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Down to Your Little Pinky

By Sharon Pearson, Ph.D.
September 10, 2008

This article looks at the reality that when we are stuck in our wounded way of being and doing we miss the point of everything!

Blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze.  A hint of fall in the air.  And Horses!  I spent the weekend volunteering at a horse show.  What a wonderful see the wounded self in action! It was not what I expected.   In the face of beauty and wonder, I saw the machinations of the wounded self as it strives to be secure and right and in control and to “win”.  I saw the face of fear, stress, control, guard, contempt, and blah in people and horses!   I saw horses being ridden, passing one after the other before me, all in exactly the same very restricted and structured paces, head held unerringly at just the right level and turned towards the fence at just the right angle, at a the required precise pace and decked “to the nines” with silver on saddles and bridles.  I saw very stiff riders with arms held exactly in the right configuration and heads just so, and no smiling please!  A woman standing beside me had brought five of her riding students with her to the show.  Even as she was pleasant she continued to encourage her students to do even better by quiet instructions as they rode by.  To a particular student she gave the clue “straighten your little pinky.”  This “gift” was a meant to be a means of ensuring a better score from the judges.  

Oh my God my little girl said!  And my spirit cried out inside “was that what the Creator had in mind when Divine Word spoke the Horse into being?  The living symbol of spirit and fire?  The creature through whose ears the winds of heaven blow?  The one who dances on mother earth in joy?  The ultimate prey survivor?  The symbol of freedom that is still a memory in the west?

The horses I watched in the show ring were robotic and their eyes were mostly dim and dull!  The routines they followed over and over did not express their natural way of being in the world, but rather how much precise control a rider could have over them.  They did not shine in their horse glory the way a happy horse will, but rather in the show sheen spray that had been applied liberally to their well-brushed coats.  For many, their attention to their riders was the attention of fear.  The boredom of the repeated patterns was relieved only by anxiety over the next sharp check of the bit in the mouth or spur in the belly. Lord save them!

And as for the riders, there must have been a hundred rules about body positions and parts and looks!  Attention to the tiniest detail was imperative.  The concentration required was so enormous that it required a compression and then decompression process.  A hot leather show jacket, richly ornamented might just be the ticket to a win, so the sweat poured off the perfectly presented face.  A huge buckle, the reward for a past accomplishment was a good gamble for “extra points.”  Even in the youngest class, under 6 years of age, eyes were glazed with the stress of wanting to perform well.

The wounded self loves rules.  What do I have to do to “win?” is the question in the show ring.  It is a way of life for the wounded part of us that just wants to know what the rules are to be safe, to avoid pain, to escape from fear.  That makes sense if one looks at the desperation of a fearful child who needs to determine how to be safe, especially in the face of abandonment, neglect, abuse or rejection.  Especially when the powers that were said that obedience to such rules were the way to get love and life.  When the wounded self enforces rules as a means of control, the rules lose any positive force they might have had.  They become abusive, neglectful, rejecting tools.  The spirit of the rule/law is completely lost in the letter of the law.  Ah, but the wounded self desperately wants to be “right” and to follow the rules is to be pronounced right, good, a success!

At the horse show, most, if not all, of the contestants wanted control over how they would be judged.  The hope that permeated the dusty arena that fall day was that perfection would guarantee “winning,” that the right this or that could save a tough cowboy or a shiny cowgirl from doom, that if one held their littlest finger just right, the judge would announce the one with the correct pinky the winner of all times!

Now, I am sure that there were some incredible riders and some wonderful horses on that beautiful day in Indiana.  But, that is not what was happening in the moment. The wounded self took the state of grace that was that day, and the spirit of joy and the wonder of all the possibilities of connection of great heart to great heart and fiery spirit to fiery spirit and turned it all into rules, regulations, show order, fees, and judgment.  

The wounded self is deeply invested in the plan “doing it right” - f not this time, then the next!  With my pinky just so, maybe I’ll win.  Maybe the next sparkling outfit, a new bridle, a “better” horse, will get me the ribbon!   Maybe if I do it exactly like someone else…or like everybody else, I’ll win!  The wounded self may feel “safe” with this strategy, but we will not feel joy!  We may avoid pain, but we will not enjoy wonder.  We might congratulate ourselves on how well we performed, but we will not experience love - the kind of Love that sings “We have fallen into the place where everything is music” (Rumi).   We might even be happy that we won.  But, we may well miss the deeper point of it all, a divine connection inside and out!

You know, probably part of the problem for me that day as I watched a horse show is the way I learned to ride a horse.  I learned first to connect to the horse and to say please because I learned that stable horses hated their lives and might not want to be nice! I learned to ride by climbing aboard a mamma horse (who was a great babysitter with me) and to listen to her and move with her!  I tuned in to her spirit and settled into her center of gravity.  I learned to float on her as she skimmed across the plains of a somewhat limited stable yard in suburban Texas.  

So what would perfection have looked like for me as I watched a horse show?  Animals delighting in what they were made to be, riders flying by in joyful abandon and above all, a communal experience of connection and synergy.   Now, is there anything wrong with disciplines that require careful control and a closely followed routine?  Not necessarily.  Its just that what is truly necessary is that the point of it all is to find fulfillment in the soul-- love, joy, peace, freedom.  The wonder of connection.  The strength of empathy. Openness to creator and creation.   The joy of life!

So, here is my suggestion for anyone who cares to listen to a non-professional horse trainer:  instead of hiring a professional who might think that all you need is to know where to put your body parts I suggest the following.   “Let your teacher be Love itself,” as Rumi put it.  Love the soul you are created to be.  Love the creatures that have their own glory, reflections of a greater light, each one prisms of the thousands of colors held in that light.  Learn with and from them.  Learn in and of you!  Share in the delight of the creator who makes horses and humans.  And use your pinky in a pinky shake with a friend who remembers such a thing.  The tiniest connection makes a big difference on any day!


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