Equine power

We were staying with family in Houston when the coronavirus pandemic started to kick off big time, but it wasn’t yet worrying enough for us to cut short our visit and head for home while we could. That panic came a bit later, and we were able to enjoy a brief period of respite from the mounting anxiety in this earlier part of our stay.  We went along with granddaughter to her Saturday riding lessons at a ranch in the country, a short drive away.

We’d heard a lot about the horses she rides at the ranch – they are Athena and Tarzan. Tarzan (shown here, rear view with her riding) is a big horse – 16.5 hands high – and whereas I’d be treating him with all due respect, granddaughter shows no fear at all and loves her equine interactions and all the hands on grooming before and after her ride.

What was so soothing and calming was to visit the stables and meet some of the other horses there. Cloud, the all-white horse, listened patiently while I talked to him and photographed him. I felt quite an affinity with him.

There are several mini horses at the stables, and the beautiful tan and cream one, whose name I can’t remember, had recently given birth. Her foal, a boy, was with her and at just three weeks old was a joy to behold.

In the midst of the current crisis, the worry, the anxiety and the reality of the unsettled and unsettling world we now inhabit fell away. It was a blessing to be able to get alongside these powerful and beautiful animals, and share some of their simple “being-ness”.

The Four Freedoms

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Freedom of Speech by Norman Rockwell

Last week – ahead of starting to seriously social distance ourselves – we went to the Norman Rockwell exhibition at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Because of fast-moving global events around coronavirus it turns out that this will be the only “treat” outing we’ll have while we’re here, visiting family.

The dominant theme of Rockwell’s paintings is Franklin D. Rooseveldt’s Four Freedoms which are extremely appropriate to the state of the globalised world and what’s happening all over it right now. Rockwell painted them during WW2, when they  were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post for over four consecutive weeks in 1943, alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day.

The Four Freedoms are as significant now as they were back in 1943:

Freedom of speech – Freedom of worship – Freedom from want – Freedom from fear

Rockwell illustrated each freedom differently; each is powerful in its own way. The jacket worn by the model in the painting shown is on display at the exhibition, and the occasion itself was based on a real event where a man spoke out on a controversial topic at a community meeting, where he was respected and heard out.

But the final freedom – Freedom from fear – at this moment has the greatest charge for me. Fear is rampaging through our world because of coronavirus. I realised today that I’m now more alarmed at what is happening all over the world because of the virus (lockdowns, curfews, panic buying, borders closing etc.) than I now am about catching the virus itself.

Fear is a powerful weapon. It was FDR himself who, in his 1933 inaugural speech said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself”. Fear is power. If we have fear we’re not fully in charge of our own liberties, we’re reined in, restrained in some way,  not connected to what is essentially good within us.

Two other mentions of fear also come to mind: the book entitled “Feel the fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers. It’s a personal growth book which I read many years ago and found helpful. The other book – a big one! – which touches, amongst many other things, on coping with fear is A Course in Miracles.

The quote from the Course which stands in my mind and is the one I go to in times of stress and anxiety, such as these, is “There is no need to fear”. That has got me through a lot of tough, challenging times and as a mantra it has a calming effect. I’ve added the link for this lesson of the course; it may help, it may not. It works for me.

But what of the other freedoms? To be free to speak out, to worship whichever higher being  nurtures our spiritual needs, to be free from want, through hunger or not having shelter are all important. Sad to say all these freedoms are not fulfilled in our current world, making The Four Freedoms as relevant now as they were when they were voiced by FDR.

Freedom from fear, for me, is the freedom which underpins them all. We can so easily be paralysed by fear, which would hamper us speaking out, as would being afraid to openly worship in ways right for us, and likewise we can be afraid of not having enough to survive on.

The world we know seems to be crumbling apart, but as scary and unsettling as this is, there are some good things emerging. People, marooned in communities locked down against the spread of coronavirus are starting to form support groups and organise how they can help each other, especially those seniors who may become isolated. Today, for  about 30 minutes I was distracted and delighted to hear from all my cul-de-sac neighbours in the UK who have formed a WhatsApp help and support group.

Although I’m in Houston and hoping to get a flight back home, I felt buoyed up by the friendship and community spirit as all of us joined in and added our twopenny-worth of energy to the enterprise. The fear retreated and something brighter and more positive took its place.

