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What are We Feeding?

Everyday we direct our energy towards various people, projects, and endeavors. We feed, water, exercise, and rest our physical bodies. On more subtle levels, we give energy to our patterns of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. 

With all the energy we expend, are we aware of where it’s going? Can we pause to note energy well spent and energy sent to draining causes? Are we giving our energy to things that deeply matter to us? 

There is a Cherokee legend that highlights the importance of how we care for ourselves. This lesson in directing inner-energy is called Two Wolves:

One evening, an elderly Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My child, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

What we feed will thrive. If we give energy to negative thoughts, they grow. If we focus on gratitude, self-care, service to others, these goods will grow. Ah, it seems so simple. Simple, yes; easy, no. To grow big and strong, we must provide meal after meal, day after day to the best layers of ourselves. 

The analogy of water works too. Food, water, time, thought, deed - any type of energy - will affect and shape the subject at which it’s directed. 

Rather than feeding wolves, Thich Nhat Han, in his book Taming the Tiger Within, speaks of watering seeds:

Anger is in us in the form of a seed. The seeds of love and compassion are also there. In our consciousness, there are many negative seeds and also many positive seeds. The practice is to avoid watering the negative seeds, and to identify and water the positive seeds every day.

Yes, what we water will grow. It is reassuring to know that even though all types of “seeds” lie within, we have some choice, by directing our attention and actions, of which will blossom and flourish. While our natural tendencies and circumstances definitely influence us, we can learn just how much water is needed and in which situations, how much and what types of food are good for us. Some of us have more hardy seeds of anger, while some have resilient seeds of joy. If we are aware of our dispositions, we can practice watering the opposite of our own internal vandals, those qualities that usually overtake or sabotage us. We can practice nourishing ourselves in ways that allow our gifts to shine.

Both of these stories serve as reminders that whatever we want to thrive needs to be tended to, not just once, but constantly. We eat and drink everyday to nourish our physical bodies, and our psyches and spirits must also be nurtured daily. 

So, what are you watering? What parts of you are thirsty? What kind of hunger rumbles within? What are you going to choose to feed and water today?