Wheel of Wisdom
This Tutorial is intended to provide an experienced facilitator with the basic understanding and practical information necessary to run a virtual working session online with participants in the Wheel of Wisdom.
What is this Wheel?
The Wheel of Wisdom is a design for discovering common interests, insights and understanding in communities, leading to shared agreement and decisions. Its eight perspectives evoke innate aspects of leadership that are latent in everyone.
It draws people on a quest through self-discovery, and discovery of the other; towards consideration and action on questions that matter for the common good.
The Wheel of Wisdom can be approached at many levels; practical, spiritual, communal and transformative. It can be used over widely different periods of time, from short durations to continuous daily practice. All according to the needs and aspirations of whomever is using it.
The Wheel becomes more powerful still when used in conjunction with other H3Uni Transformation Methods. This will be developed further elsewhere within the Resource Library.
A facilitator who leads sessions with the Wheel is named Servant Listener, as a reminder of the qualities that this practice calls for.
This contemporary design takes inspiration from the indigenous American Earth Wisdom Council. (It is not a copy.) The pattern that informs this new Wheel originated many centuries ago among the Mayan people of Central America.
The people created their Wisdom Council to remind them of the qualities and responsibilities that they believed were essential to becoming fully human:
- the high potential of their humanity (spiritual, physical, emotional, mental);
- their reciprocal relationship with, and responsibilities toward, nature;
- the shared ancestral inheritance and stories that held them together; and
- how to overcome threats, differences and divisions, to thrive as interdependent and lively communities.
The Council Wheel and its protocols were then adopted and adapted by tribal cultures in North America as a basis for their personal and collective remembering, learning, understanding and collaboration. Many wheels of understanding and healing sprang from it.
Designs of this kind, including stone circles (which may have 7, 8 or 9, or more, directions), have been part of many old cultures in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
Who is the Wheel for?
The Wheel is for people and groups who are seeking better, creative and more viable ways of living together: as communities in their circumstances, in the places where they live.
It is for people who are seeking to transcend difference and discord, to live amicably and naturally together. It is for people who wish to evolve habits, values and understanding that promote inclusive, fulfilling ways of life.
The Wheel offers participants a journey of personal and collaborative discovery about their needs. And about their assumptions, attitudes, opinions, beliefs and intentions. The things that inform and drive their actions and identities. Through questioning, appreciative reflection and dialogue, the Wheel evokes agency – shared commitment and action towards worthwhile improvement.
The Wheel opens pathways for people who seek openly considered collective agreements for living sustainably, and who wish to energise a fruitful culture of refreshment and reaffirmation, to contain and relieve emergent challenges to communal accord.
What is the Wheel’s Purpose?
The Wheel of Wisdom interrogates difficult questions from its eight perspectives. Questions that defy conventional skilled advocacy and knowledgeable answers. Or ones that lie entirely beyond any known response. In the face of all that is complex and uncertain, the Wheel serves to evoke and activate effective personal and collective decision making.
Wisdom is an innate, shared human quality. It is always present in potential, but often excluded by voices of advocacy for divided interests. In current culture, wisdom has to be worked for, discovered, distilled and agreed upon together. When recognised and accepted, wisdom can become embodied for affirmative action.
Diversity and discord can be found within a person, as much as within a group. Using the Wheel, people can experience the diversity of their own inner voices, which may act at different levels of consciousness, and show conflicting personal reactions to common questions. The Wheel of Wisdom supports an individual’s journey of awareness; their search for, discovery and expression of their own inner coherence.
In strategic decision making, the Wheel helps to ensure that a full variety of perspectives has been deployed to test the quality and viability of alternative courses of commitment.
By insisting that all the voices, both inner and outer, of participants in the circle are heard, the Wheel optimises the process of reaching inclusive, consistent and robust agreement. This upholds the integrity and wisdom of the person or group that is undertaking the practice.
How is the Wheel designed?
