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.

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