In my seeking, helpful books have found their way into my life. One such book was “Seven Arrows” by Hyemeyohsts Storm who told of the native People of the Plains’ spirituality through story. I think I first read it in the late 1970s after my husband died. I found comfort in the stories’ steeped in nature. I recently picked it up again to review the Medicine Wheel that holds the four directions to which I sometimes remember to pray while holding my prayer feathers. I found deeper meaning in the intervening years from my first reading.
Since my earlier reading of Storm’s work I have taken classes and done some reading on the wisdom of the Enneagram and Carl Jung’s shadow work. I now see and understand those teachings are also within the Medicine Wheel. It represents the Universe into which we each enter through a particular direction as a unique self with gifts to share with others along with a balancing need to learn from others’ gifts. Different totem animals (and people) come to us throughout our life bringing teachings to grow and balance us. Storm writes: “The Medicine Power is within all People, and in all the things of the Universe.” I also reread his telling of the Peace Shields, worn by native women on their belts, and displayed on animal hides by the men, depicting an individual’s gifts along with what they need to learn from others to grow.
Now when I remember to hold my prayer feathers and pray to each direction, I will give thanksgiving for my gifts and ask to see where I need to grow for balance. When facing East, the direction of Illumination and the high flying Eagle, I will be mindful of the need to balance farsightedness with the need to stay close to life. When facing South, the direction of Innocence and the close to the earth Mouse, I will pray for Trust and discernment in the vision of others. When facing West, the place of Introspection and the hibernating Black Bear, I will be aware of my need to balance reflection with decisive action. When facing North, the place of Wisdom and the White Buffalo, I will pray for wisdom and the ability to live life with warm feeling and touching others.
After recently watching the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave,” I became keenly aware of the dominant culture I come from, the utter cruelty of slavery, and past native genocide. There has been some progress in laws, and some change in hearts, but the continuing unsustainable pursuit of wealth at the expense of others, and the acquisition of stuff, now threatens every culture and the planet itself.
What if there were no dominant cultures and we valued other’s different gifts. What if we each thought about the gifts we bring to the Universe and what help we need to grow and stay balanced? What would your Peace Shield look like?