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Horses In Transition: A Call To Action published on November 9 in Horse Care, Horses, and People,

Images From Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary published on November 11.

Routine Tasks With No Inherent Meaning Diminish The Spirit of the Horse published on November 24 in Horsemanship, Equine Intellect & Behavior, Horses, Mindfulness, Science, and TTouch® & TTEAM.

Mindful Monday: Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! published on November 30 in Horsemanship, Buddhism, Mindful Monday, Mindfulness

Which were your favorite posts? If there is something you wish I’d written about, please let me know by posting a response here.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

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Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There.

You’ve probably heard someone say this, or maybe even said it yourself. But it was Sylvia Boorstein whose turn of phrase reintroduced us to the idea that just being, instead of doing, might help provide solutions to some of the problems we create for ourselves today: the frenetic striving for perfection, the avoidance of uncomfortable truths, etc. The gift of this concept came as the title of one of Boorsteins books, a kind of guide to creating your own meditation retreat.

As a representation of one of the main concepts of Buddhism, Boorstein’s exhortation is truth-in-a-nutshell.

Since humans generally do not see things in the most uncomplicated way possible, we often exhaust ourselves making up our own version of reality on a platform of our individual histories, fears, memories etc. We frighten or discourage ourselves before we even get going. It is believed that animals do not burden themselves with such destructively creative forms of perception.

Mindfulness is seeing things as they actually are, not as we imagine them to be….Pleasant and unpleasant experiences, the Buddha explained, the joys and pains of everyday life, are not the problem. The yearning and despising—the imperative in the mind that things be different—the extra tension in the mind that disappears when things are seen clearly and understood fully, is what the Buddha called suffering. Mindfulness—the relaxed, non-clinging, non-aversive awareness of present experience—is a skill that, like any other skill, requires developing.

Years ago, Boorstein developed a kind of do-it-yourself mindfulness retreat for people who weren’t yet ready or able to take the plunge and visit a mindfulness center. I love this idea of setting aside time to care for our selves in a kind of constructive restfulness. Not only for the mind, but also for the body as we ride.

As we ride???? Yes!

Sally Swift employed ideokinesis (the use of imagery to effect changes in the body) very creatively in Centered Riding®. Riders can use the tool of ideokinesis to imagine an active resting state in the saddle.

Active resting? Yes again!

Try this first at home. For five or ten minutes, lie down on your back on the floor. Don’t drift off into the mind-numbing daydreams you might be tempted to allow. Put your arms by your side, palms up or down, whichever is comfortable. If you need a towel under your knees or a pillow under your neck for comfort, get one. Imagine gravity as the active entity it is. Watch it work on your body as it helps your muscles release tension. During the process of release, notice any areas of tension that have become patterns in your body. You will recognize those spots where gravity has to work harder. Send messages of gratitude to those areas, for they will be your teachers. Also, send gratitude to gravity for assisting you in releasing them. You may find that you have to be very clear in giving suggestions to your body to assist gravity in its task: “allow my neck to be free of tension,” or “I’m noticing the rise and fall of my breath, but this makes me breathe faster.” The most important thing about active resting is doing nothing. Don’t just do something, lie there. Do not cling to any idea of what you must accomplish during the exercise, even if it is relaxation. You might find that this is even more refreshing than a short nap.

With practice, you will begin to develop more awareness of your body and its relation to the earth. “Well what do you know? It’s not my body’s job to resist gravity! I can allow my body to move within the earth’s gravitational field without undue stress on my muscles! All I have to do is allow it!”

Remember that the path of least resistance is always available to you, because it will be important when you try this exercise in the saddle.

Now that you have set up the conditions for awareness of your body in space and maintaining a space of least resistance, you can try this active rest in the saddle. Your horse will be thrilled. At first you may worry about this idea of some kind of floppy-muscled Zen session in the saddle: is it safe? Think about the last time you stopped getting in your horse’s way, and your muscles stopped competing with his to get the job done. There was a much better flow, wasn’t there? That’s what this exercise is all about. You can set up an active resting retreat in the saddle anytime you want.

