Human Rhythms, Earth Rhythms: Using the Medicine Wheel to Reflect on Spring and Transitions

Like the mandala of the Eastern spiritual traditions, the Native American medicine wheel creates a circular structure for absorption and contemplation. Medicine wheels can be actual physical structures, such as stone constructions, or they can be a symbolic concept upon which to meditate and reflect.

“The medicine wheel is a metaphor for how the mind unfolds,” says Kripalu faculty member Christopher Holmes. A Kripalu Yoga teacher and bodyworker, Chris is a thoughtful expert on all things anatomical. But he also has a spiritual practice rooted in Native American traditions, which he touches upon in his R&R workshop “Human Rhythms, Earth Rhythms,” an introduction to medicine wheel practice as an ancient tool for personal growth.

Chris is a longtime student of Joseph Rael, a Ute/Pueblo medicine man and author, and this workshop is a way for Chris to honor Joseph’s teachings and share with others some of the indigenous philosophies that have had a profound impact on his self-exploration.

The medicine wheel moves through the four seasons and cardinal directions—the cycles of nature and the cycles of our personal nature—in a clockwise manner. Each direction—north, south, east, west—has its own significance, color, and even spirit animal; in spring, Chris’ talk focuses primarily on the east: the direction of birth, new beginnings, new ideas, and new discoveries.

Is change around the corner for you as you gear up for springtime? Perhaps the symbolic aspects of the medicine wheel can help you cultivate inner fortitude as you prepare to navigate the transition ahead.

Here are some meditative steps from medicine wheel wisdom that Chris shared, which can help you tune into this sense of newness with renewed focus and clarity.

  • Slow down and listen to the messages from within. Take a breath and invite what’s true in the present moment to arise, like the sun in the east.
  • What is the bridge that is waiting to be crossed? Notice how you feel about that; notice your breath. Clear your internal palate with each inhale and exhale.
  • Attune to the flow of inspiration around you. Look within and connect. Remain present to the unfolding.

Learning through stillness, Chris explains, encourages our natural wisdom to reveal itself. As the medicine wheel teaches us, we are connected to the rhythms and nuances of nature. The more we can attune our own nature to nature, the more vibrant our lives become. Happy spring!

Find out about upcoming programs with Christopher Holmes at Kripalu.

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