Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winter 2010/11 Happenings at Liberty Stables

Dessa decided to take a break from teaching for the winter. Meanwhile, the horses continue to amaze us with their insights. The weather continues to amaze us with its unpredictability, cold and snow! When is winter going to end?!

Some days, the discussion over coffee is all we get to do amidst the howling wind and/or the biting cold. And they have been amazing discussions about such things as relationships and where we are at in the journey with our horses and ourselves.

As for relationships, one of the biggest things we’re coming to appreciate, though at times it can be painful, horses are showing us a more healthy way. This is a huge generalization, but our tendency is to be “needy” in relationship. We come with a belly full of self pity, self doubt and want reassurance and to be loved. For the most part, the horses are saying keep your self pity and doubt over there. Instead, come with an open heart. Move from dependence to independence. Shed all the baggage of victim energy and see what lies in store. Allow each other our stuff and be there, not with worry or guilt, but with love and compassion.

And so we have attempted to simply be in relationship which means coming to our horses and being with them, feeling and breathing into our bodies, being fully aware of them, ourselves and our surroundings. To the observer, it may look as though absolutely nothing is happening. In fact, layers and layers of emotion and beliefs fall away over time for both the humans and the horses. It’s not uncommon for people to come into the barn after being out with their horses exclaiming the most amazing things. They are connecting with their horses and themselves in brand new ways. And it’s as if the horses understand. In fact, it’s not unusual for horses to follow their people in from the field with no halter or lead rope, taking themselves away from their herd mates.

Listening is key to the process and the beautiful by-product is trust and eventually, confidence. This all sounds very serious and intense. But what I’ve noticed is that in this state of openness, people are actually laughing and playing with their horses, running around, jumping over things in hopes that their horse will rise to the occasion and be a playmate. Those who are fearful are breathing their way to “yes”!

We are slowly coming back to riding. It starts by sitting on our horses quietly, most likely at liberty allowing them to take us wherever. We’ve been doing this in the arena, out in the yard, and even the field. Talk about letting go of control! Gradually, the horses welcome “equipment”, usually in the form of a rope halter and possibly a bareback pad. We are learning to keep agenda and expectation at bay in this step because we are finding that the horses aren’t responding to the “old” ways of influencing them. Instead, we are learning about balance and movement and connection. What happens when I think about moving forward and don’t do anything with my body? Does my horse know what I’m suggesting? What happens if I project my core a certain way, or shift my gaze in one direction or the other? What happens if I clear my mind and just sit in the energy of my horse? The lightest of touch, the mere suggestion is mostly all that is needed. They are teaching us, or maybe I should say, they are re-teaching us to ride.

We have a couple of babies on the farm this winter. I have had the honour and pleasure of working with one of them. “Working” consists of lots of watching and laughing, along with visits and walks, interspersed with gentle “training” consisting of getting used to the halter, and responding to various types of pressure. When my friend and I work with her, we ask her to be “foal calm” so that she can learn and teach us safely and calmly. She is absolutely amazing in that in her “foal calm” times, she responds to the very slightest of suggestion and even to the mere thought. How does she know what we are thinking of asking her to do? Amazing!

There isn’t much in the way of lessons going on. They mostly consist of what we call “scheduled horse experiences” where horses and people are gently supported as they develop their listening and intuitive abilities, and mutual trust. We are never too sure what is going to happen when we get together. No more traditional weekly one-hour lessons. People are content on a path of self-discovery. This is why the coffee times have become so important. It gives us a chance to talk about what’s happening with our horses and in our lives and to share ideas and experiences.

So, highly unusual things going on on the farm. As one of our boarders said the other day, how do I explain what we’re doing out here? Good question! I’ve attempted to do it here in this write-up but I suspect that those reading this will either “get it” or not. And that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. But we sure think it’s pretty darned amazing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Say "Yes"

This blog (and I'm sure many more to come) is dedicated to my beautiful Tegra who passed on January 9th. It was a very cold day. She was so weak. Thankfully, she allowed me to put her blanket on and so when she laid down for the last time, she was at least somewhat warm, especially after we packed hay and straw around her. We left her to rest at about 6:00 pm. I went out and checked on her at 9 with my friends Buddy and Clifford, she was gone. I literally howled at the moon I was so sad in the moment. I remember looking up into the dark sky and seeing Orion's constellation and a beautiful bright sliver of a moon. It was cold and crisp and windy. I grieved (and am still grieving) truly and deeply, with true gratitude and love.

