When I first had the opportunity to understand and experience natural horsemanship, it was as if everything I knew from my extensive work with sensitivity materialized into a moment. My work is with people who are genetically highly sensitive, to help them to lead their lives and to become sensitive leaders. All of this engagement in sensitivity had brought me here into my body in front of another body. We were two upright beings. Eight limbs. My eyes facing forward and the horse’s eyes on the side of its head, ever watchful. Ever aware.
It became clear that I was the predator and I was making the horse wary. I could feel the power in front of me that wanted to be led. We both wanted direction. And my thoughts became physical.
Stepping in front of a horse, it’s hard not to feel everything in your body. The immensity and power of the beast in front of you is immediate. It is often intimidating. I think it is useful to feel intimidated sometimes, especially by nature. To feel mortality in a moment by the sheer witness of animal power is something that I think is self-reflective. I believe that in order to understand something outside of you, you must recognize how you have it in you as well.
In the presence of the horse, there is nothing else there with you OTHER than how you relate when you face it.
You can’t reason with it.
You physically understand that your thoughts are things: You understand that the horse responds to your thoughts.
You watch it happen. You see your own feelings reflected back to you in the movements of the horse.
You understand that this is how your body feels whenever attention is aimed at it: attacked.
And you also understand that it would severely hurt to be kicked.
That’s when control comes in, when we feel the ricochet of power from ourselves to the horse and how that could come back to hit us…possibly even in the head. This is where we believe that anger is control rather than direction. When the fury rages, we can engage.
Most of us were taught control; we do not know how to engage this horse. We do not know how to lead this power.
Also, many of us have difficulty expressing anger. We have a tendency to unconsciously adapt to the environment rather than direct our desires in response. Stimulation can feel like the enemy. External protection and control can feel like the answer.
If we do not respond, we react. And if we are not looking for our subtle needs and desires, then reactivity is a given. Many times it is only when we are pushed to the edge that we finally voice the alarm that has been ringing in us for so long.
Our voices need to match the parts of us that do not have words. Your body is a sensitive beast. And so is every other body.
With this horse in front of me, I learned—physically—that leadership is a gift. Using my attention to direct this animal created relief for us both. The horse was very aware of its vulnerability and I therefore became very aware of my own vulnerability in response to its skittishness. How many times had I done this with my self? Feeling the vulnerability of putting my self in new situations only to feel the shaking and nervousness, which reminded me that I was inextricably connected to this body that lets me do anything at all?
As I began to discern between force and direction, I began to come out of controlling my self “responsibly.” I went through a phase of rough, raw, unbridled anger. I felt angry all the time. I spoke loudly, I yelled. I screamed. I ugly ugly ugly cried out loud. I had been trying so long to say the right things that I wasn’t saying my things. In response to the “right”ness I had grown up with, I wondered if all relating was just meaningless noise and force. I felt how unfair life was all at once, as all the strategies I had had to withhold it failed under this constant pressure, and life unloaded.
Sometimes the life you wake up to feels too much like a nightmare to believe you can face it or engage it at a physical level. I think for many who are very sensitive to subtlety, this can especially be the case. We can feel the answers in love, peace, kindness in a hypothetical way. But, in our lives and in our bodies we feel the pain, the hate, the abuse. We perceive that it must be on purpose and we feel hopeless at “fighting” it. But, I have found that it is usually on accident that these forces collide.
Since I began work in sensitivity, I have found a different sort of relationship to sound and fury. The sound is round and full and immediate, no longer an assault. My own fury comes in waves that I direct as I no longer put the cause and blame on externals that feel more real or powerful than I.
“The Other” in any form can make us believe in a final judgement. But when we see that we are the other and the other is us, we get to respond to all this sound and fury with our own voice, directing and guiding as we go. We see that direction is what we have been looking for, and we are the best one to do it.
Images: Lillian Medville