When I am working with children who are feeling negative, anxious and nervous in ways that are beginning to affect their overall well-being and enjoyment of life, I like to share with them a wonderful Cherokee Indian legend which describes the battle that goes on inside all of us. It is the battle of two wolves.
One wolf (the black wolf) is: shame, fear, hate, stress, sadness and anger, and the other wolf (the white wolf) is: Love, peace, calm, happy, kind, joy and fun. If these two wolves are battling inside of us, which one is going to win?
The most common answers I receive are:
"Well I hope the 'good' one" or "The bad one because he's everywhere".
But the answer is: THE ONE YOU FEED!
When I shared this with 10 year old Eli, she drew the two wolves..........
The one you feed will get big and strong, and the one you don't looses strength and gets weak. Children understand this straight away. I ask them to share specific examples of times when they fed their black wolf, these times are often linked to stressful experiences, like tests at school, struggling to get to sleep at night, after someone has said something that hurt their feelings...... This list is easy for most of us to write. But the gem lies in the other list. Noticing you are clam, and peaceful and loving.
How many of us are actively feeding our white wolf? Are we inducing, or creating times of joy, happiness or fun? Often during the most stressful of times, it is necessary to actually bring on the white wolf and invite her to dance with you.
Many of us are also judging our feelings as either good or bad. Are the black wolf feelings bad? If we view them as 'bad' we are struggling against them. It is this struggle that often causes us further pain. If we just notice and allow these feelings, then the struggle stops and there is no longer a battle.
Many children, share with me that they didn't even notice they were feeding their wolf, whether it is black or white. So how do we learn how to notice which wolf we are feeding?
The first step is to just notice! Once you notice something then you are aware of it. When you are aware of it, you have an opportunity to make a conscious choice, or decision. Many people are trapped in their thoughts and emotions, almost held hostage by them. They think something, then from that thought comes the emotion or feelings and they automatically react, without thinking to this emotion. However, if you are able to take a brief moment to notice how you are feeling, then it's after this pause you can respond to your experience, rather than automatically reacting to it. You could then make a conscious choice to stop your cycle of negative thinking and begin to feed your white wolf. The minute we do most of us begin to feel better. Even we are still in a difficult moment, such as a test, if we notice we are feeding our black wolf, take a Mindful breath, and choose to feed our white wolf, we automatically cope better with the experience we are having, even if it is a test! We then enable ourselves to our best. This is a Mindfulness practice. To just notice.
The second step is to allow. Allow your feelings to be. Don't judge them or need them to be any different. Just allow them. Look at them though your mind's eye. Where in your body are you feeling: anger, stress, love, joy? What does it feel like?
The third step is to respond to your feeling. If it's a white wolf feeling, dance, sing, sleep, enjoy the peace, or whatever your body is asking of you. If it's a black wolf feeling, send your attention to the place in your body where you feel that feel. Maybe it is your heart, or your stomach. It can feel like your stomach is in knots, or has butterflies in it. Each time you notice your black wolf, you need to ask yourself "what do I need?". Do I need to take a deep breath? Do I need to be alone? Do I need to cry? Do I need to seek out a hug? By giving your feelings some attention you are responding to the actual feeling. You are no longer lost in your thoughts, you are in your feelings, and you are allowing yourself to feel. The more you do, the more your feeling starts to shift and brings you to back to your real self.
Inside we are all happy, and peaceful and loving and calm.