“Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk”
“Practice what you preach”
“Say what you mean and mean what you say”
“Actions speak louder than words”
“Put your money where your mouth is”
Idioms about the importance of being congruent in both speech and behavior abound.
Our spoken words, no matter how sincerely we mean them, become untrustworthy when they are not supported by our actions.
Similarly, our actions feel incongruent and insincere when they are not consistent with our intention and motives. We have all been on the receiving end of an interaction that appeared or seemed intended to be helpful or friendly, but instead felt empty at best and manipulative or exploitative at worst. Both our actions and our words, no matter how well intentioned, can leave us feeling confused and disconnected from each other if they are not congruent with our internal state of being, and can result in relational rupture.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “embody” in this way: to be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).
Embodiment entails a sense of internalizing and integrating a way of being in the world that moves beyond our way of doing or behaving. Beyond acting as guidelines for behavior, embodied principles and beliefs become woven into the fabric of our identity and sense of self, and flow naturally into the ways in which we connect with self and others, both human and animal, and the larger world, including nature and our conceptualization of the divine.
We can sense the difference when someone is “acting kind” as opposed to “being kind.” Kind acts can be done for a variety of both honorable or self-serving motives. However, experiencing true kindness from someone who embodies the truth of their character in serving and caring for others because this is who they are engages our limbic system in an entirely different way and offers a rich relational opportunity for connection on a level so deep and healing that it is felt at a cellular level.
This kind of connection requires genuine presence, being in this moment and being with yourself and the one who is in front of you. We try in various ways to derive “being” from “doing,” but “doing” actually flows from our “being.”
WHO we are shows up in WHAT we do and HOW we do it.
A society of task managers
In our task-focused, accomplishment-driven society, our obsession with productivity and output leaves little room for the rich, satisfying, deeply healing experiences of connection that are only possible when we slow down and focus our complete attention on this interaction at this moment with this being, whether horse or human.
When I work with a client in the round pen who is asking for their horse’s attention while preoccupied with the outcome, so focused on the task of getting the horse to look at them, or turn and walk to them that they have reduced the interaction to a project whose success is measured by achieving a certain behavior, the principle of embodied connection is completely lost in the transactional nature of this exchange.
When the client shifts to a more genuine, present state, connecting with their deep longing to be seen and felt and valued, and sees and feels and values their horse as well, the change in energy is palpable. The quality and depth of the connection available in this type of relational exchange defies language, as it is felt on a somatic level between the two as an energetic exchange.
Embodiment requires breathing and processing space. . .
As a trauma survivor, I learned to “behave” appropriately in relational interactions by accurately assessing expectations and how to meet them in order to avoid rejection and abandonment. When I was first introduced to the Natural Lifemanship model of Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, I approached it the way I did everything I wanted to learn about: in a cognitive manner. I studied the model, memorized the principles and then practiced applying them in the round pen with horses in a task-focused, outcome driven way.
It soon became clear to me that I could ask a horse to attach and detach from me without any true connection whatsoever. I did not feel the warmth in my chest, or energetic exchange between myself and my horse that other people described when their horse connected with them. I spent hours in the round pen practicing making requests for interaction and felt despair about ever moving beyond the behavioral stage of it “looking right” without it ever “feeling right.”
Then I took the Natural Lifemanship Intensive Training, which focuses even more on embodying the relational principles of this model. I learned that the healing work we do with humans and horses is a way of “being” in the world, not only a way of “doing.” Embodiment requires breathing and processing space, which is why Natural Lifemanship trainings are designed in a combined video and live learning format that offers not only plenty of time to learn and master essential principles but also skilled and knowledgeable instructors to guide your learning by giving personalized feedback on the specific ways to practice these principles.
To read more about my experiences early on with Natural Lifemanship read here.
The secret to success
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the “10,000 hour rule” in his book, Outliers, based on a research study that found it takes about 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials like playing the violin or learning computer programming. A surprising nuance in this discovery revealed that it is not simply the amount of hours spent practicing but how you practice and who guides you in deciding what to focus on during that practice time that determines the level of success achieved. This idea of “deliberate practice” under the guidance of a skilled teacher who is able to assess each student individually and outline specific steps to help them improve then tailors the time spent to focus on what would be most helpful for that student’s growth and development.
How you use your practice time and who guides you is what matters most.
I spent hours in the round pen doing the same thing over and over, getting the same results, until I received the personalized attention and guidance I specifically needed to let go of my task driven focus and learned to embrace and embody the principles and nuances of true, heart-felt connection. I discovered the power of presence from trainers who embodied this with and for me so I could hone in on what was missing in my learning and start practicing in a way that actually led to transformational change.
How the NL Intensive training can help you embody connection
The Intensive Training is set up to enhance your learning with guidance and support specifically tailored to the areas you want and need to grow. It helped me refine my understanding of connection in relationship and led to powerful shifts in my perspective on my relationship with self and others, both horse and human.
This is a powerful opportunity to take the next step in your journey of personal and professional growth!
Practice Embodied Connection at Home
To practice feeling a sense of embodiment through connection, try taking a walk with a trusted person. Orient to your environment and do some mindfulness and grounding to become fully present in your body as you walk beside each other. Then start to notice if you can fall “in sync” with your partner, matching their stride by sensing their movement without looking at them.
Take turns lengthening your stride, speeding up and slowing down, and changing direction. Can you feel these shifts without looking at your partner’s legs or body with your eyes? Can you sense the energetic exchange between the two of you as you become entrained in your motion and your connection deepens through this rhythmic shared movement? Be playful with it! You can also try this with your horse or dog.
We look forward to seeing you!