Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 53, Wisdom of Cherokee
[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]
We are often affected by different worries, anxieties, and fear in our day-to-day lives. Particularly for the last two+ years we have dealt with an unprecedented number of uncertainties due to natural disasters, political separatism and an on-going pandemic. From a psychological standpoint, these challenges in our current life can be an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. We need to become aware of what we can do and cannot do, in order to stand strong on our feet.
Most of us have been extra careful about our health and safety. We try our best to keep our immune system strong with good nutrition, rest, and adequate exercises. Yet, it is still natural to feel uncertainty toward the unknown possibilities of what could be. While worrying isn’t always good, an appropriate amount of fear and anxiety is necessary for us to survive. We can enhance how fear and worries work in our minds so that we can strengthen our hearts.
Fear and anxiousness in our minds work similar to the pain in our body. They are warning signs our body tells us that something is imbalanced and needs attention. In psychology, fear is considered one of the most fundamental human emotions toward real threats. This emotion rises in our minds even if there were no threats, but instead, towards anticipated threats. The mind by default, wants to worry.
The following story was taken from Cherokees who taught us how to be with our own minds.
White Wolf and Black Wolf
This is a conversation between a Cherokee old man and his little grandson.
“We all have two wolves within us, White Wolf and Black Wolf.”
Looking with his wrinkled eyes, the old warrior tells the little boy:
“These two wolves are constantly fighting in us.”
“You have two wolves too, Grandpa?”
“Sure, I do. And you have two small ones too inside of you.”
“I have them too?”
“Oh yes, you do!”
“Black Wolf is made of anger, jealousy, regret, inferiority, lies, guilt, self-pity, arrogance, egotism, and self-centeredness. White Wolf is of joy, peace, hope, kindness, humility, sympathy, generosity, truthfulness, compassion and loyalty.”
“Two wolves are inside of me and inside of you and constantly fighting”
Then, the little Cherokee asked the old man,
“Which wolf wins?”
The wise old man replies.
“The one you feed will win the battle.”
Usually the story ends here telling us about the mechanism of the human mind that will dominate depending on which one you give more attention to. The lesson here is NOT to feed both fear and/or worry. But the story is not over and continues with the old Cherokee’s wisdom.
The Cherokee man responds to his grandson differently from the story above:
The old man said, “Feed both wolves wisely, so that both win at the end.”
The old native wisdom taught us to pay attention to both positive and negative emotions because they knew these emotions don’t go away. They are always a part of us.
“When you feed only White Wolf, Black Wolf gets hungry. He waits until the White one becomes weaker. Then the Black Wolf attacks White one. He’ll surely attack sooner or later. This is how they are. One does not lose and die out. They always exist. So, my little man, you have to feed both, but wisely.”
“Feed them both, why?” The little boy was surprised to hear it.
“Why? Because Black Wolf also have important qualities for us to survive. It has fearless courage, patience, stubbornness, strategic thinking while White Wolf has compassion, tolerance, and wisdom.”
The old man said to the puzzled youth:
“You need to know that we humans have both sides. When combined, more wisdom appears. Conflicts in our mind balance out. When only one wolf wins, the conflicts won’t end. When we can give food to the right wolf at an appropriate time, we can choose to live peacefully. The mission of Cherokee tribe is peace. It begins from our mind and heart. A native man with peaceful mind can gain real peace for other people. Without peace in our heart, we cannot gain anything.”
The Cherokee were the tribe to welcome Europeans when they first arrived on the American continent. They were wise enough to accept the unknown, showed concern, and even gave priority to connect communities. And that’s how they protected the peace in their tribe.
Let’s remember the guidance provided by the elderly Cherokee man which could help us to overcome various difficulties we face in our daily lives, whether it is a new Covid variant or an issue within our personal lives.