Friday, January 23, 2015

At Liberty

            The purpose of "At Liberty" exercise is to establish a connection between horse and human, so that the horse goes to his human for comfort.  The Group (or People Barrier) consists of other persons and perhaps their horses if the horses are experienced in this game.  They are "armed" with training sticks with strings that they manipulate along with body language to give the horse signals.   
             My experience put me as the "first" of the group to do the At Liberty exercise.  I had no previous experience, neither had my horse.  My horse Kachina was chosen because she was the "wild child" of the bunch.   I had come to the horse clinic because Kachina basically had no respect for me except as the purveyor of her food supply.  She mostly ignored me and just did her own thing. I knew she had great potential as a riding and trail horse. So, I was seeking for a connection that would bring us both a joyful experience.
             I went into a separate large corral and stood in the center.  The instructor guided me as to what to do, as she drove Kachina into the corral. My role was to stand in the center and watch, but offer an open countenance to encourage Kachina to approach me.  The rest of the Group stood around me and the horse in a circle.  As Kachina approached the barrier of humans with their sticks, they encouraged her to not only stay in the enclosure, but to approach me, the "parent". The Group did this by waving their sticks and even yelling big when the horse got too close to them. When Kachina got close to me, their actions slowed down and they stood still, taking the pressure off.
             After about 15 minutes of running around, being driven into the center, Kachina stopped and faced me.  I held out my hand, but did not approach her.  The instructor wanted her to come up to me. My body language was to be open and approachable.  The objective was to have her touch me with her nose.  Eventually, she realized her safe place was with me and chose to stay close to me with no restraint.  When that connection was finally made, I petted her and praised her.   Then I began to move and walk away.  The intention was to have her follow me.  I was told by the instructor, not to look at her, but just keep walking around the enclosure.  Walk forward, walk backward, turn sharply…all with the intention of the horse following me at liberty of her own will and choice.
             Imagine my delight when Kachina actually did this!  This was a paradigm shift for me for the rest of the clinic.  The connection was certainly not "perfect", but sooooo much better. As the "parent", I had been told the purpose…which is teach the horse that there is a safe place.  Kachina had no prior knowledge of what was to happen, she had to figure it out herself from clues given by the Group surrounding her.
            As the others did their own liberty work, I became part of the Group.   Sometimes a horse would charge at the human fence and "break through" away from his safe place.  There were dangerous things on the other side of the barrier.  There could be barbed wire or unsafe food or unstable footing or another horse who could deliver a lethal kick.  The Group did everything they could to gently persuade the horse to enter back into safe territory.  Some came back easily, some became almost defiant and  charged into unsafe situations.  If the Group slacked off on their vigilance, then the horse received positive reinforcement for straying through the barrier.  The Group had to stay alert and vigilant and consistent in order to guide the horse back to his safe place. 
            So, why tell this story?  A few nights ago, I was studying and pondering on the symbolism of the temple ceremony.  I was given a "message" from someone who identified himself as "John".
"I notice you are studying about the symbolism of the Temple ceremony.  You are on the right path. Consider looking into the symbolism of the Church."
Are you going to tell me?
 No, it is for you to discover that you might have the joy of discovery". 
            For the next few days I pondered over this…seeking metaphors and symbols that would represent the role of the Church.  As I was meditating on Monday, January 19, I was given the thought of Horses.  Ok, what about horses?  Then the phrase, At Liberty.  Aha, the entire experience of last October's Horsemanship Clinic unfolded in my mind as a metaphor or parable.
            Our Heavenly Parents send us into the corral (Mortality).  We have our free agency and can wander anywhere in the corral we want.  We are surrounded by a group of people (Church) who crack sticks and make loud noises if we get too close to the edge.  The Group provides assistance in striving to reach the eventual goal of reuniting Person (Savior) with Horse (us). The instructor (Heavenly Parent) keeps giving guidance to and through the Person.  The Horse is mostly clueless at first, but after testing all the barriers repeatedly, eventually "gets it" that his safe place is with the Savior.  Instructors (Prophets) may show up in the Group to testify of the truth and give warning and direction.  They may also show up outside the Group or somewhere else in the corral.  There may not be only one instructor, but many.   This metaphor and analogy could be expanded and expounded upon.  I think I am just beginning to get the point.  As with all parables, there are many layers to uncover.
Unfortunately, there were no photos of my "At Liberty" session with Kachina.  This is a previous photo of her working with the trainer.  An example of a horse getting used to something normally scary for a prey animal.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shrek and the Atonement Object Lesson

