I am still learning how to connect gratitude and grace through this 21-day meditation experience. What I have learned is that shifts towards grace open up from a place of gratitude. It is not uncommon for obstacles to show up during personal growth. Obstacles many times are messages from the Universe. I have to remind myself that when I start to feel struggle from life’s obstacles, it is time to pause. I can choose how I react to the obstacles. Do I react as a negative or as an opportunity to know that all will be well? There is always a blessing in every issue.
Obstacles are not my enemy. They are signals from my true self to look at the situation differently. When obstacles show up, many times I allow inner resistance to getting in the way of my gratitude. Looking at life’s dark side was taught to me by my family. I grew up hearing nothing except negative. Over time, these pessimistic beliefs became “normal.” When those old thought patterns show up for me, I can’t see or feel gratitude. My family never taught me to be grateful for anything. I was only taught to be what my father called a realist. Learning to shift my perception has helped make room for optimism to start in my life. This is where I am today. Learning to not resist opens me up to receive grace.
One thing I struggle with that I am sure we can all relate to is stress. Stress from everyday life. Things don’t always go the way I plan or things show up in my life that I wasn’t expecting. I know I shouldn’t let it, but I allow it to stress me out. Through meditation, being with my horses, and learning the art of gratitude, it puts me in the present moment. I believe we can’t hear it enough, “When you are in the present moment, nothing else matters!” The past no longer exists, therefore, the past does not matter. The only thing we have control over is the here and now. As I learn to do this, I start to feel the joy of my true self and that feels good.
Eckhart Tolle taught me to say yes to the present moment and yes to life. This includes surrendering to what is. And the next step is to change yes to thank you. When I allow distractions to distance me from the here and now, that is when I feel I need more and don’t feel satisfied with my current life. Bringing myself back to a place of gratitude reminds me that the present moment of gratefulness creates abundance.
I realize that every moment has its own energy and unique feeling. It brings out grace in the here and now. Grace does not exist in the past or the future. When I awaken my gratitude, grace responds to me. When life is not enough, gratitude turns my attention away from what I don’t have to what I do have.
When I spend time with the horses, I have sincere gratitude for their energy and presence around me. Horses are the epitome of being in the present moment. I love sitting with them when they eat. I love listening to their gentle munching noises and observe the softness in their eyes. The horses are not worried about what tomorrow will bring. The horses aren’t angry about something someone did to them in the past. Every moment I am with my horses is filled with grace.
Things that distract me are text messages and Facebook notifications. When I hear my phone ding, I can’t help but see what or who it is. But when I check my phone, I am no longer in the present moment with my horses. I make it a habit to leave my phone in the house or tack room while I am with my horses. Horses are definitely what brings me into the present moment. How do your horses assist you in tapping into the here and now?
Gratitude awakens my true self. My true self is connected to everything in the Universe. Gratitude guides me to inner acceptance—a stillness, silence, and deep peace. The deeper I go within the more profoundly I connect with myself. A cultivated state of appreciation creates grace authentically and naturally.
The path of grace is unique and requires devotion. This path is possible by contacting my true self. I have many different selves. These selves include my work self, my horse self, my play self, etc. However, when I put all of those selves aside, my true self is left behind. My true self knows me better than anyone else—it knows my hopes, dreams, and disappointments. Gratitude is one part of my creative force. The awakened energy of gratitude leads me to my true self. The true self exists in silence and is the source of grace.
I am in the process of learning to stand in my truth. One way I intend to live and speak my truth is through my writing. I am letting go of the fear of what people think and putting myself “out there.” Through meditation and being thankful for the present moment, I am more accepting of myself. Of my many selves, I know that my intimate self needs to come forward more. When intimate Pamela writes from the heart and a vulnerable place, that is when my readers connect with me the most. I committed to this mediation experience as a way to tap into a deeper level of my true self for my writing.
It is no mystery that when I ride that is when I am fully aligned with my true, authentic self. When I am riding and being with horses, I am fully in the present moment and nothing else matters. This is why I will never stop riding and never give up horses. Without horses, nothing else matters. Every horse, every ride, every moment creates a new experience that aligns me with my true self. And that my friend is grace.
Everyone around me seems to be seeking the same things as me. I often feel invisible and just want to be seen. I wonder, “Do I matter? Does anyone hear me?” When the Universe responds to me, this is grace. Grace replies to me through knowledge and understanding that I belong and am part of something bigger than myself. Gratitude is my catalyst. When I express gratitude, grace responds. The little things and moments aren’t little. When I am present in gratitude, little things seem more important.
