As we look around us in the natural world there is incredible order. There is wisdom and instinct that we can’t quite explain. Somehow baby spiders know how to spin webs. Somehow birds know how to fly. Somehow butterflies know how to travel across continents to migrate. The order in the midst of such complexity is awe-inspiring. In the middle of such eloquence, however, there are elements that can unravel things… Where things seem to react in a crazy way.
One such example can be found in how horses react to a barn fire. While some try to dismiss this as a myth research on the topic reveals story after story after story. As it turns out, if a barn where horses live catches fire, if the horses are not restrained after being chased out of the burning building they will often get free and charge back into the blaze. As I was first researching what sounded like a crazy myth I found incident after incident where animals had died in fires on account of the animal breaking free and running back into the flames… Sometimes even doing so two or three times.
Moths are attracted to a flame, often to their own demise, but what could prompt such an intelligent animal as a horse to behave in such a foolish way. What’s more, might we also act just as foolishly in a similar, though metaphorical, situation?
I believe there are two elements leading to the horse running to their own demise. The first is described by Haanel in his introduction to part nineteen of the Master Keys:
“Fear is a powerful form of thought. It paralyzes the nerve centers, thus affecting the circulation of the blood. This, in turn, paralyzes the muscular system, so that the fear affects the entire being, body, brain and nerve, physical, mental and muscular.”
In short, a terrified horse is not going to make the best decisions. Some ranchers even tell of how the the horses were spooked by the lights and sirens of fire trucks before charging back into the fire. But is there something else at play here? After all, usually when a horse is scared isn’t its instinct to run away from the threat? I believe that there is another factor at play which, when combined with fear, can create a compounded threat not only for horses but for us as well.
The second threat is familiarity. When a horse, or person for that matter, is scared, they will seek comfort. This often comes in the form of seeking familiarity. Fear can jar our certainty and so we try to return to a place where we have always felt safe… someplace familiar. In the panic the horse, too, runs for the place where it has always felt safe… it’s stall.
Fear, chaos, upheaval… All of these things make it almost irresistible for the animal to return to that place of previous safety. Not that the stall was the lifestyle of the horse’s dreams, but at least nothing hurt him while he was there… Things were at least predictable.
So are you seeing the metaphor yet? In some ways we can be very much like the horse. As we make changes in our lives there can be fear and chaos. Taking up the mantle of being a self-determining hero in our own life can bring upheaval. Changes unfold, sometimes at a rate that is faster than we are prepared for. Sometimes changes seem to unfold too slowly, leaving us filled with doubt. Fear can start to rise up and if we are young on our quest, if we lack utter certainty, this can give rise to fear.
Fear, then, can give rise to a powerful desire for familiarity. Old habits… Old routines… Old comforts… Old blueprints that we had retired because they were no longer serving our life’s purpose. Burning barns, every one of them! They promise safety and the comfort of familiarity but all the while they are filling with smoke and sparks.
As you fashion this life of your dreams do you have fears? If you do, that’s great. That simply means that you are challenging yourself… thrusting yourself forward. Does the fear prompt you to step back, seek comfort and seek shelter? Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger! It is true that every hero needs to rest but they had best do it with their eyes looking forward along their path rather than look back and running towards a comfort that will try to seduce and destroy them.
How do we know if we are being drawn backwards? The answer is found by asking the question, “What would the person I intend to become do next?” Stay connected to this vision that you have of yourself… Of this best version of yourself. Have faith in this best, most courageous, inspired version of yourself and live from that image from this point forward. Most importantly, realize that there is no separation between the two… between you and this best version of yourself.
Be inspired by this best version of yourself. I hope that you are because I know that I certainly am and I can’t wait to see what you’re here to create!