The Black Box and the Gold Box

On my old Mac computer there was an application that could be programmed to automatically empty the trash at midnight.  I am kind of funny about these things, so I always wondered where the trash actually went.  Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, I am assured, and it took a lot of energy to create some of the things I put into the trash, so I wondered where they went.  To amuse myself, I made a black hole icon and placed it near the garbage can and envisioned that each night at midnight the little trashcan turned over into the black hole.  As the documents passed the event horizon of the black hole, they were ripped atom from atom and returned to the primordial soup of the universe, hopefully to become part of something really fabulous in their next life.  That lead me to thinking about experiences, good and bad, and what we do with them.  Do they just stagnate in our minds?  Could we empty the trash?

In my mind, I created a small black box and a fabulous, lavish gold box that for whatever reason has looping necklaces of pearls draping over it. (Three of the big pluses about visualization are that you can decorate as you wish, no one has the right to judge your vision, and money is no object.  Bonuses, all.)

The black box is small, but it has infinite capacity, and nothing, not even light, can escape it.  It empties automatically at midnight into the black hole, while I peacefully sleep.  It takes no energy on my part for it to empty.  You might have already guessed that I put negative experiences in there, and not just the biggies.  Maybe I couldn’t figure out why a horse reacted the way he did today.  Maybe a student just could not understand the way I was explaining a technique and we didn’t come to a good solution today.  My point is that the black box is for the big baddies that haunt people for years, and also for just the little
niggling stuff that clogs up the thought process.

The first thing I threw in that black box was that little sniveling voice that lives inside of all of our heads that says, “You’re not good enough,” or “I think those people over there are saying bad things about you.”  As soon as the black box was installed, I chucked that little snarky gnome right in the box.  It felt great.  I couldn’t wait for midnight to come.   Now, it actually took some work to get rid of the gnome.  I was new with the black box technology and the gnome was a powerful little beastie.  It took me several days to get him stuffed into the box so that he stayed there, but he did go back to the primordial soup eventually.

That’s all well and good for the gnome.  It is important, however, to be still and examine all incidents before you throw them in the black box.  After all, it is excellent to be rid of the haunt of a bad experience, but it is wise to suck the marrow out of the bones of what it has to teach you first.  This is the very hard part of bad experiences; to sit quietly with them, think fearlessly and objectively about your role in their occurrence, examine what you did and what could have been done better.  The really big prize, the point of the exercise even, is to honestly own that information, intend to put it to good use, and then put the experience in the black box, go to sleep and let the haunt go.  When you become very comfortable with this process you can do it instantly in real time.  A good example of this can be found in Horses Understand Apologies.

The first time you use the black box, the process will likely have you feeling a little silly.  Partly it is the silly that makes it good.  You can even punt the gnome into the box if it makes you feel fabulous.  As you become skillful with the use of the black box, you will feel how truly liberating and powerful it is.

The Gold Box, you know, the one with the pearls, is also liberating and powerful.  It gives you a place to store every positive experience which can then be pulled up at will in those moments of self-doubt that life brings occasionally.  The Gold Box is infinitely large, a handy thing.  In the beginning you may not think you have things to put in the gold box.  Your tendency in the past may have been to focus on the problems, the accidents, the hurt and the disappointment.  None of those things go in the gold box.  If you think you have nothing to put in the gold box, start small.

Next time you walk out to catch your horse and he nickers to you and walks up with a soft expression in his eye, put that in the gold box.  When your horse stands politely in the cross ties, put that in.  When he picks up each foot politely for picking, put that in.  When he stands still for mounting or you have a nice walk depart, put that in.  If you trot today with your hands quiet relative to the horse or you feel really in balance, put that moment in the Gold Box. You can also put non-horse things in there.  If your kid or somebody you love smiles at you or hugs you, put that in there.  I have one of my dad pushing me on a tree swing on a beautiful June day.  Sun on my face, long smooth arc of the swing through the mild air, smell of green grass, my dad’s grinning, sun-browned face, just playing.  I go there a lot when warming up for dressage.

Filling up the Gold Box does a host of really fantastic things.  It switches your focus from what isn’t good about your horse or your riding or your life to what is good.  You are encouraged to notice your horse and yourself being  and experiencing good.  This is a vastly more gentle way to treat yourself and those around you, horse and human, than critiquing.  Probably the most important thing that filling the Gold Box teaches is gratitude.  Gratitude for the little positives leads to bigger positives.  If you are petting your horse and thinking what a great horse he is while he is trotting along, he is going to feel that relaxation in your body and become more relaxed himself.  Horses are incredibly perceptive.  When he feels your good thoughts, he’ll become more confident and produce more good work.  You’ll be on a spiral of increasing relaxation, on to more Gold Box Moments.  And no matter how many moments you stuff in there, the Gold Box simply expands to hold them. Infinite.  No worries.

Before you put things into the gold box, just as with the black box, examine them.  Ask yourself what role you played in the development of this good result.  Were you particularly thoughtful and methodical in your training?  Did your kindness result in your horse looking forward to spending time with you?  Did you solicit expert help in finding the right horse that performs so well?  If you had a great canter depart, was part of it that you cued at the right time and in the correct manner?  It is easy to place blame on yourself or others when things go wrong.  It needs to become easy for you to notice what role you play in influencing positive outcomes.  Your self-talk needs to become predominantly positive.  This in no way means that you need to share with others these thoughts about your many small and large successes and how fabulous you are.  If you did, you’d start to notice people crossing to the other side of the street when you approach.  This is self-talk, the ultimate Inside Voice.  When you replace a gnome with a cheerleader in your head, horses and people will notice your internal change manifested outwardly in  the fearlessly kind way you treat yourself and them.

© 2010 Camie Stockhausen.  All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “The Black Box and the Gold Box

  1. Thank you for giving me a gold box moment or two today. I hope you had some fun too. Reading this makes me wish I could ride under you because you seem to have a way with words and an excellent way of looking at things. I’m going to keep reading and try to absorb it.

    • Thanks Jocelyn, very kind of you. I had a lovely time today and Elliot did too. He thought he was pretty cheeky after we jumped that fun angled line you put up. You can email subscribe to the blog so that you will know when new ones come out. The sign up is in the upper right of the page. Have fun doing XC tomorrow! Phyllis should be highly entertaining!

  2. Very good for me to read – especially today when I can’t stop spinning the negative thoughts through my brain – I learned from the experience but I’m afraid I might have left my horse with baggage in the process.

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