The Two Wolves – a good reminder

Likely you’ve come across this story. These days, it’s been on my mind as I meet the unknowns of the disruption of COVID-19.

The Two Wolves

An old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The old man looked at the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”  — from “Transforming Lives Through Resilience Education”

As the waves of fear, worry, confusion or denial have risen in me, I’ve relied on my connection with my body and with spirit to breathe through those moments. Walking, breathing, feeling my body’s strength, sleeping when tired, eating when hungry. The unstructured time has allowed me to reconnect with my body in a deep way, resourcing myself. As Mary Oliver writes, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

I’m so grateful for my years as a manual therapist. I’ve learned how this wonderful body coordinates health, how to ground into my immediate physical experience, how to understand stress signals as signs of a body getting ready to meet the challenge — a body attuned to health. All of this helps me meet the various unknowns of this pandemic. Most of the time.

At other times, my fear rises so quickly that it’s like running after a wagon broken free. My sense of self is just behind my body, heart and mouth — panicked– careening down a steep bumpy hill. All spikey adrenaline and grasping. These moments call for a different kind of center, an ‘after the fact’ kind of center. Can I embrace myself and acknowledge that I’m doing my best, even as I flail about – even hurting those nearby? It’s times like these that I sense the deeper wisdom in this story: yes, we grow the parts of us we feed. And sometimes, we need to feed fiercely.

That’s why I love this picture — the fierceness reminds me that the fight is worth it, I’m worth it. Together, we can protect what is most important to us. We can orient our choices and commitments to deepen a sense of connection, health and justice. This is a terrible time, a trying time — and perhaps one where we can come out the other side more connected, more centered. We’re all in it together.