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The Four Directions

May 21, 2022

Back in the day, when I was producing a documentary on Indigenous Peoples, my friend Lisa and I had a chance to visit the Esselen Tribe in Big Sur, California. A proud wise man named Little Bear showed us around. He told us a story about the four sacred directions, the qualities of each direction, and how vital it is that these qualities are in balance. 

In the north, Little Bear told us, people are blessed with a focus on the mind, on thinking. In the east, the land of the rising sun, people value connection to Spirit, often through meditation. The people of the south are deeply connected to their own bodies. They dance and move and feel alive because of being in touch with their human form. In the land of the setting sun, the west, the people of this direction are connected to the earth. They take care of the earth, feel it under themselves, know and honor it. 

Little Bear said that when these four elements are in balance: mind, body, spirit, earth – life is wonderful, healthy, whole. But when one element becomes dominant, there is dis-ease.

French philosopher Renes Descartes said, “I think therefore I am”.  What if we also said, “I move therefore I am.” “I am connected to my higher self, therefore I am.” “I am in nature, therefore I am.”

I try to remember Little Bear when my mind seems to be the only active muscle in my being. When it has tied itself into knots of panic. When I erroneously believe that thought is the only answer. If I have the wherewithal to think of Little Bear’s four directions, I am reminded that it’s not all about my overzealous brain. There is my body, my spirit, and nature too. Bring ‘em in, Anh. Bring back balance.