We all have our own interpretations and honoring of the four elemental quadrants. Some of us enter our Circles in the East, direction of dawn and new beginnings. Others prefer to start in the North, that their working be well grounded and strong. At Samhain, we open a gate in the West, the direction of the Ancestors and of the Land Beyond, and we lead the Spirits through. An exercise in liberation or purification might begin in the South. Some traditions reverence a fifth Element, Spirit, as the Cauldron of Possibility, Center of Change, or other similar aspect.
Most pagans would agree that from the East comes illumination and communication, from the South passion and transformation, from the West emotions, and from the North introspection and acceptance. Whatever attributes we ascribe to the Elements, we can use their unique energies to lend guidance and clarification in our lives.
I would like to lead you in a short self assessment exercise. Your answers are your own and will serve as your guide through a season of the year. I have named this tool a SIP, a Seasonal Insights Profile, for a couple of reasons. When performed in a leisurely fashion, areas of circumspection are saluted with a quenching sip of a seasonal beverage. Winter might be hailed with hot chocolate, a latté, or Irish coffee. Spring might be a glass of strawberry wine. At Midsummer, anything cool and wet goes down well. Nothing beats a tall glass of Chai or spiced cider in the Fall. As you are drinking in wisdom, you are also re-hydrating. Using the patterns of East, South, West, North, and Spirit—the central heart of all things—as our guide, we will check in briefly with ourselves and see where things stand. If you choose to write your answers down, to review for future reference, divide your paper into four sections. Label them Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Put Spirit on the reverse side of the page.
Raising your cup to the East, direction of Inspiration, take a drink of your water, iced tea, or other liquid and ask yourself the question, "What have I learned?" This refers to areas of knowledge or awareness recently acquired. Jot down just a few, to ensure that your mind is open and that you are still seeking and exploring. (My own answers: I have learned to buy textbooks on Amazon.com and save a full 1/3 on the cost of my books for college and seminary. I'm trying to learn how to use a scanner on my home printer.)
Another sip, and we greet the South. Ask yourself, "Am I passionate? Am I intimate?" South is the realm of those two things, and they are not necessarily synonymous. What fires you up these days? Is there a cause you find yourself speaking up for now? A course of action to which you are committed? That's the passion. As for the intimacy, does your life permit you time for long heart-to-heart talks with friends, the luxury of dining with others, and sharing laughter and stories as you gaze into one another's eyes? Are you held, hugged, touched? These things feed the soul. (My answers—when I start mourning for friends I have no time to see, I clear a space and pick up the phone and start issuing invitations. Connection feeds my soul and is crucial to my happiness. As for commitments and causes, I am intensely involved with our UU church's "elcoming congregation"endeavor, to become a place of peace and acceptance for the LBGT community.) What feeds your fire at this time?
We lift our glass and hail the West, sphere of our emotions. Our question is actually two simple words here, the Pulse and the Pace. Pulse refers to the water, blood, and other vital nutrients flowing through our veins. How is your health? Are you putting something off? You deserve to be feeling your best. When you speak the word "Pace" I want you to envision running water. Is the speed at which your life moves along like a tranquil garden pond where spangled fish glide noiselessly by? Or is it more like a torrential downpour? Are you standing under Niagara Falls, letting the franticness of your life erode away your peace and joy? If it is the latter, give thought to how you can slow things down a notch. (My answer: I can always tell when my life is too fast, too busy, or too full. I start misplacing things. That's my signal to slow down.) Are you able to "go with the flow" of your own life?
Another drink and we turn our focus to the North, home of basic creature needs and security. Is your home safe and secure? It not, how can you make it so? Does your job provide for your needs and a few of your desires? Is there sufficiency or lack, economically and materially in your life? (My answer: Because of my young adult "starving single parent years," whenever I feel a period of prolonged deprivation, I begin to hoard. This signals me to loosen the budgetary belt just a little, to find small rewards and gratifications for myself to get me through lean times. $10 and my souvenir movie-goer cup and t-shirt will take me to the theater and buy me soda and popcorn. It will also purchase a lovely bouquet of flowers for my house, which delights me and the House Spirits alike.) Is there sufficiency in your life?
Finally, we pick up our cup a last time and gaze inward toward Spirit, the realm of faith, intuition, and spiritual practice. Are we honoring our relationship with whatever form our spiritual truth may take? Is there time in your life for meditation, prayer, observing the sacred in nature, keeping a dream journal, or delving into sacred texts? Our relationship with the Divine is our partnership with our deepest selves and must be honored, cultivated, and sustained. (My answer: Once during a hectic and harried time in my recent life, I vividly dreamt that I was given a bundle of fragrant incense. The meaning was clear—I had the means to connect and communicate with the gods of my worship, I just wasn't setting aside any time. Now when I feel that nudge, I set aside moments to light my candles, send morning prayers, or take down my round hide drum from the wall and drum for a vision or an answer. Spirit will not go unanswered for long.) What act of reverence do you incorporate into your day?
Lay your paper aside and clear your busy thoughts for now. Take a moment of silence to pledge to make a space for those things you need to bring into your life, to strengthen those areas that are weak, and above all, to be gentle and kind with yourself. Repeat this affirmation:
"I vow to honor the true calling of my heart and to meet my innermost needs. In as much as is possible, I will be gentle with myself, for I am the only Me there is, sacred and unique. I vow to embrace and create positive change, in myself and the world around me. I am a reflection of the Divine, and am not flawed or weak, but am brilliant, resilient and strong.
So mote it be!"