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Personal Practices: Place | Space

Strength of Intention

By Christine Cole


One does not “use” space so much as one “is” space. Semantics being everything, if you “use” space, you risk loss of focus creating a separation between where you are and where you want to be. Separation or misalignment occurs because you are projecting a purpose for the space that is outside the moment. Humans have such a gift for projection that is often misused in that we imagine (or project) and then freeze the image creating a rigidity that removes us from the fluid quality of now. Perhaps that is the difference between work and play or alignment and separation. The power to focus or “strength of intention” has everything to do with how you experience your space and ultimately your life.


I have spent the last 35 years of my life researching and coaching the subject of “Intentional Creation of Space” in tandem with horses. Horses powerfully role model strength of intention and every encounter humans have with them can be a lesson in developing that strength. Following is a story about one such encounter.

A Lesson in Space

Marilyn came this morning for a lesson with the horses. She wanted to continue with the work she had been doing in previous lessons, learning how to ride without equipment. No matter what any student of horses might choose to do, the basis for any endeavor is to experience moments of harmony, where ideas meld and indescribable joy ensues.

During the last few lessons, we spent the whole time in the barn, working around a bucket of treats. The treats were attractive and the horse desired them enough to raise the intention level to a point of being visibly obvious. Horses are, for the most part, so flexible that a human with even the slightest focus can shift the direction of the partnership when working on slow, safe and benign subjects, as I do. However, if there is a bucket of treats, the same exercise becomes exponentially more difficult because the horse now cares immensely. For example, the simple exercise of clearing a spot where a horse is standing and now the student wants to stand becomes almost impossible for the student to do if there is food in that spot. A patch of grass quickly demonstrates this, especially if it is the only patch of grass. The same thing happens with a bucket of grain or cookies.

Weeks ago, Marilyn began with the bucket in the center of the barn aisle, at which point she would clear space wherever Rowdy, the horse with whom she had chosen to work, stood. If Marilyn asked, Rowdy, who was aware of the bucket, would easily leave the space he occupied to go to the bucket. However, Marilyn had to maintain that the space around the bucket was hers, too. When Rowdy acknowledged her space, she would not only demonstrate pleasure with her voice and demeanor, but it was a relief for Marilyn because clearing her space and maintaining clarity had been her intent. Then she would either invite the horse over for a treat or take one to the horse. Marilyn began to feel confident and capable of effortlessly performing this exercise when she could clear space anywhere and still maintain the ownership of the cookie space. What this meant was Marilyn had purposely raised her own level of intention beyond that of the horse. The horse became very willing to move out of her space because she was the owner of the cookie space, the most desired space in the barn.

From there, Marilyn began to ride bareback with the reins as only a backup plan. The primary focus was on her skill of knowing where she desired clear space and expecting the space to become clear if she determined she wanted it to be so. When sitting on the horse, the space she sat in could be “cleared” which prompted the horse to move. A continued request for clear space kept the horse on the move. To Marilyn, this “clarity” felt like ease and comfort. When a horse is unwilling to leave a space you have claimed as yours the sensation is one of resistance or lack of clarity. It feels difficult and uncomfortable. It is at that point that most people switch to force, if they haven’t already been using force. Marilyn practiced allowing the horse to choose a desired space, which might include a path directly towards the cookies. Again, the most important space was the most desired space. If Marilyn could keep that space clear she could keep any space clear, including the one where she sat.

Today, Marilyn decided she wanted to do the same work she had been doing, but in the arena and minus the treats. Her intention was to continue to influence the choice of the horse. I explained to her that a good exercise to begin with was one in which she just sits on the horse and simply clears her space, initially letting the horse make all the decisions about where to go as he leaves her space. While the horse is deciding, Marilyn observes the choices and notices what they are. One primary reason for this is to determine the most desired space, especially since there were no cookies now.

At first, this can simply be a visual or kinesthetic exercise. One watches the way the horse is looking or feels the horse turning. Under slow and easy circumstances, there is no hurry to progress. Eventually, however, it can become an intuitive or vibrational exercise similar to a meditation. The more attention one gives this exercise the stronger the link becomes between the observations of what is and the awareness of the birth of each moment. What is and what is becoming begin to match, at which point the rider can start to consider that with a little imagination the birthing moment can be influenced or directed with thoughts and ideas. The greatest challenge Marilyn had was to stay focused and allow the ideas for the new moment to be easy and comfortable.

What was inevitable was that eventually Marilyn would have an idea that differed from the horse’s idea. This usually happens sooner rather than later. When it does happen it is common for the human to not even notice the horse is having an idea, but to only notice that the idea they have is not happening. Again, this is where force can show up. For this reason, it is a useful skill to be able to recognize the separation from the easy, flowing expression of ideas as they unfold at the vibrational level, rather than waiting until it is visibly or physically noticeable. Any separation first occurs vibrationally, which leads to thought. This must happen before it can show up any other way, which means it is possible to notice the shift before any outside evidence of it manifests. The separation is due to a loss of focus upon what is wanted. Ironically, it is in the moment that one notices the loss or separation that without the clear intent to regain focus upon what is wanted the thoughts about loss gain momentum. When working with the horse, who is naturally able to maintain clear focus upon what is wanted, our loss of focus leaves them with the greater intention and they simply flow in and towards what they want. Humans, not realizing that merely reestablishing clear intent would repair the gap, often resort to force now.

Marilyn practiced the exercise of sitting on the horse, clearing her space and letting the horse make all the decisions about where to go as he continuously left her space. She observed the choices Rowdy made and began to naturally start coming up with some of her own, which is to be expected. In the moment she came up with her own, if she allowed the idea to unfold and determined she truly wanted and expected the idea to come to fruition, the exchange between her and the horse remained fluid and present. The experience was one of ease, comfort and joy.

At one point, however, she was heading towards the gate that led out of the arena into the pasture. Rowdy was thinking that was his idea, too, which was evident by the ease with which they both went together towards the gate. (The gate, in this case, is like the cookies.) Then, Marilyn had the idea of turning left, away from the gate. Rowdy continued to have the idea of going towards the gate. The birth of Marilyn’s idea was quickly followed by the thought that she was not getting what she wanted, which almost instantly showed up in the form of contrasting movement between Rowdy and Marilyn. The separation was now advanced enough to have shown up visibly and physically.

I had Marilyn stop and recall the moment she realized the separation, bringing to her attention that it was much easier to regain harmony when the separation was vibrationally small. If we have the ability to notice discord in our core when it is first introduced we can easily be informed of the need to establish greater clarity about what we want, which at that moment would perhaps have been to establish that the space at the gate was not available to the horse. Clarity shows up as strength of intention. In the herd, the one with the greatest strength of intention is the one who is most attractive. In other words, we create a form of magnetism in our core if we can maintain focus and this magnetism is what attracts all that is wanted, including the idea to turn left at the gate.

Marilyn rode off with Rowdy to try again. This time, with greater ease and evident joy, she was able to stay focused upon what she wanted without succumbing to the distraction of any brief semblance of loss and for that she was rewarded with an agreeable horse and harmony.

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