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The Circle of Life

From the day we arrive on the planet
And, blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
'Til we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life

“The Circle of Life” from The Lion King

Nature provides an endless example of the circular cycle of life. We are reminded of our constant connection, always giving, and taking, to and from our environment. Like a tree dropping its leaves to the ground to compost and support next season's new growth, life flows in a continual cycle.

Most Native American traditions have some form of Medicine Wheel, often called the Circle of Life, symbolizing the natural cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. This flow is easily observed in the cycle of a plant from seed to fruit and the changing of the seasons.

Ancient traditions worldwide include a type of walking labyrinth, a serpentine or circular path that is often made of stones or hedges. While concepts and the purpose of the labyrinth varies, the standard practice involves slowing down, becoming present, and taking a journey to the center to pray, meditate, and leave our burdens. Continuing the journey back along the path, and exiting with greater wisdom, clarity, and awareness.

In the practice of mindful awareness, we learn to enter this center, this place where all things are possible, and embrace our life journey with greater wisdom and understanding. We can learn to recognize the beauty that is present in both the rising and the setting sun. We can accept the depths of winter and the rebirth of spring. We can rest in knowing, ‘this too shall pass’, and flow with what arrives next.

Mindful awareness is a practice of being fully present in this moment and accepting it as it is, without wanting or wishing it were something else. One way of cultivating mindful awareness is though noticing our perceptions: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

We can focus on the continual flow of sensory input and recognize how our mind and body responds subconsciously to this constant stimulation, and then choose our conscious responses. As we practice, we become aware of the constant ebb and flow of the most subtle experiences of life.

In our daily mindfulness practice we can become aware of the coming and going of breath. We can notice visual images and colors in continual kaleidoscope, and we can tune in to the ever-changing soundscape of our environment. We soon realize, what is present in this moment, may be absent in the next. All things are in a constant state of change, of becoming, both in our inner and outer worlds.

Mindfulness allows us to sit in our center and observe, be present with, and experience this circle of flow. Without the need to grasp and hold onto the experiences that bring comfort, and without the need to resist or push away the experiences that are uncomfortable. Knowing both are coming and going.

Noticing and honoring the circle of life allows us to develop a greater sense of acceptance, trusting in the journey, and experiencing inner peace along the twists and turns.