#59 Ride a Horse

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#59

Ride a Horse

I’ve spent a little time this winter watching a period drama on television where the only method of transportation was horseback and I have a client whose passion it is to ride; she trains year round. It reminds me of the couple of times my grandfather pulled me up onto his saddle and pranced me around his farm and a single trip down a Caribbean beach later in early adulthood. Both times, I recall feeling the horse beneath me and being amazed at the sense of power there.

Good for You

Horseback riding is actually good for you. Sitting on a horse, whether you know ‘how’ to ride, or not will challenge you physically. First, you’ll experience body awareness as you need to sit on the horse in a specific way in order stay balanced. As you do so, it’s likely that you’ll use muscles that aren’t used to being used – also, good for you (and those muscles). There’s an element of coordination required of riders that is also good for your body and posture.

The mental aspect of riding is also quite beneficial. If you are a recreational rider that only occasionally takes a trail ride – at the very least you are outdoors. Indeed, you are most likely in a beautiful location where there are endless opportunities for appreciation and gratitude.

If riding is a full blown hobby for you, the additional benefit is the connection and ultimately the relationship you have with your horse. Very different from that of a house pet, the energy shared with a horse takes trust to a whole new level when you are the rider. Often, that horse is five to ten times your size and while you are communicating through body movement and reign management, that horse can still do darn well do what it wants. When you work together, the symbiotic energy of the relationship is evident and can be quite lovely.

Grab the Chance

Obviously, we don’t all have the ability to step out and hop on a horse after we finish our morning coffee but if not, the next time you are on vacation and have the chance to take an excursion that involves a horseback ride along the beach, through the forest, or around the foothills, I hope you have the courage to…

Ride a Horse

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#133 Practice Loving Kindness

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#133

Practice Loving Kindness

The practice of loving kindness stems from the Buddhist practice of the Metta prayer. It’s a specific method of meditating that promotes compassion for others and for the self. It’s easy, and it makes a difference.

Love

The essence of a loving kindness meditation is to conjure up a sensation of deep love, of significant loving energy and then metaphorically – send that love out into the universe toward humanity as a whole or to specific people. There are a number of amazing websites (linked below) and YouTube videos that can walk you through in a guided meditation as you get started.

Imagery

As in many other mental health wellness practices, loving kindness utilizes imagery. It is suggested that as you begin your meditation, you imagine people who love you, surrounding you and sending vibrational hugs toward you until you can essentially feel the loving energy coming from them. You may imagine the swell of love that you felt as you held each of your children or married your spouse. Each of the meditations begins from this place – deep in the experience of sensing love.

Well Wishes

Each phrase found in most scripts begins with “may you…/may I”. The concept is that while in an envelope of loving energy, you send some of it out or reflect it back you yourself in phrases that represent wishes.

“May you feel loved, may you be happy, may you be healthy’

“May you find acceptance, may you feel joy, may you live with ease”

In each phrase, the “you” can be replaced with “I” for the experience of self-compassion.

The objective is to build upon the empathy and compassion that is an innate element of your spirit. The more you practice, the more it grows.

Peace

Those who cultivate a practice of loving kindness speak about the sense of inner peace that develops over time. It is attributed to a deeper sense of happiness. It works to evaporate anger, resentment, and past pains. It becomes a coping mechanism for those times when our humanity loses perspective and emotions become overwhelming.

There is much benefit for you personally, for those people you love, and for the collective consciousness that comprises our universe when you commit to …

Practice loving kindness

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Mindful

The EI Institute

CMind

Finding Peace

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ unknown

The other day, a loyal reader added this on a blog comment: “My last comment is to say that I want to read about how you became the cyclist that you are.” – The individual asking the question is a friend of Harlan’s and has followed our bicycling ventures via Facebook. I had to laugh out loud when I read it because I would never use the word ‘cyclist’ to describe what I do and I’m pretty sure that people who are truly ‘cyclists’ might be insulted to consider what I do any part of the sport.

