Return to Grazing
Horse Wisdom for Modern Life
Photo by Carrie Brady
Take a moment to jot down at least five things that bring you joy.
Once you have done so, ask yourself if you had trouble with this request or made it more complicated. Did you wish you knew what the goal was so you would know the “right” answer? Did you second guess or cross out your answers? Did you put something on the list because you thought you “should”? Do you wonder what someone else might think of your list?
If you answered yes to any of these, you are thinking like a human, not a horse. Humans tend to live in our heads, not our bodies. We overanalyze and judge ourselves, and each other. For a horse, this wouldn’t be a hard question. Horses know precisely what brings them pleasure and, given the freedom to do so, they will choose delight in every moment. They live in the present, fully in their senses; they do not judge. Joy is their default state. Fortunately, if we pay attention, they can teach humans how to live this way.
Humans tend to focus on the past and future; horses stay grounded happily in the present. They are prepared to respond to any situation if necessary, but usually remain resting in the moment, eating and enjoying the sensory delights available to them. This difference between horses and humans is clear to anyone who has seen horses respond to an unexpected loud noise, such as a heavy tree limb falling near their pasture. Horses will jerk their heads up and locate the source of the noise, then watch the branch for a moment to see if it poses any threat, and, upon realizing it does not, go right back to eating their breakfast. A human standing nearby would likely spend the next several minutes looking up, worrying what else might fall, and thinking about the terrible things that could have happened if the branch had hit the horses, fence or truck.
Many humans have adopted fight-or-flight as their perpetual way of being. You rush from one thing to another, think about other things while you are doing something else. You may ignore your body until it breaks, and then try to numb the pain rather than addressing the cause. You can deprive yourself of healthy food and live dehydrated despite an abundance of water. Or you sit more than you move, and move in ways you don’t particularly enjoy while following a “no pain, no gain” motto. You work while you dream of time off, and yet you may fill your time off with more work while you dream of vacation. So you are not truly here or anywhere. You’ve scattered your attention. In general, humans give very little thought to intentions for a life they want to live.
Horses are all about attention and intention. As prey animals, it is a matter of survival for them to understand the intention of the other living things with whom they interact. Horses read not only visual body language, but they also pick up the respiration and heart rate of any living creature nearby. They know when a person is acting one way but feeling another; this incongruence makes them uncomfortable. When you are with them, all they ask of you is your authentic presence in the here and now.
The list you made at the beginning of this article will help you gain some insight into your attention and to set an intention.
Consider these questions:
• How many items on your list are part of your daily life?
• What is the balance of sensory joys (joys that relate to sight, smell, sound, taste, touch or movement) versus non-sensory joys? The latter could include crossing items off your to-do list, which may give a sense of satisfaction that isn’t rooted in your physical senses.
• How many items involve a sense of connection to other living things, nature and spirituality? How many are independent joys?
Horses choose delight every day. And no matter what is going on in the external environment, humans also have the ability to return to grazing for at least part of every day. Slow down out of fight-or-flight into the more peaceful state of rest-and-digest. Give the body and mind the opportunity to recharge, gain new perspectives and simply enjoy life. Returning to grazing helps you bring the best of you to any situation; it is an especially important practice when life is challenging. Feeding yourself a daily diet of delight is a choice. It doesn’t mean the stressors don’t exist, but rather that you can put them down for a few minutes.
Now create a longer list of things that bring you joy. Pay attention to the mix of items, including sensory, non-sensory, connection and independent joys. Consider what delights each of your six senses—the usual five plus movement—which is very important to horses and humans. Horses are in tune with their bodies; they know what makes them feel good physically.
Consider what brings you a sense of connection and support, and also what you can do alone. Horses naturally live in herds, support each other and work together for the benefit of the herd. However, they know how to independently self-soothe and have strong individual preferences.
Determine how you can incorporate each item into your daily life, even if it is just for a few minutes. If a beach vacation is one of the things that brings you joy, for example, you can add it into your daily life by hanging pictures or running your fingers through sand.
Set an intention that you will commit to doing at least one thing that brings you joy every single day. Keep the list handy—whether it is on your phone, posted in your closet or on your bedside table—somewhere that will remind you to choose delight. Join the horses and return to grazing to live the life you’ve imagined.
Carrie Brady is the creator of Possibilities Farm in Wilton, where she partners with three extraordinary horses to offer unique non-riding programs in equine-assisted Reiki, meditation and private and small group workshops for personal growth, leadership and team building. Brady is also a consultant, author, and speaker. Connect at 203-210-7484, LifeYouveImagined@gmail.com or PossibilitiesFarm.com.
The link to the document mentioned in the article is found at PossibilitiesFarm.com/Life-Youve-Imagined.html.
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