Pursuing Stillness

My husband has been comparing me to horses pretty much since the day we met. (He’s a horse trainer; it can’t be avoided.) Fairly early on in our relationship, he told me I reminded him of one of the more sensitive of those creatures. He knew that if he pushed me too hard, too fast, I was liable to jump right through the fence.

He wasn’t wrong. In the end, it was his gentle persistence that won me over… even if he does insist on handling me like a horse.

It’s an apt comparison though, especially when it comes to his own personal project pony. If having a “spirit animal” is still a thing, Kismet is mine. In observing her, I learn much about myself.

Perhaps our similarities are what draw me to her, but also what make her difficult for me to ride. The things I struggle to control in her are the very things I fail to master in myself.

Stillness is hard for both of us. In order for me to maintain control of Kismet, I have to lower my energy and find a sense of peace. But peace is not my natural state of being. I like busyness. I enjoy multitasking. Slow and steady is a phrase I often interpret as dull and boring. Even when I am sitting still, my mind is racing in a hundred different directions because I feel like I should be doing something.

But Kismet is teaching me the Art of Stillness, not by example, but by the fact that Stillness is what she requires of me if I want to stay in the saddle.

Sometimes it feels like she fights me with every step. She wants to press ever forward, ever faster. Always moving, and always moving her way at that.

Last week, we took the client horses out and about for a ride to see how these green broke ponies would react to the great big world. It was Kismet’s job to take the lead—to walk fearlessly up to bridges and dumpsters and mountains of firewood so the others could see these things meant them no harm. Kismet got bored with it pretty quickly, never wanting to linger over any one thing for long.

My instinct is always to fight her—to force her into submission—but I know she only feeds off my energy and fights me all the more. So I took a deep breath and calmly turned her back around.

Peace.

Stillness.

Why are those things so hard?

As soon as we turned back toward home, the problems only escalated. She picked up her pace, eager to get back to her pasture and her herd. I wound her in serpentines to keep her from charging too far ahead. I intentionally guided her in a direction that was not quite where she wanted to go. Still, she kept her nose tipped to the east, pulling on me.

“I know what direction home is,” I assured her, “but we’re not going that way right now.”

She stomped. She spun. She struggled.

And I related with that horse all the more as she strived against Stillness.

A great big exhale of energy.

Peace.

Stillness.

“I’m okay, you’re okay,” I breathed, willing it to be so. “Whoa, girl. It’s okay.”

We survived our outing, much to my husband’s relief. Despite his more natural tendencies, I think peace is a hard place for him to find when I’m on that wild pony. If you ask me, he’s too hard on her, but I can’t begrudge him that. It’s his job, after all, to gentle horses, but despite all his efforts, this one refuses to be fully tamed.

Sometimes I think he forgets where she came from. After all, this horse would have been dead years ago had a friend not pulled her from a kill pen based solely on her looks.

Someone had given up on her potential. Someone had decided she was beyond redemption. Even the friend who rescued her from the throes of death quickly realized there wasn’t much she could do from this creature. She had no use for a bucking bronc so if Levi was looking for a project, he was more than welcome to take Kismet off her hands.

So really, when you look at where she came from, Levi has worked a miracle with this horse. He saw her worth and fought for it. He gave her purpose. It could almost be said that he brought her back to life.

But she’s still overreactive and highly emotional, and he can’t change that. Just like he can’t change me.

Sure, he can create the proper environment for breakthrough. He can coax her along. But he can’t make that change happen deep inside her where it needs to take place.

Because, while peace is something you can taste in the presence of someone who has mastered the Art of Stillness, it can’t become your own until you want it badly enough to seek it out for yourself. Maybe it can be borrowed for that moment when you need it the most, but possessing it—truly inhabiting Peace and Stillness—is a chore.

I don’t know if Kismet will ever put in the work for herself. I don’t know if horses are capable of the type of self-reflection it would take to overcome all of her past trauma and truly change. But God knows that I’m trying.

I’m taking deep breaths. Exhaling slowly.

I’m reaching for Peace.

I’m pursuing Stillness.

One day, by the grace is God, those things may come easily to me. Today, I strive for them with sheer willpower, reining in my thoughts and centering my focus.

Because there is something sacred about Stillness, and I want to know it better, despite my wandering heart.

Art by: David Roper

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