Just Be


I’m going through a tough time. Sometimes I wish the world would stop spinning so I’d get flung into space, and maybe there, without gravity, the weight on my chest would release me. This evening I just wanted to be with the horses. I didn’t want to ride. I just wanted to be. With the horses, I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to pretend I’m ok when inside I’m falling apart. I don’t have to pretend to be happy when all I want to do is release the well of tears building up inside. Horses let me just be. They don’t pass judgment. They don’t criticize. They don’t tell me to toughen up. They just let me be. Because that is where they always exist – the simple, yet profound state of simply being. I plopped down in the field and Snowy came up to me, grazed right next to me, gradually moved outward, then he came back and nuzzled me again, grazed next to me, slowly moved outward, and then came back. This went on for a while, with Snowy letting me know in his own way that he was there to witness my pain, and to allow me to express it. After a while, Snowy let out a deep sigh, and I immediately did the same. It didn’t fix everything, but it alleviated some of the heaviness. I wonder what this world would be like if we were more like horses. If we didn’t pretend nor expect others to pretend. If we had the strength to sit with pain and vulnerability. I imagine the world would be a slightly better place. 

Positive Thinking: Not Just a Fluffy, New-Age Term

img_7469
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.” ~Sutra 2:33

I wanted to expand a bit on my Instagram/Facebook post from yesterday regarding positive thinking. When I suggest thinking positively, I don’t mean in a fluffy, “let’s just pretend everything is okay” kind of way. We’re human, so we’re going to experience the full range of emotions no matter how much positive thinking we do; however, it’s our response to these emotions that matters. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda, sutra 2:33 reveals the key to happiness—when you have a negative thought, simply replace it with a positive one. This is easier said than done, but gets easier with practice and is certainly worth the effort.

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” ~Dalai Lama

Negative thinking, whether it’s about oneself, one’s environment, or others, contributes to stress and health problems. Positive thinking, on the other hand, enables your mind to be open to more possibilities and can have a huge impact on your health. Have you ever witnessed road rage? That guy aggressively tailgating the driver who just cut him off—you can bet his blood pressure and stress levels are high. Imagine instead how much more at peace he’d be if he didn’t let another driver’s actions affect his mood so intensely. Next time you’re cut off in traffic, instead of thinking about what a jerk the other driver is, think instead that it’s no problem and be grateful for your safety despite the close call.

The super-inspiring Ashtanga yogi Kino MacGregor says that samskaras “are essentially habit patterns of the mind that have been practiced so much so that they run on auto-pilot, unconsciously generating the same cyclical type of interactions in the world.” Samskaras in and of themselves are not necessarily good nor bad, but we get closer to achieving samadhi, or bliss, if we become aware of our own samskaras. When you think in a certain way, that pathway in the brain becomes stronger and stronger, so if you typically think negative thoughts, those thoughts will be the easiest for you to think. It will be difficult to change your thinking, but it is possible. With practice you can form new, healthier pathways in the brain that will eventually become stronger than old, unhealthy pathways. Meditation is a great way to form new pathways, as it gives you time and space to notice your own thought patterns, and that awareness is what enables you to change them.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~Marianne Williamson

The power to change your life lies within yourself. The greatest opportunity for growth dwells in the small, everyday moments. Meditate. Notice your thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It may feel cheesy at first, but with practice it will become authentic and will change your life.

Love After Loss

1

It’s been three years since I said goodbye to my pony soulmate. He chose me, a wild three-year-old pony galloping down to a hesitant eight-year-old girl. He gingerly took an apple from my outstretched hand and in that same gesture, took my heart. We would spend the next 17 years learning from each other, teaching each other, comforting each other, and,  mostly, loving each other. I learned what any little girl learns in a barn—the value of hard work, patience, perseverance, and compassion. All my secrets and tears were kept safe in my pony’s ears and fur. All of my insecurities faded away when I was with my pony. Sugar Maple was a pony that comes around only once in a lifetime.

