The Battle Of The Black Wolf & The White wolf.


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There is a story I like to tell to my clients, participants and friends. It’s about a wise, old Cherokee Indian. Because I felt like writing about it I just did some Google research and I realized that I unconsciously changed the story slightly. Which is nice, I guess. It means that the story is alive. I also found that there is a second chapter but let me start with the beginning.

A group of Cherokee children has gathered around their grandfather. They are filled with excitement and curiousity. That day there had been a quite tumultuous conflict between two adults and their grandfather was called to mediate. The children are eager to hear what he has to say about it.

One of the children pops the question that puzzles him. “Grandfather, why do people fight?”. “Well” the old man replies “we all have two wolves inside us, you see. They are in our chest. And these wolves are constantly fighting each other”. The eyes of the children have grown big by now. “In our chests too, grandfather?” asks another child. “And in your chest too?” asks a third one. He nods, “yes, in my chest too”. He surely has their attention now. Grandfather continues. “There is a white wolf and a black wolf. The black wolf is filled with fear, anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The white wolf is filled with peace, love, hope, courage, humility, compassion, and faith. They battle constantly”. Then he stops. It’s the child that asked the initial question that can’t handle the tension anymore. “But grandfather, which wolf wins?”. The old Cherokee simply replies, “the one that we feed”.

Nice story, isn’t it? It is not so hard to resonate with the “feeding” of anger, jealousy, envy and greed. These emotions can really have power over us and we can see how we keep fueling them and feel how hard it is to “snap out of it”. What also sounds pretty convincing and hopeful is the idea that we have a choice. We can stop feeding the black wolf and start feeding the white wolf at any given moment. It’s the whole spiritual path, or the path to happines and fulfilment in a nutshell. And I don’t know about you but the third thing that definately speaks to me is that it’s a never ending battle. Not that I like it but I surely resonate with it.

Stop feeding the black wolf. Feed the white wolf. It’s that simple. But it ain’t easy.

When hearing this story many people realize how utterly and completely their world is dominated by the black wolf. We are driven by greed and fear, our economy is based on the idea of scarsity and in order to survive the black wolf will go far to obtain the biggest part of the pie he can get.

Fact is that most of us have a very underdeveloped white wolf. Makes sense, it was hardly fed. The white wolf is weak, skinny and small. “If I show my white wolf at work, it will be murdered within seconds” is a common reply from executives I coach. “There is no place for the white wolf in our company”, they say. And of course, I believe them, in the sense that I can see that the vast majority of businesses and corparations are completely run by black wolves.

But I found out something really cool about the white wolf. Where the shoulder height of the black wolf can reach a maximum of 32-34 inches (80-85 cm), the white wolf can grow into the size of a horse. When a well developed white wolf enters a room filled with back wolves something changes. The underdeveloped white wolves realize they are potentially a lot stronger than their black bullies. All of a sudden they got back-up. And every strong white wolf will back his weaker brothers and sisters up. Always.

The black wolf is primarily self-serving and mainly interested in staying ahead of the other wolves at any cost. He is the survivor. The white wolf is interested in the development and empowerment of all his white brothers and sisters and sees himself as a mere vehicle to spread loving kindness. He is led by his cause. It doesn’t feel like a choice or an obligation, he just surrenders to the call of this life force. It just feels natural.

It’s tough to get your inner white wolf healthy with a strong and cunning black wolf around that is eager to steal as much food as possible. But please be perseverent. Then one day you will notice that the white wolf has become equally strong. That is the tipping point. Allthough the battle continues the white wolf wins more and more fights and keeps getting stronger. Like Neo in The Matrix.

Contrary to the way black wolves relate a white wolf never has to be afraid when he meets a stronger white wolf. They are natural allies. So the best thing you can do is first start feeding the white wolf sneakily; do a meditation course. Meanwhile look around carefully and find the biggest white wolf around. Learn. Practice. Read. Study the black wolf. Stop being his bitch. Start winning. 😉

Favorite white wolves: Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Dag Hammarskjöld, Martin Luther King.


