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I've had the great pleasure of leading mindfulness and yoga retreats at Wild Heart Horse Sanctuary, a sanctuary that houses rescues wild mustangs in Park City, Utah. Sonya Richins is a wonderful woman with an enormous heart and limitless energy to devote to saving these beautiful animals. At the sanctuary, we experience "horse medicine" which teaches us volumes about ourselves in relationship to these majestic animals.
Typically, we begin our day with some yoga and meditation and explore some of the mystical qualities of these beautiful animals. We then do an exercise where we simply observe the horses and journal about what we noticed.
In simple observation, it is clear to see which horse is the diva, which one the protector, which one is aloof, etc. It's incredible how easy it is to relate to the personality of the horses.
Perhaps one of the most profound experiences for me is always the opportunity to simply be present with the animals. We practice holding our own ground and approaching these mustangs neither aggressively or in a creeping manner. Sonya taught us to be in relationship with these horses rather than assert ourselves upon them.
I remember during one retreat when it was my turn to approach the lead stallion, Kokepelli. I noticed him slightly back away so I paused and also took a step back. I waited and watched. After a few moments Kokepelli lifted his head toward me and looked at me. I took a few confident but calm steps toward him and he didn't move but remained calm as if he expected me. A few more steps and Kokepelli seemed eager for me to approach him. After several minutes, we were standing with our foreheads together, me scratching behind his ears. We were two parts of one bigger thing, man and horse. I could feel an enormous trust between us, a bond that still exists today.
There is a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver called Wild Geese that starts:
You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves
This reminds me that we are animals. It reminds me that we need to learn to work and heal our bodies, minds, and spirits on our their terms through invitation and not aggression or willpower.
We must listen to our bodies and create a relationship with it and wait for it to tell us how to take the next step. If we listen, we will eventually stand in complete connection with this physical part of our being, just like you can connect with any other animal. Learn to trust it. It will trust you.
I invite you to learn to trust the animal of your body this week.