The Cherokee (Tsalagi) Dance of Life: Moving Meditation of the Four Directions
This pattern looks like Tai Chi or Chi Kung (Qi Gong). It was taught to me by Karina McAbee, whose father was Cherokee and mother was Japanese Samurai. It comes from the Eastern Tsalagi tradition before the Civil War and the Trail of Tears. The Medicine Person who originally passed on the Dance of Life was weaving the martial art of his people into this Meditation. Having done this Dance on a daily basis for over the past 20 years, I found it grounds me and balances me in my body. It has a profound healing effect. One psychic, who was watching me do the dance, told me that he could see the energy being moved through me as a conduit. What he found amazing was that this is the only moving meditation which he had seen performed where the balancing was effective and in harmony with the Native tradition he practices. He had never seen this done before, although he has been a Sun Dancer and Medicine Person for many years.
To do the Dance:
Begin Facing East, the direction of the far-seeing eagle (psychic abilities/seeing the future and the patterns within people)
Make a large, wide circular motion as if you are making a circle of protection around the Earth and stop with your palms down releasing that blessing into the earth.
Step back with the left foot and left arm (as if it were a wing of a bird) followed by the right foot and right arm. Reach down in front of you and, with both hands, gather Mother Earth’s energy. Pull it straight up, through the chakras, and reach toward the sky giving away the Earth Energy to Father Sky above. Gather the Creative Sky energy and pull it down through your body and give it away to the Earth with your palms down again.
Now leading with the right side of the body, step back with the right foot and right arm first, followed by the left foot and arm. Reach down and gather mother earth’s energy and pull it up through your body and give it away to Father Sky. Gather the sky energy and pull it down through your body, giving it away finally to the earth with your palms down.
The Chi is released from the palms, so the give away motions end with the palms facing the direction of the give-away. Palms up offering the Earth’s Energy to Father Sky, palms down offering Father Sky’s Energy to Mother Earth.
Now that you have balanced both sides of your body by allowing the feminine left side to lead, as well as the masculine right side to lead, step with the left foot and both hands into the direction you have been facing. Gather the energy of the East, the light of the morning sun and the far-seeing eagle and pull it through your heart chakra as if you were drawing the string of a bow while rotating toward the West. Your right hand should be leading now as you reach into the West, the place of introspection, dreams, reflection on your life and the day you have just experienced as you approach sleep. This is symbolized by the bear in most Turtle Island directions (but not in California, as the Whale is in the west, out in the ocean.) Pulling this Western energy through your body and again giving it away to the Earth, pull your right leg toward the left as you center your body. You are now facing the South.
Repeat the basic movements as you reflect on the South, the place of trust and the innocence of childhood. This might be the mouse, which sees up close, like children do, or the coyote (in some tribal traditions this is symbolized by the snake). The color is green, that of new life in our plant relatives. Again step back with the left foot and arm (wing) followed by the right foot and arm. Reach down and gather the earth energy and draw it straight up through your body. You might imagine pulling it up through your groin (the base and sexual chakras) to the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, head and crown of the skull, as the earth’s energy travels through the dancer while she/he gives it to the sky. We are agents of transformation in this way, balancing the earth and sky energy within ourselves in the process of gathering and giving away. Reaching toward the sky we give away the earth’s energy to Father Sky, gather his energy and draw it down through our body and give it away to the mother earth. Next the right wing leads followed by the left wing. Gather earth, give away to the sky, gather sky, give away to the earth. Step into the south with the left foot and both arms (left hand leading) reach out into that direction and gather the South’s innocent trust. Rotating toward the right side you pull the bow string (imaging holding the bow with the left hand and pulling the string by the right as you let fly the arrow which is now the right hand followed by the left. The bow string becomes the arrow as you rotate into the North. The motion is the giving away of the south’s energy to the north (symbolized by the herbivore Buffalo, Deer, Moose, Elk which gives itself to feed the people). Gather the north’s energy (wisdom, power, crystallization of knowledge like snow) and pulling it back through your heart as your right foot steps close to the left, give away the energy to the earth.
You should be facing the West now, color black and the place of the setting sun. Repeat the basic motions: left wing leads stepping back, followed by the right. Reach down and gather the earth energy, pull it up through your body and give it away to the sky. Gather the sky energy and pull it down through your body giving it away to the earth. Next the right side leads followed by the left. Reach down gather earth, pull through your body and give away to the sky. Gather sky and draw it down through your body giving it away to the earth. Step into the West, gather its energy, rotate toward the right and give it away to the East. Gather the Eagle’s energy and pull it through yourself as you step together and give away to the earth again.
Now you are facing the North. Repeat the movements finally gathering the north’s energy and giving it away to the south. You finish one round facing the east. You have returned to the starting point.
You can do more rotations of the movement if you wish. Usually we do things in groups of four. One round balancing four directions. Add three more to make four rounds. That would be a set, four more rounds would make eight, four more would make twelve, which symbolizes the twelve Sun cycles we call months. The purpose is to balance yourself and in so doing re-establish balance of the environment. This is like the Chinese concept of putting yourself in harmony with the Tao. Take care of yourself first, balance yourself first, before you try to help others. That way you become a channel for the flow of Life energy (called Chi or Tao in the Asian tradition.)