Health and Wellness— The Medicine Wheel Way By Ralph P. Brown (also known as Tawennihake), a Mohawk Indian of the Akwesasne tribe
In our last article, we were discussing the Medicine Wheel as it is used in the Native culture related to health and wellness. This month, we’ll look at two directions on the wheel, East and South.
THE EAST – the Physical
The sun is a life-giving source that is central to all life on the earth. The importance given to the sun by Indian people is marked by the reverence they show it. The sun is our father in the same way that the earth is our mother. Like a father, the sun provides for us and gives us heat and light – and works with mother to provide food for us. Just as the sun rises in the east signaling the beginning of a new day, of new life, or of a new cycle – so, too, do we put “new beginnings” in the east on the Medicine Wheel. When a child is born, he enters the first of four phases in the growth cycle: infant, child, adult and elder. Because this new life is a beginning, the earthly journey has its start in the east.
First, there is the need to feed and nourish the body so that it has everything it needs to perform at its optimum capacity. Diet and nutrition are an important element. We want to put good things into our bodies while protecting it from the things that can harm it. Our body does a good job of filtering and voiding itself of toxins but when we consume quantities of toxin-like substances, such as those found in drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, the body has to fight hard to restore and maintain balance. Abuse of any of these things generally signals that something is unbalanced in one or more of the other bodies – spiritual, mental and emotional – all of which makes us more susceptible to illness.
In addition to diet and nutrition and the avoidance of toxins, the body needs exercise. Exercise should come in two forms – strength or resistance training (weight lifting) and cardiovascular exercise (such as bike riding, swimming, stair climbing or walking). Anything that is aerobic works to elevate the heart rate. With exercise, the body’s
immune system is strengthened and its ability to use and assimilate nutrients is enhanced. The body needs blood and oxygen and exercise increases the flow of both.
As with everything, balance is the key. The body needs rest in the same way that it needs exercise. People are different in their need for sleep just as they are in their need for exercise. Rest is a necessary component to a healthy regime. A balanced portion of each day should be dedicated to proper exercise, good nutrition and rest to keep the physical body in balance and functioning at its optimum level.
THE SOUTH – the Emotional
As the sun travels in a clockwise direction around the earth, so we will honor this by traveling in the same direction around the Medicine Wheel. With that, we enter the south and the emotional body. Our emotional body has both an inner and an outer aspect to it. Emotional health is the awareness of not only our own feelings, but also how we connect to others.
First, we must understand and manage our own feelings and sense of well-being. When a person is in a state of balance, there is a general feeling of positivity and even enthusiasm about life. The difference between life and living is the difference between existence and thriving.
There are only a few emotions but a wide variety of feelings that stem from them. Fear, anger, happiness, sadness/grief and love are the base emotions. Emotional maturity comes as we learn to effectively manage and cope with these emotions, as well as to related ancillary feelings. In the same way that we must find and dedicate time each day to building and maintaining the physical body, so too must we make time for the care and growth of our emotional body. The daily practice of meditation is a benefit. Take time out of each day to find things that you are happy about and thankful for. Send that gratitude in the form of prayer as it will help you become more aware. Awareness is crucial to growth and development in our emotional health.
Focusing on and making time for positive relationships in our lives is also necessary. When our relationships are stable and healthy, they add to our state of well-being. We can exist without other people, but we can’t thrive. To put it simply, we were created a herd animal and as such, we are meant to work together for the good of the herd. Our relationships are the outward aspect of our emotional body, just as self-awareness is the inner.
You may have noticed that there are different kinds of emotions. I am reluctant to use the terms “positive” and “negative” when speaking of emotions since there can be learning and growth from pain . . . ultimately making it a positive event in our lives. Fear is a great teacher, especially when we work to control and evolve from it. Feelings are clues that we need so we can make adjustments in our lives. When we feel good, we go for more of the same. When we feel bad, we make corrections to feel better. All of this needs to be tempered with good judgment and balance. There are many things that can make us feel good that, in excess, can be negative. Some emotions make us feel good and some make us feel bad, but all are necessary to our emotional state of mind and our learning.
Next newsletter, we’ll explore the spiritual and mental areas of the Medicine Wheel.
Ralph P. Brown (also known as Tawennihake) is a Mohawk Indian of the Akwesasne tribe. He currently resides in Nebraska, creating his art and delivering his message from Earth Lodge Studios. Visit his web site at www.mirroredwindows.com for additional insight, stories, lessons and visual creations related to many Native American stories. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved worldwide. Please contact the author at the website mentioned above for permission to reprint.Tags: directions of medicine wheel, medicine wheel
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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