Horses are teaching me a great many lessons. My inner and outer life are at times unrecognizable in a mere six months of daily practice with horses. Today, I reflect on the lesson of practicing presence that horses are teaching me.
For many years I felt an urgent desire to achieve greatness. On some level I think many of us wish for it. Although we can pin the desire for achievement so easily on ego, there is an underlying positive quality to the drive. At first, it helps us to move from laziness into action. Over time, small achievements grow into bigger ones. There comes a point though, when we begin to experience the emptiness of success. There’s little sympathy for the depressed billionaire and yet many describe the pinnacle of achievement as disappointing and lonely.
The truth behind our desire for greatness is our soul’s knowing that it's potential is infinite. Success comes when we discover our gifts and decide to surrender them to grace. We let those gifts become a channel for our inner light to brighten the world around us. Our focus shifts from greatness of achievement to greatness of being.
That desire has always been strong in me. I spent twenty years seeking achievement in noble endeavors of service to charitable causes. But the road to greatness in any discipline is long and winding. I had no more patience for it. Evenings in solitude were often spent dreaming of a future state yet unfulfilled and wishing my life had a remote control, so that I could press fast forward.
Even along my journey with horses, I suffered this urgent desire to be further along my path. Fortunately, horses have been working away at my restlessness little by little, day by day. In their presence, I forget the doing and shift into being more and more often. When I fall back into old patterns, they remind me. First they softly call to me with their energy releases and ways of connecting. When I ignore them, they get more loud and intense in their movements. If I’m really not paying attention, they show me through pain in their own bodies or in mine.
Recently, I was deep in my desire to be a better horsewoman. I decided that Zip would help me achieve this and began to ride him regularly. At first, he showed me his answer by walking away from me when I tried to catch him. This isn’t that abnormal when we ask a horse to do something he doesn't want to do, so I ignored it.
Next, he showed me when I saddled him. He sat quietly as he’d been trained, but turned his head in protest and shot me the “stink eye” when I took a moment’s pause after saddling. Finally, because I was not listening, he showed me by going lame after each ride. In my rush to become a better horsewoman, I neglected the first lesson in horsemanship: pay attention to the horse.
It’s not that we need to do only what our horse feels like doing. It’s not that we need to let go of all of our goals. But, there is no fast forward button to our lives. If we can accept what is, rather than pushing for what is not yet there, we open to grace.
Today, having come along this journey with horses through many moments of restless pushing that are followed by lessons in presence, I can say with deep gratitude that I no longer want to press fast forward. My life is beautiful as it is.
When I fall into the old pattern of future pushing, I breathe and spend time with my horses, then all returns to peace. This gift alone has made my life with horses a blessing. It is just one of the myriad blessings that I collect now in my basket of “being greatness” that I cherish with gratitude to the horse and to myself for paying attention.