Look in the Direction You Want to Go

My horse Finian, 1999

“Look in the direction you want to go,” my riding instructor would say. “The horse will follow your eyes.”

This applies to riding a bicycle as well. Just ask me about the tree I stared at in my attempt to avoid it.

Of course, there is the willfull horse who will go in the direction he chooses, which is usually back to the comfort of the barn or pasture where he feels safe and nothing is asked of him. Perhaps, you can identify with that horse. I know I can, even though I want to be the horse with a big heart, the one you can depend on to cross water without a fuss.

As I hiked in Arizona, on rocky, unfamiliar trails, I reminded myself to look to the path ahead, to where I wanted to go, not down at my feet. And certainly not at the jumping cholla cactus on my right. If I wanted to really look at a cactus or determine what bird was making the noise I heard, I paused, stopping my forward motion, so I could safely study my surroundings.

The same principles apply to so much of what you do in life.

I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to hike a steep, rocky trail. How long I’ll be able to step up or down on large rocks. My knees and hips protest, and I’m afraid of falling.

But right now, I  feel confident enough in my abilities to keep going on an unfamiliar path that goes an uncertain distance to an unknown place. And I have learned in the last few years that all I have, all we have, is right now.

Starr Pass Trail Tucson AZ

Every time my feet slide on loose sand or one foot catches on a jutting rock and I right myself mid-trip, I’m thankful for the ankle that didn’t sprain, for the fall that didn’t happen.

‘But what if it did?’ the worrier asks.

‘But it didn’t,’ I answer.

Is that luck or because I’m careful? I know from past experience that being careful only takes you so far. Bad things can still happen.

But good things can happen as well. Why do we more easily think about the bad?

On one of my explorations, I happily discovered a rocky ledge to sit on where I stared into the craggy face of a neighboring mountain and felt grateful that I pushed myself toward the unknown. But then the thought occurred that I hadn’t seen any other people for quite awhile. What if there’s a mountain lion somewhere in those rocks? What if I fell and there was no cell phone reception? What if?

We make decisions. We choose a direction. We take steps. Solid steps.

“Look in the direction you want to go,” I hear over and over in my head.

It’s the solidity, the belief in a decision that moves us forward. It’s all we have.

And when rocks don’t cooperate to allow our feet to fall in optimum ways. When we need to shorten one step and then lengthen another. When we are forced into what feels like taking a step with the wrong foot. Knowledge of HOW you wanted to travel forward isn’t much help.

Sometime you have to remove your thinking brain and turn to core instincts. Remind yourself not to lock your knees or your thoughts. Keep them flexed, so they can absorb a slip or misstep.

As I go down a hill, I take my time. I let other hikers pass me by because I am having a moment. Not a moment of embarrassment or of weakness, but of feeling my way down the path. Of discovering what works for my life right now.

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    1. Hi Mary. I wish! Fortunately, I had a draft ready that I only had to edit and publish. My brain was pretty mushy after each day of driving. But I’m home now! And doing laundry, opening tons of mail, and hugging puppies. 🙂

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