Remembering Potential – A Journey Through the Medicine Wheel

“Dare to Shine” was the title of a two-day workshop which took place in spring 2016 in Leipzig, Germany. Ten women worked together on their fears, self-confidence, potential, bodies and relationships. The medicine wheel was the compass to orientate themselves through their reflections on previous experiences into new, unknown lands. As a workshop facilitator I did not feel excluded from this journey, for it was my own as well.

Remembering Potential

“Potential, Trust and Vision” was the subtitle from “Dare to Shine’s” second workshop day. With a glance at my personal experiences of uncertainties and little self-confidence and after talking with many women about these issues, I recognized that a majority of them do not feel confident in their own abilities. They hesitate to live up to their potential and do not dare to shine in their beauty. It is for these reasons that the workshop engaged with the question of one‘s own potential and desire to stand courageous in the face of emerging challenges to empower each other.  For many decades, Western societies have been opening up to the empowerment of women, for example in Germany the quota of women in the workforce hints at increasing equality between the genders. I think it is impossible to reach a total balance (between men and women) regarding data and facts in education and within the working environment.  Therefore, I do not see this as the primary problem but rather the lack of inner empowerment and (self) confidence. There is a hidden potential which needs attention in parallel to the addressing of gender gaps. In my opinion, most of women’s personal topics are linked to unspoken issues within the family and society in general. At this point I see an open door for peace and conflict transformation.

The medicine wheel

I am standing in the middle of a circle. From this point of view I orientate myself and I see the others moving. I feel closeness to these women. I see our circling lives which are interconnected at many points.
In the context of the medicine wheel, the term medicine derives from the Latin term medi for middle/center. The circle is divided in the four cardinal directions: south and north, west and east. In the center of the circle one can observe the directions and their distinct qualities.

The circle as a symbol for healing and the cycle of life can be found all around the world. However, it has been forgotten for a long time or replaced by other rituals (for instance in National Socialism). In Western societies the knowledge of the medicine wheel was mainly passed on from indigenous Native Americans (Koch-Weser and von Lüpke 2005: Vision Quest).

Each woman carries her bundle of personal topics and we can give each other encouragement and strength.

For me, the medicine wheel offers a space for orientation without diagnosis. From here I can look at my relationship with my body, sexuality and female identity without being forced in prescribed directions. The image of a never ending cycle gives me an understanding of female qualities and their natural rhythm. For many years I was rather neglectful of this part of my personality and the body which belonged to it. That is why it means a lot to me to open and facilitate spaces for sharing stories and experiences within a circle of women.

I got the idea to use various methods (theater, dance, awareness techniques etc.) for working through the wheel’s directions. In the following I give a short insight to some of the experiences. Not all of them can be put into words. Each woman got a paper for drawing and mapping down her experiences after encountering the directions. From these drawings many personal medicine wheels arose like a metaphor for our different shaped lives. Our lives are spinning in the motion of a circle, there is no straight line to follow. In the descriptions below I shift between “I”, “we” and “they”, because I experienced a constant exchange between my identities as facilitator and woman. All italics which appear in the text are participants’ personal statements.

South

The south holds space for the childhood, playful experiences, sensuality and the primal emotions. It is a place for the flowing parts in us. For facing the south, I opened up spaces for getting in contact with the interplay between current feelings and those remembered from childhood. I worked with meditative reflecting, painting and dancing to awaken those memories. All women who took part in my workshop are working or studying in social and cultural sectors where a naïve approach to personal emotions and feelings are not necessarily welcome. Posing the question of how to deal with undesired, unappreciated and longed-for feelings supported the participants to face many life situations in order to reflect on personal patterns and influences of socialization. The south was our open door for working together.

As I have grown up, I almost forgot how it felt to be completely immersed in playing.

West

Being in the west means connecting to the spirit of an adolescent who looks at deeper parts of the soul. It calls for a real state of being present here on earth with the full body.  The idea to face the west came up spontaneously during the workshop. I suggested a sharing circle in which we discussed what we do not want to share. After that we embodied these parts of us in statues who became vivid and transformed through encounters with each other. There were interesting meeting points of joy and shame. It was a moment in which reality and fantasies were faced at the same time; jealousy, perfectionism, unwanted demands and fears.

Each woman carries her bundle of personal topics and we can give each other encouragement and strength.

North

The north speaks to the adult who is connected to the mind and its judgements and sense of responsibility. The clarity and direction of the north opens up questions about the purpose and visions for life. Through a guided meditation the women experienced and faced  their fears and desires of their studies and jobs. The meditation was based on practices of mindfulness and imagination. Our journey led to questions on chaos and clarity, and about control and desire. One woman perceived a strong pressure in her neck which she cannot get rid of. The stress felt like a burden for her and did not allow any consideration of her personal potential. Others discovered that they are not exposed to the pressure to perform and there are choices to make about their working situation and the handling of daily perfectionism.

How can I give (to others, the world etc.) without overreaching and losing track of myself? I have potential!

East

In the east the wisdom of elders has its home. Spirituality, intuition and the sacred can be found here. A place for new beginnings. The workshop ended with each woman painting for the other an image that had arisen during a slow, shared dance. I felt connection and vulnerability. The tears could flow.

At the end of an irrational journey I was surprised by the elation, the feeling of the east!

Dare to shine!

Six months, including a full semester in Innsbruck have already passed since I have facilitated both workshops. The title “Dare to shine“ and the content of the workshop accompanies me still on my personal and professional path. The desire to include the facilitation of this workshop in a bigger picture of peace and conflict work drives and pushes me to move for my very heartfelt visions of peace work. As the circle symbolizes, standing still is out of question.

Image Sources:

  • Featured Image: © Christina Egerter
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