What’s the Rush?

 

Slow down

Take your time

What’s the rush?

20180425_191853_1524705589231_resizedReminders for myself.  It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of the world we share. Rushing from one thing to another.  Never enough hours in the day. Easy to let the fast pace of this western world swallow me up.

I’m rarely aware of it when it happens.  All of a sudden, one day, I realize I’m exhausted. Barely treading water. Behind on everything.  Filled with anxiety. Once I’m in it it’s hard to step back out.

The cure for letting this speedy world take me over is right outside my back door.

Watching the horses on this warm, sunny spring evening. They’re in no hurry.  There’s hustle and bustle all around us as neighbors rush home from work and scurry around doing chores. Ewes and lambs call frantically to each other, Mother’s and their children desperate to reunite after the trek from their winter range.

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There’s a lot going on.

20180425_183216_1524703914237_resizedThe horses don’t get caught up in it. Even when something takes their notice they walk in measured rhythm to a better vantage point.  Gaze untroubled, tails blowing gently in the soft evening breeze.  Then back to their hay in an equally measured way. They don’t hurry to eat either.

The horses are tapped into the deeper, steady rhythms of the Earth they stand upon. The Earth doesn’t move at the pace of sound bites and tweets.  It moves with the rhythm of the seasons, networks of connection and communication we barely fathom.

But the horses do.

Bare feet on the ground, soaking up the sun. Smelling horses and watching them interact peacefully with their world.  This is the world I need to resonate with. Every single day the horses teach me once more, their gift of quiet presence.  And I am grateful.

I can breathe again.

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Beyond Body Language: Resonance

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Photo Credit: Tanya Pearce Redhawk Photography

This image of Gin and I is one of my perennial favorites.  I love it because we are in sync down to the gesture of our front feet.

We’re dancing!

What I love is that I was not trying to match her and she was not trying to match me.  The timing is so specific to match like this – you can’t plan it.  It’s something that only happens when you and your horse are really in tune with one another.

This is what I often refer to as resonance in motion.  Resonance, or re-sound, is well known in the musical world – if you’ve ever sang with others you’ll know the feeling in your whole body when everyone begins to harmonize, creating this crazy vibrating hum.  That’s resonance.

Scientists are starting to consider that a similar kind of resonance may be what allows fish, birds and other animals who work in groups to move together and make rapid changes in speed or direction seemingly as a unit.  The timing of the reactions moving from the originating animal to the next, and the next is simply too fast for any thought process to be involved.

A similar phenomenon may also be present when groups of people gather and have powerful experiences that feel life changing or even spiritual.  Something scientist Renee Levi refers to as ‘Collective Resonance”.

Scientists are also discovering that the heart generates an electromagnetic field – that it creates a pressure wave rather than actually pumping.  I wonder if it’s this electromagnetic field of the heart that helps create the energetic field that allows for this experience of resonance with other beings?

Whatever the case may be, I’m excited to see more and more research surfacing that demystifies my own experience.  I believe resonance is one of the most powerful means of non-verbal communication available to us.  That we, as a species, have simply forgotten how to make use of it.

Here’s an example of how resonance might show up while working with a horse:

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When I was around Sundance in this moment he was quiet, but the tension was palpable.  I could feel butterflies in my stomach, tension in my jaw anc it was hard to breathe.  This is what it’s like for me when I allow myself to step into the resonant field of another being.

It’s now thought that the electromagnetic field of the heart has evolved to carry messages out to those around us.  Talk about non-verbal, subtle forms of communication!  Sundance can literally tell me how he’s feeling if I am receptive to hearing him.

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I had a theory when Sundance arrived that he may have been donated to the rescue because he was exploding when they tried to cinch him up.  I tested my theory by placing the surcingle over his back to see how he would respond.  Even if I didn’t catch all his visual signals that he was not okay, I couldn’t miss the sensations in the resonant field we shared.

Frozen stiff, not breathing, I could feel the tension build between my shoulder blades, in my jaw, it was hard for me to breathe.  I knew with every fiber of my being that if I grabbed that girth and tightened it up he’d explode.  If I’m not sure about what I’m feeling I can look at his body language to know it’s him I’m feeling!

My favorite thing about working with this resonant field as a form of communication is that it gives my horse a voice in the conversation that is immediate and undeniable.  When he knows I hear this level of communication from him he becomes more comfortable, confident and even more communicative.  Sundance has turned into quite the conversationalist!

