Beneath the Surface of the Mask

a barn is a sanctuaryFebruary 26, 2018
For many of us it is often difficult to arrange our “to-do lists” in a way that is manageable or conducive to our daily lives. As such, what often happens is we fall into a state of procrastination. And, so be it the reason for the long delay in the writing of this blog post. I would like to think that it was simply because I had so many good ideas to write about, which is partly true, or that I just could not get my ideas organized into a coherent arrangement that made sense to put on paper, but the truth is that I fell into the “procrastination” trap and have been stuck there.
We tell ourselves that we will do something later that day, or it can wait until tomorrow, and while in some cases we have no choice but to delay something, there are many cases that the combination of low motivation and wondering attention derail many of the good intentions we have or had. I sit here this morning and marvel at what a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning was ice pellets, rain, high winds and an overly dreary day, while this morning is clear, crisp and sunny blue skies.
Our lives are much like the weather, constantly changing and so very unpredictable at times. What is seen on the surface is just a tidbit of information about who we are, but what makes each of us unique and special lies much deeper in the core of who we are, in our beliefs, and in how we view the world. As I was successfully procrastinating throughout the month, I have found myself in deep pondering thoughts about life and the multitude of challenges that we face each and every day, many of which are invisible and are hidden deep beneath the surface in a manner that no one else ever sees or even notices. Our ability as humans to put on a variety of “masks” and navigate life in a way that we believe is acceptable, demanded or needed in order to reach the pinnacle of sought after “success” is both a blessing and a curse.
In being able to “mask” some of our internal feelings, emotions, thoughts and opinions it often saves us from awkward, embarrassing, controversial or confrontational situations, but conversely it also creates a potentially tumultuous inner conflict because we eventually harbour negativity that over time manifests and alters not only our actions, but our inner view of ourselves and how we interact with others. We all, at some point in our lives, have experienced or been exposed to an array of circumstances that has molded our minds into what we perceive as being acceptable, what we perceive as being expected, and ultimately what we perceive as being appropriate responses, reactions or actions to the events that occur during the course of daily activities. However, have we ever truly sat down, looked within, and asked ourselves whether the variety of masks we wear are healthy, sustainable and in our best interests, or are said masks merely the cloak that we wrap ourselves in so that we fit the expectations that we, and others, have placed upon ourselves.
We live in an ever changing and challenging world of what may be aptly viewed as “new era industrialization”. When one looks at the advances over the past one hundred years it is easy to see the changes that industrialization has had on our country, our lives, our cities, our towns, and our rural communities across the country. We see the advances within business through an array of new technologies that are purported to make it easier or quicker to accomplish and complete the tasks we face, but do we ever stop long enough to see what we have lost.
Beneath the surface of the “masks” that we all have, lies a space within the core of who we are that has, in many cases, become a victim of the modern, industrialized world that we now live in. Technology, social media and the transmission of information has become so advanced that things changes at such a rapid pace that we feel compelled to think, act or respond in ways that do not coincide with, or authenticate the core beliefs and morals of our true inner being. We become so accustom to following the proverbial crowd, going with the flow and tolerating change that we develop inner conflict, resentment, anger, disengagement in social activities or a sense of helplessness that culminates and manifests in ways that impair our ability to truly enjoy life.
I know that I have embarked on many journeys that I never expected to be engaged in, and during those times I quickly learned that we live in a society that is largely controlled by a sense of entitlement in which power, money, manipulation and fabrication outweigh elements of truth, honesty and integrity. We are constantly in situations where oppression, silencing and tactics that replicate school yard bullying at its most advanced stage, have become the norm by which disputes are settled. Many times, the truth becomes a lost commodity, and having any level of honesty or integrity becomes a liability that imposes such inner conflict that we find ourselves living dual lives. On the surface we live the life that is needed to fly under the proverbial radar so that we blend in with hopes that we will be spared attack or the imposition of unrelenting, unjust, or wrongfully applied abuse, sanction, forfeiture or retribution, but on the inside, we live in a state of fear, panic, isolation and pain. The irony is that rarely does anyone see the inner struggles until the damage has been done, or until it is too late.
The world we once knew, where family and community were at the forefront of society has been replaced by technology, and we have, in many cases, lost the connections to what it means to be “human”. Winning at all costs through the oppression of truth, honesty, social responsibility and integrity should not be the norm of everyday actions, and yet that is exactly what we see played out before us on a daily basis. How do we as adults adjust and adapt to this new evolving reality, but more importantly, how do our children be children when they live in a world where the “simple” things that are supposed to be safe, connected and normal sources of learning, joy and happiness have become sources of fear, sources of abuse, and sources of contemptuous action that disrupt, dismantle and impede our sense of safety or security within society, and even within our own homes.
The struggles are real, and they will continue to deepen and cause havoc until such time that we, as a society, stand together as humans and see the bigger picture of what life has to offer. Until we reach a place where we can see life from different perspectives without the need to segregate, ridicule, demoralize, judge or condemn, we will continue to struggle. As humans we are “social beings”, and yet we seem to be intent on destroying the very existence of the interpersonal and family connections that provide strength, safety and security within our communities and within the world as a larger whole.
I often sit watching the interactions of my horses with an underlying envy, and find myself wondering how humanity has become so cannibalistic. Are we truly so driven by success, by winning, by power, and by acquisition of material objects that we are willing to sacrifice our core beliefs and morals, and engage in actions that proliferate, encourage and support the dismantling of truth, honesty, responsibility, accountability and integrity within our homes, within our jobs, within our communities, and within our society as a whole?
As I watch the interactions of my horses I observe and witness that they do not always agree, nor do they always exist in perfect harmony, but within a short period of time they resolve their issues and return to connected way of existence. They constantly have issues, battles, or the settling of rank and power, but they have learned a way to resolve such in a manner that embodies respect for life, and of which is based upon leadership, trust, and the overall well being of the “herd”. There are no judgments or grudges that carry forward; matters are settled and put to rest. Horses rely on an instinctual and coherent unity within their groupings in order to ensure their safety, security and survival.
I find myself both intrigued and inspired at the way horses are able to be hypervigilant when needed, are able to be truly authentic when facing confrontation, challenges or fear, and then are able to return to a balanced state where they can relax, integrate as part of the herd and find a sense of peacefulness that allows them to exist and thrive both individually, and collectively as a herd.
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.” Wouldn’t it be insightful and life changing if we humans could treat each other in a way that encompassed acceptance, honesty and integrity, and that would promote a balanced life where the foundations of leadership, trust and respect were present in a way that was earned, not merely demanded.
Our equine counterparts show us a way of existing that builds communication, builds connections, builds strong relationships, and they show us an existence that embodies balance, contentment, imagination and curious playfulness through their ability to let go of the past and to be grounded to life in the present moment. But maybe more importantly, they show us that while it is essential to have self-care and look after ourselves, it is equally important and essential that we remember to look after each other!
The Equine teachers at Hoof By Hoof Equine Assisted Learning are always on call to teach anyone who wants to come experience or witness their insightfulness and unique wisdom. Until next month, may you find connection, contentment, happiness, imagination and balance within your own life. BH

horses see potential in us at darkest of times...

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