The Refuge of Experience

06 Apr

Remember the Native American legend of the good wolf and the evil wolf? The little boy asks his grandfather which one will win. Do you remember what the grandfather answers? “The one you feed.”

The implication is that we should feed one of the wolves and let the other starve. If we’re patient and consistent enough, eventually, we can eliminate the evil wolf and have only good.

In his teaching, Fred Davis ( makes a distinction between thinking and experience. Experience can mean something we accumulate slowly over time. “She is very good at what she does because she has so much experience.” However, what Fred is talking about is what we might call momentary experience — the experience going on in this moment now.

In each moment, I can trust my thinking or I can trust my experience. If I go with my thinking, I wind up identified with the body/mind, separate, and sooner or later, suffering. When I go with experience, there’s peace, ease, aliveness, connection, and no problems. Only a thought can have a problem. When I catch myself having problems, that’s a clue that I’m identifying with the thinking and an opportunity to shift back to experience.

Which wolf will win? The one I feed more, certainly, but the thinking wolf has its uses. We don’t want to starve it to death. We just want to remember that we can always turn to the wolf of experience for a break from the responsibilities and problems and stresses the wolf of thought brings us.

It might be useful to notice that thought happens within experience. We can have experience without thought, but we can’t have thought without experience. Experiencing awareness has to be present before thought can happen. Moment by moment experience is primary and fundamental. Thought, sensation, everything happens only within that primary and fundamental experience.

Posted by on 2013/04/06 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “The Refuge of Experience

  1. akismet-d58ed0e9807c729016b7c0dc33ae327a

    2014/06/25 at 19:56

    Tom, I’d love to use this story, or maybe just parts of it on my blog. I’m a Middle School principal in Baltimore and really appreciate your story. It helps both adults and students grapple with some of the tensions that exits in a prolific learning environment. May I use it? Did you write this? It is beautiful. Thanks so much,


    • Tom

      2014/06/29 at 16:51

      Hi, Josh,

      Thanks for your note. I’m glad you like what I wrote. Feel free to use it. I’d appreciate it if you’d give me credit for any direct quotes, but otherwise, you’re welcome to use the ideas in any way that seems useful to you.



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