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Practicing peace in times of war II: feeding the right wolf

Thursday, November 8, 2007 by Marianne Elliott

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Orphanage Boys II.JPG, originally uploaded by frida world.

I arrived back in Afghanistan just before the largest and deadliest suicide attack to take place in this country detonated in Baghlan killing at least 42 adults (including 6 MPs) and 3 children and maiming/wounding 66 adults and 63 children.

I chose this photo for todays post because there is a kind of resigned sadness in the face of this boy that reflect how I've been feeling for the past two days since the bombing.

Over these two days I have, however, also been reflecting on one of the key teachings from the first session Pema Chodron gave at the PPTOW retreat this past summer (I listened to her on my journey home).

The teaching was illustrated by a story told by Richard Reoch in the opening remarks. He told of a Native American man responding to his grandson's question in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in NYC and Washington DC. The child had asked him "what will happen now?".

The grandfather responded that it was like there were two wolves fighting inside his heart. One was vengeful, and full of anger – seeking revenge and ready to strike out against the 'enemy'. The other wolf was filled with love and belief in the basic goodness of ll, ready to try and understand and too seek peace.

The grandson asked "Which wolf will win the fight?". His grandfather answered "The wolf that will win is the one that I chose to feed".

Pema expands on this story a little, explaining that for some of us the first wolf is anger turned inwards – the first wolf may be despairing, numb, feeling incapable of acting in the face of terror and suffering. Just like the angry wolf this wolf will paralyse us from doing our part to mkae peace.

Seated meditation is a practice in disciplining the mind, a practice in being fully present. It is a practice which trains me to take a moment to refect before reacting, it is a practice which trains me to stop looking back (holding onto past pains) and to stop reaching forward (building my expectations for what will be). It is a practice which trains me to sit still in the moment. Seated meditation is the practice which will help me train in feeding the wolf which I want to win. It helps me to train in feeding the wolf which is filled with love and hope, and which believes whole-heartedly in my own basic goodness and in the basic goodness of all people.

I have neglected my practice while I've been travelling but last night as I felt myself sinking into feelings of despair about the mounting violence in Afghanistan I knew I needed to choose to train in feeding the hopeful wolf. He needs all the help he can get at the moment because the angry, despairing wolf is being triggered by all that is going on around me.

This morning I woke a little earlier and sat in meditation for just 15 minutes. It might seem like such a small thing to do in the face of the many people who were killed this week in Baghlan and the many more who are now facing a life time without eye-sight, hearing, arms, legs or the ability to sleep at night.

It is a small thing, but it is my small thing – I will not allow the wolf of despair to win the fight in my heart.


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21 Responses to "Practicing peace in times of war II: feeding the right wolf"

  1. Wow, that is quite a sad story to come back to, and my face immediately goes into the expression of the boy in your photo. But then, I am uplifted through your post, as you come to your basic conclusion that HOPE is still alive and well, somehow, in the midst of dispair and pain. The world is indeed a mysterious place. It beckons us, shows us amazing beauty. And at the same time tears us apart with all its conflicts. Your meditation I think, I need to also discover. Thank you again for your inspiration and example, Frida. I hope your time left in Afganistan continues to prod your heart to write, think, meditate and act in productive and inspirational ways.

  2. Very lovely post and nice comment of the native american man ..We should think about it .
    You are right this picture sums ups very weel their feelings.
    By the way I saw you in NY ( not really) , in susanna’s blog ..I’m so glad both you spent the day together

  3. jzr says:

    I have found your blog through Susanna’s blog. I am also a follower of Pema Chodron and am trying to live with hope, believing in the Buddha in all people and creatures. You say your practice is small, but being where you are in the thick of conflict, to me seems very large. Blessings and stay well!

  4. susanna says:

    I’m trying to think of how to respond to this post, Frida. I can’t imagine living through something as shocking like this or being in a place where there’s the possibility that it could happen… And to take a step back to reflect on how you will respond to this evil act and then to decide that you will not get angry, that you will instead “feed the wolf” that still believes in the goodness in Life and in the hopeful possibilities of what could be in Afghanistan if everyone just put down their arms and bombs and chose to BELIEVE in a new country…that takes STRENGTH.

  5. Swirly says:

    Your heart is such a big, beautiful space, I know you will find the path towards compassion….you will find the nourishment you need to feed the peaceful wolf. This is one of your many gifts. My heart feels heavy for you, for what you had to return to in Afghanistan. I have been reading about the bombing in the paper this week, and thinking of you so much. Take care of yourself however you can my dear. I love you.

