The Medicine Wheel is perhaps the single most intriguing symbol of the ancient Americas. It is a physical structure, typically made with stones arranged in a circular pattern, usually on consecrated ground. This configuration is big enough for people to enter, and Wheels built this way tend to ...The Medicine Wheel is perhaps the single most intriguing symbol of the ancient Americas. It is a physical structure, typically made with stones arranged in a circular pattern, usually on consecrated ground. This configuration is big enough for people to enter, and Wheels built this way tend to be left standing for periodic use. Often seen as curious religious artifacts by academics, some of the surviving ancient Medicine Wheels have been found to be accurate celestial calendars, or seasonal guides. And while it is true large, quais-permanent structures like these may have been used to let a tribe know when it was time to plant, or when certain animal nations might be on the move, or when it is time to go apart from each other to reduce the demands on the land, there is still another, not often discussed purpose of the Medicine Wheel. And that is what we call a personal Life guide.

A personal-guidance Medicine Wheel is, in my experience, one of the most profound tools available to us to learn what our individual Lifepatterns are, what some have called our deep psychology. The Wheel may actually have an advantage over some disciplines because of its capacity to help individuals work on their “stuff” alone, which can be significant. Consider this: Your best friend could be the world’s greatest, most talented psychotherapist. And you could trust her with your life and your children’s lives. But the moment you step into her professional space, you will put on yet another mask. Just as she will. The mistake we make, what we so often lose sight of is the simple truth that we all wear some kind of mask whenever we are with other people. Even when we’re totally broken down and thinking in our heads we’ve finally opened up, fully and completely. And it may on rare occasion actually happen. But not after significant effort piercing some pretty painful barriers. And the bank account.

What I find so incredible about the Medicine Wheel is that any person who is willing to learn the principles and concepts it presents, to learn the simple ideas that drive it, can learn what the truth is about their own Lifepatterns and set in motion ways to change them as they see fit. Where we are reluctant to reveal our darkest secrets to others, we eventually discover them on our own as we learn to trust the Wheel as we move closer to the core emotional beliefs that drive our behavior. After all, we are emotionally driven, not intellectually driven. If you doubt that, study addictive behavior. You will learn that addicts, be it drugs, alcohol, physical fitness, sex -- whatever -- all know what they are doing. And many will even claim they can stop their behavior whenever they choose too. But they don’t. And that’s because they are responding to a deeper psychophysiological programming that is actually running their show. In other words, emotion tied firmly in place through altered body chemistry.

Sounds good, but how does it work? Each point on the Wheel, from five to 36 (or more), represents distinct qualities and universal spiritual characteristics. On those points, we place medicine helpers that we’ve chosen, and at times for no obvious reason; just seems like the right animal, or tree, or gemstone for that place. But it’s soon apparent that the Spirits really are guiding the process. When the dominant energies of the medicine helpers, or totems, combine with the aspects of the point on the Wheel they’ve been placed at, a story emerges that will guide us as it reveals the acquired traits, or core beliefs that have blocked us in the past. These are referred to generally as personal Healing Wheels. But there are also personal Free Form Wheels.

Working a Medicine Wheel to create positive change is a physical process that anchors into our body memory the realizations of the mind. These realizations shift our emotional energy and help us build a foundation of more powerful thinking and feeling that lead us to better choices because we come to know who we really are.

Where Healing Wheels are a direct reflection of our Lifepatterns, Free Form Wheels are more open to the guiding influences of the Spirits (Personal Spirit Guides and Helper Spirits.) Proper preparation before creating either kind of Wheel is very important, also. In real estate we learn what is important is location, location, location. Well, in Wheel work it’s preparation, preparation, preparation. Personal Wheels are usually small (on the dining room table, the bed, living room floor), are built for a specific session, then taken down until next needed. Free Form Wheels are often used in determining and executing Life Purpose, and in tandem with Healing Wheels, for manifesting

The Medicine Wheel works because it reveals unsupportive core beliefs, points us in a better direction, then anchors that new awareness into our physical body-memory, through movement; placing the stones and totems, moving about the Wheel, and finally, often suddenly, locking onto the answers the totems have brought to us, what Jung called “gestalt.” Now more aware of these energies, we’ll have better control over our lives, and those old, self-defeating patterns will cease, empowering us to manifest our dreams much more easily.

What, then, might some of the benefits be? I’ll close out this short piece with a simplistic list of some of the bigger benefits we can derive from working a Medicine Wheel, on our own time, as we are ready and able to.

Physical healing:
We can become aware of and change mental patterns and emotional core beliefs that bring about disease before it manifests. If some weird illness is contracted, we can create mental and emotional conditions most conducive to healing the body. Because illness is so often tied to life-style choices, we can learn what our choices have been, which is not always obvious, raise our awareness of them, and make changes that will help us overcome whatever ailment we’ve taken on.

The consideration of good emotional health is not limited to, or come into play only when something is obviously out of balance psychologically. Yet we tend to think that way because as a society we’ve decided to attach so much stigma to anyone who spends time with a therapist. The Medicine Wheel is not a cure-all. It will not dry out a drunk. But it will help an alcoholic regain control over his or her life with proper treatment and support. On the other hand, the Wheel is eminently capable of taking socially functional people into the realm of high-functioning. We all have our issues, and they all stand between us and inner peace. Again, it is emotional energy that drives behavior, not intellectual belief. If you want a better, more prosperous life, regardless of what is going on around you, this is the place to start: Learn to work with yourself instead of against yourself.

Often times our deep held, or core emotional beliefs are most easily seen in our finances, regardless of what is going on in the bigger economy, even today. Does the fear of failure or the fear of success sound familiar? Through self-awareness we can eliminate self-sabotage, which is the most common reason people have financial problems. We can learn our financial temperament; our strengths and weaknesses, and our blind spots. Issues of worthiness and self-esteem will always express themselves outwardly. The most common areas are physical and emotional health, financial, and relationships with others.

Our most important relationship is the relationship with Self. Are we self-aware and do we respond to Life. Or are we unaware, thereby reacting to Life? How we interact with others is a direct reflection of how we are doing inside our own head and heart.

Self-image, self-confidence, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-worth...all feed into the single most important aspect of who we are: Self Acceptance. True Self Acceptance comes about when we finally and honestly: learn who we really are, embrace everything about ourselves, and cease judgement, of ourselves and others.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. I have worked with the Medicine Wheel for over twenty years, during which time I have also educated myself about other systems and strategies, all of which had merit. What I came to realize was this. It’s as much about which discipline a person is drawn to as it is that discipline’s ability to help. I found myself naturally drawn to the Wheel, not only because of my mixed-blood heritage, but because I live right here on Turtle Island where the Spirits first gave this to the people thousands of years ago and where they continue to interact with us today.

Be well
Thank you for reading this

Author's Bio: 

Rick is a mixed-blood Tsalagi (Cherokee), a sundancer, inipi (sweatlodge) leader, and presents workshops and lectures throughtout the country. For information, or to schedule a workshop or lecture please visit or his Expert's Page.