            Be careful what you pray for…you just might get it.   I wanted more insights into the Atonement…what is it? How do I take advantage of it? I was hoping for a book, a talk, a scripture, something along that line.  I was guided toward books such as "The Infinite Atonement" and "Come, Let Us Adore Him".
               Little did I know what was in store for us during our recreational horse camping trip.  
            My object lesson began innocently on our way to horse camping on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  We decided to stop overnight at a friend's place in Panguitch. We knew they had a pasture, but did not realize it was a situation with a barbed wire fence. I felt uneasy because of some previous bad experiences with horses and barbed wire, but told myself they would be ok. All were settling in for the evening.  They have plenty of green grass…and each other's company. I checked them about every ten minutes for a while, then settled down for bedtime in my jammies. Within about 10 minutes of checking on them, our host got a call that one of our horses was out. As we went outside and looked, it was Shrek.
  How did he get out??
 Gate was intact.  He seemed somewhat agitated and kept lifting his nose in the air.  What's the deal, Shrek?? I noticed there was blood all over his nose and running into his mouth and covering his teeth.  I saw a patch of skin hanging from his nose about the size of a fifty cent piece. He must have tangled with the fence at some point, but we couldn't figure out where.  At first he wanted to get away from us, obviously still in some sort of shock.  I ran for my first aid …kit, oils, cloths, water.  I carefully washed the nose injury as best I could, then applied Bag Balm.
            At that point, I was unsure we could continue the trip with an injury like that.  We looked him over in the dusky darkness and saw scraped skin on his left upper leg.  No blood, so I didn't treat it.  We were able to find them a safer place in an old lambing shed.  Had to go through and remove pokey nails and secure the safety.    Prepared them a dinner of alfalfa cubes.  Shrek seemed to be able to eat ok. We would make a decision in the morning and went to bed.
 (Our host's teenage daughter made an interesting comment during this incident.  She said, "I can't believe all the trouble you are going to, to take care of this horse.  Around here, if a horse did that, people would say, serves him right for being so stupid.")

            I didn't sleep very well at all and kept thinking about and praying for Shrek.  I noticed some weird pains in my legs, but attributed it to sitting for the long drive.   
            The next morning we checked Shrek.  He seemed ok as far as the nose injury, but was limping.  His left upper leg was swollen quite a bit and in treating it, noticed cuts and scrapes on his chest and other side of the leg.  Oh no, I felt bad we hadn't noticed it or treated it last night. Treated him with oils, linament and horse aspirin, and made the decision to continue on the trip.  We figured even if we couldn't ride, we would enjoy the scenery and horse camp while caring for Shrek. I tried to ask Shrek about what happened, but all I got was his feeling of embarrassment and he didn't want to talk about it.
             We found the campsite and unloaded the horses into their temporary home.   We checked Shrek and he still was sore and a hematoma had erupted on his right upper leg and we found cuts on that, too.  So I treated it again.   Bob gave Shrek a beautiful priesthood blessing that evening and we settled in our tent for the night.

