I've noticed over the years, as I've taught classes on the medicine wheel, that most people have great trouble fully embracing the powers of the South. We love asking the west for healing of our old wounds, and we love asking the east to bring us the new shape of things, and we even love asking the north to help us have patience and discipline. But we find it difficult to fully ask the south to fill us with joy. There is always some credible inner voice that says it is inappropriate at this time to be joyful. That voice never goes away, because human life is always a disaster in one way or another, so we decide we'd better live without joy, and concentrate on healing or wisdom or increasing our goodness.
Ignoring the south invites spiritual illness. When we are spiritually ill, our protective energy field becomes thinner and more porous, and we can be more easily penetrated by the lower energies of martyrdom, blame, cynicism, disappointment and depression. Our "consumer" culture thrives on a culture weakened by joylessness, because then it can sell us the substitutes for joy – religions based on blind obedience and tribalism, economies founded on buying more things that soothe our joylessness for a moment. A joyless person revels in gossip and micro-dominations and needs constant distraction. She feels overwhelmed by the seriousness of life and he simply cannot believe that simple spiritual practices can be an antidote. A joyless culture shops like crazy to feed its envy and competition, and convinces the populace that joy is wasteful, a Band-Aid, a sign of shallowness or privilege. Joyless people are obsessed with cleanliness, purity and alikeness, and they have a high need for controlling others, which often tips over into violence.
Shamanically speaking, joy is an energy field, a spiritual ally. When we access the field of joy, it helps us remember that we don't need to fill ourselves with the substitutes for joy: status, fame, money, advancement, accomplishment, agreement, the shiny new thing, the shiny new lover.
When I was studying in the seminary, I was the weirdo. We would have chapel services on Tuesdays and we'd do the Eucharist ceremony where people go up and take the cracker and wine. It's so beautiful, the idea that you are taking the actual body of God into your body, to merge. I could not understand how in the world people could be so somber about it. How can you not immediately begin dancing and singing as soon as the wine and cracker touch your wet, waiting tongue? I would stumble dizzily back to my seat, trying not to hum, grin, and shout "Wahoooooo!"
My fellow students were working from a different "model of God" than I was. When they thought "God", they saw in their mind's eye, "loving but stern Father who created a good world which we wrecked immediately, and He's been a bit disappointed in us ever since, and he needs to give us medicine every week to cure the sickness of sin that we are born with." For them, the Eucharist seemed to be about a lifelong diagnosis needing a lifelong prescription drug.
I didn’t know it (it took one of the seminary classes to help me articulate it), but I carried in me the model of "God as Lover." There is an extensive, expansive theology buried in that little phrase, "God as Lover," and it is all contained in the south on the medicine wheel.
The summer is an excellent time to practice with this model of the divine, and if you can get past that inner voice that tells you "Now is no time to be joyful!", the south can offer you profound medicine. Spend some time seeing and feeling the sensuousness of the life force all around you. The summer is one long wooing dance, a long seduction between the father sun and the mother earth. The sun strikes the earth each day, and the earth sighs with flowers and crops and birdsong and glistening sparkles on the skin of the lake; the water licks at the land, the bees dance, zithering, among the yearning petals. As Rumi says, "Seawater water begs the pearl to break its shell."
Here is practice you can try: Take a walk or stand in your garden, and observe how the divine masculine and feminine woo one another. Observe the wind on the leaves, the sun on the water, the rain on the garden, the dew in the sunrise, the way flowers are lapping up the nutrients from the wet soil. See the wooing and lovemaking everywhere. And remember the great shamanic motto: what happens in nature happens in us. Let this sensuous unfolding happen in you. Let the sun or wind stroke your earth too, and let your sighs burst forth. What is the world like when God is your lover? Are you seeking a new paradigm, are you seeking the radical new way, are you one who says we need to dismantle the old normal and build a new normal? The south is a powerful ally in all of this, if you let it be.
I leave you with a little poem of mine:
How I become hyacinth
How I become daffodil
How I become hosta
How I become sedum
easily divided easily rooted
How I become the two tone
whistle chirp in that far off oak
How I become something you never planted
How I green from brown
How I heave up your mulch
and crawl to you in your winter slumber
How I spring from pruned branches
How I become again the weeds you thought you killed off
come back to deliver that message again
How I emerge out vines you thought were dead
How the longer you know me the bigger I grow
How you think you can cultivate me
How long it takes you to see
How I become you.