The design of the Wheel of Wisdom is inspired by the indigenous Council, which itself arose from direct human experience of the scope and compass of our natural world. It is quite natural to explore and question matters in the round. People instinctively come together in circles to consider common interests and share stories. The basic design follows an age-old pattern that has been repeated world-wide in many indigenous cultures.
Here is the core of this framework.
Light, the uninhibited fire and vitality of creative spirit, and source of all life, rises brilliantly with the Sun in the East.
Nurture, the evolved care and healing of our abundant Maternal Earth, that sustains life and willpower, lies where the sun comes to rest, in the West.
In the South there is power, fluidity and swift flow of Water, holding the fluctuations of adventurous sensing and force of emotion.
North is for the Air, overview of flight, seeing, observing, sensing the whole with Heart-Mind; with seriously playful, determined capacity to accomplish what is needed.
The picture below captures the basic arrangement of relationships. It maps the universal essence, the essential needs of life itself, in an arrangement of elements that came together in the Northern Hemisphere.
Fire, Water, Earth and Air are recognised as the both the symbolic and practical foundations for all life in many if not most cultures.
These are aligned with the human elements of Spirit, Emotion, Body and Mind.
In this design also the elements are conceived equally in their male and female aspects, together in every direction, held always in dynamic balance.
On to this underlying form, The Wheel of Wisdom maps eight creative human archetypes, shown as vital Roles of Leadership:
The eight Roles follow in sequence from the East:
- East: Disruptive Genius
- Southeast: Peacemaker
- South: Pioneer
- Southwest: Pathfinder-Narrator
- West: Steward/Chatelaine
- Northwest: Oracle
- North: Strategist
- Northeast: Guardian of Transformation
Role Design and Meaning
Each Role personifies the energy and disposition of its particular perspective in the Wheel.
Each Role comprises an equal balance of male and female being.
The Roles are innate and distinctive qualities of human leadership, with which everyone has natural affinity, and for which people can usually find valuable expression.
Each participant can
- Study, find and connect with the energy, intelligence and understanding of each Role within themself
- Adopt and enact each Role, to bring fresh insight, thinking and emotional resonance to the current inquiry
- Question their inquiry from the inner essence of each perspective, for the new and original revelation that this generates
The stimulus for this approach comes from an appreciation of the variety of guises in which people may show themselves. Humans are natural role players, and can benefit from exploring variety and cultivating virtuosity in lively, well embodied role play.
How does the Wheel work?
The Wheel is a journey of discovery. In the course of an important quest for understanding, it stimulates reconnection of vital, different and necessary elements of self, and generates a thought-through forward path.
The personal-developmental and the collective-collaborative weave together on this journey, because of the nature of the questions from each perspective that they encounter.
In its simplest and most rapid application, the Wheel of Wisdom is an effective means for a person and/or group to open up fresh thinking with new ideas.
Applied to an important personal quest, the Wheel offers a deeper and more integrative emergent experience, which can develop significantly with repetition.
In a collective quest, a group can learn about itself, its ethos. It finds intrinsic skills, evident and latent, that it can call upon to resolve the internal and external issues that it has to deal with. The group learns that every voice matters and has value to contribute. With persistence the group will bond, becoming a greater entity than the sum of its members, as it creates better ways to attain better outcomes of its work.
What is required?
This Tutorial is for a facilitator’s advance learning and preparation. For online work everything needed is provided in the Facilitation Guide, which you can download and work from directly with your participants. You can share this Tutorial with participants, too, if you want to.
The time allowed and pacing for sessions needs to be planned according to the weight of the question at hand, and the depth of inquiry that it calls for.
(Indigenous tribal Councils could last for a couple of weeks or more, although in western culture it is rare to find any wisdom ceremonies taking longer than a day or two at most.)
In this author’s experience, good work can be accomplished in a day. Introductory work can be done in half a day, with one to two hours minimum for a taster session.
An online session with the Wheel of Wisdom can be tailored to the time available, with a practical minimum for an introductory experience of around two hours. It is essential to allow for healthy restorative breaks in the incessant focus that online work entails.
