When I was in 5th and 6th grade, my neighborhood friends affectionately nicknamed me “professor” (well, I want to remember it as ‘affectionate’). I earned the title partly because I was the annoying kid in their class who asked a lot of questions but also because I designed our tree forts, concocted the smoke bombs we used to get animals out of trees and made the gunpowder we used for delinquent adventures.
As an adult, of course, I still carry that same mind with all its faults and pleasures. I am a classic “absent-minded-professor” type. I am usually busy thinking about things other than those things which I should be doing at the moment. My wife, on the other hand, is the opposite: She keeps a constant growing list in her head of practical things that “must” be done. And fortunately for me, being married to such a person keeps my world running very nicely. But unfortunately for her, those lists can haunt and torment her at times. But she has found a wonderful reprieve from her worrying mind: horse-riding.
My wife took up horse-riding in her 30s and has enjoyed it for many years. She only took one short break when I insisted she stop after she fell off a horse when she was pregnant with our second child. But no sooner after our daughter was born, was she back up on the saddle. And interestingly, my daughter now loves riding too.
My wife has done Dressage and some Western riding but it does not matter to her, she just loves horses. Heck, she cleans horse stalls twice a week to help pay for riding lessons even though it pays next to nothing. She just loves the hard work and being around horses. She is always in a good mood on returning from riding or working at the horse barn.
My wife confesses that she joyfully forgets her lists when she rides. She thinks of nothing else when she rides — her mind is clear, fresh, light and joyful. I think it is perhaps close to the only activity that does that for her. A large part of her other activities are essentially chipping away at her lists. She is very hard-working and very productive. But breaking from that worry-mind by getting on a saddle is one of her greatest joys.
When I meditate, I try to leave behind the familiar geography of my playful, thinking, analyzing and calculating mind. I try to stop being an absent-minded professor — a mind I love. The temporary break gives me a bit more freedom from that mind with surprising rewards.
Yesterday, when sitting on my meditation pillow, I envisioned my wife’s mediation pillow as her horse saddle — it is one of her ways to give her habitual mind a break so as to give her daily life more sanity, more freedom, and fuller joy.
Without getting into the deep purposes of meditation and all that fluff, I am sure people outside of the contemplative traditions (prayer & meditation) can easily see my point about methods of loosening up the habitual mind. Some of my other saddles, by the way, have included music, Aikido and kayaking.
Questions for Readers: What are your ways of expanding your freedom from the momentum of your habitual mind? What sort of saddle do you use?