The Burden: Feeling Responsible For EveryoneA sparrow and a lurking cat... Image by suju

Every morning she would rise with the Sun, offer her prayers and ask to be shown the way. The Sun was always happy to hear her voice. Then she would gather herbs and plants by the rocks near the forest and speak to nature.

She was a medicine woman, and her medicine was strong. She helped the people of her village with her doctoring. But sometimes she could not save the lives of those she treated and while she understood this was part of the natural cycle of life, she carried the people and their pain with her.

Now, she stopped for a moment, put down her basket of herbs and knelt by the creek. She hoped the gentle melody of the water lapping against the rocks would comfort her as it had so often before. Tears fell from her face, dropped into the creek and were carried away. If only the creek would take the pain she felt too. Her path was not an easy one. Then, in the water she saw the reflection of an old friend – Bear.

Why are you crying?”

She looked up into his eyes and said, “I am sad, I feel so many people in pain, suffering, and I can only do so much.”

Bear smiled, “What if you ask Creator to help you?”

I always ask for help, but I feel responsible for everyone.”

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Bear’s eyes grew wide and gently he said, “It is not for you to carry this burden. Everyone has their own path, with many things to learn, forgive and understand. You call it karma. I call it life.”

How do I let go?”

You simply ask Creator to take your burden. Lighten your load. This is far bigger than you or any of us. You are a vessel for the Earth and Creator. Remember your healing gifts were given to you by Creator.”

She looked down at her hands, “My grandmother was a medicine woman. She taught me everything I know. I do not want to let her down.”

Bear’s eyes fixed on her as he said, with a serious tone, “This is a big responsibility. You must learn how to carry these things, so you don’t crumble under the weight of your basket.” He motioned to the basket that sat next her.

Bear opened his medicine bag and took out his drum. He started to sing a song low and rhythmic. Raven landed near the creek, watching, listening. Bear got louder, and she felt the air change and the temperature drop. She saw Bear and Raven and the creek and then a rush of light filled her vision. She was overcome with a sensation of passing through time and space at a rapid speed. She lost consciousness.

When she opened her eyes, she could see family members who had passed. She was overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry. They greeted her and shared hugs.

She looked at Bear, “Where are we?”

You know where we are.”

But how?”

It is my medicine that brought you here.”

We have crossed the boundaries of this world and gone into the spirit world.”

Embracing her, Grandmother said, “I have watched you work and give of your energy to those you doctor and heal. It is important that you remember that you do not have the right to carry the pain of others. It is not yours, and it jeopardizes your wellbeing. This is the most difficult part of being a medicine woman. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.” She looked at Bear.

Bear sighed, “I remember many times you took on illness and energy that didn’t belong to you, Grandmother. Raven and I had to bring you back from the place ghosts walk.”

The painful memory crossed Grandmother’s face. She nodded, “It was nearly my death.”

We nearly lost you, we nearly lost you,” Raven chimed.

Grandmother looked deep into her granddaughter’s eyes, “Bear has brought you here, so you can see all of us. Family, friends, people from the village, everyone is here. Look at our faces and see we are at peace, happy and content to be home. We no longer carry the pain and illness we once had. We are free.”

But that doesn’t help anyone at home,” she cried. “I am trying to help them out of their pain and suffering.” Hot tears burned her cheeks as she spoke.

Grandmother put her arm around her granddaughter, “Your gifts are a blessing and I am proud of you. Now it is time to recognize what is yours and what belongs to others. You can help people, doctor them and love them, but you cannot take their pain. Your heart is generous, and your love runs deep like the river. Protect yourself, value your medicine and have boundaries with illness and disease that can plague the minds and bodies of humans. Remember I am always there, helping you and guiding you.”

Seeing her Grandmother, she remembered the time the elder became ill after caring for a sick child in the village. She was only a young girl and the memory of her own mother staying up night after night praying and calling on the ancient ones was etched into her mind. After nearly dying her Grandmother was rushed to Bear’s cave where Bear and Raven brought her back from the ghost realm. It was after that her mother insisted she begin to learn the medicine way from her Grandmother. Tears spilled from her eyes.

She whispered, “Thank you Grandmother, I am happy.”

Raven interrupted, “Time to go!”

Bear grabbed his rattle and started singing his song. Lights passed before her eyes and once again she felt a surge of energy pass through her. As she crossed the border between worlds the images of her family faded. Opening her eyes, she found herself back at the creek as if she had never left. Her body was somehow lighter – she felt relieved.

