Way back in early February, I signed up to be a spectator at a Buck Brannaman Horsemanship clinic near Huntsville, AL today. This may seem to be a little out of character, but then again I did go to a couple of heavy metal concerts this year, so clearly I'm open to trying new things in 2012. But actually, having seen the beautiful documentary, Buck, I felt that his message of kinship with one's horse is completely applicable to many other areas of one's life, including one's relationship with other people and with one's own mind. In other words, horse whispering skills extend far beyond horses.
The initial weather forecast for Friday called for beautiful clear skies, but as the week progressed it looked like Nashville would get some early morning showers, so I wasn't that surprised when I was awakened around 3 this morning by thunder and lightening. However, when the rain was still heavy at 4:30 I started getting nervous. Looking at the daily forecast for Huntsville, the prediction was still for decent weather, but it seemed to me that the storm I could see on the radar map was heading straight for it. Undeterred, I headed out at 6AM, in the dark and rain.
The weather made for a somewhat hair-raising drive out of Nashville, but once the sun came up and traffic thinned out, it felt great to be on the road, off on an adventure and game for whatever would happen. Plus I had the delightful audiobook company of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez reading their memoir, Along the Way.
It was still raining when I arrived at Harvest Farms, where the event was being held. As I pulled onto the soggy field to park my car, I got stuck in the mud a couple of times, which left a little nagging feeling in the back of my mind about potential trouble leaving this afternoon. While we were initially directed to a dry barn where several picnic tables were set up, word came that Buck was down on the field and would be holding the morning session outside, in the hope that the rain would be breaking up soon.
Luckily I had my umbrella with me, which was much more than many of the other spectators had. I created a little zone of dryness, snuggled up in my chair purchased especially for the occasion and thankfully incredibly simple to set up, as I was taking it out of its bag for the first time. I loved hearing what Buck had to say to the riders about the importance of creating boundaries for the horse to stay balanced within. He said that if a horse can find this sense of balance, they are centered and feel relieved and content. I also enjoyed his description of working with a horse with a lot of energy. The rider wouldn't want to just exhaust the horse, but should put that energy to good use, to see the energy as a gift, not the enemy. All of this seemed very relevant to how I could work with my mind in my meditation practice.
I'm pretty used to feeling like an outsider at many of the events I attend. This summer I was on an India kick after having seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and went to what I thought was a talk by Amma Sri Karunamayi that turned out to be a rather lengthy blessing ceremony, attended mainly by people dressed all in white. Even at the Level IV Shambhala training session in Birmingham, I was referred to as "the new girl." I don't really mind it. I was the new girl, the outsider, so often growing up. And deep in my heart, I really do feel very connected to all of humanity. But I knew today I was going to be out of my element once again.
So I know I came off a little funny when the woman sitting next to me asked me something about one of the terms Buck was using and I said flat-out that I didn't know anything about horses. My directness may have even come off as somewhat unfriendly and defensive. So when she seemed almost offended, I realized I needed to allow myself to be a little vulnerable and I said I felt that I was really there for my meditation practice. And right there, the deep connection opened right up. Practically with tears in her eyes, she said that when she'd first learned about horse whispering techniques she realized what a better mother she could have been, how she could have been present with her children in a different kind of way. Instead of getting laughed at, I was welcomed into a moment of shared understanding and humanity.
After a couple of hours I felt like I'd gotten what I wanted out of the experience. It didn't seem like the rain was going to let up and I was getting increasingly nervous about getting my car out of the soggy field. And my premonition was quite accurate, unfortunately. But once again, I was treated kindly by the other attendees and a small group pushed my car out, laughing as they were splattered with mud, encouraging me out of the lot and away. "Don't stop!" they cried, and other than making a quick visit to a highway rest area, I didn't, until I arrived at the welcome home port of Lemongrass Sushi and once again felt that love really is all around.