A Year's Journey of Initiation
Invocation Blessing Song
Behold Great Mystery, Creative Force, Spirit That Moves Through All! We call to the Seven Directions of the Sacred Wheel!
We turn to the Keepers of the East, direction of new beginnings, of inspirations, of illumination and creativity, of the dawn and spring, new births, and childhood. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We call to the Keepers of the South, direction of vitality, of high noon and hot sun, of summer and vigorous growth, of youth and passion. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We invite the Keepers of the West, direction of introspection, of the evening, of autumn and maturity, deepening and ripening. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We respectfully summon the Keepers of the North, direction of the night, of winter, of wisdom and transformation, of dropping inessentials to reveal the core. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We look up to the sky and call to the Beings of the sun, the moon, the clouds, the stars, and the endless blue, and we ask that you bring your spaciousness and mystery to this work. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We put our hands on the ground and ask that the great substance of the Earth give grounding to the work, and that the Earth’s beauties give us beauty and that the entire world—the animals and plants and rocks, mountains and rivers and seas, the elemental forces of Earth and Air and Fire and Water, and all the human beings, all the elders, children, teachers, all the red, yellow, black, and white—join in this blessing. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We call to the Sweet Mystery that is the Sacred Center, to hold us and cradle us in your divine protection. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We claim this work to serve, to bless, and to share knowledge for wisdom building and for bringing wholeness to our hearts and to our world. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
(Note: The beginning prayer and a final blessing appear at the beginning and end of each lesson, respectively. These prayers mark the cycle of energy within that lesson and create a circle of connection.)
THE SPIRITUAL QUEST
The quest aspect of our spiritual path takes us on a journey into the unknown, and this can leave us with more questions than answers, yet it is a yearning that cannot easily be denied. Generally, we embark upon a quest when we sense that something is not going particularly well in our life or when we face a situation that upsets our view of how the world could be. We hear “the Call” to something new, perhaps to find answers to our life’s situation, or we find ourselves in a state that we cannot understand with our conventional thinking. We head out on the quest to learn how to change the results we have been creating in our important relationships, such as having four alcoholic partners in a row or repeatedly being fired from jobs we really enjoy. We quest to find some way to create a life that is in alignment with the Red Road so we can get to the heart of what we do not understand. Often, we go on long journeys in search of something that is right under our nose. Whatever the reason, it is important for us to realize that we are embarking on a journey that many have traveled before. We find many clues and meet many supporters along the way, and although the path may be strewn with casualties and pain, failed initiations, and unrealized dreams, there is also likely little joys and many unexpected surprises.
An example of the form a quest can take is the quest for the Red Road. It does not matter whether people quest for the actual physical Red Road itself or pursue the Red Road as a symbolic representation of their own wholeness; both are worthwhile pursuits. What we desire on the inner plane, wholeness, becomes manifest in our physical reality and vice versa. So, pursuing your own fullness or desiring to fully know the attributes and qualities of Spirit may bring you face to face with the Black Road, yourself, and Spirit as you transform to begin walking the Red Road. Are you prepared for such a journey? Are you ready to continue your way?
One of the biggest challenges along the path is a “loss of the heroic defense,” which occurs whenever the ego is unable to continue to identify fully with a former self-image that it formed by selective attachments to specific internal images and that is embodied in certain roles once accepted and performed. The ego had been embedded in a context created and supported by an archetypal pattern of self-organization, and now, since this matrix has been dissolved or broken down, there is a sense of an amputated past and an uncertain future, a state called liminality, a borderline space. In this place, a person’s sense of identity is hung in suspension. The “I” is caught up in a field that it cannot control and whose patterns it does not recognize as “me.” This space is sometimes referred to as “Dark Night of the Soul,” and this “night” may continue for some time, or it may reappear from time to time. This process of disorganization and reorganization is also called “death and rebirth,” and like a snake shedding its skin, a person may experience several of these significant transitions during a lifetime, especially when that person has a degree of consciousness about their life path.
So be conscious of where you might be on your spiritual quest. Are you just beginning, or have you been traveling for some time already? Have you stepped upon the Red Road? Have you begun to shed your old skin only to find that the new skin doesn’t quite fit yet? You might wonder what is wanting to die or be reborn in you, or you may see where you’re being challenged and just not know what to do about it. A wise teacher once said, “We’re being challenged, and this is where we are being initiated.” Look closely at whatever challenge, or challenges, you are facing now. Do you want to stay centered and clear when there is confusion and chaos all around you? Do you wish you could “speak your truth” even when it may be unpopular to do so? (Remember the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?) Do you want to learn to work as a member of a team or to take a leadership role that you would normally avoid? Whatever your place on the path, stay alert to your choices and challenges. Be aware of opportunities that are being presented to you and the situations and systems and realties that are dissolving in front of you. There are many who are questing together as part of the “Red Road Tribe.” Be alert to who you are teaching and who is teaching you. Have fun and be of good cheer; you are in the company of angels.
Visioning is a powerful process that can teach us much about our lives and the collective life we share with all life forms and energies on our planet. When we vision or envision, we are opening gates of sight and understanding that we have the potential to bless and give hope to many individuals. Visioning is also a sacred process, and views are sometimes thrust upon us when we may not think we are ready to receive them. You can be sure, however, that if you are receiving “Sight” through daydreams, night dreams, or intuitive feelings or thoughts, it is time for you to begin to learn how to graciously and gracefully receive that which is being given to you.
One of the real learnings about vision is what to do with the information or understanding that you are given. Many prophets and visionaries have seen future events so clearly that the events seem “just around the corner” in linear time. One of the truths about “Seeing” is that you may or may not see these events come to pass in your lifetime, or at least not in the form that you had imagined. You can be assured that as you enter the realm of the visionary, you will have lots of surprises along the way. Shakti Gawain gives some helpful advice about opening to the intuitive and visioning process. “To whatever degree you listen to and follow your intuition, you become a creative channel for the higher power of the universe.” Your “Sight,” she says, will open to you as soon as you are willing to trust yourself and your inner knowledge. Imagine, for example, that you have a wise being living inside you. You might have an image of what this wise being looks like, or you might just sense that it is there. This wise being is really a part of you; it is your intuitive self. You can communicate with it by silently talking to it, making requests, or asking questions. Then relax, don’t think too hard, and be open to receiving the answers. The answers are usually very simple; they relate to the present moment, not to the past or future, and they “feel right.” If you don’t receive an immediate answer, let go and go on about your life. The answer will come later, either from inside of you in the form of a feeling or idea, or from outside through a person, a book, an event, or whatever. Meditation, drumming, chanting, and rattling are other ways you might consider exploring as you open your inner channels. The place of vision in many Medicine Wheel traditions is in the East, the place of the Eagle and Red Tail Hawk, winged ones who fly high and see far. You might wish to get a picture of an eagle or a hawk to place on a wall, in your journal, or on your altar as you continue to open to the visionary qualities of your life. These winged beings will assist you in affirming your own ability to see and perceive clearly. Other elders have taught that a vision is communication from Great Spirit. When you have a vision, it may also come to you as a symbol, a poem, or a song. Sometimes these images will haunt your mind, and you will see them everywhere: in books, on television, or through the words that others speak. Often these haunting feelings or images become a calling that opens your life to great adventures. Whether you are seeking a vision for the first time or have received many during your lifetime, the process is the same:
First, have a sincere heart with clear intent.Second, believe that God, Goddess, Great Mystery, or Spirit will hear your heart and speak to you in a very direct, or perhaps oblique, way. Third, agree ahead of time that you are willing to follow the directions or promptings of the Spirit or images of the vision. Be willing to be a warrior with what you’re given. Many people See or experience Sight; fewer act on what they’re given. To maintain the gifts of vision, you must hold sacred that which you receive, and you must act with courage and wisdom in implementing your dreams. You alone are the message bearer for the view that you’ve been given. Fourth, and finally, be aware that much “heavenly” information is being shared now. Remember that you are a part of an enormous network of “receivers” who form a shared energy grid on the planet. Your visions are not particularly special in an egoic way, neither are you as a personality especially needed to bring the information to the planet. Spirit has many helpers, just as electricity has many outlets; all are important, and yet some are more important than others. We are all in the transformation soup together, and whatever we do, think, feel, or give affects the whole. Be a good receiver and a clear channel; stand in your own presence fully and accountably. Then our collective dream will be consciously lived.
RECLAIMING THE SACRED
The Re-Enchantment of the World
The Medicine Wheel
Remnants of stone Medicine Wheels can be found scattered all over Turtle Island. Some of these mysterious Wheels are nearly 40 feet diameter and are the last vestiges of spiritual ceremonies celebrated by the First People. However, without written records, little is understood about the complexity of their sacred meaning.
What we do know is that these ancient structures embody significant cosmological alignments that have been woven into indigenous stories passed down for countless generations. For example, many Plains people believe that Star Woman fell to the Earth to help create Turtle Island, and alignments can be identified in Wheels that point toward the rising sun on specific dates, such as equinoxes, or to certain Star Nation constellations.