  6. tiny noises says:

    it is no small thing to feed the wolf of love and hope. you continue to amaze and to teach. thinking of you and wrapping my arms around you.

  7. susannah says:

    this is how i know you will be okay in your last months working there, honey – the way you can remember to keep yourself sane even if it is ‘only’ with these little these you do. i remember you doing your yoga in my living room, and how you travel with your little yoga mat – the way you carry a pocketful of zen with you wherever you are. this is how i know you’ll be safe, and how i know you’re doing such an amazing job out there, even in the face of such unthinkable madness. i love you girlie, i’m here if you need me xxoo

  8. Diana says:

    What a beautiful post and photo. I felt tears welling up and couldn’t stop looking into the faces in the photo. Then I read your post. Wonderful. I may need to come back to this often – it is so – right.
    I did not see anything on the U.S. news at all about this violence. It is a shame. Your photos and writing show your sensitivity and it surely must be hard not to have your heart ache as you watch the suffering about you. Only remember this: if you do nothing else (and I know you are doing much much more) than blog and let the world know what is going on . . . . you are serving a great purpose there.

  9. ceanandjen says:

    Every step forward must start somewhere, no matter how small that step seems at the time. Your perspective, your heart, your being where you are, those are amazingly positive steps full of love and compassion that you are positively contributing to…the world. It take people like *you* to bring about change, and this is something I always think about when I worry about you being there and witnessing what you do. You protect your heart and being with this meditation so that you can go out there each day and touch people’s lives.
    This photo is so beautiful…so full of soul and feeling…and sadness.
    Love to you.xoxoxo

  10. Baraka says:

    What a difficult event to come back to – and what a beautiful response.
    Keep living consciously, breathing deeply, and bringing beauty to the world.

  11. Mary says:

    I think the story about the wolf is beautiful. Thinking of you.

  12. TROPICAL GYPSY says:

    Hello Frida,
    You have a deep and profound spirit. Very raw, very real.
    Thank you for sharing.

  13. …and so, i begin.
    love to you,

  14. schmoops says:

    what a deeply poignant post, and haunting photo. your beautiful spirit is a lesson to us all. i believe your “small thing” is actually greater than you think, the message of feeding the wolf will definitely stay with me. xoxo

  15. Frida-the photo captured my heart. It is beautiful and sad.
    Your story of the wolves gave me shivers and your thoughts give me pause. Pause ~ to pray for those involved in the horrible attack and also for humanity.
    As I read I had the strongest urge to see your space-the one where you stay-and meditate. You are truly amazing and wise. I learned from you today and will be meditating with you.

  16. maddie says:

    I meditate with this in mind ~ although i never heard it described quite in this
    way ~ which is a very powerful imagery ~
    but I choose to meditate and use my heart and images in my mind and
    words to ‘feed” the love and beauty in this world ~
    you do this everday ~ i can read it here in your words and I can
    see the love you share and inspire in your photos ~
    so warmest blessings to my dear girl:)

  17. HiK says:

    Not really a little thing? Taming the despairing wolf in your heart is the biggest thing that you can do. I think so anyway. Once the healing wolf is flourishing, you can continue to nourish others.
    You really are one of the lights of this dark, despairing time. Thank you friend.

  18. Linnie says:

    I send you….a peaceful wind blowing through the autumn leaves…bells ringing in the background to remind us to be still…and appreciative…and arms full of love…to surround your heart and make you feel loved! I admire you for being there and telling your story…and for giving every piece of yourself to the universe…& everybody around you! You are so brave!

  19. Thank you for the image of the two wolves. Even in an ordinary decent life, there are so many opportunities for despair– and it’s so easy to take them, thinking there is no other choice. I’m going to practice feeding the good wolf– and send good thoughts your way.

  20. Paris Parfait says:

    The evocative photo and your beautiful post brought a tear to my eye and a clutch to my heart. Because it is so indicative of the problems the world is facing now and not just in Afghanistan. We all need to learn to feed the good wolf; I am constantly amazed at the strength you maintain through all the challenges thrown at you on a regular basis. The people whose lives you touch are so lucky. xoxox

  21. crazymumma says:

    I loved this. It was so enlightening. Honestly. These feelings in our hearts, there for years. And which do we choose to feed?
    Thank you. I truly feel a bit wiser.

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