The Medicine Wheel (or Sacred Hoop) is central to Native American spiritual philosophy. There’s so much to learn about the different interpretations, symbols and meanings depending on each tribe’s sacred teachings. The Four Directions are cornerstone teachings in all tribes. What the four directions mean on the medicine wheel is a subjective and fascinating topic. Please research the specific tribe’s teachings you feel most connected to. Each tribe interprets the Medicine Wheel and what the Four Directions mean differently.
Meaning of The Four Directions within yourself
Here’s my general understanding of what the Four Directions mean as it applies to your inner self. I really liked the analogy at the beginning of the book Seven Arrows because it relates to our journey to wholeness. The premise is that we’re all born under one of the four directions as our starting point. Throughout your life, your job is to master each of the four directions to become the best version of yourself. By learning how to utilize your wisdom, intuition, introspection and ability to live in the present moment all simultaneously, you become whole.
I bought this handmade Medicine Wheel while in Cherokee, NC. You can see the Four Directions represented in the center. I have this hanging in my office for inspiration.
East = Spiritual self
East Direction is represented by the color yellow and the symbol is Hawk. The East is symbolic of Higher Perspective and your ability to see the big picture. You have the ability to step back and look at the big picture from a higher perspective as Hawk does. Your ability to empathize with others, see humanity as a whole and strive to find solutions that benefit the greater good reside in the East. Hawk flies high in the sky and can see beyond boundaries and limitations of being on the ground.
Your spiritual self includes the connection to your soul, your spirit guides, your intuition or inner guidance, your dreams, visions during meditation, your psychic senses, etc… The East relates to your Third Eye and Crown Chakras if you wish to compare it to your energy centers.
South = Physical self
South Direction is represented by the color red, the symbol is Mouse and it represents Innocence. The ability to be present, vulnerable and enjoy the experiences up close to you live in your South. Here you are able to stay grounded and experience the true joys in life through your 5 senses comes in. Mouse is small and can only see and focus on what is right up close to him. He isn’t concerned with the big picture, he only deals with what’s right in front of him because his perspective is so small.
The physical aspects of you include your body, health, food, sex, your home environment, your daily habits, lifestyle choices and your ability to use your five senses to appreciate beauty, joy and pleasure around you. It’s how you can stay grounded and present in your daily life. Your Root Chakra and Sacral Chakra oversee these aspects of your life.
West = Emotional self
West Direction is represented by the color black, the symbol is Bear, and it means Introspection. Being able to go within and process your emotions, interpret and adjust your perspective live in your West. Also your ability to deal with your perceptions of everything that happens in your life. Bear goes into hibernation during the winter. During this time, she rests and processes what she needs to before emerging refreshed in the spring.
Your emotional self regulates the intangibles such as your feelings, self love, acceptance, confidence, trust, compassion, empathy, your perspective on all situations in your life and your relationships. Your Heart Chakra and Solar Plexus Chakra are in charge here.
North = Mental Self
North Direction is represented by the color white and the symbol is Buffalo. The North represents Wisdom. It is here where your intellect, skills, knowledge and tools derived from your life experiences are housed.
Your mental self is where you collect all of your wisdom from your life experiences, your skills, gifts, talents, life lessons learned, beliefs, goals, your ability to teach and learn, the ego or personality as well as your primitive subconsious mind. The Third Eye Chakra and Crown Chakra are the ones I feel most closely relate to this area of your life, but it could be argued that your Heart, Solar Plexus and Sacral Chakras also combine here.
Applying the Four Directions wisdom in Your Life
The goal is to start by using the gifts of the direction you were born under, but to grow into being able to balance out using all four directions. The best version of you has the ability to see the big picture of where you’re going and how things fit together. Along with the ability to stay in the present moment and soak up all of the wonderful sensory experiences life brings you. As well as the ability to go within and reflect, heal, let go and process new information as it comes up for you, all paired with building your ever-expanding database of wisdom derived from your life experiences.