Advent as a Medicine Wheel
Center for Spiritual Living Baltimore on 24 December 2017
At a time of year when the world’s cultures and religions are honoring and celebrating holidays and rituals, there are so many common threads and connections that run between and through them all. It is truly sublime when we weave the web of the world celebrations because – I believe – they all desire to lead the participant to a higher state of consciousness through living a life of love and service to others.
Growing up in a family that focused on Christian religions, I often heard about Advent but I never really connected to the origin or significance of it. I knew there was a wreath and candles that you lit leading up to Christmas. We never had an Advent wreath in our home, so to me it had no personal influence in my activities. It was simply something that “someone else did”.
Over the past few years, I started to remember my deep connection to the medicine of indigenous cultures and I’ve immersed into the practices and rituals of Peruvian shamanism. And this holiday season, I had the ah-ha moment that connected the medicine wheel of my practice to the five candles of the Advent wreath.
Same intentions. Different package. Different practice. Same consciousness.
For purposes of discussion, we will focus on five words: hope, love, joy, peace, and consciousness. These are the most common words chosen for Advent rituals, though – as with all practices, including shamanism – you will find many iterations and variances as practices have been passed down through time.
We begin with Hope. In my tradition, you begin the medicine wheel in the South. The natural connection is to Mother Earth. The personal connection is to our physical body. The path is one of Right Action or Llankay. The Way of the Healer is the path of the South. Healing brings hope. Hope brings healing.
The archaic definition of hope is ‘trust’, though today’s vocabulary indicates an anticipated desire. Either way, we must first trust in ourselves to begin a healing process that will help us gain a different understanding of our life lessons in order to desire or anticipate an alternate potential of beingness – for ourselves or others – that we couldn’t imagine from the current hurtful state in which we perceive ourselves or another to be.
We are here for a reason and we connect to the Earth through our physical body in order to experience this adventure of life. But we all know that does not come without challenges. And with every challenge is an opportunity to heal any wound that could stop the flow of pure consciousness.
Hurt people hurt people. We need to heal our wounds in order to better serve everyone around us. We can increase our ability to respond to life when we remove our own lenses of pain. This is when we think less about what to do next and can be in the mix of whatever is presented before consciously choosing our next action. When we heal ourselves, we are more available to support the healing process of another.
SONG (Bob Sima): Healed People, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers
“Come on get ready for love”… how appropriate!
Next is Love. In my tradition, Love has its place in the West. The natural connection is to Water. The personal connection is to our heart. The path is one of compassion, where we are less driven by fear and more inspired by compassionate love or Munay. The Way of the Illumined Warrior is the path of the West. Illumination brings love. Love brings illumination.
The definition of love is ‘an intense feeling of affection’. We must first feel that affectionate intensity for who we are and who we stand for so we can face our fears – or others fears projected onto us – without judgment or concern. We can more easily feel compassion when we let go of the idea that peace – inner and otherwise – can only come through force.
We all carry a backpack of hidden and forgotten fears. When we connect to the Water – to the flow – we begin to recognize that we aren’t in the flow of life. Life flows through us and radiates through our Heart. The intensity of that light increases when we burn off our fears and are able to live life to the fullest potential that we can imagine today. Fears are simply the sparks that can burn off the unnecessary to make room for pure consciousness.
We need to burn away our fears to let our guard down, to release the concepts of greed and conflict and war, and to step fully onto the illumined path. Something’s gotta burn if we want to shine.
SONG (Bob Sima): Something’s Gotta Burn, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers
“Raise one up for the liberated one”.
That brings us to Joy. In my tradition, Joy would be associated with the North. The natural connection is to Wind. The personal connection is to our spirit. The path is one of spiritual remembrance or Yuyay. The Way of the Mystic or Teacher is the path of the North. Mysticism brings joy. Joy brings mysticism.
The definition of joy is ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness’. In Middle English, mystic would indicate an ‘initiated person’ who ‘closes the eyes and lips’. Today’s definition indicates someone who seeks to be absorbed by a higher power and who believes in truths beyond the intellect. When we surrender to the idea that there is more beyond our human senses, we are able to connect to the spirit realm in ways we might dismiss otherwise. It is then that we learn the experience of joy and ecstasy.
The Wind, or Air, is a direct connection to the life force energy – the Spirit – that has been breathed by all who came before us. That spirit is our connection to our ancestors, our relations, and our future generations. We can control our heart rate and move into a trance-like or meditative state simply by putting our awareness on our breath. From that state we connect to our own knowing and to the messages of the spirit world as pure consciousness.
In order to experience life beyond the senses, we must hold the mystery closer than we hold our beliefs. That is when we find the mystical path. That path allows us to release paradigms and receive all that we may think is just a little too “woo-woo” for the world around us. In the silence and stillness of our breath, we thin the veils and open to wonder and awe.
SONG (Bob Sima): Kiss God, from It’s Time
“When no one is looking at me, what is looking through me can see”.
Peace completes the circle, in Advent wreath or medicine wheel form. In my tradition, Peace sits in the East. The natural connection is to Fire. The personal connection is to our mind. The path is one of wisdom or Yachay. The Way of the Visionary is the path of the East. Wisdom brings peace. Peace brings wisdom.
Peace means ‘freedom from disturbance’ or ‘tranquility’. Peace is not waiting to be found. Peace is waiting for us to become it. Peace is not found outside of us but by becoming a channel that connects our inner sanctuary to the universal sanctuary. That connection creates an experience of safety and security which convinces the mind that all is well. Peace of mind.
Fire is in constant motion, always changing its visible form, shifting, disappearing, even jumping to a new host. Watching the flames of a fire is like paying attention to the thoughts in our mind. Robin Sharma stated, “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” As we transform our monkey mind into a place of quiet and seclusion, we are able to pause. When we pause we often see – with more clarity – things that were masked by earthly distractions. We become the visionary being lit up by the flames of pure consciousness.
This level of awareness allows us to “see” with faculties and capabilities unexplainable in words. We begin to piece together the threads that run through our own lives and dream of possibilities for the world that would cause the greatest novelist to stutter. When we hear the call, we must answer with a gentle wisdom and impeccable action. The peaceful warrior is born.
SONG (Bob Sima): Be Humble Be Hungry Be Love, from The Movers The Shakers and The Peacemakers
Having completed the outer circle, only the center candle of the Advent wreath or the center of the medicine wheel remains. All spokes lead to Consciousness. Consciousness is our axis that connects to all points of the outer ring. Consciousness is our soul.
May you recognize your own path to Consciousness. From healing wounds to facing fears and becoming illuminated, to connecting to the mystical spirit world and remembering your truths, to seeing the full potential of all things great and small. May you recognize that a circle or wheel can move in reverse. When you begin with the Consciousness of the All, you see the full potential of all things inside and outside of yourself, which leads you to open fully to the mystery of the ages, which illuminates your fears and heals any wounds that remain.
Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. Consciousness.
Consciousness. Peace. Joy. Love. Hope.