Soft Feel and Self Regulation
For many years I had a strong desire to make things happen. I felt that to be happy meant I had to be enough.
Being “enough” meant I had to be good at what I did, I had to be liked, I had to be smart, and I had to be desired. Everything I did was surrounded by this belief in enough… enough time, money, and especially enough approval. This created a lot of pressure and little to no presence.
In life and in horsemanship I can clearly see that what’s inside is what shows up on the outside. If the inside of a horse or a human is troubled by fear all activity will be affected by it. And the belief in scarcity (not enoughness) is at the root of fear. It is an unconscious survival response that quickly becomes a conditioned way of life.
Eventually I was fortunate enough to realize that this cup could never be full. Fear was at the source of my actions and contentment and fear do not coexist. I had to see from a different perspective.
To see differently meant I had to inquire into my fear. What exactly was I afraid of?
I began to examine the areas of my life where I would push myself (or my horses ) for the almighty more— more time, more advancement, more try. In my inquiry I saw that the need for more kept showing up. Of course, that is the mind’s response to “not enough.” This became a pivotal inquiry.
Even in the area of love I searched for more. In the one god-given essence of my nature I questioned is it enough?
In my book Perfect Practice I write about the moment my false pretense about life stopped. I had just fallen in love with Magnus and I went to see my counselor of many years. I told him I was in love, and I felt in my heart love is real. Though this doubt of scarcity was there ready to sabotage my relationship. I asked the counselor:
“Love is real, but is it enough?”
His answer changed my life. He simply said, “Enough for what?” To this day I hear his voice when I question my enoughness. And now, as I see that indeed all is provided, my world and my relationships have changed. And, of course the horse is in the front row.
I used to try to make my horse fit a certain agenda that I held for him. Far Go was the kind of horse who loved to excel. To this day I don’t know if he was born that way, or if it was all my “trying to be” that carved it out of him. But he always made it look good. He always gave it his full attention and his heart.
However, now that he is in retirement I see that it can be the same for many athletes or performers. As we age and lose our ability to perform, what are we left with? What drives us? What is our passion?
I see that the whole world is affected by this way of living. And I see people struggle in retirement and especially elderly care as the ability to be enough diminishes back into a very limited space.
I wish for myself and my horse to live fully in this moment. I want all my relationships to be fulfilled right here, right now. Not project them to some far off agenda that might or might not ever happen.
The greatest realization has come through this inquiry. In all my relationships, and with my horses, when I celebrate where we are right here right now, and I do my part in being supportive, loving and open to the many blessings and miracles that come with each day, The fulfillment is lived rather than desired.
The other day I was working with my young horse Grace, asking her to feel softly into my hands as I was lifting the reins.
For me, a soft feel means the physical expression of unity.
It’s one of the areas in horsemanship that the difference between force and feel is clearly evident. The connection between the human hand and the horse’s sensitivity can set the tone, as well as be an indicator for the whole relationship. In this connection it’s very easy to see when there is force and when there is flow.
As I began to change from the inside, it was a natural progression that my outside changed. I can see how my horse needs so little to connect when there is an open space to be in. And when I fill that space with force, it creates a very different dynamic.
So as I was working with Grace, I would suggest for her to feel back to me, and then I would release with each response. This set up the most beautiful responsiveness in both of us. I suppose one could say it was the difference between a request and a demand.
Soon came a flow of communication rather than an agenda that she had to fulfill some pre-determined form. There was freedom in her movements and freedom in my mind. We drifted along with a joy that was shared.
I see that this is possible in all relationships. When we stop insisting on one another to be a certain way. When we open our hearts and speak our request from a state of grace rather than a demand, and we communicate rather than debate, the physical world changes, and becomes a much more beautiful place.
We can change our inside to change the outside and in this… the circle of life is complete.