Zen Dressage

This section is for the more spiritually minded. Many riders say that their whole outlook on life began to change once they took up the study of classical riding. I have certainly found a peace to my riding that was not there some years ago. Once the goal-setting aspects have been dealt with (and that isn't a cry for you not to compete, many of my students do and I encourage it) things begin to progress in a different way.


What is Zen?

"Zen Buddhists are encouraged to each have their own understanding so this is my perspective. Buddhism (including Zen) may be a religion or a philosophy, and is often defined as a "way of life". Zen Buddhists teach that everyone has a Buddha nature and that the small mind, our thinking mind, blocks us from reaching that realisation, and subsequent direct experience. In Zen, the follower is aware of the emptiness of all things, and of the interconnection of all life. The logical mind tries to perceive the truth by dealing with concepts, which are, in Zen terms, empty. Therefore, insight must be gained outside that logical process, at a different level. In Zen Buddhism, the key words are direct personal experience, which can occur at almost any moment when realisation occurs. Different versions of Buddhism have their own way, but all seek the Buddha mind and follow the core teachings of the Buddha.”

Rather than being instructed in how things are or should be, the student is given techniques for achieving his or her own understanding and sensation of reality. Zen has been compared to drinking a glass of water. You cannot know the taste without tasting it yourself. This firsthand experience gives the advanced Zen student a firm self-confidence.

Many of the concepts of Zen are totally interchangeable with those of classical riding. Indeed, many students of classical riding have found Zen writings extremely helpful in their quest to "understand" the philosophy behind the classical principles.

I have selected some of my own favourite glimpses into ‘Living for the present’ and ‘awakenings’.

A Hindu story tells of a fish who asked of another fish: "I have always heard about the sea, but what is it? Where is it?" The other fish replied: "You live, move and have your being in the sea. The sea is within you and without you, and you are made of sea, and you will end in sea. The sea surrounds you as your own being." The only true answer is the one that you find for yourself.

Listening is internal
Planning is external

Blending is internal
Struggling is external

Being with what is happening is internal
Wishing things were different is external

Being in the body and sensation oriented is internal
Being in your head thinking about what to do next is external

Loose, fluid and relaxed musculature is internal 
Contracted, locked musculature is external


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