Learning Through Pain

Sometimes we learn through joy. But, inevitably, there are times we must learn through pain. By their reflective nature, horses take our pain on their own bodies. Gurus are known to do the same, but for them the choice is conscious and deliberate in order to mitigate our karmic debts. For horses, the pain they take on is not for our sake, but simply a part of their way of being a mirror. It does not lessen our karma, it simply reflects it for us to see.

In September, the lesson horse that I had leased in July, Zora, decided that she no longer wanted to be in my herd. It began with the arrival of Zip and Dancer, two horses whose primary goal in life is to serve humans as Spirit guides. They are light horses with highly sensitive natures and none of the dullness that comes from much of life. The day that they arrived, Zora broke through the fence to join Navi in another pasture. She was not interested in the new energy that was arriving.

Zora began to ignore Pablo, the herd leader who she had built such a bond with. When a photographer showed up to take pictures for Herd Spirit, Zora fell asleep across the field. I tried to wake her, but she simply ignored me. It was as if some part of myself, some old me, was rejecting this shift into a new chapter.

My work on Herd Spirit was slow, often blocked by a need to process old patterns and simply to catch up on the basic knowledge of horse care and horsemanship left behind in my youth. As the patterns began to break and confidence build, Zora became more and more distant.

One day, for a variety of reasons, she snapped. She simply refused to stay with my herd and instead chose to break through fence after fence to join another one. On her fourth fence breaking attempt in one day, she caught herself on a wire and ripped her leg wide open. I was devastated, heartbroken for her and for whatever I had done to push her too far. I had made mistakes, there were things I could have done differently. But on some deeper level, I also knew that this injury was mine.

This was my old self, the one who finds security in a consistent paycheck and worth in title, fighting to protect itself. Horsemanship lessons are predictable, clearly defined, and of interest to a great number of people. Teaching brings me joy and is a service to my community. And yet, it’s not my purpose for reentering the world of horses.

I am here with horses in order to transform myself and others. I’m in it for enlightenment. That’s not to say that teaching horsemanship is not also for me. Reinvigorating the Ananda Pony Club and bringing horses to youth is in my heart of hearts. But, Divine Mother is calling me to be clear about priorities and purpose. In the clarity, my old way of life is being asked to step aside for a new one. A life that is unpredictable. A life that explores uncharted waters.

Every Herd Spirit Session that I do is underpinned by the inner thrum of prayer for guidance from my Gurus. Every time I enter the round pen in this way, I feel aligned with some Divine flow. Zora helped me to see that my old way of being must be set free. She also showed me that by rushing in with old patterns, I was forcing myself to push through fences. If only I can learn to listen more, wait for inner guidance, I can maneuver into this new way of being with less pain for me and my horses.

Zora is healed now and retired to pasture at her owner’s ranch. Her arthritis, which had flared up in her convalescence, has improved too. Her time with me was a gift and she started many children on the road to horsemanship. She was a beautiful teacher for me and I wish her a peaceful final chapter in the loving care of her owner.

When we move forward with clarity, some things naturally must fall away. We grieve the losses, but behind each one is a blessing for a new beginning.

Published by Gita Matlock

Gita is a writer, speaker, and nonprofit professional. She earned a bachelors degree in international studies from Pepperdine University and a masters degree in nonprofit administration from the University of San Francisco. She has traveled extensively and held leadership positions with national and international nonprofit organizations. She was born, raised, and now resides with her husband and two children at Ananda Village, the first of eight cooperative Kriya Yoga communities founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.

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