Choose the Wolf You Feed
In most days there are moments I feel like a dark, raging storm and in other moments like a burst of sunshine that could burn through any fog. There are times when I hear myself thinking negative thoughts, saying things that I know will hurt someone’s feelings, acting in ways I am not proud of. I also see this duality of emotion and action in people around me, both those close to me as well as strangers on the street or in the news. This leads me, and maybe some of you, to wonder, what is the innate nature of humans? Are we programmed to act out of fear, anger and greed? Or is the thing that truly makes humans unique our ability to act ABOVE these base emotions and reside in a higher realm of creativity, love, and forgiveness?
When these thoughts cross my mind, or I find myself in a self-aware moment when I recognize the destruction I am causing, I am reminded of a Cherokee parable…
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other 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 you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In this tale I hear the lesson of being able to choose in each day and each moment what attitudes and outcomes I feed. And what does it mean to “feed” a certain wolf? For me it means I get to choose my thoughts, my words and my habits that will cultivate the person I ideally embody. I don’t expect myself to be perfect in this pursuit, but I can take the step of recognizing that I have the power to CHOOSE how I act in the world. This plays out in my life as choosing yoga, choosing patience, choosing dialogue, choosing healthy foods, choosing fresh air, and choosing work that builds people and communities up, rather than tearing them down.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I also choose to embody gratitude. To notice all of the little blessings in my life and pause each day to say “thank you”.
Which wolf do you feed, and how do you feed it? The first step is to notice your habits, and then recognize you have a choice - you have the power to live your life in any manner you choose.