Because I’m often blessed with the company of my lovely neighbor, Liz, when I’m playing my horses, I’m forced to also articulate things that would otherwise live their time out as wordless experiences. Because Liz is interested, she asks interested and interesting questions. And in response to those questions- in the process of being asked to formulate a reply- I sometimes realise I’m doing a thing that I had not thought to speak about or say out loud before.
Here is one such thing.
I was lunging my big chestnut mare, Nadia, and discussing her rhythm and balance. ‘What are you looking for?’, Liz asked me as we padded round the arena. Nadia made her way round the outside track, with me a meter or two in; Liz somewhere to the inside of me, and both of us somewhere between Nadia’s shoulder and her nose.
‘Well,’ I replied, ‘can you see her inside hind? See how it doesn’t quite track up? I’m seeing if I can get her balanced on all four feet, so that eventually the footfalls of each hoof would land in a regular and predictable place- which at the moment, they are not.’
‘How do you do that?’ she replied.
‘Well, rhythm is the most obvious place to start. If the horse is moving in rhythm, then we know that each ‘corner’ of the horse is sharing equally in the weight. We always want to do our best to control the rhythm. But beyond that, we also want to be curious as to why there might be restriction or stiffness in the places that catches our attention- and the “problem” isn’t always where you’re focusing. You have to be a super-sleuth and see what you can find.’
We moved around in silence a bit longer, my mind chewing over the question in the background. I realized there was something I’d left out.
‘You know the other thing I do,’ I said, ‘and this might sound a little crazy, but I tell the leg-or whatever it is we’re focusing on- what it is I want it to do. Or at least make the request. So, in this case, I’ll check in with my own body, send my intention to the limb and literally say out-loud-inside-my-head the directions for how I would like it to move. I bring awareness to that area of the body through the line of my intention.
I guess I see that as the energetic application of the aids. And despite what your sensible mind has to say about it, you’ll be surprised at how it works’.
My memory trailed back to my own experiences in movement which have grown more and more subtle as the years have progressed. I come from an athletic family that knows how to push through and kick on. I spent years using physical activity and over-exertion to plug an emotional whirlpool that never rested nor stood still. I’ve spent years ‘making’ things, forcing things to happen. And it’s only been in the recent few that I’ve really appreciated, sat back, and seen the magic of how the body truly works.
‘In your own body,’ I went on, ‘thoughts operate as instructions. If I have a thought about how I move, or don’t. How something functions or doesn’t, my thought literally cues that part of my body to behave in a particular way. We’re much more powerful than we realise’.
In the movement work I teach; we understand how the body moves to be under unconscious control. All I need to do from a conscious perspective is decided what I would like to happen (where I want to move from A to B), set the intention for it, and then act in support of both those things.
HOW the body coordinates that movement is not something I need to worry about. The greater wisdom of my body will take care of it.
What this requires is a letting go of control, and a dropping the reins on micromanaging.
It’s one thing to understand this conceptually; it’s another to experience. Clear intention (of the movement pathway and direction, both of individual parts and the being as a whole); the ability to sense into your body (not just to think about it); and a commitment to consistent action taking become your superpower.
Our bodies- just like our horses- respond to thought in the most subtle of ways. Which loops us back around to thoughts are instructions to the body. They both informative and performative; they tell it what to do (inform) and how they want it to behave (perform).
If we can cue into the level of intention and understand its potency in movement, all of the energy we previously use for pushing and forcing becomes liberated. We have a body in free flow.
“If ultimately, me and my horse are to become extensions of each other, then it stands to reason that the process is the same. That my thought becomes theirs. That their thoughts become mine. And even if I’m not at that place right yet, I can’t think of a better thing to practice”.
Thoughts are instructions.