Walking the Medicine Wheel, A Story Told

Peggy Vertrees, BE, RMT, is a Certified Reiki Master/Teacher, an initiate of the Ancient Peruvian Q’ero Shamanic Tradition, an Herbalist, Certified Yoga Instructor, and an Ordained Reverend of the Universal Life Church Monastery. She has spent years studying and practicing Ancient and Current Native Spiritual Practices; she believes that our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves all need to be addressed in order to attain health and a greater quality of life. She is a published author and an aspiring artist.



Long ago there was a young child girl who lived in a small tight-knit village. She had brothers and sisters and her mother and father were attentive parents. This child had many playmates and seemed happy for the most part. Secretly however, she always felt like she was trying so hard to fit in, to blend with all the others. She often found herself sitting, facing the East, watching Grandfather Sun rising over the distant peaks, and she would call out to Wabun, the Great Golden Eagle, Spirit Keeper of the East direction. “Wabun!” she would call, “why do I feel so different from the rest of my people, as though I am always trying to please others, so they will like me? Why don’t I feel good enough just to be a part of the community? This child talked to Wabun every day, asking for help in feeling more like everyone else. Finally, years later, when the child was growing into puberty, Wabun spoke. “My child, you must change your way of thinking, to include all of Life, not just your own small existence. Fly high with me and see a bigger picture; on my wings you will see the connection between all of Life. You must watch the animals and learn from them, and learn the language of plants, trees and the Stone People. See the similarities in life, not the differences. Study and understand what it is you are here to do…it is not to merely please others and try to be what they may think you should be. You are your own best counsel; go forth and explore your gifts and talents. How are you supposed to contribute to the world around you? To learn to think with a Sacred Mind is the gift of the East.”

And so the budding young woman did as she was told; she wondered about in Nature, listening and watching. As the years passed, she began talking with the plants and learning how to grow, harvest and use them for food and medicinal purposes. She often flew with Eagle to adjust her perspective of a situation and she was growing used to seeing from many viewpoints. Her connection to Spirit grew and she began to help others heal with her words, medicine, and Spirit. The people of village witnessed the changes as they took place over the years, and although they approved of her path, they wondered if she were truly happy. As the young woman grew older, she often sat in the midday Sun, facing the South and watching her beautiful Plant Relations blow in the breeze. She began talking with the Spirit Keeper of the South, Shawnodese, Great Coyote. “Oh Great Coyote, I have done as Eagle told me to do; I have learned to think of others and how I am here to be of service. My life is such that I never believed it could be; working with the Plant Nations, walking with the Animals, and helping others along their paths. I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with all I have learned…but Great Coyote, I have no one and I am lonely. My interaction with others has become about teaching and healing… yet I have an empty home, with nobody to share my joys and sorrows. I don’t understand.” One day as the young Medicine Woman sat resting in the Summer Sun, her back against a large boulder, she dosed off. As she drifted in peaceful watery sleep, Coyote came calling; he startled her when she found him sitting in front of her with that infamous shit-eating grin! “Why Great Coyote, you are here!” she said in nervous surprise. (For those of you who don’t know Coyote, he is a great trickster who more times than not winds up getting tangled in his own folly! He comes calling when someone is in need of him pointing out their own self-delusion). As usual, Coyote sat there with his tongue hanging to the side of that infamous shit-eating grin. The woman sat up straight, bowed her head and thanked Coyote for coming, for she was happy to see him, yet a bit apprehensive as well. “You have been howling your sorrow to me for many many passings of the Moon.” said Coyote. “Yet you are the one who has put yourself where you sit!” Blushing at Coyote’s words, the woman replied, “I have done as I was instructed, to think with a Sacred Mind, and to learn my place in this world.” “Yes, and you have done well; do you remember why you pleaded with Eagle to teach you? It was because you felt unworthy of being with your people. You have gone from being afraid of not belonging to understanding your place in this world, yet you still have distanced yourself from others by isolating in your work. The teachings of the South, my daughter is having a Sacred Heart. To learn to live in Faith and Trust and Love; to have child-like wonderment around this magnificent Life! You lay claim to helping others, yet your heart is still afraid and your Faith limited to what you think you can control. Intimate relationships require the courage to look at oneself, to admire one’s strengths and embrace one’s weaknesses. In other words, you must learn to fully and unconditionally love yourself!” The young medicine woman leaned forward, listening intently, for Coyote’s words made her realize that she had been hiding behind her good works, not allowing for personal, intimate relationships. Coyote continued when he saw he had an attentive audience, adding a little flare of dramatics by standing on his hind legs and doing his best to look thoughtful and wise. “Daughter, you can only love others to the extent that you love yourself, and you can only believe someone else’s love for you, to the extent that you love yourself! Think about it.” Just as Coyote was about to continue with his speech, a rabbit running across the field caught his eye. As he took chase of the rabbit he called back to the woman, “Open your heart and believe; you are not meant to be alone!” Unfortunately as Coyote was looking back, he didn’t see the tree he was running toward and crashed into it head first. The woman swore she could see Coyote blush as he grinned that grin and slide off into the woods.

