Today is one of those “walk the talk” days in which I am working on being responsible for the circumstances of my life while becoming keenly aware of how my own beliefs, thoughts and behaviors are directing my experiences. It began when I couldn’t shake the feeling that while I was busy and getting a lot done in my office, the work wasn’t leading to the affirmation and acknowledgement I was hoping for. I was putting myself out there with my business and getting a lot of “no”s for my efforts.
Quickly, my feelings, like “fear of failure, disregarded, discouraged and not valued” led to my need to stay busy as a form of withdrawing, avoiding and denying. I didn’t think that was what I was doing-I just felt irritable and unhappy, short with my family and blew it off as just a momentary lapse in my otherwise productive week. Except that it kept on for days. I spent more time making lists, drawing up plans, searching websites, making new folders and binders. The more I used my thinking brain, the more I could block out my feeling brain. It’s been a habit of mine for years.
The horses, including my beautiful Arab, Wave, don’t respond well to withdrawal, avoidance or denial. They can see right through it and recognize it for what it really is…an attempt to do one thing while thinking and feeling another. Incongruence for the horse (called cognitive dissonance in humans) is a red flag that tells them the human CANNOT be trusted. Each horse counts on consistent behavior of the other members to maintain stable relationships with each other. The herd cannot work as a team if one member moves with a lack of focus and intention. Horses “sense” they are safe and when those around them support their safety, while also noticing the strong feeling that they are in the presence of someone who threatens their security.
I was sure that the answer to my problems of getting so many “no’s” was to just work harder and stay busy. But, the more I avoided facing what was really happening, pushing my feelings down further, the more they came out as discomfort and impatience with others as well as a lack of creativity in my work and even in my inability to enjoy a brief trip to the beach with family.
As usual, it is the horses that bring me back to ground. When I am with them, I must slow my thinking brain and stop doing, doing, doing. I communicate with them nonverbally and so must tap into the subtle rhythmic, regular movements I see in them and keep my breathing deep and regular. Without knowing it, I have been practicing meditation with my horses for years. They have taught me to be present by simply expecting it in every interaction. They are willing to tell me when I am off into my thoughts, stuck in my head, no longer in a state of being! What a gift!
If Wave had seen me in my office, sitting at my computer for hours, working and thinking, thinking and working, he would have left me in an instant or taken everything in my office in his mouth and tossed it in frustration at my rude behavior. How dare I ignore him?
I started my habit of work, work, work to avoid and deny what was really going on when I was a kid in elementary school. I loved school and was an excellent student. My parents and teachers rewarded me for my scholastic achievements. Much more than they reinforced the idea that sharing my feelings, especially the negative or sad ones were worth a gold star or a good grade. All through high school and even into college, I felt that the best way to avoid bad feelings was to keep busy with school and learn more about the world around me from books and classes, instead of dealing with the turmoil inside. My life of education has been an incredible experience and at times, a way to escape.
So, now when I find that I can’t stand sitting still on a beautiful day or that the littlest things about being with loved ones are bothering me and I’m holed up in my office trying to stay busy or on social media, mindlessly scanning for nothing or playing my 20th round of Spider Solitaire (yes, you heard me right), I have to stop, take a breath and ask myself, “What are you avoiding? What are you trying to deny or tune out from?” It helps if I do something fun or listen to music which taps into my emotions almost immediately. I’ve begun developing this new response instead of the same old tired one that worked when I was a kid, but just doesn’t cut it anymore.
But, the one thing that brings me back to myself the quickest, is to spend time with the horse. That’s right-ask a horse what it is you’re really feeling, and they’ll tell you in an instant!
FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN SPEND TIME WITH A HORSE AND DISCOVER THE POWER OF THEIR PRESENCE AT LIFE LESSONS WITH HORSES.