Of wolves and lawyers

“A fight is going on inside me, a fight between two wolves.”

by Scott Kalechstein — 

Recently, as I was telling a story at a Unity church service about my encounter with a woman 19 years ago, someone stood up and shouted, “That was me! I was that woman!” I was more than a little surprised, never having been interrupted like that in the middle of a sermon.

To begin my talk at church that day, I had used the profound Native American teaching tale about two wolves. For those who haven’t heard it: An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy, “a fight between two wolves. One of them is greed, arrogance, superiority, resentment, self-pity, guilt, inferiority, lies, false pride and ego. The other wolf is joy, love, peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

And the grandfather’s simple reply: “The one you feed.”

I had first met the woman who stood up at church in 1990, while giving a concert. Toward the end, I was taking requests for personalized healing songs, and someone mentioned that it was her birthday and that she would love a special song. I invited her to come into the center of the room and lie down on the carpet, and asked people to gather around and lay their hands on her while I brought forth a spontaneous song to honor and celebrate her unique journey.

She started to cry. It seemed obvious that her tears were happy ones, as she had a big smile on her face. I kept strumming and delivering the birthday telegram, connecting deeply with her on a soul level with the song. She continued to accompany me with her crying, adding occasional bursts of laughter as percussion.

Perhaps 15 minutes went by. The good vibes were contagious, potent and palpable. I assumed everyone in the room was flowing with the experience and enjoying themselves, until out of the corner of my eye I registered that a woman had gotten up, found some sage, lit it and was spreading the incense around the room. She seemed agitated. “What’s up with that?” I wondered.

Eventually the concert ended, and after snacks, cassette sales (it was almost 20 years ago!), and goodbyes, I finally called it a night, feeling more than satisfied with the evening’s work/play.

But the following morning, I got a telephone call from the woman who had been sage-ing, and she was truly incensed. She spoke with great anxiety and volume, so I put her on speakerphone, partly so that my traveling buddy Stephen could hear what she was saying and also to get some distance from her voice.

She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that the night before I had been over-the-top inappropriate with the song recipient — that the poor, vulnerable, birthday girl I had been singing to had obviously been reliving past sexual abuse, and I had ignorantly let the song and her anguished wails go on and on.

She continued by saying that a real healer would have intervened, not let her drown in her experience and that I was not at all trained or equipped to handle such a situation, therefore I had no business trying to do any of the healing work I was doing. I should immediately stop going deep with people and stick to lighthearted humor and entertainment. She was sure she was doing both the world and me an important service by calling out another new age charlatan and putting me in my place.

While she was giving me a piece of her mind, Stephen was giving me a “peace” of his. “Scott, this is all her stuff; it’s not at all about you. She’s deep in projection. The woman you sang to was having the time of her life. The only abuse going on is happening right now. Don’t take this seriously. Don’t give her power. Just breathe. You’re safe; you’re innocent; it’s not about you at all.”

Two voices. Two wolves! One was howling accusations, and the other reminding me to relax and not to take it personally. Which wolf to feed? Did I listen to my friend, Stephen-Wolf? Wish I had.

While I sided with him intellectually, the woman’s feedback was far too captivating, as it brought to the surface some long-harbored self-doubts. The inner critic blamed and shamed me for weeks, replaying her words as evidence of my inadequacy and guilt in the courtroom of my mind — which, by the way, is not a very fun place to find yourself — and I seriously questioned whether I should throw in the towel and leave the healing part of my work to valid professionals with authority and credentials.

Never mind that the woman who received the song left the concert gushing with gratitude. Never mind that I had a folder in my file cabinet filled with letters of appreciation for the work I had been doing with people. The prosecution had filed a far more forceful and emotionally compelling case, hypnotizing a jury of my fears by continuously chanting the mantra/verdict, “Inadequate; not enough; guilty!”

I’ve often tried to win the courtroom fight by beating the prosecuting attorney at his own game, feeding my defense with affirmations and declarations of my innocence. It’s been very trying work, and all of my trials have left me pretty tired.

In meditation one morning, I was listening to the lawyers in my head arguing once again about my guilt and innocence, worthiness and unworthiness. Both voices were clamoring for my attention, when I remembered the Native American story about the wolves. Which one should I feed? A novel idea occurred to me. What if instead of struggling to feed my defense and starve the prosecution, I just rested my case entirely?

I decided the time had come to settle this matter out of court. So … in my mind’s eye, I got up out of my uncomfortable chair and walked to the back door of the courtroom, delighted to find it unlocked. Stepping out into the warm, sunny day, I skipped down the stairs. Nervously, I looked back over my shoulder, but the judge, jury, lawyers, reporters, my parents, teachers and critics, even the wolves were not following.

I crossed the street and entered a playground — monkey bars, swings and grassy hills. There were children playing, and I joined them, rolling down a hill, giggling, laughing, picking up speed, getting silly. Free at last!

And now, back to the church, where I was telling my concert story, where a woman had jumped up and exclaimed, “That was me. I was the birthday girl, and you were singing to me that night. I’ll never forget. It was one of the highlights of my life.”

A part of me that had never been totally sure, relaxed. After the service, we got to catch up, while I munched on church snacks and sold a few CDs. We both were amazed and grateful that we had crossed paths again and had a chance to say hello.

What did I learn from all this? The courtroom is no place for God’s kids. Our innocence needs no defense. Not when the earth is filled with playgrounds, green rolling hills and pure, unconditional love. I learned to listen to and let in the love. That’s why we are here doing time: to learn to unlearn guilt and let in the love. That is our life sentence. Case closed and dismissed.

 

Scott Kalechstein is a counselor, coach, minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist, lighthearted miracle mischief-maker and modern-day troubadour. Scott’s writings are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or medical condition. If while reading you laugh your head off and your heart opens, but symptoms still persist, please see your doctor. 415-721-2954, scott@scottsongs.com or www.scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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