So many people have a challenge with meditating because they can’t sit still for very long without their mind wondering into some thoughts. However, meditation does not have to always be sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed chanting “om.” Meditation can easily take place while washing the dishes, cleaning horse pens, and yes even while riding! Through the establishment of your body, breath, and mind in the practice of meditation, a new connection can take place between you and your horse. You can try to sit for around ten minutes per day and meditate or you can utilize your time and learn to meditate on the back of your horse-think of it as part of your warm up. Of course, consistency is more important than length. It is better to practice for five minutes a day, five days a week, than for thirty minutes, once a week.
1. Start Slowly
Don’t say to yourself: “I am going to meditate every single day for the rest of my life.” This is a huge mistake - first, because realistically you’re not going to do it, and second, because it’s just too much pressure on yourself. That is like beginning a running practice by starting with a half marathon. Instead, establish a routine that is very, very doable. For example, you could decide to meditate Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the first ten minutes of your ride. If you could do this for one month, that would be great! At the end of that month, decide whether you want to continue with ten-minute sessions, slow down, or increase the time. If you want to increase, do so by small increments – for example, five minutes. Then, after a month of meditating at the walk, during your warm up for fifteen minutes, you can make a decision for the next time period.
2. Establish Your Seat
Meditation doesn’t require creating anything fancy or spending a lot of money, but choose a time and place for your practice - either a quiet morning at the barn, or out on the trail where you don’t run into anyone else for miles. Choose a time that you know you won’t be interrupted. If you like, you could do something special for you and your horse like treats or extra grooming time. It needs to be something that inspires you and gets you in the mood-if you will. Don’t get carried away here, though. Keep it simple.
3. Choose Your Time
Try to practice at the same time every day. Most people find that the morning works out best, but you may have a dozen kids to get off to school or a job that requires you to start at 6 a.m. Or you may simply be a night owl and find it better to practice when you get to the barn after work or on the weekend. You can experiment with times of day, but whatever seems best, stick with it. There is nothing magical about this; it just seems that habits thrive on routine.
4. Declare Your Intention
As you sit down into the saddle to practice, say to yourself something like this, “Now is my time to practice with myself and my horse.” or “Everything else can wait until I am done with my horse.” Commit yourself from the start. By declaring your intention out loud, it gives it more power and more probability of you following through and sticking to your routine.
5. Follow the 12 Second Rule
This rule states that when you screw up (i.e., miss a day or a week or a month), you must feel awful, guilty, and ashamed - but only for twelve seconds!! Then you have just got to cut that B.S. out and get back to your routine!!
It’s thoroughly not useful. The only thing worse than slacking off in your practice, is feeling like crap for slacking off in your practice. So please, don’t do that.
6. Sit with Others
Meditation is most often a solitary pursuit, a time for you to simply be with yourself. However, if it becomes unrelentingly solitary, which is why you may not feel as lost in space or even lonely while doing it with your horse. While the ability to rest in both spaciousness and solitude are actually quite important, instituting some simple checks and balances prevents confusion as your practice develops.
A great way to keep your practice real is to ask a horsey friend to join you from time to time. Or, invite a few friends to practice with you and establish a riding meditation group. It can be as small as two or three people or as large as you like (although I recommend keeping it small). You could get together once a week or once a month and simply sit on your horses for a mutually agreed time, followed by a conversation about how the practice is going for each of you.
And this last tip is optional …Obtain a dharma book and read a paragraph, page, or chapter before or after your practice. When we incorporate even the slightest bit of study to our practice, our realization deepens. These are simply tools of suggestion. Don’t spend too much time trying to establish the perfect get-up. When in doubt, practice. Whether you’re sitting on a special cushion or on your horse, the important thing is to practice. But even more importantly … enjoy your horse!
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