May 30, 2018As is often the case when I feel conflicted, I think of one of my favorite stories to help set me straight.
I don't recall how I first came across the tale, which involves a conversation between a Native American elder and his grandson.
The moment I heard it, I ran for pen and paper. I had to write the moral of the story down to remind me of its truth. The note remains posted on my refrigerator, and in my book of readings for yoga class. A reminder of the simple, universal truth that I am in charge of my own thoughts, and that they are the one thing in life that affects me the most. And the one and only thing in life that I can control.
Negative thoughts create negative feelings...fear, anxiety, jealousy, resentment, anger...and ignite the mind until it's a raging landscape of fire.
The dark thought loop zaps our energy, steals our light and can propel one to self-destructive behaviors, fueling self-doubt and even self-loathing. It becomes pervasive—a way of life for our entire culture. Just look at the headlines or the way our leaders are speaking to each other...
It takes an effort to reverse what seems to have become habit. Awareness of the tendency to cling to negative thoughts and toss out negative barbs is the first step in breaking the cycle.
It takes a commitment, as well as effort to break the pattern, so when I find myself going down that road, I think of the Native American story.
It's called 'Two Wolves,' and it goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
"A fight is going on inside me," he says 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 continues, "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," the grandfather says, "and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thinks about it for a minute and then asks his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replies, "The one you feed the most is the one that grows the strongest."
Our culture has become a pit of negativity. It has become commonplace to dis our institutions, our leaders, our system, our laws or lack thereof, and perhaps most importantly, to sling barbs at each other. To "throw shade" as the young people say.
It's not so easy to switch it up and find the good—but it's necessary if we are to survive and more importantly to thrive.
Which wolf will win? The one we feed the most is the one that grows the strongest. It begins and ends with each and every one of us; with each thought and word and gesture.
The wolf we feed the most is the one that grows the strongest.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.