You see, I hate… more than strongly dislike… exercise of any kind. I always did. I remember being laughed at in grade school when we were trying to complete tasks to receive the Presidential Fitness Award. I couldn’t do chin-ups – I just didn’t have the upper body strength or perhaps my lower body was far too big and mismatched for the muscles in my upper torso. It was better to stand in the back than to fail miserably. I didn’t have any competitive spirit apparently. Consequently, I was the kid who was always the last pick; cementing my dislike of sports.

I did play basketball in high school because I was tall and it was expected. What I disliked most of all was running across the court over and over… and over again. I often thought about finding a sport that allowed you to stand still but I never found one. In gym, we were expected to run a mile at least once each marking period. That was four times around the track and the ‘runners’ could make it in six or seven minutes but it took me twelve to fourteen. Of course, I walked most of the way and was generally last, or close to it.

I did love to walk. I could walk for miles and did often. My long legs created a lengthy stride and I rarely got tired of walking. I loved all of the things that I got a chance to see when I was walking. We frequently laughed over the idea that I would walk from Oakland, CA to Chicago, Illinois twice a month when I worked for the railroad. Since I worked in the dining car, I was on my feet most of the time as we covered that distance.

No matter how much I ‘knew’ that exercise was good for me and no matter how many different types of equipment, sports, or activity I tried… I just couldn’t ‘get into’ the practice of exercising. It really was problematic since my body composition and metabolism required some form of external motivation. I thought people who enjoyed exercise were in possession of a magic gene that passed by me during conception. I didn’t get it.

When we were in Europe visiting Sara – who spent a year in Amsterdam as an Au Pair – we considered renting bicycles and touring around but it sounded like work and I was on vacation. Besides, somewhere after the age of 50, arthritis began to build in my hip and walking was challenging some days and so I believed that bicycle riding seemed out of the question.

Harlan, on the other hand, has always been an avid sportsman. From football to baseball and golf to running, his body almost required movement and elevated heart rate. He often spoke of the euphoria that occurred when he exercised. He loved the endorphins that were produced while I was always waiting for them to show up.

About two years ago Harlan decided he was going to buy a bicycle and begin cycling. He began researching and by late April made his decision. He encouraged me to invest in a bike but we were talking hundreds of dollars for something that required this exercise thing that I wasn’t into at all.

I decided to ‘test’ my interest in cycling by inviting my family along for a ‘Mother’s Day’ ride in a state park near the ocean. They looked at me a little funny when I said that’s how I wanted to spend my day but followed along. We rented bikes close to the trail head and the four of us set out, helmets on, across saltwater marsh lands full of blue herons. I was riding a hybrid with a cushy seat and twenty-one gears. I couldn’t remember that last time I had been on a bicycle.

Of course, as a kid – that was the primary mode of transportation. We went everywhere on our bikes and the best part of the year was decorating it for the annual Memorial Day parade. We wove streamers into our spokes and tied all kinds of noise makers behind us but… that was then – when I was ten and it wasn’t considered exercise. It was a necessity, a required method of transportation if you were one of the ‘cool’ kids.

We had a perfectly beautiful day to ride through incredibly beautiful scenery. I puttered along the trail which was predominately crushed stone and enjoyed the sun on my face, the breeze across my cheeks, and the smell of the fresh air. In fact, I barely noticed that anyone was with me. I embraced the sound of nature, the melody of the tire against the ground, and the tone of air moving past my ears. I loved it! My ass hurt but my hip was fine! I was happy as a lark and after about ten miles, the kids asked me how far we were going… I could have gone on and on but they were pretty much over it. We turned around and headed back – it was a total of sixteen miles that day. Not bad for a lady who hadn’t ridden a bike in more than thirty years.

That day, I found a Hollandia style bicycle – a hybrid ladies bike with fenders – very classic looking and it had seven speeds. I assured the salesman that I would ‘never’ need more than that as I had only used five all day on the flat trail we had traveled and that was just experimenting. I went for broke – buying as much bicycle as I thought I could afford while making sure it made sense for the kind of riding that we (Harlan) talked about doing. He had gotten a road bike and I wanted something a bit more versatile. I agreed to go with him if “it didn’t feel like exercise”, I said.