My pony’s dam and two grandcolts found their way into my life. The dam is enjoying a happy semi-retirement, the older colt has a loving home with a former riding student of mine and my mom’s, and then, of course, there’s Snowy. I’m so grateful to have a piece of Sugar still in my life and now so deeply woven into my heart. After I said goodbye to Sugar, I wasn’t sure I would ever love another horse. I didn’t go to the barn for days. Then something happened—my relationship with Snowy deepened. My love for Snowy isn’t the same as was my love for his grandsire, but it is just as deep and profound. Snowy builds on the life lessons Sugar taught me. He reminds me that love comes in many forms. He makes sure I never lose my sense of humor. If Snowy were human, he’d probably be Tony Stark—confident, funny, handsome, and a bit of a pain in the ass. Snowy reminds me that there is always more to learn and room to grow.

Sugar’s memory lives on in my heart and the hearts of all those other children who learned life lessons with him. On this three-year farewell anniversary, I ask you to feel free to share your favorite memories of Sugar if you were a student of his or a parent of one of our students. You can leave them in the comments if you feel so inclined.

Thank you, Sugar, for all you taught me, for your patience, your tolerance, and your love.

Embracing My Bitch Self

A friend and I got into an interesting conversation over dinner the other night. Old wounds were brought to light and I was reminded that I still have healing to do. My friend asked me why I lie down and take “it.” “It” being confidence-crushing, self-esteem-erasing emotional abuse. He reminded me that I’m stronger than that and I don’t need to be passive when someone attacks me. Last year I was assaulted. The assault was mild, but my psyche was still affected. During the assault, time stood still. I froze. I had no reaction. I didn’t fight back, and I wish I would’ve, I wish I could’ve.

In college my boyfriend at the time once held me down after I refused his sexual advances. I thought he was going to rape me. In those moments, too, I froze. I wish I had fought back, bitten him, kicked him, screamed at the top of my lungs. Instead I was lost in the surreality of the moment, frozen by the disbelief that someone I trusted might actually violate me in the most horrific manner possible. He didn’t, but I still got a taste of that fear.

As a child, I had an emotionally-abusive stepfather for a few years. So many times when he was yelling at me or my mom, I wanted to scream back at him, I wanted to shove him out of our home, I wanted him to be gone and I didn’t care how. But that’s not what nice little girls do, so I kept my mouth shut.

Physical and emotional abuse make the victim feel powerless and helpless. I’ve held my tongue during many incidents of emotional abuse for fear of only making my aggressor angrier. The thing about remaining passive, though, is that it doesn’t work. We need to learn to stand up for ourselves, and if the aggressor doesn’t back down, to remove ourselves from the situation. I know that isn’t always easy or possible, but it is necessary. We need to stop worrying about being “nice,” “ladylike,” and passive. We need to own our space as women and remind the world that we do, indeed, have a right to take up space, to speak our minds, to control our bodies, and to fight back when we are attacked. Men can be victims, too, and right now we all need to stand together.

After an emotionally-trying 2016, I’ve decided to embrace my “bitch self,” as another friend called it, and make 2017 the year I fully accept and love that part of myself. My bitch self speaks her mind, doesn’t take shit from anyone, doesn’t sugarcoat the truth, acts with purpose, takes care of herself first, stands up for others, doesn’t try to temper her passion, loves fiercely, and cuts out those in her life who would try to bring her down. I encourage everyone to embrace her (or his) bitch self this year. Those coming into power in this country will try to silence us, hold us down, take away our rights and freedoms, so we must fight. The world needs us. We need each other.

All I Needed

I needed you

but you needed to be

somewhere else

So I put off needing you

for a little while

But then the needing crept back in

and I asked you

I asked you to return to me

and you said

“Not yet”

So again I put off the needing

shoving it aside

telling myself I was okay

Convincing myself that I could

stand needing you and not

having you

a little while longer

But something happened

every time I needed you

and you weren’t there

I had to stand on my own

I had to be there for myself

and every time

I fell apart

I put myself back together

without you

Eventually I realized

that I never had you

and that I never really

needed you

I only needed myself

So I want to thank you

for showing me how to

stand on my own two feet

how to truly follow

my heart

and be true to my soul

and for showing me

that all I ever really needed

was me

From Breaking to Becoming

fullsizerender

After you left

I forgot the sound

of my own laughter

I forgot

how to move my lips

into the shape

of a smile

I forgot

how to take

a deep breath

I forgot

how to stop blaming

myself for everything

bad in this world

I got lost

in the shadows

of my own soul

and forgot

that I even had one

Slowly miraculous things

started to happen

I’d go hours without

thinking of you

The moment I remembered

would stab my heart

but each time

I got stronger

I survived

I am still here

I remembered

I had other reasons

to live

to love

to laugh

My world stopped revolving

around the sun

of your false promises

I became

my own sun

and nothing

will ever

put out my fire again

fullsizerender-1

 