            I had leg pains during the night as long as I was lying down, but they disappeared when I stood up.  I told Bob that they were "weird" and "it felt like they weren't physical, but almost like they were not part of my body."
            We checked Shrek in the morning and the swelling had gone down considerably, enough that we decided to go for a ride.  Shrek seemed so excited to go this time and not be left behind.  We medicated and treated him again and did the 5 mile ride in the forest and along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  He seemed to do great. That was plenty for the day.  Treated him and let them and us rest. Yay, naptime!    
               We settled in for the 2nd night.  Around 12:30 I was awakened with severe pains in my legs again.  They weren't like anything I had before.  Were not specific, but moved and alternated between throbs, waves and between each leg and sometimes both, running from hip to ankle. Almost felt like the pain "floated" over my body.  I was unable to sleep because of the pain, so decided to take a 1/2 Pain pill. (By the way, I am not a wimp about pain.  I gave birth to 9 pound babies at home with no anesthetic.)
             By 2 am, the pain pill still had not made a dent in the pain, so I took the other 1/2.  It really didn't occur to me that it was on an empty stomach by now.  Within 1/2 hour, I was able to drop off to sleep for about 20 minutes before I was awakened again, this time, not by pain,  but by severe dizziness and nausea.  I tried to get up and out of the tent, but was so dizzy, I had to crawl over to the opening.  I  couldn't even stand up to walk to the outhouse and was considering what I could do.  I got the tent opened and crawled out, somehow got my shoes on and stood up.  My head was spinning and I looked for something to use as a cane.  I was still feeling nauseous, so stumbled/walked/staggered over to the food boxes, found some soda and some crackers.  Took a few sips and ate a cracker.  Felt better for about 3 minutes, then worse, then threw up about 6 times, This went on off and on for the rest of the night.
             Morning came and I was still dizzy and nauseous.  I prepared a drink of sparkling water and apple juice, but threw that up, too.  Bob fixed himself some breakfast and we decided obviously there wouldn't be the planned ride this morning.  I was so miserable that I asked for and received a blessing.
            I dozed on and off, but mostly just rested for a few more hours.  Read a little, crocheted a little, just stayed in the tent, staggering to the outhouse occasionally.  There was much time for contemplation and meditation. Eventually I was able to suck on some ice cubes and then a tootsie pop.  By late afternoon, still didn't feel like eating, but wasn't nauseous.  Ate a yogurt and kept it down, then I determined I was better enough for a ride. We went for a 5 mile ride through the forest.  I was still a little dizzy, but well enough sitting on a horse and enjoyed the beautiful ride.
             I had no more "leg pains", but still had dizziness and coordination problems.  As I contemplated and prayed about the whole situation, I was told by the spirit that this was an object lesson on the Atonement.  What?  How so?
             It was a lesson with many layers, the first of which was obvious…keep horses from being around barbed wire. One of the layers had to do with the Atonement.  This was brought about as I experienced the bouts of leg pain for 3 days, which mirrored and took on Shrek's pain.
             We had sent Shrek into an earthly situation with all kinds of obstacles.  Something happened where he made poor choices and got into a situation where he hurt himself.  I felt bad for him, wanted to help him and relieve his pain.    I was told this pain was but a fraction of a grain of sand compared to all the stars in the universe as comparing the pain to what the Savior went through.  

            I really didn't "get" what the Atonement entailed.  I still don't completely "get" it, but am a little closer to more understanding now.  Okay, I somewhat get the lesson of the pain, but what is the lesson of the sickness (vertigo and nausea)?
             They are a symbol or metaphor for addiction and character weakness.  Addictions can hit as we look to a remedy for pain, any kind, physical or emotional.  They entrench themselves in the bloodstream, in the psyche and are very difficult to overcome.  May involve purging and upchucking of toxic substances.  Care must be taken as to what is put back in the body.

            Sometimes, we take upon us, not only physical ailments, but take on emotional baggage, take on negative and deceptive identities or core beliefs that are not really true.  When we believe these things about ourselves, we often turn to addictions of many varieties, some of which are socially acceptable.   These addictions can drive us further into denial of who we really are.  It might be painful and uncomfortable to purge ourselves. Our sins cause us to be nauseous (sick at heart). We might stumble and crawl to find our way to the light.  We may be reluctant to seek Christ and take the steps that help us return to our true selves--to repent, seek forgiveness, forgive ourselves and others. As I considered the messages and metaphors, I thought of comparing some of these things to the 12 steps-- using the hiking stick of Hope and Trust in God, the crackers of Honesty and Truth, the little sips of Humility, the flashlight of Personal Revelation, the ice chips of Change of Heart and Accountability, the creamy yogurt of Forgiveness and the tootsie pop of Service.
            I am so grateful I was able to go through this uncomfortable, but vivid learning experience.  Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it, but perhaps in a way you weren't expecting.
            This experience may not resonate with anyone else and there are more levels and layers that I have not revealed. But, just being guided to a book doesn't quite have the same impact as taking on the pain of an injured horse.