How Meditation can Improve Your Relationships with Horses
A frequent topic discussed on horse training groups is “I know I am supposed to leave my emotions at the door, but I have trouble not getting frustrated with my horse. How do I keep from getting frustrated?
All sorts of good answers are usually given in the replies: reminders that it is not the horse’s fault, that training is a process, don’t take it personally, expectations are the cause of frustration, progress is being made even if we don’t see it, forgive yourself your mistakes, get someone to help you. Again, all good answers for people who find their blood pressure rising when things aren’t going well with their horse.
But what if we had no feelings of frustration or anger that had to be fixed in the moment? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so why not calm our emotions before we even start. How do we truly leave negative emotions at the door, or more exactly, at the arena gate.
The horse* is not the source of your frustration – you are the source. You carry that frustration within you, like a seed. You know this intellectually, you just have to learn it emotionally too.
Trainer and clinician Warwick Schiller tells us “The horse needs to know the answer before we ask the question.” This means: we can’t expect a horse to respond correctly to something we ask him to do unless we have TRAINED that response first. We can train our emotions in the same way.
“Our emotions need to know the answer before we ask the question,”
the question being,
“Things aren’t going the way you want them to go – how do you feel about that?”
For the purpose of this discussion, the Merriam-Webster definition of MEDITATION: to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
Did you catch that? EXERCISE.
We use our whole bodies to meditate, so it is indeed a physical activity. While most meditation is done sitting still, some people meditate while they are hiking, playing music, or making art. Really anything that takes us out of our incessantly thinking minds and into a present moment of pure consciousness is a form of meditation.
“Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.” – Ekhart Tolle
Build a custom library of meditations; guided, unguided, music, bells, nature sounds, etc. YouTube has thousands, just search for what you need help with. The shortest one on my list is six minutes.
Oh if I only had a nickel for every person who has told me “I tried meditation, and it didn’t work for me. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but it didn’t work.” Well that’s legitimate, if you thought you had to sit crosslegged looking at a candle, concentrating on your breathing or trying to chant a mantra and empty your mind but thoughts kept popping up about that thing you forgot to buy at the store or the conversation you had with your coworker that you’re still pissed about and oh you were supposed to call your mom yesterday but you forgot.
One reason I always suggest that people use GUIDED meditations to is that the voice of the narrator gives us something to listen to other than our own thoughts. (For some reason many of the guided meditations on YouTube seemed to be narrated by people with English accents – hey way to go Brits, you seem to have a gift for calming speech)
But if even guided meditation won’t work for you, then find whatever it is that calms your soul: listening to music on headphones can work wonders – it’s one of the things I do to prevent panic attacks on airplanes. And while you’re listening to music, write a short list of the things you’re grateful for today. What we are aiming for is to flood our body, mind and soul with a positive emotion, even if only for a few minutes. Then do it every day, or several times a day, until it becomes a HABIT – you know, like exercise for your emotions.
Now, take that feeling with you into the round pen or arena with your horse. It is the answer you’ve been teaching yourself. You have a frustration seed and a calmness seed within you, which one are you going to germinate? You know what it means to feel peaceful and calm, you’ve been practicing – decide before you even start which emotion to choose if things don't go as planned.
It is in your moments of decision that
your DESTINY is shaped.
*instead of horse, substitute spouse, child, boss, coworker etc, because of course this is true of people to. Other people don’t “make” us frustrated or angry. They do or say something, then we choose an emotion to respond with. It could be a perfectly legitimate emotion, it is OK to be frustrated or angry when those emotions are justified, but it is still our choice, and if we truly understand that, then we can be more discerning and mindful in our relationships with both man and beast.
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