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Photo Credit: Susan White

If you’d like to understand and develop your own ability to communicate via resonance never fear!  It’s one of my favorite subjects to teach:

Conversations that Restore:  A two day clinic with Anna Blake (Calming Signals) and Andrea Datz (Resonance):

Boulder, Colorado May 4, 5, 6 2018 and Fruita, Colorado June 1, 2, 3 2018

The Foundations of Perception Online:  Free 2 week Introduction

June 4-15, 2018

Please contact me if you’d like to schedule a clinic in your area or design a custom learning experience and come visit the herd and I in Colorado!

Andrea Datz Integrative Horsemanship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introductions

 

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She is calm as I approach, halter in hand.

Watching and sensing, how does she feel about having a stranger in her stall?

The truth is I’ve already introduced myself. She knows everything she needs to know about me in about two seconds flat! It’s not intentional, but I have shown her all of who I am as I enter her domain. Heart wide open I’m transmitting on a frequency she knows instinctively.

She does the same, introducing herself to me just as instantaneously.   My original intention is to put her halter on. She has other ideas, masterfully organizing it so that I somehow always end up on her right side.

What is she telling me? Maybe she’s being evasive and doesn’t want to be caught? Maybe she’s got my number and is taking advantage or being disobedient? But no, she knows who I am.

Her placement is deliberate and specific. Every time I move to her left side she calmly dances her way back into position. Quietly, persistently, presenting her right side, neck curved gracefully away. Sensing an invitation, I lay my hands at the base of her neck and she sighs.

Now she knows I’m listening. She knows she was right in her initial assessment. She knows I’m a body worker. She knew it the minute I walked into her stall! Shifting position again she shows me her poll on the right side. The vulnerable place where the space is too tight space between her atlas and mandible, the slight discharge from her right nostril.

Laying hands where she invites them, we do a different sort of dance than I originally imagined. But the connection is all the more sweet because it’s mutually agreed upon.

The more I listen, responding accurately to her requests, the more she shares with me. She shows me exactly how she feels and what she is thinking. Tiny gestures, shifts in her facial expression, her breathing, how she places herself relative to me are a small portion of what constitutes the equine version of a conversation.

Such intimacy, such connection, we begin to resonate so strongly with each other that I literally feel what she’s experiencing. Tension in her poll showing up as tension at the base of my skull, and tension in her jaw as a dull ache in my own. These are intimate, mesmerizing conversations that seem almost miraculous.

But there is no miracle here.  This is how we were designed to connect with one another.

This kind of communication is so specific, so precise.

These are the interactions that remind me to pause, breathe, take as many moments as are needed to fully understand what my horse is telling me – to keep the lines of communication open.

Beyond Body Language: The Human Edition 2

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“The body says what words cannot.”      –Martha Graham

 

How we stand, how we move and how we carry ourselves sets the tone for our interaction with our horses.  We can create an invitation, set a boundary, create energy or calm a horse down.

Horses naturally respond to the physical and emotional tone we set.  That doesn’t always mean they do as we think we are asking.  Our idea must become manifest in our body in order for our horse to follow our lead.  When we reinforce our idea by backing up a misunderstood request with a whip, our leg, spurs,  or some kind of escalation, we inadvertently teach our horses to disregard our body language as meaningless.

This is a major source of training stress, asking a horse to disregard their primary mode of communication.

The vast majority of horses become just a bit more stoic.  They learn our cues and aids and cope with our lack of personal awareness.  Other horses don’t cope as well.  They might become aggressive towards us, spooky, unpredictable, shut down all together, or develop health issues (ulcers or metabolic syndrome).

Once our horse has learned to disregard our body language as meaningless noise, it might take time for them to learn to trust us again.  But if we make the commitment to work on our side of the conversation the rewards are too great to count.

Facial expressions alone communicate volumes about how we feel and what our intention is.  Take a look at the slideshow below of me making faces at the camera.  Pause a moment on each image, look me in the eye and notice how you feel?

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Your horse is sensitive to your moods, your posture and how you move. Do you know what you’re conveying?

If we add the rest of our body into the mix, it doesn’t take much to convey how we feel.  Again, take a look at the slideshow below and notice how you feel when you pause on each image?

Am I creating an opening?

Asking for space?

Do I want  you to focus?

Am I neutral? Energetic? Calm? Unsure? Invasive? Confident?

Maybe I’m just plain creepy!

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Our horses respond to all of us.

What signals are you giving?

Upcoming Events:

Huey fiesty

Conversations that Restore: A two day clinic featuring Andrea Datz and Anna Blake

May 5-6, 2018: Longmont, Colorado – one participating auditor spot opened up!

