I just looked up vitality in the dictionary just now and it was defined as this; exuberant physical strength or mental vigor; the capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence; the power to live or grow; the vital force or principle.
Vitality is the benchmark on which I now base my practice and my work. It’s not enough to be less anxious, less fearful, a little bit more confident- although that may be the start. The true measure comes from asking ourselves, as a result of the practices I am doing, do I feel more vital? Have I increased my capacity to hold more life force in my body and not feel the need to shut down or run away? Does my pulse feel stronger, do I have a bigger sense of self, a sharper awareness off the edges of my skin as a result of what I am doing?
In order for this to happen, we need to be open to the full expression of emotion in our body and not see them as instructions but as information; to be masterful of an experience means to be able to hold it and to choose where to take it, rather than feel at the mercy of it. As an example, I wrote a post on anger a couple of days back which resonated with many of you and confused others. Does anger have a place on our horses back? If I asked this to the masses, “it does not” would (and likely, should) be the cry. But the vital force of anger is the same energy that feeds determination, strength, and sharp focus. To deny that is to cut off an essential part of ourselves. To immediately interpret anger as violence or unfair use of force is to confuse the essence of the energy with a lack of skill in being able to hold it. They are not the same thing.
What’s more, our interpretation of many traditional and ancient practices have us skipping straight to acceptance and compassion and cause us to form a tunnel vision of what’s ok and not ok to feel. Defaulting there immediately can be a form of spiritual bypassing that desensitises and desensualises us from our own intuitive world, and overlooks the reality that we all exist in relationship; to ourselves, each other and our environment.
The art of any practice is to increase your ability to hold feelings, sensations, and emotions within the container of your body. As soon as the experience feels bigger than your body, it is at once bigger than your capacity to handle.
Use vitality as your benchmark. Ask yourself, does this practice make me feel more vital? Do I feel more alive? And have I increased my ability to hold that force in order that the full range of experience be available to me when I am alone, with others, and working together with my horse?
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