Which Wolf Do I Feed?

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I am deeply saddened to be writing this blog after a week of heartbreaking tragedy and terror in our country.  In times like these, I always think of this beautiful old Cherokee tale, The Tale of Two Wolves, which reminds me that I always have a choice of how I want to respond to the world, how I want to be and how I want to act.  It is in these moments that we all have a choice:  “Which wolf do we feed?”  

While it is impossible to make sense of these senseless acts of violence, there are simple things we can do to create a world and a life that we want. Here are just a few ways to help us through these difficult times:

(1) Feel and Heal.
It is often tempting to react with the same hatred and anger that we see in the world.  Or, we want to distract ourselves from or ignore what is so deeply painful.  However, when we numb ourselves to our emotional pain like anger, sadness and grief, we also numb ourselves to our positive emotions like love, compassion and joy. Instead of avoiding strong feelings, we can learn to acknowledge what we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel them fully.  And, just as we would comfort a child, we can hold space for ourselves with that same tenderness and understanding that we would hold for a child who is hurting or in pain. Why is it that we so easily offer this comfort to others but are less inclined to offer that same compassion to ourselves? We can remind ourselves, just as we would remind a child, that these strong emotions are only temporary. We can allow our emotions to be felt, and in a very important way, we can be grateful for having a sensitive and compassionate heart capable of feeling the suffering of ourselves and of others.  Then, we can harness that energy stemming from love and compassion to help heal the world. 

Here are three Guided Meditations on SoundCloud that can help you feel and heal. 
Meditation on Anger
Meditation on Sadness
Finding Peace - Letting Go of Resistance to What Is

(2) See the Good.  
In the midst of such grief and tragedy, there is also incredible love and beauty.  In fact, there can be no grief if there is no love.  Love and grief are so deeply intertwined that even in the depths of sorrow and loss, we can feel our hearts fill with love and compassion.  

On Sunday night, I went to a beautiful Renewal and Healing Service with hundreds of people who felt drawn to come together to remember the innocent lives lost in Pittsburgh. As we grieved together and grappled with this senseless loss of life, along with our pain, we also felt a deep sense of community and immeasurable love. This shared sense of humanity and acknowledgment of the frailty of human life reaffirmed our commitment to making this world a better place, rooted in the firm belief in the strength of the human connection, love, and compassion.  And, that is the wolf we want to feed in times like these.

(3) Take a Break - Connect with Nature.
One way to take a break, feel renewed and get out of your head and out of the endless attempts to understand something that is beyond comprehension is to simply shift your focus from your head to your heart. The power of nature is undeniable and a wonderful way to connect to something beautiful and good. Simply go outside and take a walk.  Breathe in the fresh air. Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Take in the beauty of the world that is all around you. Feeling nature’s healing power can help you reconnect to the good in the world.

As I write this blog, I see beautiful autumn leaves, glowing orange and red, shining brightly under the morning sunlight.  It is simply breathtaking. Taking this in helps re-orient me to right now, and connects me to the beauty right in front of me.  And that helps me feed the wolf of peace, beauty and love that is always there, we just need to stop and notice it.

(4) Kindness Matters.
Ask yourself, “What is the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me?”  Seriously, stop and ask yourself that question right now.  Take a moment to really think about it.  What has someone done that has deeply touched your heart?  The answer may surprise you.  

It is often not the biggest things that make the most impact on our lives, but the small acts of kindness that matter most. A phone call from a friend, a hug, the kindness of a stranger.  Take a few minutes today and do something kind for someone. Notice how it makes you feel.  You never know the impact that your kindness may have on someone.  It may make all the difference in the world. These acts of kindness and generosity of heart are how we will heal the world and spread love and compassion.  That is the wolf we want to feed.