~The Swing in Balance ~
By Marie Iserbyt
There is a lot to say about balance. Micaela Love inspired me to think about it from the first day we met and it kept coming up during the time I studied with her. When I think about balance I think of harmony. There is no fight or struggle in true balance. It becomes a beautiful and harmonious flow.
Sounds great! But how do we find that? How do we “balance things out” or in other words; how do we “find the middle” between extremes?
Instead of talking about “finding” balance I would like to say we can “create” balance. We do not just find balance somewhere along the road, it’s an active process: we create it with trial and error. We create a balance between two quallities by knowing, having and applying them equally. For example the balance between respect and report in the relationship with our horses and others in general. To truely know what report or respect is we should explore: how does it feel? How do others respond to it? Can I ask for respect or build rapport in different ways?
By experimenting with these concepts we learn how to apply them in different ways. True balance is the result of exploration. That means we actually have to lose our balance to find a balanced balance. Does that make sense?
The swing as a metaphor
If you push or pull a swing it will swing back and forth alternating directions passing the middle, each time a little bit lower than last time. Gravity is pulling the swing down which makes it go less high every time until finally it will end up quiet in the middle.
While learning we all follow this pattern in some way, consciously or unconsciously, slow or fast, … I believe we can learn how to influence this process. I think about it as the difference between a light swing and a heavy swing. When there is a storm or even just a breeze the light swing will be blown out of balance easily while the heavy swing will move just a little. Knowing how to be a “heavy swing” and how to pull ourselves back to the middle is probably one of the most powerful skills in life!
I think one of the things that can make us more like a “heavy swing” is our determination to reach a certain goal. The goal gives us a different mindset. When we have a clear focus we become stronger and have more confidence. And if anything else it gives us motivation. Motivation to do something about it when we notice a lack of a certain quality in ourselves. It is focus and willpower that pull us closer to the middle.
Balance is dynamic
Our horses posture changes all the time while moving so if we want to stay balanced and in harmony while riding we should also change our own posture. That means that balance is not something we find once. We have to look for a new balance every second!
When we have explored the qualities on both ends of the line we are able to apply a little more “left” or “right” according to the situation, quite literally when we talk about posture. I’ve learned that I lean a little to the right when I think I’m sitting straight, so I need to lean more to the left to create balance. I felt weird and out of balance at first because my body wasn’t used to that. So I needed someone to coach me and tell me when I was truly balanced, until I my brain and muscle memory were retrained and I developed a better feel for it myself.
Pretty much all people (and our horses!) have a certain imbalance in their body and often we are not aware. Some muscles might be longer, weaker or more tight than others. And if we expect our horse to be balanced we also have to be aware of that in our own body. We have to be able to adjust to every situation. Or as someone recently told me:
be loose, tight and flexible at all times!
We all like to know when we’re heading in the right direction and when the swing goes in the other direction, that’s the right direction! So when you get frustrated, annoyed, insecure, desperate, … think about this:
Congratulations, you succeeded at being or doing concept number 1
2. Be happy and proud because this means you’re making progress!
3. Stay calm, adjust your plan and start to work on concept number 2
4. Have fun!
It’s just as simple as this. It helps me a lot to know that this is a normal process. That is how learning and making progress works. We’ll develop more awareness of what feels balanced over time and be able to adjust sooner.
Do less sooner rather then more later!
To develop that awareness you just have to stay open, listen, talk to people and get a little help now and then! Talk to friends and family or a professional that knows more about the thing you’re struggling with. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
Harmony! If you have felt it at some point in your life you know it makes you happy. Being in harmony with your environment makes life easy and comfortable: it feels like a beautiful harmonious flow. It’s almost like magic! The good news is that we can create this magic. We can create physical, mental and emotional balance.
It’s only when these three components come together that we can talk about true balance. Physical balance can not exist without the mind and emotions being positively engaged. In horse training this applies to both horse and rider and though it is vital in every discipline I dare to say that dressage is the real art of balance. It’s just like dancing. It’s extremely hard but when horse and rider find balance together it’s the most beautiful thing on earth. That is magic!
I came up with my own definition of balance:
True balance is the mastery of all existing qualities and being able to have or use those qualities at any moment in equal doses adjusted to the situation – physically, mentally and emotionally.
What does balance mean to you? What would your definition look like? Mine is obviously very theoretic and nobody will ever be “perfectly balanced” but we can all try together to become the best version of ourselves!
Never ending self improvement
Since we have to find a new balance in every situation and life is changing constantly we will be looking for new forms of balance for the rest of our lives. We will always find ourselves in situations that we were never in before. Coming to California to study with Micaela was definitely a new situation for me! And it tested my balance. In the beginning I put up a big wall to hide behind on an emotional level, which caused me to brace also mentally and even physically. Apparently this was my way of dealing with a new situation, which was unbalanced, because it prevented me from being open for new things. It prevented me from learning and connecting. It took me a while to become aware of this and break down the wall – being more open, trusting and vulnerable – but in the end it feels so much better. I’m also pretty sure my swing got a little “heavier” and I’m thankful for the learning experience!
So if I’m allowed to give you one piece of advise: go out and explore, even though it’s scary. Lose your balance and create a better one! And once you’ve done that, do it again! It will make you a stronger and happier person in the end. Let’s all keep swinging that swing of balance!