My wonderful horse, a large and long Hanoverian named Leo, has taught and continues to teach me a great many lessons about life. One of the latest centers around a concept which is just beginning to germinate in the soil of my mind, one that the classical riding masters called rassembler.
Rassembler or “collection” as we typically refer to it nowadays, was defined by Francois Baucher in his work entitled “Méthode d’Equitation sur des nouveaux principes” as being the process of “collecting the forces of the horse in his center in order to ease his extremities, and give them up completely to the disposition of the rider.” As a result of this collection, Baucher notes that “The animal thus finds himself transformed into a kind of balance, of which the rider is the centerpiece.”
For those of you who don’t ride or train horses, it takes time to learn to collect a horse and it takes time for a horse to become sufficiently supple, balanced and strong to come to the point of collection. Many horseman use shortcuts to give the appearance of collection – apparently even in high levels of international competition – but true collection can neither be rushed nor faked.
The same process works out in human beings relative to their moral development. Each time that you successfully handle the inevitable tests of character that come up in circumstance (e.g. temptations, high pressure situations, competition, unfamiliar territory, etc.) your forces are collected, thereby disposing your body, mind and heart to the highest impulses of which we are aware as a species.
Just as with horses, moral collection begins with assouplissement or “suppling.” You are made supple when you learn to relax into, rather than react against, pressure. Many fail to get very far in relation to this. They blow it in when the demands are low, evading the inner calls to higher function. The evasions exacerbate the imbalances and heighten the tension, making them less flexible over time and as a result, less capable of handling the times of high demand.
Again, you are made supple when you relax into, rather than react against, the pressure. Physical, mental and emotional suppleness allows you to gather your forces into your center and brings the outer you into a state of being that is light and available to the subtlest wishes of the inner you.
The next time you face a difficult situation, something that requires you to stretch a little, remember my horse, Leo. Stay supple when you would normally become tense. Gather and collect when you would typically blow apart and fall to pieces. Horses are remarkable creatures whose willingness to yield to the will of an educated rider serves as a remarkable example of the process by which we can more consistently give ourselves to the higher impulses that can and should govern our every move.