I had no idea of the trauma I could cause my horse by simply doing what I had always done!
What is Perfect Practice?
The depth of what I experience in life (and with horses) has been shared by masters from every philosophical tradition, including horsemanship, throughout all time.
In Perfect Practice I wrote:
“I’ve seen the glimmering glimpse of the message of perfection, woven as a golden thread throughout a tapestry of philosophical traditions. The message that we may be free from suffering has been offered by master teachers from all walks of life throughout history.”
What is perfection? And what is Perfect Practice?
I can only say what it is for me…
Unconsciously our minds operate from a sense of duality. We are habituated by this way of seeing. Concepts of right and wrong, good or bad, black or white form the idea that perfect (neutral) is unattainable. This perception is a smokescreen that keeps us separate and defensive. It has been this way since the beginning of time. This is what’s known as the fall from Grace.
Grace is perfection.
This concept of living a contrasting life takes us on a roller coaster of highs and lows. But while we navigate the constantly changing world, we miss the obvious.
We tend to focus all our attention on the shiny objects. We battle from storm to storm. We’re at the top of our game, then we plummet. We consistently place our focus on what we do, achieve, lose, sensate, acquire and so forth. And within this obsession… we are missing the whole picture. We are missing the quintessential element of life itself.
When we shift our attention from an outward and sensory perception to our ultimate awareness, we can instantly find clear, and yes, “perfect” presence. This grace, or presence, has been here all along and it will always be. We have simply traded it in by the lack of our attention. We project our superpower—attention, outwards to achieve an ideal. Yet, what we overlook in this projection is our own innate perfect presence.
This is what I feel the masters are pointing to! Our essence is unchanging, it cannot be sick, hurt, scared or vulnerable. It is simply perfect by definition— it has no opposing condition.
Once more to quote from the book Perfect Practice:
“Perfect presence is accessible to everyone, and perfect practice draws sustenance from its depth. Our awareness of life is embodied in presence. My awareness is always perfect. It is my judgment that can be flawed. It is also my judgment that sees things by contrast. Contrasting involves a positive and a negative side.”
So what does this have to do with horses?
Well, it has everything to do with horses because horses are nature and nature is life, and this perfect presence is the true essence of all life.
This is what Perfect Practice is all about. Shifting our perspective not TO something different. But FROM the unreliable, constantly changing mental concepts. We can begin to see life from the essential core of our existence.
When we begin to live our life from this perfect essence our whole world changes. Everything and everyone, including our horses, begin to feel the shift.
This is humanity’s enigma. Shifting out of historical (perhaps even hysterical) paradigms takes practice. It takes Perfect Practice.
Now, I can easily see that it wasn’t my actions that created conflicts. It was my reactions. Re-actions are habitual, they repeat. We loose our brilliance when we simply do what we have always done.
If my horse came to an impasse in our relationship, historically I would simply do things differently to try to achieve what I wanted. This is a very one sided relationship. Eventually I found that what I needed to shift was how I approached my horse. I had to change how I saw the horse. In this way I wouldn’t react. I could be more aware of what each moment was pointing to. Simply put I could be present.
Case in point.
My young horse Grace really struggled with loping. She had a physical condition that was also tied to a psychological one. Her joints would lockup when she tried to lope, sending her off balance and this created a sense of instability and fear.
Once she accepted the saddle, I followed a protocol. The one that I had learned decades ago. I turned her in with the herd and moved them around the arena. I had done this with every colt I ever started. And had seen it done with hundreds of colts. In fact it is still a common practice.
But this time, I saw things that I had grossly missed in the past.
The commotion in the herd only intensified her fearful resistance. I had thought Grace would gain comfort from the herd, but instead she felt intimidated and vulnerable. She shut down—physically, mentally and emotionally. Fortunately when I witnessed this, I immediately saw the liability of my limited perspective.
I saw that the past did not serve the present and I checked in about my intentions. I was just trying to get something done. It has taken a very long time to right this wrong. But through a shift in perspective we have both come through this experience better, wiser, and more connected than ever. The conflict in the experience made it necessary to wake myself up.
Once a teacher said to me, “Get to where you crave it”. Those times when we find ourselves on our knees, riddled with guilt and regret, can break us wide open. They can re-mind us there is another way.
Grace has come to show me grace.
After many months of starting over, this time with empathy and awareness, we slowly worked through each part of the resistance. We recreated our relationship in balance and beauty… and, in grace.
Just this week, while riding in the arena, Grace made an offering to our relationship. It was completely her idea and her gift to give. Grace naturally and poetically picked up the lope with me on her back.
In all my life with horses I never felt such a balanced and beautiful first lope. That’s not because the horses in my past weren’t capable of it. It is because I asked them before they were ready.
I am 100% responsible for 50% of every relationship I am in. What I offer life, either comes from a dualistic mindset that runs hot and cold like tap water or flows from an unchanging, pure and clear awareness.
I have come to experience that I lose myself in the myriad of ten thousand things and this takes me on a bumpy ride. But when I let go of forcing my will, I find out it wasn’t really “my will” after all. It was a should. It typically came from something I learned or interpreted long ago. And it has no grace, no flow and no purpose in the present moment.
Clear, pure presence always fits. It’s always here now. It never requires effort or striving. It has no shelf life. It doesn’t run out. And… it’s like a cool drink of water to my horse. She drinks it up and fills her soul with the unity she senses in me.
Perfect practice is not about horses. It’s about horses mirroring life back to us, in perfect grace.