We study what we are
I heard this phrase while listening to Dr Shanté Cofield’s Movement Maestro podcast. My ear drums are subjected to as much Little mix and the Hamster song as my kids can force upon me, at least twice a day on the school run. So, as soon as I’ve kissed them good bye, I switch to music I love and they hate (The Wailin’ Jennies are currently in possession of that award), or to a podcast. I am one of life’s perpetual students, and like so many, only have a limited amount of time to set aside for learning. Anyways, in this episode featuring Julia Eyre, she shared this heart felt piece of wisdom, “We study what we are, so you’ll find the right way for you”. This profoundly struck me.
I mean for starters what does it even mean “We study what we are”? We are all human and yet we are not all anatomists, psychologists and biologists. So, what does she mean we are studying? I was drawn to the meaning that we study the things which most reflect parts of ourselves. One of the things I am, is introspective. And so, it is no surprise to me that my study of equitation has led me to explore the internals of the human as much as the movement of the horses.
So, if we study what we are, do we also become experts in our own experiences? No two of us can ever have the same experience. Every input to our skin, our ears and our eyes is filtered into our consciousness via the sum total of all that has happened before. You can picture this filter like a vast, shimmering shield between you and everything else. This phenomenon does not just affect people, all animals learn from what we have already survived in order to stand a better chance of surviving what comes next. Some of our learning is helpful and some of it would best serve us by being let go of.
It can take us a life time to unlearn the things we internalized as children. From a benign distrust of green food to deeper subconscious beliefs of being unlovable. And those are just additions to our filter from our first few years. However, I believe those shape and colour our filter, affecting all we experience and react to later in life. To be an expert in your own experiences, you need to have been fully present to them.
Being completely present to each and every moment in time is one of the greatest challenges of being human. Yogis and Buddhist monks dedicate their lives honing this skill. Not everyone chooses to sit in a temple on a mountain. But, given the numbers of people investing in themselves through counselling, mindfulness and yoga, it seems as if the human need for self-awareness is a concept spreading deep into main stream society. At the same time, it feels like just the tip of the ice berg and that many people go from one day to the next reacting to life with their emotions. Experiencing no awareness of when these feelings arise and take over, and having no idea there are other options available.
How many horse people extrapolate their internal growth into their riding? Can dealing with fears of rejection help you to ride straighter down the centre line? I have an understanding of how horses perceive us that I’d like to share with you. Imagine your physical self, emotional self, and mental self as separate entities. Now imagine that your emotional state is in anxiety and your subconscious mental state is working through how to keep you safe from the pain of failure. As you walk your horse towards the mounting block, you quell the feeling of irritation/butterflies/distractedness with a deep breath and a manufactured smile. Whilst to any human onlooker you just look like yourself, your horse sees these three separate parts of you as three separate images of you.
When the three images of you are not in agreement, when you mask your feelings even from yourself, your horse sees this. Your horse truly sees you. He or she sees that the three of you don’t line up. You aren’t congruent. In my concept of this you appear fuzzy and out of focus. This is more than a little disturbing for your horse and they often react negatively to people whose edges don’t line up.
Am I saying you need to become an enlightened version of yourself before you should be allowed to ride? Of course not! But what I am saying is that a little honesty and introspection can go a long way in helping your relationship with your horse and yourself. And a little compassion to how other humans and horses are affected by their filter can help explain the many seemingly irrational actions of others.
I get nervous riding. I have a fine appreciation of how easy it is to get hurt, and so my sub conscious checks I’m really sure about riding by producing anxiety before I get on. Do I feel the fear and do it anyway? Well sort of. I feel the fear, I notice its physical effects, and then I thank it. I acknowledge my deeper self’s desire to keep me safe and I thank the feelings. The simple act of acknowledging my emotional, mental and physical states produces an honesty which creates congruency. Horses are forgiving of so many things, especially when we act from a place of congruency. So, study what you are. If acceptance is a step to far for you just now, start with study and acknowledgement of what’s going on inside.
As ever if you have questions or want to talk more about this topic, comment below or send me an email.