Stepping Outside of the Oppositional Dualism
Kids, let's live in friendship

When I was a child growing up in Moscow, one of my favorite cartoon series was about the cat Leopold, who was continuously harassed by two mischievous mice. No matter how the mice provoked him, he was determined to coexist with them peacefully. At the end of each episode, he faced the camera and delivered his message: "Kids, let's live in friendship".

The pacifistic cat came to my mind when I looked into my way of interacting with people whose opinions differ from mine, and I had to face the hard fact that I yet have a lot to learn from a cartoon character.

I came to clicker training from natural horsemanship (I don't mean only the Parelli method, but the whole category of training methods, inclusive of Parelli, that embrace this paradigm). I am sure that to some the transition came harmoniously, but I was not one of them. When I started playing clicker games with my horses, it was more than expanding my toolbox. My relationship with horses changed drastically almost overnight, it was as if I suddenly had new eyes and a new heart. Escalation of pressure was not OK anymore, and I felt my blood boil whenever dominance was mentioned in the context of training. Before I knew it, I was on the other side of the fence, and belligerently so.

As much as I wanted others to see what I saw, all I seemed to create was opposition. The more I pointed out, suggested, explained, pleaded, and did it my way, the higher the wall grew. And the more bitter I felt. It was hard to find anything good with natural horsemanship anymore. I was ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I eventually did the right thing and removed myself from the situation. This enabled the tempers to cool and gave me a much-needed space to heal and grow. As the dust settled, I looked back on my romance with natural horsemanship and saw that it was good. All of this background was needed for me to acquire the skill, the experience, the lore, then to integrate it, to live it, and to start seeing where my own place was. My only mistake was to not bow out gracefully and in time to avoid the strife.

From this experience, I learned an important lesson: As long as I am involved in an argument with an "opponent", there will be an opponent to argue with.

I was blessed to have met some great teachers on my path. They extended their hand to me without judgment of my current state or condition, with nothing but love and acceptance of who I was at the time. This is why I am where I am now.

Clicker training is an expression of how I live, and I want to share it. I want to share it because it is one of the many outward expressions of Love. How do I do it without alienating those who may be currently practicing clicker-incompatible training methods? How can I embrace and include everyone who might be open to new knowledge? How do I transcend an immature and obsolete notion of "Us and Them" in favor of an all-inclusive "Us"? These are all open-ended questions for me, on an ever-progressive path of learning.

The truth is, those of us who come from a natural horsemanship background still use it, to a greater or lesser extent, as a foundation for our communication with horses. And that is perfectly fine. Alexandra Kurland pointed out at one of Georgia clinics something that stuck with me: in order to clicker train a horse, you need some kind of horsemanship skills in place, just because of the close contact and close relationship you have with a horse, a large and potentially dangerous animal. And if we are honest with ourselves, it was natural horsemanship that allowed us to grow to eventually transcend those aspects of it that are incompatible with clicker training. How much of it is compatible is an individual matter for each trainer.

We can share from the place of love. Opposition requires participation. If I do not participate, there will be that much less of it in the world. Then new possibilities emerge.

When I think about how my life has been and is being guided, I have a distinct feeling that I am being clicker trained. Some lessons are hard, but always delivered with Love. It makes me smile and extend my gratitude for my good fortune. It is like sharing a private joke with God. Maybe Hafiz of Shiraz, a renowned 14th century Sufi poet and mystic, felt this way when he wrote:

Every Movement

I rarely let the word "No" escape
From my mouth

Because it is so plain to my soul

That God has shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in Existence.


spider webs in the fall

March 24, 2008



 back to top of page