Horses, expectations and flowing with life
Horses, expectations and flowing with life
by Edward Pershwitz
“…grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference…”
Our life experiences make us happy, sad, anxious, furious, engaged, annoyed, withdrawn… the list goes on and on. We interpret things that happen to us, or around us, each in our own way, and label them with what we understand them to be. We welcome what we like and push against what we don’t, often filling our lives and the lives of those around us with stress and anguish. We want the world to be a certain way, and when it does not meet our expectations we frantically try to change it. We try to change the habits of the spouse, teach the cat a lesson, show the horse who’s the boss, and many, many other futile things that eat into our lives. The sense of entitlement to have it our way permeates our relationships with all living things, and even sometimes inanimate objects. Ever wanted to kick a chair that happened to be in your way?
Any time we train a horse we are essentially saying that he needs to change because we want him to. We place our expectations on him and feel entitled to hurt him if he does not comply. When we ride we don’t think of the pain we may be causing to our friend we say we love. We make ourselves believe that he should enjoy it just because we do. We feel entitled to snatch the cat off the floor whenever we feel the need to have a furry ball in our arms. We don’t ask his permission or bother ourselves with pausing and giving consideration to what he wanted to do at the moment. We just do it. On our terms.
We can have more peace if we accept the fact that things just are. If you are having a bad day this is merely your reflection of events that happened. They just happened. There is nothing good or bad about them. We stop labeling things or giving them interpretations according to our beliefs. Hurt is okay. Death is okay. Every experience is just a tiny point in space and time. Our whole life is a tiny point in space and time. The hills don’t care. They were there before us and will be there after the memory of us ever existing dissipates.
And, just like everything else, we ourselves just are.
We turn to the horse to teach us attunement to the present, to help us quiet the noise, clear the mind, give up the purpose, and live in the moment we are in. Void of judgment, void of morals, void of commitments. To savor the unity with nature, the transience of existence, the insignificance of artificial goals we set for ourselves and others in our everyday life.
It’s a fine art to just be. We stop being an imposing force and start experiencing life as it happens to us. We become aware of every dimension of the present. Every sound, every smell, the sensation of the clothes touching our bodies, the air movement, the light. The horse comes to check you out, nudges your neck and chews on your collar. On his terms. The cat jumps in your lap, curls up, and start purring. On his terms. Your significant other no longer has to change to meet your approval and your relationship blossoms. And at last serenity enters your life.
You become more and more aware of the discordance of mainstream human activity around you, of which you used to be a part, and even though is does not disturb your equilibrium you feel the need to share harmony with others. You see the futility of their effort, the unhappiness it brings to their lives, and the alienation it brings to the lives they touch. You want to make a difference in the world by creating islands in this sea of fruitless struggle, where people can experience for themselves what it feels to just be, with no imposition, no competition, no agenda.
The circle closes as you yourself no longer just are – you feel a sense of mission, a need to create change. You interact with the world with intention, with the idea to make it better, which in itself presumes an interpretation of good and bad. In a classic illustration of Hegel’s negation of the negation you just arrived at the very thing you have denounced.
It seems ironic but there is a fundamental difference. The change is no longer forced but rather allowed to happen. On its terms. All you do is enable it. What’s gone is the attachment to the result.