To indigenous people who practice the Old Ways, the Medicine Wheel is a physical manifestation of spiritual energy, and a sacred dialogue with the Creator and the Spirit within are portrayed in the Wheel. Keep in mind that when indigenous people use the word “medicine,” they are not speaking of herbal remedies or pharmaceuticals; rather they are using the word to describe a type of power being brought to the healing ceremony, a type of spiritual energy. This medicine can come through plants, animals, or people; either way, its source is always Spirit. Medicine comes to people in the way that best suits their growth, so it is truly an individual experience of being nourished through a sacred connection with Great Mystery, or Wakan Tanka (often translated as “Great Spirit”).
Along with the sacred teachings handed down for many generations, the energies of the Medicine Wheel have helped many along their spiritual path. The Wheel evokes a power that brings healing on every level. By reflecting on what has manifested outwardly, the Medicine Wheel shows us what lies within ourselves. The Wheel is a circuit of sorts for the conduction and focus of energy, and the Sacred Circle it represents allows us to gather those energies that are all around us, gifts of Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky, so we can connect to the living Spirit of the land beneath us, the sky above, the directions, and the Spirit within.
The Wheel gives us an important focal point: the Creator Stone that lies at the Sacred Center. The Norse have a rune called Othila, which represents the “fain,” the sacred hall in which we stand and commune with Spirit, Self, and Nature. This same rune represents family heritage, and in this we begin to see some of the complexity of the Wheel. In another aspect, the Wheel is a point of view we can look from and see life and everything in it reflected back to us. We can sense the vastness of the great Web of Life within the energies of the Sacred Wheel and absorb its essence as it is carried forward in the sacred teachings. This sacred wisdom has guided indigenous people since ancient times and represents their oldest teachings. Truths reflected in the Wheel provided a foundation for human social conduct and also provided a spiritual foundation that guided people in their everyday lives. The teachings of the Medicine Wheel established peace as a standard for living so that the people could go forward on their Earth walk in a good way, with healthy minds (East), powerful inner spirits (South), inner peace (West), and strong bodies (North).
Like the Egyptian goddess Hathor’s mirror, a Medicine Wheel reflects everything back to us. A person must be brave to look into it, because it shows us the truth. When we embark on Wheel work, we must be able to face ourselves and learn what our reflections are teaching us so we can see what we need to improve on. In this way, working with the Wheel bolsters our vision and gives us better perspective, so we know right where we are on our path and exactly what areas we need to develop to reach our greatest measure of creation in this life. Every sephiroth in the Tree of Life from the ancient Kabbalah is itself a wheel.
The Medicine Wheel is a gift to uplift mankind, both a symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings on Mother Earth and a tool to connect to the Divine Source for whatever we need. As a symbol, it represents harmonious connections and serves to guide us to reach this goal in all areas of our lives. As a tool, it reminds us that we are never alone. We are surrounded by family, in every direction. As the Lakota would say, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” All are related or All my relations. This is the message of the Sacred Wheel.
The Elders teach that wisdom comes at a price, and there is a cost to this journey. You are being asked to give something up, to let go of something; just what that something is you must answer for yourself. Each of our journeys is different, and each of us must speak the wisdom of our own truth. The laws of Nature are such that we must give in exchange for what we receive. This reciprocity is the spirit of the Native American Give-away. In practical terms, this means that you take no more than you need and give back in return for what you take. This giving back can be as simple as a softly whispered prayer of blessing to the wind, or it can be as extensive as making a pilgrimage of hundreds of miles to return a stone to its home. Some native people gave every possession they had to the other members of their tribe and considered this an honor. A bag or pouch was often carried that contained a sacred substance—for instance, cornmeal or ceremonial tobacco—that had been blessed with the intention of using it as the symbol of giving back for what was received.
In the Wheel perspective, the issue is balance: the more you give away, the more you can receive. And the receiving is not for material gain. The more you receive, the more you can give back; it is reciprocal. For instance, when you love deeply, you increase the amount of love you can receive. You will do more work with the Give-away in the study guide exercises in the lessons for the four gates. For our purposes here, we want you to explore what ideas, traits, and life stances (glamours) you are willing to give up in order to grow and experience more balance in your own life and thereby bring more balance to the whole of Creation. What illusions that distort your relationship to our planet and to human and nonhuman life must you dissolve for your life path be a gift of beauty?
