Use a sweet tongue, courtesy, and gentleness, and thou mayest manage to guide an elephant by a hair.
This morning I spent some time with a horsewoman who is visiting the Cape for a few days, giving lessons. She came highly recommended by a close friend. I was skeptical; this journey into horses and riding has been so fraught with twists and turns and struggles. I’ve been exploring on my own for the past while, reading books and listening to what others have to say. Mostly I’ve been trying to listen to my horse. I’ve opened my heart and mind, and waited to see where the process would take me. Over the years, I’d put so much effort into getting it right and finding the ‘perfect’ path. I’d grown tired, and didn’t have the energy for more searching. I waited for the answers to come to me.
I was hesitant as I led my horse through the vineyards in the wintry air. I find it difficult to talk about the past years with Polar Bear, the emotions are so close to the surface. In the last year or so I have begun to feel that I am finding my way, and there are many highs to celebrate (like the joyous ride I experienced last week). But the gifts and wisdom I’ve gained are fragile, precious things. I want to guard them. I was unsure of whether this person, new to me and my horse, would understand. I worried that I would feel pushed into doing things I wasn’t comfortable with. I was afraid of not being heard or understood.
I started to talk about my journey with my horse. I explained how important it is for me to cultivate softness, that I want to communicate kindness and sensitivity rather than force in riding and working with my horse. She listened, and she took me seriously. I felt heard and acknowledged. I mentioned books I am reading and she knew them, and liked them. She challenged me too, spoke firmly but gently to the way I do not draw the boundaries that my horse needs. She helped me to see how I could do that without aggression or disrespect. Then she led me in a dance with my horse, and the two of us moved in gentle circles. I could use no tension on the lead rope; nor could I tap or hit him with it. Everything was about asking and inviting him to join me in a game. I ran with him, and he trotted joyfully by my side. I laughed and he tossed his head. We played together, and afterwards he rolled in the wet sand with abandon.
For a long time now I have been growing into the understanding that softness, gentleness and allowing are powerful. There is a time and place for being fierce. But even gentleness can be fierce. There is strength in yielding to what comes and finding ways to shift yourself and your circumstances with wisdom. The more I try to force and push and pull my way into things, the further they seem to recede into the distance. It’s not about being passive, but about having a heart that is open and hopeful, and free of suffocating expectation.
I came across this quote by Rumi a few days ago, and it captures so beautifully this lesson.
When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.