Medicine Walks ~ Journeys from the Center of the Earth

Colby Map
At the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers there is an island that has been a sacred site to the Mdewakanton Dakotas for many generations; it has been a gathering place for their important meetings and rituals.
Today it is called Pike Island, after Lt. Zebulon Pike who made a treaty with the Dakota on the island in 1805.  The Dakota called it Wita Tanka, or “Big Island”, and they called the confluence of these rivers “Bdote”, meaning “the meeting of waters”.


It was here, at Bdote, they believed that life originally began and that their people emerged from the earth.  With this is mind, it is difficult to not take notice of the distinctive phallic shape of the island and of the yonic form of the surrounding terrain that enfolds the island….



Moreover, in the Dakota’s world view, Bdote lay directly over the center of the Earth and immediately below the center of the Heavens.  Thus, it was their axis mundi…


Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Nordic myth

Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Nordic myth


Another such Center of the Earth was experienced by the Dakota visionary, Black Elk.  Here are some excerpts from his extraordinary vision, as recounted in the book, Black Elk Speaks:

“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy….Then when he had been still a little while to hear the birds sing, he spoke again: “Behold the earth!” So I looked down and saw it lying yonder like a hoop of peoples. and in the center bloomed the holy stick that was a tree, and where it stood there crossed two roads, a red one and a black….And now the fourth Grandfather spoke, he of the place where you are always facing (the south), whence comes the power to grow. “Younger brother,” he said, “with the powers of the four quarters you shall walk, a relative….. four ascents you shall walk the earth with Power.”

Of this, Joseph Campbell says in The Power of Myth:

“That is the real mythological realization. It distinguishes between the local cult image, Harney Peak, and its connotation as the center of the world.  The center of the world is the axis mundi, the central point the pole around which all revolves.  The central point of the world is the point where stillness and movement are together. Movement is time, but stillness is eternity.  Realizing how this moment of your life is actually a moment  of eternity, and the experiencing the eternal aspect of what you’re doing in the  experiences – this the mythological experience.”

In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Campbell writes about The World Navel:

“The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world….

The torrent pours from an invisible source, the point of entry being the center of the symbolic circle of the universe… around which the world may be said to revolve. Beneath this spot is the earth-supporting head of the cosmic serpent, the dragon, symbolical of the waters of the abyss, which are the divine life-creative energy and substance of the demiurge, the world-generative aspect of immortal being.  The tree of life, i.e., the universe itself, grows from this point.  It is rooted in the supporting darkness; the golden sun bird perches on its peak; a spring, the inexhaustible well, bubbles at its foot. Or the figure may be of a cosmic mountain, with the city of the gods, like a lotus of light, upon its summit….Thus the World Navel is the symbol of the continuous creation: the mystery of the maintenance of the world through that continuous miracle of the vivification which wells within all things.”


As my Sunrise Sadhana is about to come to a climax on the Summer Solstice, I have decided to revive an old practice of mine, that of making Medicine Walks into each of the sacred directions.  I will embark upon my first Medicine Walk on the Solstice, the final day of my sadhana, which feels like a wonderful point of departure and the perfect means for establishing a continuity, to carry forward all that I’ve experienced in this daily ritual practice.

But if I am to make these journeys into the directions, I will need a central reference point from which to determine the direction I am heading.    I suppose I could use the home where I live to orient these walks, but, like many others, I feel that the spirit of this land continues to speak to us just as it spoke to its native inhabitants, and so I will honor their tradition by using Bdote, which lies directly above the center of the Earth, and immediately below the center of the Heavens, as the center of my sacred hoop.  Nothing could be more fitting, nor auspicious.

A brief description of Medicine Walk:

“A medicine walk is like a short vision quest, [or walkabout] during which you pay attention to the omens in nature in order to find your medicine, which in the Native American sense is anything that is healing and positive to body and mind. During a medicine walk, you find a place where you can spend at least a half a day alone, walking, sitting and meditating in nature with as few distractions from civilization as possible. You focus on an important personal issue and seek wisdom and guidance in nature by looking for symbolic meaning from the things you observe.”

To this I would only add that I will not be going to random locales for these intentional walks, but will make pilgrimages to wilderness or natural destinations situated in the sacred directions, to learn what specific lessons and Medicine each of these directions holds for me and my individual growth.

