Justice

On Mood and Hungry Bears

May 20, 2020 by

black bear

Early this morning, a young black bear was sighted heading north across the Mount Community where I live. “Maybe he is heading for the Port Ewen Diner,” I thought. Later I spoke to a childhood friend, who mentioned that in Native American culture, seeing a bear is often a sign of good luck.

There is an old adage about bears that is also attributed to Native Americans: A young man asks his grandfather about the two hungry bears – one good and one bad – fighting inside each person. “Grandfather,” he says, “which one will win?” The grandfather responds, “The one you feed.”

Musing on this brings me to the topic of moods: how they can swallow and blind us. I am not talking about clinical depression (a serious subject in its own right) but about the reactive trap of thoughts that seem to automatically generate negative feelings, feelings that then hook us into other thoughts that stimulate and amplify even more depressed feelings. The external world is not the owner nor the creator of our thoughts and feelings, but it is the raw material out of which we manufacture our lives: our thoughts, feelings, values, visions, and goals are all touched by what goes on outside us.

Yet events do not dictate our choices. They invite us to make choices for ourselves. (Another way to say this is “the soul is greater than events.”) To address the problems or difficulties of one’s own moods is not about figuring out ways to control others, even if we think our negative moods are triggered by others from time to time. Instead, it is coming to grips with the fact that our moods come from what we tell ourselves about events and about our own experiences; that they come, in fact, from our own thought processes. Do I want a different mood? There is no rule preventing me from choosing new or more positive ways to think about my life and experience. Your mind is not an accident. Nor is your mood.

Musing on mood brings me to the quote from the New Testament in which Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within” (Luke 17:21 KJV). My mind quickly adds, “So is the Kingdom of Hell.”

At some point in our lives’ journeys each one of us decides which bear to feed – which thoughts, feelings, and actions to hold in our hearts. In my opinion, it is not God or Jesus who ordains which side (or which hungry bear) we choose. It is we ourselves who create our destiny by how we choose to think and act. We inscribe our names into the Book of Life by the thoughts we choose to think and the actions we decide to take. At some point in our lives’ journeys each one of us decides which bear to feed – which thoughts, feelings, and actions to hold in our hearts.

The Kingdom, which is our final destination, is already here in our hearts right now. Not knowing that we ourselves are the gates of heaven, too often we wait for someone else to decide our path. Stand up now. Choose the path of truth, righteousness, and compassion.

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About the author

Allen Wood

Allen Wood

Allen Wood lives with his wife Gio at the Mount Community.

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