Another conversation I have been reading online that I’ve been musing about and wanted to chime in on. Let’s break it down into two parts:
- Thoughts on intentions, affirmations, the law of attraction, putting your intention on what it is you would like your horse to do
And then how does this relate to:
- Dealing with negative thoughts or self-doubt that might pop up in training.
Taking it from the top- and be warned, this is kind of a mash-up that doesn’t follow a linear train of thought.
In my practice, I talk a lot about intention, but I see that as a very separate component to affirmations and then further on to that, the law of attraction. This is how I define intention:
Intention is the mental and emotional blueprint we set up to establish the quality of connection and create a clear impression of what is it we would like to see manifest in the physical. It occurs on the macro and micro level.
As soon as we engage our horses, we’re influencing every moment. Establishing how it is we wish to be as riders and horsepeople prior to setting eyes on our horse and what qualities we wish to cultivate between us is part of our generalized setting of intention.
Who is it that I need to be today? What does that require of me?
Instead of waiting for outside or external experience to inform how we feel or operate, intention calls us to step into the cultivation of behaviors and ways of working with our horses as an active practice. We don’t wait to feel calm. We practice calm. We don’t wait to feel confident. We practice confidence.
Intention as the expression of our creative force.
On a more micro level, intention allows us to create an experience of the ideal in our mind’s eye that creates fertile ground for its physical manifestation. For instance, if I am wanting to ask for a transition from walk to trot, I create a sensory blueprint for how I want that to look.
I see my horse effortlessly and softly move into the transition with engagement.
I feel the connection between us and the relaxed way of being we both share.
I hear his footfalls on the ground, even and regular.
I create the ideal vision of what it is that I want in my mind’s eye then wait for the physical to catch up.
When we move from this place, our body reponds in ways that are barely perceptible to us- but not to our horses. When we create a visual template in our minds, our body responds by firing off the neural pathways and muscle triggers that support the physical creation of what we’ve imagined. This is one of the key reasons visualization is so successful in improving physical performance even in situations where the only practice that’s been engaged is an imagined one.
Intention also translates to a purposeful plan, a course of action that clearly and deliberately outlines the way forward. It begins with cultivating a mental landscape that sees what you want come to life but also outlines the progression of steps necessary to achieve that end.
The application of any aid and the quality of the connection you establish with your horse begins always with your intention.
Here’s the catch:
Intention that actually lines up with what we want requires that we have the capacity- on a nervous system level, mentally and emotionally- to be able to hold that vision. Stepping into a place of future possibility ignites a certain level of activation in our system, and if that exceeds what we are able to hold, then we will find our intention being hampered by thoughts of negativity or self-doubt.
I’ve talked extensively about the role of the nervous system and how it impacts our ability to “think positively”. If you want to get into the hows and whys, then jump over and listen to this podcast. It’ll give you a good idea of how your body is informing your mind and what to do about it.
Right, on to affirmations. Affirmations can be useful as a supportive practice, as part of a training plan that is reminding your brain that there is more available for it to focus on than might currently occupy its attention. For instance, if you are finding yourself habitually contracted around anxiety or nerves, it can be a gently redirect for the mind towards what is available and what you do have working; a way to remind yourself that two different versions of the same reality can exist at the same time while we are doing the work of restoring, unraveling and integration on a nervous system level.
The glitch is that affirmations are often used to veneer over and mask the truth of what is actually happening. For example, if I am feeling out of sorts, saying to myself “I am confident” is not really that useful, and can actually exacerbate the challenge as we feel a broadening valley of shame and despondency between what we actually feel and what we think we should feel.
It can also further propel certain emotions further into “unacceptable” territory. Until we are able to honor, be with, and take what we need from how emotion is showing up in our hearts, body, and mind, the emotional energy will only mutate and seek other ways to be heard (spoiler alert: those ways are usually undesirable).
Where does this leave me with the Law of Attraction then? Well, in kind of a few places. So yes, on the one hand, we do create our own realities… kind of. But those realities are impacted by many things that don’t see all of us on an equal footing. My squirmy-ness with the LOA is that it’s often used as a means of spiritual bypassing and a means to justify one person’s position (usually of privilege) when juxtaposed against that of another.
If you want to get super big picture and see things from a “universal level” then maybe we have chosen this life, this body, this horse, and this position to be in. But regardless if that’s the case, when we are in a position of such luxury to consider the law of attraction a thing, or to spend time thinking about it, then we have a responsibility to ensure that to the best of our knowledge, we are creating an equal playground for everyone; horse, human and beyond.
We can talk about creating our own reality and use whatever powers at our disposal to put it into practice in our own lives, but this does not absolve us of responsibility to seek to correct disparities such as:
Racial and gender disparities and inequalities
Structural and social inequalities
Yup. We can’t wild card our way out of those.
So all of that together, how does that leave us on the day to day level of working with our horses? Kind of like this:
Intention is important. It provides clarity of direction and establishs the quality of connection and create a clear impression of what is it we would like to see manifest in the physical.
Affirmations can be hit and miss. You can use them as a way to affirm your intention certainly, but if you are trying to gloss over a very different feeling reality and aren’t “doing the work” at the same time then you’ve kind of lost me.
Law of Attraction: If it’s a thing, in any case, it’ll take care of itself. Honestly, I’m probably not the best person to talk to about it but I would say be discerning and be self-responsible and you’re all good.
Shining lights into dark corners. Seeking out practices that affirm aliveness. Clear is kind. Ambiguity and indecision breeds uncertainty. Understand yourself and what it takes to not only create an intention but to develop the capacity to hold it. Learn to ground and center in the midst of big energies and emotions. This is my practice.