Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spiritual Teachings and Life Lessons From a Horse Named Brown

For almost twenty years my horse Brown and I have shared a living space. Her pasture is, in essence, my front yard. I often see her standing in her barn or under the big oak tree as I stand at my kitchen sink to wash dishes or prepare a meal. At those times she often feels me watching her and will break her meditation to raise her head to look for me. She seems to look right at me, even though she can't really see me through the kitchen window. This has happened with such clockwork predictability, that I have come to accept as fact, her ability to feel me and my feelings toward her, from a distance.

Over the years I've observed Brown as she goes about her daily life. I've noticed when she eats, rests, and drinks water. I've watched while she developed a significant relationship with an oak tree, before she had a herd of horse friends. I've watched her respond to and cope with the changes in her world - a shift in the wind, a new herd member, the loss of a loved one, the change of seasons, getting older.

I've been a horsewoman my entire life, but it wasn't until sharing my living space with Brown, that I noticed how much horses have to teach me. With more opportunities to study her and her way of being up close and personal, and by sharing some common tragedies and challenges, I have, over time, absorbed some of her wisdom. I have gleaned some of the great horse lessons from a master teacher. 

Becoming more horselike has helped me to meet life's challenges with more grace, more compassion, and more trust. I often ask myself, "What would Brown do?" And the answer usually involves more about being and less about doing.

Brown is fully grounded in this world, but not completely of it. She is solidly rooted in her body, in the now. Her genius lies in being fully present in this world, while simultaneously feeling with and responding to promptings from other worlds, other times, and other dimensions. She hears voices I cannot hear. She knows things I cannot know. Her sensitivity to the shifts in energy around her informs her decisions and ensures her survival. The things she feels and senses as a matter of course throughout her daily life, are barely detectable to me.

I am so grateful for and humbled by this remarkable creature. Everything she has taught me has made me who I am and has contributed to this online journal, my work, and my offering to the world.

Over the years I've made mental notes as I've watched her and learned from her. Recently, I've started writing things down as her subtle teachings have become clearer to me. And I've started putting them on a blog that I've created in her honor, so that others can benefit from her wisdom. I only hope I have done her justice. I only hope that my words adequately convey the depth and beautiful simplicity of her way of being in this world. 

The blog is called www.brownhorsewisdom.com. If you want, you can sign up to receive new bits of her wisdom automatically.

Her first post is a fine example of how her teachings have inspired me. I want to share it, since it resonates so well with the recent entries on this site.

Brown says, "Do what you do while you're doing it, and don't worry about what you're not doing while you're not doing it." 

Lots of love,
Shelly and Brown

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Doing versus Not Doing

I was complaining to my partner one night that I had not accomplished very much the day before. My body hurt, my back was tired, and even though I didn't feel physically like doing very much, I still felt like I should have accomplished more. I was feeling a little unproductive, lost, and worthless.

After listening for awhile he said, "Why don't you just give yourself a break and act like you're on vacation?" And I said, "You mean, just do nothing?" And he said, "Well yeah."

My mind went blank. It came to a screeching halt. And then I caught myself thinking, "What? Is he crazy? How can I justify acting like I'm on vacation? How can I reconcile being at home, with so much stuff to do, so many things to fix, problems to resolve, and then just do nothing?" And then I realized that if we went away, went on an actual vacation, I would allow myself to relax and do only what I really wanted to do, eat the foods I wanted to eat, and have no real expectations of myself. I would let myself, you know, have fun. Enjoy myself. Enjoy the present moment, knowing there is nothing I have to fix right this minute. And I wouldn't feel guilty about what I wasn't accomplishing.

When I reflected back on my "worthless day," I realized that I was either a) thinking about what I should be doing, but judging myself for not doing it, or b) pushing myself to get it done faster, so that I could get to the next thing I thought I should be doing. In either case I wasn't having a very good time. And, my back ached and my legs were tired.

So I decided that I could afford one day to experiment - to stay at home while trying on my vacation self. You know, assume the position of doing nothing except that which pleased me. So the next day, I woke up and reminded myself that I was on vacation. I lounged in bed, meditated, found my center, my peace, and my own love. I basked in the beauty of my home, my life, and my present moment. And I waited. I reminded myself, again, that there was nothing I had to do, because I was on vacation. And then, ever so gently, a surprising thing happened. I found myself writing a blog post. Actually, it seemed to be writing me. And then I wrote another. And then another. Effortlessly. 

And then I got out of bed and fed my horses. I treated each horse's hooves - a typically daunting task considering my current back trouble. But you know what? I took my time. I listened to my body. I enjoyed the process, instead of taking my usual "get it done" approach. And surprise surprise! My back didn't hurt. My legs weren't weak and tired, and I wasn't worn out afterwards.

Moral of the story? Doing, in and of itself, is not the problem. Not doing is not the problem. The problem and its solution lies within my relationship with myself while I'm doing or not doing. Am I in a space of love and connection to Self as evidenced by a sense of ease and flow? Or, am I feeling stressed? Stress indicates collusion with my ego - the part of me that says I should, I ought to, I need to, and if I don't . . .  well, something bad is sure to happen. 

So what thoughts and feelings come up for you if I say, "Why don't you give yourself a break? Stop all of your doing. Take a vacation." And I don't mean the kind of vacation we Americans normally take. (You know the kind - we slot a week or two a year to allow ourselves to escape the self-induced stress and tedium of our daily lives). I mean the kind of vacation you can do at home - a vacation from worry, from obligation, from shoulds and ought to's, from trying so hard.

How does it feel to decide, just for one day, that nurturing your relationship with your Self, is the most important thing you could ever tend to, the most important thing you could ever do? And what if you then allowed all of your doing or not doing to evolve naturally from that? 

Just a thought.

Loving you whether you're doing or not,