Equine Assisted Mindfulness – Week Two   Leave a comment

My second session was Tuesday night, and it started with a review of what was covered during the first session, and also a check-in on how my homework went during the two weeks in between sessions.

Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t very good at keeping up with the homework.  I was asked to try to meditate, in one form or another, every day, but I didn’t actually start until the first weekend after the first session.  Sitting still and tagging my thoughts so I could let them pass through my mind without dwelling on them worked somewhat – sometimes I did it without an issue, but sometimes I couldn’t help but dwell on the thoughts, or yell at myself for getting distracted when I was meant to be focusing on something specific.

I’m not very kind to myself.  Then again, isn’t that partially why I’m in this program in the first place?

Anyway, my best attempt at “sitting still” meditation occurred last Sunday while I was in the pool waiting for a friend to meet me.  I laid back to float while I waited, and I ended up clearing my mind and focusing on nothing but my breathing, and the feeling of the water enveloping my body, and the sound of it lapping against the walls.  My mind cleared, and I actually got what it means to be in the moment – as I floated, I was completely and totally present.

Floating experience aside, I generally did better at meditating while moving (mostly swimming laps) than while remaining still.  So, I relayed this, and Jo indicated that we’d be doing a walking meditation during the session, and that she’d also email me some guided meditations to listen to, and a video to watch.  So, there’s that.

We talked about the table I completed in minimal detail; I get the feeling it was meant to be an exercise on recognizing my own judging mind rather than something to be shared.  And then we moved on to the topic of the session: non-judgement.  As in the last session, we did a reading and then a discussion – the topic of the reading was non-judgement and we talked about the difference between observing and acknowledging, and judgement.  We also talked about applying mindfulness when judgement is inherent – say, when watching your child misbehave, or when eating a fantastic meal.

Jo shared a quote from What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula that I think I may be able to apply to my own mindfulness practice (although the quote is actually about meditation):

“Here is no attitude of criticizing or judging, or discriminating between right and wrong, or good and bad.  It is simply observing, watching, examining.  You are not a judge, but a scientist.”

This appeals to “logic brain”, although I think “Depression Brain” may have issue with it.

After the discussion, we did a walking meditation around the old track and then through the pasture.  Jo and Jess walked behind me so I could focus on my steps and not be distracted from the environment.

Well.

The air was heavy with humidity, and I was sweating buckets the entire time, but the walking meditation worked.  I focused on the way my leg lifted and how I planted each foot on the ground, and after a bit was able to really be in the present moment.  The tracked curved from one side of the pasture to the other, through the woods, and I noticed things while I walked, but without judging them: the sound of the cicadas in the trees, for example, were soft at the start, then heavy and loud in the center, and non-existent at the end of the track.  Birds were singing, and fluttering in the canopy and the undergrowth.  The ground under my feet was uneven and dry but not hard, and it wasn’t difficult to keep my balance.  The temperature was significantly cooler in the center part of the walk than it was on either end – all in all, even though I was concentrating on my steps, I was still able to observe what went on around me, and I did it without judgement.  The pasture part of the walk went nicely as well; I interacted with the horses who came to see me, and being under the open sky in the sun was as pleasant as walking the track.

Overall, I’d describe the whole walking meditation as a good experience, and I think I might even be able to recreate something like it for myself, if I can find a good space to do it.  It helped, of course, that there was no one on the walk other than me (and Jo and Jess, of course).

After the walk, we moved to a small paddock and started a horse-specific exercise: I was asked to move one or both horses through a set of cones and then into a boxed-off area (with cones) where they should stand still.  Neither horse wore a halter or a lead rope, and neither piece of equipment was available to put them.

The first thing I did was look around the area.  The cones were small ones and made a pathway from one end of the paddock to the other (right to left from where I first entered).  The boxed-off area was in the top left-hand corner.  Against the fence on the lower side were two hula hoops, and on the ground in front of me were two pool noodles.

I ignored all of the props, aside from the cones themselves, and went up to Trooper (the dark bay that I dubbed “I’m okay” in my first week).  I rubbed him, and scritched him, and told him what a good boy he was, and he stopped eating grass to pay attention to me.  I then took a few steps away, and he followed me, so I repeated the sequence.  Then, he decided to eat some grass.  I kept petting him and talking to him, and then took two steps away and patted my thigh with my hand, and called “C’mon, good boy.”  He came right to me.

When I walked away the next time, Trooper followed me, but when I tried a third time he just stood there.  So, I went back to the first method.  Between the two, I was able to lead Trooper through the cones and into the boxed area, where I petted and rubbed him some more.  All in all, it took about 10 minutes.

I decided to try the same thing with the second horse, and so I went over and rubbed her and talked to her.  She liked it it, but she also wanted to graze and the methods that worked on Trooper didn’t on her.  I did manage to move her across the paddock a bit by leaning passively on her – if one leans on a horse, they’ll move – but when the time was up I still hadn’t found the exact method that would get her to follow me (although, I suspect if I’d had carrots it would’ve been simpler).

Jo and Jess came into the paddock and asked about how I’d felt during the exercise, and if I got upset with the horses at all…and I was surprised by that.  It never occurred to me to get upset with the horses, and I tried to explain my reasoning to them: a horse does what it wants to, and I was always taught that the secret to dealing with them is to make them want to do what you want them to do.  Jess then asked if I noticed any judging mind, and I told her that I was judging my own actions by how effective they were…but with the mindset that one thing not working didn’t mean something else wouldn’t work.  And on that positive note, the session was done.

So, what did I get out of this session?

I learned that miss horses more than I thought I did, and that I want to take Trooper home with me.  I figured out that approaching my situations from a place of discovery and learning rather than judgement keeps me from getting frustrated, and allows me to be kind to myself…and I also now have a game plan to do some walking meditations on my own.

Currently, I don’t have homework; as there was a technology fail during my session, Jo was unable to print out the Week Two packet for me.  She’s going to email it, and we’ll schedule my next session then.

(I’m going to try not to worry about Week Three until it arrives…but the topic is food-related.  I’m a little nervous.)

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