There’s an old native American story of the fight of two wolves. A wise grandfather sits beside his young grandson, overlooking a verdant valley below them.
“There is a fight going on inside” said the elder, “it’s a fight between two wolves. The one wolf represents anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, regret, arrogance, guilt, resentment, and superiority. The other wolf represents love, peace, humility, generosity, truth, compassion, faith, kindness and empathy. This fight is going on inside of everyone.”
The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather responded, “The one you feed.”
Now that sounds simple enough, whichever wolf you feed, that wolf grow and prosper. Maybe you feed the angry one, and you become a curmudgeondy scrooge. Maybe you feed the nice one, and you’re a do-gooder with and a look-on-the-bright-side demeanor. But for the rest of us who don’t swing towards either of these extremes, the tricky part can actually be figuring out which wolf is which. Which voice in your head is the right one to listen to?
Wouldn’t it be great if each time we had a thought in our head, we knew where it was coming from? For example, if I had a thought coming in from Mariah, it would be in my voice, “Hey me! What should we have for dinner tonight?” If I had a thought coming from Spirit, the Universe, God, whatever you chose to call the higher powers that be, it would express itself as a booming and thunderous Wizard of Oz-type persona and it would say…” Mariah, thou shalt pay attention, forst I twill givest thee information of upmost importance!” or something like that. Or if it was from ego, the one responsible for our hesitations, fears and sense of security, it would come in an unsure, scattered and fearful voice. Maybe something like Piglet from Winne the Pooh “This situation feels a little spooky”. Or perhaps a dark energy leading us astray would be in an evil, villain-esque voice...muah, ha, ha. You get the picture. But this doesn’t happen right? It all sounds like YOU.
The problem is that you don’t know where these voices are coming from. And more often than not, they aren’t coming from truth, from our Higher Self, or from the Universe, they’re coming from some form of insecurity or an illusionary sense of reality.
So who are these voices? Well, there are two main ones, and the trick to figuring out which one is which, is to listen to the intention behind each voice.
The ego is a voice of survival. It wants us to stay in our comfort zone. It’s a restrictive stick-in-the-mud that wants to ruin all the fun. It tends to tell you stories - that you’re not good enough, that you shouldn’t go out on a limb and try that new thing. It wants a safe and predictable plan. We don’t have time for shenanigans, we have to pay the bills.
The ego is also prone to yelling and screaming. It throws temper tantrums, it speaks over all the other voices. It’s fearful and believes everything is a potential threat. This can manifest in a I got this! machismo attitude as well. In order to keep you safe, it makes sure that you don’t go out of your way to try something new where you might grow and expand, because that could be scary. And we don’t like scary. And it doesn’t like situations that could threaten the strength of itself, because the ego doesn’t like to feel threatened. The ego even does a really great job of bringing up emotions to convince you to stick with the safe path. When I look back at my plant medicine experience, the sensations that erupted were 100% my ego saying…don’t worry, I’m here to protect you! I’ll get us out of this mess! I’ll even throw some crazy emotions at you to make sure you back out!
Think about the excuses you come up with for not doing something you are drawn to – it’s too expensive, I couldn’t possibly leave my family/spouse/pets to fend for themselves, I couldn’t take the time off work, I couldn’t leave my job to pursue it, what would my family/friends think…yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s the ego talking.
An example from my life is that I am a chronic idea generator. I LOVE coming up with new ideas, businesses and paths to pursue. I’ll get on a roll too, buying up website domains and designing logos. In the past I’ve created a kayaking tour company, a courier business, custom beds for sailboats, a brewery, and an island lifestyle brand (which I actually did create, and it’s called Out Island Life). There were many others, too many to count. How many of them have come into fruition? Almost none of them. Why? Not because I didn’t have the intellect or the drive or the means to come up with funding, but because my ego squashes them eventually. It tells me that it’s silly to pursue this idea, that you’ll probably fail, and you’d better quit while you’re ahead. And even if I’ve gotten the green-light support from everyone around me, I’d inevitably set the idea over in the corner along with the other forgotten ideas cast in cobwebs,
So where is this coming from? Well, the ego was developed by influences that you’ve been exposed to throughout your life – influences from your family, the school system, your culture, and by society. It abides by a series of rules and demands, instilled on itself by itself, often without fundamental logic. It’s a complete reflection of your environment, of adversity, and of projections of the shadow sides of other people. When you disarm the ego, your reactions to your normal triggers begin to subside. When you distance yourself from ego, you can begin to let it go.
Intuition, or the Higher Self, is faith and hope based. It wants to evolve, to create, and to share your message with the world. It’s expansive and it reaches towards the highest possibilities. It’s infinite wisdom. The Higher Self is calm and gentle. It isn’t a yelling or manic voice. It whispers to you, quietly and persistently. Think of it as a super chill, grounded and centered non-conformist free spirit. Peace and love man, let’s go deep. It wants you to be more, to love more, and to connect with others. It’s not always a voice in your head either, it can be feelings or it can be experienced through your senses. It can be witnessed in meditation, in dreams, or as a gut instinct.
You may notice times in your life when you truly listen to intuition. It’s when you do something against all rationale and potentially without support from loved ones. It may even seem as though you are being careless or reckless, or that you’ve gone completely off the deep-end, signing up for a full-blown tea party with the Mad Hatter. But something inside you is just saying YES.
SO, HOW DO YOU QUIET THE EGO AND LISTEN TO THE HIGHER SELF?
When you feed the ego, like our wolf situation, it gets stronger. But when you don’t get caught up in the ego, that it actually goes away. As soon as you’re like…Hey! I don’t need to listen to you, you’re not the boss of me, it’s immediately disarmed, depowered and rendered helpless. When we can step past the ego, the Higher Self is the one in control, and the Higher Self knows what you need, it knows how you can grow and expand, and it will support you.
When I’m feeling a sense of anxiety, fear, or anger, the best way to address it is to delve into it. When you notice an intense emotion arise, take a moment to remove yourself from whatever you’re doing and tune into it. Where in your body are you feeling it? For me, anxiety is in the chest area, and fear bubbles up in my arms and shoulder. Localize it, then start to notice its subtler expressions. Is there a temperature associated with it? A color or a shape? Is it hard, soft, pliable or intangible? Once you are able to solidify its expressions, start to feel it. Deeply feel it. Allow it to consume you. It could be overwhelming. You may even start to cry. See if you can tell where it’s coming from. When you let it express itself, oftentimes it will speak to you. You may even realize that there is another emotion hiding behind that emotion. Perhaps your anger is actually extreme loneliness stemming from a childhood incidence.
With practice, you’ll start to tune into your feelings and emotions. You’ll notice when they arise and where they are stemming from. You’ll notice when it’s ego trying to make you play it safe. And with practice, you’ll start to slowly allow your Higher Self to emerge, blazing the trail towards infinite opportunities.