:22 AM
Linda, thank you for suggesting this. For the last year, I've found myself so energetically tied to the failings of my body that I've lost my way to my bigger, spiritual self. I can already see that this project will help me refocus in a healthy way. Again, thank you.

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