Willful Ignorance: A Vignette of Assault on Horses

I recently overheard a conversation between two lifelong horsewomen. One of them was very outspoken. She proclaimed that she learned everything about horses that she needed to know from her mother, who was also a lifelong horsewoman. She then started criticizing Natural Horsemanship, and the Parellis in particular. She mentioned an experience she had with a Parelli instructor who came to assist her with fixing her horse’s loading issues, which, I’ve noticed that 99.9% of the time, a horse’s loading issues are actually their human’s issues. From the sounds of it, this Parelli instructor tried to explain to this woman that the goal was to get her horse to want to go onto the trailer. Unfortunately, the instructor wasn’t able to get through to this woman, who continued her story with, “If I want my horse to load at 6am to go hunting, and he doesn’t want to load, he is still damn well going to load!” She concluded by talking about how when the ace (a sedative) wears off when she hunts this horse, he starts trembling all over.

I found this woman’s remarks deeply disturbing. I, too, learned much of what I know about horses from my mom, a lifelong horsewoman, but the difference is I didn’t stop learning, and I didn’t close myself off to other methods and philosophies, and my mom encouraged me to keep learning. While I don’t agree with 100% of what the Parellis teach, I do like a lot of it because it works for me and my horses. The best way to learn is to stay open to other training methods, try them out, and keep what works for you, discarding what doesn’t work and what doesn’t resonate with your heart and your horses’ spirits. Remember, too, that there will always be people who misunderstand and misuse certain training methods. We shouldn’t let these people give the entire method a bad name.

I remember the first time I ever saw the Parellis. It was at an Equine Expo in Pennsylvania, and the Parellis and their horses came galloping into the arena, music blasting, and then they played with the horses. Yes, it was entertainment, but it was also damn good horsemanship, and it was abundantly obvious that the horses were having fun, too. What I like about Natural Horsemanship and the Parelli methods is that they recognize the horse as a sentient being. The horse’s desires and free will are a key part of these methods.

The reason I found the woman’s remarks about her horse and her style of horsemanship so disturbing is because what she really is isn’t a horsewoman, but a bully. She fails to recognize, or perhaps just doesn’t care, that her horse has emotions, that he is a sentient being. Imagine drugging a person, shoving them onto a trailer, then making them run around the woods, pushing them to a point of trauma so severe that they tremble violently once the drugs wear off. This is assault. This is abuse. But somehow some people still think it’s totally fine to do to a horse.

I should’ve spoken up. I should’ve found a way to try to open this woman’s mind so that maybe her horses wouldn’t have to be victims of her willful ignorance and abuse anymore, so that maybe she could discover there’s another way, a better way, to be a horsewoman. I was so upset at the time that I didn’t speak up because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do so in a diplomatic way, that I would just cause her to shut her mind even more tightly. But I’m speaking up now. I’m living by example through my relationship with Snowy. And maybe next time, I’ll find a way to speak up in the moment, to have an open dialogue, to show others the depth of connection you can have with your horses if you remain open, aware, loving, kind, patient, and humble.

Snowy’s First Fox Hunt

My day began at 3:30am. I arrived at the barn early to get Snowy ready for his first fox hunt! His white hindquarters acted as a beacon when I went to find Snowy in his field. The stars were out and there was a light mist on the land. I enjoyed a few peaceful moments with Snowy under the stars, then we headed to the barn, got ready, got into the trailer, and we were off. Lacy (my friend and the wonderful barn manager where I board Snowy) was hauling us and also going to hunt. She’s a pro, so I was thankful to have her guidance. I’ve hunted only a handful of times, and this was Snowy’s very first time. 

