I have always been fascinated by horses, but began my relationship in earnest just over seven years ago. I signed up for riding lessons as an adult beginner, but now spend my time with them on the ground through conscious grooming, massage, Reiki and simply being with them. Sometimes people ask me if I am a horse whisperer, but I say it’s more accurate to say I am learning to become a horse listener.
Horses are excellent Yoga and Mindfulness teachers, and they continue to instruct me. Their essential nature is gentle, authentic and calm. They reside in the Eternal Now, and are wired for sensitivity to the shifts of subtle energies around them. They pick up what is real; they will not be fooled by pretty words or flashy exteriors. The quieter I become in their presence, the more they reveal their sweetness and their huge hearts. The blissful silence that results is beyond words; it can only be experienced.
All animals are stepping forward now as teachers. They are fully sentient beings and we can all learn so much from them. I would like to share some tips from the world of equine wisdom, inspired by the teachings of a great equestrienne named Sally Swift. Ms. Swift dedicated her life's work to bettering the partnership between horse and rider, as equals.
First, become willing to enter Horse Time. This is a place that resides within the Eternal Present. It is both rooted and weightless. Take your time to slow down and set the mood; you can’t rush this step or any of the others. You are moving through a portal into another world. Reverence and receptivity are needed.
1. Soft Eyes
Don’t we all love those big, soft, soulful horse eyes? Horses perceive the world differently than we do. Their eyes face the sides in order to take in a full panorama; ours face front in order to zero in on what lies ahead. This is a fundamental difference between the nature of prey and predator. Soften your eyes so you can take in the peripheral field around your object of focus. Notice what you feel as well as what you see. Chances are you will feel more relaxed and more aware, and you will be more responsive to shifts of energy and the movements of your intuition.
2. Gentle Breathing
Trust me when I say that this is the key to transformation! Invite your breath to flow through your nostrils right into your belly, or even into your pelvic floor or down into your feet. Allow it to release naturally upon exhalation. This helps you to utilize the full movement of your diaphragm, your main breathing muscle, in the most relaxed and complete way possible. It will massage your organs and gentle your nervous system. As you relax yourself, you become a beacon of calm presence for those around you.
Most of us tend to be “top heavy”, in that we overuse our thinking minds and breathe predominantly through our chest cavities. This feeds tension and uproots our energy. Instead, bring your awareness to a magic spot that lies between your navel and the top of your pubic bone, as well as directly in front of your spine at this level. This will ground and root you. It is no accident that this is considered an important energy center in QiGong and Tai Chi! If you imagine yourself sitting astride a horse, it makes sense to connect your root to the horse’s spine; this way you will be able to synchronize your energies.
4. Building Blocks (aka Harmonious Posture)
Prepare your body with care, whether seated, standing, lying down or moving. When vertical, imagine the crown of your head drawn upwards towards the stars, as your feet and sit bones send roots deep down below you. You are tuning your body to the perpendicular plumbline that links heaven and earth. Imagine lining up a set of children’s building blocks so that they are balanced. You are stacking the following: your legs and feet, your pelvis, your rib cage, your shoulders, and lastly, your head and neck. When these volumes are balanced, you reduce muscle tension and save precious energy for other uses.
Whether you spend time with horses or not, you will benefit from cultivating your eyes, breath, center and posture. Give it a try! Cultivating presence is a gift we can give to ourselves and to the world.
May we meet and play in the field of Horse Time!