Find Flow, Harmony & Total Connection with Horses Holistically and Naturally. Creating Flow Through Holistic Horsemanship with Heart-Mind-Body Alignment and Synchronization Exercises.
In my previous blog, "The power of Flow in Holistic Horsemanship Part I", I wrote about how flow made me feel, somatically, within my body and my heart. I also explained how flow is a state of mind, also known colloquially as being “in the zone”. This is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
I further described how being in a flow state with horses is like nirvana for me. Nirvana is described by Buddhists as a transcendental state in which there is no suffering, no sense of self, no ego - only the moment exists.
In natural and holistic horsemanship, being in the moment with our horse is what we want to achieve. Being in the moment brings us closer to our horses and is the gateway to hearing them, listening to them and being able to connect energetically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually with them.
To exist with my beloved equines this way, in total harmony, flow, and meaningful existence, is what nirvana means to me.
We can achieve this amazing way of being with our horses in everything we do together. Let me explain how...
I am a lifetime student of the horse and meditation. The two can exist together – horses and meditation, and I will share with you how through tangible, practical, and transformative exercises designed to connect you, bind you and show you how to work as one, in heart coherence, mind (thought) and movement.
Flow begins with meditation. We need clearing, clarity and congruence for flow to work somatically, through out the body. When we feel flow, we are in flow state.
It begins with heart coherence. Heart coherence is the gateway to feeling as one, thinking as one and moving as one with our horses.
Before we dive into meditative practices for you and your horse, I need to share with you my success with rehabilitation and riding foundation with horses first. While meditation is the cornerstone to my method, the following three principles are the pillars. Everything I teach focuses on three core principles to developing horses and humans together, and I mean TOGETHER - in heart, mind and body AND in everything we do.
They are, and in this order: relationship, regulation, and flow.
Develop your relationship, while developing self-regulation, and you will create flow. Flow in everything you do together including the challenging experiences, the problem solving, the rehabilitation and healing that comes with working with horses.
When we don’t have flow, we have resistance. And unfortunately, that’s what most of our training and horsemanship teaches us.
Think about this: Can you name one training exercise with your horse where you are not meeting your horse’s resistance with resistance?
Most of what is being taught focuses on making the horse comply, whether it’s through coercion, force, operant conditioning or pressure and release, including natural horsemanship and most positive reinforcement practices.
What if we met our horse’s natural, and man-made, resistance with flow?
If we meet our horse's instincts to resist (natural opposition), as well as what we've created (man-made resistance) with flow instead of resistance,
we would change our horse's need to resist.
If you're scratching your head wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I'll be able to better explain through martial arts. While I am not teaching you a specific martial art in this blog, my training and philosophy is founded in Asian culture and its martial arts philosophy, dating back thousands of years.
Martial arts is both a mental and physical state of being where you choose to deflect (change course) versus engage.
Martial arts philosophy, such as jujutsu, teaches you to “roll with resistance.” I equate this in my training as following (or finding) the path of least resistance and going with the flow.
Let's take a look at one of my favorite martial arts principles, humility. Humility is a natural by-product for failing many times over. Learning not to struggle against someone, or something (our horse), and not let your ego get in the way, takes time and practice. Martial artists fail many times before learning to relax and work with aggressive energy.
In Japan, the samurai developed a code of conduct, which emphasized virtues such as loyalty, honor, and self-discipline, called bushido. Similarly, in China, the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang is that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature.
Simply put, opposing forces balance each other out. This is what balance means. When we have extremes, (one way) there is no balance, no yin and yang. This is how we end up stuck in one extreme emotion, or mental state.
This is the same for our horses. When they don’t have holistic balance (emotional, mental, physical, social and environmental) they feel out-of-balance and this creates tremendous anxiety within them, resulting in displaced behaviors (coping mechanisms).
