“Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.” -Benjamin Disraeli
The other day I read about an insightful Native American myth. A tribal elder tells his grandson that inside each of us, there is a black dog and a white dog doing battle.
The black dog possesses qualities typically understood as negative, including envy, greed, sorrow, anger, resentment, and arrogance. The white dog possesses qualities understood as positive, including love, joy, kindness, empathy, compassion, humility, and peace.
The grandson asks, “Which dog will win the fight?” And the elder responds, “Whichever one we feed.”
What an empowering call to action. We can reap tremendous benefits from asking ourselves: What am I nurturing in myself today?
We can choose to dwell on everything we think is wrong, complain about it to everyone who’ll listen, focus on everything we think we lack, and generally go through our days feeding negativity.
Or we can choose to engage with the world in ways that feel right, talk about the things that excite us, focus on everything that makes us feel fortunate, and generally go through our days feeding positivity.
Of course, there is a third, likely more realistic option: We can do our best to recognize when we’re doing the former, and then make the conscious choice to do the latter.
We may never completely eliminate negative thoughts, but we can learn to catch them and dispute them with increasing regularity.
We may not always feel loving and kind, but we can choose to meditate, practice yoga, or do whatever helps us create inner calm, so as to cultivate those feelings more often.
We may never feel permanently peaceful, but we can choose to question our envy, resentment, and discontent to develop self-awareness and act on what we learn.
It also serves us to recognize that we all come from different places, and despite our similarities, we each have our own unique blend of challenges. Contrary to the myth, very little is black and white.
This means it’s our job to recognize how we’re out of balance, without judging why it’s so or comparing ourselves to other people, so we can focus on doing our best to nurture good thoughts and feelings.
We don’t live in a purely positive world, and we can’t control everything that happens to us—but we can make the world a better place by first striving to know and nourish ourselves.
Buddha image via Shutterstock