Since the Summer Solstice is about the power of the South, I will be making my first journey to the South, to immerse myself into this energy and to honor this direction.

Waxing and Waning

New moon

Emerging from their covert coupling
in the clear blue sky
The Moon,
only after her lover has left,
begins to show her face.

That silver arc, the bow of Artemis,
drawn, taut-passioned
flings stolen arrows of Eros,
like blowing kisses
to her departing lover.
Sorrow sweet and sublime

Each day their circuits
take them further and further
from their lovers’ sides.
Until from opposite ends of the earth
they stare back at each other
across the vacuum of space.

Then their tides turn,
And Nearer and nearer,
their circuits bring them.
Attentive to her lover,
the moon again turns her face
away from the earth.

Once more, her bow is drawn
enticing her approaching lover
with gleaming arrows
and far-flung kisses.
Yearning sweet and sublime.

Then, lost in the light of day
they mount the sky together
ride in ecstasy its length
with never a hint to the earth,
unless their love so completely align
it eclipses all below.




The Way the Earth Follows the Sun…

Earth follows the sun

Follow Spirit, the way the Earth follows the Sun…
Revolving, revolving, eternally revolving around the light,
but measuring the distance of your circumsteller orbit,
lest you forsake the fountains of living waters.

Planets wandering too far soon become frozen, barren worlds,
lose their tether of gravity, and drift into eternal darkness.
Planets wandering too near soon become scorched, barren worlds,
succumb to gravity, and meet their maker before their time.

* * *

Follow Spirit, the way the Earth follows the Sun…
Turning, turning, eternally turning upon your own axis
but gauging the duration of your days and nights,
lest you forsake the fountains of living waters.

Cycling between activity and rest,
All the facets of your life must face the light of day.
Languish too long in darkness, they wither from inattention.
Languish in too long sunshine, they wilt from over exposure.

* * *

Follow Spirit, the way the Earth follows the Sun…
Tilting, Tilting, eternally Tilting at your own dispositions
but metering the rhythm and reason of your seasons,
lest you forsake the fountains of living waters.

Inclining to the bent of your own character,
but alternating focus upon the hemispheres of your soul
for that which is left in shadow, becomes your shadow.
Balance is achieved in wheel of the year.

* * *

Follow Spirit, the way the Earth follows the Sun…
Revolve around the light in life-sustaining orbit.
Turn upon your axis, giving energy to all the facets of your life
Tilt towards the changing inclinations of your soul.
Establish your habitation upon the solar plane.


My apologies for the didactic tone of this poem; I’m not really comfortable with it. But I wanted to explore this metaphor, and this is what came out. As with my other poems, this one is still a work in progress.

My other working title was: The Habitable Zone ~ which explains the recurring refrain about water…

From Wikipedia:

In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ) (or simply the habitable zone), colloquially known as the Goldilocks zone, is the region around a star within which planetary-mass objects with sufficient atmospheric pressure can support liquid water at their surfaces.[1][2] The bounds of the CHZ are calculated using the known requirements of Earth’s biosphere, its position in the Solar System and the amount of radiant energy it receives from the Sun. Due to the importance of liquid water to life as it exists on Earth, the nature of the CHZ and the objects within is believed to be instrumental in determining the scope and distribution of extraterrestrial life and intelligence.

Surrender, Trust, & Gratitude





Today is Earth Day.   Not a political or cultural holiday, as are most that punctuate our calendar, but a day set aside to honor the Earth itself, and to celebrate our connection to it.

Much of my Sunrise Sadhana is about resurrecting my spiritual connection to the Earth.  Trials and tribulations strained my connection and led me away from my path for too long, but my internal guidance has been prodding me to re-immerse myself into the Earth’s mysteries.  My Zenith Arc journey to the solstice is in large measure about returning to the heights I had once reached and returning to the depths I had once known, by ascending and descending, I endeavor to reanimate the person I once was.

The rock pictured above came to me during that past life, while on a vision quest.  The short story is this….

