“There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.
We have to learn the art of stopping – stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick up a book and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can we stop our fear, despair, anger and craving? We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.”
This story comes from the book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am in no way claiming to be Buddhist, though there is much about that theology that I appreciate. I started looking at my own life and seeing how incredibly “lost” I’ve become in my own little world, unhinged by a constant sense of agitation, sometimes even anxiety and when my husband Troy shared this story with me this morning, I had the most profound AHA moment ever. The only way I was going to impact this state of “habit” in my being was to completely stop. REALLY stop, not just wishful think about stopping but just doing it. I realized how much MOVING constantly has become a way of life, and that habit has been depleting me for longer than I care to admit to.
The first thing that happened was a nap. Now this is coming from a woman who never takes naps. When I woke up, I made a cup of tea. I sat and sipped the tea with my kids running around in the background and actually for the first time tasted it. Divine. Calming. I found myself smiling and laughing with my children who I’m usually hurrying along to the next activity of our day. I completely lost a sense of time, and you know what? When I finally looked at the clock it was much earlier than I expected. Time seemed suddenly to stand still.
The blessing of all of it was that I was thinking more clearly, and my creativity opened up, I started having ideas about things I have been blocked around for weeks related to my work. I know, I know…you’re asking yourself how a woman who has a practice in intuition could be so out of touch with her own self. The truth is, I am human, believe it or not and there are times that I too forget to slow down. Habits are powerful, and they are even harder to break. Buddha taught that the basics of stopping, calming and resting bring about a stable foundation for the continued healing of the body and mind. Can it really be that simple? Stopping that silly habit of going, going, going…it is such a funny illusion to even think that I am accomplishing ANYTHING with the constant motion, all I am accomplishing now that I look at it a little more objectively (and after a nap) is more work and more activity. Is that really a way to live life? I’m not so sure, the jury is still out, I think I have a little more mindfulness to practice before I understand it fully.
I have decided from this little experiment that I prefer to feel calm. It IS healing. Isn’t it funny that I would choose any differently? For today, I am choosing to live this story and stop the horse. Wanna join me?
“Stopping, calming and resting are preconditions for healing. If we cannot stop, the course of our destruction will just continue. The world needs healing. Individuals, communities, and nations need healing.”