Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Pause In Between
Siete and I are going to move on to a new exercise as part of the Waterhole Rituals. I am supposed to place five small piles of hay in a circle that is 20 feet in diameter. After Siete begins eating at one pile of hay, I will ask her to move on to the next one, the intention being that I will be able to eventually direct her calmly and easily to go around the circle from pile to pile at my request. It is the beginning of what Carolyn Resnick calls “leading from behind”.
I feel like my horse and I are both ready to try it, but I’ve been stuck for the last couple of days unable to move forward. My mind is full of “what if’s”, and I worry that I will do the wrong thing and give Siete the wrong message. I am going to need to respond spontaneously and confidently to what ever my horse offers me. I keep reminding myself of what I learned from one of my friends last year. Don’t think of what happens as a mistake, just learn from it and do the next thing you think you need to do. It should be a process for both me and Siete, without any right or wrong or blame or guilt.
My hesitation reminded me of an article that I read recently called “Open Stillness”, written by Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel. She talks about rock climbing in Colorado and reaching a place suspended on the rock where she can’t see any possibilities for moving up or down:
“Hanging off a rock is an exaggerated experience of facing the unknown. It is exhilarating, scary, and completely vibrant. When we can’t find a foothold, the mind falls into an open stillness— the same brief pause we encounter in any situation where we lose our familiar reference points. If we have the wherewithal to relax, we find our way. If we don’t, we sometimes panic. When reactive mind responds to situations where we lose our reference points, our body tightens, our breath shortens, our vision narrows.
After a while, muscle strain stirs our sensibilities: “I can’t stay like this forever!” We don’t have the luxury of avoidance, so we start to work with our mind and slowly it softens. Now, this is the fascinating part: as everything softens, all kinds of new patterns and shapes begin to emerge from the rock. We see places to balance we didn’t see before. We’re not doomed after all! As we soften and open, we access a special intelligence, unimpeded by habitual, reactive mind.”
It reminded me of an experience I had in college where I was climbing up a steep hill and got stuck exactly as she describes, afraid and unable to move in either direction. In that instance, I started laughing so hard at myself that I began crying, and eventually, one of my friends crawled below me and pushed my bottom and my feet until I could move to the next foothold. This time, the only friends I have out here in the pasture are my two horses. I’ve decided to include Silk in this exercise since I trust her and I think she might be able to help me find my balance with her daughter. In the end, though, it’s up to me to be the leader here.
I’m going to allow myself to be peaceful now in this pause before I begin climbing again and take some time to reflect on what I’m afraid might happen and why I would feel that way. Since Siete was born, I’ve always worried that I will do something that would ruin her and cause her to distrust humans. And despite my good intentions and best efforts, we’ve had some tough times with thoughtless, ego-driven trainers, vets and farriers. I know that what we are doing together now will heal us and lead to a mutual trust. It will take as long as it will take, no predicting when it will happen. So for right now, I’m not going to get impatient or annoyed with myself or even call it “being stuck”. I’d rather see it as a time to gather my “windhorse energy”, as the Buddhists call it. Siete has no agenda, and I have to be careful to listen to her and not try to create or force one of my own. I know I will be able to feel when we are ready to move forward from hay pile to hay pile.