January 29, 2016


Before I left for Florida I had come to the conclusion that peace--your own internal sense of being calmly centered--is the most precious thing you can offer to someone you love.

In Florida I began to see that it’s even deeper than that: peace isn’t a gift you give so much as it is the environment necessary for love to truly flourish. Without peace, love just doesn’t come through the same way.

I have loved Lupin his entire life. That love has kept me with him through times I felt like there was no way we were going to work things out between us, through times I felt overwhelmed by everything I didn’t know about how to help him, through fear that both of us would get hurt. I’m a stubborn person, but I don’t think you can be that stubborn over that long a time without love lying at the root of it.

At the same time, though, I have rarely felt like that love really came through to Lupin very clearly. In a certain way we were pretty strongly connected, but not in a way that often felt great to either of us. For my part I was always cranked about all the things I didn’t know yet, about not doing it right, about screwing up my horse. Lupin was more often than not only half engaged and pretty quick to shut down. I’m not confident that either of us were truly keen on spending time together. But I kept at it, because I love him.

And I’m not belittling that kind of commitment. Sometimes that’s what love is: working hard and gutting it out for someone you care about.

But I also think we make love into this far more often than we need to. We have this immense amount of love for someone, but only a tiny bit of it manages to trickle through the wall of tension that we’ve built around it. Tension created by the fear that we’re not good enough, or worry about what will happen, or stressing over what the other person/animal thinks or feels, or focusing on things that we perceive to be problems in the relationship.

I think it’s a lot like what Mark says about physical power: our power is far greater than our actual muscular strength, but power doesn’t come through if we are tense. We need to be soft internally for our power to be anything close to fully effective.

To me it’s the same relationship between love and peace. We can have vast amounts of love, but if we aren’t peaceful, it just doesn’t come through.

The best part about my time in Florida was that everything was peaceful. Learning was peaceful, connection to my horse was peaceful, being in general was peaceful. Not only do Mark and Crissi foster this kind of atmosphere; they teach their students how to cultivate the peace that’s within themselves in the form of softness, calmness, and staying centered.

The first day I spent in Florida I lay in the sunshine enjoying how good it felt on my skin and how beautiful Lupin looked in it. As the two weeks went along, it felt more like that sunshine was inside me, inside Lupin, and connecting the two of us together in a soft, relaxed, golden feeling that I can only describe as deeply peaceful love.

January 22, 2016

Getting to the Goal

I realized as I was packing up to leave for Florida that I was scarcely even thinking about my Florida trip beyond its logistics. In fact, despite knowing that my trip would be wonderful on many levels, I was thinking right on past it to when I got back. Because then I would be done.

I’ve discovered a similar tendency in my horsemanship and in most of the things I do. I’ll call it the exam mentality: that looking forward to when the thing that you’re about to do is in the past tense.

It’s a habit that has been exacerbated when it comes to horse stuff by some of my past learning--in particular the idea that the moment the horse does what you want you take all pressure off and quit. That technique, designed to give the horse a clear reward when he does what you ask, has the side effect of causing both you and the horse to look toward the moment of being finished as the happy place. In short, you both celebrate the moment when you can be done with doing things together. Not exactly a recipe for enhancing your sense of connection.

Mark has been pointing out time and again to me that it’s counter-productive to quit just when everything is feeling good. You and the horse both just made an effort to get things going well: why would you just drop it the moment you do?

Yet the only area of my life I can think of where I don’t do just exactly that is dancing. I don’t dance to get to the end of the dance: I dance for the joy of dancing itself. In every other area, though, I am looking for the end/result/stopping place/point of achievement. And that is generally true of positive things as well as stressful things.

I’m not sure exactly how this mentality emerged. Maybe it has to do with lack of confidence, an intolerance for existing in a space of uncertainty, an assumption that effort is negative, or a need to check things off a list to feel successful. But however it came about, I have no doubt that it is just that: a mental pattern, a mindset that can be changed.

And what I’m discovering this week is that how you change it is to focus on feel rather than result. It’s a beautiful thing for my horse to float softly sideways when I just think sideways, but if I’m just admiring the accomplishment, I am losing almost all of my connection with my horse, and with joy, and really with the whole point of doing any of this.

Joy lies in feel. It lies in feeling your own insides hum in harmony with your horse’s insides, in the feeling of relaxation in both of you, and in the lightness of existing in the realm of softly doing rather than the realm of thinking.

Until now the only way I have found peace is in not doing. For the first time this week I’m starting to feel how there can be peace in doing. How doing things without a physical or mental brace lets you be light even in the midst of effort, and how doing things for the feel in the present can erase the weight of needing to achieve.

And I’m discovering that true peace does not come from having done. You may find relief from having done, but peace comes from finding joy in the doing, and living in that joy. That’s the realm we are meant to live in. Not a state of mere satisfaction with our achievement, but a state of active joy in living itself.