While preparing to go on the vision quest, I was drifting upon a lake in a canoe, meditating with eyes closed.  When I opened them, the sun in the western sky was refracted through streaks of clouds, so that it appeared as though there were 3 suns stacked on top of each other.  And the phrase, “Surrender, Trust, and Gratitude” leaped to mind; I had heard this phrase some weeks before, presented as a process of actively practicing faith.  The 3 steps in the process I now saw embodied in the 3 suns that shone upon me. I felt that I was to carry this message with me on my vision quest.

Days after my experience with the 3 suns, I drove to the upper peninsula of Michigan, backpacked out into the wilderness, found a suitable hill top to do my quest, and began to settle in.  On this hilltop there was a shallow depression that I thought would make a good spot to build my medicine wheel, in which I would spend my time fasting.

While clearing the debris out of the depression, I came upon a sizable rock.  It was largely buried, but with some effort I managed to dislodge it. Pulling it as though from the womb of the Earth, I discovered that upon the face of the rock were 3 red circles, that immediately brought to mind the message of the I had received of the 3 suns.  I was stunned –  my steps had been so orchestrated by Spirit that I could drive hundreds of miles away from home, to place I had never been, to a spot I had no idea I was going to, and from the middle of my medicine wheel, unearth a stone that embodied the very phrase i had been given to meditate on days before.

Upon closer inspection I saw that the circles on the face of the rock were actually reddish earth, compacted into holes in the stone. Using twigs, I scraped out the  earth to reveal the holes.   My guess is that millions of years ago this rock must have been part of a stream bed and that the holes are miniature “pot holes” bored out by the grit carried in whirlpools of water, and that glaciers deposited the rock on the hilltop, along with the hill itself.

The stone pictured above is of course that stone.  It’s about the size of a deflated basketball.  It was no small task carrying  it for miles out of the woods after a couple days of fasting.   Other than scraping out the dirt, I have not altered the holes in any way.  They are just as I found them.  I place the candles in the holes to of course represent the 3 suns and the 3 steps of faith.

I share this now, because of Earth day, to celebrate my re-connection to the Earth, and because this rock and this phrase have once again been bringing me solace.   As I continue going through my grief, I have sought to sooth the anguish by connecting with Spirit and to replace my pain and my fear with love.  Had I been conscious enough to invoke Spirit and to replace my fears with love some months ago, I would not be in the depths of sorrow that I now find myself

Reciting these  phrases, or some variation of them, can at times completely transform my emotional state from one of anguish or despair,  to one of love or serenity .


I surrender my situation with ____________, to the Great Holy Mystery.

I trust that the Mystery will guide my steps, and bring about the highest good for everyone concerned.

I am grateful for the love and support and the guidance of the Mystery.


I surrender my grief to Mother Earth.

I trust that She will transmute my grief into food for my growth.

I am grateful for the nurturing and the love and the transformative power of the Mother.



Surfing the Light Waves

Zenith Arc
My Sunrise Sadhana

April 18th: Day #14

In addition to all of my other intentions described earlier on my Zenith Arc page, it has occurred to me that rising and taking my walk each day before the sun rises above the horizon has another provocative dimension to it.

That being that I am bringing my presence to the same moment of each day, but not the same time. Despite variations in cloud cover, I am abiding in the same light each day, dwelling in one phase of the continuum of  phenomena that make up the entire day. I am subsisting in a period of stasis within a dynamic system of astronomical proportions.

Each day on its journey to the solstice the sun rises earlier, and thus I rise earlier to walk in the light of the dawn.  Each day, I revel in the moment of dawn,  and the moment that the sun actually rises, but the time on the clock is of course changing. And the season is changing; with it the plants and animals around me are changing.  The inclination of the earth’s northern hemisphere toward the sun is changing. And the earth’s position relative to the sun is changing as it makes its journey around it, which is of course what is at root of all the other changes that I experience around me.

Beyond that, the earth’s relationship to the moon and to the other planets in the solar system is changing; and the relationship of the solar system  to the galaxy is changing as it rotates within the galaxy, and solar system’s position in the galaxy is changing as the galaxy itself rotates around the massive black hole located at its center. And the galaxy’s position in the universe, and its relationship to the other galaxies,  is changing as the universe expands ever outwards.

By doing my moving mediation at the same moment of each day, I am inhabiting a still point amidst cosmic change.

Light, of course, displays properties of both a particle and a wave; it can be measured as either, though not simultaneously.  But by immersing myself into the same moment of light each morning, I now visualize myself as a particle of light, surfing upon the crest of a light wave, being carried forward to some unknown and distant shore.


