The Wheel of Life: Ancient byzantine wisdom for modern mindfulness

The Wheel of Life: Ancient byzantine wisdom for modern mindfulness

Imagine stepping into a 13th-century church and discovering a fresco that holds the secret to living a more mindful life in the 21st century. This isn't fiction – it's the reality of 'The Wheel of Life' in Milies, Greece.

As you enter the narthex of the Church of Taxiarches in Milies, Pelion, the scent of centuries-old incense lingers in the air. Soft candlelight dances across the walls, illuminating the intricate details of a masterpiece that has captivated souls for generations.

The monk's 33-Year labor of love

Known as "The Wheel of Life," "The Wheel of Fortune," or "Rota Fortunae," this unique fresco is a rarity in Orthodox Christian churches. An anonymous monk from Mount Athos spent an astounding 33 years (1741-1777) creating this masterpiece, encapsulating the transient nature of earthly existence.

Decoding the Wheel: A journey through time and self

The fresco is divided into three concentric circles, each layer revealing profound insights:

  1. The innermost circle portrays the four seasons
  2. The middle circle displays the twelve zodiac signs and corresponding months
  3. The outer circle features seven male figures representing the seven stages of human life, from birth to old age

This intricate design serves as a powerful reminder of life's cyclical nature: birth, life, death, and rebirth.

The king's moment: A lesson in humility

At the zenith of the wheel sits a middle-aged king, seemingly at the peak of his power and glory. Those on the left side of the wheel strive to reach his position, while he remains oblivious to the impending decline that awaits him on the right side. This poignant illustration serves as a stark reminder of the transient nature of power and success.

The struggle and the summit: A lesson in impermanence

As we contemplate the Wheel of Life, a profound lesson emerges from its circular narrative. Throughout our lives, we often find ourselves striving relentlessly to reach the top - be it in our careers, social status, or personal achievements. Yet, the fresco reminds us that the summit is fleeting, a brief moment in the grand cycle of existence.

The king at the zenith of the wheel serves as a poignant reminder of this truth. His moment of glory is a transient phase, soon to be followed by inevitable decline. This realisation invites us to question: Can we not approach our goals with a sense of peace and acceptance, knowing that no position is permanent? Perhaps the true wisdom lies not in desperately clinging to the peak, but in embracing each phase of the journey with equanimity.

The Wheel of Life challenges us to find contentment in the climb itself, to appreciate the lessons learned and the growth experienced along the way. It encourages us to hold our achievements lightly, prepared to let go when the wheel turns, as it inevitably will. 

This perspective doesn't diminish our ambitions but rather enriches them with mindfulness and wisdom. It invites us to pursue our goals not with frantic urgency, but with a calm understanding of life's ebb and flow. 

Where are you on life's wheel?

Take a moment and imagine yourself on this ancient Wheel of Life. Are you climbing towards your goals, basking in success, or perhaps facing unexpected challenges? Wherever you are, remember - it's all part of the journey.

🔄 Climbing up? Embrace the struggle - it's shaping you.

👑 At the top? Enjoy it, but prepare for change.

↘️ On the way down? This too shall pass...

The Wheel of Life isn't just an ancient fresco - it's a mirror to your own existence. 

Remember, life isn't about staying at the top forever - it's about making the most of every turn of the Wheel. Where are you now, and how will you make this moment count?

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Alina Daliani
Alina Daliani

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