Yesterday morning I read this story someone sent me via email –
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?”
You might heard the story ends like this: The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In the Cherokee world, however, the story ends this way:
The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.” and the story goes on:
“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.
“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.
“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”
When I read the story in the morning I understood it at the surface level. This story reiterates the teachings of being aware, present, and accepting of what is. Through denying what is we produce suffering, but by accepting and reacting with equanimity we can end suffering.
Last night I started feeling strong emotions of anger and frustration. I was unhappy about how some things in my life were turning out and these emotions fueled each other – more anger resulted in more frustration which then resulted in more anger. I couldn’t even think properly and was contemplating taking some extreme actions, which with a clear mind would have made absolutely no sense.
As I forced myself to pause and take a breather I thought of the Cherokee story and just accepted the frustration and anger for what they were. I remember telling these emotions that I accept them and acknowledge their presence. All of the sudden I got a moment of clarity which allowed me to figure out the underlying cause of these emotions. I clearly understood what I had the power to change and make that change so that these emotions wouldn’t arise again.
In hindsight, I was so very thankful for feeling anger and frustration, because without them I wouldn’t have been able to come to the insights about my own life that will most likely help me for the rest of my life. At that point I understood the importance of the “Negative” emotions, I understood that every time one of these emotions comes around I should be thankful for the opportunity for self development, just like every time I feel a positive emotion I am thankful for the clues that I am living on the right path.
I definitely agree with the Cherokee proverb of feeding both the dogs.