It may be helpful to begin with a taster session, and then to negotiate a more substantial time commitment to collaborative wisdom work, on the back of the lived experience.
How is the Wheel of Wisdom put into practice?
The steps to begin are….
- Appoint a Servant Listener
- Bury your Weapons
- Prepare a Question, Personal or Shared
The precise sequence of these steps becomes a matter of judgement at the time, in the context of the work to be done. All steps need to be accommodated.
This title is given to the facilitator of a session to remind everyone of the role and qualities that are appropriate for guiding the Wheel of Wisdom in use.
The Servant Listener holds a highly responsible, gracious and respectful presence that is in many aspects equivalent to that of a Zero Chief with an indigenous Council.
The Servant Listener does not participate in or contribute to the work itself.
- holds and explains the Wheel of Wisdom process,
- honours and sustains its quality of awareness in the present moment;
- lightly introduces each Role;
- guides people using the Wheel,
- maintains respect for the process and for all participants,
- listens attentively to every nuance, both said and unsaid;
- encourages freedom to explore and discover;
- holds Presence for the whole journey;
- keeps the process on track.
Bury Your Weapons
Note: if time is short this step should be omitted. This practice needs just enough time, space and sincerity so participants can free themselves to deepen the meaning of their session with the Wheel. For some it can be a sensitive and tender experience to suspend and/or release the pressure of immediate personal concerns. If the purpose of the session includes finding personal alignment with a quest of more than practical significance, time for this step becomes necessary.
This ceremony recalls an old indigenous practice where, along with their actual weapons, the people would bury with them whatever distractions and resistances they happened to be carrying, consigning them into the healing care and safety of Mother Earth:
Distractions and serious cares, such as family, work, friends, obligations, agendas, health issues, etc.
Resistances and sensitivities, such as insufficiency, antipathy, competition, enmity and divisiveness, etc., –
- To do this, participants find a place in private – somewhere outside, if possible, is good.
- Take a small stick, stone, leaf, or other symbol – something natural – to stand for all that they wish to let go of at this time.
- Place all concerns, unwanted feelings and tempers into this symbol to set them aside.
- Then ‘bury’ it somewhere in a safe spot, with honour and love and gratitude.
Then re-join the virtual circle.
Prepare a Question
The most valuable aspects of any question will be its clarity and openness. Clarity brings the energy, urgency and meaning of a quest into focus. Openness frees enquiry to create and explore new perceptions.
The Wheel can be used with a single person to explore a personal question; with a group to explore personal questions confidentially in parallel; or with a group to explore a shared question.
The question, the quest, for a session online is placed physically or virtually at the centre of the Wheel. Where people are exploring personal quests in parallel, the shared purpose is placed in the centre.
Prepare a Personal Question
The participant needs to find and express their personal quest. Let her or him ask themself:
What is my most pressing issue in life right now?
What quest(ion) forms in my heart?
How strong is my passion for this?
Have them write their question clearly and concisely on a plain sheet of paper, to be placed notionally at the centre of the Wheel. Strength, urgency and clarity of intention – the more the better – show up in framing the question. An open form: “How can…” or “What is needed for…” keeps enquiry open.
Prepare a shared Question
If a group meets at the Wheel with a shared purpose, this purpose needs to be expressed as a shared question. An open form, e.g., “How can…” or “What is needed for…” helps to keep enquiry both specific and open.
According to circumstance, there may be several legitimate issues within the group that all have claims for urgent group attention. The group can only deal with one question at a time, and the work’s integrity requires the active agreement of every participant to the question that the group chooses to work with. In such a case, use the Ten Stones Method to arrive at a clear, concise, and fully shared question.
Ten Stones Method
The ten stones method provides a simple inclusive way for a group as a whole to decide what question, among all pressing possibilities, to take to forward for its consideration at a particular moment. Such that individual concerns are integrated into the group’s choice.
