Monday, September 29, 2014

Continuous Re-creation of Our Course: the Way of Destiny


         For this week’s consultation about Good Stories, Leg’cy and the other two horses in their paddock were out of sight, over the hill. They were at the far end with Legacy grazing farthest away, and my heart warmed to see her walk right past the herd all the way to where I waited, freely allowing me to put on the halter. I even gave her one of the quarter-size healthy treats that I usually reserve for a reward at the end of our ride. I wonder if we as teachers appreciate our students when they “leave the herd” and take the risk of following our lead.
         After stretching out in the arena, we worked almost the entire time at the trot with many bends and changing directions. This felt good because not that long ago we were just trotting straight lines because turns took us off-balance. While I’d wanted to keep working on the canter as we had in recent rides, I decided to stay with the trot because it was going so nicely. Just about that moment when I was feeling good with “being” rather than doing more, Leg’cy seemed to want to shift to the canter. So I went along with it. Isn’t it interesting that her initiative showed up when I’d accepted the goodness of what she was already doing?
         She had probably picked up the wrong lead for the canter. After a few strides, we dropped back to trot, down to walk, and then picked up the canter again, more smoothly, but perhaps still in wrong lead. Because we best close on a good note, we returned to the trot, treasuring the light touch and the lift of power. In reviewing the ride, I felt satisfied overall with our increased balance, taking the curves; in a word, I attributed the improvements, including her initiative, to better collection.
         So what’s the take-away, if any, for Good Stories? Perhaps I should first say something about why I’m looking for a connection between my riding and my teaching. I’ve come to experience engagement with horses, particularly this one with whom I have a special relationship, as a magnificent response chamber. This capacity has been widely recognized in horse-human activity, for example in therapeutic riding and personal development clinics. We know that it’s easier to see a person’s hidden conditions (physical, cognitive, and emotional) through the display offered when the person is with a horse. A horse mirrors and magnifies, although the information often goes unnoted.
         So when I intentionally carry the development of Good Stories in my body, my heart, and my imagination, I do expect to receive insight and direction from quality time spent with Legacy. The display still requires dedicated decoding. To articulate the riding experience, I spend time reflecting and writing it out; talking about the experience also helps.
         Although I won’t elaborate in this post, I’ll acknowledge that my understanding of the riding-teaching connection is getting support from a variety of readings. Of particular value currently, Max van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology has helped with his explanations on the dynamic between experience and reflection, including the vital role of writing. Also, I just re-read Robert Johnson’s Ecstasy for his elaboration of Jung’s four functions, especially related to the source of vitality and enthusiasm. Effective teaching owes more to the teacher who appropriately carries passion into the classroom than anything else.
         How might this week’s ride transfer to our class? What would “collection” mean in Good Stories?  For our course, I re-create the curriculum continuously, looking for the best fit for where we are and what comes next. Riding helps me trust in moving by feel rather than by rigid adherence to the plan.
         In wondering about our next story and in listening to the experience of our ride, “One Without a Story” comes to mind: Is this story the best fit for developing our sense of our destinies? “One Without a Story” begins with the protagonist already enjoying mastery in the profession of basket making, but destiny careens ahead into a land full of scares and surprises.
         The basket offers one of those prime images for containment. It’s similar to collection in that it signifies an ability to hold. When we’re shaping our destinies in a quantum age, of crucial importance is the capacity to hold uncertainty and paradox until a resolution presents.
         It might seem strange for a story to begin at the end, for the main character to have already a finished career. We usually start off with the youth just setting out. “One Without a Story” shifts so that we wonder about feeling “finished.” You mean that’s not really the end? In our class, we’ve been focusing on the unfinished.  The Nonsense Tales spotlight the underdeveloped character, such as the one labeled Lazy.
         These two dimensions, the finished and the undeveloped, allow our narratives to open discussion of development needed to progress in our destiny. Persons and cultures can easily get stuck with a presumption of being done at times when the work of destiny needs a different perspective to move ahead. C.G. Jung gives a model of four functions with special attention on the dominant and the inferior, and wholeness requires developing all four aspects of the personality.

         So, thanks to Leg’cy, I sense a good next story and a rich space of exploration for our rides in and out of the classroom this week.