Ever been on a runway horse? It's terrifying.
Growing up and spending summers in Central California with my aunts, this city girl developed a love for working on farms and raising animals. Often I would go to the stables to brush horses, clean the stalls and, if I was lucky, go for a ride. I’m so grateful for having time with these peaceful and wild animals. They taught me a lot.
At 13, my parents and I were traveling through Oregon, when we stopped and made friends with the local stable. Because the trail guide knew I had some experience, he said I could join along for his last ride of the night.
It was such an exciting gift.
There is nothing quite like the Pacific Northeast in the summertime. The late afternoon was filled with a brilliantly clear sky and the scent of moss and ocean hanging in the air.
Just after we turned to make our return home for the night, my horse got spooked and decided to take off full steam down the empty beach. We raced on our own without a sign of stopping for a mile, maybe two, I have no idea. All I think of was "DON'T FALL".
Eventually the reigns dropped out of my tiny hands, leaving them to dangle between my horse’s legs like stubborn shoelaces. Now holding on only with hope, the trail guide (who I’m pretty sure was not my friend anymore) eventually came up next to me, stretched himself out like Will Rogers and pulled back on my horse’s mane. With a neigh and a turn we slowed and eventually stopped.
I swiftly dismounted and walked back, preferring the certainty of soft sand underfoot.
When I rejoined my parents I told my mom I was never getting on a horse again.
My mom replied, “never say never.”
As someone who has dedicated her life to consistent study and spiritual growth, I have often considered “contentment” a four letter word. After all, doesn’t satisfaction lead to complacency and inaction?
The patterns of discontent, which are perpetuated in our society, keep us not only buying things, but also pursuing greater heights, exploring new frontiers and creating better realities. It seems like having a sense of forward movement is crucial, since it prevents us from the worst thing we could ever do…settle and stand still. But it also helps us to create better realities.
Yet even for the most resilient of us, burnout eventually makes its' way in as an unwelcome bedfellow when we are continually striving without being satisfied. Fatigue is inevitable because being in a constant state of seeking and never finding is not sustainable.
We cannot work our way into feeling happy. It’s not possible.
Instead, we must permit ourselves moments to savor our current experience and know happiness and yes, contentment, right now.
————————— Wild horses once roamed in teams across our country.
As the first people on this continent began befriending, taming and harnessing these animals, we experienced our first freedoms: the ability to move around with little limitations. They were able to explore farther than their human feet could take them in a day, climbing mountains and crossing rivers with ease.
Our human desire for experiencing freedom never feels complete. We are continuing to find new ways for more equality and inclusivity in our country and throughout the world.
And just as we have learned to work with nature and animals to gain more freedom, we are also learning to work together in clearer and more generous ways with each other.
Though this journey towards freedom may feel tireless, I invite us to take times to pause to acknowledge all that we have done, to find contentment in it and to use that as motivation forward because the journey can be joyful too.
“Never say never” my mom once said to me.
She’s right because eventually it with be time to get back up again and ride... ...And it will be santosha.
See you on the mat.