This marked the end of a chapter in an amazing journey with a beautiful, wise, and inspiring animal friend. The journey for me started when I said "Yes". Looking back, I realized that in addition to showing me the end-of-life process, and the "New Normal", Tegra also showed me a new way to look at illness. Never once did she say she was suffering. I would see her struggling, especially with her breathing at times and would ask if she was in pain. She always said no, she was uncomfortable but not suffering. Her ability to accept without self pity what was happening and her physical discomfort was what was so truly amazing. Her courage waivered only once that I was aware of and that was on the morning of the day she passed. Spiritually, she was strong from beginning to end. She challenged me constantly along the way to accept along with her, not to feel sorry for her (or myself), to stay present and to keep showing up with her.

These were only some of the gifts I received for having said "yes" to this amazing journey.

So saying "yes" is really what this blog is about.

January is a time when there's pressure to set goals for the coming year. As a life coach and previously a manager of an organization, I know all about setting goals. When you think about it, goals are supposed to help us get back in control of our lives. We perceive we don't have enough time or money, or that we have to change ourselves (i.e. get fit, lose weight) or our lives. There's something in our lives we are lacking and so we set out to get whatever we think it is.

But I'd like to propose another way.

What if we start from the belief that everything is as it should be. In the moment, we have everything we need. Now ask yourself the question: What do I want to say "Yes" to?

My coaching clients are getting familiar with this concept. They are all composing "Yes" Lists. I created my own "Yes" List and it feels great! Why? Because I'm focusing on choices that I truly want to make. And, once you say "YES", nothing else matters. Things or people or whatever that aren't on your "Yes" List, just fall away because you're simply not focusing on them.

The "Yes" List does not necessarily garranty you prosperity and happiness in the traditional sense. I would venture to say though that it does garranty you a richness in experience and a way of living and being that is potentially full and energising, and without drama (unless of course you want drama!).

Here are some things I'm saying "Yes" to:

  • Trusting me and my choices (from trust comes confidence)

  • Fun

  • Love (come to everything with an open heart)

  • Authenticity (in myself and others)

  • Listening

  • Being in the moment

You get the idea. In addition, I'm saying "Yes" to:

  • Coffee (with cream and sugar)

  • Scotch

  • Writing

  • Coaching and teaching

  • Book Production

  • Riding and playing with horses

  • Photography

  • Breathing

  • Nature

  • Wind

  • Tegra's Journey (I guess we're not done yet!)

  • etc.

You can also create a "Yes" List of people. Who do you want to say "Yes" to in your lives?

You can create "Yes" statements. Let's say you're looking for work. Create a "Yes" statement that starts like this: "I would like to say 'Yes' to work that is _______ (insert a "Yes" List)." Or, what about relationships: "I would like to say 'Yes' to a relationship(s) that is _______ (insert a "Yes" List)."

How do you create a "Yes" List? First you sit down and get into your body. Feel what "Yes" feels like. Then start writing. Keep checking with your body. If you use a pendulum, it's easy to check things.

There are few rules: Obligations are not allowed. There are no mistakes. You can always change your list. Be open to the possibilities. Don't worry about how things are going to come about and don't be surprised by what actually ends up happening. There is an element of mystery in all of this that is what keeps it interesting and amazing.

Another way to create a "Yes" List is by vision boarding. Look through magazines and clip out anything that you are drawn to. This exercise is excellent for tapping into your intuition. Then arrange all the things you cut out onto a big piece of bristol board.

And you're done. Put the list or vision board away. Pull it out once in a while to see what's happening but you do not have to make a strategic plan, a business plan, or a budget. The idea is that you will have whatever you need in order to do/be/get whatever is on your "Yes" List as you need it. Trust the timing. Be courageous.

The horses in my life are showing me the tools I need in order to live in this "Yes" energy. They are showing me how to listen to myself and to them; how to be in the moment and forget about time; how to come with an open heart and get out of my head; how peaceful it is without self pity; and how deeply it is possible to truly feel. Trust is the foundation. Always remember to breathe (and yawn!). Nothing clears the clutter faster or better.

I'm not perfect at this I have to say. I only just started doing it myself and sometimes find myself getting distracted. But all I have to do is ask myself, "Did I say 'yes' to this?" Or, as I'm making choices along the way, "should I say 'yes' to this?" And then keep moving towards the "Yes".

This works in the workplace as well. As an individual, a work unit or company/organization, compose a "Yes" List. Come up with 3 to 5 things you want to say "Yes" to and watch how being aware of only those things keeps you focused and motivated. There's no such thing as competition. You're just doing your thing because it's what you truly want to do. Nothing else matters.

There's more in store for me and my journey with Tegra. She's an animal angel now grazing in a warm, fragrant pasture. Who knew what saying "Yes" to her was going to mean. I'm in awe of what showed up and so very grateful for the things (fears) I was able to move through and come to terms with along the way.

Thank you beautiful Tegra...