Both in the barn and in the office, I hear folks say, “Not knowing is the hardest thing”. I respond with “Not knowing is the easiest thing in the world. The hardest thing, is realizing it’s the easiest thing.”
The mind wants to know and control everything. It wants to know what to do, where, to go, what to say, how to act, and literally endless other to-do’s. And truthfully, we never really know anything. At least not anything that’s happening outside of us.
Are we aware of exactly what grows the grass, what breathes our lungs or even what our beloved is feeling? Even in the areas where we think we know the most, we can’t really know. Unless, that knowing is that we don’t know. And this we can know.
When I help folks be with their horses or in their lives more intimately, I am actually just asking them to let go of the need to know and observe without attachment. Observe without a preconceived notion. Observe without knowing.
We see that this world keeps moving. It keeps moving past any thought we have of it. We cannot hold onto time, we cannot control the weather. But we can let go of our need to control and in that everything shifts into its natural flow.
In Perfect Practice I wrote:
“To me I see it as “the mind” that supersedes God. The quip “Who needs God when we have all this control?” comes to mind. It is as if we step in front of the master teacher and say, “Stand down, I’ve got this.”
Attention is our holy grail. This is the endless, abundant source of our life. Where we place our attention is what we perceive our life to be. Therefore if it is consistently on “the next” we never really live. The next never appears for the projection past it.
One reason horses provide masterful lessons in awareness is that we can easily see how fast things fall apart when we loose sight of our awareness.
This was a main topic of discussion in a group of horses and people I was with this past weekend. For instance leading a colt through a gate when his herd mate was being left inside. It was a keen example of the importance of awareness.
After a successful lesson in defining everyone’s responsibility to the success and pointing out how the person must be aware of the colt, the gate, the other horse and herself all simultaneously we saw the importance of slowing time down. And working one step at a time. Until that broadened perspective is as natural as breathing one must take each component incrementally.
It’s a little like learning to drive a car. At first everything seems overwhelming. We start in a simple parking lot, at a very slow speed. Step by step we advance to a busy city street. Eventually we talk on the phone or listen to music while driving. Horsemanship is very much this way. Yet few ever slow down enough to get the first steps clean.
My teacher said “Step 1 is in step 10. ”
If we don’t have step 1 clean how can we expect to go faster and add more complexity? My friend leading the colt is a remarkable student. And her desire is so keen that she pays very good attention to going back and cleaning up the areas that have been overlooked. The lack of awareness was certainly not a lack of desire for it. No one had ever pointed out the importance of it. This is all too common in all life lessons.
We follow the guides we have. And if our intentions are on outcomes, and our teachers are also trying for results, the habit of skipping over what’s clearly happening in the present easily develops.
For my friend this became clear. And now that she’s starting a young horse she wants to be sure each step is clean. What she’s finding out is that it’s also helping her 25 year old riding horse. He’s learning a new world fast. Horses have that capacity. They cope and adjust much more quickly than humans. And I feel this is why they’re such great teachers.
So as we worked through the life lesson of going through the gate, my friend, the colt, and her horse all realized a much greater awareness. As the success developed she turned to close the gate. In that instant she lost focus of the whole picture, and specifically the older horse. He saw the opportunity of the shift of attention and ran through the gate again.
This was an extremely important lesson for my friend. It really gave her a chance to hone her skills. Now with colt in tow she had to find a way to get the other horse back out and start the process over. She learned more through that one mistake than through all the success she had prior.
She’s bright, and said “I’ll just lead the colt back out”. Brilliant! With no effort she remedied the situation. And this time she had a keener awareness of her responsibility.
When I use the word “responsibility”, I prefer to think of it as my ability to respond. All too often the word caries a heavy burden of should. But this simple shift of awareness creates freedom of expression. It opens up the channel for change. It inspires excitement and focuses on our ability to choose our responses.
This simple lesson of walking through a gate offered an excellent example of the absolute importance of attention. And it confirms the idea that thinking we know what will happen is a liability we can’t afford. Not knowing brings us to our greatest experiences. And these experiences offer the wisdom that far out weighs a mechanized outlook.
Life is spontaneous. And to be successful and effective in our life it’s best that we can learn to drive by being keenly aware. I know my friend gained that wisdom through this experience and it no doubt will improve her life and the lives of her horses.