Guides and Seekers
In this work, we are all teachers and students; the trick is knowing when you are the student and when you are the teacher. Guides and seekers walk the same path and explore the same journey. The only difference is that the guide has been walking longer and is therefore more familiar with the ways of the path. The only thing we ask as guides is that you come with a bowl that is not so full that there is no room for what you have come to receive. You will bring your own habits and life stances, or tribal energy, that have helped you survive until now; know that this energy often presents blocks to your ability to perceive and discover. Our surface personalities and the filters of self-pride and ego enhancement make up our self (notice the lowercase “s”). These things fade and distort truth and inhibit awareness and attunement. The journey to your sacred, essential Self is threatening to your ego self. The fear and insecurity of facing truth often causes the ego self to become rigid and defensive because it perceives its survival to be at stake. Giving is receiving, and in order to be enriched, we must make room for our blessings by releasing. The key to emptying our bowl is to feel fear and then step through it.
F-e-a-r or False Evidence Appearing Real
Fear is nothing more than apprehension of the unknown, which is a self-perpetuating cycle. Our lack of knowledge causes us to fear, which in turn keeps us from seeking knowledge, which keeps us apprehensive. We find the courage to feel fear from inner balance; when we are standing in our sacred Center, we feel a connectedness with something beyond ourselves. That connectedness and sense of support allows us to feel secure enough to release our old selves into the care of the Spirit of the Creator. Once we have stepped beyond the fear, the releasing is easy. With nothing more than conscious choice, we can approach our path with the humility and openness that typifies an empty bowl ready to receive.
For some of us, beginning the journey of leaving the Black Road to move toward the Red Road with an empty bowl is not such a conscious process. We have reached a place of desperation. Old habits and patterns have blocked us so completely that we acutely feel the isolation from our sacred Selves. We risk very little by stepping through our fears and have little to gain by defending our old selves. We have sunk so low that our knees are already on the Earth, and we are ready to get up and walk with its blessing in a sacred way.
Honoring Each Other’s Path
Sometimes people judge and condemn another’s path because they don’t understand the path or they have been made to believe that their path is the only way. We must remember that all the trails that lead to the top of the mountain eventually come to the same place. Beware of any teaching that states it is the only true teaching. There can be only one Supreme Being, one Sacred Mystery, and it belongs to all. That One divides itself into the many splendors so that we can each find the particular truths that align with our soul’s purpose. Be tolerant of the beliefs and spiritual convictions of others, and accept nothing less than tolerance for your own.
How the Energies of the Directions Work
When we walk an Earth-centered path in the Sacred Round, we align our own inner cycles and patterns with the cycles and patterns of Creation. By consciously choosing to experience and work with the energies inherent in each season and cardinal direction, we enter into direct relationship with the Sacred Mystery of life. By partaking of the blessings of walking the Old Ways, the life way of the natural realms, we return again, as our sacred offering, to the balance that nurtures all.
In this system, each of the cardinal directions—North, East, South, and West—is aligned with a certain time of day and season of the year; each is associated with a specific elemental energy (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water) and specific moons and moon phases, colors, sacred Spirits, and animal, plant, and mineral helpers and so on. Many other Wheel systems exist, and each is slightly different depending upon on the tribe or clan. There are many different systems; for example, Sun Bear has written about one system that is different from Western European systems, Eastern (Asian) systems, and so on. Different colors are assigned to different quadrants, and the assignment of the elements is slightly different. The point is that there is no one “right” system; each has its beauties, and there are many reasons people experience the directions in the order and manner that they do, which has a lot to do with the energies of the particular people and the region they live in. The system you are being introduced to here was born from spending much time in attunement to each element and discerning what each direction on the Wheel calls us to teach. As you grow in depth with the process, you may come to know that this system is in total resonance with your Spirit body, or you may be called to different energies; in other words, you may come to know a personal Wheel that is not the same as this system. Whatever happens, remember that it will be neither good nor bad, right or wrong; it will be wondrous!
The Great Cycle of Being
In the Great Cycle of Being, humankind has reached the adulthood time of spiritual development. We must begin to fulfill our sacred potential according to our own pattern or purpose. We need to honor that which has carried us this far and then go on to accept our spiritual responsibility. Personal and cultural transformation will only be true transformation if the realization of our spiritual relationship to the natural world and a knowing of the Great Mystery that is at the heart of life on Earth is first sought.
