the two wolves within

Posted on 1 Sep 2017

the two wolves within

Once a year my family and I travel up the coast to a remote spot in the Transkei to be surrounded and nurtured by natural beauty at its best. On our last trip, we stopped off at the wolf sanctuary outside Knysna on the way up. This is where I was reminded of a wonderful story which so clearly explains the two natures within each of us.

So, this week I decided to share that story with the Mindful Minis. There are many versions of the same story but the version with the Cherokee elder is the one I like best:

A group of Cherokee children in North America gathered around their grandfather. They were filled with excitement and curiosity. That day in their village there had been a lot of shouting between two adults. Their grandfather was called to mediate to help bring peace.

One of the children asked a question that puzzled him. “Grandfather, why do people fight?”. The old man thought about it for quite some time and then replied: “Well, we all have two wolves inside us, you see. They are in our chest. And these wolves are constantly fighting each other”.

The eyes of the children grew bigger as they listened. “In our chests too, grandfather?” asked another child. “And in your chest too?” asked a third one. He nodded, “yes, in my chest too”. Then he definitely had their attention.

The Grandfather continued. “One of the wolves is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. The two wolves fight each other all the time inside of us”. The children pondered this for a moment and then one of them asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The old man smiled and simply said, “The one you feed.”

Well, this story certainly grabbed the attention of the Mindful Minis! One little guy asked me what is the colour of these wolves inside of us. Bless him. But on the whole, the children did seem to understand that it is an analogy for the two natures that live within. When I asked the children what we could feed the kind wolf to make him stronger, the answers ranged from dog pellets to hamburgers, but one Mindful Minis said: “Use him. If you use him, he will get stronger.” So wonderful. I loved that explanation. 😊

So, we discussed some examples of everyday things such as helping a sibling, caring for a pet, sharing toys to examples on the other side like teasing someone, or shouting at mom or dad, or moaning. I asked the children to decide whether these acts would feed the kind wolf or the angry wolf. I was very aware not to term them the “bad” wolf and the “good” wolf since I always tell the children that there are no “bad” feelings. What we feel is what we feel. But there is a choice in how we act when we feel a certain way. I encouraged the children to, in this coming week, take a moment to think before some of their actions to decide whether they will be feeding the kind wolf or the angry wolf. This is a way to encourage awareness and a conscious response, instead of a reactive one.

We then moved onto a guided visualisation, where I took the children into a magical garden. In the garden, there were containers filled with all different types of seeds. But these were not ordinary seeds. They were special, magical seeds – seeds of hope, love, inner peace, calm and joy. I asked the children to each take a handful of seeds that they felt they needed more of in their lives. I encouraged them to imagine themselves planting the seeds and watching them sprout and grow into tall, healthy plants. I suggested that at any time, the children can come back to this magical garden to admire some of the qualities they have planted and to plant new qualities that they feel they might need.

So, after the visualisation and our mindful minis mantra, each child got stuck into the artwork and “feeding” their kind wolf with qualities they felt they needed more of in their lives. I had dyed some lentils with food colouring so there were actual seeds of calm (blue), seeds of joy (orange), seeds of hope (green), seeds of inner peace (silver) and seeds of love (red). The children glued the seeds onto their pictures and then added other colourful bits and bobs resulting in a wonderful collage of a kind wolf that had been fed well.

I hope that in the week ahead you will refer back to the analogy of the kind wolf and the angry wolf, and that you will ask your children from time to time to stop and think about which wolf they are feeding.

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