Lama Padma Karma

Lama Padma Karma is a Buddhist Vajra Master who has dedicated his life to teaching people how to improve their lives through use of Buddhist meditation practices. He has spent many years of study in China, Tibet, India and Nepal and while he works with people from all walks of life, Lama Padma’s own love of horses has led him to focus some of his teaching on helping riders develop a better approach to their learning and relationship with horses. In this commentary below, he explains the importance of three Golden Keys that can help riders open their minds and bodies in ways that will help them feel true lightness on horseback.


The First Golden Key: Body

To some, the body is simply a vehicle that gets you from one place to another.  This attitude towards one’s body, combined with an appreciation for genetics, mixed with a healthy dose of “mindfulness” can provide years of use and enjoyment. For others, the body is to be ignored at all costs or obsessed about in such a compulsive way that the body collapses from neglect or is mindlessly overworked. Of course, all of us would like to fall into the first category but can’t seem to figure out how to do that.

To ignore, or become obsessed, with one’s body results from a lack of knowledge, anger, pride, jealousy or desire. In other words, most of us really don’t know anything about the functioning of the human body. We are angry that are bodies don’t magically cooperate with all the most up to date fads available. We are jealous of being born with a body that doesn’t meet some standard we have set for our body. And, very often, we are wishing that we could have inherited genetically something other than what we have. The operative word here in all of this is “mindfullness.”

Mindfully changing our relationship to our physical form is not only crucial but necessary because so much time and energy is being wasted in all the very unremarkable ways I mention above. This is valuable energy that for a rider could better be directed towards developing a sensitive seat, legs, hands and back – all of the critical parts of the body for unlocking energy and allowing it to flow. Energy blockages in the body are due to a confused emotional and mental state – we lose our attention and take our eyes off the ball. We’ve let all our thoughts based in confusion direct our relationship to our bodies.  Our body is the vehicle through which we, as riders, experience lightness. If a confused mental state surrounds our physical bodies, then we will struggle constantly in our bodies and energy will forever be blocked. Even if we have a moment when our bodies unlock, energy flows and we touch lightness, that feeling of lightness will not last because it can never stabilize without a constant, smooth, uninterrupted flow of energy moving within our physical form.

The Second Golden Key: Emotion

We can see the world from a place of our cup being half full or a half empty. How we view it is our choice. The happiest people, and the most emotionally stable, are those who really think about this concept and work hard to apply it all day in every relationship they encounter. The half-empty folks only think about themselves in relationship to others. They expend all their energy thinking that if they just work harder, become more clever, look more the part, exude more energy, etc. the glass will climb beyond being half empty. However, having this emotional perspective only creates a feeling that one is sinking deeper and deeper into emotional quicksand. Regardless of how much effort one musters one cannot get ahead. The barn manager isn’t doing her job well enough, my horse isn’t performing properly, the farrier is incompetent, and so on and so on. You fill in the blank.  

The half-full folks are always complimenting their horse regardless of how the daily practice turned out. They compliment others on their riding and find reasons to thank the barn manager. They always have an encouraging response when asked for advice and find the positive things in all of life. Even if their riding is not progressing as fast as they had hoped, they never blame the instructor or anyone else. They simply get back to basics and become more diligent. From this perspective, joy, contentment, friendships and love for the equine and others manifests. One’s own journey is seen within the context of everyone’s journey. A fundamental understanding of how emotional relationships invigorate and engender gratitude for all one has and all one has accomplished becomes more obvious. This understanding of interdependence keeps bubbling up to the surface and makes one wonder if it’s possible to keep the glass from overflowing. Through this more positive, glass half-full view, you become more attuned emotionally to both your own and your horse’s needs. When you have respect for the horse on the days that he is emotionally off, you give the horse room to feel cared for and nourished. This in turn can cause a horse to feel a willingness to be more diligent in his work and more willing to please. Lightness cannot be achieved if we are only thinking of our own emotional needs first and the horse second or not at all. This self inflicted tightness blocks our emotional connection to the horse and never the twain shall meet.

The Third Golden Key: Mind

Thinking, thinking, thinking – an endless stream of thoughts on the past and of the future. If we could change the past that would be marvelous but we can’t. If we could determine our future just by thinking about it, wow that would be awesome but we can’t. There are many who believe that just by invoking positive thoughts like a mantra this will remove the past or promote a brighter future. We all know how long that lasts. These positive thinking fads come and go like the wind but why? They do not address the underlying cause of prolific thought. Therefore, the mind gives up on the positive mantra stuff and simply goes back to what is familiar and habitual.

What is fueling thought is the habit to fuel thought, i.e. habitually giving energy to thoughts of the past and of the future that prevents us from experiencing the present. We have become so used to fueling these kinds of thoughts that we don’t realize that that energy is being squandered and can be used to keep us right here in the present where nothing is missed – where all the subtly of the horse’s body and emotional energy can flow unimpeded to one’s mind in the present as you ride. When your body, emotions and mind-thought activity have been stilled, you and the horse are no longer separate from one another or any other animate or inanimate object. The luminous, spontaneous and insightful expression of lightness has been experienced and there is no going back, one is changed forever in the present. You toss aside the old methods you once used to approach the horse – or relationships with people – because you have tasted the potential of the mind in relationship to all by using the Three Golden Keys.