|Posted on 13 June, 2015 at 10:15|
"Recommended by Monks, Yogis, and Successful People Everywhere!"
- Jemma Cholawo
This business is a new venture for me, and I am enjoying watching it evolve as I work through the final parts of my Holistic Equine Massage course. I am acutely aware though, of the power of self discipline, and of course its defiant opponent, procrastination!
There is so much that I can do while I have this more flexible schedule. I no longer have the time restraints of an 8 to 5 job, and for the first time in four years I have Sundays off! I can practice activities that promote my self motivation, which are usually meditating, doing an hour of yoga exercises before breakfast, and regularly swimming in the sea or going out for walks in nature.
These things always help me without fail. I become charged by them and find myself able to study harder and even think and act more effectively. Yet, I only meditate when I go to a spiritual group once a month, rarely off of my own impulse at home, and I only do my yoga exercises if EVERYTHING has already gone to plan. I have to wake up ‘on time’ and have absolutely no distractions. You can forget doing them any other time in the day as well, I am far too ‘busy’ for that. As for the sea swimming, I am managing once a week at best, and every time I take the plunge, I emerge exhilarated from the sparkling surface of the water and feel the same glitters and sparkle shining through my soul as well (or perhaps that is just what going numb from cold feels like…;). I tell myself this is the way forward, I tell myself this is the best way to feed my spirit and fuel myself to make things happen. It gives me the tools to be myself and to perform to the very best of my abilities. At that moment in the sea I believe fully and with utmost commitment that I will perform this act of plunging into the icy local waters every day! Of course I will! I know I can!
The next day comes and I wake up late, too hungry for breakfast to think about doing yoga or meditation. I sit on the sofa eating cereal and slurping a cup of tea whilst scrolling through the latest news on Facebook. Facebook pulls me in and an hour scrolls by. Suddenly I am late to see the ponies. Quick sharp I zoom to the field in my car (much nicer to cycle, but no time!), feeling a little like a rusty machine after missing my usual morning routine.
Time with Spirit and Skylark is blissful magic. It is as though they cast a spell in which anybody around them must live for the moment. I do what is right at the time, either basic husbandry and health care, or following our latest ‘shaping plans’ and working through various games or activities we are working on at the time. Or I might just gently groom them, or mooch around being ‘one of the girls’. In my opinion that too is valuable time spent with horses. Either that or I sometimes have field maintenance to do, which I also find rewarding and absorbing.
Before I know it the morning has gone. Quick zoom, get home, have a cup of tea and some lunch! With a few appointments the afternoon disappears and no studying has been done. Paperwork lays sprawled on the desk laughing up at me as I look back on another day that has taken me. Yes, taken me. Rather than grasping my own power and forging a way forward, a thing of beauty perhaps, I become swept away in a current of excuses and wasted time.
So what is the secret to self discipline and why is it important to our work with our animals?
Here is a definition from Collin’s English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003:
"self-discipline n 1. the act of disciplining or power to discipline one's own feelings, desires, etc, esp with the intention of improving oneself ˌself-ˈdisciplined adj"
I personally believe that in order to be the best for your horse, you must first work on becoming the best for yourself too. Really just like any relationship, where in order to work in harmony both parties must come from a balanced and nurtured place in themselves. We demand so much from our ‘trusty steeds’. Long ago I began to ask whether I could really make such demands, without looking upon my own self improvement.
“If you wouldn't follow yourself, why should anyone else?”
― John C. Maxwell, The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
One of my great horsemanship inspirations is a Greek man named Xenophon who was born around 430 B.C. near the city of Athens, to a wealthy equestrian family. He wrote the first fully preserved manual on the riding horse. It is entitled "The Art of Horsemanship." Xenophon was a horseman for his entire life, first as a cavalryman and then as a country gentleman on an estate given to him by the King of Sparta. He differs from other ancient writers on the horse in that he urges his reader to know the horse's "psyche," its mentality. He knew that an animal which had confidence in the understanding and good will of its rider would more effectively respond to the commands of the rider. Xenophon encouraged a mutual respect between man and horse.
He is quoted as saying:
“The one best precept-
the golden rule in dealing with a horse
-is never to approach him angrily.
Anger is so devoid of forethought
that it will often drive a man to do things
which in a calmer mood he will regret.”
- Xenophon –
This requires self discipline!
What right have we to exercise control over an animal if we cannot first exercise control over ourselves?
It is not just about our rights or wrongs; it is about improving on ourselves in a way only we can. But in doing so it isn’t about criticism and judgement, it is far the opposite. We must also learn to forgive ourselves and be able to move on from our own mistakes rather than allow our mistakes to claim ownership over us. If we are not careful we can become engorged by a stagnant pool of self-criticism and self-doubt. And it is amazing how readily we wallow in such a pool! We might even get out a lilo and cocktails to see out the day there, floating deliriously in this negative pool of our own making!
We become trapped by our own perception. How we perceive ourselves, our friends, our family… Or the animals we share our lives with. But we all change, all the time! Old labels need to be shed as we evolve beyond them. The art is to be able to really look inside oneself and understand from within when those labels need to be banished. I believe this is part of the journey of self discipline.
Horses need honesty from their humans, and that is something which in this society we can sometimes forget. From an early age you get taught to hide fear, hide anger, ‘put on a brave face’. Instead the challenge is to know yourself, value yourself, know your true feelings. If the picture isn’t pleasant, look at what you need to change in your life to change the person you see in the mirror.
I have had a great opportunity presented to me with this change of occupation. The next step is up to me. I can let the day slide by, curling up for siestas with the cat and watching the chickens for hours on end, or I can do those things anyway, but without letting the day slide by! It is amazing what can be achieved in a day if you set your mind to it.
I will strive to arrange my time in a way that reading and studying can be done, as well as all of those activities that provide me with the fuel to do them. I will forgive the slip-ups and the late breakfasts, providing I can still move forwards on my own route up the mountain.
My mountain contains vast plateaus of time to doze in the sun with my animals, swim in the sea, read books, and talk to friends. It has caves in which I can retreat when I need to meditate, before ascending to a viewpoint where I can stretch up as high as the sky and feel my body and mind filling with energy for the next climb.
Carefully climbing up the precipice, there are always appropriate times to stop and appropriate times to start again.
I believe that in becoming a master of myself, I also become a far more compelling guardian to all of the animals I work with.
“No person is free who is not master of himself.”
With great thanks to Jem Cholawo for the title diagram and quote. She is a talented artist and editor. Please visit her website here.