Some of you will be familiar with the concept of a “horse whisperer”. Horse trainers have developed a non violent way to “join up” with an untrained horse that taps into the way horses naturally communicate with each other in a herd environment. By “joining up” with the animal they create a foundation from which they can begin to train the horse. This approach is in stark contrast to the traditional western practice of “breaking” a horse which is exactly how it sounds: you basically beat a horse into submission so that you can start to train them.
The mental skills and discipline required to “join up” with a horse have a wider application. Teaching people this process has become part of some addiction rehabilitation programs, life coach training and other therapeutic processes.
Life coach Matha Beck describes her first experience learning the process:
“The horse, as any part of the wild world always does, mirrored my confusion perfectly, stopping, starting, turning, wheeling, trying desperately to follow my contradictory signals.”
The magic of this approach is that the horse acts out exactly what is going on in your mind. And by observing the effect you are having on the horse, you can learn how to discipline your mental state toward a mental state that the horse trusts and follows. They accept you as leader because you become a leader: of your own mind first and foremost.
However, getting ahold of a wild mustang to practice with is not all that realistic for most of us.
But you don’t need a horse to learn how to do this.
Because you have a body.
You see, your body is just like the horse. It is responding to your thoughts.
In fact, already I have a problem here. Because as soon as I start to talk about your body as an “it”, as soon as I start to talk about “mind” and “body” I am setting up a separation in a system which is unified.
If you for a moment put aside the incredible complexity of us and simply look at the relationship between thinking and movement you have something you can work with.
Your movements, the way your muscles contract and stop contracting to create the movement of bones around joints, are caused by the messages sent out from your brain: your thinking.
And for most of us, our movements represent exactly the kind of confusion Martha Beck describes above. We experience the effect of this confusion as things we label “tension”, discomfort while sitting at our computer, a lack of coordination or simply our inability to perform at the level we desire.
If you study the cause and effect relationship between your thinking and your movements, you have an observable learning laboratory you can take with you wherever you go. Much easier to travel with then an untrained horse.
Learning how to go from confusion to clarity in the way you move has far reaching implications that extend to every part of your life. This relationship, like the horse, can become a metaphor for the way you approach life and give you an indirect, but highly effective way to become more conscious, deliberate and thoughtful in the way you navigate your life.