29
Jan 16

Mindful Falling

I fell off my horse. A half-somersault over the left side of her neck, landing flat on my back after a full 180. From canter to zero in one very long split-second. It was one of the most powerfully validating experiences I have ever had.

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As a rancher and horsewoman, accidents and injuries are nothing new. Typically, I'm not a stoic, big-girls-don't-cry accident victim. I go into shock easily. And because I tend to hold a lot of emotion tied up in my body, a physical injury often triggers all the frustration, disappointment and self-doubt that I normally hold at bay.

What made this accident different was the way I experienced it. I really WAS the Zen Cowgirl. I stayed present in my body before, during and after the fall. I was present and aware; I didn't panic, even as the fall was happening. I don't even remember being scared. It was as if I was just observing it. After I landed, rather than catastrophizing, I objectively inventoried: I was winded but not in excruciating pain, the horse was standing by me patiently, all parts seemed functional for mounting and riding home (at a walk). I breathed deep and released the threatening tightening in my back and my mind. I was aware of pain, but somehow there was no judgment of it as bad; it was just information my body was sending me.

I was aware that if I could mount and ride home balanced and with my muscles relaxed, the natural movement of the horse would help to realign my battered spine and ribs. I consciously turned away all the negative messages that automatically popped up in my mind; "you're incapable, too old, stupid, etc". There was no fear, only acceptance. There was no anger; neither at myself for falling nor at the horse for 'causing' the fall. Later, I was able to clearly recall every detail of the fall and identify what went wrong and why it happened.

Several years ago, I began to make contemplative time a priority in my life. Each morning, typically at least an hour before I expect anyone else to be awake, I sit. I do some inspirational reading, I journal and since August, I have included some sort of formal meditation or contemplation (even if just 5 minutes).

More recently, as part of a new business venture, I have been researching the effects of various mindfulness practices on the brain and the corresponding benefits to a person's life. This whole experience validates my research. My daily practices of body awareness, breath, relaxation, non-judgment and acceptance were there, naturally, in this time of crisis! The positive changes in my daily life have been enough to keep me dedicated to my practice. In a rather dramatic way, this fall showed me the incredible power these simple daily practices bring to handling a crisis. I just hope I have learned well enough that I don't need to be shown quite so dramatically next time.

 

 

 

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18
Jul 13

God's Hoof Knife

Not too long ago, I was floating in our pool after sunset, watching the colors over the pond slowly put themselves to bed.  I realized that my life was full of joy and pleasure, yet the thing I was most grateful for was feeling my happiness does not depend on any of the things I love.

A week ago, I learned something with the potential to significantly change my life.  I handled it with grace and acceptance for about 12 hours, before I fell into despair at the possibility of losing what was most important in my life.  By the third day, I managed to release it to the power of Divine Love and to put the practical remains in a box for later.  I began to trust that I would know what to do, when action was called for.

Within a couple days, an option came to me out of the blue, for handling the situation.  It seemed crazy and off-the-wall, yet it is possible that it could be away through the situation with wisdom and integrity.

After the initial relief at having options, I have been wracked by sadness.  I began to question God.  I accused God of setting me an exam that was unfair: Why should I have to act as the only "grown-up" in this situation? I was reminded of how I used to try to write my exams when I was a professor:  A good exam teaches, even in the process of revealing the areas in which knowledge is still lacking.

I feel like the Universe has been intensively preparing me to be able to graciously take the action suggested for the past year or more.  Yet, this 'solution' has brought awareness of just how far I have to go in my life's journey.  I asked why I seem to need to process this decision as if it is happening now.

That's when God showed my his hoof knife.

Sometimes, a horse will have a puncture or bruise to the hoof that apparently heals over, but retains damage deep inside.  The horse may seem sound for a long, long time and the hoof look healthy.  Sometimes, that concealed injury can cause serious problems before anyone figures out the cause.  During the course of routine care, the farrier will shave away the old parts of the hoof and notice a small black line.  A good farrier will gently explore the discoloration, shaving away until the line disappears or until she reaches the area of decay.  Once discovered, any rot can be removed and healing can proceed.

I left an abusive relationship ten years ago.  I have been through counseling, PTSD therapy and recently started 12-step work.  After 10 years of work on myself, I thought I was sound.  I have been strong; always fighting for what is right and learning to trust in the outcome.  Today, I saw how vulnerable I still feel in one area.  For the past week, the Divine Farrier has been the paring away my sole (pun intended) to release this last (I hope) pocket of decay.  By mentally working through this situation now, when it is primarily between me and God, I can heal an area where I still have attachment and fear.  I will be ready to soundly carry my Purpose when the time comes.

 

 

 

 

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12
Jul 12

Yin my Yang

We went fishing tonight, to catch catfish for tomorrow's dinner.  The catfish only begin to bite as dusk descends, so we fished until we couldn't see our bobbers any more.  I tripped on the way home in the dark and skinned my knee.  Prescription:  A soaking bath in eucalyptus, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract and Patchouli    Considering that we had just caught and killed 7 catfish, it was fair payback.  Blood for blood doesn't seem like an unfair trade to the Universe.  Creation always finds a way to balance herself.

When I started my Circle of Self  journey four months ago, a search for balance was one of my primary goals.  My bath was a good time to find it.  About fifteen years ago, in a book by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, I read that every person has a Word which summarizes their mission in life.  I immediately knew my word was BE.  I have come to know the indivisible shadow of that word is Balance.

I recently returned from a vacation with my extended family.  Three generations spanning almost 70 years, made possible by the financial foresight of our deceased parents.  I confess to being a typical self-employed entrepeneur; I took my computer, self-improvement material, documents to review and "projects" to work on.  I participated in one corporate conference call and  finished one macrame bracelet.  Shamelessly, I spent the rest of my 7 days enjoying sun, surf, sand, sons and siblings (as well as grand-siblings and siblings-in-law).

