April 13, 2010 by  

It’s early on Easter morning, April 4, 2010, and I woke up thinking about life and all of the challenges we are facing with the global economic crisis, environmental changes, poverty, war, competition for limited resources, and just, well, all of it! I am used to asking for answers to these kinds of unanswerable questions by paying attention to what floats through my mind in the early hours before my rational mind takes over. What a surprise to see an image of Forrest Gump running in the desert. It came to me then that I want to be more like Forrest and remember what life was like in the innocence of youth before my ego and my rational mind hijacked my spirit and my soul.

Some notable quotes from my new role model, Forrest, might just enhance my point:

Forrest Gump: My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Mrs. Gump: You have to do the best with what God gave you.
Forrest Gump: Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.
Forrest Gump: Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows. From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!
Forrest Gump: When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.
Elderly Southern Woman on Park Bench: And so, you just ran?
Forrest Gump: Yeah.
Forrest Gump: My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
Jenny Curran: Were you scared in Vietnam?
Forrest Gump: Yes. Well, I don’t know. Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out… and then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou. There was always a million sparkles on the water… like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.
Jenny Curran: I wish I could’ve been there with you.
Forrest Gump: You were.
Forrest Gump: Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.
Forrest Gump: What’s my destiny, Mama?
Mrs. Gump: You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself.

Well, I wish I could be more like Forrest, and sometimes I can feel his innocence and awe for life without all of the shouldas and ought- tos coming in to disturb my present moment. I know with humility and extreme gratitude that my teachers, the horses, my dog Grace, and all of the animals and nature are really speaking to me, if I would only listen! Remember how Forrest ended up being in a lot of places just because he showed up?

Thinking about all of this brought me back to the work of Anthropologist E. Richard Sorenson and his research on what he calls preconquest, characteristics of the minds of indigenous peoples, versus postconquest typified by modern rationalism and the consciousness that develops from these different worldviews. His research is extensive and interesting as an understanding about what happens when the logical, rational Western mind overtakes the liminal awareness of the indigenous tribes and the animal kingdom. Preconquest consciousness is rooted in feeling and sensory awareness. Like our horse teachers, individuals in such societies are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension in others indicating shifts in mood. If others feel good then you feel good; if others feel bad then you feel bad. Sorenson calls this “socio-sensual” awareness.

I believe that many of us are throwbacks to this type of consciousness and that our sensitivities and “sixth sense” are a result of us recovering our true natures. We feel what is not right but often feel helpless to change the situation. In my 30 years of experience as a therapist, I encountered many sensitive individuals who had been broken by the system or had used drugs and other means to dull their senses to survive in this paradigm. When individuals who operate from an epistemology of feeling encounter reason, they will automatically be overshadowed by reason. Individuals operating from a feeling perspective will be abused or silenced by having their experiences matched against the rigorous logic of rational analysis. Feeling individuals feel invalidated, and innate understanding is blocked by “truth.” The question is “What is “truth”? Our opportunity is to be able to integrate our understanding based on scientific knowledge and mystical wisdom and to create a new paradigm which is inclusive. Clear reason is rooted in the wisdom of the body through feeling which is certainly something the horses demonstrate for us.

This is a lot to digest, especially on a warm Sunday morning in Tucson, Arizona. However, I believe so many of us are interested in horses and other forms of animal assisted therapy for just some of the reasons stated by Sorensen’s work with the indigenous tribes of New Guinea. We need and are looking for this type of consciousness, awareness, mindfulness, and sensibility; and I believe working with the horses is one of the ways to be in this state of grace and openness. I especially like Sorensen’s observations that preconquest groups are both individualist and collective. When we look and observe the horses in their natural settings, we see this behavior and way of being all of the time. This consensual type of leadership allows for individual creativity and “socio-sensual” awareness when the motivation for individual well-being is integrated with the well-being of the entire community

Maybe this is an opportunity for us to learn from indigenous people, the animals, and to remember what Forrest Gump had to say. So thank you, Forrest, for reminding me, as one of my role models, to stay in the present, enjoy this day, and be grateful for Spring!

Kathleen Barry Ingram
April 2010