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     The Wolf You Feed

The Integram: an Integral Enneagram of Consciousness;  a model of consciousness, including all aspects, for designing practical paths of personal development and evolution.

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The Wolf You Feed (click for podcast)
The Cherokee Legend
Although attributed to the Cherokee people, Joseph Campbell pointed out that mythology transcends geography or nationalities. There are many forms of this legend around the world. If anyone isn’t familiar, let’s recap.

It begins where an old man is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight goes on within each of us. It is a fight between two wolves. One is evil.” He then goes on to list the aspects of being and behavior his culture saw as negative. “The other is good.” And this time he listed the attributes his culture exalted. His grandson thought about this, and asked, “which wolf will win?” The grandfather simply replies, “the one you feed.”

This story has lost its novelty, and doesn’t get paid much serious attention anymore. That’s unfortunate, because whether we pay it heed or not, the dynamic is still in motion, licking its chops. Perhaps it’s time to take a new look at an old idea, and see what our current world has to offer toward increasing this concept’s relevance.

Neural Wiring and Plasticity
Recently, neuroscience has made enormous leaps that throw many of our previous notions out. Where we used to think the brain was physically static, we’ve learned that it’s incredibly plastic, and we can build neurons and new pathways.

In fact, the brain works remarkably like most muscles in the body. When you regularly need to lift something, your body sends nutrients into the area to build that muscle. With each repetition of that task, your body becomes more and more adept and able to perform. If on the other hand, you don’t use a part of your body on a regular basis, your brain’s smart resource allocation system doesn’t waste nutrients, and that part atrophies.

This is exactly what happens in your brain when it comes to neural pathways. Habits are merely well worn neural paths. When we repeatedly send neurotransmitters down the same pathway, those neurons anticipate the communication, which becomes faster. Since most of the chatter going on isn’t conscious, we’re doing all kinds of wiring that may not be in our own best interest. By increasing our mindfulness and approaching all this wiring from a more intentional position, we can have a vast impact on our own thinking, thus our lives.

Choosing Who To Feed

Bringing neural plasticity into the Legend, you can see that they were onto something, even if they didn’t realize it was neuroscience. Simplifying things to the dualistic good and evil helps, but we know that life is more complicated than that. If we develop criteria that’s more about serving the greater good, self included, we can remove all the peripheral noise around shame, blame, righteousness, and so forth. Those stir up silt from the bottom of the stream, obscuring a clear vision.

Instead, we can focus on building the strongest, healthiest, and most useful brains possible. As an example, let’s talk about the two wolves called Optimism and Negativity. The battle between these two wolves ranges from our conscious to our subconscious mind. As always, when we’re about to embark on a new exercise regime, we begin with extra Mindfulness. We need to pay extra attention, so we can be on top of what‘s going on, and make sure that we’re doing what we mean to be doing.

Some of us naturally lean toward the Optimistic wolf, and some of us toward the Negative one. Regardless of our “starting fitness,” we can always improve by doing our exercises regularly, mindfully, and without cheating (talking about them, without doing them.)

First, we need to focus on the Optimistic wolf. Get to know him or her; what does he or she mean to you, and how does that connection feel in your body. Get to know that feeling. If you’re not familiar with how Optimism feels, you can’t know when you’re in that state. What’s your posture like? Feel that and “memorize” the feeling. What’s your language like when you’re Optimistic? How do you say things? What’s your response to a challenge when you’re Optimistic? Make note of this. You’re getting to know the wolf you want to feed. Now, focus on the Negative wolf. Do all the same exercises we just did with Optimism. Feel your posture. Hear your tone of voice. Know this wolf too. Now you’re ready for the “bench-press.”

Every time you hear or feel any Negative wolf cues, catch yourself and stop. Focus on the Optimistic wolf cues, and consciously shift your attention there. Focus hard on the Optimistic wolf, and follow the feelings, thoughts, actions, and language that fit him or her. Your mind may wander, sliding into negativity. Catch it, stop, and re-aim your focus. Each time you take it from one to the other, you’re doing another “rep” with the barbell of your brain. The neural pathways to the Optimistic wolf get fed; enriched with neurotransmitters and nutrients. It gets easier and easier, until it becomes a habit.

Remember, this example is only one of hundreds of shifts that you can create in your brain. As you determine what serves you and others, and what doesn’t, you can devise this same shifting practice. The wolf you feed is the one that thrives. This is a big part of Integral Coaching. When we deconstruct the two states each wolf represents cleanly enough, you gain powerful understanding from the inside out. You know exactly what’s going on, why, and how to impact it to achieve your desired result.

Want to learn more about how to become the best you possible?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.

     - Ian J. Blei


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Welcome to the Integram, where consciousness meets intentional design.   Enjoy!



The Optimizer
Ian Blei,
Director of the
Institute for Integral Enneagram Studies and
President of
Optimized Results



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