Embracing Polarities: The Story of Two Wolves

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Healthy Relationships, Personal Growth

As events in our world get progressively unpredictable, it’s more important than ever to lean into exceptional self-care and to deepen our connections with one another.

We are faced with daily choices between seemingly opposing forces:

  • Fear or courage?

  • Self-sabotage or self-care?

  • Numbing-out and freaking out or connecting in meaningful ways with ourselves and others?

  • Choosing sides, or integrating opposites?

For me, the path to inner and global peace is about building bridges, cultivating compassion, empowering the most generous, calm, life-affirming, courageous and creative parts of ourselves.

It’s about cultivating a willingness to be uncomfortable without freaking out.

It’s about focusing on what we can control, not everything outside of our control.

It’s about focusing on what deeply matters – community, kindness, reaching out, laughing, settling in, being in it together, healing relationships, healing trauma, living from the wisest and most eternal part of ourselves as we understand it.

And, it’s also about being in life-affirming relationships with everything that scares us, hurts, and frightens us.

I am reminded of the Cherokee story about the two wolves, and want to share the ecologically-informed one here for your contemplation:

The (Lesser Known) Story of the Two Wolves:

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 destructive – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is loving – 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?”

Usually, 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 person who has peace inside has everything. A person who is pulled apart by the war inside, 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.”

–Cherokee Story

May each of you find fortifying and nourishing relationships to lean into during these tumultuous times, and the courage to face all polarities that need balancing in our world today.


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