When I am present, everything flows more naturally. The Universe makes me feel like I am appreciated. This shows that I am in the flow of life. Signals from within me bring peace and calm and moments of joy. My perception shifts. The old mare is still beautiful in my eyes. The lame gelding still moves with grace and ease. Other signals come from external sources. Like the appreciation of a friend. Horses have become more and more enjoyable and vibrant to me. Grace is a nurturing force of nature that sustains all life. When I am aware of this, I can ask for it. Grace comes from a deep source within me.
One way I renew my energy is by appreciating what’s around me. When I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed, I take a few moments to find something that will slow down my brain and make me feel better. Many times, leaving my computer and walking out to the barn does just the trick. Believe it or not, mucking manure always renews my energy—especially when the weather is nice. Other days, making a phone call and having a heart-to-heart talk with a like-minded friend allows me to feel rejuvenated.
So, now it is your turn. What are the signals of grace in your life?
Gratitude is an energy that lifts and expands me. When I am aware of it, gratitude takes me to a deeper place in my heart. It turns what I have right now into enough. And it turns enough into more. Gratitude can turn a tiny house into a home and a strange person into a best friend.
Yesterday, I was able to acknowledge that I have indeed experienced grace. Today, I experienced the concept of gladdening the heart. When my heart is closed, I cannot feel gratitude. If I am stressed or tired, I don’t have the energy to practice gratitude. What does this idea of a gladdened heart feel like? To me, it feels safe and warm. I am accepted and supported by the Universe with no judgment.
When I am in a space of recognizing the good things in my life, that is when I feel abundant. I can’t achieve this feeling unless I take the time to renew this energy and it only happens when I meditate. This isn’t accomplished by looking out a window and seeing a perfect life. I focus on the simple things like a ray of sunlight, a shadow on a mountain or listening to my horses munch on their hay. I know that I belong to the horses. My existence is woven into their existence. However, it is not the horse but the energy of joy that I receive from being with horses. Horses open me up to be able to look at the world with love and gratitude.
So, what gladdens my heart? Of course horses, but when I am with the horses it is more than that. It is about being in nature and listening to the birds, feeling the sun on my face, and smelling the fresh air. One of the most heart-gladdening experiences I have ever had was with my mare Arabica. The night I had to put her down she held my hand. Her eyes were still bright while she talked to me the entire time we waited for the vet to arrive. It wasn’t that she was telling me everything was okay, she was simply living in the present moment and sharing her love. I fed her treats and she enjoyed eating them at that moment. Instead of crying, I cherished our last moments together as she made me smile and gladdened my heart.
The most beautiful thing I saw today was a blackbird courting a female. He sang her the prettiest song while dancing to the beat of his own drum. He shook his booty and danced like no one watching. By watching him be in his present moment, it allowed me to be in my present moment and grateful for the sight I saw.
Now that you know what gladdens my heart, I want to know what gladdens your heart?
Okay, I am on day two of my 21-day meditation experience where I am intending to experience the manifestation of grace through gratitude. Initially I questioned if I have ever really experienced grace. I wasn’t even sure how to describe it. I know that when I extend gratitude to nature it is returned as grace. Perhaps it is just a feeling?
How do you feel when you are grateful for someone or something? When you are present in that moment, do you feel more alive? Open? Connected? Aware? Do you feel warm and fuzzy? I activate gratitude by giving it not only my attention but also my intention. Gratitude takes on a new energy flow of goodness that changes me on the inside. I feel the warmth, light, and a transformational power that lightens my current state of being. For me, those feelings are grace.
Grace has been around for centuries in many cultures. People thank God and in exchange they receive grace. It starts with gratitude. One of the ways I practice gratitude is by thinking of three good things in my life. Today what came to me are sunshine, mountains, and of course horses. I am grateful for the sun on my face that warms the earth and provides growth to plants and energy to life. I am grateful for the mountains that provide beauty and refuge for animals. I am grateful for horses because they provide me unconditional love and fill my soul.
My heartfelt gratitude allows grace to flow to and from and I believe horses and nature are the conduits. I give and a response comes back to me. Paying attention to good things allows me to welcome grace into my existence. I incorporate gratitude into my everyday life as part of the mind-body connection. I visualize and honor how the Universe supports me. When I do this, gratitude brings me support from the Universe and what comes back to me from the Universe is love. Grace is love and I feel it every day when I am with my horses.
What are the good things in your life?
I committed myself to do a 21-day meditation experience called, “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude.” I believe it is no coincidence that when things show up in our lives over and over, it is the Universe telling us something. It is up to us whether we choose to listen or not. Recently, grace has been brought to my attention. Therefore, when this meditation experience was brought to my attention (with an emphasis on grace) I knew it was a sign.
