Friday, March 05, 2010

Checking In To the Moment



There are two wars. There's media output that's nearly inescapable. There are people in pain in Haiti, in Chile, and still trying to regain their lives in New Orleans. There are personal issues in everyone's life causing stress and worry.

And there are horses. Many, many horses. Horses, dogs, cats, gerbils, ferrets...all of the creatures we humans have chosen to bring into our lives. We've not done the best job in most cases, but we're trying.

I, for one, think we need to take a step inward. Confusion isn't productive. Checking In is.

I happened to wind up with an audio copy of The Power of Now, by Eckhardt Tolle, and it could not have come at a more opportune moment. As I struggled with feelings of frustration at not being able to do more (and of guilt at not wanting to do more), I heard Tolle explain that there is no future and no past. There is only the now, the present moment. Memories of the past are mere ghosts of days that were once "now", and the future cannot become real until it becomes...now. The present. Whoa! What a concept!

Sure, I know this sounds like some New Age whackadoodle nonsense, but the next thing I heard him say really had some punch to it, so bear with me. He reminded me that for animals, the current moment is all there is. They are far more grounded, far closer to reality than we humans. They get that the only time that matters is feeding time. The only worry that matters is whether or not they will be on time for dinner. The only fear is that another animal will steal their food. They wonder sometimes where their herd might have gone and if there's food there that they're missing. Sure, that's simplistic, but not by much.

Watch the horses. Some of them may look worried, but in reality they're feeling lost. Horses at a show, at a sale barn, at an auction, in the kill pen, in the BLM holding pens are not in their element. Their herd, their home is missing, and they've noticed. Without their familiar herd and their familiar surroundings, these creatures of indelible habit feel vulnerable. That doesn't mean that they are standing around imagining horrors about to befall them. It means they literally don't know how to act. It takes an individual animal time to read and interpret the body language of the others in close proximity and find his place among them. So before you project your own feelings onto his poor, confused head, remember that he is living in the moment. He's figuring out second by second what his best move would be. He's in the Now and letting it wash over and through him while he waits for the next moment, the next thought, the next thing that will happen.

Notice as well that some of the horses seem at peace. They aren't sporting "worry lines" or looking depressed. Some are eating, drinking, and handling it all with grace and good nature. They are also in the Moment but have a different set of responses to it. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse. It all just is.

The same applies to us. Some of us get it. Some of us never will. So it goes.

My point is this: in the frenzy of trying to re-home every poor, homeless animal of whatever species (this applies to the dogs, cats, gerbils, ferrets, and so on as well) we are being unrealistic in our approach. We are projecting our stress levels, our human tendency to try to see the future and panic in plenty of time to greet it with our brains turned to tapioca, onto animals that don't share our craziness. We are attracted, therefore, to the weakest and the least capable of the animals because they are so much like us. And in our awesome self-centeredness, we are unrealistic. We are making mistakes and doing damage where we most need to exercise caution and intelligence.

Consider this. Consider that a time will come when we will not be able to find a home for every animal currently in need (or soon to be, as the source is a miraculous and eternal fountain). Consider that this wouldn't even be an issue if we didn't persist in trying to engineer lives that aren't ours to begin with. Consider that we might better serve the cause by trying to be in the moment the way the animals are and saving the ones most likely to survive our ministrations. We've not proved to be outstanding shepherds to this point, so to presume that doing something is always better than doing nothing is egotistical and simply inaccurate.

Soon the frenzy will devour itself and the present will assert its power to teach us reality. We'll learn, hopefully, that there are things worse than death and plans better than random, unguided passion. When that moment arrives, we may actually begin to make some headway into solving the problem facing us and the animals we husband: Us.

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