I was running an all day intensive on giving back to our horses with a group of teenage girls. The underlying theme for the day, is that we can’t give what we don’t have in ourselves. If we want to give kindness to our horse, we need to give kindness to ourselves first. Same goes with patience, contact, connection, affection, nurturance. Of course, the same goes for others in our lives, not just our horse. We need to be able to find this harmony in ourselves before we give it outwardly and for that reason, sometimes we make big changes in our internal self and it can take months if not years for others to notice that we have indeed changed.
Back to the group of teenage girls. During the morning, I had the story of the two wolves come to mind as I was listening to the ladies set their intention for the day. The story can be found at http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html and is as follows.
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice... "Let me tell you a story."
"I too, at times, have felt great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It's like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. "
"It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way."
"But...the other wolf... ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing."
"Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather ?"
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."
The theme of the two wolves within us kept coming back up all day. What I realized was that in a day on nourishing our selves, our lives, our community, we had to talk about these two wolves. If we decide to nourish the wolf that is spiteful, that wolf will thrive in us. If we decide to nourish the wolf that is in harmony, that wolf will thrive in us. We can’t talk about nourishment without talking about what to nourish and what “feeds” these wolves. What we decided was that emotion is what these wolves eat. We have the feeling of frustration and it is up to us which wolf we want to feed that energy to. We can sit back and say, “I am so frustrated that this isn’t working out for me! I hate myself. I hate what my life has become. I wish everything was easier and I am so mad at everyone that stands in my way!” or we can sit back with that frustration and say, “I am so frustrated and I really want things to work out. I am passionate about my dreams. I have a vision for myself. I am struggling, and I need support from my community to help me figure out what to do.”
Thinking more about these two wolves at war in us, I realized that one reason folks feed the spiteful wolf, is that one screams out to be fed. It is often the louder of the two wolves, the one that needs to growl, protect, fight, hurt or be hurt. The harmonious one is actually very quiet in us, and only screams out when in need for justice or out of love.
Next time you are sitting with emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, frustration, nervousness, or hurt, notice which wolf you are wanting to feed and if you really want that wolf to thrive inside of yourself. Don’t hate yourself for feeding the spiteful wolf, for that feeds it even more. Instead, work on forgiving yourself, forgive others, give back and be honest with yourself. The more you hide your spiteful wolf, the more it screams to be heard. Acknowledge that voice within yourself, see it clearly, listen to its words, and then stand up to it and make that decision that you will not be feeding that wolf any longer. That is power. That is loving strength.
Kaia Livingstone is a psychotherapist who runs a private practice outside of Boulder, CO. She specializes in helping horses and humans bond in order to help them relate and connect on a deeper level.