Is it possible? After my last few experiences doing my “Zen thing” and not experiencing much Zen, I began to wonder. As you may know, my Zen is when I am on a horse, doing anything, but especially traipsing through woods, fields, streams, swamps, (fill in the blank). The other day I told the story of my backward-bound little pony.The previous weekend, I was out riding on an incredibly spectacular late-fall day, casually jogging up a small hill in the field across the street. I was with my friend, Barb, and she was in the lead, riding her big, bold mare. I was busy “Zenning,” on this ride, or so I thought, until I suddenly found myself facing the other direction, a complete 180 degrees, and had no clue how I got there. Fortunately, I remained on the horse.
“Pepper spooked,” Barb called to me from ahead. Thoroughly confused, I had no idea her horse had shied.
“She stepped out sisdeways,” she added.
Well, Buzzy certainly has his issues, but spinning has NEVER been one of them.
“He saw her spook.”
“Yep,” I muttered.
So there I was, Zenning up a storm — drinking in the sights, smells, and sounds of a field in late fall. Yep — Zenning, and fortunately, securely ensconced in the saddle. Zenning, while I had idea what my horse did and why. Zenning? Try oxymoron.
Anyway, I was at the barn this morning, drinking in the musky smell of warm horse flesh, brushing the now fuzzy coat on Buzzy, listening to the other horses crunching their hay. I rode, and it was good. Not quite “Zen” as I had come to know it, but good nevertheless. Today I backed off from the big, cross-country trek and left it at a small, manageable roam followed by some basic work, as coached by barn Mom Linda. I brought Buzz back into the barn when we were finished and Barb was there brushing her big girl, so we chatted a bit. We chatted about Zen. Or rather, she kidded me about Zen. I mean, I wrote the book, right? Zen and the Art of Horseback Riding. And like I said, I was Zenning up a storm during our ride in the field across the street, just lollygagging at sights, sounds, smells, all around. So, in her indomitable, kidding way, Barb “chastised” me for not Zenning on her horse’s ass (and it is a BIG one). Can you imagine using a horse’s ass as your point of being?
Well, I proceeded to laugh my way all the way home, only I got just half way when suddenly ….
WOW — she was RIGHT!! Her wisdom got lost in her wry humor, but never-the-less, there it was. Zen is about being in the moment, and “being” on a horse means “being” in pure and complete synchronization with that creature, which means a melding of two beings such that what one does, so does the other, without question, resistance, or surprise. If I had indeed been focusing on Pepper’s ass, I would have seen that quiver of horse muscle that precedes a major side-step spook. I would have been in synchronous movement with my own horse.
And so we come full circle — can there be too much Zen? No!! But there can be Zen practiced improperly or without art. So forever hence, when riding alone — it’s my horse and me as one; when riding with another — it’s staying aware of not only my boy, but also of the body language of the horse in front, in other words, focus on the horse’s ass to prevent being, well, do the math …