The Four Directions
Since our very first Celebration Circle gathering in January 1992, we've begun each Sunday Circle with a ritual invocation that involves facing the Four Directions of the compass together as a group. It's our way of honoring an age-old practice, used by various cultures around the world, re-interpreted in the context of Creation Spirituality, and adapted for our interfaith community.
Invoking the Four Directions
Turning to face the Four Directions is a powerful and meaningful process that invites us to experience our physical and metaphysical connections to all of creation. But as with any ritual, it can become stale and rote with repetition, unless care is taken to review and renew it periodically as individuals, and as a spiritual community. What follows is a description of how and why we invoke the Four Directions in Celebration Circle; we invite you to reflect on this practice with us.
We begin by facing East, the direction of Spring and the rising sun, the promise of renewal and new beginnings. In doing so, we give thanks for the possibility of a fresh start each day, each moment. Regardless of what happened, whether years ago or yesterday, when we face the direction of the dawn, we are reminded to let go of the past and look at whatever is unfolding in our lives right here and now with fresh eyes and a grateful heart.
Then we take a quarter-turn to the right (clockwise) 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 goodness, health and well-being woven through the fabric of our lives, acknowledging that our needs have been met today, while trusting that they will continue to be met tomorrow and at every step along the way.
Turning once again, we come to face West, the direction of Autumn and the setting sun. Doing so, we invoke our willingness to embrace change, the inevitability of death and the mystery of all those unanswered and unanswerable questions that are part of the human condition. We are also facing the inescapable fact of impermanence, the awareness that all the objects, relationships and conditions that we think of as being "ours" are actually just "on loan" and must be released at some point.
We continue tracing 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 darkness of Midnight. We experience the power of standing our ground in the midst of the inevitable challenges we all must face. One of the gifts of opening ourselves to the Four Directions ritualistically is that as we stand and face North, we can experience a renewed sense of strength simply by acknowledging our human frailty, while re-affirming our faith and divinity, too.
Finally, we 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 present right here and now, at all times and in all circumstances. While facing the Center, we remember that we are always in the process of being born, while we're busy dying, too; always living in the midst of abundance as well as loss; always in motion, always standing still. Centered in this awareness, we feel our inter-connection with all of life, and rest in a space of peace and gratitude.
This ritual is particularly well-suited as the invocation for our Circle gatherings, because it is such a powerful way to remind ourselves that this moment is a sacred time, this place where we're standing is sacred ground, this is a sacred gathering. But the Four Directions ritual can be a powerful way to start your day 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. We're glad and grateful to be sharing it with you!
Zet & Rudi