Participation in Walking the Sacred Wisdom Wheel is part of this process. It allows the Spirit within you to bring forth your potential along with the knowledge of just who you are and what your purpose is. And there is also a “so that.” The wisdom gained is not for self-aggrandizement of the ego, rather it is for the good of all. Our intention is to provide a safe, understanding, and encouraging space for you as a spiritual being to find, awaken to, and explore your own authentic spiritual path so that you can then use the spiritual maturity gained to go out into the world and give integrated, authentic service.
Guidelines for the Process
As part of this process, and to derive the utmost benefit from your journey, some guidelines at this point will be helpful. After you have completed this introductory lesson, you complete each of the lessons of the four gates during its designated time; for example, the East Gate represents beginnings, so those lessons will be done in the springtime. The energy contained within the course is structured upon lesson experiences that allow a constant cycling of higher and higher energies. It is therefore suggested that you set one particular day each week on which you will begin each new lesson. It is best that you do not read ahead, for that will tend to bring in new energies prior to the ending of the old cycle. So being, we have designed the course so that you must do the lessons in order and cannot start a new lesson until the week it is due to be covered. It is also important to note that the lessons are designed for personal use and individual growth and the transformational energies become scattered if the lessons are used in a group process (although sharing ideas with other participants is encouraged). Group processes will be done at other times, such as at weekend intensives, special power weekends, and as part of Vision Quest, storytelling, and mask making. Another course designed for group work requires a facilitator to hold the bowl of relationship and sacred space. If you are interested in a group experience, contact the Institute at email@example.com for more information. Meanwhile, we ask that you maintain the integrity of this experience by not sharing the lessons with non-participants. In addition, we suggest that you read each lesson at least three times during the week you are working on that lesson. Often, certain aspects or understanding will surface in later readings that you may have missed in the first reading. Also, each reading cycles the energy of the work through the various levels of your consciousness.
Make a point to set aside some time each day during which you focus upon your spiritual growth – you can call this your power hour. This time could be spent in prayer, contemplation, meditation or reading a spiritual book. At a bare minimum, light a candle each day and dedicate it to the Great Good, and cleanse your spirit body by smudging (instructions on how to do this are included in this lesson). During a later lesson, you will acquire your Power Song, and your power hour is an especially good time to sing!
Some traditions teach the power of performing spiritual devotions at sunrise, noon, or sunset because of the natural alignment to the sun’s energies; others teach the power of aligning devotions to the energies of the moon. Any time of day is good for daily devotions, and if you want to utilize the power of the energies, the different times of the day can serve you. Sun times evoke active or male energies that promote activity and creation, whereas moon times evoke the receptive or female energies that promote receiving.
Many traditions teach that when we awaken in the morning, we give thanks to Great Spirit for the time we are being granted in which we may grow. Ancient Kabbalists would face the East and take seven deep breaths in through the nose out through the mouth as a salute to the beginning cycle of each new day. At night when retiring, they would go over the events of the day in a backward sequence. The reason for changing the sequence is that in doing so, something that may not have seemed important at the time will resurface. This process offers the opportunity to review and finalize the day by acknowledging any errors, realizing what has been learned from them, and surrendering them. That cycle is over, and these ancient Kabbalists were well aware of how important it is not to carry old emotions, especially guilt, into the new cycle of the next day. The purpose of experience is for learning and growth, and all too often we hang onto the errors of past experiences; these then tend to bleed into new experiences, making them muddy and unclean. If you choose to try this process, or some variation that feels more in alignment with your own spiritual lineage, do not be concerned if you fall asleep during the process. Once the process is set into motion, the subconscious will continue the process.
The exercises for each lesson often contain guided meditations, visioning training processes, or journaling assignments. These are all important to the development of your Spirit body, and they may not be used as a substitute for the daily devotional activity you do in your power hour. It is part of your Give-away and will serve best when honored as such.
Study Guides and Questions
Contained in each lesson are the study guides, journal assignments, and questions, whose purpose is to anchor the material into your being. Anchoring brings the understanding contained in the course into manifestation through both the subconscious and the conscious mind. The questions asked are not meant to test your memory or intelligence, rather they cover especially important aspects contained in each lesson. The act of writing your own answers to the questions also grounds them in your being. Each journal assignment serves as a record that supports awareness. Whether you send the answers to your questions to the Institute or not, you will find it of great value to complete them. (In order to receive certification as a Medicine Person or Teacher/Leader, you must send your answers to the Institute via your private account.) The answers are not graded, they are only checked by your mentor to ensure that they have been completed as required. We cannot overstate the value of writing out the answers because in doing so, you allow the information and energy to be anchored in your consciousness.
