Softness Through Strength, Strength Through Softness
September 9, 2014
Summer is slowly melting into autumn and I am looking out of the window on a lovely mellow autumn afternoon with sun dappling the lawn. I shall be off shortly to visit with the herd but before I do I feel compelled to write down some of my thoughts after hosting a clinc very recently for Noora Ehnqvist at home here in Gloucester. Noora comes from Finland and spends much of her time travelling the world both teaching and searching for teachers to help in her own advancement as a horse woman.
The clinic was in many ways a real joy to participate in. Everyone who came entered into the experience so whole heartedly and fully and this makes all the difference in the world.
So what of Noora's teaching? What is it that resonated with me so much that I chose to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!)? Well, there are a number of things that really made a huge impression on me...
Noora Ehnqvist at recent clinic here in Gloucester teaching Wendy and Marley
I have come away from the clinic with a new awarness and appreciation of the deep power of inner strength, combined with great softness and sensitivtiy. I know that horses embody this quality to a high degree. The horses that do not combine these qualties are nearly always ones that have been damaged through interactions with humans.
For us humans it is a hard balance to achieve and those that do manage to balance these qualities cannot fail to make a huge impression on us. Too often perceptions of what it means to be a 'strong' human being are still bound up in notions of physical strength, dominance, control, overbearingness and overt leadership styles. This is not the kind of strength I am talking about here. I am referring more to the kind of strength that comes from a deep inner knowing of who you are, what you believe in, what you will and will not do in the name of 'training' horses. It's the kind of strength that retains a deep openeness to others, to life and to honest introspection about your own thoughts, motives and actions. It's a strength that commits to staying open and heart centred in the face of rejection and hostility. It is a strength that originates right in the very core of our being and influences how we walk, move, breathe, speak, think, act.... live our lives in fact.
And what about the flip side of the coin? Softness and sensitivity again is so often misunderstood as weakness. It is almost viewed as a character flaw; something to be hidden or eradicated. This may seem extreme but think about how you feel if you see or hear something that moves you deeply when you are in the company of others. Being moved to tears either through feelings of joy or empathy for someone elses pain is often an uncomfortable position to be in publicly, even with people we know well. We are encouraged from a very young age to conceal feelings, dry the tears as quickly as possible and pretend you were not moved. To retain sensitivity to self and others; to maintan a deep awareness and empathy of how others are feeling and to acknowledge it openly; to work always in this space... now THAT is strength indeed.
Once more I seem to be writing a blog that seems to have very little to do with horsemanship but to me (and I know to growing numbers of others) this is the very foundation of true horsemanship. Horses and humans are strongly attracted to these qualities and will seek it out every time if given the opportunity.
So how has the clinic changed what I am doing so far? Already I am noticing that the answer to nearly every problem I face with any other living being lies in not raising but softening my energy, moving and sensing from the core of my being both emotionally and physically. I'm not saying that I always manage to live in this awareness... it comes and goes but it is definitely sticking around more. I find myself scanning my body for any tiny scrap of emotional brace and then breathe it away. So far, so good...
I am so thankful and very grateful to all of those beings that have crossed my path who are a living embodiment of softeness through strength and strength through softness. You know who you are! I am looking forward to bringing this awareness more fully into all of my future teaching sessions.