I’ll admit that I was pretty excited. We live in a mostly flat community that touts itself as being ‘bike friendly’ and indeed, there are bike lanes on almost every road. In addition, there are a variety of trails in town that are bicycle friendly. Furthermore, the Rails-To-Trails conservancy is a tremendous organization – converting old railroad beds into pedestrian and bike trails. We live in an area where there are a number of them within an easy driving distance. The nice part about Rail Trails is that they are FLAT – mostly. There is often a grade but it is hardly noticeable.

We started slowly… biking around town, after work, and on weekends. We biked into town and rewarded ourselves with a latte or ice cream. I noticed the calorie burn and my body started to take on a different shape. I wasn’t working hard at all. I pushed myself a bit… beginning to compete with myself to see if I could get up a slope in second gear instead of shifting down to first. And then, we headed out to trails that were longer… and longer… I fell in love with ‘my’ kind of biking. It was easy and fun. It wasn’t sport riding, though. It was leisure. But… it WAS exercise and my body liked it.

Before long, I was riding without Harlan’s influence. I was exercising just because I liked the sensation of those things that I fell in love with that first day… the sound of the air moving past my ears, the breeze on my face, etc. When I was out there – especially by myself – I could think about nothing at all or about everything at once. I allowed thoughts to flow through my brain at the same speed that I was moving but it wasn’t exhausting.

Eventually, my behind became accustomed to my seat and it stopped hurting. I was riding for 45 or 60 minutes several times a week and not thinking twice about it. Each time I left the house I could hear the theme song of The Wizzard of Oz playing ‘Duh – di duh – di da.’ Imagining myself with a full-on basket on the front of my bike, carrying a little dog. I wonder how many people saw me and thought the same thing? It didn’t matter. When I am on my bike, I am in a state of Peace.

I have challenged myself with longer and longer rides but let me be clear… they are leisure rides of 25 & 30 miles on relatively flat surfaces. One day last fall I took my bike up to Philadelphia and ran the Schuylkill River trail for 34 miles round-trip. I was done by mile 30 and the last four were brutal but it was exhilarating to know that I did it.

Harlan hasn’t been able to ride in months now and I don’t ride when it is cold. I bought an indoor ‘trainer’ last year so that I could bring the bike inside and maintain the routine but there is absolutely NO comparison and I don’t like it. I’d just as soon go to the gym and ride there – which I do now although not as religiously as I’d like you to imagine.

In any regard, that is how and why I became a ‘cyclist’… For me, it has nothing to do with the sport and everything to do with the PEACE I experience as I move through space on those wheels.

Digging Deep

Continued from Transcendent Study

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ~ John Banville

If you’ve never spent a week with people focused purely on love and transcendence, you’ve missed an extraordinary experience. It was easy to wake up and shower in a two-foot square cubicle knowing that my day would be spent in a room full of that amazing energy. I got better at talking to the people sitting in my immediate vicinity but I ate most of my meals alone – only because it was the comfortable thing to do in the absence of someone else specifically encouraging me to join them.

I met a Shaman from Colorado who told me that my Solar Plexus (third) chakra (where confidence and the perception of who you are) was full of dark energy and blocked – basically confirming everything that I had been experiencing in my life regarding self-esteem. I was only vaguely familiar at this point with the chakra system with limited exposure to Eastern philosophies. Even with as much meditation, I had engaged in, I had learned it more as an extension of what I knew of prayer versus true Eastern traditions. How had he seen into my core by merely assessing my body’s energy?

He offered to clean my abdomen of the energy blockage and promised it wouldn’t hurt and so… I let him. I laid flat on the floor fully clothed as he moved his hands softly across my belly in a gesture that implied he was wiping something off and then he started a pulling motion. I have no way to accurately describe what happened next. He was pulling at air – not touching me – but I instantly felt nauseous. Within a moment or two, I wanted to cry and eventually tears flowed freely across my cheekbones and into my ears. I experienced a gagging or choking feeling and wanted to roll over to make it stop but he gently touched my forehead with a comforting stroke to keep me flat. He spoke soft and encouraging words in between others that was I unable to interpret. I have no idea of how much time elapsed while this happened, only that it felt like it was but a moment in one minute but an eternity in the next. I couldn’t stop crying although it wasn’t a balling, or a shoulder shaking cry. It was more like the remnants of that… an ending cry – the kind that comes when you know something is over.

