What Horses Teach Us About the Power of Inner Space
One of the most powerful experiences horses offer us is the experience of simply being with them. We call this the practice of Wu Wei (or non-doing). It is truly a simple thing to do, all it involves is going out into the herd and being with them. Not touching, or talking, or doing anything in particular. Sounds almost like nothing doesn’t it? And yet, it can be one of the hardest things to do … or non-do.
When I first started practicing Wu Wei with the horses, I could muster up maybe 5 minutes at a time before I would convince myself that I should be doing something … picking up manure, checking water buckets, going to get some powder or ointment for a scrape I saw on someone’s leg, cleaning tack … anything but no-thing.
But the horses were unaffected by my struggles. They would simply hold a space of Being, ready for me to join them again at any time. They are masters at being in flow with what is.
You may think, well they’re horses. I mean they don’t have bills to pay or kids to feed or about a million of other things to concern themselves with. You may even assume there is really nothing going on for them, like literally nothing going on internally. They’re “just grazing”. Watch a herd of horses and it’s easy to assume that because you don’t see a lot happening.
What I’ve learned from living and working with The Courage Herd in the way we do, is that nothing and everything can be happening at the same time. And when you shift your perspective, get into the flow of the herd, your internal experience opens up in ways that seem almost magical and certainly so much more alive.
Wu Wei is about a state of being where what we do just flows, naturally, effortlessly.
It sounds a bit like magic!? But if you think about it, haven’t you experienced such a state yourself already? A state where things just flow and you almost lose track of time? When you become one with your world and what you do seems to come out very naturally? You are in the zone.
Horses are experts in Wu Wei. They teach it not through explanation (or writing a blog!), they teach it by living it. They teach it to us patiently, consistently, by holding an invitation to enter their space and experience first-hand their embodiment of it. It’s a very different way of learning something for most humans. In a way, it’s learning through a kind of resonance or transmission – something people tend to be weary of or even dismiss because we are so attached to thinking and we hold thinking in such high regard.
What the horse as teacher offers us is a different way of seeing, learning and growing in our humanity. It’s not even about believing, it’s about being willing and open to have a direct experience of something different and finding out for yourself.
The human mind is an amazing thing, a universe within us that we are only just beginning, like really just beginning, to make sense of. And, I suspect, it’s so vast and so utterly astounding that discovering its reaches may be an endless quest. However, right now we are fixated on it being about thinking, which granted, is an incredible gift that humans have. It’s just that when you make thinking everything, it becomes our Achilles heel – our weakest and most vulnerable point.
And this is why the horses are such powerful teachers for humans at this time – it seems that they experience life much more directly through the intelligence of their intuition and their heart space. And they love to share this with us!
Since moving to Flying Moon Farm with the herd, I spend hours every day either directly in with the herd or watching them through the window of my home office. In the past year they have dealt with a lot: coming together from very different backgrounds and experiences to a new home, to form a new herd. Recovery from physical abuse and trauma, and medical issues as one of the herd experienced seizures after arriving. One of the herd died after they had all just started bonding. A new herd member came in, shifting the dynamics again. Construction and machinery invaded their space as I opened up new land for them. For some, their first ever winter outside 24/7 and for others, their first time coming into a barn for daily minerals and care. Taking on a new role as a teacher, with choice.
All of them have risen beyond what I thought was possible as teachers doing the FEEL work with people who come to share in their wisdom. I’ve had people return to the farm, months after meeting the horses for the first time after they arrived, only to ask if a particular horse they were with was new because they seem so different.
If a friend relayed a story like this of their past year, a typical human reaction might be, “holy smokes, that is a lot to handle! How on earth are you managing?”
And yet, as I watch the herd connect and flow, connect and flow, connect and flow, day after day, my consistent experience with them is one of being in love, gratitude and sync with what is, as they effortlessly adapt, grow and constantly emerge as more and more of who they are. No matter what is happening. It’s like being witness to a profound and yet barely visible, oh so subtle miracle.
If that is not wisdom, I don’t know what wisdom is.
Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher whose work I appreciate, speaks about the impact of creating space in our lives, internal space. Space between you and what is happening. Without this type of space, we are consumed by whatever is happening. We are whatever is happening. We feel anger, we are anger. We feel joy, we are joy (and quickly become addicted to wanting more of it).
With space, comes choice, options. No space, no choice, no options. You are whatever conditioned reaction comes rattling down your humanity.
Give yourself the gift of inner space
Of course there is so much in the natural world that can help us experience space and presence … the trees, the meadows, the breeze flowing over our skin, the sound of the frogs in spring and the coyotes at night.
There is also something incredibly potent about how the horses teach us the art of Wu Wei through their large physical presence, their constant, flowing movement, their deep, slow heart beat and their powerful breath. And they want to be with us.