A reader writes: Naked Spirituality and Native American Spirituality

A reader writes:

I just listened to the Beyond The Box Podcast yesterday on Naked Spirituality and was struck by how similar your model of spiritual development is to that of The Medicine Wheel practiced by many Western North American indigenous nations.
Several years ago I was on a solo wilderness trip to the north shore of Lake Superior and found myself invited into the sweat lodge by a traditional group of Anishenabe (Ojibway/Chippewa) people who were completing 48 hour fasts. I spent several hours with them having their symbols and framing story explained and sharing common concepts. The sweat was transformative for me in that I realized for the first time how all encompassing Anishenabe views of Creation and it’s sacredness are. A day later I was canoeing on Lake Superior and saw the first vision of my life in the clouds. My rational mind was nicely kicking back in afterwards, when a golden eagle (symbol of The Creator’s presence) flew in and circled overhead. It was quite a defining moment for me. That week began a process for me of discovering new symbols and concepts which I began to appreciate as expressions of my own beliefs as a Follower of Christ.
One of those symbols is the Medicine Wheel, which expresses a contemplative approach to understanding life. You may already be aware of it’s symbolism which in a general way has been described very well in a book called “The Sacred Tree.” A few concepts about the medicine wheel resonated with me in your conversation with Rayburn:
First, the Anishenabe are taught to begin their contemplations on the Medicine Wheel with the East which represents childhood, the dawn, etc. The word that Ojibway author Richard Wagamese uses to describe this direction in terms of contemplation is “Innocence.” I offer tobacco when beginning the cycle, which is standard Anishenabe practice as well. Tobacco is used in many indigenous rituals for thanksgiving. The Anishenabe work “the way of the Sun” and so move clockwise around the wheel. South represents Adolescence, Wagamese’s word is “Humility” and the sacred herb is cedar (used in ceremony for purification). West represents Adulthood, Wagamese’s word is “Honesty” and the sacred herb is sage (used for prayer and for purification). North is for elders, Wagamese’s word is “Wisdom” and sacred herb is sweet grass (used in prayer). There are various understandings of each direction even amongst the Anishenabe but the nuances of what I’ve shared are common concepts.
Second, the general belief about the medicine wheel is that an individual should attempt to remain in the centre (hub of the wheel) and to meditatively view their lives from there. The sense is that getting stuck in any stage will cause problems. Coordinating with your words in the podcast about “cycling through the stages on higher levels” is the belief that wisdom must always lead back to innocence because without that vital step a person will become cold and bitter like a northern winter.
I use the medicine wheel approach often when I pray these days. I also offer tobacco and smudge with a stick made from the other 3 herbs while contemplating the concepts of the wheel and what The Creator is doing in my life. Each time I follow this way is different, but I often sense a deep peace, completeness and fullness by the time I finish the circuit back to innocence.
Although there’s no question that I’m asking specifically, I wonder if you might comment in general on the similarities between The Medicine Wheel as I presented it above or from your experience and the concepts you expressed in Naked Spirituality.

Thanks so much for this note. I am so grateful. I wasn’t aware of this resonance at all. Quite amazing.
Your note makes me miss my friend Richard Twiss. Richard was a Lakota Sioux who was doing important work on the resonances between indigenous spirituality and a deeper (nonWestern) Christian faith. He passed away last year and is so greatly missed. Thankfully, his work is being carried on by NAIITS … by good people like Terry and Bev LeBlanc, Randy and Edith Woodley, Andrea Smith, Ray Aldred, and many others. Again, thanks for sharing this with me. It’s wonderful when resonances like these happen!