The scene is a sufficiently cold New Year's Day, on horseback (of course) with an old friend on the trail and new 2.5 year old Arabian filly being ponied at my side. That's the way I like to spend New Year's, appreciating the old and taking on the new adventures. And this gorgeous, intelligent, sensitive, and spunky little black filly, by the name of Isis, is obviously chock full of new lessons for me. But as is appropriate, this introductory lesson she gives me on this day is really a reiteration of an old one. (See "Letting Go"-2011)
We were walking the back dirt roads behind the mill pond, and had gotten a bit lost, but were heading back to the trailers. It was getting to be dusk soon. Everyone else in the area was ready to head home to, so a few trucks began to go by. It was a tight road and we pulled over to the side. To our trusty trail horses this was old hat, but little Isis thought jumping in the air and scooting around was her only option. I held the rope tighter to keep her close and safe. Another truck came by, same thing. I knew three times makes a pattern, and horses love patterns. I didn't want this unconfident behavior to be what my little horse learned, so I began to rethink my strategy. As the next happy park visitor began to roll out, I thought about my horse's typically very investigative and thoughtful way, and I realized that she was probably upset because she couldn't see the trucks coming up behind her. So there, when that last truck came by, on that tight little wooded road, instead of holding on tighter to try to keep my mare safe, I loosened the rope to give her the room so she could turn her head to see. And she watched the truck roll by with calm curiosity.
Horses are constantly teaching us these counterintuitive lessons of letting go. As upright, verbal, opposable thumb owning predators, we learn to think that holding on is the best way, or the only way. Horses don't have thumbs, or words, but they do have intention and space. A lead mare can clear a horse from the herd from across the field, and can keep a frantic racing herd together without touching, without ropes and halters. But for some reason, humans think the more control, the better. Control of others, control of our life, control of our emotions. Until we realize it is an illusion. The fact is, humans aren't built like horses. We need to practice letting go.
I guarantee you that ten years ago, I would not have thought to loosen that rope for my horse to see the truck. But I've been practicing being a horseman worthy of the horse, and loosening my rope has become slightly more of a habit than holding on to it.
In my life there's always opportunities to practice letting go. Letting go of a thought, an expectation, a habit. Not trying to make it go away -that's more of the same. But giving it the space to be, like a horse sees another horse. Setting my intention and allowing the beings around me to do as they see fit. And then the next moment doing it again. Noticing when I try to take back control, and then letting go again.
Like tossing rose petals into the air to watch them fall around you. And once they fall, tossing up another handful.
There will be another day, another horse, another rope to let go. And perhaps I will. There will be a million chances every day to let go of the ropes and even chains that I've held on to in my life. And maybe eventually, with continued practice, I will play without ropes.