Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the Moment

I’m recovering from a really intense experience that I had on Thursday night. For the second year, I am producing the video that the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society uses to help fundraise for their “Light the Night” Walk. One of the walks takes place in Manhattan, starting at the South Street Seaport and following a route across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. Last year, it rained like crazy, and I got soaked to the bone. Despite the weather, a couple thousand people turned out.

This week, I started watching the weather forecast early, and it didn’t look good. I warned my video crew that they were predicting a Nor’ Easter so they should be ready for big rain. The weather channels were calling for one to two inches, and I really had to batten down the hatches at home and in the barn since we would be gone. Fortunately, I was able to get one of my neighbors who is an experienced horsewoman to come feed the horses for me and secure them safely in their stalls. My daughter was spending the night with some other good friends, so I didn’t have to worry about her. Knowing that everyone was okay on the home front gave me the ability to really focus on my job at the Walk.

True to the predictions, it began to rain around 5 pm. The crowd was even bigger than last year, probably around four thousand people. What was so remarkable was that no one was complaining, even though the rain was coming down in a solid sheet. I think that initially my cameramen thought that I had been exaggerating with all my dire warnings, but they soon realized that this was like shooting in a monsoon. I had five layers of clothing on, and they were all wet. During the entire time, I kept myself totally in the moment, never thinking about how good it would be to get home to my warm bed or how long the walk back from the Bridge to the Seaport would be or how tired my feet were.

Standing on the Brooklyn Bridge watching a solid mass of drenched people with the LED lighted balloons they carried valiantly bobbing in the sky against the downpour, it was truly a memorablet scene -- a visual metaphor for the bravery of facing a deadly disease. I just kept marveling at all these people, many of them diagnosed with Leukemia or other blood cancers, walking along with such great spirit and love, regardless of how difficult it was.

It was only looking back on it this weekend, as I took some time to rest, that I realized how much my ability to focus had grown in a year. Recently, I’ve been re-reading Mark Rashid’s wonderful book, “Horsemanship Through Life”, and a phrase he uses came into my head. He talks about how as a young boy, he was riding on the trail with his mentor, “the old man”, and his mind was wandering. Suddenly, his horse spooked and did some crazy moves, and Rashid fell off. The old man said, “You shouldn’t have stopped riding… She didn’t buck you off. You fell off ‘cuz you quit riding… You were sitting. You quit riding over an hour ago.” Then, Rashid explains how many of us only keep our intent and awareness for short periods of time when we ride, letting the horse do all the work as we become passengers who are thinking about what we are making for supper or something that happened at work or being distracted by a million small things. Then, he points out that the only way to really hone the skills of attentiveness and communication with your horse is to live your whole life with that kind of intent and awareness in everything that you do.

Now, I know that I’ve been really working hard on being in the moment when I’m with my horses. I also have felt that my ability to stay aware and focused has increased in my daily activities away from the barn. It wasn’t until Thursday night that I really appreciated how much better it can make a painful situation. Last year, standing on the Bridge, my mind was worrying about how my mom and the horses were doing at home and distracted by how long the walk back to the car would be and a flood of other concerns that I couldn’t do anything about right then and there anyway. This year, I had a more meaningful and rewarding experience because I “never quit riding”.


Valentino said...

Your lovely post once again reminds that on the road to becoming a better horseman, you invariably become a better human. :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

The video and walk sounds like a worthwhile cause. Being in the moment is a good place to be and we should all strive for this not only with our horses but in our daily lives. I'm glad you didn't "stop riding", even during the miserable weather you endured.

Kate said...

Lovely, and oh so true.

detroit dog said...

Wonderful how a common cause can bring people together no matter what the external difficulties might be.

And, as always, your post has so much relevance to even us non-horse types.


Lori Skoog said...

That had to be quite an experience...I love the way you described it. There is something to be said for being able to focus. Too many people stop riding.

(Wish you could be here for drumming).

JanLou said...

Well Done for doing the walk in the bad weather.
I know what you mean about your attention wandering. Although, I havent been riding long, I find especially on long trail rides with lots of walking my mind can wander and then if the horse spooks, or stumbles thats when I lose my balance because I haven't been paying attention and riding like I have been taught. On the other hand, the nice thing about riding is I find as a beginner I definitely need to concentrate quite hard and it is a fantastic way of taking my mind off the everyday problems absorbing my mind on the horse and my riding.

deejbrown said...

The older I get, the more important I find to stay focused on the moment and even (OMG) to go with the unexpected and unplanned, including cancer in my family or a walk in a cloudburst.

Máire said...

That is a really nice reminder that how we are present to our life is how we are present to our horses also.

Breathe said...

What an incredible experience to share with us. Thank you.

I recently participated in a clinic with Mark and I have to say that the experience has gone well beyond the reins in my hand. It's reached deep into my intention for my life.

Here's to life with intention.