Make sure you are in an enclosed area, such as a fenced arena or round pen, just in case anything goes wrong, or your horse is really fresh or extra delighted to be liberated from the constraints of your muscular control.
Swing yourself into the saddle, make sure to give your horse a good rub on the neck, and explain to him what you are doing. This is important.
Keep your eyes open (you’d be nuts to close them!!!). Be aware of your surroundings but try not to focus on any one thing. Hear the sounds around you but don’t listen. Alertness without that laser-like focus of the straight-line, left-brain thinker is the goal. You can do it. It’s only a few minutes’ worth.
Remove your feet from the stirrups, let go your vice grip on the reins, and practice the same non-doing that you tried at home. If you are willing to let go of any desired outcome, you will feel gravity work to join you and your horse together as one being.
Being physically together without an agenda, allowing the stress of your muscles’ resistance to gravity (and to the horse) to melt away. Remember those resistant muscles in the active resting exercise at home on the floor? Recognize them now, give them the extra attention they deserve, and your will feel your horse do the same.
Notice what you feel beneath you. Has the horse’s back come up beneath the saddle to meet you? Perhaps it has shrunk away? Does his breathing match your own or is it slower?
In time, each of you will learn to allow your bodies to stop resisting one another. Your mutual awareness can flourish and grow in this space.

Active resting can be expanded to include riding, as in the practice of walking meditation. But that’s a post for another day.

The active resting retreat is a useful tool because the rider is setting up conditions where insights are likely to arise. In this intimate encounter with your horse, you rely on perception rather than action, receiving rather than sending. It’s like becoming a child all over again. Bringing a “beginner’s mind” to being with your horse can awaken us to a fuller, wiser understanding of what riding him really is.




© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

NB Thanks to Debra Crampton who wrote Nothing Doing in this month’s Centered Riding eBulletin for giving me the impetus to finish this this post (started many months ago) as well as the term, ideokinesis, which I add to my working vocabulary with delight. It’s interesting to note that the “Construcive Rest,” “Active Rest,” and other techniques for generating attentive stillness do not trace back simply to the Alexander Technique or to any school of Ideokinesis, but to Buddhist meditation techniques as described by the historical Buddha more than 2,500 years ago.

I learned of Sylvia Boorstein’s DIY Meditation Retreat concept in a recorded interview at Shamhala Sunspace.

My first trainer was very wise when she reminded us, “What you think of as pressure and what your horse thinks of as pressure may not be the same.” I spend a lot of time wondering about the nature of pressure and the need for it. How to train and ride with it and without it. Especially while writing myRoutine Tasks…post, which made me feel awfully guilty about just about everything I’ve ever done with a horse.

So what is pressure?

Cheryl Ward at I Feel Good, My Horse Feels Good has nailed the definition. No need for me to struggle to reinvent the wheel.

Here it is:

What is Pressure?
Let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic.

(Before I begin, I have a disclaimer. The only reason I have disclaimer is when I tell people I predominately train without pressure, they tell me, with their fists clenched, that it’s impossible and they look like they want to punch me.)

Disclaimer: I am not against the use of pressure. I am against pressure being disguised as gentle, warm and fuzzy or a force-free alternative. I am against negative reinforcement being the only line of communication with a horse. I am advocating a balance of using attraction based methods and pressure based methods in the proportion that horses spend using each during their day. I am for using attraction-based methods to introduce pressure to a horse. Often when I train this way I don’t have to use pressure. I am for understanding the differences between using pressure and using attraction.

Okay, now let’s jog on over to a natural horsemanship clinic. The basic gist at one of these clinics is that horses communicate with pressure and that their deepest heart’s desire is the release of pressure, to be left alone. The conclusion is that the release of pressure is the reward. This theory has left me empty.

Pressure is defined by Merriam Webster online as:

The burden of physical or mental distress.
The constraint of circumstance.
The application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it.

You’ll have to visit the link to Cheryl’s blog to read the rest. It’s SO worth it! She has a wonderful counter-definition of the concept of ATTRACTION.

