The Cardinal Directions and the Medicine Wheel
The realization came to me the other day as I was really givin’ er up Happy Trail on a beautiful spri-nter day. I was having a little bit of a panic attack. I realized that in my current energetic state I may have once again taken on too much – work, personal, social, family. What was I thinking when I actually signed up for the NIMBY? I have never done a bike race before (um, yes. There is that). Or when I said I would take on yet another weekend long volunteer commitment? Another work contract. Inspired by Allison Gannet , her amazing story and sustainable living (as presented by Mountain Story) I started building another veggie garden and expanded current farming practices to include animals. I mentally signed up for the BarnBurner Triple, filled out adoption papers for a dog and EVEN wondered if I was done having children. I am sleeping less and doing more. What is going on?! Someone talk some sense into me RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! But, judging by recent conversations, I know at least a couple of you who can currently relate.
Then I realized that this is me. Me. Syncing with the Earth Energies, her Four Directions and Natural Cycles. Also known as the Cardinal Directions and the Medicine Wheel. (Or at least this rationalization makes me feel better about my current state.)
This concept is not new. People living close to the earth rhythms, many First Nations cultures, as well as nature herself have been guided by this life force since time before memory, and so have you.
The cardinal directions have corresponding energies that relate to them.They are associated with the many seasons of not only human development, but those of plant life cycles, moon phases and more.
I was first introduced to this concept when I had the privilege to attend Wilderness Awareness School a while back. It was a pivotal and profound personal experience for me and learning this way helped me to accept the recent death of my mother and better understand nature. In this natural learning model, all things start and end in the North East direction. To help understand how this works, here are some words, emotions and ideas often associated with the cardinal directions.
The North East is associated with late winter, death, wisdom, planning, dreams, intention, creativity, illumination, clarity. It represents 3:30 AM time wise.
The East is associated with spring, renewal, enthusiasm, birth, inspiration, ego, sunrise, and energy. It represents 6AM.
The South East is associated with childhood, growth, emotion, and orientation. It represents 9:30 AM and I associate the SE with late spring.
The South is associated with 12 noon and the hard work required to get things done. The adolescent years, attention to detail, focus, heat and summer.
The South West is when things start to slow down. It is associated with the earth, internalizing experiences, relaxing. It is associated with 3:30 pm and late summer.
The West is about the fall, bounty, harvest, celebration, sun set, honouring achievements, giving thanks and being a leader – gaining wisdom. It is associated with 6pm.
The North West is a transition time, about surrender and letting go of ego. It is associated with 9:30pm.
The North is about winter, elders, time to reflect, dying, to rest, to be wise and still. To tell stories. This direction is associated with 12 midnight.
Tapping and tuning into this cycle can better help you achieve your goals and understand where you are and why, where you want to go, and how to best get there.
It works particularly well in nature education. When creating lesson plans and learning objectives with Stewardship Pemberton’s Grow with Nature Camps and Little Saplings play groups, this model is often followed. For example: Today we want to learn about frogs. So, we start the kids off in the North East/East. We stir their curiosity. Ask them what they know about frogs? What frogs live here? What might they eat? What do they do in the winter time? This Art of Questioning stimulates their energy. It cultivates enthusiasm, builds momentum and guides activities for the rest of the day.
This flows into the South East/South direction and usually the start of a project or mission. Where will we go? What will we do? We will go on a frog “hunt” of course. It is spring, and we just learned frogs will be coming out of hibernation. If I was a frog, what would I be looking for to eat? A plant? A bug? What would my habitat look like? Is it found here – or maybe closer to the water? What do you think and why do you think that? Hopefully we find at least one to observe and the “hunt” is a success!
South West/West – although still engaged, the kids are getting a bit tired of this experience. After a long afternoon exploring outside it is time to slow things down. Take a break and re-group, reflect. Maybe we will make frog masks and pretend to live like frogs for a while to celebrate our day. Or draw a picture in our nature journal about the one that got away!
North West/North – time to be quiet and listen. To share our favourite part of the day. Be honest and truthful by sharing our not so favourite parts as well. To give thanks. To read a story of a frog’s epic adventure.
This spring-like weather has awakened all of these desires that have been happily hibernating away for the last few months, simmering in my subconscious waiting for the soil to be ripe for planting. It feels good to recognize this for what it is. Dreams now come alive with a start and an end. It feels good to give it up to that, to release the judgment. My life and the universal life – a constantly moving and revolving natural rhythm guided by the moon, stars, the cosmos and something much bigger than me.
So high five to the East, the spring, and those things that we can only hope to understand in our Northern phase of life.
PS – Frogs should be coming out of hibernation soon, and the most common frog found in Pemberton is the Pacific Chorus Frog who’s song will be echoing throughout the valley in the coming weeks. Veronica Woodruff has been recording the first frog songs of the year to track their patterns, so if you hear them let us know. They sound and look like this. And we still have space in pretty much all our Nature programs – you can register here (shameless plug!).