Up until now, grace was only a concept to me. Religion defined grace as ‘divine love.’ I believe I experience divine love every time I am present with my horses (the keyword is present). Deepak Chopra expressed that we lack perception when it comes to grace, but somewhere in the middle of all that life throws at us, we can create a space to have appreciation/gratitude towards nature and creation. All it takes is a few moments to look away from your phone and notice what is all around you. I achieve this every time I am with the horses. Every morning I say, “Thank You” for each horse and animal that are present in my life. As a horse lover, if horses can’t connect me to nature and my higher self, then I don’t know what can. When I look into their soft eyes, listen to their neighs, and feel their breath on my face I experience pure gratitude.
Spiritual teachers tell us that anger is living in the past and worry is living in the future. I have a mantra that I say to myself every time I start to worry or get pissed off. It goes like this, “Thank you that at this exact moment in time, everything is perfectly fine.” It brings me back to the present and reminds me that the only thing that matters is right now. And right now, everything is perfect when it comes to horses. My life is abundant because of my level of being with horses.
Do you want to feel more abundant and fulfilled in your life? All it requires is that you start with awareness. Gratitude is the key that shifts awareness. Gratitude leads to grace and grace changes perception. Manifesting grace means to me to achieve gratitude and make a connection with my higher self.
Today was the first day of my meditation experience and it was a reminder why I love horses. Being with horses means being outside. And being outside means connecting to creation. When I am connected to creation, I am connected to my horses. It is part of the circle of life and I can’t imagine my life with no horses. Because without horses, there would be no gratitude in my world. And without gratitude, there would be no light.
Obviously yoga postures benefit riding with the stretching and strength building. However, some people are doing yoga on the horse's back. Why you ask? Because yoga helps us get grounded and centered. This is important when working around horses and riding because they are sensitive creatures that pick up on our emotions.
Also, there are yoga stretches for the horse to do too! So, this is about yoga for you, yoga for your horse, and yoga for you and your horse together! Yoga is great for overall health and better riding, yoga is for centering and grounding on and around horses, and yoga stretches are for the horse.
Before I saddle one of my horses to ride, I do a brief yoga stretch sequence for the horse. First, I ask my horse for the Carrot Stretch. This stretch frees up the use of the front end of the horse and increases muscle development. The goal for the horse should be to bend his/her head and neck all the way back to the stifle. If they can’t bend that far, it tells us they are tight in the shoulders.
The second horse stretch I do is the Front Leg Stretch. This stretches all the way up to the withers. This opens the scapula to the withers. The goal is to hold the ‘drunken horse pose’ for at least 60 seconds.
Third is the Tail Pull. This stretch is a traction hold that stretches the hind end. This is a gentle pull of the tail and should ONLY be done if the horse is safe to stand behind. This stretches out the lower lumbar and psoas muscles.
The fourth stretch in the horse sequence is the Bumm Tucks. This helps free up the lower back. The goal is the horse should be able to roll up all the way to their withers. This is NOT a speed event. Keep the spine straight and just ask for a little bit at a time.
The last stretch is the Belly Lift. The horse’s back is like a suspension bridge. This stretch helps the ribs raise and expand to keep the horse’s topline from dropping and losing its development. The ribs need to come up in order for the hind end to engage. By doing a series of five belly lifts and holding for about 10 seconds each, your horse will start to develop a stronger topline and the goal is to expand through the withers.
After I do my horse’s yoga stretches, I mount my horse and spend 10 minutes walking. Walking for the first 10 minutes is very important because horses have no muscles below their knee. It takes 10 minutes for all of the tendons and ligaments to warm-up.
As I do the walk warm-up for my horse, I do my yoga stretches in the saddle. These include a mounted Reverse Warrior and Warrior II. The Warrior II pose has been modified for horseback, but still helps open the hips. This pose benefits the legs and arms, opens the chest and shoulders, and tones the abdomen.
Reverse Warrior is obviously modified for horseback, but it is still a great side-bend that stretches the ribs, which are hard to get to but still important. This pose also strengthens the legs, opens the side of your body, and improves spinal mobility along with balance and core strength.
I am a certified Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding Practitioner. In my bodywork training, we learned the importance of stretching horses. I also have over 25 years’ experience riding and training horses. Horses are athletes and require proper warm-up and cool down just like a runner, sports player, or swimmer. If one body part doesn’t work like the other body parts, the horse will compensate and that is when you will start to see soreness or even lameness issues. Stretching is about flexibility. A horse can’t engage his/her hind end, stride out in front, or carry the weight of a saddle and rider without being physically and emotionally sound and in shape. Take the time to stretch your horse and yourself. It will bring longevity to both of you!
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