Life Practices


To help the students think about how we sustain ourselves in life. This is based on work we did in seminary, where we discussed how we need spiritual practices to sustain ourselves when doing the emotionally challenging work of being present for others who are in pain. I think it is equally true for all people. We need to have activities in life that feed us emotionally and spiritually, or we risk getting pulled into the negativie, citical, defended thinking that limits us.



One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that was going on inside himself.

He said, "My son, it is between 2 wolves. One is evil: Anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego… The other is good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith…" .

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one I feed."

— Author Unknown


  1. Read the poem "Two Wolves"
  2. Talk about the need to have activities in our lives that nurture us and keep us in a positive, hopeful state. We need to plan activities that keep our connection to the core self strong or we risk getting pulled into the negative, judgmental thinking that keeps us stuck in our vulnerable, defensive self.
  3. We then brainstorm some things we can do in our life to keep us emotionally and psychologically healthy. I make a list on the board.
  4. When someone suggests "reading spiritual writings" or "reading Houses of Healing", I like to tell this story as an example of someone who used life practices to improve their life.

One day a new student named Brian came into my class. He had the text book already, which is unusual, because I usually supply the books. When I asked "What do you want to learn from taking this class," he told this story:

He was an addict, and had recently been paroled from prison. One day, he was walking down the street in his old neighborhood, and he saw one of his old buddies who he used to do drugs with sitting in a red pick-up truck. He was reading this book, Houses of Healing.

They talked and his friend told him he had been out of prison for about 18 months and his life was going great. He had a job doing construction, a new girlfriend. They just got a new apartment. And everyday he would sit in his pickup truck at lunch, eat his sandwich and read a few pages of Houses of Healing. It was one of the things he did every day to keep him in a positive frame of mind.

Not long after, Brian gave into his addiction, breaking parole, and was back in prison. He saw the Houses of Healing book and he thought "I want what my friend had." He was one of my most motivated students.


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Self work

I ask the men to make a list of things they can do in their daily lives to keep their connection to the core self strong, and keep us in a good emotional space.

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