When I transitioned from ‘doing’ to my ‘being’ self, I decided to live in the present moment. Ironically enough, this shift started with encouragement by my horses. Now, existing with present-moment awareness has evolved into my life’s ‘one thing’.
The concept of life’s ‘one thing’ was most memorably addressed in the 1991 movie City Slickers. Billy Crystal's character, Mitch, is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly is giving Mitch some life advice.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the ‘one thing?’
Curly: That's what you have to find out.
Discovering how to live in the moment changed my trajectory of how I ‘show up’ in life. It enables me to foster stronger connectivity with other humans and my horses. I feel more fulfilled in life because I’m not expending energy as if it’s a limitless resource. I conserve it for what I want to exert it on.
Did you know the the present moment is the only moment horses know? Unlike humans, horses don’t spend time reliving the past or experiencing the future before it arrives. More importantly, to earn horses’ trust, humans must choose to be present.
Horses are masters at letting humans know when we’re not present. They reflect our inner thoughts and emotions in many ways. One way is by disengaging from the activity. Disengagement can look like transitioning their attention from us toward something else, turning away from us (so their hind quarters are toward us) or walking away.
As a talking species, our first response is often to inquire. Since verbalizing questions such as, “What’s wrong?” or “What did I do to frustrate you?” don’t get us very far with our four-legged teachers. Instead we’re blessed with opportunities for self-reflection. Within these moments are where magic transpires and self-awareness takes hold.
Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. I find it fascinating that humans are fortunate enough to have such willing teachers to guide us toward discovery when we make the decision to live in the moment.
Why make the effort to develop self-awareness, you may wonder?
Developing self-awareness empowers you to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind. Changing the interpretations in your mind allows you to change your emotions. Self-awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving success.
What’s even more fascinating is that as I reflect on my learning journey with the horses, I realize how applicable those lessons are in the art of communications.
To illustrate this point, think about the last time you engaged in face-to-face communication with someone. Were you fully present? By present I mean consciously aware - mindful - of the verbal and nonverbal messages? Did you hear only the words spoken or did you also notice the nonverbal nuances that occurred?
If the spoken words are all you recall, chances are you weren’t as present as you’re capable of being. Demonstrating presence to another person shows up in the form of making eye contact, offering facial expressions and possibly offering audible responses such as, “Uh huh” or “I see” to what’s being said. When you’re present, you have the discipline to avoid mental side trips such as, “What’s for dinner?” or “How much is it going to snow?” You can even train your mind to avoid anticipating what the other person is going to say and creating your response.
I challenge you to experience how it feels to live in the present moment with a brief activity (below). If you enjoy it, I encourage you to continue growing your way of ‘being’ and consider engaging in an equine-guided education experience.
Purposely carve out (as in schedule it on your calendar like you do meetings and appointments) just five minutes of time on a chosen day. During that five minutes of time, focus only on whatever is happening in your space in that very moment. Discipline your mind to keep it from side-tripping to Sunday’s NFL game or what you’re wearing for the New Year’s Eve party.
When your mind takes a side trip (as it naturally will, especially when you’re just beginning), acknowledge its presence, thank the thought your mind brought forth and resume focusing on the moment you’re in. Focusing precisely on the moment you’re in is where mindfulness and peace reside.
Did you experience mindfulness and peace? How did it feel? Does it feel like something you’d like to be better at? Did you know you can form the habit of living in the present, just like the horses? All it takes is the ‘want to’, time, patience and gentle guidance.