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Medicine Wheel - Beyond the Tradition

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Transcription and subtitles by Sky Feather ~ The Medicine Wheel is a symbol that has been used for over 10000 years by the Native people of North and South America. What is the wheel represent how is it relate to medicine What it counts for its long and widespread use? What value might it have in the modern society. One person who can answer these questions is Don Warne Individual who has seen the world from both the traditional perspective And from the modern perspective. He grew up in touch with both worlds Don's family is from South Dakota and moved to Tempe Arizona when he was four years old. He went to school in Tempe but spent his summers on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. Don graduated from high school in 1984 And received his bachelors degree in 1989 from Arizona state university. As a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe he has had a unique perspective on medicine and healing. His mother Beverly Warne, has been a nurse for many years and currently teaches in the nursing department at Mesa community college in Mesa Arizona. His family includes many traditional healers and medicine men from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. In 1992 Don was given his grandfather's name Pejuta Wicasa which means medicine man in the Lakota language. In addition his father James Warne senior, had been diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis in 1979. And Don is witnessed his father's treatments from traditional and modern medicine approaches. In 1993 Don began his fourth year of medical school at Stanford university. On his way to becoming a family physician. From this background, Don has been exposed to medicine and healing from the traditional Native American perspective. And the modern medicine perspective. Let's hear now from Don Warne as he gives us his insights into the time modern Medicine wheel. And how its use may extend from the traditional to the modern. What I'm talking about today is the Medicine wheel. The Medicine wheel is an ancient symbol. That has been used to symbolize many things to the indigenous people of N. America and S. America. The earliest accounts of the Medicine wheel date back thousands of years among the Lakota people. Were more commonly known today as the Sioux. There are many interpretations of what the Medicine wheel symbolizes. Just as are many Native American tribes and languages. The symbolism I will be talking about is what I've learned from my family. And from other traditional Lakota people. I will also be sharing some of my own interpretations of the Medicine wheel with you today. What the Medicine wheel shows is a circle with a cross in the middle. What this represents most basically is the four directions. East - North - West and South And what this symbolism shows, is that although the directions may be opposite to each other, represented by the cross, they are still connected. and this is shown by the circle connecting the ends of the cross. There are other interpretations. That include up to the sky and down to the earth. As the fifth and sixth directions. Also, some people look to the center of the circle as being within and this is the seventh direction. For now, I will just be referring to the four directions and the symbols that are used within those directions. As you can see, colors are also used. There is yellow, white, black and red. And this symbolizes the different races of people in the world. Yellow being people from Asia, White being people from Europe, Black being people from Africa, and Red being people from America. Some times people ask, well where is brown for the Latino groups? But actually they are represented here Because the red and the white the indigenous people from America and the Spaniards, blended together to form the Latino groups. In an ideal world, all the colors are be able to overlap with each other. But unfortunately, there are many interracial conflicts. Within the four directions, we look at gifts coming to us from the four directions. In the traditional Lakota way, It is believed ,that everything in nature is sacred and was sent to us as a gift from the Great Spirit. Wakan Tanka Here are some examples of the gifts given to us from the four directions. In addition to the colors, Yellow, White, Black and Red. There are also basic elements. Fire, Air, Earth and Water. Fire is a gift from the East, along with the Sun, Air is a gift from the North, along with the Animals, Earth is a gift from the West, along with the Minerals, and Water is a gift from the South, along with the Plants. And if you think about these gifts from the perspective of the great plains, these directions make a lot of sense. For example, the Sun rises in the East, and it is yellow like Fire, White is from the North were the snow comes from, along with the Northern winds, The Sun sets in the West, so it is black. Also, the Black Hills or Black Earth and the Rocky Mountains are the to the West of the plains. Minerals are also a gift from the West. And if you think of Black Hills gold these gifts make a lot of sense. And to the South, red can be thought of as the people and the deserts to the South. And water and plants can be thought of as representing the rain forests in Mexico and South America. The Medicine wheel shows that even though they are in opposite directions, destroying the rain forests to the South, can affect the air to the North. Because the gifts are all connected, by the circle. The most basic part of medicine in the Medicine wheel, is symbolizing what a person is. To the East, there is the Spiritual aspect, to the North, there is the Mental aspect, To the West, there is the Physical aspect, and to the South, the Emotional aspect. One problem I think we have in modern medicine, is that people don't see themselves as being at the center of the wheel, and being in charge of all four aspects. Many people think that the priest or clergy, is in charge of their spirituality, their teachers or psychiatrists, are in charge of their mental health, the doctor or physician is in charge of their physical health, and their friends and relationships, are in charge of their emotional well-being. In this way people have an external locus of control. Because they are not in control of all four aspects. Whereas in the traditional Lakota way, the person is seen as being at the center of the wheel. And being in charge of their own Spiritual, Mental, Physical