An old Cherokee man was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The old man looked at the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows certain people to readily recover after being knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on. Resilient people feed the wolf that represents all things good.
Resilience requires a light-hearted perspective and, often, a sense of humour. Even the Master has joked about how we need to laugh our way to heaven. In a true story, a woman divorces her husband after twelve years of marriage, leaving behind only her wedding dress. Heartbroken and confused, the man asks his departing wife what he is supposed to do with the gown. Her reply? Whatever he wants. Taking his ex-wife’s suggestions to heart, he started a blog, ‘My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress’ where he documented over a hundred alternative uses he found for this piece of clothing. The dress saw new life as a kite, Halloween costume, hammock, oven mitt, jump rope and more. The jilted husband’s journey to transform his ex-wife’s parting gift became so popular that it was turned into a book and eventually became a best-seller. How’s that for turning lemons into lemonade?
Like the donkey who fell into a well, we are not to moan the dirt piled on us, but to shake it off and take a step up until we can step out of the well with the help of the dirt pile. As the saying goes: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow stronger. Let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.
Amy Carmichael, as quoted in The Listening Heart: Hearing God in Prayer
In Ray Bradbury’s book Dandelion Wine, a boy is taken ill. No one can figure out what is wrong. He is simply overwhelmed by life. No one seems able to help him until Mr Jonas, the junk man, comes along. He whispers to the boy who lies asleep on a cot in the yard. Mr Jonas tells him to rest quietly and listen. He doesn’t have to say anything nor open his eyes. He doesn’t even have to pretend to listen. Then he says, “But inside there, I know you hear me, and it’s old Jonas, your friend. Your friend.” He then tells the boy that some people bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker and get sadder younger. Eventually the words stir something in the boy and he recovers.
We cannot bruise so easily. We, too, need to “rest quietly and listen” through our meditation. We need to practise stilling our mind so we can listen to the Shabd, or divine life force, that will empower us.
The saints and mystics remind us that there is nothing in the world which we achieve without struggle, so then why not struggle on the path? They assure us that if we hold onto our faith, he will see us through. We have to be bold enough to struggle, devoted enough to carry on.
We shouldn’t have a defeatist attitude if we have fallen, if we have become a victim of human failings. When a child starts running, how many times does he fall? How many times does he get bruises? But he rises again, gets up again, again starts running. We have all passed through that same phase, and now walking or running is no problem for us. So in the same way, we are tempted, and we do fall, we do become a victim of human failings. But that doesn’t mean that we have to submit to the mind, that we have to lose the battle. We have to carry on. Ultimately, success is ours if we just struggle, just carry on.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II