Monthly Archives: December 2017

Life’s Meaning and Horses

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uncertainty elizabeth gilbert

Every time the universe tosses my life path into uncertainty, something interesting happens. There’s so much anxiety about uncertainty, yet if one thinks about it, every uncertainty is an opportunity for rebirth knocking on the door and one must decide whether or not to answer it.

In my own life, I would say it began with Kodak’s acquisition of Bell & Howell where my father had worked for over a decade. He was laid off and unable to find work for almost two years. As a child, I did not know the implications of work and money. When I was in third grade, my parents opened a restaurant in my hometown which they ran for ten years until their divorce when I was about 19 years old.

During the uncertain times of their new divorce, I eloped. I had always expected my parents to divorce my entire life and had always promised myself that I would not choose between their two house if it ever happened. I believe the short-lived fantasy romance I had must surely have been some form of escape because I was truly blinded by first love. (Ironically, I have now been divorced for 9 years now and have lived at both of their houses to pay off student loans. It’s still a struggle to pay off the student loans which makes me realize maybe school is not the way to go for me. No amount of additional degrees will increase my level of income by much more and I certainly cannot afford to go to school just for fun.) The next life transition came when I left my ex-husband for the first time: I got my second teaching scholarship and thought, “Now I have to finish this degree. Surely, this means teaching is the right track for me.” I have been to so many places since then!

After a week straight of substitute teaching last week, I found myself without work for several days. At first, I was ungrateful for my spare time outside of work. You may recall that I used to find most of my fulfillment from work. It’s something I’ve struggled with quite a lot over the course of my career: over dedication to work. Every time I become overly dedicated to work, the universe reminds me of how unimportant work truly is and how little power one truly has…. It doesn’t matter how many programs I create for the kids because I’m not wanted at any of the schools at which I’ve worked. I have not mastered the politics despite politics being a part of every environment.

horse direction

I’ve been following a vlog at amandaoutside.com for some time now. In one of Amanda’s most recent vlog postings, she describes her life: three days of work and then off to the outdoors backpacking for several days. I thought to myself, “That happy person could be me… ” I have an ex-boyfriend who lived that lifestyle for years and climbed at least a thousand mountain peaks (his ego counted the exact number). And I recalled all of the beautiful photos I used to photograph each non-work day before my teaching days years ago when I substituted.

Last week, I opened my heart to adventure again. In that space, the most interesting place I discovered is a local equine therapy place for which I am so grateful! I had the pleasure of volunteering there from 1:30 to 5:30 pm on Friday and from 8:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday! I was reunited with a former student of mine whose mother recounted how her daughter cried for days when I did not end up continuing at the school. She is now in high school and was thrilled to see me and I was thrilled to see her. She is the horsewoman I hope to become one day! The place has been here for 19 years and I’ve never had the time to go check it out until now! They provide horse riding lessons to people with disabilities as well as art therapy. It is a very happy place and the skills and confidence the students have developed are just amazing! Everyone (people and horses) there has been super friendly, helpful, patient and loving! The owner of the non-profit ranch taught for 15 years before opening up this place. I can see and have been told that she has physical handicaps and illnesses herself and yet she continues to run the place with the help of volunteers, which I find truly inspiring!

In almost every place I’ve lived, I’ve developed a special relationship with the horses, so I’m very excited about this new opportunity to learn about hippotherapy so close to my home. I’ve been looking at a lot of non-profits and this one is truly one of the most well-run and happiest. The art therapist there has worked at multiple hippotherapy locations across the country and has informed me that this is the case from her observations too: this is a place where it’s not about the money nor required service hours of locals because the people and horses really bond. This weekend, Santa (the owner’s brother) is making his annual visit. I have been told that year, he comes in a unique mode of transportation; VW bug, Clydesdales, Sheriff’s car, convertible, etc.  I look forward to volunteering this weekend and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces as they are greeted by Santa.

Life happens for me, not to me. I am so grateful for my mother’s health, her new business, all of the new opportunities with which I’ve been blessed and the support of my wonderful boyfriend. I am grateful for each ray of sunlight and each precious breath I am provided on this beautiful earth.

ride softly

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Written 4 Months Ago

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Last Saturday morning, my yoga teacher wrote an excited email notifying her students that we would have a guest who she called an angel who helps her through her troubles and can see her soul. In my mind, I pictured a white bearded sage.

We were surprised to see a humble, handsome young man with beautiful tan skin, broad shoulders and calm smiling eyes wearing a gray t-shirt walk in. She invited him to speak to us and young Prince Siddhartha seated upon a yoga mat and yoga bolster, explained that he had been raised in privileged background and had felt much guilt for the discontent he hid under his skin. Unlike Prince Siddhartha, he did not cast away his materials and wander the streets for the answers to relieve humanity from pain and suffering. Instead, he studied Finance at Harvard and lived a very driven life and then studied Spiritual Psychology, reading every work he could get his hands on to figure out what he thought the cause of suffering could be.

He used stories to tell us about things he had learned. He had learned that the constant business deals and emails really didn’t matter. Most of the time, people welcome real connection even when they seem like they are in a hurry. He learned that as much as he tried, he could not always be present because ideals and reality do not line up and he could accept that. He learned that his unconditional love for others stemmed from his belief that we are all connected, not separate and that things are as they are…

When asked whether he believed whether each individual has his/ her own dharma, he replied, “Where does the tree begin and end? When I ask my son to draw a tree, he draws a trunk and leaves, but what about the roots, the sky, earth…? If we see ourselves, as separate from the world, we will hold our responsibilities separate. If we see ourselves as one, we are living our responsibility.”

I keep thinking back to those words now. I chose to work in Education because I saw myself as the branches and the trunk. I never saw the sky, earth and roots before. I want so much to learn to love myself as I love the sky, earth, roots and all with which my roots are entwined.

Copper doesn’t know it’s copper

until it’s changed to gold.

Your loving doesn’t know its majesty

until it knows its helplessness.

-Rumi