Category Archives: mind body

What my Horse Whispered Today: Trust your internal guidance system.

A three part series about leadership: Leading your life; Leading others; Sustaining leadership

Horses are wonderful leadership teachers. They instinctively know the survival of the herd depends on their trust and connection to the lead mare. Imagine a herd of wild horses grazing in a field. On the perimeter the lead mare patrols and alerts the herd when it’s time to move on. All of the horses within the herd have one ear pointed toward their lead mare at all times. Each horse is aware of the slightest changes; a flick of the ear, muscle twitches or shifts in the wind. Without the lead mare’s ability to lead them away from danger and toward water and new pastures the herd would perish.

Like horses, humans willingly follow leadership when they trust and have an emotional connection to the leader. Leaders and their followers have an Internal Guidance System (IGS) that functions like their inner lead mare. Our survival, individually and as a group, depends on attending to our IGS. The more we nurture our mind-body-intuition connection (our vulnerable sensitivity that immediately responds to truth) and listen its internal signals the stronger our IGS becomes. To do this, we must learn to regulate our emotions and feed our spiritual life. We can rely on our IGS to give us clarity in confusing situations, help us refocus and lead us in the direction of our best life.

Neglecting our IGS by substituting other’s opinions and allowing our immediate, reactive emotions guide our decisions ultimately blur’s and disables our ability to make sustained, positive changes in our lives. Internally, we become a herd without their lead mare. Not listening to your internal IGS is like a herd disregarding the signals from their lead mare.

Racing thoughts, anger, holding onto past regrets prevents your IGS from functioning properly. Relying only on emotions and rehearsing the old painful stories feed the distorted beliefs about the self and sabotage the IGS. Your emotions take the lead and cause you to wander around, questioning everything, unable to focus or recognize real threats.

I was conducting an Equus workshop with a group from an addiction recovery center. I asked each participant to guide a horse through a simple obstacle course. One of the women had been walking side by side with the horse, moving it forward, her eyes focused on the barrel at the end of the course. The horse hesitated. She got confused, stopped, then turned and faced the horse. The horse responded to her confusion by refusing to move.

Me: What’s happening right now?

Woman: “Well the horse stopped and I’m trying to get it to move forward.”

She and the horse stood still facing each other for about four minutes.

Me: “Where do you want to go?girl&nauticmoving forward

Photo by Sheri Wirt Photography

Woman: “I want to get to the end of the obstacle course but this stupid horse won’t move!”

Me: “ Your horse isn’t stupid. You are asking her to move forward but where are your eyes and body and facing?”

She laughed as she realized that she was physically facing in the opposite direction of where she wanted to go; where she began instead of the finish line.

 Me: ” You need to look in the direction you want the horse to go. You are facing where you’ve already been, not where you want to end up. You want to move forward but keep looking back to where you’ve been instead of where you want to end up.”

Woman: Bursting into tears, “That’s why I can’t kick this drug habit, I keep looking in the wrong direction. All I see is my past failure. I’m not moving toward recovery.”

Then she stopped, calmed down, refocused. She turned around, faced the end of the course and walked the horse finish line.

There are similarities between leading horses and leading ourselves toward our best lives. Where we focus determines our next steps. If we, or those in leadership, disconnect from our IGS letting shame and failures dominate, focusing on the past, our sense of direction is lost. We are leaderless.

Individually or we are in the role of parent, teacher, therapist or equestrian, our connection and response to our physical, emotional and intuitive signals determines the effectiveness of our leadership, personally and with others.. Disconnecting from your IGS disables your ability to connect with or lead anyone else

I teach my clients how to connect to their intuitive self by developing their IGS using the three core practices of personal leadership.

They are:

  • Examine your personal truth: Are your passions, values, emotions and actions are aligned? As I asked my client, “Are you focused in the direction you want to go? “Focusing on the past, keeps you in the past. Moving forward takes all of your energy, focused in the direction you want to go.
  • Listen to your heart: Your heart is that part of you that immediately recognizes the truth. Have a clear focus for the day. What do you want to create and how you want to feel at the end of the day? Ask yourself what truths are your emotions and body telling you, right now?
  • Stay Present: Adjust your actions and thoughts according to the needs of the moment: Your body (not your judgmental, critical, worried mind) is your most trustworthy guide. Be like a horse- a prey animal. Without engaging your analytical mind, the vulnerable part of you becomes more responsive to what is happening in the moment. Connect and trust your physical/emotional responses to direct your next steps. The feeling of lightness and freedom says, “Go.” Constriction and heavy, hesitant feelings say, “Stop, wait, look, reconsider.” Trust yourself and adjust your actions accordingly.