 

Being kind

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Much is being said right now about being kind. It’s been said before but now that we’re in the grip of a global situation with coronavirus spreading around the world, it seems even more relevant that we human beings all remember that we’re human beings and express kindness and consideration to each other. We’re all in his together.

I wrote a post a short while ago about the book “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesey. It’s full of gentle wisdom and reminders that none of us is perfect, but we can all support and help each other along the way by being kind. To quote from the book:

“Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse, “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses.” said the mole.

Being kind might involve being more tolerant and understanding of others. I gather there is an increase of racial intolerance towards people in the UK who are of Chinese descent or origin –  as if it’s their  personal fault that dubious practises in a food market in Wuhan have caused this virus to break out. To those being unkind to them I ask you just cut them a bit of slack. They’re probably as scared about it as you are. They’re human beings too.

I recently saw the film “It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood” starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, or Mister Rogers, as he was known when he presented his TV show for children. I knew nothing about him; Mister Rogers was not on UK TV in the 1970s. But I enjoyed the film very much because it was almost 100% about being kind to people, accepting them as they are, acknowledging their faults, fears and misgivings and not judging them.

The film is based on a true story, but the facts have been tweaked as film versions of stories so often are. In this case, it didn’t matter too much because the end product was heartwarming, showing us how people could be and how, if they were wounded or hurt inside, this could be overcome, transcended and transformed.

Love, acceptance and being kind – worth striving for, I think.

The Four-Fold Way

Some tim4foldwaye back in the 1990s I came across the Four-Fold Way, which was referred to at a personal growth workshop I attended. The Four-Fold Way was attributed to anthropologist Angeles Arrien, and I was impressed by it’s four simple points of wisdom:

· Show up and choose to be present

· Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

· Tell the truth without blame of judgement

· Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

This led me to read her book, entitled The Four-Fold Way – Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The book, its content and ethos have come back to mind right now. The times we are currently living in are blighted with fake news, lies, trolling, disrespect of people who are different in some way, divisions within society and climate breakdown. It’s time for us all to start taking responsibility and stop moaning.

Angeles Arrien suggests four paths we might take, and her opening sentence, way back in 1992 when the book was published, is pressingly relevant today. She says,

“Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unliveable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialised society. It is clear we need to take action before it is too late.”

She goes on to say that the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house, in other words, our planet.

The four ways she describes can be shown diagrammatically using the medicine wheel layout and includes the four points of the compass, and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. Each Way has a single line description which more or less lays out what it’s about.

The Way of the Warrior – Show up and choose to be present– the message here is to stip dillydallying about and do something, take action. The associated human resource is power, the way of living is right action.

The Way of the Healer – Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – this suggests don’t allow yourself to get distracted (by smart phones, social media etc?) but remain in touch with what is really important and connected to your heart. The associated human resource is, unsurprisingly, love; the way of living is right speech.

The Way of the Visionary – Tell the truth without blame or judgement – here we have to remember to speak our own truth, be true to ourselves, and not take on board what others have tried to foist upon us. This can be a tough one as it’s much easier to go along with things we don’t really agree with in order to fit in, or keep the peace. And we have to remember not to blame or judge ourselves and others. The associated human resource here is vision, and the way of living, right placement.

The Way of the Teacher – Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – the message is to stay open to the new and not have an end goal in mind. A good teacher will always be open to new ideas and viewpoints because so much fruitful material can come from staying open and learning more. Good teachers are always learning! The associated human resource is wisdom and the way of living is right timing.

Angeles Arrien’s work as an anthropologist, educator and facilitator of workshops aims to build a bridge between cultural anthropology, psychology and comparative religions, revealing how indigenous wisdoms are relevant to our families, professional lives and our relationship with the Earth itself. There is something in The Four-Fold Way for all who wish to develop themselves, their potential and their ability to live life creatively, and we need this approach more than ever in our current times.

“Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can” – Angeles Arrien.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A reminder from Buddha

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I looked out over the garden from the kitchen window today and noticed our buddha caught in a patch of autumn sunshine.

Surounded by green foliage, some with yellowing leaves and some of dark green holly, I paused and remembered the question “What would Buddha do?” (this is on a fridge magnet in my daughter’s house). I must have had the current Brexit mess in the UK on my mind at the time.

The answer – a quote from The Buddha – is:

Sustaining a loving heart, even for the duration of a snap of a finger, makes one a truly spiritual being.

A timely reminder.