My beautiful horse Smokey has his own take on the hunger games. He has taught me a lot about survival and coming from a place of lack. Today he’s sharing some of this with you too. But first let me go back a bit so you can get the full picture.
Smokey came into my life when he was just six years old off the show track in Tennessee. He was skinny and scarred from the often cruel Tennessee Walking Horse show circuit. With me his life was different. One of the first things I told him (and this was before I knew that he could understand me) was that I would never show him and never hurt him.
He is one of the gentlest horses I have ever known. He has carried me on trails through rushing water, down steep muddy hills, with cannons shooting nearby and in parades trailing a 50′ tall Garfield. He is rock solid and I can always trust him to look out for me. However, when you put him in with other horses he is not so gentle…he’s more like a bully.
Years ago when I kept him at a boarding stable he was by himself because frankly, he was not nice to the other horses. Unless you had a horse that needed to lose weight from constantly being moved around, you did not want your horse to be with Smokey. Eventually we did find a horse that lived up to Smokey’s expectations as a leader. His name was Nails. Smokey was very content to let Nails be his leader because really, Smokey didn’t want to be the leader, he just wanted his leader to be of a certain quality. Few have met this test.
When the time came for me to have my own place Smokey and Nails were moved to very greener pastures. They had some of the lushest pasture either of them had ever grazed. This was also just shortly after my mare Mariah had come into my life. When I was ready to move Mariah in with Smokey and Nails I was very concerned that Smokey would take a few chunks out of her and make her life miserable. Because of my setup I had to put her directly out with the boys to fend for herself. And to my great surprise, Smokey and Nails barely lifted their heads from the pasture when she ran in. They could have cared less. I was dumbfounded and then it dawned on me. For the first time in his life, Smokey was not worried about groceries. He had this huge lush pasture and all the food in the world to eat…at least in his perception. He no longer had a reason to fight. He no longer needed to be a bully.
I don’t mean to imply that Smokey wasn’t well taken care of prior to my bringing him home, he was but to horses that are designed to graze 18 hours of the day, being fed a few flakes of hay twice a day feels like they are being starved. And for Smokey, it went back further to when he was a young horse. He shared with me that he was often fed very small amounts of icky hay. His “childhood” was abusive and he adapted by becoming very protective of his resources. Every time he was introduced to another horse at the boarding stable he became very aggressive, protecting what he saw as his precious few resources. Curious, I asked him, “Why is it different with Nails”. He told me that he knew that Nails cared as much about his “herd” as he did about himself. As a natural born leader, Nails would not let Smokey starve and dear Smokey understood this. He also told me that from the first time he met me he knew that I would never hurt him either and so he put his trust in me. I am honored by this and always will be.
Today I asked Smokey what he might want to share about this experience. He replied ”When my basic needs are met, when I know I will be fed and cared for I am able to be relaxed and I don’t need to fight with others. It is only my fear that causes me to be aggressive. It is also important to me that those I look up to (now Miami) are strong leaders that care about the good of the herd. And of course I do expect others to respect me and give me space. Sometimes I have to remind them.”
Smokey is mirroring our world to us. This might seem obvious but I think it is one of those “obvious” things that we forget in the grip of fear. Our world is experiencing a great deal of financial, environmental and social turmoil. When we are afraid, hungry, fearing for our safety we become aggressive and sometimes even bullies. We behave in ways that aren’t very nice. And we forget that we all need space and respect.
Fear is natural but it is not our nature. We were designed to love not hate or judge.
What if we could see that others expressing anger are really just very scared? Could we imagine them as a small child or a puppy and see through those eyes? Could we show more compassion, give them a break or at least not take their anger personally? And how might they react if their anger was met with love and genuine compassion?
What if we could see that when we are angry, beneath our anger is fear or hurt? Could we be more compassionate with ourselves? Could we be gentle with ourselves as we might be with a child or a puppy?
I will admit I get angry and I get territorial just like Smokey. But I am learning to observe this within myself and not act on the anger (well not usually) and to be more compassionate with myself and others. I am convinced that in order for me to see peace in the world (which I desperately want) I need to find peace within myself.
Now that we are in an election year people’s fear is in full gear. The mute button on my remote control will soon wear out. It truly breaks my heart to witness the lies, the hatred, the greed and the fear. This is not who we really are. This does not serve us or our planet. Will you join me in making an effort to understand first? To be the peace? To be the love?
And finally, I leave you with a message from the Hopi Elders that was sent to me in an email at least 12 years ago. It helps me remember how to be in the world.
Message From the Hopi Elders
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and so swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water.
And I say see who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves; for the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.