Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Parable of the Two Wolves


There is an old parable that circulates from time to time and also turns up in a lot of books. The last time I remember seeing it frequently was right after 9/11, but lately I have seen it two or three times in books I am reading.

I just came across it again in the new book from Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, so here is a slightly different version than the one she uses:
An old Cherokee chief was 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, self-doubt, and ego.

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

"This 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 chief simply replied, "The one you feed."
We all have this same choice in every moment of every day - and what we choose to do determines the kind of men we will be. But most of us have gotten proficient at empowering our negativity and insisting on our rightness - it's hard to break those habits and step onto the path of choosing wisely. Chodron says we all have the three basic skills necessary to feed the good wolf:
This path entails uncovering three qualities of being human, three basic qualities that have always been with us but perhaps have gotten buried and been almost forgotten. These qualities are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness.
So, what do you choose? Which wolf are you feeding?

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