Wisdom of the Wheel

The Circle Keeps Teaching

In grad school, classes on behavior were part of my M.Ed program. In one of these classes, Dr. Weiner from CSUN, introduced us to Native American wisdom. He emphasized the importance of the values represented in the medicine wheel while sitting in circle to hear and be heard, to forgive and to heal. I later found that the wheel represents much more, including the four directions and the four elements. Yet, the values: generosity, belonging, independence, and mastery were my introduction to the wisdom of the wheel. In particular, belonging was vitally important to children struggling with home and school life. And, I could see how it was important to create that sense within a classroom.

Spurred on by my interest that arose in those graduate classes, I found myself exploring the wheel in real time - sweat lodges and feminine energy circles.

I learned that circles are powerful mechanisms of belonging and they do this in a most interesting way. I remember coming to my first few circles and I have to admit, as I looked around the room, I was drawn to some women more than others. For superficial reasons -- maybe it was the clothes one was wearing or the topic of conversation of another that drew me in. I connected to a few, but not all. If the evening would have gone on this way, I’m sure I would have made a few new friends. However, after the circle was finished, the way I felt about all of the people was love. I genuinely felt love for them, and this happened circle after circle. I felt like I belonged, and like all of the rest did too. In other words, I appreciated that each one was there and I valued their presence.

Presence - this is one of the main reasons for the success of a circle. When we sit in circle we presence ourselves to each other. It takes courage to see and be seen. It takes courage to allow others to know oneself beyond façades that may be inadvertently shielding a person from revealing truths.

The values of generosity, mastery, belonging, and independence can be applied to many settings. For example, these values became guiding principles as I led the meetings with parents and allied professionals on behalf of my special education students. 

When I began holding circle as a member of my own personal community, I began to understand the layers of depth and the way the dynamics take shape. There is a healing aspect to being heard; feeling a sense of belonging; and being valued for your mastery (whatever that mastery level is). There is healing that comes from a sense of independence, and from generosity - in circle I see it in allowing each person we are sitting with “airtime”. Sometimes this is all the generosity a person needs. The layers of depth come when authenticity and true sharing takes place. This is something I recommend experiencing in person...


Medicine Circle is happening every last Wednesday of the month at Everyday Bliss in Brookfield, WI.