I have a ritual that is part of my morning dog walks. Each of the different walks I take offers a special spot, a place that calls for pausing, whether to admire the view at “Lookout Rock” or to have a quiet moment with Ancient Blue Oak. Like the shady side of the pond on a hot afternoon, these are the places that invite taking a moment to stop and reconnect or reorient to a deeper view of the world and of my life. These are the places that make it easier to orient the Inner Me to the outer me.
Five or six years ago, when the dog walks were becoming a daily ritual, I was also reading books that described the Native American and Celtic versions of the compass: the medicine wheel and Celtic cross. These are both orientation tools, used to assist in the navigation of both inner and outer worlds. It became natural for me to use the special pausing places of my morning walks to turn myself in a circle, greeting the four directions. I would stand a moment facing North, East, South, and West and call to mind the qualities, colors, elements, or ideas that were associated with each direction in the books I was reading. I would also stand, seeing the 360 degrees around me as a map of the year with North marking the winter solstice, East the spring equinox, and so on, and I would mark my place on the wheel of the year as I made my turning.
Eventually, I let go of the effort in this ritual. I stopped trying to remember what someone else said about the meaning and associations of the four directions and their middle points, the cross quarter directions of northeast, southeast, etc. I let go of what was true for someone else and began to simply notice what came up in me as I faced each direction. What feelings, ideas, or images came to mind? I continue to do this each day. It is a way of connecting anew each morning to the greater forces at work in the cosmos, on the planet, and in me. I have my own associations now with each direction, and they continue to evolve. North, for me, is all about air and the unseen, the nonphysical reality behind the seemingly material world, while West is a water direction. The greatness of the Pacific Ocean lives 100 miles or so beyond the furthest hills to the west in my view from Lookout Rock. I feel its presence out there, and greet it along with the mystery of consciousness which feels “watery” to me.
I share these details not because they are true or correct or right. I share them because it may all be different for you. These tools of wheels and calendars are meant to bring out the truth inside each of us. They are tools meant to help us each discern how we want to orient ourselves to the billions of bits of information per second that our bodies are taking in and processing. Making that information useful requires an orientation system. We set our subconscious software so that it knows what is relevant and useful to the conscious mind, and as humans, we have tremendous leeway in creating these settings. A germinating plant is preprogrammed to sense the gravity/levity axis and grow accordingly. I have never seen a root come poking up from the ground rather than the leaf! No matter what position you place the seed in before covering it with moist earth, the leaf always emerges into light. The seed’s orientation system is absolutely effective for getting roots into the ground and leaves into the sunlight. Our orientation systems are also absolutely effective at delivering to us the information and experiences we program them for. The question is: what are the settings, are they delivering the information and experiences I really want, and how can they be changed?
Physically moving myself to face each direction and notice what comes up in me as a result has become a useful tool. It has helped me to become aware of some of my other-than-conscious orientation settings, and that awareness allows me to change, to shift my movement toward a desired direction. It helps me to create the day-to-day connection I desire with the soil, water, plants, and animals in my gardens.
What tools do you use to orient yourself to a bigger picture? I’d love to have a conversation about this!