Posted by jlubans on September 15, 2014

I often use the “Human Compass” as an ending activity in my seminars and classes. When everyone has his or her say it usually goes pretty well; taking time for that to happen is essential to its effectiveness. I use the compass to help focus participants’ thoughts, individually and collectively, on where they’ve been and where they want to be; a thoughtful summing up and beginning.
The Human Compass is based – in an admittedly New Age take – on the Native American Medicine Wheel tradition. I got the idea from “The Outward Bound EARTHBOOK; a Field Guide to Environmental Concerns.
How does the Compass work?

Caption: Explaining the Human Compass at the Leading Change seminar.
Prior to the ceremony I mark, with my pocket compass, the four directions. I do not want to mess up by facing East when the direction is actually the South or the North. And – here’s the new age bit - my knowing the actual orientation deepens, at least for me, the meaning of what I am doing. The simple compass and its points – in this e-world – helps ground us, helps connect us to nature - the earth, and to the reality - the sky, around us.
At the start, to set a reflective mood, I quote Chief Seattle: “What is man (or woman) without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit.”
I then tell them that I’ll be describing each compass point and that they should listen closely because I will ask them to move to their place in this circle, in this wheel.
Caption: I use drawings (made for me by Librarian & Graphic Recorder Carol Vollmer) as mnemonic devices for the listener and me.
Starting with the East – where everything begins - I describe the meaning of the compass points.
“Yellow is East. The home of the Eagle. The place where things begin. We experience illumination here - the sunrise - springtime, spirituality, perception, and intuition. We are inspired here. The eagle lives here, seeing clearly from far away.”
I then place the picture on the compass point.
Continuing, I identify the other compass points and leave a picture at each point:
“Green is South. The home of the Mouse. Feelings and emotions are honored. Human relationships are nurtured. How we relate to others is highly valued….”
“Brown is West. The home of the Bear. We are rational, analytical and introspective….”
“White is North. The home of the Buffalo. We face challenges and hardships with courage and wisdom … pushing on through thick and thin.”
I sum up the finished circle, telling them that all parts of the circle are equal and necessary to make us whole and in balance. The human compass is, after all, the circle of life.
Then it’s their turn. I ask, “Where are you in the circle? Move to it.”
Caption: Where are you in the circle of life?
When everyone is located, I ask each: “Now, tell us why you are there. It’s OK to be silent.”
Caption: The go-around.
After the last person has spoken, I tend to pause and look over the circle in silence, taking in what everyone has said. Then, I make another request: “Now, move to where you want to be next on this wheel and tell us why. It’s OK to be silent.”

Caption: Explaining the move to the future.
After each has spoken or not, I take a moment to reflect. At my most recent Human Compass, the one in the pictures, I thanked the group for taking part. I then told them about a part of the ritual I usually skip: a tradition among the Lakota Sioux that after each person has spoken for everyone to strongly say, “Ho!”, in affirmation and support.
“So, I can say to you, “Ho!” Not missing a beat - out under the rain clouds and near the forest and pond - the group responded back, “Ho!”
I’d not expected that; it made for the perfect ending.

NOTE: For the “Laimes Ligzda”, Pārmaiņu vadība: Leading Change seminar, August 25-28, 2014, I had the support of translator extraordinaire Rasma Mozere. Her translation into Latvian of what I said about this Native American tradition had everything to do with the participants’ understanding and engaging.)

@2014 Copyright John Lubans.
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