Monday, April 12, 2010

Yin-Yang model

Here is the email I referred to yesterday:

Hello Stormy,

My name is Doris. A week ago I posted as Mia on your Path of the Horse blog. When I signed up for the NHE forum the username Doris was taken so I decided to go with a short version of my middle name. I also felt shy about posting a comment on your website and writing as "Mia" made it easier.

Anyway, I would like to share some additional information and diagrams with you and that's why I'm contacting you via email.

Your Path of the Horse movie and blog resonate with something deep inside of me. I thrive on meaningful connections with people, animals and nature and I've been wanting to understand why, after millions of years of evolution, we still treat each other the way we do. I have also been searching for ways on how we could possibly change this around for the benefit of all beings.

Last week, reading you blog, something clicked. Several pieces of the puzzle came together and this is my attempt to put it into words. In case you are wondering about strange grammar, misspelling of words, and lack of punctuation, I am originally from Germany and my preferred mode of communication are pictures, photographs, art, etc. Playing around with a compass I was curious if I could expand on the ideas and examples of circle mind and I came up with this:

"Force" versus "No Force" are opposites and therefore placed across from each other. I don't agree or support equine sports, competition and the use of bits and spurs. However, I feel it is important to include this current reality of horse/human relations into the circle. I know people who engage in all the "four different ways of being with horses" and inclusion is important to keep the channels of communication open and to help with the shift in consciousness.

Looking at my drawing of four circles within a circle I thought I'll place another circle in the middle, which will represent the horse, because the horse is what connects us, helps us find common ground. The drawing in front of me looked like a flower with four petals, it could also be a mandala. Though pleased with the visual results, Eva's words (April 6th, as a comment to your blog "Lines to Circles") kept echoing in my mind:

"Charts or Bubbles.....two ancient models....Chinese.....a model that includes states, but not as static island, but as a fusion or product of dynamic forces where the forces that generated the state are the same that transcend it, you can see how one flows into the other and after crossing over into its opposite returns".

Then it hit me...I realized I was looking at the Tao of Equus... the YIN and YANG of horse/human relations.

The diagram is not correct, but I don't have time to revise it. Mainly I wanted to show how one thought led to another. The diagram should be "wobbly" because the use of force and restraints means that the masculine aspect is out of balance, in my opinion due to fear. It is my hope that in the future force and restraints will be replaced with healthy masculine aspects. Humans are fascinated with horses, but they are such large animals. They have the potential to hurt or even kill us and I guess it is easier to dominate them with force than to admit and face our fears. A friend of mine once said, being around horses is all about fear management. Maybe that's why your 80 year old neighbor & his friends asked "did you use a club", because soft, feminine, passive ways of partnership and cooperation are such foreign concepts.

Your horse Sofi seams to be a master teacher. You wrote:
"If I respond in fear or anger, then the attack will almost certainly come (although her "attacks" are pretty mild these days). If I am able to answer her ear flip question with a relaxation, and stepping in to offer her a scratch, she will almost always immediately soften and gratefully receive the scratching. So, between her and I, we pretty much have it worked out now that I can energetically control my approach/response and we have a nice connection.

