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Tracy Courtney

The he/she & me roadblock

For simplicity, we will condense the words he & she into the word "she" to refer to both, meaning who we are innately & who we become during our interactions with our horse & dog. I often like to begin with visualizations because they allow for transforming the abstract into the tangible. In this moment, imagine yourself sitting alone in your favorite place. Habitually, you will focus on the external environment & marvel at its beauty or tranquility, or whatever you feel draws you to this place. I would like you to shift your focus inward to yourself & forget about the environment for a few minutes. Deeply analyze & dissect your thoughts, feelings & emotions in this place. How does it make you feel? Happy, content, relaxed? There is no concern about what anyone might think, people you have to meet or places you have to go. There is nobody to impress, answer to, no time limits & no physical tension in your body. We will refer to you in this place as the "me".

Now visualize yourself in a normal daily routine that involves interacting with other people & places. When you're driving, do you get annoyed with the way others drive? When having to come into close proximity with others you aren't fond of or have had conflict with in the past, what happens to your thoughts, feelings & emotions? If walking with your significant other & they spend a little too long looking in the direction of someone you consider to be prettier or more handsome than you, how does that make you feel? Do you analyze & compare the way others walk, talk, dress or act? If you were to pass a couple arguing very loudly in public, would you internally judge & criticize their situation before moving on? If you were to analyze your physical reactions during these scenarios, would you find tension in the body? We will refer to you in this place as the "she".

In previous articles, it has often been mentioned how our thoughts directly influence our body language, which is a horse's primary avenue of communication & understanding. We don't realize that there is a direct connection between the two & that every thought is simultaneously enacted in the body. Being unaware of this leads us to mythical, external conclusions such as, horses can read our minds. If the mind has so much influence on our physical interactions, is it possible that it is equally influencing on our verbal interactions as well? Can this recognition lead us to deeper insights into our conditioned habits that we may be unaware of & act as a guide to help us understand when we're falling into old, counterproductive habits? It has been mentioned previously how words can become triggers when we choose to make strong associations to certain words & how this will always lead to conflict. This article serves to dive a little deeper into our habitual associations & application of words & how they influence not only everything around us, but ourselves & can prevent us from reaching deeper levels of communication with our horses.

Now, visualize yourself standing with your horse on a long lead. I'm standing beside you & we are having a session with you & your horse. You are instructed to ask your horse to send to the left, then you are to stand quietly & listen to what your horse is trying to teach you. You are to translate verbally to me, what your horse is saying through their body language. Without exception, every one of you would begin your sentences with he or she. He is doing this, or she isn't doing that. I want him to stop doing this or I want her to start doing that. Even if the verbal applications to your perceptions of the events aren't posed as a statement, but as a question like, why isn't she doing this when I do that? What we fail to understand in these moments are the conditioning behind the words, the effects the associations to these words have on us mentally, emotionally & physically & how they transfer to everything we do.

Beginning to recognize when we're using these words offers great insight into our own frame of mind, emotional potential & the resulting thought processes that will habitually occur as a result. We have already established that when we're in the "she" frame of mind, the conditioned habits of being judgemental, critical, impatient & reactive are fully present & we will create the "curtain of thoughts" that will distort & obscure everything we're trying to achieve. More than this, what these words serve to remind us of is the conditioning of wanting to search for external explanations for cause & effect, when this will never be the real root of the problems. Beginning any sentence or thought process with the word he or she is the equivalent to saying our horse is the source of the problem & we have to find a way to fix our horse. There is a subtle underlying implication that our horse is doing something wrong & we have to find a way to fix the problem, when what's really happening is that we are not being clear about what we want & we have to change the way the question is being posed to our horse. When we can begin to start our sentences with me instead of she, a huge shift in perception has taken place within us & this is where new & profound insight can be found. Instead of saying, "why is she responding this way?", we can begin to shift our perceptions internally to ask, "what is it in me or what am I doing to cause this response?" This opens a new door of connection & communication that was previously unavailable to you & this door carries more empathy, insight & patience.

To help illustrate the premise of this article, we will end with a fitting Buddhist story...

A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He takes a boat & goes to the middle of the lake, closes his eyes & begins to meditate. After a few hours of unperturbed silence, he suddenly feels the blow of another boat hitting his. With his eyes still closed, he feels his anger rising & when he opens his eyes, he's ready to shout at the boatman who dared disturb his meditation.

But when he opened his eyes, he saw that it was an empty boat, floating in the middle of the lake. At that moment, the monk achieves self-realization & understands that anger is within him, it simply needs an external object to provoke it. After that, whenever he meets someone who irritates or provokes his anger, he remembers that the other person is just an empty boat. The anger is within himself.