She lit some cedar and used the smoke on her basket. Bear and Raven sat in silence as she emptied the pain and suffering she had been carrying. She asked Creator to take it all. She said she no longer needed to carry other people’s burdens. She looked into the river realizing the pain of others is not what defines her but rather being empty allows her more room to grow.

Bear and Raven went back into the woods, smiling.

 * * * * * * * *

This story is about the burdens many of us take on in our lives that don’t really belong to us. We all have a tendency to blur the lines and boundaries that are naturally in place for each one of us to deal with our own issues, feelings or karma.

Our society is riddled with a myriad of dysfunctional behaviors and addictions, ways in which we attempt to deaden not only our own pain but the pain of others. And for some highly sensitive humans, appropriate boundaries around what belongs to them and what does not will become muddled.

Taking On Other People’s Complex Feelings and Emotions?

In some cases, especially for those who consider themselves empaths, the story reflects the inclination to take on other people’s complex feelings and emotions. People with extraordinary sensitivity have struggled throughout time with handling the exchange of energies between them and others. For example, it’s often possible to become sad and depressed, or filled with anxiety and fear because we are opening ourselves up to, or picking up on, this energy from another person.

The universal law that energy begets energy suggests that we will carry that sadness and depression or anxiety and fear within ourselves. It becomes a vibrational match. This is why empaths have such a difficult time discerning what is theirs and what is another person’s because ultimately, they are connecting to their own emotional content at a super-high frequency. This makes it even more important that highly sensitive people learn how to ground their energy and not take on the emotions of others. It also becomes clear that all of us need to take responsibility for our own feelings and learn how to ground them.

For me, an empath is someone who feels everything and has a deep connection to a ‘gut feeling’. A healer, on the other hand, has not only empathic abilities but is also gifted with other-worldly connections.

Taking On Other People’s Emotional Baggage?

In this story, the medicine woman is both an empath and a gifted healer who comes from generations of medicine people. She is crying by the river because her basket is filled with other people’s pain and sorrow. The metaphor of a basket simply illustrates what many healers take on inappropriately while caring for others; they often take on their patient’s emotional baggage as well as the burden and responsibility of healing.

In today’s world, doctors, surgeons and medical practitioners carry the burden and expectation of healing their patients from illness, disease and sometimes saving their lives in emergency situations. If they are unable to cure or heal someone, healers also experience loss. The death of someone they are caring for is something healers have to come to terms with and realize that it is Creator’s will, not theirs. By surrendering to a higher power, healers and empaths are more able to manage their emotions so that they are not carrying more than their own.

Releasing the Pain and Emotional Burdens

In the story, the medicine woman’s guidance and counsel come from a character that is found both in Norwegian and Native American lore – Bear. He has the wisdom and experience as a medicine man to help her to see the burden she is carrying and the need for her to release it.

Bear has magical powers and abilities that far surpass the human realm. The fact that he took her into the spirit realm is indicative of her innate abilities as a medicine woman, and that she is ready for this journey. The experience that she has meeting her family and loved ones who have crossed over and are now free of pain and emotional burdens teaches her that even though in her world she cannot always alleviate pain and suffering, there is a place where we are free from human suffering of any kind.

Like the Norwegian mythical characters Huginn and Munnin, Raven not only has the ability to see what is going on, but he is also able to transport through the different realms. He is sensitive to what is happening and often cries the warning that is leading to the truth.

Humans have the responsibility to manage their emotional energy. The powerful palette of feelings we inherit at birth can take us places we never thought possible. When we learn to release the burden of not only our own wounds but others we feel we must carry, we begin the real journey.

©2018 by Sonja Grace. All Rights Reserved.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, an imprint of
Inner Traditions Intl.

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Dancing with Raven and Bear: A Book of Earth Medicine and Animal Magic
by Sonja Grace

Dancing with Raven and Bear: A Book of Earth Medicine and Animal Magic by Sonja GraceDrawing on both her Native American (Hopi) heritage and her Norwegian upbringing, renowned mystic and intuitive healer Sonja Grace shares original wisdom tales, received through her heart and soul, to take you on a journey into the magic of Raven and Bear and the healing power of Earth Medicine.

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About the Author

Sonja GraceSonja Grace is a highly sought after mystic, healer, artist and storyteller with both Norwegian and Native American heritage. As an intuitive healer, she has been counseling an international roster of clients for over thirty years. Sonja's ancestral background is a fascinating blend of Native American Choctaw and Cherokee descent and Norwegian. She has been adopted on the Hopi Reservation, where she is considered a medicine woman. The award-winning author of Spirit Traveler, Become an Earth Angel, and Dancing with Raven and Bear, Sonja has appeared multiple times with George Noory on Beyond Belief and Coast to Coast AM. Visit her website at

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