The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.
It has long been known that living in the present moment is the key to contentment. It is more than that, more than a way to live life to its fullest. It is an opportunity to participate directly in reality as it is created.
Often we bumble through it. We think we are paying attention, but really we are not.
I can’t tell you how many times I would lose focus simply trying to execute a simple 20 meter circle or serpentine. Or to get over a series of low jumps in a straight line.
“No Kim–were you paying attention? You lost it in the same spot as last time! Try it again!”
My horse was on point. No loss of attention there, because animals don’t indulge in that inner dialog that distracts us from participation in the present moment. I was intent on not making the same mistake I made last time. Like not thinking of the elephant in the room, we think of the elephant in the room. The mistake we made last time is in the consciousness if we are trying to avoid it. Better to eliminate it from the mind and focus only on current reality. Right now, it’s not there. Even better, holding the intention that things will go well increases the chances that they will.
But planning for the future, even a second or two into it, has its own disadvantages, as riders know. Your body does what your mind tells it, sometimes without your permission or knowledge. Better not to anticipate.
We hear it all the time, no matter the discipline: “Stay out of your horse’s way.” It’s hard to stay out of the horse’s way if you are a novice, and sometimes hard to do it as an advanced rider, too, if you are accustomed to over riding. For human beings, each stimulus prompts its own cascade of inner dialog or opportunity for spacing out. Like the half halt or the rein back, staying present is a skill that must be practiced. The key as both novices and advanced riders to staying out of the horse’s way and maintaining focus is living in the present moment.
As in riding, so in life. Or vice versa: stay out of life’s way. Don’t over-live and don’t go through blindly. Most folks move back and forth between these two modes automatically, moment by moment, without awareness of it. Can we take hold of the reins and greet each new stimulus as it comes? Not as easy as it sounds.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for mental presence and focus as you ride.
Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.
–Thich Nhat Hanh
Many thanks to Beliefnet for the idea for this series of posts and for the quotes used in it. Interpretations are mine.