“Be Still and Know” – The foundational piece of growth and healing is learning what presence is and how to access a state of being actively engaged in the here and now. It is an elusive concept in a world filled with distractions, agendas, noise, commitments, fear and pain. In its attempt to keep us safe, the brain will numb our senses and if this happens repeatedly over time, we sink into a constant state of being “checked out”, or disassociated. This is the freeze/appease response to a perception of danger.
No longer are we being chased by sabre toothed tigers, but our brains were created to prepare us for survival from such a chase. Cortisol and adrenaline floods in to prepare us for flight, creating a racing heart and shallow breathing. The thing is, our brains don’t know the difference between the sabre tooth tiger and a perceived threat, and just as soldiers become hyper-vigilant from repeated days of war, our brains get stuck in a constant state of fear and escape as a result of a traumatic event or series of events (such as a pandemic).
In order to teach our brains that we are safe, it is necessary to allow for “presence”-to allow our nervous systems to experience safety. This is literal. Walking slowly among trees, slow deep breaths, listening intentionally to the chirping of birds, feeling the breeze on skin, noticing the scent of fresh rain and mud, seeing the green and rhythm of nature and then recognizing within the body sensations such as tingling, tightness, butterflies, lightness, heaviness and expansion. All of this sends signals to the brain that the body is safe.
The body can calm the brain, but the brain cannot calm the body. Read that again. We cannot think our way out of a panic attack. We can recognize the sensations of anxiety and respond to the stimulus which caused the sensation in order to calm the fight, flight, freeze response. Respond not react. That is why presence is the necessary first step to healing work.
Horses that are safe and allowed to live as natural a life as possible, teach presence well. Their immediate and authentic response to our lack of presence is remarkable. I have watched horses sway towards and away from clients, indicating how quickly they are going in and out of disassociation. That is why working with horses is so powerful. Allowing and listening to the gentle response of a prey animal that is hard-wired for intimate and healthy relationships can be life-changing as the brain learns to let go of the freeze response and the senses return, providing a better quality of life through responding to life and not reacting to life.
Want to experience safety and heal? Within a few sessions my clients report an ability to regulate their responses to oncoming anxiety, their minds have stopped spinning, and they are able to enjoy time with family and friends again. Have questions, please reach out. My mission is to improve the lives of humans, one at a time, knowing that this work is vital for connection and peace in our world.
The first piece of the pie is presence. What is presence? Simply put it is the ability to recognize whether your brain is where your body is. The second piece of the pie is intention. Now, intention is a difficult concept to pin down. We think that it is simple and clear but in fact most of the time, our intention is unclear to others and even to self.
When connecting to yourself and then to a horse, it is vital not only that you are present in the moment, but also that you have an intention. A focus. A goal. A need that you would like to have met. It can be, “come over here and let me groom you.” It can be, “let’s walk together.”It can be “let’s just share this space for a time.”
So what does that feel like? How do you stay in the moment and make a request? If there is doubt that you will have a willing party receptive to your request, then the intention won’t be clear. Doubt or fear can cloud an intention.
Repeatedly making a request and withdrawing the request before you get an answer, will train others to ignore you. They will subconsciously recognize that ignoring will make the pressure go away. This is why learning with a horse can be life-changing.
I encourage my clients to see the ranch as a big playground. To experiment with what it feels like to be present and then make a request, or have a clear intention. Many are surprised by their own lack of focus and ability to make a request. To recognize what an intention feels like and how to stay in that intention and not give up is powerful.
An intention comes not only from your mouth, but most importantly it comes from your body and from your soul. It is a belief in an outcome. A belief that the request, the intention, is what is best for the relationship. Remember, if it is not good for one member of the relationship then in the end it won’t be good for either member of the relationship.
Presence. Intention. Energy
The final piece of the “PIE” is energy. Such a hard concept for so many. Many folks raised in a household in the West are torn about this concept. Some feel fear around this, as if it is sacra-religious or not respectful of God. And some have swung very far in the other direction, trying to capture energy and somehow control or manipulate it.
We were created as intuitive beings, not intellectual beings. In order to survive we were created with the ability to know where the game was in order to hunt and provide for the tribe. There were no drones and they had no cell phones. They simply knew. How did they do that? They used their intuition. Their intellect helped them get across the canyon safely, but it did not lead them to the game. We have lost that ability to trust ourselves; our soul. Society has taught to rely solely on our minds.
What we are missing is a connection to our true self vs. our ego/false self. It is that connection to self, that belief in who we were created to be, that the horses respond to. So many are so out of practice accessing that true self, asleep and stuck in old patterns and systems and being totally unaware of it. A horse can give immediate feedback when we access true self, for example walking over to stand closer or choose to join a client on a walk. Their ability to read our energy is astounding.
Accessing energy to shake loose the preconceived notions of who we are “supposed to” be, to reveal who we always have been, is life-changing. Waking up, recognizing sensations happening within the body and then responding and not reacting to stimulus, breaks us open to be able to access and trust our intuition. I have found that my partnership with horses has allowed me to help humans start this journey of discovering and learning to trust true self, re-connect to God and the planet. Largely in part to the laying down of ego, the vulnerability of asking for help and surrender of perceived control. Relationships improve, quality of life improves, joy is possible and peace is achievable. This work is hard and requires courage and resilience, but learning to sustain connection to self, changes everything.