The trick is how to teach this to someone else who may not be able to catch that moment and hold themselves in a positive place. The moment they doubt, it's all over, and then both that person and Sofi has become ingrained even more deeply the old pattern. In a way I think this is a microcosm for all the "bad behavior" that happens between horses and humans".
Chief Dan George wrote:
"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys."
I believe horses as a species have stepped forward to teach us:
  • how to face and overcome our individual and collective fears
  • become aware of our role as co-creators, living in the moment, giving our energies to manifesting a new reality for the benefit of all beings
  • help us find our equilibrium, the balance between masculine and feminine, and to become whole again.
In his book "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community" David Korten writes:
Rejecting the Feminine-
"Ultimately, the early Goddess-worshipping agricultural civilizations fell to invasions by the God-worshipping nomadic pastoralist tribes that began in earnest around 4300 BCE and continued in a succession of waves through 2800 BCE. The invaders killed the men, enslaved the women, and replaced their relatively equitable, life-centered, and partnership-oriented religions, cultures, and institutions with wrathful male gods, warrior cultures, institutions of domination, and technologies of destruction. Earth Goddess gave way to sky God. Thus began what Riane Eisler (The Chalice and the Blade) calls 'a bloody five-thousand-year dominator detour'. As the pre-Empire societies honored the power to give life, so later societies honored the power to take life. Kings and emperors bolstered their demands for obedience with claims of personal divinity or divine appointment. Angry male gods representing dominator displaced the female and male gods representing generative power. Priestesses were gradually stripped of power and replaced by priests. Wives became the chattel of their husbands. The poor became the servants of the rich. The regenerative power of the Spirit gave way to the dominator power of the sword. Humans came to mistake dominance for potency, domination displaced partnership as the organizing principle of society, and the era of Empire was born".
As a result nature, horses (and countless other species), women, and earth-honoring indigenous cultures shared a similar fate.

Now I understand why I would watch the trailer to Path of the Horse over and over again before the movie was released. I love the image of Alexander Nevzorov riding without bridle and Linda Kohanov saying:
"They carried us around on their backs for centuries, waiting for us to notice that they aren't here for us to evolve in terms of mastering nature and moving around the planet, they are actually waiting for us to get to the point were we are ready to evolve t0 a higher level of consciousness and awareness".
The choice is ours: contract in fear or expand in love.

I want to include a picture of my dear friend, master teacher and healer Azzie, a horse who in other people's opinion had lost her worth because she was lame and nipped people. We've been together for 2.5 years and our amazing journey has just begun. I feel blessed to have her in my life.

Much love, light and laughter to you, Sofi, Patrik, Sundance and Sunny


Thank you Doris for daring to speak out and allowing this blog to be a place to start. I love the yin/yang design to explain the shift and especially the part where you talk about looking for ways that force and restraint can be replaced in the diagram by healthy male/yang aspects. I think this is exactly what Alexander has found. His horses are the most disciplined animals I have ever met, yet the discipline has been achieved without pain/restraint-based methods and the result is what I can best describe as highly educated horses.

It seems to me that once a critical-mass number of people see that a dynamic partnership with a horse can be achieved without using pain/restraint-based methods, the "house of cards" which has been the idea that horses can only be trained (educated) using pain/restraint-based methods will fall.

One more interesting thing to think about. Walking a dog on a leash attached to a collar is also a pain/restraint-based method of training. The amount of pain would certainly be less than is potentially inflicted with a bit, but comparable to using a neckrope behind a horse's ears. Of course the big difference is that due to the horse's size, a human's strength would not be enough to control a horse with a neckrope like this unless some level of relationship has already been established and the horse chooses to stay with the human, whereas a dog's size relative to the human's generally ensures that the human's strength will win out over any pull from the dog, thus a stronger level of control is typically not needed with a dog. If dogs were the size of horses though, I'm sure we'd have devised more painful methods to train and restrain them.

I think this is one of several reasons that it seems to be horses who hold the key to this consciousness shift, because the levels of pain and restraint we subject them to are much larger and therefore more obvious than those we use with dogs. Yet before we can get to the level that Gandhi describes, where by striking blows on another being, something is awakened in human nature that makes hatred decrease and respect increase, we must first admit to ourselves that we strike and paralyze horses with pain out of our own fear, not as we have been brainwashed to believe, that we do it out of love or for "the good of the horse".

This bears repeating:
We must first admit to ourselves that we hit horses to cause pain, use bits to cause pain, and use spurs to cause pain, and that we do all of these things as a result of our fear of being out-of-control.
Once we can accept this fact, the change can begin.


