Recent studies have shown that as population density increases and society becomes more technology based, levels of mental illness increase. Richard Louv published several books on this phenomenon and stated, “By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.”
Technology is here to stay, and can clearly provide substantial benefits for us. I would likely feel very isolated given the rural way of life I have chosen if my friends and family were not so easily accessible on Facebook and via telephone, email and text messaging. Technology has its limits, though. It provides a level of communication, but it does not provide the deep, meaningful connection that can only be created, developed and nourished through “face time”. My life until my late twenties was city based, and “climbing the corporate ladder” was a huge driver for me. Whenever I came close to reaching a goal, I moved the goal post and seldom appreciated where I was. Once I had the opportunity to spend regular time at a ranch, I became aware of how many things I was missing out on through driving so hard to achieve career success. Horses have been the portal through which I have learned to appreciate much more of nature.
Temple Grandin says in her book Animals in Translation, “But I do know people can learn to “talk” to animals, and to hear what animals have to say, better than they do now. I also know that a lot of times people who can talk to animals are happier than people who can’t. People were animals, too, once, and when we turned into human beings we gave something up. Being close to animals brings some of it back.”
Our brains differ from those of animals in that our frontal cortex is much larger and more developed. I spend a lot of time analyzing things rather than just being in the moment, even now. There is a place in my soul that is soothed when I am capable of quieting the activity in my frontal cortex and allowing my emotions to just “be” rather than be controlled – that is, when I am more like the horses. Horses live in the moment. They have memories, but they are authentic in their actions, and that is one of the most endearing qualities about them. A horse that is happy looks happy. Some of the cruelest practices in horse training come from teaching an animal to overrule its natural reactions. They gravitate to people who are authentic, too.
We may have greater ability to reason, but animals have gifts in other areas that we cannot begin to approach. Horses have strength and power (and grace) that I cannot begin to approach. Phenomenal things can happen when the strength and power of a horse can be directed and influenced by the thoughts, emotions and energy of a human. This happens most brilliantly when the handler has earned the trust and respect of the horse. Combining and honouring the talents of each leads to a much greater result than either could achieve alone. I believe that this lesson translates directly into my relationships with other people. Their skills will not be the same as mine, but if I can get out of my desire to be the expert and look for the potential growth areas, my life will be improved. And as I get wiser, I can contribute to the lives of those around me in more productive ways.The horses have taught me that my relationships are strengthened when I make the effort to speak in a language that makes sense to others – and to understand that there are times when I am not communicating in a manner that others comprehend. I don’t bark at my dogs or whinny at my horses, but I have learned to slow down and think about how my body language affects them. They have taught me to be more aware of the times when my actions and my emotions are incongruent. When I am upset about something but denying it, even to myself. they are less comfortable around me than when I am honest with myself about where I am emotionally.
I invite you to look for the “teachers” that surround you today. The birds that sing and fly, the sun that warms you, the dog that knows how to love unconditionally. I invite you to join me in visiting with an animal or going outside, pausing for a moment, feeling the experience and appreciating it.