Step 1 – have everyone present write down the most important life question they hold within themselves at this moment [or the most important question they are holding about the topic of the gathering they are in].
Step 2 – have people pair up to share their personal questions and to create a question for the whole group to consider. Use breakout rooms online. These group questions, made as clear and concise as the authors are able, can be written on A4 paper with a broad marker pen for easy reading by the group, and gathered in a chat box, for example. [“How can..” or “What is needed for..” often make good beginnings..]
Step 3 – all the questions are placed in a notional circle for everyone to look at. Online, this will need to be shown on a shared screen – electronic labels on a whiteboard, for example.
Step 4 – if any questions look the same or very similar, with the authors’ agreement, they can be joined or rewritten as one. It is important to state that all questions have equal validity, and we now have to choose one of them to consider as a group in this session. Step 5 is how we do it.
Step 5 – people have 10 virtual stones each. Each person casts their stones: 4 on the question they most want to consider now; 3 on the next; 2 on the next; 1 on the next.
Step 6 – when all the stones are cast, they are counted for each question. The question with the most stones is the one that goes forward for group consideration.
If in the event the totals for a couple or more questions come close, and the questions show similarity, it gives an opportunity to discuss with the authors what amendments to their respective questions could bring their proposals into alignment. If this is not possible, or the difference is significant despite similar stone counts, another 10 stones round will be needed to make a clear choice.
The group can then assemble to check-in with itself. Have participants voice simply,
‘Who I am; Where I am; How I am right now; My intention for this event’.
One by one, the voices draw the virtual circle into shared presence, an energised field of inquiry which forms a ‘vessel’ for the coming journey.
Sit with the Wheel of Wisdom and Begin the Quest
Begin with meditation to settle participants calmly into an appreciative presence.
The Servant Listener introduces the Wheel, explains the process, repeats the shared question when there is one, or repeats the purpose of the session, and opens and explains the first Role of the cumulative journey, the quest in hand.
When introducing the Wheel, it is worth simply numbering and naming each Role in turn from No 1 in the East, as set out above and in the Facilitation Guide. (Resist any temptation to over-explain; allow participants to make their own discoveries with the material presented to them.)
The question/purpose should be repeated in full, kept in view and repeatedly referred to throughout the session.
The Servant Listener leads and times the process which is repeated in the same way for each Role, to enable participants to
Open the energy and its meaning
Sense reflectively into the Role, activate its perspective within themselves
Respond to the questions that each Role asks
Note their insights/perceptions, and findings in discussion
Record recommendations revealed in their interaction with each Role
The slides for each Role in the Facilitation Guide are repeated below for convenience. The notes below each of them expand on the Role, to add illustration, and to aid further appreciation and understanding of how their perspectives function in the Wheel.
The notes to the slides are for a Servant Listener to use resourcefully, in a way that may best apply to the particular work in hand. They are intended to amplify the content of the slides in both a visionary and practical manner. It is clearly important to align the kind of explanation given with the nature of the particular question in the Wheel at the time – never forgetting that male and female essences work equally together in each Role.
The Servant Listener should also note that, although the Roles of Leadership inquire and speak in sequence, they witness everything, and maintain an active, energetic presence throughout every session.
The facilitation slide provided for each Role of Leadership shows the following:
The number, place in sequence and colour of the Role of Leadership.
The Evocation suggests the embodied quality and energy of the Role’s perspective.
The Intent shows the Role’s particular energetic perspective.
The Questions hold its power for the common good of the quest in hand.
There is a trap to beware of, that can happen when thought acts from separated perception or from an isolated standpoint.
A couple of possible human representatives are suggested, to assist an embodied association with each archetype.
[Note: the associations made of Roles with real people are intended as indicative and illustrative talking points only. Avoid the trap of any tendency to treat them more seriously than this, which could distract participants from their current quest.]
1 Disruptive Genius
Disruptive Genius is fired up by the Life Force of Creation, which is wholly original, completely free from any prior condition of any kind.