  1. Well hello Doris, and thank you for this! Wow!

  2. Very nice diagrams and ideas. Nice to meet you Doris:)

  3. This is a very interesting and soulful discussion, and, and at the risk of seeming disagreeable, I feel compelled to share the following observations about the yin/yang symbolism, as I see it at once valuable and potentially misleading. I understand that the diagram is starting point ... so am looking at it as it is ...

    The yin/yang depicted in this way represents an equal balance … and, as I see it, NHE embodies much more feminine energy than masculine energy. I worry that if visualized in this way, people will think it’s okay to do things like ride for an hour, and do liberty work for an hour. When, in fact, that is not NHE. In the Forum, it clearly states that there is no compromise in the NHE way. The use of halters, even, is not acceptable in any lessons or training, only to lead the horse in situations when it is necessary for their safety or if they are in public areas. Trail rides would not be acceptable. 20 minutes, even, of riding would not be acceptable. So in my perception, this is a path clearly leading to NHE. Alexander would never balance his time equally between riding and play at liberty. Therefore, this is not about balancing old ways with new ways, it is about leaving old ways behind ENTIRELY.

    A path may meander, but it is ultimately a progression from one place to another, otherwise it would not be a path, it would be an oval or circular track and you would wind up back where you started. This IS a PROGRESSION … we are leaving behind traditional ways and moving in a new direction.

    When slaves were freed, they became free. They weren’t slaves for four hours and free for four hours. The process may happen in stages, but once, for instance, you begin practicing NHE, you would not go back, or REGRESS, and go for a trail ride.

    You can’t practice NHE some of the time, so there would, with certainty, come a time when masculine energy is not at all equally balanced with feminine energy. It would not be a balanced integration of ying and yang energies. Your horse would spend more time free than s/he would spend haltered.

    There is nothing balanced about a revolution.

    Now … if we’re not discussing NHE, and talking in terms of being NHE-friendly, then that becomes a different conversation. If we’re talking about being MORE humane, then it would be acceptable to ride SOME of the time instead of every day. Or to use a bit some of the time. But I’ve always tended to be an all-or-nothing kind of person. So here I am - another example of the idea that how do DO horses is how you DO life. Or how you DO life is how you DO horses. I have given up riding and will never look back.

    I remember clearly one night when King simply did not want to accept the bit in his mouth. My trainer had been riding him in a rope halter (!) and when it was my turn to ride, we wanted to switch to his bridle. He wanted no part of the bit. There was no drama. He simply stood quietly and did not open his mouth. It was quite clear he was telling me, the only way he could, that he did not want the bit. So the next day, I was online researching … and found Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle. Well … my instructor did not like that at all. She thought it would be okay to use the bitted bridle sometimes, and ride with the rope halter at other times. That, to me, would not earn King’s TRUST. So the bit was gone for good. And now, so is my trainer.

    As the human releases the need to dominate and control, the physical expression of their relationship to the horse will change … the need for tools of dominance and control will be released.

    What if the common denominator in this path is actually the human?

    And what if, instead of yin/yang we use fear/love? And somehow depict fear diminishing and love expanding? Would the use of the words fear/love potentially reach a broader “audience”?

  4. I think we have to be careful about viewing the Yin Yang symbol in a manner that exults Yin and vilifies Yang. I suspect that the Western world sometimes misinterprets the true meaning of this symbol. Here is a description from the website of "The Traditional Center of Taoist Studies" (

    "Since Taoism's philosophical and religious system is built on a holistic view of reality, its yin/yang symbol is foremost a representation of Universal Oneness with black and white colors alternating within a single circle. Thus the duality of all phenomena — whether summer and winter, male and female, or life and death — are shown to be opposing manifestations of the same principle and should not to be viewed as independent phenomena.

