Dreaming the Medicine Wheel
“Every fiber of my being tingled, and I felt a tremendous force pulling me toward some unknown destination.” – Syd Banks
What started out as a rustic camping vacation ended as a spiritual thunderclap. I suspected that I was guided through life by an unseen force, and after this thunderclap I never again doubted. Knowing this has sustained and delighted me since, in even the choppiest of storms.
The crack of thunder occurred during a life chapter that I think of as “my great lostness.” I was separated from my late husband. I had pressured our marriage with expectation and dissatisfaction until it broke under the strain. I was living paycheck to paycheck. I lived in a mucky morass of melancholy thinking, a quicksand of sadness that sucked my energy. I felt like a failure as a woman, wife and mother.
Yet, I was experiencing a flow of synchronicity that seemed to be spiraling toward a more authentic, cosmic spiritual understanding. It was as though the more lost I had become the more insistent wisdom was in exerting a pull to keep me from drifting over a cliff. Ritual, words, and beliefs were gradually giving way to a deeply felt experience of love, an understanding of life, potent enough to guide my behavior and heal self-induced injuries.
My daughter, her best friend and I had just finished the loop trail through Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Endless soaring spires and eroding buttes separated by deep fissures painted in muted earth colors had captured our attention for hours. Our trip, which began in West Virginia, was to include stops at Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park in Montana. I was exhilarated to be on a “girls-only” camping trip and also a little nervous about being so far from home shepherding two young women. We pulled into the park office and bookstore to round out our visit on this stop.
While the girls sifted through souvenirs, I browsed the book racks, absently paging through items about the area’s history and geography. My lazy attention was called to arms, and I felt a subtle current drawing me to a section of Native American writing. I responded to the pull and stood quietly, scanning titles.
The pop of the cash register and the murmur of visitors washed into a backdrop of shelves, curio, and two-bit souvenirs. I remember thinking it was getting late and that we should get on the road so we could make camp before dark. It was a challenge to pop a tent, build a fire and cook a meal without natural light. My gaze caught a bright yellow book entitled, Mitakuye Oyasin, and the instant I saw it, I thought, “this is why I came here – to buy this book.” A chill fingered my spine and I felt a tingling throughout my body. I had no idea how the title translated. Turns out in the Lakota language it means, “all are related.” I lifted the book from the shelf.
I was familiar with the concept of “oneness”. But I would call my familiarity at that point “head knowing” not “heart knowing.” This book fused Native American wisdom, Jungian psychology, metaphysics, and neuroscience. It was right up my alley, so I bought it. The book, by Dr. A.C. Ross (Ehanamani) had been reviewed by a senator, a French archeologist, an administrator at the Edgar Cayce Foundation, a German mayor and a Canadian University dean. The diversity of the testimonials intrigued me.
Leaving the national park, the girls and I climbed in our bright red Plymouth Neon which was loaded to the gills. Our suitcases and cooler were in the trunk. Our camping gear was in a car top carrier so full I could hardly snap it closed. We were heaviness on wheels. I put the pedal to the floor, and we headed towards Wyoming. We were in God’s country – the only car on the road for miles.
And then, the shit hit the fan. The car lights went dim. The air conditioning quit. It was nearly 100 degrees and we were sweating. From the back seat, the girls belted out the song “How Bizarre” by OMC. “Brother Pele’s in the back. Sweet Zina’s in the front. Cruisin’ down the freeway in the hot, hot sun.” I joined in. The singing raised our bravado and provided slim cover for my anxiety.
We limped into Sheridan, Wyoming and pulled into a car dealership right at 5 PM. My dumb luck.
“We’re closed,” the service manager said. “Please, I’m on the road with two teens and the aircon and lights aren’t working.” He got in the car and fiddled with the dials. “Yep, yer right. They ain’t workin’. ”Why is it that men think women are idiots? I thought. Tell me something I didn’t already know!”
“Pull ‘er in the service bay and I’ll look at ‘er first thing in the morning. There’s one motel in town about a half mile down Main Street.” He gave us five to pull some clothes and toiletries from the trunk. The steel door of the service bay shrieked down behind us as if to say: and that is that!
The hotel was like a mirage in the desert, an up-scale Best Western Conference Center. The girls were beside themselves – goodbye tent, sleeping bags and pit toilets; hello hotel room, luxurious beds and hot showers. After a swim, they hit the hay. I battened down the hatches and snuggled in to read Mitakuye Oyasin.
That night, I dreamt that a luminous and powerful Native American medicine man, a long black braid flowing down his back, dressed in full indigenous regalia, flew me over what looked like a giant white stone wheel embedded into the top of a mountain. He told me I must visit the Medicine Wheel, no ifs, ands or buts. He told me the wheel would help me understand how to move gracefully and without fear along the circle of life.
The wheel was huge and suffused in light, radiating an extraordinary, magnetic energy that pulled me toward it. I wasn’t frightened. I was awe-struck, soul-blinded. The dream was so vivid, so full of potency, I woke up abruptly in a cold sweat. “What was that about?” I wondered. “and what is a Medicine Wheel?”
Sleep eluded me, so I opened up Mitakuye Oyasin. Mid-way down page 75, the print words catapulted out of the whiteness: “the Big Horn Medicine Wheel is located in Wyoming.” I pulled out a map. We were less than 70 miles away!
In the morning, the girls and I walked back to the dealership. The service manager jiggled like he had ants in his pants. He admitted that my car’s electrical system had been belly up yesterday. He said he had checked it out with a fine-toothed comb. Sheepish, he said it was right as rain today. There was nothing wrong with the car, no charge. How strange was that?
We had been stopped just long enough for me to discover that we were an inch on a map away from a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the most revered indigenous spiritual sites on the earth! It’s a National Historic Landmark. I was astonished and skeptical
“Are you sure the car is ok?” I asked. “We are headed up to the Medicine Wheel.” “Holy Shit, lady,” the service man said. “No sane person would drive such a loaded car up Medicine Mountain!” He let some pressure out of the car’s tires so they wouldn’t explode in the thin air at 10,000 feet. That should have given me pause, but it didn’t. Come hell or high water, I was getting to the great Wheel.
What actually happened at the Medicine Wheel is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that my honoring of intuition, synchronicity, and the wisdom of a dream paid dividends.
Gradually, I would set my life to rights. Gradually, I would see that all is one, that all are related. Gradually, I would walk the circle of life with head, heart, and voice in greater alignment. Gradually, I would trust that the circle of life moves in perfect motion, always, toward wholeness.
Photo: DC_Columbia, iStock