Many years ago I was taught about the significance of the Four Directions. Many indigenous tribes, prior to the beginning of a ceremony, honor the directions. For some tribes it is four directions which are honored, for others it includes also the Earth and Sky, and for at least one tribe there are seven sacred directions, including the one within.
I knew all this at a mental level. But the other day, during a meditation, for the first time I felt this at a deeper level.
I am blessed currently to live in a home with windows that face the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. One upstairs room has a glass door opening to a small deck that directly faces my favorite mountain. This mountain is like a beacon to many of us who live here in this small town. Its silhouette and its energy pull the eye and the heart.
I have placed a comfortable chair looking directly out that window. From a feng shui and aesthetic point of view, it may not be an ideal placement for that chair, but from a meditator’s point of view, it is absolutely perfect.
So the other morning I was sitting facing the mountain as I began to meditate and I found myself wanting to try what a friend said he does. He said that whenever he meditates, he imagines himself sitting on top of that mountain. So I tried that. And the direction I naturally chose was west, looking out over the vast San Luis Valley. However that didn’t feel right because my back would then to the rising sun. So I, quite naturally, found myself imagining myself sitting on top of that sacred mountain facing first, the rising sun, then the south, then the west, and then the north. And then I finally had a deeper understanding of the power and significance of the four directions. I can’t believe it took me so long.
When I faced the East, I felt the power of the Sunrise and of New Beginnings.* The opportunity to begin each day anew is an incredible gift that each one of us has. No matter what our life looks like, no matter how we feel, no matter what we’ve done or not done, there is an opportunity to begin again, to make new choices with the coming of a new day. Thank God for the chance to start anew.
I felt also the power of the Eagle, which is often associated with the East and with the element of Air. The Eagle teaches us the power of seeing from a new perspective, of soaring high above the petty details of life and seeing the larger picture. We can get so bogged down in the mundane, but if we soar with the Eagle and the Angels, we can see things from a distance and gain greater clarity.
When I imagined sitting on that mountain facing South, I felt the power of Sun shining on my face. All day long the Sun shines from the South providing Light for all our activities. The direction of the South is about the work we do in the world, the love we offer the world; it is about our passions and our purpose. It is about action. It is about Fire – the Sun burning bright, casting a lot of light.
The animal often associated with the South is the Lion or the Cougar, which often represents strength and courage and leadership.
When I sat facing the West, I felt the energy of the Setting Sun, of the evening, of the going-within time. And West is about the power of going within, hibernating, Dreaming, Healing. There is great power associated with the West, but it is a more yin power about what emerges, what heals when we take the time to settle into a deep space of silence and stillness.
Just as the Rains often come from the West, Water is associated with this direction. Not just sweet Rain, but also the powerful Thunderbeings. There is Healing in the washing clean that comes with Water.
The animal often associated with the West is the Bear. Bear obviously models hibernation for us. But bear is also often associated with Healing, and especially the healing that comes by using medicinal Herbs.
When I faced the North, I felt the lack of Sun. I felt the Darkness and the Night and the coolness. When we enter the energy of the North, we may gain Wisdom. North represents the time of Life’s closing (not ending, for all of Life is a Wheel and what follows the North is the East, new beginnings.) The North represents the Winter of our Life. It is the place of our Elders and our Ancestors. Just as the Snow falls in the Winter, so, too, do the hairs on our heads become white as we enter this sacred time.
The North is associated with the Earth, which sustains us and holds us from the time we are a baby until we are laid to rest at the close of our Life’s journey.
The animal often associated with the North is the Buffalo. The Buffalo is associated with abundance, with protection, with shouldering responsibilities. Often our elders are called upon to should responsibility and help protect the tribe with their deep wisdom.
I feel very grateful to have felt at a deeper energetic level the power of the four directions. I invite you to try praying and meditating facing different directions. It might be an interesting experience.
Meanwhile, I send out blessings to each of you and to this dear planet, solar system, and universe. May the four winds carry blessings far and wide.
* I choose, sometimes, to capitalize words not generally capitalized in order to imbue them with more sacredness. This is something I learned from Jamie Sams. She said (I believe) we capitalize the names of the planets, why then would we not capitalize the Sun and the Moon, which are surely at least as significant as the planets? And what about the Wind and the Sea and the Mountains? Do they not also deserve to be capitalized? Are they not also important to our bodies and spirits?