As the months passed the Medicine Woman slowly but surely opened her heart…to herself at first, embracing all she discovered about what she liked and what she wanted to change about herself. And of course there were a few things she just had to accept as ways she may not love, but unlikely to change. She began taking dinners with friends and suitors, going for walks and to village gatherings. The community was happy to see her socializing once again, especially some of the men. Eventually, our Medicine Woman married and had a family; she embraced a wide range of friends and found her healing work more effective and fulfilling. Of course, as with all relationships there is betrayal and sorrow as much as there is joy and trust. As she walked through all the emotions stirred up by relationships, she frequently visited with Mudjekeewis, Great Grandmother Grizzly, Spirit Keeper of the West. Grandmother Grizzly helped the woman sit with her feelings, feeling what she needed to and then letting them go. She helped to learn how to let go of anger and sadness, and how not to take on the things of others, as her own. Medicine Woman learned her own Soul’s calling, her own Truths. Grandmother’s teachings took the woman to places she didn’t want to go, but found healing in the end. The Grizzly was tough and full of affection at the same time. “My sister, you have come a long way in standing in your own Truth. No longer are you affected by the hurtful words and behaviors of those who know no other way of living. You are strong and at peace within your own soul. You take time to care for both the children and the elders of the village; this is good. You spend time alone and time with your husband; this is also good. It is important to remember that you will always travel around the wheel; you will always be learning, healing, growing. I will be here whenever you need me to walk with you into the unknown and help you through the watery depths of emotion.”

The Medicine Woman moved through the years happy and grateful; some said she was protected from tragedy by the Great Spirit. That was until she lost three very important people, in a very short time span. Her best friend died in an accident, her son, in war, and her father to old age. She was distraught and could not be comforted; she withdrew from friends and family and eventually packed some belongings and returned to the hills and woods to sit among the plants and animals that had comforted her in earlier years. When she reached the peak of the highest of hills, she stopped, let down her burdens and knelt on the ground. “I’m done!” she cried. “Do you hear me Great Buffalo, Spirit Keeper of North? I cannot go on loving with all my heart, only to lose those I hold dearest to my heart! What is the point? I have no choice but to live alone so as not to feel this pain.” Waboose, the Great Buffalo shared the Northern direction with the Elders who had learned what there was to be learned here on Earth, and now dwelled in the Spirit World. They all listened to the mournful woman with empathy and understanding. Days passed and still the woman wailed and claimed never to let her heart be broken again. She would live out her days closed and protected. At last she fell into a deep exhausted sleep, and stayed that way for three days. She was awakened by the warm breath of Buffalo blowing across her face, his eyes gently holding hers in a gaze that she could not break. There she found a compassion and understanding that she could hardly tolerate. She wanted to again spew her anger and sorrow, but somehow knew it wasn’t necessary, that Buffalo already knew everything she was feeling; it helped her to relax. “I’m tired Great Waboose. Tell me, how will I ever be able to go back to the way it was before so many loves passed over?” As she continued to look into Buffalo’s eyes, she eventually could see the beautiful faces of the Elders of the North in their reflections. Without speaking, Buffalo’s words came to the spent woman. “Dear one, we hear you and know your sorrow. This is the way of Life, you cannot have it without death. You must accept Life on Life’s terms. How can you know joy without knowing sorrow? How can you appreciate a full belly without feeling hungry? We watch as the world gives birth and lets go of Life; it is beautiful and sorrowful to witness. You too, must decide how you want to participate; you say you have no choice but to close up and protect yourself from loss. This is not true. You can live with gratitude for the time spent with lost loved ones; have gratitude for the deep love and intimacy you felt and shared… all that you learned from them and was able to pass on as well. To live your life in gratitude is to live moment to moment in wonder and presence. You will not go back to life the way it was; it is forever altered by the loss of your family and friend; it can be a happy and good life however. You choose. You decide if you want to close your heart or live with even more love for more people, ever expanding and growing. People will be born and they will die, whether you choose to love them or not; how do you want to live in the precious time you have here?” With that Buffalo slowly turned to smoke and departed on the breeze. Medicine Woman was stunned and a bit ashamed of the way she had waged war against life itself. The way she had appeared so ungrateful.

By the time she returned to her village several moons had passed and her family and friends were relieved and joyous to see her again. She decided she wanted to live with even more love for even more people. She would be grateful everyday for the things Life brought to her. She would accept Life on Life’s terms, without judgment of right or wrong, good or bad…for she knew one could not exist without the other…and Life was as it should be.


Peggy Vertrees


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