When I came home, I had to fight the primal message that I must "pay" for the time off.  That somehow my good times must now be offset by bad (suffering).  Instead, my morning meditations show me a vision of discipline leading to peace.  At the start of this month's moon cycle, my focus was on working with my creative self to create balancing among financial, work and leisure aspects.  I am experiencing how love and nurturing feed productivity and growth.  The best self-discipline is fueled by love and Love knows the fruits of discipline.

My image of the traditional Yin and Yang symbol is dynamic, not static.  I envision it as constantly swirling. The light or dark contra-point in each half growing to subsume the original.  Then a point of the opposite aura immediately appears in the center of each color to repeat the cycle.

The yin-yang symbol is central in my life-imagery.  I've rendered that image in tie-dye, macrame, window art and doodling.  In my life, my creative drive leads me to leave things before they are finished.  Then the unfinished things fester until they swamp me and I have to deal with them.  Soon, all work and no play make Jill a cranky wife and mother, and I need some horse-time to get me back in balance.

I have spent much of this month facing and embracing my constraints.  Tonight I can see how they are interconnected with my talents.  The blossoming of one part of my life pulls behind it the seed of its counterpart.  Recognizing it as an ebb and flow; the swirling yin-yang,  I can utilize the balance that is inherent in the cycle of life.

I realize how my constraints and struggles are also the source of my greatest feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I am coming to value the effort I put into daily accomplishing tasks such as bookkeeping or housekeeping.   Doing so gives me peace of mind for playing with my horses or playing my guitar.  Each time I experience that small dot in the center of either side of "creativity" or "productivity" growing and cycling through, I know I have grown.

After all, work without creativity is not truly productive and creativity is only wind without work to bring it to life.

Well, Yin my Yang:  This cowgirl just might be on to something.

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5
Jul 12

Eintag is Today

As a child, my vision of Heaven was of a place where all knowledge was possible, but you had to ask or wonder about it before you could know the answer.  A place of eternal learning.

Twenty years and a couple marriages ago, I first began to take self-improvement seriously.  I used to look forward to the day when I was "done".  Done addressing my shortcomings and done fixing the things that were wrong with me so I could get on with real living.

Some day, I imagined, I would be "finished". I could relax; enjoy life and stop fretting about what else I needed to fix to make things "right".  I would be the person I wanted to be, so therefor, life would also be what I wanted it to be.

If my childhood vision was the wisdom of the innocent, then what I wished for as an adult was not heaven, but death.  How did I go from knowing that happiness is growing, becoming and learning to the thought that happiness is being "done", or reaching the end of the journey?

When I brought horses back into my life several years ago, I couldn't afford a "finished" (well-trained) horse.  Consequently, I purchased a pair of very nice, but green horses.  When I acquired them, I had in my mind a vision that in a year or so we'd be "done" with the training period.  I'd have a finished horse and could go about the business of riding, carefree.  Three years later, I still have not cantered on either of my young horses.

In those three years,  I have learned much about myself, and come face-to-face with my own limitations as I've built a partnership with them.  Recently, I realized that I have had far more fun and a more enriching experience for having played, worked and learned with them than if they were "push-button" horses from the start.  Just as my children have, my horses have taught me far more than I have taught them.  Once I learned to enjoy the horse that is on any given day, rather than looking for the horse that will be, I rediscovered my childhood satisfaction of horse ownership and the innocent joy of learning and growing.   [BTW,  I now own a 26-year old finished horse and  my greatest joy, besides cantering bareback, is what he teaches me].

It's finally dawning on me that the process of challenges, self-examination and growth is not what must be endured before life can truly be lived, it is life itself.

"Eintag" is Today.

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6
Jun 12

Old Gold

Pardner came to live with us about 6 months ago.  He's 26 years old and blind in one eye.   He's not registered, pedigreed and, as far as I know, has never won great accolades in horse shows or competition.  He's got a few health issues and needs a little extra TLC.

Pardner is a very fortunate horse in that he was raised and trained with Parelli Natural Horsemanship principles.  Most importantly, this means his outlook on humanity is that they are partners, not predators to him.  He has lived a life expecting mostly good things from his humans.  He has never developed vices because he never had anything to escape from.

As Pardner and I have developed our own relationship, he has begun to greet me at the gate each morning, usually waiting to be let out to graze as I work with one of our younger horses, or do chores around the ranch.  More and more frequently, I'll jump on his back and go for an impromptu ride.  He's helped me to find the confidence in my body's; balance, flexibility, timing as we(I) get increasingly brave about riding bareback again, chasing cows, cantering and riding without reins.

He's also teaching me many things.  Especially about aging.

He's the oldest horse on the place and the most physically limited, but he's worth his weight in gold.

The sum of the good experiences in life have left him with a positive outlook.

The fire of impetuosity has given way to a quiet power.  No wasted energy on fidgeting or fighting against what is, but he's still got what he needs, when he needs it.

He's got a large enough perspective to be gracious to the young and inexperienced, but has maintained the sensitivity to respond to subtle cues from the right people.

He's doesn't need to be the boss of the herd, but DOES have a limit to what he will put up with from the youngsters.  He's got the boundary thing down.

His innate goodness has landed him in a good place.  He's got a home for his remaining years where he is loved and accepted as he is.

He's passing on his experience to my boys as they learn to ride and to me as I use him to hone the skills I need for my younger horses.  His ability to teach is probably greater now than ever in his life.

I've decided I want to be like Pardner when I get old.

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