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Atalwin Pilon

Atalwin Pilon (40) is man on a mission. In January 2012, he left his home and his country to travel the world. He is on a spiritual quest, searching for what he calls the 21st century warrior: courageous men and women who are driven by compassion and integrity instead of greed and fear. He wants to know if one man can make a difference and if he can make a difference himself by offering his skills and heart to the world. He will write a book about his findings: "The Quest for the 21st Century Warrior". Feel free to contribute to his journey if his cause speaks to you. He needs your suggestions, hospitality, introductions and/ or your generosity to be be successful. You can make difference too. If you want Atalwin as your life coach you can book a Skype session now. You can follow his adventures on his website (he writes often). And you can find him on Twitter and Facebook too.


21 Responses to “The Battle Of The Black Wolf & The White wolf.”

  1. Zoe says:

    It is a nice story. I love wolves, for a start. However, once again black is negative and white is positive. Our entire English language is about continuing to support that unfortunate metaphor. I like the night, and dreamtime. I like the shadows and the shade as much as the sunshine. I love drawing in black-and-white. Without black there would be nothing to work with! Certainly many people enjoy wearing black(!) It is the single most popular ‘color’ in fashion. So much of our racism (and yes, it is sadly still very much alive and kicking) is built on concepts of black as bad and white as good. Just something to consider, friend.

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Hey Zoe, I hear you, but I disagree. I hope this won't offend you in any way – it's just my opinion after all.
      In many cultures black has represented negative, and white positive. It's an ancient mythical language. I don't believe it has anything to do with racism. After all, this is just a concept, and racism is founded on something much stronger than a concept, it's founded on fear and hate.
      I was going to write a longer reply but I see that Atalwin has already written it very well. I'd just add: the fact that you write the word COLOR in quotes suggests to me that you feel the need to explain or justify using it, as with the word black. I think that this need for political correctness is a bit silly – maybe if I was a black man I'd feel differently, who knows – and doesn't help anyone. Actually, I think that it continues, in a way, to keep people apart.
      What's important always is to discern the actual inherent value of something: in this case, there is no racism evident, and to bring it up, in my opinion, 'cheapens' things a little.

  2. ashley says:

    Great story, but I thought the exact same thing, Zoe.

  3. Mara says:

    I agree, too, Zoe – we create archetypes as a culture, and every time we tell a story where the black entity is the villain, we reinforce deeply-held prejudices and divisions in our culture – divisions that we ourselves caused. Thanks for having the courage to point that out regarding an otherwise-potent story.

  4. annieory says:

    Fun story! Tell us another…!

  5. Sandy says:

    I guess as long as we, as a society, still use the terms “black” and “white” as household words that label the two respective races, then in continuing to use those words, that language, to distinguish value judgments the collective (sub)conscious is likely to ne impacted in an unfortunate way. White most often symbolizes good and pure values, and the white race gets to benefit from that linguistic connection in people’s psychology. The opposite is also true. Perhaps the problem is that we need to ditch these outmoded terms to refer to either race as black or white to begin with. It’s kind of atrocious, vacant, and damaging language.

    As symbols in the myth or in art or in philosophy we can always discuss the concept of positive and negative forces as represented by black and white. And in that discussion, as a concept I’ve heard of black as the positive force. As a color it is positive too in that it contains all the other colors. But when it comes to light, white is the more positive in that IT contains all the colors. Semantics, linguistics, symbols, meaning. In a world of conceptual play it’s a great tool, but can have unfortunate ramifications when we are too concrete about it too.

    And still, I agree that we should feed the love and not the fear in this matter and in this story too. But maybe we could rethink our choices of race labels as a culture too. I see both sides of this as importand and relevant to our evolution.

  6. Eddie says:

    I think that it is not so much about the black or white, the point that Zoe tries to get a cross, at least thats what i get out of it, is that it doesn't have to be about fighting between to wolfs, chickens, birds or cats but more about exceptens. Do not divide, love all. Still very nice story…., it surely gave me some inside during my walk.

  7. Jean LeBlanc says:

    For those who take issue with the use of white and black, don't forget that this is a Cherokee story, not an English story. Cherokee skin is by no means white.

