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Tracy Courtney

Presence or Absence?

Have we ever stopped to consider why so many horses have issues with handling their feet? Why so many dogs have issues with handling their feet & why so many have to be sedated &/or muzzled? How many of us suffer from sore feet & other foot issues? How many of us have issues with being touched or with being around crowds of people? How many dogs get left at home because of their behaviour? How many horses suffer from what has been termed buddy sour, barn sour, which prevents us from being able to ride away from their buddies or the barn, where they feel more comfortable & safe? How many of us have genuinely pondered these questions & how many of us have simply blamed, degraded & forced our pets to comply without a second thought?


A few years ago, I wrote an article titled " Deeper Physical Effects of Unbalanced Emotions". This was an introduction into how unbalanced mental & emotional processes affect not only our pet's bodies but our own bodies as well, & how these effects lead to all of our aches, fractures, illness & dis-ease. We have been conditioned to always search for external causes & point fingers elsewhere, but the fact is that we are responsible for these things, not our environment. Pictures were also included to demonstrate the more visible effects on the body, as a result of accumulated micromanagement, stress & anxiety we place on our pets every day, due to our lack of listening, connection & forcing our pets to live in their heads, as we do.


What is the furthest extremity from the mind? It's the feet. Our horse's feet, our dog's feet & our feet. When our pets & ourselves are functioning from the limited head space, we have to bring the awareness back through the entire body & down into the feet. If we are unable to touch our pet's body without resulting apprehension, then this is a given that we're going to have trouble with trying to handle the feet. This falls into the realm of when I often say, we can know what's going to happen before it even happens. When we choose to move beyond the physical attributes of behaviour, in order to understand the fundamental root causes, this enables us to accurately predict & eliminate many behaviour extensions simultaneously. It's not mysterious or available only to a chosen few, these understandings are available to everyone of us, but it does require us to do the work in letting go of what we think we know & moving out of our habitual comfort zones, that shift us into auto-pilot. It's a choice & nobody else can make this choice for us.


As with the rest of this Process, it does not require us to create blocks of time for ritual, dogmatic practice. Everything that's offered here is practical & simplified in order to move away from long-standing beliefs & habits. It does not require spending money or time with anyone except yourself first, & then incorporating our pets into our practice. Where do we begin? Change begins with the recognition that change is needed. If we choose to deny that what we've been doing isn't working 100%, then our struggles & frustrations will continue by choice. If we make a choice to explore something new, we will begin by asking ourselves how present or absent we are in everything we do? How connected & aware are we to our entire environment, really? Let's begin by being honest with ourselves. We don't have to involve anyone else or their opinions in this answer because ours is the only one that matters.


When we're driving out to see our horse at the barn, just how aware are we? Are the windows up, with the air conditioning on & the radio blaring our favorite song? When we go out to retrieve our horse from the pasture, how aware are we? When we place the halter over our horse's head, how aware are we? When we lead our horse from the pasture to the barn, how aware are we? When we groom our horse & tack them up, how aware are we? When we lead our horse from the cross ties to the designated area, how aware are we? While we're riding or doing groundwork, how aware are we? When we're clipping the leash to our dog's collar, how aware are we? During our walk with our dog, how aware are we? When we see our dog get excited about another dog approaching, how aware are we? When our dog barks at the doorbell or chews up our shoes, how aware are we?


Just as the methods we have adopted from others' intellectual processes about how we should handle our pets, there are many rules & regulations that we have accepted into our own personal belief systems as beneficial & mandatory. If they've been done this way & in this particular order for centuries, then they must be necessary & correct, right? What if some of the things we've come to believe in through mass acceptance, had their place & time & these things were beneficial, but it's time to replace them with something new & improved?