In its very essence this energy playfully, magically disrupts, upends, turns around ideas, thinking and assumptions that already exist.
The Wheel begins with this big challenge of innocence; to imagine and work creatively far away out of any preconceived limitation.
Participants may have to dig to unearth their passion, their innate, transformative, visionary Disruptive Genius.
The trap here is that even faint senses of entitlement, or of some kind of cultivated or knowledgeable superiority, can ensnare the playfully creative Disruptive Genius.
By contrast, Peacemaker sees and appreciates what is without any distortion or distraction.
Peacemaker observes clearly, acutely and generously the manifest state of things, with mindful curiosity. Perceiving how the situation and its ramifications actually exist in the present moment.
Passion is every bit alive, and still; with every bodily sense alert in calm, watchful awareness, moment by moment. There is no judgement, no selection, just direct unbiased, uninfluenced immediate perceptual awareness.
Peacemaker holds a mindset of abundance, in a benign and caring universe, in which everything that is needed can be actually and immediately available.
It may also be true that for many reasons a situation is denying access to the potential abundance that might otherwise be found. This can give energy to the current quest.
The trap opens with denial of natural abundance; a sense of lack increases apprehension and clouds perception.
Thankful appreciation for open, unpossessed awareness, frees the source of insight.
For Pioneer, Disruptive Genius’s lively vision for what could be stands right beside Peacemaker’s unequivocal awareness of what actually is.
The contrast can’t be ignored; it offers opportunity and calls for initiative. So arises a richly challenging adventure – in parts stimulating, enchanting, daunting, thrilling and risky.
Pioneer has a chance to reflect on physical, emotional and spiritual preparedness for what may be emerging in this journey.
Obstacles, some foreseeable, others not, arise in any quest, and call upon various intelligences and strengths, along with balance, trust, affection, endurance, wit and playful resilience.
The trap catches people in emotional overplay; whether of power, which can run undue risks, or anxiety, which can inhibit enterprise.
With an appetite for adventure, and fascination for the journey, Pioneer becomes adept at navigating unusual terrains and troubled waters.
Pathfinder-Narrator seeks out, explores, discovers and articulates a true path for guidance.
With this perspective, the quest finds clearer form, fashioning its dream of emergence and becoming tangible.
Certainty is always elusive, for at every turn there are myriad possibilities, and chance happenings may intervene.
Pathfinder-Narrator’s Role is to enliven emergent purpose with a strong, creative and adaptable narrative. A story that hears and braids together the lives and dreams that are joined in the quest. A story that is resourced from learned experience, and reaches out, into a future that it may be helping to discover as its destiny.
The trap seeks to beguile and waylay travellers with an overwhelm of choice, an infinity of tempting possibilities.
The call of true purpose resides in the narrative that imbues it. Pathfinder-Narrator takes up the challenge to sing out the unfolding pathway, to illuminate its coming into being.
Steward/Chatelaine looks to resourcing the narrative. Every quest needs sound, well prepared, effective and ready resources to serve, nurture and energise its strength of purpose.
Resources of learning, skill and understanding, tools for creativity and resolving difficulties. Resources of relationships, companionship, wellbeing and healing. Resources of value, trust, confidence, sustenance and wisdom. Grounding in nature, along with material, homely resources and artefacts. Things to get valuable things done.
Participants need also to travel lightly, be nimble on their quest, free from unattended baggage and unhelpful attachments. Free from encumbrances that might have served former quests, but are still tagging along. A call for housekeeping and storehouse management.
Steward/Chatelaine provides a material, earthy balance to the numinous, fiery Disruptive Genius on the Wheel opposite. A stimulating contrast for the journey in hand.
The trap enslaves people with over-attachment to burdens, possessions and obligations that can cling to and drag down the quest.
Oracle looks into time and timing, and the forces and sequences of causation. Choice of timing can make all the difference to the outcomes of a quest’s initiatives.