and Emotional health. In this way, there is an internal locus of control. Also in the traditional Lakota way, illness is seen as being an imbalance in this wheel. And what the traditional healers do, is help people get back into balance. Through prayer, meditation, herbal medicine and getting in touch with emotions. A difference between modern medicine and traditional medicine, is that the person takes an active role, in their own healing process, by working with the Medicine man. Whereas in modern medicine, many people believe it is the doctor's responsibility. to make them well. And they take on a more passive role, in the healing process. This attitude often manifests itself as anger or frustration. When people cannot find a quick fix, to a physical ailment. Another difference between modern medicine and traditional Lakota medicine, Is that the traditional healers have to be very dynamic. Because they attend to all four these aspects, in order to help people get back into balance. Whereas in modern medicine, the doctors primarily attend to the physical aspect of health Another word for modern doctor is physician. Which has the same root as Physical. Which is from the Latin physic mean the Natural sciences. I think most of us understand how all four aspects are related to our health and well-being. For example, most people believe that mental stress can cause physical illness. And physical illness can cause emotional depression. And when people are searching for the meaning of life spiritually, They can feel out of balance in any of these areas. Also, people have a natural tendency to try to get themselves back into balance. Even if they are unaware of this symbolism. For example, when people are physically ill and in a hospital, they tend to become more spiritual. This is one reason why there are chapels in most hospitals. Also, when people are emotionally upset, One response is to rationalize, to get back into balance. Another example of our understanding of this symbolism, is within athletics. Coaches often refer to pray and team unity, as being the values that make up team spirit. And from team spirit, people develop mental strength and mental toughness. Which influences the physical performance. And many athletes believe that the most important part of their physical performance, lies within mental strength. It is also a common saying that "games are won on emotion". And what this means, is that the physical performance produces an emotion which feeds back into the team spirit or pride. In this way, it can be seen how winning brings winning through the emotional, spiritual and mental aspects. I believe that one reason why sports are popular particularly among men, is that this is one area in modern society that allows men to be openly emotional. Another way to look at the Medicine wheel, is Mind - Body - Heart and Soul. The spiritual nature can be called the Spirit or the Soul, Mental nature is the Mind, Physical nature is the Body and for Emotions we use Heart, as the symbol for emotions. For example, when you feel for someone, your heart goes out to them. Or when you feel bad, your heart is broken. This is very similar to Plato's philosophy. He referred to a Soul, Mind and Body But in the Medicine wheel, Emotions are seen as a separate entity, making it a circular symbolism. Plato's Emotions as being part of the mind, making it a linear model. The Medicine wheel can also be thought of as representing: Values - Decisions - Actions and Reactions. What a person does from the Spiritual realm, is interpret their Values into Decisions. Which is the Mental aspect. And then they implement their Decisions into Actions. Which is the Physical aspect. And the Actions produce a feeling. Whether it is a positive feeling or guilt, depending on the action, they get Reactions. Which is the Emotional aspect. And the emotions provide feedback or input back into the Value system. So it is a circular pattern. In this way, it can be seen how everything we do, all of our Decisions, Actions and Emotions, Are rooted within Spirituality. This is one reason why the elders tell us, that everything in life is sacred. And everything we do is Spiritual. I think many people have an innate understanding of this cycle. Because many sayings that are used to describe people, fit this model. For example, a well-rounded person. Or a person needs direction. Or imbalance, or off the center. To be imbalanced, you can see how important it is to have an internal locus of control. And to exist at the center of the wheel. What has happen since the Europeans came to this continent, is that many of these spiritual aspects have been taken away. Sacred lands, such as the Black Hills were taken. Spiritual practices such as the Sundance and Potlatches became illegal. Children were taken away to boarding schools. And many spiritual leaders were killed. As a result, negative emotions were generated. Such as mourning, sadness, anger and frustration and ultimately low self-esteem. And without a spirituality to fall back on, these negative Emotions went straight to Decisions. And that's where alcohol came in. Because the Action was to drink, to numb these emotions. The Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, in which Chief Bigfoot and over 250,000 unarmed Lakota people, including many women and children, were killed. It stated by many people, as the symbolic event for the Lhasa spirituality, for the Lakota people. Black Elk a Lakota spiritual leader and Medicine man who lived during that time, said that because of the Wounded Knee massacre, the Circle is broken. And it literally was. The Spiritual aspect was taken away. Leaving a semi-circle of despair. But he also said that it would take seven generations to heal the Circle. And that is where we are now. The children of today are the seventh generation. And it seems to be a resurgence of traditionalism, in many tribes. This is a good thing, because the people who are being able to avoid alcoholism, or to recover from it, are generally very strong spiritually. Within the Medicine wheel, it is easy to see how there can be imbalances. In the Spiritual, Mental, Physical and Emotional aspects. A person who is imbalanced, toward the Mental nature, and away from Emotions, might be characterized as cold and unemotional. In modern society a lot of men are imbalanced in this way, because they believe that to be a man is to be non-emotional. But to be missing the Emotional development, is to be missing the important feedback link into the Value system. If this is completely undeveloped, the person might