There is an old Cherokee saying about an old man who was teaching his grandson a lesson for life. “Inside each man,” he said, “there’s a terrible fight going on between two wolves. A white one and a black one. The black is all the bad feelings: anger, jealousy, repentance, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, arrogance, and selfishness. The white stands for all the good: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“The same battle is happening inside me and you.”
The boy thought that for a while and then he asked, “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
And the old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed. “
The saying is half right and here is why…
Assuming that the white wolf is light and the other is dark, if we only feed one of them, then we will always have either day or night. In our lives, however, and on the planet that we live in, both exist. I’ll go a bit further with the saying; the wolf that we feed lives, and the other one dies, right? Wrong. Emotions can not be completely erased from our minds or our hearts; if you have not figured this out yet, these are the two wolves, the white heart and the black mind.
The misconception the old man has lies in the word ‘battle’. This alone provides an abruption, one thing that is trying to prevail over the other.
In the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, Yin symbolizes negativity, passivity, the feminine element of nature, the moon, shadow, the hidden, the nebulous, the north side of the hill. Correspondingly, Yang stands for positivity, energy, the male element of nature, the sun, purity, clarity, brightness, the south side of the hill. The circle of Yin and Yang comprises a white area, containing a small black circle, that penetrates into a black area, containing a white circle and penetrates, in its turn, the white area. However you look at this symbol, you see the same thing in a different color, but they are not independent.
Each one includes a piece from the other, and both of them are needed to form the 'whole', which is the circle. If you rotate this circle very quickly it looks like the sun peeking from behind the clouds.
If I was the old Indian, I would have said to the kid that these wolves are walking beside you, one on your right hand and one on your left. The rope you have is only long enough to hold one of them. You must choose who will freely eat, and who will be guided. The secret, however, is that both need to be fed.
As humans, we have limitations to our emotions. If we use only our feelings we will, eventually, be disappointed and suffer; then we will start to use only the path of logic. We will become cold and distant. On the other hand, if logic is our only guide, then we will isolate ourselves, we will not ‘unlock’ ourselves to others and we will end up alone, even though we are not. We will awake our feelings and we will become vulnerable, because we do not know how to use either of them.
The balance of these two seems like a game that we played when we were kids, the seesaw. We had fun, back then, when we stood still on the lower end of the seesaw so the child at the upper end could not participate. They cried, because it was stuck or they were afraid that we would suddenly get off the seesaw, causing it to drop down with speed, hurting them. We did that because someone else did that to us first. But in this game, which is quite boring, those who play it correctly are having fun. Both must go up and down, that’s the only way to get equal satisfaction because it’s impossible to balance the seesaw in the middle; and ‘balance’ is the key word.
In life, we play this game with ourselves and we have to play it correctly because we will get hurt, and it will not be from a scratch on our knee. It is not bad, therefore, to have negative feelings, it is natural. We must guide them, though, and try not to suddenly get off the bottom of the seesaw.
We must have control of them both; we must not let go of the rope that holds the black wolf. We must learn how to balance them. If we only feed one wolf, at some point the hungry one will devour the other. We must control how much the one we hold will eat; we must control how long the other one will stay on the top of the seesaw.
Yes, when we are feeling ‘black’ we must accept it, for as long as it lasts. When it has had enough, when it is satisfied, the feeling will pass. Nothing is permanent.
After each storm, the sea calms down; after each uphill, comes a downhill. After each failure, we gain experience that will lead us to success. After each disappointment, comes a new hope for something better. After each winter, comes the summer again. After each night, comes the dawn.
If nature worked unilaterally, then there would have been only night or day; winter or summer; white or black. If humans were made to live alone, then we would have been all born as females or males.
Balance in our life needs both wolves.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Laurent Maggiore