Monday, March 19, 2012

horse medicine (thank you Ben)

One of the things I absolutely love about being a mother is the chance to revisit stories. More specifically, my stories.

Not that having a child is the only way to access one's past history, but Cowgirl insistently prods me to tell her stories and in those moments of scanning through my memory banks, I often stumble upon pieces of buried treasure.

Such was the case last night as I peeled carrots for a stir-fry. Cowgirl enjoys being my sous-chef (another plus to having a wee person about) so she was by my side chattering away about carrots which naturally leads one to the subject of horses. We were remembering her feeding carrots to her grand dad's horse, Pink Bell (Cowgirl named her after a beloved stuffed animal) which then segued into my horsy adventures.

And then I remembered Ben. Ben was a beautiful gray horse who was on vacation from his work while I was on vacation from my life. Well, vacation if you consider getting up at 5 AM and practicing 3 hours of yoga a day on top of attending classes and practice teaching sessions a vacation. I was enrolled in a month-long yoga teacher training program at Kripalu Yoga Center and Ben was spending that same month on holiday in the field behind the center.

I first noticed Ben while eating my breakfast in the dining hall. Breakfasts at Kripalu are held in silence. There is soft music playing, the clatter of dishes and the drone of fans but otherwise all is quiet. Breakfast was my favorite time of the day - I would float in, relaxed with a morning yoga practice already under my belt and the day still ahead of me. I would gather my favorite foods: oatmeal, fruit, yogurt with honey, hot tea and then look for a seat by a window. Since everyone was in silence, I would look out the window and daydream.

Until I discovered Ben. After that, I would look out the window to see if I could find him eating his morning meal of grass and I would watch him lazily move around the field nibbling here, nibbling there. After a couple of days, I decided to grab an apple at breakfast and take it over to him during my afternoon break.

The first time I approached the fence, Ben methodically moved away from me. Like a magnet when the same poles face each other, wherever I moved seemed to repulse Ben in the opposite direction. So I cut my apple into slices and lay them upon the ground just inside the fence.

We did the same dance over the next few days. Every day I would take an apple up and leave it for Ben who seemed rather indifferent to my appearance and the apple.

And then one day I started my trek up to the field and Ben slowly and rather nonchalantly ambled toward me and the apple he knew I held in my hand. Everyday of my remaining month's stay I visited Ben and everyday he would come to me and eagerly eat my apple. Eventually he allowed me to scratch behind his ears and stroke his cheeks and velvety nose. His reward for my patience.

Ben - and the crow that appeared at my window every morning (every!) to wake me up - are vivid memories from that period in my life twelve years ago this July. And here's the treasure I discovered while recounting my friendship with Ben to Cowgirl: when we are starting out in any new relationship we have to be patient and persistent. We have to show up and allow the other time to get used to our presence. It is our consistency and willingness to allow the other to move towards us in their own time which builds comfort and trust.

Of course the relationship I speak of here is really the relationship I am trying to build with the parts of myself I have neglected, denied or pushed away. When I think about nurturing my creativity, I am reminded of my willingness with Ben to show up every day and wait for him to come to me. It really isn't much different with my practice of writing, painting, photography. By cultivating patience and persistence or consistency, I place myself repeatedly in a space where inspiration knows to find me. I open myself to whatever may arrive and welcome it even if all I am afforded is a chance to place my offering upon the ground. I am feeding my creativity and in turn it is allowing the shy voices within me to find a safe and receptive place to speak and be heard.

Thank you Ben for this teaching. As I continue to befriend myself, I will think of you and our summer of rest and recovery.


  1. i like how you took that important life lesson and applied it to a relationship that i sometimes forget we even have - with ourselves! i will have to keep that in mind as i continue to build trust and strength within.

  2. What a beautiful story! I do believe that you have to be both patient and persistent when you start something new, like painting.

    I wanted to stop by and tell you that I got your postcard in my mailbox today. Thank you so much! It makes me happy!

  3. Hello Linda, :-)

    What a beautiful and gentle story. This is my first visit to your blog as I just received your pretty postcard with the strong "Celebrate yourself" saying, just behind the lovely bird drawing. And I already know I will come back visit your blog as your writing is very inspiring.

    Thank you for your postcard AND for your words. :-)


  4. I love how the silence you were keeping at meals with humans carries over to your connection with Ben. He is a part of that silence which I am guessing was established to help you better hear yourself. Horses are some of the most amazing mirrors we look into. And I think I am going to have to copy into my journal what you have to say about new relationships. . .
    ps you know I am one of those horse crazy girls don't you? :)

  5. I would love to have a book that you wrote Lis and I know exactly what it would look like. There would be short stories and illustrations that you created and my copy would be dog eared and well worn because I would come back to it again and again.

  6. "...when we are starting out in any new relationship we have to be patient and persistent. We have to show up and allow the other time to get used to our presence. It is our consistency and willingness to allow the other to move towards us in their own time which builds comfort and trust."

    Ah Lis. You have expressed this so beautifully. Like the waiting for spring, the patience of waiting for our own creativity and brilliance to shine.

    Thank you for these perfect words. Day by day, little by little, a scratch behind the ears is our gift. Sweet.

  7. i read this days ago and kept meaning to come back...

    this touched me so deeply.

    horses were my life for sooooooo long and it's strange-but-not-really to have them still informing so much of who i am even though there's no physical presence anymore. they have so many lessons for us -- truly, they are the most profoundly spiritual creatures...


    i love that you had Ben in your life and i love that he taught (and is still teaching) you.....ach, my heart is so full with this, i'd only be rambling incoherently if i continue...

    much much.


    ps. just wanted to share this link... -- oh, and you might like this blog: