Since our very first Celebration Circle gathering in January 1992, we've begun eachmorning by consciously opening to the Four Direction of the compass as a group while singing our invocation: "O, Great Spirit, earth, sun, sky and sea; you are inside and all around me."
It's our take on a very powerful, age-old practice shared by various spiritual traditions and aboriginal groups since time out of mind, and re-interpreted in the 1980's within the context of Creation Spirituality. Invoking the Four Directions is a meaningful process, but as with any ritual, there's the possibility for it to become rote and lifeless with repetition, unless care is taken to review and renew it periodically. So, as part of my preparation for our almost-annual Interdependence Day celebration this, I'd like to spend some time-sharing my evolving understanding of how and why we invoke the Four Directions in the Circle - and invite your reflections on this practice.
We begin by facing South, the direction of Summer and the mid-day sun, the direction of action, abundance and blessings. In doing so, we open our awareness to the many ways in which we enjoy the goodness, abundance and well being which is the fabric of our lives. It is a way to recognize that we have so much to be thankful for, knowing that our needs have been met today and trusting that they will continue to be met at every step along the way. (Although it's possible to begin with any one of the directions, we begin ourCircles by facing South because that's how our seating arrangement is oriented at Say Sí).
Then we take a quarter-turn to the right (clockwise) and face to the West, the direction of Autumn and the setting sun, which invokes our willingness to embrace the constancy of change, the inevitability of death and the mystery of unanswered (and possibly unanswerable) questions that are part of the human condition. We are also facing up to the inescapable fact that even the brightest, richest day must surrender its treasure to the falling night; so, too, nothing is "ours" to keep: all the objects, relationships and conditions that we think we own are just temporary, and must be released at some point.
Now we continue to trace the path of the sun moving through the sky by taking
another 90 degree turn clockwise to face North, the direction of the cold winds of Winter and the pitch black of. This represents the transformation that occurs as we stand our ground in the midst of the challenges and struggles we all must face in life. Despite our modern, societal emphasis on creating and sustaining the trappings of safety, security and certainty, if we scratch beneath the thin veneer of culture, we humans fundamentally remain physically fragile and insecure beings.
But, one of the deep gifts of opening ourselves to the Four Directions ritualistically is that as we stand and face North, we can experience a renewed sense of security, simply by acknowledging our human frailty, while simultaneously re-affirming our faith, our strength and our divinity, too.
Turning once again, we come to the East, the direction of Spring and the rising sun, the perpetual promise of renewal and new beginnings. In doing so, we give thanks for the possibility of a fresh start each day, each moment. Whatever might have happened last year, yesterday or this morning, we have the capacity to let go of it in consciousness and experience whatever is waiting to unfold in our lives right here and now.
And then it's time to spiral inward to face the Center of the Circle, which represents the Center of our Being, the Middle of the Mystery which is Spirit, fully presnt right here and now - and in all times and circumstances. While facing the Center, we remember that we are always in the process of being born, while always dying, too; always living in the midst of abundance, while always facing losses; always in motion, always standing still. Centered in this awareness, we feel our inter-connection with all of life, which we affirm by speaking/feeling the peace of knowing: "We Are One."
I believe this ritual is particularly well-suited as the invocation for our Circle gatherings, because it is such a palpable and physical way to remind ourselves that this moment is a sacred time, this place where we're standing is sacred ground, this collection of individuals is a sacred gathering. But this same quality also makes the Four Directions ritual a powerful way to start the morning at home, or take a short break in the middle of a work day, or before going to bed - in order to reconnect with the larger story of who we truly are and what we are really here to do. At least, that's my current understanding, and I'm sticking to it for now.
With gratitude and blessings,