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January 4, 2005

A Report from COMISS: Kaohomni (ga-oh-ho-mnee)the circle by Barbara A. McGuire


The circle is a prominent symbol in our life. It is the reality of our physical environment. If we toss a stone into the pond, the ripples flow out from the center in growing circles. If you watch a leaf fall from a tree, very often it spins in circles before it lands. Not only are the sun and moon circular but they too move in circles. Life itself moves in cycles. The four seasons are a continuous circle, and the life cycle itself begins at birth, goes to childhood, adulthood and then old age.

Life is a constant reminder that we are unalterably linked to each other. No matter how we may try as humans we cannot change this simple yet profound fact. As a pastoral care and counseling community, organizations such as CPSP can now move forward with this victory for collegiality and mutual respect that Raymond Lawrence speaks of in his article, News From The COMISS Annual Meeting. (This can be found at The circle of life continues.

In the Lakota society, within the Native American culture, the medicine wheel is one of the most popular designs seen on art or cultural artifacts. The Lakota word for it is cangleska, spotted wood. This literal description is from the four colors painted on the wheel. The shape and colors used represent the power of life, hence the translated term medicine wheel; having pejuta or medicine can mean possessing a certain power or ability.

The medicine wheel is circular with a balanced cross of two intersecting lines in its center; the ends of the lines connect with the wheel at four points. The circle, of course, represents life, and the two intersecting lines represent the two roads in life; the good road, usually painted in red, and the bad road, usually painted in black. The good road is also referred to as the Red Road; it is the most difficult to travel. The bad road, the Black Road is wide, it is an easy road to travel. These are the two basic choices in life, and we choose one in every situation; the good or the bad. The four sacred colors of red, yellow, black, and white are included in the medicine wheel.

The medicine wheel incorporates another important symbol in Lakota tradition and spirituality, the number four. Like the circle, the number four represents certain realities in life. There are fours seasons; winter, spring, summer, and autumn, the four directions; east, south, west, and north; and the four basic elements of life; Earth, Wind (air), Fire, and Water.

The equality that applies to all forms of life is the greatest symbol for me. No one form of life is greater or lesser than any other. We are different from one another but different is not defined as greater than or less than. We all
share a common journey in our life on earth, this breathtaking Circle of Life.

There is a reality of life that makes us all equal, no matter who we are, or where we come from in life, we are all born and we all die. This is such a simple and hushed reality we humans tend to ignore.

The decision at COMISS to maintain an inclusive posture was not just a victory for CPSP, though we certainly did step forward to claim our birthright. It was a victory for the generosity of a wide embrace based on mutual respect. It is so hopeful to see the process work when done with respect and clarity of heart. Together we are connected as we begin life in the womb, each of us has been birthed and given new life; as this life evolves so to do new beginnings.

When we acknowledge that we are connected to all living things we can together share the burdens in life as well as the victories, giving strength to one another rather than depleting it.

The sun comes up each morning, offering new opportunity and hope. No matter what kind of mess we have made the day before, no matter what victories we have celebrated, each day is a new chance to set the record straight, make amends for any mistakes, achieve another victory, while taking one more step in the journey of our lives. Each day is another opportunity to be a part of that circle of life knowing that it is a journey, not a race and we never travel alone.

I would like to thank Joseph M. Marshall III, the author of the lakota way, Stories and Lessons for Living.  Joseph was kind enough to allow me to use some excerpts from his book.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at January 4, 2005 8:05 PM

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