Over time, martial arts became more than just a means of self-defense. It became a way to develop the mind and spirit. Martial artists sought to balance physical training with mental and spiritual training, incorporating meditation, breathing exercises, and other practices to develop inner strength and resilience.
The principles of martial arts philosophy, such as respect, discipline, and mindfulness, can have a profound impact on personal growth and well-being. When we apply this philosophy to our daily life, it not only impacts us personally, but it also influences our horsemanship, how we choose to work with our horses – in flow or in resistance.
Here are just a few ways’ martial arts philosophy can be applied to daily life and our horsemanship.
Respect: Martial arts emphasize the importance of showing respect to others, regardless of their rank or position. By practicing respect in our daily interactions, we can cultivate better relationships and create a more harmonious way of being, interacting and living.
We can show respect to our horses by considering how they feel about what we are asking them to do. The second way is through communication and leadership. We can show them what we would like them to do instead of making them do it.
In the end, horses are natural pleasers and followers. It’s their nature to follow a leader whom they respect. When we earn their love, trust and respect we naturally (organically) become the leader and partner they choose to follow and work with.
This is a process that we must go through in order to achieve the level of harmony we seek with our horses.
Discipline: Martial arts training requires a high level of discipline and commitment. By applying this same level of discipline to other areas of life, such as work, personal goals, and horsemanship, we can achieve greater success and satisfaction.
This is the same as practicing until you see progress, including working on a mastery level. Our relationship, partnerships and horsemanship are no different. They are a continual work in progress.
“Anything worth having in life is worth working for.” - Andrew Carnegie
Mindfulness: Many martial arts incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices to help practitioners develop greater awareness and control over their thoughts and emotions. By practicing mindfulness in daily life, we can reduce stress and increase our overall well-being.
Mindfulness also works both ways in my method. Our horses need to relearn mindfulness, so they are both present in our company and attuned.
Self-Discipline or self-regulation: Self-regulation is another word for emotional agility. Emotional agility is the ability to be flexible with thoughts and feelings to have an optimal response to the many different situations you find yourself in every day. If you can't be flexible, you may find that you're practicing what's called emotional rigidity.
I’d like to add that many humans and horses suffer from emotional rigidity and are not emotionally agile. This is because of trauma and learned behaviors.
If you feel like you, and your horse, are not emotionally agile, or self-regulated, you’re not alone. The great news is we can fix this! I have developed over the years specific exercises designed to teach both horse and human emotional agility and self-regulation.
Let’s now look at just a few of the many exercises I have designed to connect both horse and human in heart coherence, relationship, regulation and flow.
The first exercise I begin with is called grounding. We can achieve a grounded, centered state of being through meditation.
The meditation I personally recommend, and teach, is called Taoist Reversed Breath Work (TRBW). This technique is so powerful and profound, it works from the inside out, and teaches you how to work in flow on the ground so you can ride in flow with your horse.
Some of you may be familiar with this in my method and if you’re not familiar with grounding and TRBW, you can learn it in my Spirituality of Horsemanship Online Course, my 7-Day Holistic Horsemanship Miniseries or my big signature program, MasteryMembership™ Relationship, Ground & Riding Foundation Program.
Both exercises are the foundation of my method and the glue that binds us forever with our horses.
It binds us because it comes from our heart, and it feels good. The energetic vibration love omits is released through our nervous system, producing the feel-good hormones: oxytocin, endorphin, and dopamine. This has been scientifically proven for both horses and people.
When we and our horses feel good in each other’s presence we can create the level of relationship, regulation, and flow needed to connect deeply, and align in heart-mind-body coherence.
Like any skill building exercise, the more we practice grounding and breathing in our lessons, training, and skill building work with horses, the better everything gets. Not to mention, the best part of this process is how we become what our horses need to want to work with us in true harmony and partnership.
In the end, horses will always choose the path of flow and least resistance. If we create it energetically, like a magnet, the vibration of that frequency, energy, will attract our horses, pulling them into our love and our heart coherence.
May you always be one with your horse,