Native American ethnographer, Robert Vetter, says the medicine wheel can also teach us how to approach life. This is done in four stages, with each stage relating to one of the four directions: The first step is sacrifice. A sacrifice is necessary to overcome a crisis. Contrary to western thought, where we try to get something for nothing, Native American spiritual teachings stress that when we want something in our lives, we must pay for it deeply. In former days, sacrifices involved cutting off strips of skin or fingers, while today they usually consist of fasting, and going out alone on vision quests to confront one's fears.
The second step is prayer. In the Native American spiritual traditions, people pray deeply for what they need. During a sun dance, for example, a person may fast, pierce their skin, and dance for days for someone in their family who is sick.
The third stage is transformation. Vetter notes that there are many stories of miraculous healings that take place spontaneously as a result of prayer.
The fourth step is most important and least known. This is the stage of thanksgiving. When a person is healed, there is an obligation to give back to the community. "In the case of Robert Vetter's adopted grandfather, Pahdopony," he says, "Whatever it was that healed him would become the power that he would use in healing other people for the remainder of his days."
Brother Soaring Eagle reminds us that the medicine wheel is a powerful object that has inspired noble acts in the United States. The U.S. Constitution was founded on its principles. And towards the end of the Second World War, Roosevelt based the United Nations on its doctrine. Basically, the medicine wheel says, 'I respect your views; you respect my views. I would never do anything to hurt you because, in fact, if I were to hurt you, I would be hurting myself.'
Unlike Indians who were able to attain full peace during the time of the alliance of nations, the world today is constantly at war. Brother Soaring Eagle believes that embracing the principles of the medicine wheel, and teaching them to our children at an early age, will prevent arguments and wars. "Instead, we will have a way of understanding each other, just like the Indians did for 150 to 200 years. We will know how to take responsibility for what's happening to us, instead of blaming it on outside circumstances."