From Vicious Circles to Healing Circles

I have written elsewhere about vicious circles, i.e. PTSD/War, etc, but  in my journey to Sanity/Peace I gratefully found  my Native American Spirituality and the Wisdom of the Circle of Life. The values I had incorporated over the years were all contained within the described Circle.

I no longer felt there was something wrong with me as I did not feel comfortable in the religion I was raised with nor any other church. When my sister gave me a copy of  “Principles of Native American Spirituality” by Dennis Renault (WA’NA’NEE’CHE’) and Timothy Freke, (Thorsons 1996), I realized I had come “home.” The following quotes are from the same book.

I LOVED THIS: “The part of each person that says ‘I am’ is a part of Spirit. It is eternal and limitless. The mind functions as a link between spirit and body. The body is a shell. It is a part of Mother Earth, and it returns to her when we die. Our Spirit is part of the one Great Spirit, and if we are in balance when we die it may go through the doorway and return to the Whole. As Black Elk says we will ‘pass from this world of darkness into the other real world of light.'” (p.28)

I found my Truths in page after page: “The World is full of Energies and they all come from the one Great Energy….For mainstream Christianity, God exists outside his creation. For the Indigenous American God expresses himself through his creation. If you want to see the face of your Creator, look around you. He/She/It is guiding and teaching you at every turn: here disguised as a tree, there as a bird, or a whirlwind, or a rainbow, or a river or a mountain. To live in this awareness is to live synchronously in the physical and spiritual worlds. They are not separate. They coexist and interpenetrate each other.” (p.30)

And CIRCLES were a major element of understanding: “Every time a Native American says mitakuye oyasin – ‘we are all related’ – they acknowledge their place as an interconnecting part of the Circle of Life.The well-being of each individual depends on the well-being of all.” (p.68)

I’ve Always believed this: “Native Americans do not treat the body as if it were a car that you take to a mechanic to get fixed when it goes wrong. The body is an expressions of spirit. Each individual is responsible for their health. Through tribal teachings they will have learnt that all their thoughts and actions, unimportant though they may seem, create ripples in their own being, and in the world around them, like a pebble cast into a pond. It is not who a person is, or what happens to them that creates disharmony. It is the responses they make to any situation – the pebbles they choose to throw.” (p.71)

I can’t possibly put words together nor do I have the native wisdom that Dennis Renault has – that’s the reason I have quoted so extensively from his book. It seemed to me that I should do so. I am now going to quote a large section from page 107-109. I hope it touches you as deeply as it did me.

“A circle represents the Whole. We live on one earth and the forest felled by one country damages the environment of another.The air polluted here is the same air breathed by all. Nature is no longer allowing us to live in the illusion of our separateness. The disaster of the environmental crisis is forcing us to re-examine our image of ourselves as self-serving individuals, and acknowledge our essential interdependence. If we are to become one human family, it will be by acknowledging that we all share Mother Earth.

A circle embraces – a line divides. Native American traditions allocate the colors red, black, yellow and white to the four quarters of the Circle of Life. These colors represent the different races of humanity. By uniting them into one human tribe, maybe we can overcome the divisions that have caused so much suffering – not unified in one market place or in one colorless monoculture, but as the different spokes of one wheel: each of equal value, just as every point on the circumference of a circle is of equal distance from the center.

The circle is a symbol of balance. Wisdom is ‘knowledge in balance’. Perhaps it is not because of our new technological knowledge that we have so many problems, but because we do not use this knowledge in a balanced relationship with the Whole of Life. If you observe your own personality, and the people around you, you will often see that a person’s greatest quality when they are ‘in balance’ will be their greatest problem when they are ‘out of balance’….Our modern culture has many strengths but as these are out of balance with the Whole they have become vast problems.

Most importantly, a circle has a center. A wheel revolves around an axle. If our modern culture can center itself in an awareness of the Great Sacred Mystery of Life, perhaps the technological power that has created so many problems can be used in balance…..

But how can we spiritually ‘center’ our culture? Only by centering ourselves. The Native Americans teach that when an individual is out of balance, all they touch becomes out of balance. Likewise when they are in harmony, all they touch becomes harmonized. The unseen world is the world of our intentions and motivations. Every one of our thoughts and actions arises from the unseen world and sends ripples through the seen world, like a stone thrown into a pool of water. If we can center ourselves in spirit, then the ripples we leave behind us will become expanding circles of healing.”


I was touched so deeply by Dennis Renault’s words – I realized these teachings had always been somewhere deep within me – to be resurrected when the Teacher appeared. For the first time I felt my soul expanding from the shriveled hole it had fearfully dwelt in…and a clarity and integrity of spirit/heart/soul/mind/body emerged that I had never experienced before. 

When I learned of a movement called RESTORATIVE PRACTICES that relied heavily on the CIRCLE spiritual philosophy I had found so liberating – I was fascinated to see how it was implemented and how it could move others as it did me.

I found that those involved with this movement were sincere advocates of PEACEMAKING CIRCLES: a way of bringing people together, where everyone is respected, everyone is equal and spiritual and emotional aspects of individual experience are welcome. To do this movement justice I will write another post.

In case you’ve missed my other posts they are here:

PTSD & Marijuana          PTSD and Generational Transmission  

       PTSD and War         Restorative Practices

To buy my book go here: 

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Go back to 1st post: My Book…….



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