In this medicine story it is very important to keep in mind that all characters are parts of ourselves inside our own skin.
The people did not trust each other and were not friendly to one another.
We can often be mean to ourselves, even calling ourselves names. “Now why did I do that? I’m an idiot.” or “I shouldn’t have said that! That sounded stupid.”
They all had heard about a very powerful person who live by the river. This person could straighten out all problems, but no one wanted to admit that they had any problems. So when they needed help, they had to sneak down to the river so no one else would see them.
Our ability to comfort ourselves and solve our problems is hidden from us. It is common in Native tradition, regardless of tribe, to go down to the river when we want to be alone or when something is troubling us.
One day, a little boy and girl came back from the river and started talking about the person who lived down there. The people all acted like the children were lying, even though they all knew they were right.
Sometimes we may tell ourselves we are capable of facing anything but then we hear ourselves say we are deceiving ourselves. Sometimes we may tell ourselves we have a god-like, powerful quality, and then we hear ourselves say we are being ridiculous.
The children got scared and felt like their own mother and father did not know them. The people were so disturbed by what the children said, that they packed up camp and moved away, leaving the children on the prairie.
When we deny our inner child and our own wisdom, we leave part of us behind as we go to deal with our daily life of work and chores.
As the boy and girl sat alone crying, an old man coyote and an old woman coyote came to comfort them. They gave them a lodge and fire to keep warm and then fed them some buffalo meat. Then they explained that they were the person by the river. The children could then see that they were not coyotes, but that they were just wearing coyote robes.
The inner elders are sometimes unrecognizable to us at first. We may attribute their wisdom to some other external source. The elders comfort the inner children. They provide for them and nourish them just as they did when we came to them for help in the past when they were down by the river.
The boy and girl say that when they went to the river, all they saw was themselves there and the old man and woman say that yes, that was true. The children were confused until they realized that the old man and woman were their own reflections. The old man and woman took off their coyote robes and gave them to the children. The children wanted to go find their people to give them the coyote robes.
They discovered that they themselves were the person by the river. Now the children had to find their people to give them this teaching, that they are also the person by the river. The teaching is symbolized by the robes.
The next day the children found their people and they offered them the robes, but coyote robes were very common and no one was interested. Finally, one kind man and one kind woman took them and tried them on. As soon as they did, the man told everyone he could see buffalo in the North and South. The woman said she could see buffalo in the East and West.
As soon as we have a little wisdom, we see knowledge all around us that we eagerly want to acquire.
Some of the people wanted to go hunt in the East, while others wanted to go West. Another group argued that the best hunting was in the North, while still others said it was in the South. They fought over which was the biggest herd and they would not stop arguing.
Parts of us want to go learn the knowledge of the North, wisdom. Other parts are more interested in the knowing the West, the physical body, and introspection. Still others want to learn the East, knowledge and enlightenment. The rest want to learn the South, music, art, and emotions. All are powerful and important but equal. To become a well-rounded individual our experiences needs to encompass all directions on the wheel of life but we cannot learn it all at once.
The boy and girl tried to tell them that they were only tricking themselves. They would see if they would just put on the robes. The people decided the trouble was all caused by these four, the boy and girl and the man and woman who first put on the robes. They decided to kill them.
When we first see this wisdom we are excited by it, then easily discouraged and decide it is easier to go back to blissful ignorance. The work of learning all four directions is too difficult, too complicated, too time consuming. It is easier to kill the desire.
They rush in to the center of the camp to get the four but when they get to them and the dust clears, they find the boy and girl have been turned into a flowering tree and the man and woman are two mountain lions who run to the North. The people decide to go after the mountain lions and kill them.
The desire for wisdom cannot be killed. It hides from us when necessary in order to keep it’s fire burning.
The people follow the tracks of the two mountain lions until they turn into the tracks of four. They follow these tracks until they discover they have gone full circle and are right back at the flowering tree.
The tracks represent balance. We must learn to balance our desire for knowledge first. We must understand that we cannot learn everything in any one direction all at once. It is like when tightening screws around a large circular object. When trying to secure a large, flat metal object to another it cannot be done by fully tightening one screw after another around the edge. That will make it off-balance. You may decide to tighten one in the North a little first, then the South, then West followed by the East. Then you move on to the non-cardinal directions. Then you must go back to the North and fully tighten it, followed by the other screws. If you tighten the first screw all the way, the large flat circle will not be level. Our learning is similar.
The people talk, asking one another why they were doing what they were doing. No one really knows, they say they were only following one another.
We are so busy with our daily life, working to make a living, taking care of our families, we do not remember why we decided not to follow the path to better understand our own mind, why we do what we do. Finally we do question our choices.
Then the people heard singing and they looked to the North. They saw a White coyote.
We look to wisdom and we “get it”.
Then they looked to the South and saw a red one.
We start to understand our emotions better.
Then they looked to the West and saw a black one.
This makes us feel physically stronger.
Then they looked to the East and saw a gold one.
We have begun our path to enlightenment.
They learned the songs the coyotes were singing and together and they were happy.
We learn the lesson of balance within each direction more fully and we begin to experience happiness. The lessons are like a spiral, we go around and around the different directions, moving further up in our personal evolutionary path. We learn to balance the needs of the little boy, the little girl, the man and woman and the wise elders. It is when we get out of balance that we falter, stumble and can fall down. We can become out of balance more rapidly and more easily if we do not practice exercises to maintain our strength.