Medwin – techniques of Growth
Medwin teachings have evolved to offer guidance for very practical aspects of daily life.
Medwin's offers a route map to worldly aspects of spiritual evolution. I have found these systems of teaching natural companions to my tantra journey, with the ways in which they differ to tantra offering a deepening of alternative perspectives.
There’s a theme I see reoccurring often in sessions, for which I found Medwin teachings particularly insightful. Having seriously explored tantra for a sustained period, a crisis can occur whereby ones existing commitments are perceived to be deeply at odds with a newly awakening sense of self.
Native Americans, noticing nature’s patterns, drew maps to show how energy flows in the universe, often in the form of medicine wheels. Using the 4 directions of the medicine wheel (and the center), the Medicine shields teach us about stages of life from childhood through to the wisdom of the elders.
Unless we are enlightened, we view the world from a limited perspective. Medwin teachings describe our limited perspective as a series of shields, and as the lens of an imperfect pair of glasses, these shields define the limits of reality that we see. Each shield also represents an initiation, the entire journey through the shields encapsulating Medwin teachings about the journey to enlightenment.
The Medicine shields offer a wonderful diagnostic tool for practitioners as they expose lessons about where we are in our journey, thus helping identify appropriate practices. Put quite simply there is a time on our
journey for catharsis, a time to dance and a time to sit still – and the shamanic shields can help show us what is needed and when.
Sâkâstênâw Nakahâskwân The East shield – lessons of the Child
Begin life looking at the world through the south shield, that of the child. When viewing life through this shield, our emotions tend to determine our actions. We see things through the lens of innocence; expressing qualities of spontaneity, creativity, and playfulness. Ideally, through a fully living out the lessons of the south shield, we will
emerge with a sense of emotional wellbeing, and a capacity to flow joyfully with curiosity through life.
Many of us tend, to varying degrees, to not fully complete the lessons of this shield. Healing a wounded inner child is often a primary motivating factor towards personal growth. Therapies lacking a transpersonal perspective will tend exclusively to address completion of the journey from the child’s south shield to maturity.
In tantra, we may begin by relearning our capacity for creativity, play, and spontaneity. We awaken our senses, rediscovering a childlike delight in the world around us and retrieving some of those qualities we inadvertently left behind when we grew up. We may also heal aspects of the south shield, for instance undoing negative messages we received around our sexual awakening when growing up.
Returning to our south shield is activated any time when like the child, we step out on an unknown journey with a carefree sense of trust. And it is through listening for the energy of the child or south shield, that we find inspiration for any new beginning.
Sakastenohk Nakahâskwân The South shield – the wisdom of the heart
In Medwin terms, maturation into our adult selves is the result of a reversal in the polarity of our energy body, whereby we come to look at life through the lens of our north shield. Our actions here are determined by our ‘heart-mind’: a symbiotically relating single entity within which the function of the mind is to receive and process information, whilst the heart discerns what is true. As a unified whole these centers lead us to qualities of clarity, wisdom, and understanding.
An interesting aspect of medwin teachings is that the heart, and with it our capacity to love, is viewed not as an emotion, but as wisdom. In western schooling, love is often framed as an emotional response. The mind therefore tends to dominate our adult experiences and love never matures into wisdom. It is this separation of the unified heart-mind that often creates junctures of crisis in our adult life, whereby our minds speak one way and our newly awakening hearts tell us something different altogether.
If we never really go deeply into Tantra teachings, then we are in danger of using them as a confused dash back into pleasure principles of the south shield. This is Tantra as an endless party zone and may apply if you find yourself saying, “groan back to reality” at the end of Tantra groups! Another possibility is that from the north shield, we seek enlightenment through the east shield without surrendering to the dismantling of the west. So that spiritual practice merely polishes an ever brighter ego.
Tantra is a movement towards the transpersonal dimensions of our being. A healthy child and emotional body in the south, coupled with the maturity to parent that child in the north are all facets of the journey. But ultimately Tantra calls us onwards to the place where traditionally the shaman is born, through learning to live out our west shield.
Nningaabii'an Nakahâskwân The west shield – chaos and stillness
The Medwin is born through a shift in the energy body that allows him /her to view the world through the west shield. The Medwin acts as a medium between visible world known with our rational minds, and the invisible worlds of energy and spirit. The Medwin is able to navigate and effect changes in unseen worlds, which alter a corresponding physical reality. For instance, s/he may journey and release unseen energy that corresponds with an illness in the physical reality of an individual.