How to Use the Study Guide Exercises and Questions
The study guides and questions are here to support the anchoring of the principals and issues being discussed in the related lessons. They are not here to trick you or quiz you; they are guides and nothing more. The lessons, study guides, and exercises give you the opportunity to practice and therefore embody the lessons. The exercises refine you and prepare you for the depth and inner meaning of the written material. It is crucial that you do the exercises with dedication, or this process will simply become a mental exercise, and the world has enough mental exercises; what we need is more relationship and deep commitment to ourselves. The exercises provide the material for relationship; you provide the commitment. Again, you will not be graded or judged on your answers to the questions. If the “short and sweet” answer will trigger the entire meaning for you, use it. If you prefer to go into detail to make the question a part of your understanding, do that.
There are two requirements attached to the study guides and questions: The first is that anyone using this course to attain certification as a Medicine Person or Teacher/Leader must submit their completed questions to the Institute monthly. The second is to use them to gently demonstrate to yourself how much you are learning and how far you have come. You and your Divine Self are your own best teachers.
STUDY GUIDE: INTRODUCTORY LESSON
Journaling for Spiritual Growth
What you will need: Your journal, some drawing paper, and a pen
There is a Zen saying, “After ecstasy, the laundry.” The smaller ecstasies keep us nourished so that we have the strength to continue working on the larger ecstasy: life. An energy is present in the creative process that belongs in the league of those energies sometimes called ecstasies, which uplift, unify, and harmonize us all. These are experiences of wholeness: moments of rising above our feelings of separateness, competition, and dividedness “to a state of exalted delight in which normal understanding is felt to be surpassed” (Webster’s definition).
The following exercise marks the beginning of your growth journal, wherein you can record your “little ecstasies,” among other things. Almost any sort of notebook will do for a journal, and I encourage you to buy one that is pleasant looking and sturdy and that has at least 500 pages. This journal will become a great friend and teacher. You will also need to acquire a drawing pad, or paper without lines, to complete some assignments; keep your journal and drawing pad together. Growth journals become a gift when you make daily, or at the very least weekly, entries. I will emphasize the importance of journaling throughout this course, because it is irreplaceable as a teaching guide. A growth journal is a tool that enables us to become aware of and retain details often lost or imperfectly remembered. Your journal is essential for helping you to remember the pieces of Sacred Intervention that you are blessed with, and by recording these things in a journal, you will be able to recall what the mind may let slip away.
As we train to become shamans, the journaling exercises are important to document the essential knowledge and personal experiences we gain so the knowledge does not dissipate like dreams. After doing the exercises, give yourself time to assimilate what you have learned. Journal your experience no matter how you might judge what did or didn’t happen for you. If you felt the experience was “wacky” or that it didn’t make sense, or that its effects were indiscernible in terms of what you were doing your best to accomplish, journal your answers to these questions:
- What feelings came up for you during the experience?
- What was the most striking feature of the practice that stood out for you?
Record as many details as possible. Do not worry if you cannot understand all the information given to you right away; you will over time. As you begin to do the exercises, using visualization and soul retrieval, and you record the dreams you have during this experience, realize that it may take a week, a month, or even years to truly understand your experience and get the full meaning. Many students report looking back at dream sequences years later and finding more and more value in them. Know that the journaling process is critical to capture the wide variety of experiences you will have as you travel the Red Road.
Exercise 1: Examine Shadows
For this first exercise, begin by looking at the shadows in one corner of your room. Sit in the same place for 10 minutes every day for a week, and record in your journal everything you notice about the shadows you see. Write about the changes in their shape, color, size, and so on and record your experience of this exercise. Then take something that doesn’t change, such as a soda bottle. Look at the top third of the item and record all you see there. Do this the same week you are looking at shadows. If you will be turning your work in for certification, please make sure your writing is legible.
Exercise 2: Examine a Tree
During the week you are examining shadows, look at a tree for at least 10 minutes, longer if you can. Write every specific thing you notice about that tree, and make a list of other things that you think are related in structure to a tree: an umbrella, a broom, a hand, your neurons, and so on.
We gratefully acknowledge the Elders who have contributed to this material: Tamarack Song, Journey to the Ancestral Self: The Native Lifeway Guide to Living in Harmony with the Earth Mother; Jan Fowler, Living the Sacred Round: Transformation Through the Medicine Wheel; Ralph Metzner, Opening to Inner Light: The Transformation of Human Nature and Consciousness; Jamake Highwater, The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America; Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth: The Spiritual Landscape of Native America; and James Mooney.