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Horses & Mindfulness: How Dill Helps Me to Be “In the Moment”

Guest Blogger: Peggy Norwood Stella of Equessence, LLC

I met Dill for the first time in March of last year.  I was visiting Advantage Ranch in Blacksburg, VA.  Walking down the aisle of the barn I felt compelled to step over to his stall and take a closer look.  “Who is this??  He is soooo cute..”  I asked, not knowing what the future had in store for both of us.  I paused for a moment, stroked his nose as he stuck it right up to a space between the bars where I could reach him.  There was just something about this horse in particular that made me want to know more about him.  “Ooooh, that’s Dill.  Everybody loves him!!” and that was the extent of our first meeting.

A month or so later I was in training there, learning about the horse and human relationship so that I could share with others what I already knew instinctively… horses help us.  And I was now immersed in learning more about the exquisite nature of the horse and why it is they are so good for our souls.

So there he was, in the round pen this time, waiting for me, that magnificent Appaloosa with the big penetrating eyes and the funny spots all over that made him look as much like a clown as a horse.  Aww man, my heart just melted.

Peggy of Equessence with Dill (photo property of Peggy Norwood Stella, MA)
Peggy of Equessence with Dill (photo property of Peggy Norwood Stella, MA)

My lesson that day was about leading with intention.  I was given the task of moving him around the outside wall of the round pen, sending him round and round, changing directions and sending him out again the opposite way.  My heart was beating out of my chest and he was the attentive follower, paying close attention to my every move.  It was my responsibility to be clear and firm in what I expected and as a result, there we were, moving together about the round pen as if it were a dance floor.  When we finished, he walked over to me and touched my chest with his nose.  We were a team!

Since that day, Dill and I have spent lots of time together and he is now my teaching partner for Equessence.  His sensitivity and eagerness to connect makes him an extraordinary teacher for those seeking to learn from him.  Equessence is a program of self exploration and discovery accomplished through guided on-the-ground activities with a horse, namely Dill.  And because Dill lives in the moment, he demands that we do exactly the same.  What he teaches is mindfulness.

Being “in the moment” is what mindfulness is all about, paying attention, being present, not judging.  If you think about what you might define as “mindless”, go to the opposite and you realize the value of being “mindful”.  When we are mindless, we are not paying attention to what is happening right in front of us.  When we are mindless, we are occupied with thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow, but are not tuned in to the present.  When we are mindless, we sometimes say or do things we don’t mean to say or do.

Dill, as a horse, does not read our thoughts, he “reads” our energy and he feels when you are not “with him”.  When your mind wanders into worry thoughts or regret thoughts, he knows you have taken attention or your energy somewhere else.  To work with him, you have to “BE” with him.

Susan Miller, PhD, LPCS, describes her experience of “being” with Dill in her blog entry last week.  She found herself “in sync” with Dill’s steps only as a result of giving her attention to the moment and connecting with him energetically.

Learning to be present and mindful can help us have better control of our emotions, our reactions, our “thoughtless” behaviors.  Being mindful teaches us compassion towards ourselves and others.  Being mindful allows us to let go of the constant inner dialogue that leads us to say and do things we know are hurtful to others or ourselves.   Learning to relax and “let go” are just some of the many benefits of practicing mindfulness.

When I find myself entering into “mindless” territory, I think back to the first time I entered the round pen with Dill.  I remember how necessary it was for me to “tune-in” to him and guide him where he needed to go.  I had to stay present to every single thing that was happening right in front of me or it could have fallen apart.  He needed my leadership and my attention, then and now.  Why should it be any different in my day to day life?  I and everyone around me benefits from my paying attention and I prefer to live “mindfully”.

Dr. Susan Miller with Dill (Photo property of Peggy Norwood Stella, MA)
Dr. Susan Miller with Dill (Photo property of Peggy Norwood Stella, MA)

In this technological age, we have lots of distractions, e-mails, texts, tweets, etc.  Our attention is focused on our smart phones sometimes to the point that we lose touch with the person who is standing right in front of us or we become unaware of the traffic around us.  Or perhaps we lose our ability to “feel” the impact of our interactions because we are connected technologically but not energetically.  If 70% of human communication is body language and 20% is tone of voice, are we truly communicating with our texts and tweets?  Let’s think about that…

Our very nature as human-beings is bound up with our thought processes.  It is how we get things accomplished, it’s how we create and take action.  I’m not saying we don’t need to think, we most certainly do!  However, when our thoughts begin to consume our ability to participate fully in our lives or the lives or those we love, when we spend more time regretting our yesterdays or fretting over our tomorrows, it is a positive, healthy step in the right direction to try and focus upon the gift of the present moment.

If you would like to know more about Equessence and what horses have to teach us about mindfulness, please visit www.equessence.com.

Guest Blogger: Peggy Norwood Stella of Equessence, LLC

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