Have you ever meditated with a horse? If not, I highly recommend it.
There is something about being with a horse that offers a powerful invitation to slow down, breathe, become present, and connect with an open and curious mind and heart. One of the most powerful life lessons that horses offer us is that everything begins with exploring the relationship with ourselves.
Horses allow us to turn our attention inward and genuinely restore connection and compassion with ourselves and our innate wisdom. This permission to discover the subtleties of our own emotions, needs, and desires shows us that we truly need, in any moment, to feel safe enough to let go and hold a gentle presence with what is and show up as our authentic selves.
The date was January 17, 2021. It was my fourth visit to the ranch. Rachel, my trainer, mentioned she wanted to facilitate a meditation with Finn and me, her gorgeous eight-year-old flea-bitten gray Arabian. Up until this point, I was building a relationship with Cody, her 22-year-old, a seasoned and grounded horse.
Without too much overthinking and hesitation, I found myself sitting in a chair, holding the lead rope attached to Finn’s halter. There he was, this 1,000+ pound being standing before me in all his beauty and magnificence. It was both intimidating and exhilarating. I was scared shitless.
As I fidgeted in my chair and laughed nervously, Finn flirted. He gently nuzzled the tip of his nose and mouth on my shoulders, kissed my forehead, nibbled at my hair, and poked at my thighs and feet. I was tight, tense, and guarded. My heart raced, my palms were clammy, my mind began to spin, and my breath was shallow—worry was written all over my face.
Rachel curiously asked, “What are you afraid of?”
“I am afraid he is going to bite me,” I said.
“He is not going to bite you,” she replied.
I was a bit relieved, but not entirely. After all, I only met Rachel a couple of months before. We were still building trust, and I was building confidence in horses. I was building trust and confidence in myself.
Then something shifted. Once I declared my fear out loud, it no longer had a powerful hold. The fidgeting stopped, my breath deepened, and I closed my eyes. I connected to my core and the earth below. Like a mantra, I repeated silently, “You will be okay, you will be okay.”
My breath was my friendly companion and doorway into the moment and my heart.
I leaned into my vulnerability and discomfort and embraced my fear. I began to relax, and my energy shifted to one of curiosity and fearlessness.
I tasted the residue from my tears. I felt the sun touching my skin and Finn’s breath on my cheek as our inhales and exhales began to sync. With my bodily senses immersed, my experience heightened, and the feeling of presence enhanced. I was free to feel and let go. I accepted Finn’s invitation to dance and hold space.
My body softened and stilled. I held an open and gentle presence with my emotions without turning away or distracting. I allowed the feelings to move through me without manipulation. I was purely being.
I watched as apprehension turned to tears, relief, and immense gratitude. A lightness lapped over me like the coolness of shade on a hot summer’s day. Giddiness, joy, and laughter filled the air.
From a very young age, I associated fear and discomfort as an indicator that harm was near. My imagination ran wild, fantasizing worst-case scenarios. I did my best to avoid being uncomfortable. The avoidance became a habit, and the momentum of the habit carried and grew with time.
Learning to hold a gentle presence with my discomfort and embrace my fears is a continual practice. Finn reminded me it is okay to be scared and reflected my ability to build trust and practice staying with emotions, and that it is safe to do so.
I undid something that day, something I was once tethered to. I surrendered to Finn, my experience, and something greater than us both.
When we practice within the realm of our daily lives and with the flow of our emotions, we nourish the art of staying versus running away. We generate curiosity, courage, and stability. We begin the groundwork for a calm, clear, strong mind.