As part of my homework for the Back in the Saddle Course with Anna Blake we have been tasked to find our own mantra to say to our horses (and to ourselves) to remind us of our truth. I have been remembering that ‘good girl’ and ‘good boy’ are not rewards for doing what we want or the right behaviour. It says how we feel about our horse unconditionally. It is a seismic shift in horse training thinking. My previous horse knowledge has been pulled out of my brain, like a worn out electrical component and I’m left with dangling wires, few connections and the occasional short fuse.
I understand this mantra is about making new neural pathways. In fact, at this stage, perhaps more like a bell to remind me that a different path exists. That there is an alternative to ‘no’ when faced with a behaviour I don’t like, and it’s not as simple as ‘yes’. It’s a breath out, it’s ‘how can I communicate this better’, it’s ‘how can I listen’, in fact, ‘can I be still and quiet enough to listen’… it’s many things that I have yet to discover and understand deep in my body. I want to Know this way of being until the pathways are worn and soft and always lead home.
Today is cold and windy. Not a day to practice anything that involves a halter or going to the school. I am standing in my yard, feeling blessed for this space, looking at my horses and my mantra appeared – “you do not have to be good”.
One of my favourite poems is Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, particularly the first part,
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
It seems incongruous that my mantra, my remindfulness bell, is ‘You do not have to be good’, but as soon as I found myself saying it I felt my belly soften and my breath drop. I noticed my horses with nothing but love and appreciation for who they are, right now, in this moment. You do not have to be good. You do not have to Be anything. You do not have to try to please me. Neither of us has to know the answer. I am willing to keep talking. It’s OK to make mistakes.
You do not have to be good