I am super excited to share with you what you can learn from a horse about having a better relationship with the pressures in your life and even how stress can help you but first lets explore what pressure really is and what it might be creating for you.
Anxiety, Sleeping Problems, Headaches, Weight Gain. Memory Loss, Heart Disease, Brain Fog, Depression, Low Self Confidence OH MY!
Its a sad state of affairs if you are experiencing one or more of these things due to pressure in your life and is definitely an excellent reason you might be looking for an impactful approach to dealing with pressure and stress.
When you’re threatened or challenged (and your body doesn't know the difference) your adrenals get over worked and produce an extra special potion of hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) spilling them into your system. Once this special concoction of hormone is floating around, you are all primed and ready because your body has now entered fight or flight mode! (this is how your body prepares to keep you safe when faced with threats). You will be experiencing some new sensations in yourself such as a racing heart, agitated body & possibly some thumping in your head as your blood pressure and blood sugar levels elevate and thats just to get started.
The idea though is that once the threat no longer exists the adrenaline and cortisol respectfully chill out and allow you to get some much needed relief and relaxation. But... it seems in todays world people are in a constant state of activation, the pressures never seem to quit, money pressures, work pressures, family pressures, relationship pressures, internal pressures. STRESS, STRESS, STRESS! When there isn't a release from threat your system doesn't get a chance to stop producing this special hormonal potion and it is inevitable you will end up mentally, emotionally and physically fatigued and then sick. Why do we do this to ourselves? Well in my opinion because were always stuck in the past which keeps us in a place of doubt or grasping after the future which holds us in fear. Either way we are not often in a place of peace. This is why the more we can practice being in the present moment the more relaxed we are and our bodies can take a big sigh of relief, shake off the tension and refuel for when we need to be ready to respond to the next pressured opportunity.
So How do we STOP this? eradicate pressure from your life? Unfortunately this wouldn't be possible and you would end up more stressed by trying to create an atmosphere with no pressures. In reality pressure is actually a valuable thing when we are connected to it in the present moment it helps us keep focused and motivated as long as the level of pressure lies somewhere between the mundane and the chaos.
Unlike us horses do not have the ability to create a beautiful piece of fiction around every little stress that comes their way. We cant help as humans we are the ultimate story creators and we need to attach our perceptions, projections & transfer our previous experiences all over the occurrences in our lives, forever frustrating ourselves and confusing our nervous system which makes us feel higher levels of stress even when there is no evidence that we are in a true state of threat. So the chaos begins.
When I ask my clients what about horses seems calming to them? I commonly hear the way they just stand together, or how they meander in no great hurry picking blades of grass, blowing out their soft velvet noses, sleeping in the sun with their eyes closed in relaxation and pure bliss or galloping the fields creating a mystical & spiritual energy that we all seem to want to connect to at a deeper level. Horses when in a natural environment are attuned to what is around them and within themselves all the time they are incredibly apt at remaining in a state of just being which means being in the present moment. Their survival depends on it as prey animals. To survive the threat of death (in a horses cases this would mean being eaten by a predator) they are naturally observing and noticing their environment, the changes, the smells, the tastes, what they can hear, see and feel. They observe everything as it is presented by tracking with their senses and then allow the information to pass through or respond to it appropriately depending on the level of threat (pressure) they detect. The key point I am trying to make here is there is NO Drama! They are the masters of allowing pressure to help them stay attuned, focused and motivated but mostly alive. It is my hope that we can learn from the horses how we could better take care of ourselves and work with our pressures rather then turn them into threats & eventually our illnesses.
It is written on The Guided Meditation Site that it is important to realize that there is a difference between being in the present moment and concentration. Concentration is important. It helps you to focus your attention on one thing or another, and in this way it helps you to take command of what goes on in your mind. But another step beyond concentration is being in a state of Mindfulness which is a deeper state of awareness. It is “presence” of mind.
By practicing being in the present moment like a horse we are able to release ourselves from all the extra commentary and just allow what comes in through thoughts, insights or feelings, notice these things and observe them until the next thing comes through repeating the pattern until a threat that needs a response like run away or protect yourself arises and then we can take action.
Concentration is the tool you use to bring your mind into focus and to close the door on mental chatter, but it’s still up to you to “show up” and be present in the moment. Try out this short exercise to practice being more like a horse!
One Minute of Mindfulness
Please feel free to do this exercise as may times as you can throughout the day. If you want to keep it to 60 seconds then check your watch or clock and note the time. For the next 60 seconds you are going to focus all your attention on your breathing. Trust me this can seem like an eternity. Leave your eyes open or closed and breathe normally. Be ready to catch your mind from wandering off (because it will) and when it does you make a one word name for where it went. For example if you suddenly are aware of something you have been thinking of all day that you need to get done floating through your mind you might label it as thought and then gently return your attention to your breath. (other examples might be listening to your kids play and labelling it hearing, smelling the aroma of food that tries to distract you from your spiritual practice ;-) you might just name this smelling, you suddenly become distressed about something your ex partner has done to you and label it sadness) and again gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Breathing...
You’ll feel a sense of heightened "awareness" during and after this exercise. Conscious observation of breath can really give you a feeling of "being awake". Notice how your mind quickly releases thoughts of past or future, and how different it feels to be in the moment. This is where you can then begin to allow the pressures in your life help you to remain in the present moment and to restore your mind to clarity, appreciative focus and a deep state of peace! Just like a horse.