Oracle views time as the Long Now, an expanded present in which flows and counter-flows of happenings and opportunities open up and close down cyclically, like the seasons, and spasmodically, like weather, or currents and eddies in a river.
Much of this lies obscure, mysterious, emergent, unforeseeable. Oracle brings whole body sensing, awareness and dream-like revelation of the movements and trends of events, of what is newly unfolding, and what is enfolding, dying back.
With attentive practice, perception with intuition can inform a quest with helpful qualities of predictive intelligence. Dancehammering* is a lively, iterative and seriously playful learning practice for spotting, teasing out assessing which opportunities to pursue and those to leave alone.
Oracle’s sense of the flow of things, contrasts and balances with the state of things seen by Peacemaker, opposite on the Wheel.
The trap is to overrule the promptings of insight, and to struggle on with ruthless disregard for difficulty.
[* this term from indigenous practice is included for the lively visual image it can stimulate.]
Strategist pulls together all the threads, discoveries, values and resources of the quest journey so far. Strategist crafts an optimal, wholly conceived, clear, capable and integrated course of action for accomplishing and fulfilling the quest.
Any endeavour is bound to include some significant uncertainties, and, equally, there can be no hesitation once the choices are made, and the decision agreed; for without participants’ complete commitment the cause may fail.
This needs a wise and uncorrupted foundation for the vision, strong values-led conviction behind the plan, with whole-hearted commitment of participants. Heart first, rather than head first.
Courageous, wise, accurate and necessary action flows from this. Once begun, there is no turning back.
Emotional resonance and power from Pioneer, opposite on the Wheel, play their part in this, too.
The trap is to commit rigidly, forcing actions forward, allowing no tactical deviation from the adopted plan.
At this critical point, the Wheel inserts a pause for reflection and review, before agreed action can be embarked upon, as follows next.
8 Guardian of Transformation
The Guardian of Transformation safeguards, enlivens and protects the quest’s energy; its delicate structures, values and vulnerabilities; its power, vitality and integrity.
Life is continually transformative, subtly woven and interconnected; the Guardian of Transformation’s role is to maintain and protect all living processes from harm, now and for future generations. Essential for any enterprising endeavour to thrive.
Guardian of Transformation makes a searching examination of the proposal received from Strategist, which reveals the quality of work and intentions from all the Wheel’s perspectives, that developed in the quest, and were observed from its beginning.
Every voice must have been heard fully, openly in its truth, without bias from any distorting value. The life-affirming quality of every commitment needs to be tested and confirmed.
If anything at all falls below this impeccable standard, there is a need for further process. Otherwise risks can accelerate unacceptably. If there are doubts, another round of the Wheel could be needed.
The trap entices participants to move from sensitive discernment to cerebral judgement, which can stifle and close down creativity.
More Possible Role Models
If time allows, it can be helpful, and fun, to explore more of the likely affinities that real people may share with the Role of Leadership archetypes, as participants have come to know them.
Here is a list to prompt discussion, to which participants can add plenty of their own suggestions:
Martin Luther King
John G Bennett
The Dalai Lama
Carl Gustav Jung
When the Roles have spoken
Servant Listener facilitates harvesting and summing up
What is the learning? What flows from it? Is more work needed?
As best they can at the time, participants need to draw their conclusions together, to summarise for themselves:
what has happened; what has been achieved; and what follows.
In spite of an emphasis that all voices speak and are listened to, it is quite possible that some shy or hidden ones could have eluded the process. People new to the Wheel may need some experience to trust it, even to discover voices they may not be fully aware of.
Much of the outcome may emerge later, therefore, as people digest the insights and reflect on their experience, and as the power of it works through each psyche. The Roles do not necessarily cease to speak when the session has finished.
It is the Role of the Guardian of Transformation to recommend appropriate further work. A single online session with the Wheel can be valuable. Further and repeated application in a project will allow much greater development of this method’s transformative potential.
The Servant Listener’s role at this point, however, is to facilitate the conclusion of the session, so that participants can maximise the value, personal and shared, that they take away from the experience.
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