Be Neutral

By Darren Buford
[Editor's Note]

A grandfather was telling his grandson a story. “There are two wolves,” he says. “They are roaming in the forest, and they catch each other’s eye. A white wolf and a black wolf. And they run toward each other and start fighting. And fighting. A very vicious fight. They fight for many hours.” 

The grandson asks the grandfather, “Who will win?” 

The grandfather says, “Whichever wolf you feed.”


Neutrality can sound like a bad word. It isn’t. 

I equate neutrality with balance, stability, awareness, the meditative focus. A position of supreme control. 

In sports, you’ll sometimes hear an announcer or commentator describe the best athletes in the most intense moments as “their highs aren’t too high, nor their lows too low.”

This can sound unemotional. It isn’t. 

Rather, it’s being removed from emotion and being an observer of your own thoughts and actions. Often, when I’m working with individuals and they’re building a proposal, case, or argument, my comments are, “Be neutral. Build your case, but build both sides equally—the pros and the cons—so that you’ve answered every possible objection. Show your reader that, yes, you’ve thought through the possibilities and understand the nuance of the situation.” 

The same applies to bodywork. Being neutral means being open, receptive, curious. As you read through this content-diverse issue of Massage & Bodywork, take heed in author Kate Mackinnon’s words about her experience working with dolphins and craniosacral work on retreat in the Bahamas: “The mere act of listening to the variety of experiences over the four days opened each participant to new viewpoints. Just about everyone came away with an expansion of their perspective and increased understanding of neutral. Ideally, as therapists, we can hold neutrality where our views and thoughts create the least amount of influence on our client’s process (emphasis mine).”  

I believe the grandfather from the above proverb sums it up best: “When we choose to feed just one of the wolves, we lose our balance, our grounding. Both wolves are important. And if we feed them both, give them both space and love, then we find our center.”1 


1. Adapted from “Let’s Explore the Emotional Body Within,” by Bodhi Samuel, InsightTimer, February 2020. 


Letter to the Editor 

“Accountability Buddy” response from January/February 2024 Massage & Bodywork. (Edited for space.)

I’ve been working on a mindfulness certification, and while working today, I was reminded about what you wrote: “You may need to put pen to paper” while trying to achieve your goals. I’ve been doing a lot of the certification in my head, but I finally put my thoughts to paper today. And you’re right, it makes a difference.

In case you’re curious, the beginning of this certification is about finding your deepest desires in order to establish goals and direction. After much thinking, here are the desires I came up with for myself, relating to different categories:

• Sensible desire: to make a real living

• Survival desire: to not be afraid of the world

• Effortless desire: for things to flow without doubt 

• Fantasy desire: to feel emotionally fulfilled 

We’ll see what the rest of the certification brings. 

—Ben Christensen


Darren Buford