As the herd depends on their lead mare, depend on your IGS for daily guidance. Aligning your responses and decisions with this internal system will reconnect you with your inner leader who will protect and move you forward.

 

 

 

 

Why Horses

bugsy and Tom

Be very careful about what you ask for in life. Spending a weekend with a horse whisperer and a herd of horses, became an adventure that irreversibly changed the focus and direction of my life.
Up until that weekend, my life was predictable. I did what I thought was expected of me. Being a responsible adult meant putting away childish things and disconnecting from essentially anything that made me feel alive. By silencing my authentic, essential self, I exchanged playfulness for a perpetual emotional state of confusion and apathy. Nothing really made me happy. It felt like there was a piece of my soul missing. I traded what I loved for the approval of my parents and the ominous “everybody”.
Over the next 30 years I had a few enlightened moments. I spent hours reading dozens of self-help books. In one of Martha Beck’s books she wrote about her encounters with a horse whisperer and the freedom she found doing that work. I thought, “That would be so cool if I could do that!” Several weeks later I discovered an opportunity to spend a weekend session at the ranch where Martha and the horse whisperer. My husband thought it would be a great Christmas present. A month later, I left for Arizona, ready for an adventure and not expecting a total transformation.
On the first day of the workshop, I felt some old negative feelings surface; grumpy, resistant, defensive and curious. The second day, while I was standing in the middle of a huge arena, coaxing a small, stubborn buckskin mare into the corral, I felt an enormous emotional shift; like a gigantic genie had jumped out of the bottle. My dormant essential self had come up for air, saying loud and clear, “Hey, I’m out, I’m not going away and I want to play!”
I felt a deep, peaceful calmness, free, released and clear. In that moment, nothing existed except me and the horse. I knew what to do in that moment with the challenge the horse was presenting. I focused on my breath and watched the mare’s nostrils moving in and out. We were breathing in sync. Taking one more gentle breath, I moved into a sacred, wordless mind space, relaxing and trusting myself. My heart and breath and the horse were connected. I gently motioned toward the corral with my hand, made a kissing sound with my lips, and the mare and I willingly moved in the desired direction. The mare went into the corral and I, relaxed deeply into my intuitive self.
The entire process from shifting to alignment took less than 90 seconds. The original assignment, to get three horses into the corral, seemed like an impossible task. Experiencing Oneness with the horse made it an effortless, joyful event. The best part was that I had reconnected to the True Self I thought I had lost decades ago.
I have not been the same since. Almost every day, I stop and let myself drop into the same connected oneness of my mind, body and emotions that I experienced on that hot afternoon in Arizona. When my heart and mind align and connect, I am free.  I know what to do next. Life in that moment makes sense.
Today, I give others the opportunity to connect to their powerful wise selves by working with horses. Over the last three years, I have witnessed horses helping humans ease into their vulnerability. Successfully communicating wordlessly to a 1000 pound horse, requires that you connect, first, to your primal self and then to the horse.  In that connecting moment, nothing else exists. The mind-heart connection to each other leads to a state of oneness that guides and helps you know what to do next. I promise, you never lose the physical and emotional impact of that moment, ever!  That connection in that moment, sets you free to be your powerful, wonderful self.
Horses are healing beings. In his book, Radical Knowing, Christian de Quincey discusses the three brains in humans; the gut, the heart and the brain. As prey animals, horses have a similar system. They respond first from their gut, then their heart and finally their small brains. When we listen to all three of our brains (starting with our gut), we accurately address what needs to be done with each challenging moment. We have Oneness with our essential, true nature. There is no second guessing, over thinking or comparison to others. We are leading with our primal wisdom, our true nature. Participating in equine facilitated learning is one of the best ways to make the mind-body-intuition connection. Horses lead the way to our transformation.

Try this: Equine Facilitated Self-Coaching Exercise #1

For those of you who claim you always feel better after spending time with a horse.

Beginning Oneness:

Go into a pasture, or corral or round pen where it’s quiet: just you and a horse.

Sit down or stand still, focus on the exhale of your breath.

Do not look at, invite or approach the horse in any way.

(Read a book, drink some water, have a picnic. Your lack of any demand on the horse is your invitation to connect.)

If/When the horse approaches you, maintain an arm’s length of space between you and the horse.

Watch the horse’s nostrils and sync your breathing with the horse’s