The definition of “Zen” is a “calm and unified mind,” but actually, the idea of a quiet mind has been around for some time. Dating back as far as 1967, Dr. William Sargeant described the mind as “unquiet” in his well read book, The Unquiet Mind.
Now, a litany of resources exist to develop this sought after meditative state.
Yet, for all our resources, many people would attest that racing thoughts, constant worry and endless frustrations pollute their daily thoughts. For many, the idea of staring at wall — recommended by many zen masters to clear their mind — almost seems to bring the problem to the fore.
So if we don’t find zen by staring at a wall, where do we find it? Well, maybe we should look to horses — after all, they live in the state of zen.
For horses, there is no past, no future, their is only now. Of course this can make training these magnificent animals quite challenging (think, “you just learned this on the left side, why is it now scary on the right side?).
But on the other side of the coin, we are never really training horses. What we really are doing is training ourselves. For any time we slip and our mind drifts to thoughts of responsibilities, inadequacies, or fear, we have lost the horse. But more than anything, we have lost ourselves — after all, the horse is still in his pleasant zen state.
All of these things — fears, inadequacies, responsibilities — are not happening now. They are either firmly rooted in the past, or something that hasn’t happened yet.
If we can stay in the moment — where the horse is — and remain fully present with him, the relationship turns into an art. With time, what started as two separate beings, seem to almost move as one — as if connected by one shared thought.
For those who have spent years with horses, these are the moments we live for.
And for whom horses are foreign, it may just be a moment of peace.
In either case, it is a beautiful thing.
Horse photo available from Shutterstock.