Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two wolves - a Cherokee legend

Shadows in the morning - Big Bend National Park
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

"All of my flaws and negative qualities -of which I have many - have brought me priceless gifts, for they are what have led me to become who I am today. I can no longer stand in judgment and disapproval of my human flaws, weaknesses, and dark impulses, because the integration and wisdom of my own humanity are what have led me to deliver my greatest gift and create a life beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself."
- Debbie Ford in Why Good People Do Bad Things.

I love that quote, and it's so true for my own life! Debbie Ford has been a huge inspiration and influence on my life, and I'm so excited that I'm going with some girlfriends to see her talk on Sept 18. She is one of my all-time favorite authors and spiritual teachers. She is talking on "Why Good People Do Bad Things" at the Unity Church in Houston, which also happens to be the name of her latest book:
Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy. I picked up the book at the library today and started reading it at the gym, and already it's so insightful! More on that in a sec. I have some of her audio programs, which are totally amazing but I gave them to a friend and never got them back! But I have also read The Best Year of Your Life, and parts of The Right Questions, The Secret of the Shadow, and The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

The most inspiring and unique thing she has contributed, I think, is that she teaches how we tend to try to hide from our shadow side, pretend it doesn't exist, shove it under the rug, deny it. She teaches that by denying the shadow, we only end up repressing it so much that it bounces up like a beach ball held under the water and in this way we can sabotage ourselves. This beach ball example she talks about in her new book, but her teachings on the shadow have been part of her writing since her first book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers. So the main thing she teaches is that instead of denying and repressing that shadow, we need to acknowledge it, and understand its gifts and lessons.

Even our worst traits can benefit us, sometimes, or at least have great lessons for us. For example, if we have a greedy side, maybe that can help us save money when we really need to. If we (say, as a kid) tended to tell lies and still have a part of ourself that may lie occasionally, ask, when can that trait benefit us? Maybe for a kid, it benefits them to lie when they have to tell some stranger online or on the phone that no they are not home alone, or to disguise their identity. She describes all this far better than I, but the point is that instead of feeling totally shamed by these parts of ourselves, we have to learn what lessons they can teach us. It's not about thinking the shadow is "good" but to understand that all humanity has both the dark and the light, and when we deny it, it leads to hypocrisy and self sabotage, like when priests abuse children because they've denied their sexual urges, or when the pastor of a evangelical church that condemns homosexuality ends up having homosexual affairs, or when Strom Thurmond makes racist comments throughout his life and was a segregationalist in the early part of his career but turns out he had an illegitimate daughter from his black maid. Those very parts we try to deny in ourselves so fervently often come out to sabotage us, when they are not openly acknowledged.

In the new book I really loved this Cherokee story that she tells. It's quite long but here is the main part: A Cherokee chief takes his grandson out under a tree in the forest to have a talk with him about life and tells him, "It is as if there are two big wolves living inside me; one is white and one is black. The white wolf is good, kind, and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all that is around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. The good wolf, grounded and strong in the understanding of who he is and what he is capable of, fighting only when it is right to do so and when he must in order to protect himself or his family, and even then he does it the right way. He looks out for other wolves in the pack and never deviates from his nature. But there is a black wolf also that lives inside me, and this wolf loud, angry, discontent, jealous, and afraid. The littlest thing will set him off into a fit of rage. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He can not think clearly because his greed for more and his anger and hate are so great. But it is helpless anger, son, for his anger will change nothing. He looks for trouble wherever he goes, so he easily finds it. He trusts no one so he has no real friends....Sometimes it's hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them fight hard to dominate my spirit."

The son asks him which one wins. And the grandfather answers, "They both do son.... You see, the black wolf has many important qualities that I might need, depending on what comes our way. He is fierce, strong-willed, and will not back down for a moment. He is smart, clever, and is capable of the most devious thoughts and strategies, which are important in a time of war. He has many sharp and heightened senses that only one who is looking through the eyes of darkness could appreciate."

He says that he feeds both wolves, because if he feeds them both, they will no longer fight for his attention and because they are no longer fighting, he can hear the voice of his deeper knowing and choose which can help in what circumstances. "If your grandmother wants food to cook for a special meal and I haven't taken care of it like I should have, I can ask my white wolf to lend me his charms to console her black wolf, who is hungry and angry. The white wolf always knows what to say and is sensitive to her needs. You see son, if you understand that there are two main forces that exist inside you and you give them equal respect, they will both win and there will be peace. Peace, my son, is the ultimate Cherokee mission - the ultimate purpose of life."

I loved this story. Debbie Ford's writings have played a big part in my being so open about my own "shadow" which I openly discuss on this blog and in my life. In fact that I talk about my shadow, my weaknesses, my flaws so regularly is part of why the whole online support group thing fell apart, because it can seem like it is some dominant part of my life if I talk about it all the time. But that's really not a true picture. I like to observe and describe my own dark wolf so he knows I know he is out there, and what he is capable of so he doesn't too often sneak up and sabotage my white wolf. I've written before that I believe in radical honesty. But I think for the most part my life reflects living in the light of the white wolf. The spirit of God.

1 comment:

TitusL said...

Greetings, I thought you might like my animation of The Legend Of Two Wolves
Blessings ~