• vslachman

Lean In

I've been running across some great quotes lately. To whit:

"Not everything can be changed, but until you face it nothing can be changed." James Baldwin.

When Dorian was at the rescue, I remember one day he escaped from his pasture. His was right next to the road to the rescue and only slightly back from the busy road that ran past it.

A horse racing around at full speed is not something you want to stand in front of. And even if I'd wanted to, I couldn't have caught up to him. So I had to stand very still, calling him. He he ignored me. I tried sending him strong mental signals to stay away from the open gate leading to the road, which he also ignored. So I was left to watch as he joyfully galloped back and forth across the open field, as he did that day last year in the video above, all too often heading straight for the open gate then, for some reason (thankfully), veering off.

Finally, he came over to me, out of breath, wide-eyed, exuberantly happy! I haltered him and led him to water, which he needed and then back into his pasture. He'd had a great time, that's for sure, but I've though about how utterly awful those few minute--ones that seemed so much longer--might have been.

Whew. D at the rescue (with a rather fat belly!). He can be an exuberant fellow!

More than a few people have observed that we are really good at rushing around. We rush from one chore to the next, or one supposedly enjoyable experience to the next, or one goal to the next . . . much like Dorian (though joyfully) raced around the open spaces that day.

Our American culture, especially, seems adept at prompting us to set acquisitive goals and work real hard to achieve them. To "get" more, to "achieve more," even to "give more" to others. That last one, I think, has really tripped me up in the past. Doing what I "should do" only because I can do it, in the final analysis, leaves me bone dry and exhausted.

"You can't save a life if you sacrifice your own."

But, as Baldwin noted, until I confronted that truth, until I found the space to say "I'm supposed to be happy doing what I love," nothing was going to change. But isn't that (at least in part) precisely what we're here for? Someone, speaking of the Christian tradition, recently mentioned that if we're "made in the likeness of God" doesn't that mean that our true nature is to create? Isn't God the ultimate creator? And, like Him, aren't we to create something authentic to who He created us to be?

That's only one way to think about our purpose, of course. There are so many traditions that address the issue of "being" and why we're here. But the ones I've investigated all seem to have this in common--an essential characteristic of "being" is authenticity.

One thing I love about the photos above is how unattractive Dorian appears. I know, an odd thing to say . . . In the first two, he's responding to a deep massage I gave him and that scrunched, less-than-beautiful face is one of pure contentment, relaxation, and release. He's not in the least concerned about how he looks, what he'll "achieve" or get from me by that response . . . and in the third photo, do you think he's looking in the mirror and saying to himself "Ugh, not good enough"? Of course not.

Yet don't we do this all the time? Put pressure on ourselves in so many ways . . . care how we appear, care what we might lose if we don't appear "good enough" or "perfect enough"?

But how many of us are as adept at leaning into a genuinely fulfilling place-- that inward journey, the search for that place in ourselves Dorian obviously achieves without effort? That inner "sea" in ourselves, as Howard Thurman, author of Jesus and the Disinherited, calls it?

I checked in with a friend of mine recently who lives across the country. She said she was cultivating a "spaciousness" within herself . . . I love that. The idea that inside us is a spaciousness, maybe even a vastness we can discover, inhabit, and explore.

When I take Dorian on a ride by ourselves into the woods or along the trail by the creek, sometimes I stop, let him graze, and bend over his neck to literally lie on him with my arms reaching around that huge, warm body. Closing my eyes, I let go of a sense of myself and sink into him and into that vast universe he inhabits. Those moments are life-giving and life-affirming to me.

I think that's one way to achieve what Baldwin speaks about. Choosing a new (though really ancient, I think) way to "be"--one that doesn't keep us rushing around, but allows us to purposefully, intentionally take steps from a deep place within. I doubt we can go wrong when we act from that space. The task is to give ourselves permission to do it.

This morning I saw this chalked on the sidewalk in the park. Usually, when I see this sort of sentiment, especially with the peace sign, I think it means "Love" and "Peace" as two distinct sentiments. But what if they're connected?

That's what occurred to me this morning--what it said to me was "Love peace," that is: cultivate inner peace. And I know that can only be found deep inside, in that silent place within myself. Which is where Dorian--for me--takes me, because that's where he lives. I know there are physiological reasons I feel so centered, calm, at peace, optimistic, full of quiet joy and gratitude in his presence. But I also think there's a grander, greater sphere we all inhabit and connect with and through. And that's the place I come to when I'm with him.

I'm pretty sure it's the place we have a right to inhabit. So I say, lean into that. And if you're fortunate enough to have horses in your life, they will always show you the way.

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