I was surprised when the very first instruction in my riding lesson was to breathe. The first ten minutes of every session were spent walking the horse and breathing, relaxing into its body and feeling the tension in my own body dissipate. As the lesson continued I expected to learn strong commands to direct the horse, but the next instruction was to "look the way you want to go." I was amazed. I turned my head and my body in the direction I wanted to turn and the horse followed that subtle intention. When I learned how to pick up the trot and then the faster canter, I was afraid of falling off. Instead of a technical instruction, my instructor said, "are you breathing?" Trust, there it was again. I wanted to "hold on," to reach for a saddle horn or strap, but there was none. I had a choice, trust or fear. My trust would become the horse's confidence. My fear would become the horse's anxiety, resulting in a bigger, unsteady energy and ride. Although the fast pace of the canter was initially frightening, if I relaxed and let myself be carried I was supported by the horses's strong body underneath my own.
The magical energy of my experience with horses has translated into some important guidance for my life. When confronted with a big event, challenge or fear I begin by breathing. Then I go back into the experience with the horse of choosing trust or fear. Fear meant the lesson was over. Trust resulted in healing and peace. I breathe into trust, even when I'm not sure if it will result in injury or heartbreak. I close my eyes and go into the canter, feeling the up and down support of the horse's body under me. It is like riding a gentle wave, like an infant being rocked in its parents' arms. I am soothed.
Another guiding lesson came from that first riding lesson. "Look the way you want to go. Create an intention for your experience." It has become a mantra of sorts, keeping my eyes and intention set on the life I want. I tend to focus and obsess on the "what ifs," the "what isn't." Staring into the fear that arises and breathing into trust moves my focus into that place that brings me the most joy and peace.
Look the way you want to go.