be characterized as heartless or impassioned. Because there is no mechanism for guilt or joy to feedback to the Value system for re-evaluation. Someone who is imbalanced toward Emotions and away from the Mental aspect, might be characterized as irrational or overly emotional. In this way, the emotions are controlling the person's decisions and actions. This can manifest itself as impulsiveness or poor decision-making. A person can also be imbalanced toward Spirituality and away from the Physical aspect. In many religions, it is a sacred thing to be a martyr with your body. But in some instances, it is conceivable to see how a person who is imbalanced toward Spirituality, may actually be running away from his or her Physical nature. Being imbalanced toward the Physical nature and away from Spirituality, is something I think is common among people today. These people believe that the only things that are real, exist only in the physical world. And they believe that thoughts and emotions are rooted in physical nature. These are the type of people who say things like "I need to find myself", when they realize they're something missing in their lives. What I have been talking about so far, are Values - Decisions - Actions and Reactions. But there are also interactions. Problems who rise in interpersonal relationships when people are out of balance. This diagram represents two people who come together who are imbalanced. The person on top, is someone who is imbalanced toward the Mental side and away from Emotions. And the person on the bottom, is someone who is imbalanced toward the Emotional side. The old saying "Opposites attract' is actually true in many cases. I'm sure many of us can think of examples of relationships in which one person is very rational and unemotional, and the other person is very emotional and seemingly irrational. What happens in this situation, is people see in each-other what they don't have in themselves. And by getting together, they kind of complete each-others circles. These people can interact in the Physical and Spiritual realms, but when the person on top wants to be rational, there is conflict. Because the person on the bottom has to operate outside of their circle. And the opposite is also true. When the person on bottom wants to be Emotional, there is conflict, because the person on top has to operate outside his or her circle. The reason there is conflict, is because they are constantly try to pull each-other, outside of their comfort zones. Often times, these people would remain together, because even thought there's a lot of conflict, each person provides for the other, the aspects of life that are not developed within themselves. In an ideal situation, both people would develop their wheels fully, before trying to start a relationship or a marriage. In this way, they can interact equally on all four levels, and provide each-other balance through harmony, rather than conflict. When you look at interactions, you can look at people interacting like this. This is an example of a superficial interaction. People can interact superficially within any of the four aspects. An example of this might be in an academic, or professional environment, where people are interacting. But what they are really doing, is projecting themselves. The people are at the center of the wheel. And they are projecting themselves into one realm or another. It's almost as people have an arm's distance projection of who they are. And they hold up a mask. And people wear different masks in different situations. Depending on who they are interacting with. What happens when people are interacting with loved ones or family members, is that the interaction becomes like this. And they are interacting at the center of who they are. This is an example of a true interaction because it is at the center of the wheel and the people are free to interact on all four levels. Whereas in a superficial interaction, it is the projection of one person meeting the projection of the other. Often times people refer to differences in communication between Indian and non Indian people. Non Indian communication is often referred to as linear. Because there's a distinct beginning and a distinct end to the written or the spoken word. Often, these are refer to as an introduction and a conclusion. In circular communication, that does not have to be a distinct beginning or a distinct end to an idea. This can be thought of in many ways. Often times, circular communication can be thought of, as speaking from the others person's perspective. Or, the circular pattern may exist in the words themselves. Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce (tribe) leader who lived in the late 1800, made a famous quote. In which he decided to no longer fight the U.S troops, who were invading his people's land. His speech is a beautiful example of circular communication. I am tired of fighting. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever. The first part of his speech, describes the Physical state of his tribe. And the Actions that had led up to this point. He summarizes the tribe's Physical condition in the words "I am tired". From here, he moves to the South part of the wheel, where he deals with the Reactions and Emotions, generated from the Physical realm. Here, he states "My heart is sick and sad". These emotions feedback into his feeling of a broken spirit and compromised values. When he says "From when the sun now stands", He is speaking from a Spiritual and Value perspective which form the basis of his decision. "I will fight no more, forever." The Medicine wheel is a very old symbol that has been used effectively for over 10,000 years. The Wheel also has many applications in the world today, including modern medicine and current lifestyles. We have touched upon some of these applications in our discussion today. The elders tell us to keep harmony within nature and within ourselves. The Medicine wheel gives us directions for attaining this balance. Listen to your Emotions and be aware of your Values. This will strengthen your Decisions and Actions. And allow you to live in harmony with the world around you. Aho. Pilamaya yelo. Mitakuye oyasin.

Video Details

Duration: 24 minutes and 46 seconds
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Producer: The Center for Teaching and Learning, Mesa Community College
Director: Don Warne, Ken Kostello
Views: 589
Posted by: skyfeather on Apr 15, 2012

Medicine Wheel - Beyond the Tradition
Written and Narrated by Don Warne

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