Hurry up and slow down

“Hurry up and slow down”  is an expression horse trainers often use. In the horse world, it means be patient; give your horse time to understand what you are asking and then learn to do it.  In every day terms, it means smell the roses, be mindful, enjoy the moment. Either way it’s about understanding that life is a journey and not a destination.

My mind is always ten steps ahead of me. On Sunday, it is planning meals for the whole week. On Wednesday, it’s thinking about what needs to be done on the weekend.  It tricks me into thinking this is discipline and good planning when, really, it’s just my thoughts running wild.

Believe me when I say that I try to practice mindfulness. Really, I do!  But I am a poor student. My mind is always ten steps ahead of me. On Sunday, it is planning meals for the whole week. On Wednesday, it’s thinking about what needs to be done on the weekend.  It tricks me into thinking this is discipline and good planning when, really, it’s just my thoughts running wild. Then one day, I found myself alone at the barn with my mare, Heidi, and I understood what mindfulness was.

Grooming her was something I usually saw as a task – an item to be checked off my “to do” list before riding. I’d  rush through it, brushing her and checking her feet quickly so as not to keep the others on the trail ride waiting. But that day something changed.

I’d put Heidi on the cross ties in the dimly lit barn and she was alert but not anxious.  The barn was usually filled with other riders and horses but that day it was just the two of us. Her velvety ears were pricked up and I saw curiosity in her expressive brown eyes. I waited but she didn’t call out for her buddies as she sometimes did when she was separated from the herd.  Finally, she dropped her head into relaxed stance as if to say, “This is OK; I trust you.”

I stood on her left side and began running my left had over her neck with the curry comb. My right hand followed with the soft brush, whisking away the dust and dirt loosened by the comb. I fell into a slow pattern, left-right, left-right, as I moved down from her neck, to her back and then her haunches.

“You like that, don’t you?” I murmured softly to her. She sighed, shifted her weight from her left hind foot to her right one and lowered her big head even more. I stepped behind her and moved to her right.  As my hands passed  over her sturdy, warm body, I felt my breathing and heart rate slow. The repeated brush strokes became like a mantra that spread a sense of calm through my own body.

At the same time, I was totally focused. I saw her coat turn jet-black again as I whisked away the layer of powdery dust. When I reached her mane,  I was conscious of my fingers wrestling with the knots in her long, wiry tresses until they loosened and broke apart. I felt her warm breath when I stood in front of her to comb her forelock. Most of all, I felt a fleeting connection, a meeting of our hearts and minds.

It sounds crazy and maybe it was. But it was also a little big magical, like being transported into a world where nothing mattered but the here and now.

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