There are so many intricacies in developing a healthy perspective. Patterns of behavior easily become paradigms. Do we see the world as holy or do we see it as hostile?
Each and every living being develops their point of view, not only through experience, but also through the reaction to that experience. I feel this is an overlooked and underestimated nuance. And something that can really change lives.
An example, I was with my young horse, Grace, the other day. She has learned acceptance for the multitude of changes going on currently in her life. Changes like carrying a rider, transitioning in and out of gaits, handling the unexpected with me on her back rather than from the ground next to her. I think people really take this transition for granted. It’s a very different world for her. For one thing she can’t see me out in front of her to read my reactions. She must learn to rely on feel more than visual observation.
I think a common stumbling block in humans is that we are so task oriented. We easily lose our presence. We tend to focus on what we are doing. Rather than on how it feels while we are doing it. Realizing the importance that neutral awareness plays in personal well-being, as well as cultivating it in my relationship with horses, is fundamental in my life’s work. And the only way we can be aware of this is to be highly tuned in to each moment. This is where agendas can really get us lost.
When we feel frightened, frustrated, anxious, unworthy, inadequate or any form of practiced resistance, it will influence how we see a particular task, time and time again. This is true for horses as well.
On this day Grace and I were moving around the arena, a large herd of deer—does and yearlings, scurried up the hill above our heads. It is spring time here on the ridge and the does are ready to give birth. There is a lot of activity, and I’d say a heightened sense of awareness for security in the deer. Although Grace lives with deer in her daily environment she is of course tuned into changing atmosphere. Especially when it comes to a palatable sense of alertness.
I honor the true value of giving Grace an opportunity to utilize this experience. I began by giving her tasks that required a little more of her attention. Things like stepping over poles or moving in a pattern around them and simple transitions up and down in her gait. When we would go over in the area of the deer, I would get very quiet. We might take a look and then we’d simply move on. In other words, I didn’t begrudge her shifting focus, but I helped to guide her out of it as well. There was a real dance in this, a balance to it. I would encourage her to redirect her mind back on herself.
Within just a few moments of this kind of attention to her attention, she quietly and calmly, walked over, facing away from the deer, stopped, lowered her head and cocked a hind foot, showing her acceptance.
I couldn’t be happier about this. It was indeed a very important shift in her ability to self regulate her feelings. I encouraged this time we spent relaxing. The fact that she faced away from the deer in a relaxed posture was very significant. And just then, there was another burst of movement on the hillside. Grace bent around to look. Her alertness increased, but she did not need to change her posture. This subtlety was also tremendous to see.
Grace was implementing the very thing that I want in my self-care. I want to be able to recognize from a neutral perspective what elements of life require heightened alertness, and when I can simply let it go. I can allow life all its complexities. I don’t have to micromanage and put all of my attention on every mishap or changeful circumstance. I can simply observe. And the fact that my young horse is learning this means the world to me.
I’m not sure what technique could improve upon this foundation. It simply comes from the awareness of the response to what is happening in each moment and taking a reasonable empathetic approach to it. This is simple but not always easy. We have to break the habit of task oriented thinking. It requires presence.
This shift may be ridiculously simple. But in my experience, it’s taking a lifetime to really know the value of it. To really know how life-changing shifting perspective can be.
We do not live in a bubble. How we feel, and what we do affects everything around us. This sense of open neutrality has been pivotal in creating a consistent sense of peace and well-being in my life. And in those I share my world with. What can be more beneficial than this?
A quote from my book Perfect Practice, Chapter One:
“My thoughts and reactions can be my compass. Therefore, it is not (necessarily) my thoughts that bring me lasting peace. It is my presence.”