Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.HARRIET TUBMAN
In 1849, twenty-something Harriet Tubman became concerned she was about to be sold and made her escape. Heading north toward freedom—alone—with a sometimes debilitating brain injury. While she was denied education, she could not be kept from studying the stars and applying a cultural understanding of constellations, plant life, and bird migrations to her quest. Tubman traveled by night, navigating the journey from Maryland to Pennsylvania with the aid of the North Star. Later, as a Conductor of the Underground Railroad, Tubman returned about a dozen times to facilitate the escape of seventy others, including her elderly parents.
When the Civil War broke out, Tubman joined the military, scouting, spying, nursing, and leading raids. On June 19th in 1865, a few weeks after the surrender of the confederate army was completed, Union officials marched through the streets reading a general order stating: In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. Tubman is famously quoted as saying, “God set the North Star in the heavens. He gave me the strength in my limbs. He meant that I should be free.”
The North Star is a metaphor that helps us live with purpose by following our unique calling to make the world a better place. We can so easily lose our way in the events of the world or the demands of family and work. However, we can navigate through the distractions better if we have a point of reference to come back to. Plus, psychological research has shown that people with a clear life purpose live longer and experience life as more fulfilling.
This year’s Juneteenth observance aligns with the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and a time for reflection. It seems fitting to invoke a four elements ritual to honor the past, connect to ourselves in body, mind, heart, and soul, and recommit to a future where we can make a difference. Grab a pad and a pen – draw 2 lines in the middle to divide it into four quadrants – label them west, south, east & north. Find a place (outside if possible) where you can sit quietly and orient yourself to each of the four directions in turn.
- Sit Facing West – The setting sun reminds us of all who have gone before us. Reflect on their legacies big and small. What are you grateful for? Turn inward and ask yourself, “what sets my soul on fire?” Contemplate and journal on this prompt.
- Turn counterclockwise to the South – The south represents migration, chaos, change, and transformation. Follow your breath as you scan your body for tension from head to toe. See if you can identify its source. Ask yourself, “what needs to change?” Contemplate and journal on this prompt.
- Continue to the East – The rising sun represents new beginnings, ideas, and inspirations. Think of a time when you experienced great joy. Ask yourself, “what is my heart’s desire?” Contemplate and journal on this prompt.
- Now turn to the North – The North Star represents certainty, it is always there to help us find our bearings. Consider the values that you hold dear and ask, “what is my truth.” Contemplate and journal on this prompt.
When you are finished. Soften your gaze. Sit for a few minutes with a focus on experiencing the elements with your senses, the light and shadow, the cool or warm breeze, the feel and smell of the earth, and the birdsongs…Come back to your paper over the days and weeks ahead as you work to define and refine your North Star.