A teacher and friend offered me Eknath Easwaran’s book “Meditation” to read and add to my Nonviolence tool belt some lessons on training the mind for difficult times…

I kept getting distracted by Easwaran’s metaphors when he writes of animals as if they were ours to train and to bring to submission. He used an elephant metaphor saying it was important to train an elephant to carry a staff with her trunk to keep her from doing what would come natural to an elephant — to eat the fruit she passes through the market place.

and

“Untrained horses can break away and run where they will, here and there, perhaps leading us to destruction… But trained horses – horse lovers know the delight of this – respond to even a light touch of the reins.”

I believe he meant no harm by these metaphors, but as I’ve moved along the Nonviolence path, metaphors like these now strike me as hurtful, oppressive, and domineering.

There’s a low budget classic movie from the early 1970s called “Billy Jack.” The opening sequence is of locals rounding up wild horses to haul them off to slaughter to make a few bucks. The wild horses are beautiful and graceful… and the human greed and bravado causing their panic and stampede are in stark violent contrast. The scene seems to go on way too long… uncomfortably long. I would like to think if this movie were shot again today, they wouldn’t be allowed to cause for our “entertainment” this kind of brutality — horses slipping on the rocky surface of the desert high cliffs, stumbling, falling, confused, and in utter terror.

I think of the “horses and elephants” Easwaran invites us to “train.” A metaphor that would be more meaningful to me and less violent to me would be to let the elephant be what an elephant is meant to be — kind, loving, free, peaceful, and strong. And allow the horses to be set free to be elegant, graceful, and wise. It reminds me that our minds are not wild and obstinate by nature, but are actually innately peaceful and creative.

Our challenge then is to FREE the mind, not to train it — to allow it to be in its natural state rather than pushing it to unnatural states.

Of course, we’ve gone so far now — marinating our brains in everything unnatural, violent, and disconnected — that it’s difficult to know which way nature lies. Still, it’s interesting for me to think that “training” the mind is really an act of liberating the mind, setting it free. It’s not confining, it’s freeing. It’s not controlling; it’s reminding. It’s not taking it places it doesn’t want to go; it’s just trying to set it free… to arrive home.

I believe Easwaran and I are talking about the same process and the same goals, but the metaphor changes things for me. It reminds me of when we speak to folks about living A Life Connected. It’s not that we’re asking people to change. Rather, we are offering them the tools to be who they truly are — compassionate, caring, connected individuals.

All one,

🙂 m