Finding Your Way

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I have long been convinced of the impact a well-constructed vision board can have on our ability to realise our objectives and ambitions. I included the concept is the first book I wrote, nearly 10 years ago now, Horse Riding Confidence Secrets, helping horse riders to regain their horse riding confidence after, for example, a fall. Vision boards have played a pivotal role in my own life as well as in the lives of many of my workshop participants. I would go as far as to say that a carefully constructed vision board can dramatically increase our chances of succeeding in attaining our objectives.

For those who may not know, a vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation. One of my favourite authors, Jack Canfield, writes about it extensively, both in his books and on his website. He says, “Your brain will work tirelessly to achieve the statements you give your subconscious mind. And when those statements are the affirmations and images of your goals, you are destined to achieve them!”

One of the simplest ways to make a vision board is to collect a good number of images that represent your ideal life, stick them together on a board, add emotionally moving affirmations and spend a few moments every day looking at your vision board and visualising your ideal life. I will not go into further details here. There are many articles on- and off-line that explain how to make a vision board and I have also covered the process comprehensively in my book “You ARE good enough,” with links to the best articles and websites that will enable you to make a powerful vision board yourself.

What I do want to mention here is why it is beneficial to make a vision board:

  • Vision boards help us to focus and think about where we want our lives to go from here. If you are looking for a new calling, if you have an empty nest, if you have just retired or if you have lost your spouse, a vision board can help you chart a new path.
  • A vision board can inspire you on days that you feel a bit low and it can help you overcome obstacles and stay motivated to make the changes needed to stay on course and advance on the path you have chosen.
  • A vision board enables you to share your vision for your life with others in a practical and easy-to-understand way. Sharing your vision for your future with others can engage support from friends and family.
  • As a vision board dramatically increases your chances of success, it can make you feel good about yourself and increase your self-confidence.
  • Reviewing your vision board and visualising your ideal life can reduce stress. The simple act of quieting your mind and visualising your chosen future reduces the amount of stress you are constantly bombarded with.
  • A vision board can also make you feel happier. Visualising events and situations that give you joy is a very powerful mood enhancer.
  • A vision board and visualisation can have health benefits. If you encounter a health-related obstruction to realising your dream life, you can visualise yourself getting better and ending up fit and healthy. You can add pictures of fit and healthy people, or pictures of yourself when you were healthy, to your vision board. As the act of visualising reduces stress and lifts your mood, it can enable your body to heal itself and function more effectively.

As I mentioned, creating and reviewing a vision board is a visualisation exercise. Psychology Today reported that the brain patterns activated when a weightlifter lifts weights are also activated when the lifter only visualises the process of lifting weights. Your mind cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. When you visualize yourself doing something, your ability to do it improves as if you are really doing it. Many athletes such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Wood, and Usain Bolt visualised and mentally rehearsed winning many times before they actually won.

Over the last 10 years, I have learned a thing or two about vision boards. These days, I encourage my workshop participants not only to make a vision board about their desired outcomes but also to journal their journey until they reach their goals and beyond. There are so many different ways we can make vision boards and journal now, it is easier than ever before. We all have mobile phones, so a photographic or even a video journal is within easy reach of all of us. There is a myriad of websites where you can make a vision board online and either download it or leave it on the website and adjust it as you go along. There are as many websites offering the possibility of journalling online.

I have learned, from personal experience, that making a vision board is not enough, even if we mindfully review it daily. Further action is needed. Journalling mindfully, especially if it includes expressing gratitude for what you already have, substantially increase the power of your vision board to realise your dreams.

I have also discovered that a vision board should focus on how you want to feel once you reach your goals. Vision boards that evoke positive feelings are many times more powerful than vision boards that do not involve your feelings.

One of my blogging buddies, Jennifer Rochette Koshak, who has a great sense of humour, is a vision board expert and vision board coach. She also presents vision board workshops. She blogs at Unfold and Begin. When time permits, my Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops include a discussion about the benefits of making a vision board. There rarely is time to go into the process in depth, as most of our time is taken up with equine-guided meditation and equine-assisted experiential learning.

While reading Jennifer’s work, I had an idea. I could present a stand-alone vision board workshop myself, at home here on the farm or wherever there is a demand, lasting a half-a-day or even a full day. As I said, there are already many websites offering this service, so how can I make my vision board workshop unique? The answer is obvious. Most of the people who come to my workshop are attracted by the presence of the horses, it is the horses’ contribution that makes these personal empowerment workshops unique. Many people find horses inspiring, even if they are a little scared of coming face to face with one in the flesh! A vision board workshop incorporating horses’ inspiring and motivating influence could be, I should think, not only very effective but also great fun and hugely entertaining.

At the moment this is still only an idea, a lot more work will have to go into making it happen. Maybe I should create a vision board about it! If you are interested in attending a vision board workshop inspired by horses, please write to me on welcome2gascony[at]gmail.com. If you have any ideas or advice on how I can make these workshops more worthwhile, please share them with me!