The Penitent

Shrouded with hood,
I walk with head bowed,
pacing slow and solemn,
like a medieval penitent,
in nylon blue rain gear,
contemplating my footsteps,
my heartbeats,
the meter of my thoughts,
and the syncopated drumming
of raindrops upon my crown.

The gentle, sleepy rain,
not quite awake enough
to fall with purpose,
a sprinkle here and there,
it drifts in and out
of conversation with me.
What message is the rain
tapping out to me?

Entwining rhythms
of footsteps, heartbeats,
thoughts, and raindrops,
plus my unmeasured breath,
and countless other subcutaneous
and subterranean rhythms,
what aggregated morse code
am I tapping out to the universe?
An SOS? I Surrender?
Stay clear – under quarantine?
What message do I wish to emanate?
How do I change my rhythms
to send that signal?

Zenith Arc

I have started a new page on my blog to to track my Sunrise Sadhana from now until the Summer Solstice.

Here is my beginning entry from yesterday…


Zenith Arc
My Sunrise Sadhana


April 5th: Day #1

Today begins my personal Spring. Or so the voice in my head told me as I was out walking before sunrise this morning.

And so I’ve resolved that today also begins my journey to the summer solstice. Each day I will rise before the sun, earlier and earlier to keep pace with its expanding arc as it journeys towards its zenith, and take my walk in the glimmering, that quiet hour in which the dark has been pierced and the light is growing, but the world is still pristine, unsullied by the responsibilities of life and the world of commerce that clogs our streets and minds. Each day I shall watch the sunrise, to revel in the glory of the star that gives light and warmth and life to our planet, to behold the new beginning of each day, to celebrate the promise that new beginning holds, and if not celebrate – if my mood proves to gloomy – to at least honor that promise by bearing witness to the rising sun.

It was actually the robins that drew me out of my home this morning. The building chorus outside my window called to me, irresistible sirens whose voices have so many times lured me into pleasurable sojourns.

The invitation this morning was so reminiscent of a morning almost 30 years ago when I lived in north woods town of Bemidji. That morning too the robins called to me, and I enjoyed a walk of sublime peace through the empty streets that lead me to the shores of lake Bemidji. So today there was no thought of refusal as the robins coaxed me from my warm bed to venture into the chill spring air.

This walk, now in Minneapolis, led me to the shore of Lake Harriet. As I reached the far side I turned back to the east to discover the sun just beginning to creep over the horizon and climb through the trees that line the lake. There is a thin mist hovering above the frozen lake, it veils the sun just enough so that the eye can look upon it without discomfort. Through this veil the sun rises like a pure incandescent sphere, as round as a marble.

With its crisp edges and muted light, the sun could easily have been mistaken for the full moon, even its size was right. As it cleared the treetops, it hung there for a moment and a pileated woodpecker broke the silent morning air with its raucous cuck-cuck-cuck-cuck –cuck!


A Haiku:
Woodpecker proclaims
sunrise of a new beginning
– the shaman’s rooster

*                     *                     *

For many years I have wanted create a ritual practice leading up to the summer solstice of rising at least 1 hour before sunrise and going for a walk, and watching the sun come up. Of course, this means that one must rise earlier and earlier as the days pass and the solstice approaches. Where I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the 45th parallel – exactly halfway between the equator and the north pole -the sun rises at 5:26 CDT on the solstice, which falls on June 21. This means rising at least by 4:26. I will have many early mornings!

I am inspired to engage in this practice by the desire fully immerse myself into the seasonal change, to really experience the longer and longer days, to enjoy the dawn, to fill my lungs with fresh morning air and hopefully to fill my head with fresh morning thoughts, and to witness the daily miracle of rising sun.

Added to this long held desire to engage in this ritual, a soulfriend introduced me to the practice of a yoga sadhana, which is a commitment to a daily spiritual discipline intended for self-improvement or self-transformation.

There is something about the incremental pace of the changing season that I find deeply appealing, rising those few minutes earlier each day as the sun rises just a few moments earlier. But amassing over time, great change takes place. Perhaps part of my hope is that I will undergo an incremental change as well. The sun is my guiding light in this process.