How We Integrate Mindfulness through Horses
First of All, What do we Mean by Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an english term that began to spread in the West in the 1970s, under the guidance of Jon Kabat-Zinn, and could be defined as the deliberate act of paying full attention to the present moment, without judging it, with curiosity and accepting it as it is.
The foundations of this discipline make us look at Eastern cultures, in which meditation and other contemplative practices have always been an indissoluble part of their customs and philosophy of life.
However, the current recipe is an intelligent adaptation of that millenary wisdom, deprived of dogma, creed or philosophy to suit the society in which we live and make it neutral and manageable enough to be easily included in our daily life.
Mindfulness Major Pillars
The practice of mindfulness is based on several key aspects:
- Meditation or formal practice: That would be like the gym where we train the mind to gradually deprogram its automatisms and to make decrease what we call mental noise.
- The informal practice: That consists of modifying the approach to convert daily actions into more conscious and contemplative activities, through pause, observation, senses...
- Mindfulness attitudes: Which determine the posture from which we undertake both the activities of ordinary life, and the way of being in meditation, referring to the chosen attitude and not to the body position itself. Among these attitudes I would highlight the non-judgement, beginner's mind or curiosity, non-striving, letting go, trust and patience..
When we talk about mindfulness, full attention to the instant or living "the here and now", we are indirectly talking about observing, being and feeling; and not so much about thinking, rationalizing or doing.. And here is where we start to refer to horses and their world... But this is what we will come back to and go into in depth later on.
Somebody Help us Stop!
In today's society, and especially in the Western world, our lives are governed by an incessant activity, an endless list of varied tasks and duties to be accomplished throughout the day, a collection of medium and long term objectives and goals that just by thinking about it we become mentally exhausted. In fact,multitaskingis nowadays encouraged and valued, or to put it another way, it is trendy to become the woman and the man-orchestra.
The fact is that almost unwittingly, and often unconsciously, we enter into the inertia that surrounds us, becoming one more piece of that whole gear that moves more and more complex machinery and whose demands have us so trapped that they leave us neither time nor the option of stopping and observing our own life.
Besides all the running to nowhere and that competition that has no defined goal, we let our valuable attention being kidnapped from us by an endless number of external stimuli: multi-sensory distractions, gadgets, technology, desire activators, virtual reality, hyper-information, etc. and little by little we are losing our attentional capacity a little more.
The personal tribute we have to pay for this is, a growing disconnection from ourselves and our environment, a walk through life on autopilot forgetting to savour every moment, a questionable health (that often could be easily improved) with a body that constantly warns us that something "out there" is not going well, a feeling of emptiness and loneliness, a sense of constant unsatisfaction, and of always being looking for happiness in "the next thing" or "somewhere else" instead of where we are, among other things.
A Stressed Brain
In the face of so many internal and external demands, our brain has become an expert in solving infinite problems, performing multiple tasks at the same time: we talk on the phone while we walk, we eat while we watch TV, we brush our teeth while we prepare the next day's clothes, we drive the car while we mentally go through the shopping list... and an endless number of combinations of actions of the most varied and singular, but we rarely dedicate our full attention to just one at a time.
Another characteristic of this intelligent organ in this time that we have had to live with is its addictive tendency to constantly swarm from the memories of the past to the concerns of the future and vice versa, leaving aside the only true and real thing, the present. And this is what generates the states of anxiety and stress with which much of the population lives.
How does Mindfulness Help us?
The regular practice of mindfulness encourages us to break the inertia that drags us along twenty-four hours a day, gets us used to being more aware of every movement we make, teaches us to slow down our pace and to delight in every moment. To do this, it educates us about returning to the present time and again through our breathing and our body.
In recent decades, the interest that mindfulness has aroused in society is increasing. As well as more and more research is seeking to find out more about its benefits and effectiveness. In fact, many of the most prestigious universities of the world, have dedicated a specific department to the study of this discipline.
Among the many benefits that are gradually being realized Among regular mindfulness practitioners, here are some of the most significant:
- Reduces stress and/or anxiety levels.
- It promotes the neuroplasticity of the brain.
- It increases the ability to concentrate and creativity.
- Cultivates emotional intelligence.
- It transforms reactivity into reflexive responses.
- It revives our intuition and promotes cardiac coherence.
Our Mind Calms Down among Horses
Horses are herbivores and prey animals, which means that in their natural habitat they are exposed to predators. This has made them skilled observers and recipients of everything that surrounds them and happens in their environment, so that they can detect dangers if any and get to safety by escaping.
There is no room for distraction in their lives, there is no such thing as the usual transit of the human mind between past and future: they live exclusively in the present, and their security and survival depend on it. The proof of the effectiveness of these mechanisms that they have developed to survive is that they continue to exist as a species after thousands of years.
For that reason when we are among horses or when we relate to them they bring us so easily to the present moment. Their energy envelops us and their powerful presence traps our senses, situating us in the here and now. It is said by the good tongues that the simple act of walking among a herd of horses in freedom, lowers considerably the levels of stress and anxiety in the body.
This connection between horses and people over short distances has a contagious effect. It is the very nature of the horse that changes us: the powerful electromagnetic field of its heart, which is generally made up of coherent waves, and the combination of its body language and high energy that constantly invites us to be present.
Furthermore, the moment we become distracted and are no longer fully aware of everything that is happening between the horse and us, a series of alterations, movements and changes in the horse occur that will point us directly towards our state of disconnection and incongruence. They understand and appreciate when our mind, heart and body are aligned and coherent, just as it happens in their fellows. The opposite state, which characterises many people under stress, causes them mistrust and rejection.