To be able to connect with someone you can’t be worried about the future- anxiety – all the “what if’s” rob you of the present. You can’t be reliving the past, hashing out the coulda/shoulda/woulda’s all day keeps you from being available to make your best choice in the now.
This is all stuff we know in theory. “Be in the present” or “Live in the now” sound like great goals. But having an accountability partner that can feel when you’re actually doing it is almost impossible to find. Unless you come to the barn & allow yourself to step into the arena.
Horses are born to connect. Their survival in the herd was based on relationships & being “in tune” with each other. We can go through the motions & get things done just fine, but if we allow ourselves to be real – to be vulnerable & in the present – the horses recognize that instantly. Granted they have to be paying attention too, but isn’t that what real relationships are about?
This is often what we practice in our first sessions, being present, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and connecting with the horses.
Through working with the people at Natural Lifemanship, I have learned a lot about connection (I’m paraphrasing, their material is terrific if you want to read more www.naturallifemanship.com). There are 2 main “categories” of connection that are coordinated in healthy relationships: connection with attachment & connection with detachment. Connection with attachment is what we think of when we see someone “join up” with a horse – so the horse follows the person. But genuine connection is way deeper than compliance or close proximity. It feels like there is a string connecting your heart to theirs, like a piece of the puzzle clicks into place & the person & horse are one. That takes concentration, commitment & a willingness to put yourself out there.
Connection with detachment takes that same vulnerability & commitment to the relationship but changes the physical proximity. Now instead of being able to rely on touch we use our energy to communicate with our equine partner & establish then maintain the connection.
In our human relationships a connection with attachment is when we’re in near each other, available even if we’re not engaged in a conversation (not distracted on our phones or worried about our day). Connection with detachment could be the connection wee maintain across the room at a party or during the day when we’re going about our activities. Imagine if we took the little extra effort to maintain connection to the people in our lives. Sure it takes extra energy, we could get hurt, we all have a lot going on, but isn’t that what life is about?
I say this 100% sure that I don’t always maintain healthy connected relationships in my day to day life. But I am making an effort. My family is spread all across the United States & we make an effort to stay connected through visits, phone calls, random texts & pictures. The more I develop connection the more I crave it in my relationships – human, horse, goat, whoever. I definitely get tired & check out. It isn’t realistic for me to be available for connection all the time, that’s where healthy boundaries come into play. But I feel better when I’m connected & am glad to have the understanding of what is going on – the why’s & how’s of connecting.
I experimented with connection this weekend at the grocery store, I was in the checkout line & my cashier was having an off day. First I looked to see if I could get out of line & to someone more efficient so I could get on with my day, then realized I was stuck & wrestled with pouting or making the best of it. So I made the intentional choice to try to connect with my gal & see what happened. After working to start to a conversation & laugh about my excessive amount of can cat food for barn cats she opened up, started to smile & come back & engage. By the end of my experience I knew the name of her cat, she was chatting with the people behind me in line & the gal behind me was asking me what I do for a living & if she could have my card. It took energy, it took me being intentional, but it felt better than begrudgingly going through the check out without engaging.
So my take away on this journey so far is that it doesn't take that much more effort to make my interactions better. Empathy, awareness & intention (plus boundaries & rest) go a long way toward making connected relationships.