June 2-3, 2018: Fruita, Colorado – one riding spot opened up! 3 participating auditor spots, regular auditors are welcome at this clinic

The Music of our Emotions

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We are privileged to share our lives with horses. Sometimes our interactions are pure magic. They break our hearts wide open and the tears start flowing. They show us a level of trust and connection that leaves us giddy, elated, overcome by joy and our love for this majestic beast.

It’s easy to let the music of our emotions run away with us when we dance with horses.

One of our favorite Tango instructors talks about this phenomenon of letting the music run away with you. When you let the music take you over the connection to your partner becomes secondary to your connection to the music. Your partner gets to come along for the ride and it’s not necessarily a good ride for them!

Gin refused to dance with me until I learned to maintain a sense of internal calm when I am with her. Anything that disrupts my sense of inner peace disrupts my capacity both to transmit accurate signals to her, and receive accurate signals from her. Gin taught me that my emotions are like that Tango music – I can’t connect with her if I let them run me.

When our emotions fly high in the euphoric bliss of a moment of perfect connection, it’s a good time to pause. Take a step back, celebrate or wallow in misery, but put some distance between you and your horse while you do it. I spent three months with my herd just letting their presence open me up, walking away, letting all those emotions spill out and then going back. Gin refused to volunteer to interact in any way other than standing together until I was clear of that emotional clutter.

Why is this so important?

Horses naturally pick up our emotional frequency and instinctively match it or hunker down to protect themselves from it. Horses who are sick, injured, in chronic pain, or who have a history of abuse, don’t have the wherewithal to comfortably weather our emotional storms. They have too much on their plates to know what to make of our wild emotions. And they often don’t feel they have a choice.

It seems obvious enough to step back when we are overcome with emotions that might cause us to lash out: fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, for example. But it’s less obvious to think the emotions we consider positive might be overwhelming to our horses: joy, excitement, even love. What happens when we are overcome with grief or guilt? IF your horse turtles up and withdraws when you are overcome by joy, or drunk with love for them, can you tell?

We lose access to our intuition, our ability to properly connect and accurately read our horse’s body language when we are swinging into those emotional highs and lows. I have numerous horses here that withdraw into themselves when the person interacting with them experiences turbulence in their emotional state. The nature of the emotional swing doesn’t matter it’s the intensity that disturbs them.

Letting our emotions run away with us when we’re with our horses is almost like an addiction. Maybe it’s because we humans tend to repress our feelings so much of the time that when they come out in a great big torrent we can’t help but revel in the glory of being alive! We want to hang onto that feeling and share it with everyone else while we’re at it, especially our horses who pulled it out of us to begin with!

It’s tough to wrap our heads around the idea that our positive emotions, our transformational experiences around horses could be disturbing to them. They are positive emotions, how could those be harmful? One on one with my herd we easily navigate these emotional swells together. I’m outnumbered by horses who are loose and free to choose to interact or not. What we end up with are mutually transformative experiences.

The euphoric emotional wave gets amplified when we are in groups. It’s particularly intense when the group of people outnumbers the horses. People are drawn like moths to a flame when someone is coming alive, when their heart is bursting open. We all want to be part of that. The horse can become the unwitting catalyst for a mass healing. Some horses choose to participate, some get swept along while everyone lets the music take them over – no choice but to hunker down and protect themselves from the torrents.

When we are swept away by the music of our emotions it’s easy to drag our horses around that dance floor with us. They are forgiving. Sometimes it seems endlessly so. Just because they are forgiving doesn’t mean it’s fair to make them our catalyst for healing. And when we are in thrall to the music of our emotions we have no capacity to recognize if our horse is a willing partner who is transforming with us or desperately trying to survive the emotional onslaught.

I believe we have the capacity to ride these emotional waves, to experience transformational, life-changing moments when we interact with horses. If we can take a step back and breathe when the emotions flood us we give our horses the opportunity to choose. If we really listen they might even guide us to something deeper and more profound than we could discover on our own.

Let your horses open you up and rip your heart right out! It’s good to feel so alive! As the torrents rage through you and you revel in the wonder of it all, say thank you to your horse for being the catalyst and walk away. The biggest gift you give your horse is the gift of choice.

Try not to consume him in your tsunami of love.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Body Language: Healthy Boundaries

Ours, not theirs….

Fafnir Christmas Day 2013

What are boundaries anyway?

Personal space?

Respect?

Safety?

Imagine yourself enveloped by an invisible bubble. This bubble defines the space surrounding you. In an ideal world no one would enter that bubble without invitation. How big would your bubble be?