Have a vision. It is the ability to see the invisible. If you can see the invisible, you can achieve the impossible.
Shiv Khera

 

How do you connect with a Horse?

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By being present in the moment…
and by not being present in the moment.

The older I get, the better I understand that living a happy life is all about keeping things in balance. In my 50 years, I have seen fashion come and go, even in the self-improvement world. I have lived long enough to see the pendulum swing from one end side to the opposite side: the exact opposite of what is fashionable today may be fashionable in 10 years’ time.

Mindfulness is fashionable now. I am all in favour of mindfulness as a counterbalance to multi-tasking and living in the past or the future. So much so that my day-job is running mindfulness and meditation workshops.

However, as is often the case, my horses have once again taught me that jumping on the latest bandwagon, no matter how convinced I am about its effectiveness, may not be the perfect solution to the  stress of modern day living that I had hoped it to be.

My teacher on this occasion was Leo, the 14-year old ex-bullfighter that we rescued at the gate to the abattoir three years ago. Before Leo came to us, he had been very badly abused. You can read the story of this scared but courageous horse here. In the first year that Leo was with us, I asked next to nothing from hm. I spent a lot of time with him, as close as he would allow – in the beginning, 20 m was way too close for Leo – just being present in the moment with him. Over time, this tactic worked. He got used to me being there and gradually allowed me to come closer and closer.

It was during this period that  Leo taught me the importance of alternating being present with him in the moment…with not being present with him in the moment.

It was a concept I had some difficulty taking on board. Mindfulness is supposed to be good for you. It IS good for you, my clients and retreat participants thrive when they incorporated mindfulness into their busy schedules.  Horses are by nature mindful animals. As prey, they have to be present in the moment at all times, to detect the approach of a predator. So why could Leo tolerate it only in such small doses?

When you are standing right next to a horse that has been mistreated by people in the past, in the field or in the school, it is not particularly difficult to remain mindful. You quickly learn that one too sudden move could result in a very painful kick. As Leo used to be a bullfighter, he moves extremely quickly, and even if you can see the kick coming, you rarely have time to get out of the way. So you pay acute attention to what is happening at the moment, while at the same time, staying as calm as you possibly can.

It was on a day that I have loads of other things on my mind that I discovered the effect of not being mindful had on Leo. As time went by, the kicking stopped and I one day found myself making a shopping list in my head, as you do, while scratching Leo’s favourite spots. Until then I had always been very careful to remain mindful in his presence. The effect on Leo was interesting. No doubt I was now more relaxed in his presence, relaxed enough for my mind to wander into the future, and he responded by relaxing as well.

I thought about it afterwards and decided to alternated mindfulness and multitasking while I was with Leo. The effect was noticeable. When I was present in the moment, he was alert, when I was not, he was relaxed. As I spend a lot of time trying to find ways of communicating with Leo, a horse that was mentally totally shut down and unreachable when he came to us, this was a precious new way of getting through to him.

For example, when I work with Leo, I remain present in the moment. When our work is done and I am grooming him, I let my mind wander. He is used to this pattern now, so much so that it can be used in threatening situations to calm him down. Recently, while out on a walk, we suddenly found ourselves in a position where we had to confront an aggressive, wildly barking dog. Luckily the dog was no real threat as it was behind a sturdy fence. Leo went into hyper-alert I-am going-to-bolt-back-home-any-moment-now mode and I calmly went into I-wonder-what-I-should-cook-for-supper-tonight mode. Leo noted my distraction and calmed down somewhat. We managed to walk past the hysterical dog without too much prancing and eye-rolling.

Obviously, mindfulness is not the only factor at play here but in my opinion, being mindful and not being mindful does have a noticeable effect on Leo’s behaviour.

What I am really trying to say is that mindfulness is good as long as it is balanced by non-mindfulness. There is nothing wrong with spending time in the past, some of our memories are pleasant after all and from others, we may learn something useful. Nor is there anything wrong with spending time in the future, we do after all have to plan our days. Problems arise when we spend too much time rehashing the past or when we spend too much time worrying about the future. Multitasking is a useful skill to have, as long as we do not spend all our time multitasking.

The trick is to keep everything in balance and this includes mindful and less mindful periods.

If you would like to meet Leo, please join us for a Connect with Horses Workshop here in the south of France. If you would like to follow Leo’s progress, please subscribe to this blog and to our newsletter at the top right of this page.

Saturday Photo from the South of France

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dawn nv

I never tire of watching the light reflect on the water of our lake: at sunrise, at sunset, at midday and at midnight. Fed by six springs and one small stream, the water is in constant motion. I can sit there for hours, quietly watching. The lake has a very fitting name. It is called Sans Souci, which means ‘without a care”.

ghhh

It is the perfect place to relax after a day of walking and wine tasting.  Most of our  Walking and Wine Tasting Workshop guests retire to the large deck that stretches out into the lake at the end of the day.  Many of the guests on our personal empowerment “Connect with Horses” Workshops do the same – the mesmerising late-afternoon light shining on the water soothes the souls of man and beast.

equine guided meditation workshops