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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