    Just a thought.

  8. Erica says:

    If the point is to distinguish between "good" and "evil" then why not just use those words? Why use color at all? I agree that we need to move away from our constant tendency to correlate black with bad/negative and white with good/positive. Especially in your commentary beyond the actual story when you say "The black wolf is primarily self-serving … The white wolf is interested in the development and empowerment of all his white brothers and sisters and sees himself as a mere vehicle to spread loving kindness." It starts to feel less like wolves and more like you're talking about black/white people.

    I don't think this is blatant or conscious. It has been so ingrained in our subconcious and our culture that it comes naturally — which is why it is so hard to break these habits. But I also think it feeds into racist language on a macro and societal level and we should move away from it.

    And, for the record… I have a white mother and a black father. (Someone earlier wanted the perspective of a person of color…)

  9. mustachio says:

    oh my goodness, a lot of uncecessary angst about a simple story

  10. mustachio says:

    if you choose to read the story that way, it is more reflective of your own perceptions than that of what is being actually presented. This is getting ridiculous…

  11. That's one of my favorite stories…always trying to feed the white wolf. And as far as the color debate goes…in terms of "color" rather than "race/ethnicity" – white includes every color of the spectrum and black is the absence of color. So rather than feeling offended, perhaps choose to see it that way. White in this sense represents every possible good thing about humanity (from all races), and black represents the all of those negative qualities (jealousy, fear, anger, violence) that might be summed up as an absence of peace.

  12. Button says:

    My question is this. What happens when you cease to feed the wolves? Feeding the white wolf will eventualy lead to a healthier mind/body complex and hopefully a true understanding of reality.
    Feeding the black wolf will lead to self suffering and even more collective suffering.
    At some point in personal growth feeding one of the two should become pointless right? The wolves are the opposite sides of the same coin and feeding one in hope of “defeating” the other is in actuality quite silly as they are both one.
    It only serves duality by not accepting the “other” so you think your feeding the “white” wolf but in truth the “black” wolf snuck up out of your awareness level pretending to be “white” and bit you right in the bum.

  13. It is a beautiful story. One of my favorites. I have never heard it with a "black and white" wolf before this telling.

    The message is not lost but i do think it detracts. For those that think "it's no big deal" I fear may not live in a world where racism is still keenly felt. When your life is marked by it you will of course see it and feel it…it's the black hat/white hat cowboy syndrome.

    Do I think this version of the story was about racism? NO I don't. Do I think the author even read it that way? no — however for those that have been most hurt by racism this will be very obvious, so rather than tell them to get over it why not just change the language and not "feed" the stereotypes?
    For the record historically white was good 'cause night time before lights was freakin' scary — so it came from there but at this point it has come to mean something else so why not be more sensitive and help overcome?

  14. […] day is a choice. Sometimes I feed the wrong wolf. But over time, I hope that I can live my life feeding the right wolf more […]

  15. Denny says:

    Is this for real? Black and white have had significant meaning since the beginning of time. If our language and the meanings of words need to be changed for fear that someone will be offended, we would have to pay more taxes to support ongoing committees and sub-committees to constantly make the changes. We overcome by not making big deals out of nothing.

  16. […] There’s nothing cool about not caring, or bitching, or complaining. It’s when we can care for both light and dark, and let go of both, that we can begin to truly celebrate our daily […]

  17. Harold says:

    it amazes me how most of you analyze only which is which by the colour and not what they represent for the emotions. If one "bad" is represented in black and "good" in white it doesn't really matter. By the way this isn't the real ending, the following is the real:

    "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."

    PS: everything is about giving and receiving so if you think that the black and white thing is racist you should know that the one who hold the problem is the one who holds the solution.

  18. Angela says:

    I LOVE THIS! There are so many black wolves. Especially I find this metaphor helpful for the work environment. There are always those people who appear to be just out for themselves, willing to step on anyone else for what they want. Then there are the white wolves who see the strength that comes from coming together as a team. When you come together as a team, possibilities for success are endless. When you are out for yourself, well, it is a very small place to be. Feed the white wolf! Love it. 🙂

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