One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
You’ve probably heard this story. It comes back to me time and again as I consider my own life and what those around me learn from watching how I live.
As we emerge from pandemic disorientation, there’s so much striving going on these days. So many of us feel pressure to build platforms, climb ladders, covet attention, make more money, be enough.
But to what end?
Our best spiritual teachers remind us over and over that spiritual maturation takes time, space and practice. In Christian tradition, Jesus says that if a person is “worried about many things,” (Luke 10:41) then they cannot have faith.
Not granting ourselves the time and space for spiritual deepening is feeding the “other wolf.” Numb to our soul’s longing, we throw ourselves into the race for “success” which we play through the practices of competition, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, lies and ego. Rarely do we intend this; it’s simply what our culture rewards.
The illusion of this game is convincing us that we are not safe. We do not have enough, create enough, perform enough, invest enough, consume enough. No matter our accomplishments, we are not enough. Our fear drives us in the pursuit of “more.”
Jewish-Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Sylvia Boorstein says that when she gets in this state of relentless striving or struggle, she says to herself, “Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax. Take a breath. Let’s pay attention to what is happening. Then we’ll figure out what to do.”
I love this advice. If you find yourself feeding the part of you that isn’t kind, compassionate, and peaceful, stop. Relax. Take a breath. And then start again, feeding the best of yourself.
Remember, what you feed grows.
We are in this together,
Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Searching for the Sacred: Meditations on Faith, Hope and Love