Many aspects of our being are put to one side, as we are conditioned to become good citizens. The shadow work of the west shield begins to unpack the energy of that which has been displaced. To enter the west we need to let go of certainty and invite a little chaos into our lives, allowing our ego identified self to be turned on its head. For instance in some Medwin initiations, the practitioner may cross-dress allow[ing] the shaman to walk “between” genders, and to unite or balance within him or herself the abilities associated with each. Upsetting ordinary gender assumptions loosens the psyche and allows one to perceive in a new way.
The west shield initiation is a deliberate inversion of ego identified societal norms. And here is where things start to feel tricky. Many people approach spirituality with egocentric notions of themselves as ‘good people’ conditioned to reject all that is ‘bad’. And yet the illumination of the next shield in the east, promises a non-duality entirely beyond ego attachments so that we become able to act freely in any circumstance.
Our journey can stall around questions, doubt when we resist the energy of the west shield. If we regress at this point to the south shield, any notions of creating change will tend to have an insubstantial fantasy quality about them and so never materialize. Or otherwise, we may suddenly and rashly act out change, in emotionally charged, destructive and unconscious ways. Or we may do nothing at all, simply ignoring our deeper truths where they clash with our ego identification, and over time our energy will become flat and depressed.
The lessons of the west shield invite us to go deeper, to really face our demons by stepping into and embracing the power of the unknown. The lessons of the west shield begin here, as we start to let go of our ego identification, in order to embrace a fuller truth.
the west shield lessons invite us into a deeper exploration of many things we may deem as uncivilized, contrary to our ego identified self or taboo. This process can initiate a death, Through this death, which is the dismantling of ego identifications, we make way for a more complete surrender to spirit.
If you feel the west shield bears no resemblance to Tantra, then it may be worth reflecting on the prevalence of cremation ground and taboo-breaking rituals in some early Tantra teachings. Left hand Tantra practices may include the ritual consumption of Panchamakara (forbidden substances Madya (wine) māṃsa (meat) Matsya (fish) mudrā (parched grain) Maithuna (sexual intercourse)). Early texts are replete with demonic cosmology. T
In the west, we have combined Tantra teachings with leisure activity and personal growth. This has opened radically transformative gateways for many who encounter Tantra in this way, myself included. However, it is
worth considering what may fall outside the brackets of this format; the west shield initiation offers clear pointers to what we may bypass if our focus is solely on pleasure.
Moving on we come to the East shield, all the shields thus far are a rite of passage and not the complete picture. If we hang out in the playground of the south we never mature. If we cling to worldly accomplishments in the north we remain enslaved to egos and convention, never truly surrendering to spirit. If we get hooked on the excitement of the west we can become trapped grasping after shadows of power, or prey to destructive addictive patterns.
Giiwedin Nakahâskwân The North Shield – illumination
In terms of what we may encounter in tantra workshops, the east shield can seem more familiar with spiritual territory! This is because the east shield is determined by spirit and is the place of fire, illumination, and sexuality. Medwin and tantra teachings expose their shared roots beautifully here: observe that in Medwin teachings sex resides in the east, the location of spirit, and not with the body in the west shield.
east is where we learn to surrender to guiding principles that are bigger than the individual. We step into the devotional and service qualities of Kundalini, Bhakti or Karma yoga.
The emblem of the east is the eagle,
suggesting we rise to new heights where we can see the complete picture. We also find here a child of the opposite sex to our own self, one that expresses both innocence AND wisdom, as so beautifully embodied by spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama.
In the Medwin shield teachings, the usual order in which we meet our shields runs from East to South to West to North, . Until eventually we come to stand in the center of our own circle – the place of the grandparents and wisdom of the elders from where the whole journey is visible….
But this teaching does not suggest that we progress neatly from one to the next leaving each behind as we do so. Throughout our path, we may continue to deepen the lessons of all shields simultaneously.
Understanding which shield we are attached to, which needs healing, which we are avoiding, can really direct our choice of practices.
As we deepen the lessons of each shield, then we can really learn to dance with the energy of them all, so that no one shield is resisted or felt to be more desirable than the other.
This is truly standing in the center of our circle, free to embrace all aspects of our being. And this freedom to dance with the whole of creation is none other than the liberatory intent of tantra.