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  • Lisa Wieben

Finding Balance During a Pandemic with Centered Riding Principles

I am a Centered Riding Instructor and I am really seeing how the tools that Sally Swift brought to the horse community many years ago are so relevant in what we are now going through in the world.

I am going to start with the concept of Grounding. This is not one of the original Centered Riding Basics, but in her second book Sally said that grounding gives all the other basics security. In riding we use the concept of grounding as having the feeling of being on the ground. This gives us a more secure seat and ability to connect with the horse. Being grounded affects you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It allows you to take on life’s challenges in a more steady way. You are more able to process, learn, and focus when you are grounded. Imagine being rooted to the ground like a tree to begin to feel more grounded. Place your hands on your thighs and imagine the earth’s energy coming up into your body. Just like the tree you will be more able to withstand life’s storms.

Soft Eyes is the next concept. Through soft eyes we can see the bigger picture. In her first book she explained Soft Eyes this way, “It is a method of becoming distinctly aware of what is going on around you, beneath you, inside of you. It includes feeling and hearing as well as seeing. You are aware of the whole, not just separate parts.” When we ride with Hard Eyes, we are only focusing on one thing, perhaps the horse’s head, and our body becomes tense in the single minded awareness. When we lift our eyes and see the whole picture using our periphery, and our feel, our body relaxes and we are better able to ride what we have rather than try to force something to happen. We can chose to see the current situation as happening to us and be angry, fearful, frustrated etc. or we can choose to see the world as a whole. We are all in this together. We can help each other. When you see things as a whole and see the good that is arising you will have fewer tensions, you will feel freer to move forward on your path, and you will be more equipped to “ride” out the storm.

With everything going on in the world it is an important reminder to breathe. How many times have you heard an instructor remind you to breathe? When we breathe shallowly or hold our breath we are creating tension in our body. Along with the tension there will be less oxygen flowing through your body as your lungs will not be expanding fully. This will lead to feeling more tired, foggy, and moody. Sally said, “You can breathe a horse to quietness. You can breathe him past things that scare him.” Perhaps we can take note and breathe past what scares us. You see something on the news, breathe, you feel fear, breathe. As you breathe take that breathe down into your center, feel the belly expanding as the diaphragm drops down. You can use your imagination and your soft eyes and feel the breath going down into your center and all the way down your legs into the ground, feeling more grounded with each breath. Perhaps think of

drawing healing, harmonious energy up from the earth on your inhale and then exhaling negative thoughts back down into the earth, let them go. Feel how much your body relaxes with each breath.

As we breathe into our Center we create more stability. Just like in riding when we are centered we have greater stability. The horse may spook, but we are better equipped to ride it out, keeping our center low and balanced. During these times we can breathe down into our center, but we can also come into our heart center. “Retire to your center and be quiet,” Sally wrote. In that space of quietness feel your body relax. By centering we can be ready for the next movement or exercise. As we retreat inside (social distancing) we can find our center, rest, regroup, and be prepared for what comes next as the world will be changed from what it was when we entered this space.

Building Blocks is another core basic. In riding that is having all of our parts stacked to give us stability. If any of the parts is out of balance it throws everything out of balance and creates tension in both the horse and the rider. I see Building Blocks in two parts. First we need to look at our own building blocks – good nutrition, fitness, emotional well-being, and soul connection. While we are going inside to our center we can continue to take care of our bodies and minds. Exercise, do yoga, meditate, journal. You may at this time be eating well, but you are sitting on the couch all day, or you may be exercising, but not eating well. Your building blocks will not be stacked. To have balance in our lives we need a little of all of the above, movement, nutritious foods, quiet time to reflect, and social connections. The second part of Building Blocks is our communities. Look at how many people are working together to help each other. Even if that is staying home to keep others safe you are helping the whole. Our essential workers are the building blocks to our communities. Without them this journey would be much more difficult and they need our support.

The final basic is Clear Intent. This is a picture of what you want to happen. This gives structure to your ride, a purpose. Wake up each day with a purpose. In all of our life we will likely never get a chance again to be able to spend our days in this way. Find something you’ve always wanted to do and do it! Paint, sculpt, read, write, garden, enjoy nature, or connect with those you love. Enjoy the journey. This pandemic is giving us time to reflect, to dive deep into a topic we love, to study, to read, to BE with ourselves. What do you see? If you were to die tomorrow would you have lived the life you loved or were you looking for more? What changes can you make? What brings you joy?

As you can see from all these basics they all work harmoniously together to have us moving and living grounded and centered, able to take on what needs to be done without the stress and tension that we tend to feel. Life is a roller coaster, but by following these basics, these guidelines, we will be better able to work through any problem that comes our way. Practice and Enjoy.

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