Two Wolves Live In Each of Us

April 1, 2021 9:18 PM

I like to think of myself as a student of the Universe, open to serendipity, cosmic wisdom, karma, and a higher power. Specifically, I like to think God guides us by putting people we need right in front of us, right when we need them. Perhaps it’s a friend who calls out of the blue and invites you to a gathering to toast an author who just signed a book contract with a publishing house you desperately want to interest in your manuscript. Maybe your mom reminds you of the anise-flavored cookies you loved as a child, and the recipe ends up bringing in gobs of money for your bakery! Or maybe it’s a bit more subtle. Just someone you know, who has interesting stories and now and then says something that lights you up. It’s all God speaking, gently giving us people to offer us wisdom or courage, or maybe just a push in the right direction.

I try to keep my life compass open to change and I try to put a high energy frequency out to the Universe. As a result, a lot of interesting people cross my path. Some of those people spark an affinity that fast becomes a friendship of the heart.

One of those interesting people is Sid. Sid is our “Irish Barista” at Root to Rise, our coffee and juice bar in Port Clinton. I have only known Sid a handful of months, but our souls go deep. He is a witty storyteller, and doesn’t miss many opportunities to offer a wise tidbit. And heaven knows Sid has had more life lessons than most of us!

He lived in Northern Ireland as a youngster, during the Troubles of the 1980s, when the violence between Catholics and Protestants exploded in his neighborhood and many, many died. In his 20s, Sid was a high-flyer, signing on with business and world leaders, traveling the world as a bartender, or sometimes a butler. By his 40s, Sid was drowning in alcohol, but found his higher power and beat the devil rum. Then, Sid’s husband, mother, and father died one after another in the past two years. An ordinary man would be crushed by the hardships, but Sid has huge capacity for gratitude and open-heartedness.

Sid also has a huge capacity for saying “the thing” that will keep me grounded. It’s more than just offering a kind word or a helping hand. He somehow goes deep and puts something in my path that I can pick up and use … or not.  

Earlier in November, Governor DeWine was struggling with decisions on how to keep Ohioans safe during the rising cases of Covid, and those decisions seemed headed toward shutting down restaurants, bars and fitness centers. All my businesses, shuttered in one fell swoop. Again. And the yogis and teachers and baristas .... out of work, again.

I was letting my worry get the best of me, and Sid, in his inimitable way, started telling me the story of the Two Wolves. It goes something like this:

A Cherokee elder said to his young grandson, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves  One wolf is huge and mean and evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, fear and ego.  The second wolf is also huge, but good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The elder stopped talking and let his young grandson think.

“Which wolf will win?” the child asked.

“The one you feed,” said the elder.

I don’t exactly remember what I said or did that led Sid to share his “wolf” analogy with me, but there was no doubt that the huge and mean and evil wolf was tearing away at my brain!  Maybe Sid sensed my emotions or maybe I was grumping around.  But however he came to it, the Two Wolves story was just what I needed to hear, in that moment, to realize that God spoke through Sid to tell me to stop feeding the terrorist wolf in my head.

Later that evening, I reached for my copy of Think Like a Monk (our Soul Stretch Book Club choice) and opened to the chapter on Fear – and there the topic was again!  Although author Jay Shetty is not a yogi, he has a very yogic way of explaining things. In this case, he said the cause of fear is Attachment, but the cure for fear is Detachment.

After reading that statement, I said to myself,  “Self, you really have to start practicing what you preach!”  For years I have been saying in my yoga classes and in this blast that NOTHING belongs to us – not our houses or businesses or health or even family and friends. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

They are just on loan from God and we are merely the stewards of these things, these people, this earth. Much as we consider them “ours,” they can disappear in a heartbeat. And so we worry.

In Think Like a Monk, Shetty says that clinging to things gives them power over us and then they turn into our sources of pain and fear. But when we accept the temporary nature of everything in our lives, we can then feel gratitude for the good fortune of getting to “borrow” them for a time. We accept the tenuous nature of what we have, and detach from it.

Detachment. I’ve tried to practice it, I’ve studied it, I’ve offered it as a practice to students. But until I read Shetty’s explanation of detachment, I didn’t fully get it.

He says people misunderstand detachment to mean indifference. But that’s not the case. Detachment doesn’t make us unfeeling or unable to experience joy. To the contrary!

Let’s say you are checking into Hotel Earth. You pull up to the entrance driving a rented Lamborghini. Do you tell yourself you own it? Well, you might imagine how cool it would be, but you know you only have it for a week. You don’t complain about how you’ll never be able to afford such a car in “real life.” At least I hope you don’t! You enjoy it, and are grateful for the chance to drive that hot red convertible on Highway One along the Pacific Coast. In fact, you might enjoy it more knowing you don’t have to make the car payment for it!

Or maybe you have just checked into an only-in-your-dreams Airbnb. There is a hot tub outside under the stars. A chef’s kitchen with a Wolf stove and a walk-in, smart refrigerator. And, omg, an oversized king bed with an ocean view. Do you spend every moment you are there moaning that you have to leave in a week? This yogi wouldn’t! I’d be rocking the joy and pleasure of such a magnificent place!

Shetty suggests that we should approach all our blessings, however small and insignificant, like the Lamborghini or the Airbnb. We should set ourselves free to enjoy them without letting fear and worry about losing them get in the way. We need to view ourselves as the lucky vacationers enjoying our stay in Hotel Earth.

2020 has been a shitstorm, and though there is finally light at the end of the tunnel, we have more to endure, lovelies. There may be more shutdowns. There will certainly be more isolation from our loved ones. Masks aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and the free, unfettered life we knew 10 months ago may never return entirely. We still have moments when we feed our evil wolf by letting worry and fear and discouragement bubble up. This Thanksgiving, which is, after all, about food and gratitude, save some scraps for your good wolf. Toss him your joys and thankfulness, however short in supply they may be!

A Soul Stretch student, Kathy, shared this: “2020 is not the year to get everything you want. 2020 is the year to appreciate everything you have.”  

As we approach Thanksgiving week, let us be grateful for what we have...for the little things and the lessons learned.

Feed the Good Wolf, Lovelies! Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!