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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

Which wolf do you feed?

Today is March 11 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “which wolf do you feed?” and involves the following Cherokee legend.


An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed. If you feed them right, they both win. You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black 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 always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy, and the white wolf is happy, and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all. You see, son, the white wolf needs the black 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. 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 knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing. How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

Today’s reflection focuses on the war of self-mastery going on inside most people. This internal struggle will determine how well you navigate the chaos and leverage your mind, body, and spirit. You can decide to either feed one wolf, or both. Feeding both is the more difficult path to follow.

What is interesting to note in this story is the emphasis on peace since ‘the man or woman who has peace inside has everything.’ This is akin to the other Navigate the Chaos posts that refer to equanimity as a state of being people should work towards. Thus, this inner peace or balance, has been a constant pursuit of people throughout history. That in and of itself should tell you just how important equanimity is for those navigating the chaos.

As Buddhist peace advocate Daisaku Ikeda wrote the battle for self-mastery is key to establishing a strong identity. For people to stop warring with themselves they must "push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it may be the most severely challenging struggle there is. For opening the door to your own life is, in the end, more difficult than opening the door to all the mysteries of the universe.”

The opposing view is to acquiesce and give up on yourself. The nameless narrator of Dostoyevsky’s existentialist novel Notes from Underground suggests one to take solace in the realization you cannot change. At one point the narrator goes so far as to say that after struggling for years to overcome his own darker side, he came to rejoice in his own depravity because he saw it as inescapable.

  • Which wolf do you feed?

  • Do you understand the value of feeding both wolves?

  • Have you relied on one wolf more than the other recently?

  • How often have you recently relied on the white wolf representing compassion, caring, strength, and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all?

  • How often have you recently relied on the black wolf representing tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinker?

  • Knowing when to rely on what wolf requires a nuanced approach to navigating the chaos. How reliable is your ability to recognize such nuance?

  • How often do you war with yourself?

  • Why do you think you engage in a war with yourself?

  • How often do you ‘push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself?’

  • Do you have any one who can help you open the door to your life?

  • Have you helped anyone open the door to their life?


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