Variations on a Native American story are making the internet rounds again, the latest for me paraphrased from a book by Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap (Shambhala Books, 2009). A boy asks his grandfather (after 9-11),”How can there be such evil in the world?”
His grandfather explains that each of us has two wolves struggling inside him. One is filled with anger, greed, self-pity, envy, arrogance, ego and false pride. The other is full of understanding and compassion, holding caring, kindness, joy, peace, hope and serenity.
The boy than asks, “which wolf will win?” The old man replies, “which ever one we feed the most.”
And this is the sort of question I ask myself, “Which one am I now feeding?” Frankly, I don’t remember to ask it often enough. Perhaps this is what a spiritual or moral path is: knowing to ask the question as well as how to answer it.
The practice comes up most often in responding to not-so-important details in my life. Driving in traffic is a common one. I am quite aware of how inconsiderate and unconscious other drivers can be. There is nothing like feeling in the right, to encourage me to feed the angry wolf. It is not that the anger arises; that is natural. It is my feeding it or not that defines the spiritual choice.
The other day, remembering this as I was stuck behind two, double parked trucks blocking the road, I was able to return to attending my breath, releasing the energy caught in frustrated anger. It helped to recognize there was nothing I could really do but wait. And you know what, realizing that, letting go of my breath, it was over fairly quickly. What is more, it felt much quicker than it would have, had I fed my anger.
So, do you consciously make such choices? What things helps or hinders you do so?