Which one will win?
Whichever one we choose to feed.
I recently discovered a blog feature written by Tara Brach (an American psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation) on the Huffpost dated 1st August 2013. I found it useful as she has pulled together the practice of mediation with the ancient Cherokee legend about a tale of two wolves.
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said “my son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson though about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather which wolf wins. The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one that you feed.”
Since the discovery of my husband’s adultery I can relate to this battle as I have felt as if these two wolves have been running around inside my head. Initially, I can’t recall the good wolf at all! It was just the bad wolf. I raged with anger and resentment and my pride was battered. I felt totally at the mercy of my emotions and actually felt entitled to have them. Of course, I WAS entitled to have them. Betrayal is the most difficult experience that I have encountered (and I have had my share of life’s challenges) so of course it was going to stir up my deepest fears and anxieties. However, although I felt entitled to feel them I was aware that they were killing something inside of me. What my husband and Pig Shit may have started, I was actively finishing.
With this nagging thought I began to think about whether I could choose to think differently. If I could choose to think in a way that would benefit my healing rather than fuel the fires of the affair. This Cherokee story kind of supports the view that we can. Each wolf is fed daily by the choices we make about how we think about ourselves and our circumstances. It’s not difficult to go along with the idea that what you think about and dwell upon will influence your behaviour. Feed the Good Wolf and it will show up in our character, habits and behavior positively; feed the Evil Wolf and our whole world will turn negative and like poison, this will slowly eat away at our soul. As Brach so eloquently states:
It’s easy to feed the fearful, angry wolf. Especially if we’ve experienced great wounding, the anger pathway can become deeply ingrained in our system. When our old sense of injury or fear is triggered, the intolerable heat and pressure of anger instantly surge through us. Our attention gets riveted on the feelings and thoughts of violation and all we want is revenge.
For me, the only road I could see was one of meditation. I can’t remember how many years I have been practicing mindful awareness and meditation but although I am lacking in discipline to do it regularly, I have, through experience learned how beneficial it is at calming a stormy mind. When I had nobody to turn to and the shame of what my husband got up to threatened to isolate me completely from my own life – I turned inwards. I think that along with researching as much as I could about infidelity, adultery, monogamy and marriage, the meditation that I have practiced has been key to being able to heal myself. But the results are not sudden and it sometimes feels that I have taken one step forward and two steps backwards.
It will be two years on Sunday since D-day. I still have a long way to go. Forgiveness still eludes me but that is how it is and perhaps essential to recognise. As Brach suggests “to forgive someone prematurely, we usually succeed only in papering over our anger and underlying hurt”. What I am becoming increasingly aware of is the responsibility that I have to myself and the need to make choices that reflect the care I have for myself. Reading Tara Brach’s blog has helped me to understand that I am not on my own in this respect:
Many people in my classes and workshops have said that when they stop feeding the angry wolf and instead open to their own vulnerability, it feels like a homecoming. As one person put it, “Instead of focusing on the person who hurt me, I started down a path of freeing myself.” We can either “get back” at someone and let the wound fester, or attend to self-healing. Feeding the angry wolf may come more easily, but learning to stay present with our inner life connects us with our goodness
For me, I have no idea what meditation actually does. I sit still and try to focus on my breathing. If I haven’t done it in a while I can only muster ten minutes at best. When disciplined and doing it on a regular basis I can comfortably sit for up to 45 minutes. Sometimes it is excruciatingly difficult, close to impossible! Crazy, when you think about how easy it is. But, I persevere. No gold stars for effort but over the past six months I have definitely sensed green roots growing. I am healing.
Image Credits: The Wolf by Evgeni Dinev; Native American Indian Headgear Side by vectorolie; Seat In Quiet Room For Meditation by nuchylee; Stones Stacked by suphakit73; all courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com