Progress is not found through stagnation. As with the cookie-cutter methods we traditionally accept & drill into our pets, is it possible that we've been performing cookie-cutter practices for ourselves as well? One of these may be how we believe we must go about quieting our mind chatter & clearing out the clutter. What if we no longer need to create blocks of time for practice? What if we don't need to perform intricate rituals & steps? What if we don't need to sit, close our eyes, listen to specific sounds or focus on our breath? What if we had a choice to use something simple & effective to change our habits & quiet our minds, no matter where we are or what we're doing? We are taught that meditation involves sitting in quiet places & focusing on the breath, the thoughts, imagination, etc, but this is not meditation, this is concentration. Meditation involves not concentrating on any object & not using the aid of the mind. We believe that we must invest a lot of time, effort & repetition in meditation, in order to climb some stairs & reach a goal, but we really only need 1 second in time & that's it. No more need for meditation practices! 


How many of us have noticed an animal crossing the road at the very last moment & had to swerve dramatically to avoid hitting them or were unable to avoid hitting them? This is the result of a contracted awareness & being in our heads. If we were fully present, in expanded awareness, we would have noticed this animal long before we got close to it & would have been much more likely to make the necessary adjustments in time.


One of the most complex problems I've been searching for a solution to, for over 30 years now, was how to connect people to their bodies because they are completely disconnected & unaware of what their own bodies are doing in any given moment. Through the human exercises in Parameters, we experience expanding our awareness for the first time since we were very young children, but we must be willing to continue to practice because it's much too easy to fall back into habitual contracted awareness.


While walking from the barn to the pasture to retrieve our horse, how do we travel normally? We focus on grabbing our equipment, walking briskly to the pasture, quickly placing the halter on & walking back to the cross ties. Sounds pretty simple & normal, right? We just performed all of these actions from a contracted & limited head space. How do we know the difference?


When functioning through expanded awareness, we would feel every single footstep we made. We would notice the crickets & frogs that cleared our path. We would have counted the 3 butterflies that flew near us & noted how interesting it is that the majority of them are white this year, as opposed to the predominantly yellow ones last year. We would have heard the different songs of the 4 types of birds in the background & how they suddenly became quiet, with the screech of the hawk in the distance. We would have felt the wind on our bare arms, how it blew the hair across our face & tickled our nose, every time the wind picked up slightly. We would have felt & heard every footstep & noticed how one foot lands perfectly, pointing forward & the other lands pointing slightly to the outside. This might have led us into deeper contemplation about the issues we've been experiencing on this same side of our horse, while riding.


When we clip the leash to our dog's collar, we would notice if our dog is facing us or turning away from us as quickly as possible in anticipation of bolting out the open door. Having recognized this pattern of body language, we would take the time to ask our dog to do some other things until they were mentally & emotionally prepared to respond to our request to sit & wait, thereby not reinforcing behaviours we don't want. How many of us can say we're this present with our pets or in any other aspects of our lives?


What separates us is not race, gender or nationality. What separates us is ourselves. We live in our heads, almost completely oblivious to everything around us, including our own bodies. We never know what's going on with our bodies until something hurts, which is the only time we notice its existence. We live in our own little worlds of the intellectual walls we've created for ourselves & wonder why we feel disconnected from nature, family & everything else. We can't know what we don't know, however, we do have a choice & it's time to wake up & make the necessary changes, through personal, individual dissection & analyzation.


The first step in helping our pet's move out of their heads & back in touch with their bodies, is moving ourselves out of our own heads & back into our own bodies. This opens up the needed space & allows for our pets to do the same, otherwise we will continue to treat them as we are. Moving out of our own heads brings us back into feeling, which we lose while limited to functioning only from the mind. We can't feel through the mind, but we can feel everything through the body.


Can a bigger bit, whip, spur, tie-down, lunging, prong, shock collar or any other nasty gadgets move our pets out of the confinements of the mind & back into their body? Why don't we try these things on ourselves & create experiential proof of just how ineffective these things really are, other than to drive them deeper into the mind & creating the opposite effect of what we're trying to achieve. Gadgets are a creating of the mind, rooted in dominance & control without feeling. True listening & mutual discussion are a creation of the body/heart, rooted in compassion & respect. The limited & contracted, habitual mind swirls like a tornado, leaving pain, suffering & destruction in its wake. The expanded awareness flows in harmony with the mind, senses & everything else. It allows space for balance & profound, individual creativity.