I know. It’s not a picture of a horse or of me working with a horse. This post is about balance. Taking time to pause…
Steve and I are on vacation. This is the first real vacation we’ve taken in years. By real I mean more than 4 days. If you have horses at home you know why. It’s tough to get away. The amount of work you have to do to be able to leave home makes you wonder if it’s worth the effort. But we did it. We’re away, visiting my sister north of San Francisco, then off north for a few days of ocean and red wood forests.
Balance is important. The horses teach me that each and every time I interact with them. Horses are attracted to leaders with a good sense of balance. Balance in all things.
Last time I was in California I was with my friend Corrine. She was undergoing immunotherapy as a last ditch effort to beat back aggressive, end stage cancer. We spent 16 days together in Santa Barbara. She taught me to build rock cairns on the beach. Now there’s an exercise in balance!
I’ll never forget her cairn-building lesson. She explained, as she deftly handled each stone, how she’s not just feeling for the balance of one stone on top of another, she’s feeling for potential balance points in each new stone and within the stack of stones she’s already created. Adding a new stone to the top requires feeling for where that stone is disrupting the balance of the entire stack and adjusting the stone further down to a new potential balance point that allows the entire stack to hold the new addition.
She was able to create masterpieces of gravity defying balance using this method and it seems so applicable to all of life. To balance stones this way requires enormous presence, inner stillness, focus.. You have to keep breathing and be patient.
This trip to CA is bitter sweet. All around me I see things that remind me of Cori. I miss her. I remember all of the docs on her team, at one time or another, talking to her about eliminating sources of stress in her life – balance again. Cori earnestly said to each of them that she thought she was very good at managing her stress levels. Finally the one doc said: ‘No, no, I’m not talking about managing your stress levels, I’m talking about ELIMINATING SOURCES of stress.
Eliminating sources of stress….
That phrase really got me thinking about my own life. How did I manage my stress? How did I keep my balance?
Right before that trip to California I’d spent some time with a woman who had successfully eliminated stress in her life. She did so by disconnecting from her family, not being in a relationship, she didn’t work with horses anymore, she didn’t have any animals and she lived in a shared living arrangement she didn’t own. No huge expenses, no real commitments to anything but her own self-exploration. She was only obligated to herself and no one else. I guess that’s one way to do it!
Looking at my own life, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love that Steve and I have our own place. Technically the bank still owns it but one day it will be all ours! I love nesting there, nurturing the land and animals we share space with there. I take care of 19 horses who require lots of feed that’s expensive to purchase. I have obligations – lots of them. I work hard to keep it all going. And I can get quite stressed about it. I know all of you horse folk who take care of horses for other people know my stress. I don’t know how you do this business without being in debt up to your eyeballs!
How does someone like me eliminate sources of stress!?
Hiking around feeding horses after I got home from Santa Barbara I spent a lot of time pondering what causes me stress. I realized my days are full on a good day. If anything goes wrong – an injured or sick horse, a downed fence, a flat tire – anything that goes wrong adds time and energy to an already full day. My emotions would spin out of control and I’d feel frustrated and stressed out about this new thing added to my plate.
I realized that I don’t want to change what I do in my life to avoid that stress. What I can do though is take charge of my mental and emotional response to the things that happen. It is within my power to stay calm in a crisis. And as long as I keep a good balance in my life I do that very well in the years since Cori and I went to Santa Barbara.
That’s why this trip is so important. As hard as it is to pack myself up and organize to leave it’s part of what keeps me mentally and emotionally balanced so that I can respond well in a crisis. And there have been a few in the last couple of months. It happens when you care for retired horses. They get sick. Eventually they die. I have a lot of elderly horses right now. The responsibility for their care and the inevitable decisions that have to be made on their behalf can weigh heavily. I want to get the timing right, for all our sakes.
So here I am back in California and I see things that remind me of my friend Cori all around me. She was a force of nature. She was a beautiful singer with a unique voice. An artist who was endlessly creative. A lifelong horsewoman. A body worker. A dancer. A Mother. A true rennosance woman! Watching her move through life in her flamboyant, often hand made clothes, inspired me to find more of who I am, to stop caring so much about what others might think of me.
Cori passed away within a few months of our trip to California. Talk about incentive to find balance in my life! To live life fully! When I came home I decided I was going to learn to sing. That led to learning to play the guitar so I can accompany myself. When I discovered I was afraid to walk across a couple of logs on a trail in Utah I found Parkour and discovered a fantastic outlet for pent up energy and emotions.
When I went to get some body work done on myself a few weeks ago, she asked me what I have in my life that resources and recharges me. Singing, dancing, Parkour, and taking the time to work with my own horses. It struck me that that’s the first time in my adult life with horses that I could say that. Balance between work and play.
My horses remind me every day to balance the challenging movements with simple movements. To balance intense work with pauses to rest and relax, simply enjoy each other’s company. Cori and the horses seem to conspire to remind me to live a full, rich life. The more I do that the more I realize how life teaches me the things I need to find in myself to be a better horse woman. Horsemanship teaches me things I need to find in myself to be a better person.
Everything is connected.
Headed off to the redwoods to find more balance.
How about you?