January 23, 2018
Being a blogger, writing something to share in a blog, or putting my thoughts onto paper and into a public domain for others to see is a scary and unnerving endeavour for me, but here goes. In thinking about what I might “blog” on that was relevant to the Equine Assisted Learning programs at Hoof By Hoof EAL and the experiences offered by our amazing equine teachers, my mind became the proverbial “squirrel in a forest”. So many trees to investigate, and so many opportunities to survey. How does one even begin to navigate the complexities that life and society place upon us? Where do we turn to find a sense of balance, peace and harmony within our relationships, within our jobs, and maybe most importantly within ourselves?
In many ways our lives have become much akin to the “squirrel in the forest”, a constant scurry from one task to the next. However, if one observes the squirrel closely they will come to realize that between all the scurried actions, the squirrel also takes time to stop, to observe and to collect themselves before scurrying off to the next tree in the forest. How often in our daily lives do we rush from task to task in a squirrel like fashion to meet expectations or deadlines, but how often to we stop, take a momentary pause and truly take the time to observe, relax and enjoy what life has to offer.
Increasingly we live in a society and world where we are so busy keeping to our agenda’s that we forget to stop, to appreciate or to connect with the very people that we associate with and communicate with on a daily basis. And even worse, we have agenda’s that are so overloaded that we no longer have quality time left for our families, for our friends or much less, for ourselves.
It seems that with every passing day we are becoming a society that is more disconnected, and more isolated by the demands and expectations of almost every aspect of our work, our activities, and our lives. The complexities of juggling work and family become a logistical nightmare in order to meet the expectations, desires and demands. We have all, in some way, been conditioned to tolerate a “me” first sense of assertiveness whether it be within our work, social or family environments. We often put our own self-care and importance at the bottom of the list, and in doing so we put our own physical and emotional health at increased risk.
Many of us ignore what our bodies and minds are telling us, and we power through conflicts or challenges, telling ourselves that we will rest or take a break once we complete this one last task. The problem is that this one last task quickly turns into another task, and then other, and it never stops. We take on more and more out of some sense of obligation or belief that we need to do more in order to be accepted, acknowledge or appreciated and rewarded. So that said, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what the “end goal” is, and at what cost? If we are so drained by the journey to get to our goal, that we cannot enjoy it, then have we really reached a point of success in our life?
Every day there are new ways to bring more and more technology into our lives and work, but every time we do so we take one more step away from being human, and we take one more step away from the social interactions we have with others. Our focus becomes fixated on performance, and on how we meet the expectations and demands placed upon us. We live at a time where we are expected, and sometimes forced, to do more with less while still maintaining quality, consistency and productivity. But how many of us ever consider what this does to our sense of self and our own well-being. What is often overlooked is that within these expectations and demands comes increased stress, increased risk of burnout, and increased risk of serious illness. Simply put, our bodies and our minds all have a proverbial breakpoint, and they need to be taken care of one a daily basis. If we do not learn to say “no” and find a reasonable balance when the demands become too exhausting, too prolonged or too unrealistic, then our bodies will shutdown and our bodies will say no for us.
So how do we stay healthy and resilient within our daily lives, and still strive to meet the demands and expectations that we place upon, and sometimes burden ourselves with. One of the biggest challenges that we all face, is to make room within our daily agenda to give ourselves the “self-care” that we deserve, and that our bodies demand. We cannot continually task ourselves to the needs of others without making sure that we are rejuvenating and taking care of our own needs and self-care.
It is within this concept of self-care, that I turn to my equine teachers in my attempt and quest to find the answers. In its most simplistic form the answers are that our equine teachers show us a way of being that is built upon a social hierarchy that is bound by effective communication, trust, respect and compassion. The two fundamental things that horses teach us are the need for social interaction and the need to be authentic. These two things are key in forming lasting relationships, happiness, satisfaction and contentment within our daily lives.
Within our daily lives we are often put into situations where we lose our ability to interact, communicate or connect with others, and when this happens it challenges the very primal need that each and every one of us have to feel some form of attachment and sense of belonging. Furthermore, we are often faced with challenges that force us to compromise, suppress or even to go against our core values and beliefs. When faced with such challenges, we begin to incubate inner emotions and feelings that manifest into conflicts that challenge our inner most values, and the very essence of our authentic self. If, regardless of how it happens, we are in some way forced to become someone “different” than who we really are in order to do our job, the stress and burden that is placed upon our emotional well-being is intensified to a level that can lead to an array of serious physical and mental illnesses.
Our equine teachers, teach and show us how to function in the present, to let go of the past and to use communication and compassion in a way that earns trust and respect, which are key aspects of build lasting partnerships and relationships. When leadership, regardless of the setting, is approached from this perspective, everyone benefits, and it creates opportunity for a sense of balance and harmony. When individuals, groups or organizations can unify in such a manner, they become a cohesive unit that can withstand challenges and build resiliency from within. In doing so they create a sense of belonging and a sense of security that establishes the groundwork for a happier, healthier and sustainable foundation that promotes productivity and efficiency.
As humans, we are both “prey” and “predator” and as such we face a constant challenge and conflict within our societies and within ourselves. Maybe the best summary of the differences between a “we” and a “me” way of thinking and acting comes from Dr. Allan Hamilton when he states “Where herd members derive part of their character from the cohesiveness of the herd, human beings derive it from the notion of an autobiographical isolation, of an ego that separates the psyche from everything else. The herd establishes an intimate connectivity while the predatory view insists on differentiation.”
Through interactions and the building of partnerships with our equine teachers, we can all experience a new perspective and a new approach to building stronger communication skills that enhance our relationships, our partnerships and our overall well-being. In doing so we come closer to fulfilling the connectivity and authenticity that are essential for promoting personal well-being, and that are key for establishing lasting relationships that evolve from meaningful communication, trust, respect and compassion.
Is today the day that you choose to change your life, and experience the wisdom of what our equine teachers can share with you?
Until next time, may you find a place of peace and happiness that helps you sustain and manage the unique daily challenges that we all face. BH