Twenty years ago, when I found myself moving through a dark time, my medicine teacher told me a story that has stuck with me ever since. It had such a profound effect on my outlook that I always keep it in mind, and I share it with my students a few times each year. Using a simple parable, the story reminds us that how we see the world is always up to us.
In the story, which has been passed down from generation to generation, a grandfather and grandson sat in silence, staring into the fire. Reflecting on the nature of life, the grandfather looked at the child and said, "There are two wolves that live inside each heart, and they fight each other all our lives. One is full of turmoil and anger and jealousy and hatred because it feeds on fear. The other is full of peace and hope and compassion and joy because it lives on love."
The evening passed, and the fire burned down. "So, which one wins?" the boy whispered.
The grandfather's eyebrows rose as he replied:
It takes practice to control which wolf we strengthen. The fear wolf begs for nasty little tasty thoughts about the world around us, and when we try to lean him down, he digs up fresh regrets and rotten old reminders. He roots around for negativity and sniffs out fattening bits of fear. The love wolf, on the other hand, noses gently for attention. Trusting us to nourish her, she waits to get her share.
In the end, it's up to us to be conscious and to examine what we're thinking. We must realize that we have a choice and ask ourselves which wolf we feed.