Enjoy!

the Carnival of the Horses

image courtesy of burdyboo @ Flickr

image courtesy of Burdyboo@flickr


I certainly hope you’re not still shopping. Take a break for a few minutes. Rest your tired dogs and think about your entry for December’s Carnival of the Horses, which will be held at From the Horse’s Back. If you haven’t yet visited Michelle’s blog, I suggest you get over there and start reading. She’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking young writer who includes some very nice photos in her blog as well.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of the Horses using the blog carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the
blog carnival index page
.




© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

Rachel Allen, TTouch P1, and Linda Tellington-Jones at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, NM

Heart Coherence is a term describing a state of being when all bodily systems are synchronized at a high performance state. When a group comes together sharing a common intention, each individual is like a tuning fork resonating to the vibration of others nearby.

At the 2009 CELLebration conference in Santa Fe, NM, 77 TTouch inspired human beings experienced profound heart coherence from the moment we gathered together. Linda Tellington-Jones, the founder of the Tellington TTouch Method and TEAM, led us to a place of higher awareness and connection through her presence, her compassion and her infinite wisdom.

The church bells of the neighboring Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi serenaded our conference with regular chimes, a melody that has been heard in downtown Santa Fe continuously since 1887. From the deck outside our conference room a statue of the Saint could be seen gracing the church entrance. In the type of synchronicity that seems commonplace with TTouch, St Francis of Assisi is historically known as the patron saint of animals. I believe we all felt his presence as our conference delved deeply into the realm of compassion for and communication with animals. Continue Reading »

thankfulthursdaygratitude

Once again, It’s Thankful Thursday, and I’m taking a moment to consider all the things I have to be grateful for. Part of mindful awareness is living gratitude every moment of every day, and not just while writing Thankful Thursday’s post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Simrat at Akal Ranch says,

Gratitude creates its own attitude.

What a year it has been since last Thanksgiving day. I don’t like roller coasters. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you. County fairs and amusement parks will see Kim on the midway shooting paper ducks and throwing rings at bowling pins instead of riding crazy hills and valleys. Ups and downs, crazy curls and straightaways, near-stalls and sudden accelerations. My life provides enough of those, thank you.

This time last year I was in a personal turmoil I don’t actually care to remember. I was awaiting surgery for my damaged disks, which were torturing my spinal cord with a skill that rivaled even the worst pain of labor and childbirth. And I was juggling the varied and pressing needs of my daughter at the same time. Yet there was a tiny ray of light–my job, which was to provide me with the key to my present day freedom and contentment.

I did not use the word, joy, you will notice. Things seem to have leveled off at the moment, and I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m not going to create a roller coaster of an opportunity to rise and then fall precipitously. A steady state of contentment will not only do nicely but is my ultimate goal.

For today, I have found it in the following:

My daughter’s delightful reveling in her freedom to live her own life, unhindered by constraints of mom. Her new apartment is a study in modern cool: the browns, blacks and oranges a reflection of her desire to remain grounded. The deep greens reveal her hope for growth. In our phone conversations, she has shared with me her reconnections with friends form high school, her activities with friends of the family, and all about the new friends she is making. It appears there is never a dull moment. I am incredibly proud of her, and full to bursting with gratitude on her behalf. She is 21 years old. She is healthy. She is living life.

Take a few minutes today to create your own Thankful Thursday. If you don’t have a blog of your own, you are welcome to post your thoughts here. If you have a blog, post what you are grateful for there, and please link back here. Feel free to tag other bloggers. We are trying to get a mindful movement of gratitude going.

For more thankfulness try out Akal Ranch, From the Horse’s Back, Tired Dog Ranch, Earth Dancer Spanish Mustangs or the Pony Expression




© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

kid-and-horse

KCFAseal

Enter your idea for a suitable caption below. Deadline for entries is November 30.
The winner will be announced December 1.
The prize: one pound of fabulous Kona coffee, the best in the world, shipped right to your door!








© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal