For the last while my horse, Polar Bear, has been stiff and sore. He has struggled to move forward and sometimes it felt as though his feet were glued to the ground. I sensed that moving was hard for him and that being ridden was painful. I tried various things; physiotherapy, a new saddle, meds for ulcers. Nothing really seemed to work. He’d be alright for the odd ride and then the stickiness would return. A couple of months back I had a bad fall during a lesson; I continued riding but something in me had broken. My years with this horse have been full of challenges; he has never been an easy ride and although we have made great strides forward (due in no small measure to wise riding teachers and very supportive friends) there are still parts of the journey that at times overwhelm me. Part of me wanted to give up… on him, on riding, on some of my dreams. I was so tired, and disappointed in myself. In the middle of all this a voice was beginning to emerge in my life. It was a voice that came through many sources: experiences I was having, my riding teacher, friends, yoga practices and listening to my own body. This voice was telling me that sometimes the answer is not in trying harder or knowing more. Sometimes the answer is like a mist slowly clearing so that what was there all the time becomes visible. You can’t make mist evaporate and you can’t see through it. You just have to wait for that moment when clarity appears and you see things for the way they are. I decided to let go of all the expectations and wishes for where I wanted us to be and to let him and me be where we were in this moment. I stopped pushing us to do all the big scary things and just walked quietly around the arena, or trotted slowly through the vineyards. No more pressure. I started listening to my body, and to his. When I felt frustrated or afraid or angry, I went back to something I knew was easy for us both and as soon as I felt still inside I would hop off and take him back to the paddock, praising him all the while and feeling so much love and appreciation for this beautiful boy who has taught me so much.
Two weeks ago our trimmer came to do some bodywork on the horses. She is just back from the UK where she did some training with the man who designed the techniques, and she is busy with her certification process. The work is about creating awareness for the horse of areas where they are holding tension, so that they can release it. It involves very gentle touches or movement of the legs and neck and then holding them or keeping the hand in a certain place until the horse releases. The release is evidenced with blinking, licking and chewing, yawning and breathing out. That first treatment he was very fidgety; it was hard for him to release and Kathy said that he had lots of problem areas, but there were moments where he just stood and closed his eyes. I was keen to see how he would fare when I rode him next. It was wonderful. He was much more relaxed and happy to move forward. Something had definitely shifted. Saturday Mir and I went up onto the mountain and he was so soft and loose in his movement, even cantering easily and quietly without any effort on my part to keep him going. On Monday I felt so good about his and my state of mind that I took us up onto the mountain for the first time in weeks on our own and it was a wonderful time together, enjoying the early morning sun above the mist still hanging in the valleys below. Today Kathy came back to do another session and he was far more calm than in the first session and almost meditative as she worked. I could see that he was connected to her and what she was doing. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I loved seeing him slip into that stillness.
So I am thinking a lot these days about the value of creating awareness and allowing and inviting shifts to happen. I have spent so much time trying to “get it right”. There is value in that too, and in making decisions and thinking things through carefully. But sometimes there are seasons when just being conscious of what is going on is enough. Sometimes we need to let the changes and shifts happen in a quiet way. Sometimes we need to be like little children and let God do His work in the deep places of our being, with the wisdom that only He holds. Sometimes it’s okay to just breathe out and release everything that we have held onto for so long. To do that we need awareness of what those things are, and then lovingly and without judgement just let them go.
If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found. ~Author Unknown
I have managed to get myself lost twice in the last week or so. Last week I was leaving a friend’s home in the dark. I have been there more than once. I know how to get there and back. But for some reason I took a wrong turn and ended up running into dead ends and circles. Nothing looked familiar. When I finally got my bearings I wondered how in the world I had got so muddled. It is still a mystery. A couple of days ago I went to deliver something to the home of friends who have just moved. They gave me directions. Again I wound up lost, took ages to meander round to where they were and when I headed home I realised that I had been just a few houses down from them when I took myself on a not so scenic route. I hate getting lost; and when I do I tend to get either really frustrated and angry or just plain scared. As I was driving around last week, I thought to myself “This is what my life feels like right now; this is what my life has felt like for a while. ” Like I am going in circles, like I cannot find my way; I feel lost. Not all the time. There are moments when everything seems clear and bright and I feel like I’ve “got it”. But it’s not long before all the doubt and confusion and fogginess set in. I find myself asking all sorts of questions about meaning and purpose and no matter what I am doing at any given moment, I feel there is perhaps something better I could be doing. It’s a maze of dead ends where every choice seems fraught with flaws and uncertainties. I am always second guessing myself. Ann Voskamp says that it takes all the seasons to grow a crop, and that we have to give ourselves to the season we are in now and let it do its work. I wonder what this season is about and why it seems so long. I wonder what I am really accomplishing and whether I am growing at all. But… what I am learning to do is to listen. I have spent so much time and effort trying to figure it all out, to find that trick that will make everything fall into place. My grandfather had these little puzzles. You can still get them. Some are made of wood and some of metal and you have to get them to fit together in some way or sometimes get them to come apart. At first glance it looks impossible but once you know the trick you realise how simple it was. Well I think I sometimes treat life like one of those puzzles, and the truth is that life is not a puzzle to be solved. It is a mystery to be entered into. Someone told me the other day that that we have to be quiet and wait for answers to emerge. It is in the stillness that God speaks, and a quiet mind is needed to hear. So maybe being lost is not a bad thing. Maybe if I can stop trying to find my way, I will find something better. Maybe this season is like winter, where although not much can be seen on the outside, roots are digging deeper, providing the nourishment and foundation for what the future holds.
Nobody sees a flower really- it is so small it takes time- and we haven’t time- and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O’ Keeffe
Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
I planted Sweet Peas in March. I prepared the soil in a planter bought with birthday money from my in-laws. I stuck laser cut words on the planter… DANCE… ENJOY they said. When everything was ready I soaked the seeds overnight and tucked them into their beds of dirt and prayed they would find the light and reach into it. And they did. First they were little shoots of green barely out of the soil. Soon they needed something to climb, so my dad made a trellis from the leftover fencing in the shed. They grew fast, spreading all over the trellis, even spilling down the front of the planter. For months there was just green, and then a couple of days ago I was out in the garden and I noticed it as I walked past, the first flower, a purple one. I was so excited to see it; that one little flower, but today there is another and I know before long the trellis will be a riot of colour covering the patch of wall above the planter box.
I planted Sweet Peas because they remind me of my grandmother. Every year she grew them across a net spread between some poles in her yard and I remember them as a wall of colour and light that appeared every spring. I loved walking out to the back of the garden to look at it. Gran’s garden was a place of magic for me, a world outside of time and the realities of everyday life. I would wander around it, lost in the stories in my head. A place I felt a kind of quiet in my spirit. A thin place. A place where I could take the time needed to see the flowers, to see the goodness and beauty that is at the heart of everything. When I work in my own garden I feel that magic; I sense that I am stepping outside the confines of time and space into a deeper reality that infuses our everyday experience with its light and power. I love the quote by Georgia O’ Keeffe; it too reminds me of my gran. She took the time to nurture and to see, and to be my friend. She did not raise her voice, she was a gentle presence that grew beautiful things in me.