Many of us today are seeking meaning in our lives. As Jason Garner, former Fortune 500 executive put it, we are seeking to move “from a life of matter to a life that matters”. Seeking that which is non-material or intangible, that which has meaning beyond the need for food and shelter, is to be on a spiritual path.
I have long been interested in the relationship between the spiritual seeker and the horse. The notion of the mounted warrior being inspired to a higher standard of morality by his or her horse has not been fully explored but is embedded in the notions of the path of the knight or the cowboy’s code. Indeed the word chivalry is derived from the root cheval, the old french word for horse.
My experience of being drawn into the world of the horse has been as much and possibly more about an unfolding spiritual experience as about learning to become a rider or horse trainer. For those who wish to take that internal journey, spending time with horses naturally draws one into a greater, enhanced awareness of one’s inner life and connects us to our values, decisions, motivations, emotions, judgments, relationships, priorities, and ultimately, the meaning that one is making of life.
Long before the mediaeval knight or the cowboy, there was was a Buddhist ideal of the spiritual warrior. The Buddha was one of several philosophers that introduced a new age in the evolution of human history during which the modern spiritual foundations of humanity were laid. One of Buddha’s teachings was the 8 Fold Path, a prescription for living a spiritual life designed to eliminate ignorance of self, to live an ethical life, and thus to find wisdom.
The idea of the spiritual warrior is also associated with ancient Buddhism. The work of self-knowledge, confronting one’s own ignorance, becoming free from the suffering of mundane life and living with true compassion for one’s fellow human beings is fundamental to the idea of the 8 Fold Path.
Chris Irwin, renowned equine clinician and ethologist, created a model for riders working with horses that he calls the 8 Fold Path of Equus. You can read about it in his book Dancing With Your Dark Horse.
Chris’ work inspired me to extend his model to a focus on human self development. Based on the concepts that apply in working with horses and with Chris’ blessing, I have created a self-assessment, a point-in-time look at where one is one’s journey of self development. I have had good feedback on it so far and would love to have you complete the 8 Fold Path of Equus and let me know your feedback. You can find it here. When you take the assessment you will receive a personalized report. May the horse be with you.