Sometimes it quite difficult to believe in things so mysterious, the things we don’t understand and may not be able to see. And yet, we believe in God. There are people who believed in sub-particle physics long before it was proven and so, I chose to allow for the possibility that this man whom I had never met, could ‘clean’ an energy center in my body that would allow me to ‘flow’ and become more balanced. As the day went by, I distinctly remember how calm I felt. Perhaps it was psychosomatic but it didn’t matter, it was great. I again was intrigued by this new experience and I didn’t want it to end. I felt like such a baby – an infant in my lack of knowledge about these ideologies surrounding me. They were so far out of the mainstream of my Mid-Atlantic suburban existence that I was at a loss of how I would foster more growth. It was a challenge I was excited to embark upon.

We continued to practice our hypnosis training. Dr. Weiss demonstrated a number of induction techniques (getting people into a hypnotic trance) and had us practice them on each other. Hypnosis is simply a state of focused concentration and I find, highly misunderstood. Under hypnosis, you are totally aware – just not judging or questioning. It’s the purest state of ‘observing’ that I know of. And “no” – you will not take all your clothes off if someone directs it, unless of course, that is something that you ‘want’ to do. Your subconscious is still very active and you are still completely – you. If you wouldn’t do it in day to day life – you won’t do it under hypnosis.

It was time to break into small groups and do regressions. This time it was my turn to be regressed…

I came ‘out of the mist’ to see trees – everywhere. There was a river in front of me, actually… I was on the river but standing up high. I realized I was on a ship – I was on the upper deck of a ship on a river with vibrant dark green trees on both sides and I could feel the movement, a slow roll from side to side – very gentle and barely noticeable. I was directed to look down, at my feet and the first thing I became aware of as I glanced down is that I was wearing an open white shirt. It was open to my waist but … wait, I realized I didn’t have breasts… what? There was a lot of chest hair and I was sweating. I could see perspiration running down my skin. I saw my shoes and they were large, black, dirty, and they had buckles – square buckles. I noticed that my pants were short and I looked up again. I could see the ship now, the planks and banisters. The sky was blue with a few clouds and I could see birds – practically everywhere. I could hear their calls. There was a dock, seemingly way down there… people were unloading crates of something and I could see barrels stacked on the edge of the pier. There were a lot of sounds… voices, yelling, but no machine noise. I was asked to identify the year but it wasn’t clear to me.

Then, I was asked to move forward in time and suddenly I found myself in a small room. I could see it as if I was there, looking straight ahead. There was a huge fireplace to my right and I could see sunlight coming in from a window. It felt as if I could move my head and I saw two children sitting on the floor. They were sitting on a round rug – much like the rag rug that had been in my old house; a boy and a girl. The boy was young, maybe five or six and I couldn’t see his face clearly. The girl was older, perhaps eight or so – she had her back to me. I could see that her hair was long, past the center of her back and she had on a small print dress – something you might see in the 1800’s … I could see a taller woman, again her back was to me and she was also wearing a long dress, small print. She was off to my left in what appeared to be another small room although the doorway was large. She was wearing an apron, I could see the bow at her waist. Her head was bent down as if she was cooking, or working with her hands. I knew that this was my family.

The house was warm and I realized that I was in a rocking chair… now I could sense the movement – back and forth – back and forth. I realized that I felt tremendous satisfaction and comfort there. It was peaceful. There was a discrete awareness that this was my home. I believe the children on the floor were mine. The girl turned toward me and I could see her face. It was young but something tugged at me… there was a familiarity there – in her eyes. It only took a second but I knew instantly; without hesitation, I was immediately cognizant that I was looking at the same soul that I know today as my oldest brother.

I was so startled at this realization that a tear spontaneously formed and released.  The profundity of this understanding was instantaneous and resonated intensely and genuinely deep within my being.