• Susie Csorsz Brown

The wolf you feed

Perhaps you’ve heard this legend before. Perhaps not, but it is a perfect illustration about mindfulness and tuning in.


A legend: An old grandfather is trying to teach his grandson about life. His grandson has come to him with anger at a friend who he feels has done him wrong. The grandfather sympathizes, telling him that he too has felt a great hate for those who have taken much with no sorrow for what they have done. A grandfather continues, “Remember this: hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking a poison yourself and wishing your enemy would die. Instead, the poison afflicts you, and does nothing to your enemy. This is a struggle every man must go through in his life. It is as though there are two wolves fighting inside us. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, guilt, disgust, inferiority, false pride, self-pity, arrogance, and ego. This wolf is full of anger, and the littlest thing sets him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, and for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”


“The second wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with others around him, and does not take offense when no offense is intended. He is all good emotions: love, acceptance, kindness, hope, acceptance, serenity, humility, benevolence, generosity, compassion, truth and faith. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.”


The grandson is quiet for a moment and then asks, “Which wolf will win?”


And the grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”


Some suggestions for feeding that second wolf:


Play with your kids.

Read with your kids.

Make a list of 5 things you like, and carry it with you. When you feel anger or sadness, pull out your list and look at it to remind yourself why things are better than they seem. Refresh your list regularly.

Smile at least once an hour.

Give genuine compliments by focusing on the beauty in others.

Show and embrace joy. Sing, hum, dance, be spontaneous.

Do something someone else will enjoy.

If you tend to see the glass as half-empty, actively practice optimistic thoughts. Write them down if you have to. Do this every time you catch yourself saying or thinking something negative.

If you do a wrong to another person, apologize sincerely.

Become involved with a charitable organization. Give because it feels good, not because you want the write-off.

Be kind to all animals.

Turn off the television. Go outside and spend time in nature. Be in awe of what is around you. Show your kids that there is room in this world for wonder and magic. A flower will open with as little as a few drops of water and sunlight.

Take the time to listen to another. Don’t just wait for them to stop talking so you can have your say. Instead, really tune in to what they have to say.

Sometimes a friend needs an ear, and sometimes a hand. Offer both without expecting anything in return.

Focus on your opportunities and potential, even when mistakes happen. Learn from your mistakes, and grow, looking forward instead of focusing on the past.

Choose empathy. Choose compassion. If you have the opportunity to make a positive difference when someone else is struggling, make the effort to do so.

Choose gratitude. Think about your blessings regularly. Pay attention to the good in your life.

When another person wins, congratulate them, and honor their effort. It is not always about you, or your relationship to the game.

Honor your emotions, the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to acknowledge the uncomfortable emotions, too, and it helps us to better appreciate the positive ones.


These are all actions that feed that second wolf. But wait, there is more.


The story of the wolves goes on… because both wolves will always be there. This applies to our emotions, behaviors, habits, and every other aspect of our life. We can’t banish the negative feelings we have; we need to acknowledge them, and understand them. Only when we aare strong enough to live comfortably with these negative emotions can we move forward past them.

Negative thoughts happen. Negative things happen. Negative incidents happen. Not all humans are kind, and the truth is that none of us are living in a state of pure bliss. What we can do is to act in spite of those negative feelings or hard times. By taking those fears, those worries, those doubts and moving forward anyway, we are feeding the second wolf.

The story goes on: The grandson is quiet for a moment and then asks, “Which wolf will win?”


And the grandfather answers, “The one you feed.” The old Cherokee goes on, “If you feed them right, they both win.”

“You see, if I only choose to feed the second wolf, the first one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and will always fight the second wolf.”

“But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the second wolf is happy and we all win. For the first wolf has many qualities — tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking–that I have need of at times. These are the very things the second wolf lacks. But the second wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.”

“You see, son, the second wolf needs the first wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life.”

Acknowledge your first wolf. Give it the attention it seeks. And some suggestions for feeding that second wolf:


Play with your kids.

Read with your kids.

Make a list of 5 things you like, and carry it with you. When you feel anger or sadness, pull out your list and look at it to remind yourself why things are better than they seem. Refresh your list regularly.

Smile at least once an hour.

Give genuine compliments by focusing on the beauty in others.

Show and embrace joy. Sing, hum, dance, be spontaneous.

Do something someone else will enjoy.

If you tend to see the glass as half-empty, actively practice optimistic thoughts. Write them down if you have to. Do this every time you catch yourself saying or thinking something negative.

If you do a wrong to another person, apologize sincerely.

Become involved with a charitable organization. Give because it feels good, not because you want the write-off.

Be kind to all animals.

Turn off the television. Go outside and spend time in nature. Be in awe of what is around you. Show your kids that there is room in this world for wonder and magic. A flower will open with as little as a few drops of water and sunlight.

Take the time to listen to another. Don’t just wait for them to stop talking so you can have your say. Instead, really tune in to what they have to say.

Sometimes a friend needs an ear, and sometimes a hand. Offer both without expecting anything in return.

Focus on your opportunities and potential, even when mistakes happen. Learn from your mistakes, and grow, looking forward instead of focusing on the past.

Choose empathy. Choose compassion. If you have the opportunity to make a positive difference when someone else is struggling, make the effort to do so.

Choose gratitude. Think about your blessings regularly. Pay attention to the good in your life.

When another person wins, congratulate them, and honor their effort. It is not always about you, or your relationship to the game.

Honor your emotions, the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to acknowledge the uncomfortable emotions, too, and it helps us to better appreciate the positive ones.


“Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowledge that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance.”

“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

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