'We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience, to be here in ceremony, to learn. We take pride in that, we honor that each day.'
-Ogimaawab, Joseph Sutherland
'The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of peaceful interaction among all living things on Mother Earth. It represents connections and harmony. .. The teachings found on the medicine wheel create a holistic foundation of human behavior and interaction; the teachings are about walking the earth in a peaceful and good way, and help people to seek healthy minds (Mental: East, Yellow); strong inner spirits (Spiritual: South, Red); inner peace (Emotional: West, Black); strong and healthy bodies (Physical: North, White).' -Nishnawbe Aski Nation (1)
When we use the medicine wheel teachings, we understand that there are 4 parts of us as human beings that we need to be aware of and that we need to take care of. These 4 parts being as mentioned in the quote above:
Mental, Physical, Emotional & Spiritual.
The medicine wheel is a circle, that is made up of 4 quadrants. Those 4 quadrants represent the Mental, Physical, Emotional & Spiritual self. Each quadrant of the medicine wheel is us, so we need to examine the parts of us and figure out what we need and what we're lacking. But we need to remember that in a circle, everything is connected, so all these parts of ourselves, are all connected and need to be treated like such.
In modern day society, we try to separate these quadrants/aspects of ourselves. Going to different doctors and different helpers to assist us for these 4 parts of ourselves mental, physical, emotional & spiritual. With the medicine wheel, instead we find balance for all of these things and understand how they are connected and that we need to nurture and take care of all these connected parts to find that balance.
'The biomedical model of treating mental illness is compartmentalized. The medicine wheel framework is holistic. You treat the whole person, within the family and within the community. You support the person in achieving balance in their emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health (2)'.
We also look at the center of the wheel, and we look at this as our fire, our spirit.
'At the end of the day, my parents would ask me 'how is your fire burning my girl?' and I would think about what I went through that day, was I offensive to someone, was someone offensive to me? i would reflect on that because it has a lot to do with nurturing that fire, spirit within. So we were taught from a very early age to let go of any distractions from that day by making peace within ourselves so that we can nurture and maintain our fire.' Lillian Pitawanakwat (3)
I think that when we make sure to keep all 4 quadrants of ourselves in balance, our fire, our spirit is also taken care of. But we need to be sure to continue to keep taking care of and nurturing all 4 connected parts of ourselves in order for our spirit to be balanced and well.
When asked what does balance and holistic health with a medicine wheel teachings mean to you and how does this wellbeing approach look like for your everyday life, our very own Casey Desjarlais answered:
Capitalism, colonization and white supremacy have really done a number on Indigenous and BIPOC folks - mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Healing ourselves from intergenerational trauma requires us to dive deep into each of those areas of well-being. It means decolonizing ourselves and really dismantling within us, the oppressive systems that tell us "we're not good enough" or that we need to "work harder to be valued" and that we "need to consume more to be more". Decolonizing is a process of learning and unlearning and it gets uncomfortable and really helps to push you out of your unconscious patterns and face trauma head on.
Living a balanced lifestyle looks different for everyone. It's being able to work on yourself in those 4 aspects: emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. Identifying your strengths and areas you'd like to work on. It's taking small steps everyday, being gentle with ourselves when things are hard and working on our inner-child healing.
Examples from Casey's medicine wellbeing plan:
Physical: Reminding myself that my body is sacred and worthy of love, drinking more water to hydrate myself, allowing movement to help me process my emotions and thoughts
Emotional: Being able to communicate my emotions to those I trust, taking time to sit with uncomfortable emotions and accept them rather than ignore/push away, journaling more frequently as a processing strategy
Mental: Indigenous trauma focused counseling (have been doing this for over 2 months now),
Spiritual: Talking with elders and seeking guidance from our ancient teachings, smudging regularly and reminding myself that there is no "right way" to connect to our spirit.
The team at Finding Our Power Together, the Indigenous led initiative to help Indigenous youth thrive, explains the medicine wheel wellness as 'Wholism' as well as 'Balance Restoration', which are 2 of many aspects of the braided approach the FOPT team uses when working with Indigenous Youth.
"Wholism refers to the consideration of the entirety of a person, including not only their mental state, but also their physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects...We support wholism through honoring individuals in all facets of the self and promoting self acceptance." -FOPT (4)
"Balance Restoration refers to the process of rebalancing the different aspects of one's life to be able to live more harmoniously. From an Indigenous perspective, distress originates from imbalance. Living in harmony, or Mino Bimaadiziwin, is a way of orienting oneself towards the ongoing pursuit of balance within ourselves, our relationships, and our environments.'..'We encourage the exploration of balanced living through reflection and practice of care within all aspects of self." -FOPT (5)
We wanted to share with you some more suggestions and Indigenous based and led resources to help keep your whole connected self in balance. We've also included a Decolonial Wellness Plan Template for you to print out!
Go outside and connect with Mother Earth, even if you're in the city, go to a park or your backyard
Drum & Sing
Learn about your culture, traditions and language
Read Indigenous Literature
Exercise Daily, Go for Walks
Get a good nights sleep every night
Eat healthy foods
Warm baths and showers
Taking care of your hair and teeth
Set goals for yourself
Journal your thoughts and feelings
Friends and Family Connection
Click the link below to print out the Decolonial Wellness Plan:
Additional Resources to Try:
Find Your Power 100 Day Self Discovery Journal
Connecting with the Cosmos Guided Meditation