I have several friends who own and/or passionately love horses. I’ve asked one friend in particular some fairly deep philosophical questions about the horse-rider relationship and because she’s an intelligent, introspective person she’s helped me understand a lot. Most of my readers are women, and most horses are owned by women, and so it occurred to me that using a horse in a metaphor might be both welcome and helpful. And to be honest it worked surprisingly well.
Okay, so you’re the rider. This represents The Observer—or your spirit in other terms. This is the always-healthy part of you that goes unnoticed when we’re living in ego. The horse represents your thoughts. And the terrain represents the world around you. And so your riding skills represent your ability to control the horse of your thoughts so that it will take you where you want to be, all while taking into account the terrain that is presented.
The critical thing to remember in all of this is that the horse still has volition. Yes a violent rider can worry a horse into where he wants it to go, and a good rider can cooperate with the horse so that there is no discernible division between horse and rider. But good rider or bad, the horse still maintains the freedom to bolt and do damage. So will the terrain be fatiguing and will you become tired as a rider? And will your horse use your low consciousness to exert its power? Because if it does, it will ride and ride and ride toward all sorts of hell until the rider actively intervenes with enough intention to actually quiet the horse so that its direction can be changed.
This is the advantage of the rough ride of emotions. When you and the horse are working together to better both of your situations, your movement through the world is quick and sure-footed and smooth and enjoyable. But at times when the terrain has worn you out, when you have walked up too many hills, and your fatigue turns to inattention, before you know it the horse has bolted and it’s racing off toward something dangerous. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a rider. Otherwise the universe wouldn’t need the rough feelings to help guide you. No, you need some unpleasant parts to even be able to recognize the pleasant parts. So unpleasant feelings are the result of the horse being allowed to run willy-nilly. Stay mindful.
Eat and sleep well and get even moderate exercise. That’s like looking after your horse. And then develop your skills and accept that for every hill you go down you will have to go up. And if your thoughts are moving in a painful direction you must use your skills to change the horse’s focus. So when you’re in those phases don’t be too hard on yourself when your patience runs thin. But always use it as a reminder that you can develop the appropriate sensibilities to be able to get your horse back on course before it ever wanders too far off your path
Remember, the terrain is the terrain. You can’t change that. But you can control the horse to a large enough degree that even uphill slopes can feel pretty rewarding. That’s all very happy people do. They just don’t let their thoughts settle in negativity. They raise their gaze and search for positivity.
So here’s the deal: you don’t need to change your life. Start taking more active control over your thinking, stop being angry about, or complaining or whining or crying about the horse your childhood mounted you on. Every single horse brings its challenges. So forget about wishing you were on another horse and instead take control over your own riding. Because if you can get reasonably good control over your thinking—which everyone can if they try—then it doesn’t matter what horse you were born onto because you have essentially guaranteed yourself a fantastic ride through life.
Your thinking will often be helpful when taking you where you want to go. But it should not be allowed to run amok. Use it like rider jumping fences. But don’t just let your thoughts wander unrestrained. No one can be happy that way.
Focus your thinking on the things you appreciate and it is impossible not to enjoy your day. Make that choice. Go quiet inside. Connect. Be.
And have yourself and awesome day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.