    The yin/yang symbol is half white and half black, each side representing a polar opposite. Note, too, that the symbol is neither predominately white nor predominately black, but equal portions of each. This is meant to represent the balanced proportions of our universe as found in nature. For example, both day and night are needed in roughly equal proportions for life on earth to thrive — 24 hours of daylight or 24 hours of darkness would be disastrous. The symbol also exhibits a rotating pattern between the two colors, suggesting a continuous exchange or movement from black to white and from white to black, like day to night and night to day. These natural manifestations of the yin/yang principle illustrate how opposites must balance for harmony to be achieved. In Chinese medicine, the balance of yin/yang forces is the most important of healing principles."

    The essence of this symbol is that harmony and healing require BALANCE of opposites. With this perspective how could we best apply this model to the healing and ultimate evolution of the horse-human relationship?

    Basic Yang qualities: day, summer, sun, brightness, heat, strength, activity
    Basic Yin qualities: night, winter, moon, darkness, coldness, weakness, passivity

    These qualities are ultimately neither good nor bad and could not exist without the other. To believe that nature is solely beautiful, life-enhancing and kind, without acknowledging that she can also be harsh, destructive and deadly, is not truly understanding nature in her wholeness. If we deny some aspects of the Yin and Yang within ourselves this leads to imbalance and what is repressed into the shadow will ultimately manifest in unhealthy ways. (Eg. The parent who tries to be only kind and sweet to their child and ultimately ends up pushed to their limits and hits the child in a fit of rage.) An important aspect of my journey is embracing the oneness of all life. This involves needing to accept the Yin AND Yang present in all things.

  5. Yeah, like breathing in and breathing out.

    I wonder: is coercive force really part of yang? Or is it just a disease? I don't believe death and disease are part of creation - they are an aberration - all parts of the yin/yang cycle are beneficial - day/night - activity/rest etc.

  6. I mean, like, the ability to send is yang. The ability to receive is yin. Like if we're playing ball - I throw the ball to you - that's yang - you receive the ball - that's yin. Your turn to be yang when you throw the ball, my turn to be yin when I receive it.

    The ability to convey to the horse - "Hey! It's a good idea for you to go over there." That's yang. But both horses and humans resort to diseased yang to enforce it - horses (who are not exempt from The Problem) by biting or kicking, humans by hitting or using harsh equipment.

    Perhaps coercive force is yang untempered by yin. As Doris points out, the symbol represents that yin and yang are present in all its parts - perhaps fractally so, so that each smaller part contains still smaller parts of yin and yang. If I ask you to do something (yang), I have to at each instant be aware (yin) of your reaction. But I can't be aware unless I look outward (yang). And so it goes.

    And yin untempered by yang would be complete passivity. The ultimate in bad-Yin is death - the end of the Yin/Yang dance.

  7. I don't think there is such a thing as "diseased" yang per se, but rather just imbalance between Yin and Yang. Traditional horsemanship and our Western society in general manifest excessive yang, creating the imbalance present in dominance-submission models. When disproportionate power is held by some it produces disempowerment in others. This cannot be resolved by going to the other extreme and pursuing excessive yin, which would ultimately create its opposite.

    If the citizens of a country with a history of autocratic rule decided that, in wanting to prevent any future abuse of power, they no longer wanted any government, but rather they would all just agree to peacefully get along, not only would this result in discord, but it would create an opening for a tyrant to step in and take over rule. What they were trying to avoid would thus inevitably manifest.

  8. Carolyn Resnick's newest post seems relevant to this discussion with respect to how we approach bringing change to the horse world:

    I am always leery of approaches that have an "us" vs. "them", "right" vs. "wrong" philosophy. Honouring people for where they are and influencing change by "(being) the change you want to see in the world" (Gandhi) will ultimately be more effective than judging other people's actions.

  9. Yes, that is an excellent post. And I for one am not focussed on changing the world. It is quite hard enough to change myself.

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments! I find it fascinating to exchange ideas with all of you following this blog from different parts of the world.
    Thanks Stormy for making it possible!