Travel has a way of stretching, teaching and taking us out of our comfort zones. Of course, staying home and doing our practices offer us a certain opportunity to grow; yet travel propels us in this process exponentially. My recent travels have revealed a number of important elements that I will never forget.
Here is the story of how I moved through the medicine wheel in my travels.
I begin with the knowing that at this stage in my life, it is difficult to leave behind the life I have created: my house, my dog, my job, my community. It is even difficult to find the time to plan a trip: flights, accommodations, activities.
Before I departed, I watched as I grew anxious about my responsibilities, how would I get everything done before I left, let alone plan for my travels and what I would do when away. It was a great threshold to cross, offering a rites of passage practice of leaving behind and starting a new. Two weeks prior to the trip I focused on completing unfinished business, and sensing that the trip itself was some abyss of unknown. It certainly felt like a practice in dying. And in it, the lesson that I must rely on others to complete things I could not, to let go of some self-importance and allow others to care for me in some ways. Thus, I was propelled into the medicine wheel.
I had to rely on co-workers to hold projects that I was in the middle of, and I had to trust that they would take it on. I had to trust my dog sitter to watch over the being I care for dearly and manage all her little peccadillos . I had to trust my travel companion to manage much of the planning, as I could not. The south shield of the wheel is about this attachment and connection to others as they aid in my existence.
And around the wheel I went. Landing in a strange country, learning how to be and talk in this new experience of the world. Learning by watching, practicing ways to listen and speak differently, move through the world differently, feeling my body scream with discomfort at times. When finally establishing some grounding, I created my itinerary, looked into what I wanted to do and made a plan. And into the west shield of the wheel I went, as plans did not work out, propelling me into learning more about my inner landscape in moments of disappointment and struggle.
It is here, in these dark spaces, that I also found great allies in the natural world. My connection to animals: birds, dogs, elephants, monkeys, showing up when I needed them to. Each telling me stories of abandonment, of living in community, of being of service and patience and moving toward what was needed. Offering wisdom that allowed me to move forward and take on the next step: apologizing, getting back on the bike, stepping into the next unknown, waiting for the answer to come, being rather than doing. The north shield offers me this perspective.
This story feels pertinent to share: I was experiencing sea sickness on a boat. It began with a growing nausea but then someone opened the lid of a nearby trashcan and I heard myself yell “No!” with a strength I didn’t know was in me, at least not in any public realms. I began to place things on the trash lid prepared to seriously injure or scream at whoever would open the lid again. Then, despite any efforts to remain well, I proceeded to shake, get clammy, and vomit into my small plastic bag. It's been a long while since I have done this, and in it all, I felt wildly conscious of the power of this experience of myself. I was incredibly present and my sound could only be related to that of a lioness protecting her pride, it echoed across the boat. I was heard and seen and felt, though my usual would be to be quiet and hidden in such a situation. The niceties of who I was dropped and a part of me I usually keep private revealed itself. With it came this gift of knowing my strength and power to be in the world. What was dark and shadowy moved into the north shield, bringing what is learned in struggle into the light as a gift and what is needed for me to show up.
Daily, I walked into the transformation place of the east shield. All along the way, I saw the practice of alters. Incense and candles lit, figures of Buddha or Shiva adorned with scented elaborate flower arrangements. Every day, these alters were visited and attended to. And every day, I found the practice beautiful and significant. Everywhere I turned I saw the spiritual present. Every greeting was a blessing and prayer of seeing and inviting in the place within. It is so simple yet incredibly transformational. Most of all, this practice is what I will take home with me. Living ceremony every day, honoring that the spiritual is essential and present in all areas of life.
I return home now, forever changed by this turning of the wheel inside me. I cross the threshold back to my life I once feared leaving, grateful that I did, bringing back the gifts that are now a part of me. And now, the next experience of the cycle comes: I am different and the world does not yet know it.
How do you travel through the wheel? Explore your medicine wheel journeys with Oaks Counsel!