This blog goes into deep waters.
I was having a conversation with one of my long-time coaching clients. He has a deeply spiritual bent and frequently asks questions that take us far into the rabbit hole.
We were talking about the exercise, “Feed the dog, not the wolf” that I recommend strongly.
Here it is for those not familiar with it.
“Feed the Dog, Not the Wolf!
A simple exercise that will improve your life – and the world!
There are many versions of the story I am about to tell you, but I like this one. It comes from the Native American tradition.
A young lad was about to take his place among the adults of the tribe and the final step was an interview with the medicine man.
“Here is a dog,” said the medicine man. “It is intelligent, loving, kind and trustworthy.”
“And here is a wolf – malevolent, vicious and ready to kill,” he continued. “The dog and the wolf are fighting, and they are both inside you.”
“Which one will win?” asked the lad anxiously.
“Whichever one you feed,” said the medicine man gravely.
It is an instructive parable.
Inside each of us are “let’s help each other and make the world a better place” impulses.
We also have “Let me grab whatever I can for myself, and the Devil take the hindmost” impulses.
And the two are at war with each other.
It is your job to identify and feed the dog in you. It is also your job to identify and selectively feed the dog in every person you meet.
Magic happens in your life when the dog in you becomes friends with the dog in the other person.
It also happens in the world.
We constantly feed the wolf in us and those we meet without even recognizing that we are doing so. Say you meet a friend who is depressed at the state of the world and he rails against feckless politicians, crooked businesspersons and the increasing divisions in society.
You commiserate with him and launch your diatribe against environmental despoliation, corrupt legislators and ineffective government.
You part feeling warm about the camaraderie but oblivious that you have fed the wolf in both yourself and your friend.
If, instead, you had said “I entirely agree with you. But is there any sign that things are moving toward greater amity and cooperation? And is there anything we can do to foster movement in that direction?” – you would have started feeding the dog.
So, in every interaction you have – with friends, spouses, children, colleagues, business associates – ask yourself, “Am I feeding the dog or am I feeding the wolf?”
Are you bringing out the best in the person you are speaking to and leaving him energized with possibility and determined to do the same to others? Or are you leaving her more desolate and feeling down?
If you consciously practice this, your life becomes richer and so does that of persons in your circle.
Try it. Start today!
One of the participants in a workshop I conducted asked if giving a sincere compliment about a colleague’s outfit would count as ‘feeding the dog’. I assented.
My client disagreed. “Professor Rao, if I compliment him on his shirt, or his business acumen or his new car or anything like that, then I am reinforcing him in his belief that he is a particular body-mind-intellect complex and that these things matter. In reality, he is pure awareness. Am I not doing him a disservice if I lead him to feeling good about a shirt or whatever?”
That is a deep observation. And he was dead on.
If you tell someone that her comment in a meeting was perceptive or that her taste is impeccable, you certainly leave her feeling positive about the world she is living in.
But you also strengthen her in the notion that she is an individual, separate entity.
And that is what my client was reluctant to do.
Think about it.