Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I got up earlier than usual this morning because I was worrying about the horses in this crazy cold weather. When I checked the temperature, it was 8 degrees in the barn with a wind chill that made it -4. I trudged out an hour sooner than normal to give them breakfast with extra hay. I’m mostly concerned about my dear old lady, Silk. When I took her blanket off on Sunday during our brief heat wave, she had obviously lost some weight. I researched cold weather and aging horses and have begun adjusting her diet, adding some beet pulp and extra hay.
While I was filling their buckets with warm water, I reflected on how this past year has consistently presented daily tests and difficulties beyond those I normally face. Then, I realized that this last decade has also been just one great challenge after another, not only for me but for everyone in this country. The actions of others, whether they are blowing up the World Trade Towers or offering bad mortgages that cause the banks to fail, impacted most of us in dramatic way s that we were unable to control or change. And it wasn’t our fault, so it made us angry and for some people, full of hate. I also thought about how sometimes over the past ten years, I’ve gotten involved in other family members’ life lessons and found myself wondering why the heck this is happening to me when it’s really their problem. I’ve come to understand that those moments are the ones that help build compassion and forgiveness, and I’ve learned that vulnerability can be a door to finding great strength. Those are pretty heavy thoughts for six o’clock in the morning.
Now that I’m back in the house, comforted by another cup of hot coffee, I’ve been thinking about an excerpt that I read from Linda Kohanov’s latest book that’s still a work in progress. She realized that her horses were “not so much tutoring as tuning me, helping me over time to hold a more balanced frequency. Like Zen masters, these exquisitely mindful creatures helped me navigate paradox with increasing facility. They even held the key to dealing with emotion effectively, and it didn’t involve suppression or expression.”
I owe so much to Silk for “tuning me to a more balanced frequency”, so it’s a small gesture of gratitude that I went out twice last night and got up extra early to give her more hay in an effort to keep her old bones warm. I do what I can do to keep my horses happy, and I am aware of how important happiness is to leading a healthy, balanced life.
In an increasingly important effort to create more happiness, I’ve just discovered Matthieu Ricard, a French cell geneticist who became a Buddhist monk. He lives in the Himalayas, takes beautiful photographs, cares for people who need help and writes about happiness. He believes that to understand what it takes to be happy, we must first look at why we’re not. “As influential as external conditions may be, suffering, like well-being, is essentially an interior state. Understanding that is the key prerequisite to a life worth living. What mental conditions will sap our joie de vivre, and which will nourish it?”
Ricard says, “The search for happiness is not about looking at life through rose-colored glasses or blinding oneself to the pain and imperfections of the world. Nor is happiness a state of exaltation to be perpetuated at all costs; it is the purging of mental toxins such as hatred and obsession that literally poison the mind. It is also about learning how to put things in perspective and reduce the gap between appearances and reality… In its deepest sense, suffering is intimately linked to a misapprehension of the nature of reality.”
This sharp cold spell is once again Mother Nature’s way of reminding me that I can’t control everything. In trying to control, we are closing our eyes to what is possible. Just as Silk and Siete accept and adapt to what is going on without worrying about what will happen tomorrow, I must learn to trust that I can handle what is placed before me . Following instinct and intuition the way my horses do, I will let my spirit guide me to a warmer, happier place.