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.