The Solstice arrives early Friday morning, marking the longest day and shortest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. Throughout the northern hemisphere people have gathered on the Solstices, for thousands of years, to mark the progression of the seasons and our lives.
The ever evolving landscape of seasonal change is the basis for the Medicine Wheel teachings of many cultures. These teachings are stories that place us firmly in the processes of the natural world, reminders that we are co-evolved with the landscapes we inhabit. We embody the processes of the world.
Much like the earth moving around the sun, we are encouraged to walk around the central events of our lives. Jung called this process, “circumambulating.” As we walk, our perspective on those events changes as does our understanding of their meaning. At times, we may enter the center, obtaining a different perspective on our journey around the periphery. We move in, out, and around the wheel as we progress through our lives. Through this process the personal becomes the collective, and the universal the personal.
Just as there are many shamanisms, there are a multitude of medicine wheels. Nor are shamanism and medicine wheels inexorably linked, as not all Medicine Wheel using cultures see themselves as shamanic. We make sense of the world and our lives from the perspective of “here,” and there are billions of heres. This placedness incorporates culture and psyche, landscape processes and Self. It resists globalizing ideas, including the notion that the “web” has erased the local. Even for those of us graced with the capacity, and often necessity, of travel, place asserts its centrality in experience.
The realm of place extends its influence into psychotherapy, although many therapies, especially CBT, attempt to strip experience from context, relegating all storymaking to a simply cognitive process. Time of year and geographical location are central to comprehension, memory, and meaning making. They provide the context from which we create story.
As we approach the Summer Solstice we are reminded that expansion has its limits – perhaps a difficult learning for our culture. We are also cognizant that even as the days shorten the warmth of summer intensifies and the garden’s yield increases. There is a considerable gap between the longest day and the bounty of Autumn’s harvest. In terms of our lives, we are aware that wisdom arises from experience and the passage of time, and from our thoughtful consideration of experience.
We have not yet reached the Solstice, that powerful marker of time and place. We are on the journey; come Friday we will take stock of our location and the quality of our travel, then continue on. The Solstices are markers for us pilgrims, reminders to stop, take stock, orient ourselves, and appreciate the journey.