When you think of ritual, what comes to your mind? Funerals? Weddings? Religious ceremonies? Yes, rituals are integral parts of religious services but the ritual isn’t always about religion. Ritual is so much more! I love this definition: “Rituals are actions that support the deepening of our spiritual and emotional connections. They bring extra brightness and fulfillment into our lives.” In addition to traditional rituals, everyone has the ability to create practices that they can personalize to the uniqueness of their own lifestyle and relationships. Some people pray together silently or aloud. Others sing, dance, or play instruments. Rituals can take many forms. For me, a ritual is about connection, sweetness, and vitality into my partnership with my horses.
Being with horses is ritualistic and every aspect of my time with them is part of my daily spiritual practice. My morning practices set the tone for my day. They are about setting my intentions for the day, getting grounded, and bringing peace and presence into my day, which rolls over into my everyday life. I start by making the horse’s morning mashes. It makes me feel good knowing that I am giving them the best quality alfalfa/timothy noxious weed-free hay cubes with 100% bioavailable vitamins, digestive support, and organic carrots—exactly how I choose to take care of myself. As I wait for their mashes to soak, I prepare my daily habit of chai tea. I love the smell of spices in my kitchen as the tea steeps. As I walk out my door, I hear the happy neighs of my horses and see their beautiful faces. Their ears are pricked forward greeting me with enthusiastic smiles. I smile back, breathe, and feel myself get centered and grounded for the day.
My everyday practices with my horses connect me to my soul by quieting my mind. Horses bring me into the present moment and ultimately connect me to the Divine. Horses are my inner voice of love—self-love, compassion, and empathy all come from this place. When I drift from this place of being present, that is when my ego takes over and usually ruins my day by allowing fear to kick in. My daily practices and rituals not only connect me to nature but also connects me to my inner nature.
I believe when I am with my horses it is from a place of reverence. This place of reverence increases my capacity for connection and alignment with my soul. When I am aligned with my soul, I am happier, healthier, and I live more on purpose. The more I can step away from my outer life to create my ‘soul space,’ the more I feel and hear my intuition. Isn’t that what we are all craving? To feel peaceful, fully alive, and connected?
Through the practice of ritual, I am grounded and able to create balance in my life. When I don’t take the time for my daily rituals, I feel more anxious and I am less productive during the day. The time I take for my practices yields far greater results than the time I waste from not being grounded. Ritual has the ability to elevate my everyday manure cleaning into contemplative practice.
My friend from Wild Souls Yoga explained it best, “Humans naturally seek connection. Humans are actually wired for connection – to each other, to nature, to ourselves, and to a Higher Power. The Inside, the down deep, the wise inner voice—this is where our soul lives—our human point of contact with the Divine, and ultimately with all of Life. This ‘deep down’ place is not a physical place, but rather a place of awareness, openness, and interconnectedness. When we lack this connection, we live life from an ungrounded, unbalanced state, which gives rise to all the modern ailments which afflict us.”
All aspects of ritual are essential to fulfilling relationships with our horses and the people in our lives. Contentment and peace are a result of ritual. Take the time to notice your everyday activities and start being more aware and intentional as you do them. This will strengthen your appreciation, relationships, and everyday moments that we take for granted. Stop going through the motions of life stagnant and asleep. Wake up! Integrate a daily morning practice or ritual and watch your life become more fulfilling and your afflictions will quietly start to disappear.
I don't ever feel alone when I am with horses. I can spend the entire day in the barn and not talk to another human being and be totally at peace. When I have a bad day, a disagreement, fight, or painful experience, I go to the barn. It is my refuge, solace, and serenity. That said, the fact remains that we as humans are social animals. We need human to human connection as much as horses need to belong to a herd.
In this age of technology, I believe we are lacking intimacy and connection more than ever. I feel like I desire more now than before because I don’t get it the way I used to. This desire for connection has required me to learn yogic practices that train the mind, body, spirit, nervous system, and the breathe system to open my heart and the human spirit. This is not easy. It is very hard and requires commitment, discipline, and desire to serve each other’s spirits and I don’t know how to achieve it if it doesn’t come from both sides. Horses will more often than not want that connection with me. Humans are often too caught up in Facebook to even know what it is. This connection requires vulnerability and spiritual training. I start with meditative awareness and become more in-tune to what I am feeling. By learning awareness of what is happening in my body, it allows me to make choices in how I react. Being mindful when I am with my horses is not only safer than reacting, it yields far more positive results.
When I am in emotional pain, turmoil, or imbalance. My horses show up for me. They lower their heads and touch my heart chakra reminding me that I am loved. Every morning while I clean manure, my pinto gelding follows me around. He likes to touch me with his muzzle. He just wants to feel close to me. He doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t ask for anything in return except that I let him touch me—an exchange of loving energy that needs no words. My connection with horses is only painful when one leaves my life. The rest of the time is the true connection of mind, body, and spirit.
Sometimes, it is the opposite. My horses will remind me that I am not balanced. They tell me with their reactive body language that I need to slow down, breathe, and get grounded. When we aren’t in sync, the horses tell me and I choose to listen. It is not just being in sync with them, it is usually indicative of not being in sync with my life. Not allowing the ebb and flow of life to just happen and trust that it is all in divine order. Sometimes, I resist and when there is resistance I don’t move forward in life. I can’t move and feel stuck. I am reminded that when I try to make things happen it does not work. But when I don’t do anything, I remain stuck right where I am at and that doesn’t feel good.
So, how do I get unstuck? I move. I walk, hike, yoga, dance, or ride my horse. Movement connects me to the divine. It nourishes me. Whether I am hiking, walking, dancing, or riding, movement is a huge part of my health, healing, and it restores my connection. The horses remind me to slow down. I don’t have to always run and move fast. Movement inspires me to spiritual openness which yields great feats of heroic acts such as kindness, love, and connection.
However, when my horses get a little too sassy with their expression, it is up to me to say, “That doesn’t work for me.” I don’t settle for their poor behavior. My horses get reprimanded and are reminded if something is inappropriate or bad behavior. I thank my horses for reminding me that we are each other’s reflection of what is going on in life and when the behavior shifts I reward their good behavior.
Horses are such wonderful teachers. Everyday, they remind me of how good it feels to be touched and loved. I believe that when I show up for other relationships the way horses show up for me, the connection has the potential to be open, painless, and full of love. And who doesn’t want to be loved?
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