We were hunting with the Warrenton Hunt (for which my mom used to whip in!), and we were the first to arrive, parking in a bucolic meadow, the sun still not above the horizon. Others arrived and then came the hounds. They bounded right toward me and Snowy as they were let out, and Snowy remained quite calm, observing them without getting worked up. Lacy and I remained in the back, allowing Snowy to figure things out. We went through fairytale-like woods and meadows, water crossings, and rolling hills. Snowy got some good exposure to the hounds, a couple good gallops, and had to learn to just stop and wait. The stopping and waiting was the hardest part for Snowy. With a little more practice, Snowy will be just fine and will learn to savor the stops, kind of like how yogis learn to savor downward dog as a resting pose. Snowy tried hard, and I’m so pleased with that. Snowy had his green moments, but breathing and circles (lots of circles) saved us and made it a positive experience overall—and so much fun! I’m so proud of Snowy and looking forward to our next hunt! 

What No One Tells You About High Vibes

You’ve seen those yoga tank tops with “High Vibe” or “Vibe Tribe” or “Good Vibes Only” printed across the front, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I even own one from Super Love Tees that I wear all the time. But there’s something that no one tells you about raising your vibration. You will lose people, maybe even people you were once close to. You will lose friends, and very likely some family members will stop associating with you.

So what does “raising your vibration” mean, anyway? It means taking a mirror to your soul and peering into the dark spaces you thought were unlovable, dragging them into the light, and loving your entire self, dark parts included. When you love all of yourself, you can then love others. Recognizing and acknowledging the dark parts of yourself allows you to heal and grow. When you open that door and knock down those walls within yourself, others will feel it in your presence and be drawn to it. Raising your vibration means not giving a damn about doing what others or society tells you you should do, but instead following your heart and soul on whatever crazy adventure calls to your deep, primal self.

This world doesn’t need another paper-pusher working 40+ hours a week at a job that accomplishes nothing but paying the bills. What this world needs is radical love, shameless honesty, and brave hearts to stand up against ignorance, bigotry, and fear. While most people will be drawn to your openness, there are some that will fear it and will pull away, friends and family included. Once you’re totally honest with yourself, that honesty reflects back on others, and they may not be ready or willing to see themselves without the sweet sugar-coating society tells us we need in order to be socially accepted.

Honest relationships aren’t all rainbows and unicorns—there’s a lot of pain and growth involved for a relationship to remain honest and healthy. I’d much rather have authentic, honest, open relationships than shallow ones any day. This means I’ve lost people. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s difficult and requires sacrifice, but it’s worth it. Yes, some people will no longer be a part of your life, but this will open up space for others to enter.

Raising your vibration doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time. All emotions actually become more intense, sadness and joy included. The difference is that your mind is able to remain calm no matter what emotion(s) you’re experiencing. These high vibes are world-changing, because the change begins within, and that’s the only kind of real change that exists. So become intensely self-aware, practice yoga, meditate, chant, spend time in nature. Parts of your journey will be suffocatingly lonely, but somewhere the magic will happen and you’ll come to embrace and enjoy the loneliness, which will then enable you to enjoy the company of friends, lovers, and family even more.

Let’s change the world together. I’ll see you on the high side.

Allowing Healing

Sometimes all you can do is allow. Yoga poses cannot be forced. Growth cannot be forced. Healing cannot be forced. These things must be allowed. With time, patience, perseverance, and compassion, these things are then allowed to happen through us. This is what it means to go with the flow. Sometimes you must work hard and row with the current, but don’t try to row against it, or you’ll end up drowning. Other times you rest, still flowing, but enjoying the the river’s eddies just as much as its rapids. Allowing is just as much work, if not more, as trying to force things. The difference is, allowing brings results. Forcing brings only frustration. Allowing isn’t easy. It requires grace under pressure, breathing into the tight spaces, and accepting when you’ve gone as far as you can in this moment. So allow yourself to change at your own pace. Allow yourself to try and fail. Allow yourself to fall. Allow your heart to break. Then allow yourself to try again, to get back up, to become stronger, to put your heart back together, to heal.