Have you ever read the Cherokee legend of the two wolves? It seems to be doing the rounds again and recently popped back up on my FaceBook feed:
An elder brave tells his grandson about life.
“Grandson,” he says, “Within all of us there is a battle of two wolves.”
“One is evil. He is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“The same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person too,” explained the wise Cherokee.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
Very dualistic, very black and white, but also ‘sweet’ I thought, and moved on. Only, I couldn’t move on. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I didn’t know why. So I went back and read it again. It still had a hold. I turned to my trusted journal to try and bash it out, like I do!
Hmmm! I wrote a list of all the not so desirable qualities mentioned in the story and decided to see how many of those ‘evil’ things I gave time to in my life. It turned out to be quite a lot. Infact, ALL of them! Oh dear (why exactly had I started this exercise?).
So I moved swiftly to the ‘other side’ to hopefully counter-balance my apparent evilness. Only I was shocked to find that this list wasn’t nearly as full as I thought it would be! Nowhere near in fact! There on the page lay the apparent answer to the wolf I fed the most. And it wasn’t the one I was expecting (not happy!).
I tossed the list aside (in anger) annoyed at myself for even starting it in the first place (regret), and sad that the outcome hadn’t been more desirable (sorrow, arrogance, self-pity…..).
It was blatantly clear I needed to give a lot more time than I had been to the ‘good’ stuff. But how? I grabbed the journal back, started at the top of the list, and wrote, ‘How can I bring more joy in my life?’ and waited for the answer…..
Think about the things that have brought you joy.
Focus on how that feels. Rest for a while in that feeling.
Now, what can you do to bring more joy into your life?
That worked! My mood definitely began to shift and very interesting things came out onto the page. So I moved on to ‘peace’. The interesting thing is, the answer was pretty much the same for each: sit quietly, breathe deeply, relax, think about the times when you’ve felt (insert word)……..
I’m not quite so horrid after all! But it was still obvious I needed to practice sooooo much more of the good stuff and waaaaay less of the bad.
Having said that, I’m naturally not an ‘it’s either black or white’ kind of person….more a ‘flowery in between’ type. So I naturally wanted to somehow meet in the middle. If I could learn to be kinder to my faults, rather than take a sledge-hammer to them, (which only left me feeling guilty and yuck anyway), then perhaps I’d learn to be more compassionate to myself. And if I could learn to be more compassionate to myself, then maybe I could be more understanding of other people’s weaknesses (one can but hope!).
It’s certainly been true thus far that the more intolerant I am of my own faults and failings, the more intolerant I am of other people’s.
So perhaps if I can see the not so desirable stuff as my teaching aids whenever they arise, I can actually learn to get to a place of balance somewhere between my weakness and my goodness (preferably more towards the goodness eventually!). And if I can accomplish that, then maybe my relationships will flourish (I’ll let you know!).
In the meantime, let me ask you the inevitable question:
Which wolf do you feed most my friend?