So, it seems that, at least for a while, every “Thoughtful Thursday” post will focus on my adolescent vision quest experience... until either I have no more journal entries to explore or my online pals get tired of my self-imposed journey of re-discovery. If you have no blessed idea what I’m talking about, please feel free to visit my three previous posts on the subject.
As I've already explained, during the summer between eighth grade and high school, five peers and I experienced a weeklong vision quest in the woods of southern Mississippi. Our mentor, James, who lived with his wife and two daughters in this rural part of the South – not far from the small town of Kiln (which I recently discovered is, strangely enough, quarterback Brett Favre’s hometown) – taught us a great deal about living a life of purpose and learning to walk the “red road” of a “warrior.”
During that amazing week in June of 1990, we spent a lot of time sitting in sacred tepee councils, meditating on our own, and learning about a variety of Native American myths and traditions, including the medicine wheel – a prevalent symbol throughout many Native American tribes. Now, if you were to look up “medicine wheel” on the Internet, you would find a multitude of explanations and examples, and while the details might differ from wheel to wheel, the essence is typically the same: The medicine wheel, crude as it might sometimes be, represents the fully realized path of a self-actualized person – the totality of a person’s potential universe.
A truly impressive one, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel – an enormous wheel-like pattern made of carefully placed stones – sits in the mountains of Wyoming. James’ medicine wheel was considerably smaller – but no less a spiritual tool. As with most medicine wheels, his was based on the cardinal directions – each of which represented a color, a spirit animal, and a level of spiritual attainment. According to him, many of us begin at the southern post, symbolized by a green mouse of innocence. With effort, we can find our path to the west, signified by a black bear of introspection. Eventually, we can make it to the north, where the wise, white buffalo dwells. Of course, our ultimate destination is the east, embodied by the yellow eagle of illumination.
Looking at one of my journal entries from June 26, 1990, I found James’ explanation of the medicine wheel:
We all are born with one direction dominant. To become a whole person, you have to encompass every direction. Some have more than one gift, but they’re not whole... We all are a whole and complete medicine wheel, but we have to bring out all of the latent possibilities within us.
No two people are alike except for the loneliness that bonds us. We have to touch others...
Over the years, I’ve thought often of James’ medicine wheel – and my ardent desire to be a whole and complete soul, fully actualized. While I have come close to mastering innocence and introspection, I am far from achieving wisdom and illumination, though I long for that every day. But it’s certainly not an easy task to attain true enlightenment, especially given modern stresses and strains. Although I have yet to find balance in my life and still struggle daily to juggle myriad tasks and desires – from finishing the revision of my novel to maintaining a consistent yoga routine to making time for my husband and kitty – I am ever aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and ever trying to be the best that I can be. But, I wonder, is that enough? And, at this rate, will I ever get there?
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