How do you define your personal space?

Do you expect others to respect your space?

How often does your space get invaded?

Well-defined, respected personal space can give us a sense of safety, especially around horses. When our bubble is continually invaded it can feel as though our boundaries have been crossed. Depending on the circumstances it might even feel threatening or dangerous. We might, understandably, get a bit defensive about our boundaries.

And yet, expecting others to automatically know how much space we need is not fair. Every species and culture has different ways of defining personal space. In the United States we don’t tend to be terribly touchy-feely with strangers, for example, while in another country, kissing a stranger on the cheek and giving them a hug might be commonplace.

I would define personal space as the invisible bubble we surround ourselves with – our invitation only zone. I might define boundaries as the way in which we make our personal space visible and tangible to those entering our vicinity. Boundaries must be more than an intellectual concept if we wish others to respect them.

Small changes in my body language provide clues to those I interact with as they near the edge of my invisible bubble. If that small change goes unrecognized I might shift my position to create enough space so my bubble isn’t entered without my permission. I might make my body language a bit more solid or prickly, depending on the situation.

IMG_0737It’s up to me to define my invitation only zone and maintain it. Not everyone is going to recognize my signals. It’s not their fault if they invade my space, it’s mine – I am responsible for clarifying and maintaining my own boundaries. And if I do a good job of that I’ll never need to defend those boundaries with aggression or hostility.

When we spend time dancing – with horses or humans – personal space and boundaries take on whole new meaning. We need clear physical boundaries to keep, literally, from stepping on each others toes. Boundaries are mutually defined, and when defined before we feel invaded do not require force to establish or maintain.

Personal space or boundaries are defined on a physical level by our body language. That’s what horses read. If our body language does not change to indicate our horses are – ‘close enough now, thank you’ – they will keep coming. I watch people all the time invite their horses right into their space and then whack them on the nose for crossing a line invisible to the horse.

It’s the horse who’s labeled rude, not the human.

For a boundary to be respected it has to be tangible and visible, not just an intellectual ideal. Only when I suddenly realize someone is in my space will I feel the need to defend myself. The rest of the world is under no obligation to respect my space. The dance we do in relation to one another can be relatively free of confrontation only when we all do our part in maintaining our own sense of space in relation to those around us – especially our horses.

Good manners start with healthy personal boundaries.

Horses like knowing where they stand. That does not have to be established by enforcing our personal space preemptively. We don’t need a big stick or a line in the sand. We just need to pay enough attention to notice when someone (horse or human) is getting too close for comfort and quietly let them know.

It makes horses uncomfortable to get mixed signals. Having boundaries you quietly hold is an act of peace – it’s also an act of kindness.

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Who’s Setting the Tone?

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The first few steps set the tone.

He shows me how he feels today.

He’s hesitant. Head high, muscles tight, he moves with skepticism and held breath, eyes wide.   He comes along willingly enough but every movement is tense, staccato steps lacking the fluidity inherent in a mentally relaxed horse.

The first few steps declare his history, how he feels about past interactions with people, maybe yesterday, maybe ten years ago.

Some memories last a lifetime.

It’s a question for me really. He wants to know how I feel, particularly how I feel in response to how he feels. Is he setting the tone or am I?

Walking together, we explore our shared environment, breathing. Waiting for him to let go. To feel the tone I set. It helps to wander and move without expectation. Warming up muscles in mind and body, letting him resonate with my intention and heart.

When it feels right, we weave patterns of shared movement.

Keen.

Curious.

He tracks and matches my every move, mimicking his chosen dance partner. He’s in a hurry to keep up – planting his front legs, swinging his haunches out he moves through changes of direction in fits and starts with no fluidity. It’s not easy to track curves and arcs without bending through the turns.

His body, the way he moves tells a tale of habitual stress and tension.

Together we pause and breathe, engaging in silent communion. Hands are drawn, as if magnetized to one spot, then another. Tension melts, eyes flutter closed, lips in slow motion twitch, melt, elongate, and elongate more until he can’t resist it any longer, yawning hugely.

When it feels right we fall into motion together, exploring the new sensations of moving with less tension. The old habits want to dominate but the mind is aware and he pauses when his front legs plant, catching himself and re-balancing before he continues through the serpentine patterns our feet draw in the sand.

His native skepticism dissolves into the shared movement and helping hands. Our purpose is now mutual, shared intention, shared movement. Fluid. Exploring, Together, discovering previously unknown capability, the potential to be free of the past.

Huey kisses