It’s that time of year again – although I don’t need to remind any of you who have children, or who watch television, or who shop; (although, since the Christmas decorations debuted sometime before the Halloween candy went on half-price, it’s getting harder to tell when Christmas finally arrives…)
The hustle and bustle build to a fever pitch as everyone tries to out-gift whatever they did last year. Many of us are feeling buried under “stuff” even before we unwrap (and wonder where we’re going to store) the large packages under the tree.
One of my favorite things on any night was going to the barn to do night check and hearing the contented munching as the horses worked through their haynets. On Christmas Eve, it was even more special as I thought about that manger a couple of thousand years ago, and about the magic tales told of the animals talking at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Alban Arthan,or another day, we have a universal desire to find peace on earth.
And in the barn on those magical Christmas Eves, I heard, in every soft sigh the peace on earth we’re all looking for. It’s here, you just need to stand still long enough and quietly enough for it to find you.
You may have read the title of this post and been indignant – “Of course I remember the last time I groomed my horse, it was right after I rode him yesterday! What a stupid question!”
Do you really remember?
First off, let me assure you that this isn’t a condemnation of your horsey hygiene habits. In this post I’m more focused on the experience you and your horse had than debating your care of your equine partner – so here’s a little quiz.
- What did you hear while you were grooming?
- Name 5 things you saw while you were grooming.
- Can you remember a particular smell?
- What was the first thing you felt (physically or emotionally)?
Had some problems answering those questions? If you did, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A lot of us go through life on autopilot. Our brains are racing, filled with the things we need to do. How often have you driven somewhere routine, and on arriving, realized you didn’t remember most of the drive? Poured a cup of coffee only to find it still sitting on the counter an hour later? Left the barn and not remembered if you picked your horse’s feet, checked the water bucket or latched the gate?
With our busy schedules and the advancement of technology, we’re less physically involved in our everyday chores, and that convenience comes at a price. When we’re not as physically engaged in a project or chore, we’re not as mentally engaged either. Automation allows our minds to be on other things, and we end up missing out a lot of enjoyable experiences because we’re simply not present.
Each moment is a gift – perhaps that’s why it’s called the present.
Want to be more present? I have good news. I’m going to share some exercises with you that will not only help you enjoy your next grooming session even more, but can also improve other areas of your life – like interacting with your family, being productive at work, and paying attention during your commute.
First, I’d like to define what I mean by “being present.” Being present is a state of awareness where you use your senses to experience this very moment. Right now you are using your eyes to read, but what else is going on? Are there birds singing? Traffic noise? Voices from another room? Do you smell coffee? The left-over aroma of the burrito someone just heated up in the break room? Are you warm or chilly? Are your shoulders tight?
Being aware of your state in this exact moment means letting go of the dozens of thoughts buzzing around in your brain and just experiencing now. An impossible task? Maybe not. Here are 3 exercises to help you get into the present moment.
1. Centering Breaths. The purpose of this exercise is to ground you in your body. Close your eyes (please don’t do this while you’re driving, skiing, operating a backhoe or any other possibly dangerous conditions), be aware of your breath moving into and out of your nose and lungs. Feel your chest rise and fall. Become aware of the center of your body. Don’t get too wrapped up in where the exact center of your body is located, just be aware of an area that seems like it might be the center of your body. Now focus on it as you take 3 slow breaths. Practice this exercise a few times a day. Next time you’re faced with a tense or stressful situation, you can take 2 or 3 centering breaths (you won’t even have to close your eyes), and it will help you become more grounded and less reactive to the situation.
2. Pick a color. The purpose of this exercise is to help you improve your awareness of your surroundings. Pick a color – it can be any color, but preferably one that is reflected in your normal environment at least occasionally. For the next 2 or 3 minutes, notice everything you see that’s your chosen color. As you go through your day, notice everything you see that matches your color. Another great exercise is to look around you for 1 minute, then close your eyes and see if you can name 10 things you saw. Both of these exercises help you focus on your immediate surroundings. Bonus? This is a great way to increase your personal safety when you’re alone and in high-risk areas.
3. Use all 5 senses. This exercise is useful in expanding your awareness through the use of all 5 of your external senses. (We’ll discuss your 6th sense in a later post). As you’re reading this, try to catalog what’s going on right now using all of your senses. We’re so used to being bombarded with noise that we often stop listening. Right now as I’m typing, I can hear my dogs breathing (they’re both sleeping right next to me), a car out on the road, the clicks of the computer keyboard, one of the cats twitching in her sleep on the windowsill, and a bird in the yard. I wasn’t aware of half of these sounds until I stopped to listen. Touch is even more elusive to our awareness. Start at the top of your head and do a quick run down through your body to see what you’re feeling. Shirt collar on your neck? Jewelry, clothing, contact with furniture, itches or areas of pain – all usually go unnoticed as we bulldoze our way through our day. Take a moment and really feel what’s going on with your body.
You are a Human Being, not a Human Doing.
A very wise friend of mine has often reminded me that I’m a human being, not a human doing. Good words to live by, especially when you’re deepening your relationship with your horse. I hope the exercises I’ve shared here will help you be able to answer a resounding “Yes!” and share the details the next time I ask you if you remember the last time you groomed your horse.
For the next post, I’ll be discussing some of this from your horse’s point of view. If you’d like to join my mailing list to receive notifications of upcoming posts and more information on improving your life by improving your relationship with your horse, please sign up for my mailing list in the box below.