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At the CAC’s CONSPIRE 2021 conference, Pat McCabe (Weyakpa Najin Win, Woman Stands Shining) of the Diné nation described the medicine wheel as a symbol of the interconnectedness and responsibility of all beings:
In the Lakota spiritual way and teaching, I was presented with something called … the medicine wheel…. It’s a circle and it marks north to south and east to west in the center of it…. There are lots of different ways to look at that. It points to the cardinal directions; and we say that different medicines, different animals, and different spiritual entities lie in each of those four directions. Depending on which Indigenous people you talk to, they’ll name different ones, and it’s all true…. We can also talk about this hoop [or wheel] being divided into four as the four different parts of walking through your life as a human being: as a child, as a young adult, as someone who can bring forth family, and then in your elder years.
Another way that I look at it is that every single living life form has been given a seat on this sacred hoop of life … and that includes us … the five-fingered ones. We also have a seat on that sacred hoop. Every single member has a methodology for upholding its part of the sacred hoop. Every single member must uphold their part of the sacred hoop, or the integrity of the hoop begins to fail. That’s what I believe we’re witnessing right now.
Who is not upholding their part of the sacred hoop? Well, I think it’s us. Looking at it from this vantage point, the thing about this sacred hoop is that it’s really speaking to a very deep level of interrelatedness. I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s word … interbeing. We’re interbeing and that’s exactly what this hoop is describing.
From this perspective, every member counts and every member has to be given the opportunity to uphold its part of the hoop. Every member has been given a perfect design to do that. The question is, is every member being given what they need in order to enact their perfect design for thriving life, so that they can contribute to keeping the integrity of that hoop intact?
I’m going to say “no.” When we dam rivers, we begin to prevent certain life forms from being able to enact their perfect design for thriving life…. If the salmon can’t live their way, then the whole ecology begins to unravel where they are. There’s this incredible film that shows what happens because wolves were being kept out of Yellowstone National Park here in North America…. [The film] shows what happens when they reintroduce wolves into that habitat, where they had always been. The whole ecology changes [and balances again]…. Every being has to be allowed to enact its perfect design for thriving life or the whole thing begins to unravel.
Adapted from Pat McCabe (Weyakpa Najin Win), “Living With, For, as Earth,” CONSPIRE 2021 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), video.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, Red Abstraction (detail), 1959, oil on canvas. Loïs Mailou Jones, Shapes and Colors (detail), 1958, watercolor on paper. Madison Frambes, Untitled 4 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
The squares, circles, triangles, reds, blues, yellows, patterns and textures are all part of the same great whole.
Story from Our Community:
The Daily Meditation on August 16, 2023 [quoting Joan Chittister] about Saint Catherine of Siena touched my soul in a way I’ve never experienced. As a female in the Church, I struggled with feeling like a second-class citizen. In the late 90s, a priest invited a small group of women to stand behind the altar to read the words of the consecration with him. From that moment, I felt deeply that I too was a “priest, prophet and king.” My Creator’s words to Catherine spoke to me as well. I don’t need human affirmation. I humbly accept my role in modeling and spreading the Good News. —Adrienne Q.