The cadence of our lives often takes on a staccato quality more akin to chatter, flack and chaos rather than a nicely balanced ebb and flow we know to be healthier. Horses seem more serene than we humans usually are. More at peace. They chew their hay with a solemn calm that is in some ways as nourishing to the soul as it is to the body.
Oh sure, under certain circumstances even the most laid back equine will dial it up, snort, paw, gallop off or otherwise react explosively to a stimulus with lightening speed and power. Yet it’s just this potential that frames the usual equanimity so perfectly, as potential and propensity coexist with such poise. Their vigilance for self-preservation is never completely absent which makes the time we spend with them bathed in utter calm all the more precious.
In this exercise while you will endeavor to breathe at the same rate as your equine partner I invite you to also partially be mindful of the grace being granted by this creature of flight, sweetening the experience ever so slightly allowing you to appreciate the moment even deeper.
- Stand next to a horse at the shoulder
- Place one or both hands on his neck or chest
- Quietly listen and feel for the intake and outflow of his breath
- If necessary place a hand near his nostrils to feel for the breath
- Adjust your own breathing to match the rhythm of his
- Clear your mind of any thought but of the pattern of breathing you and the horse are now sharing
- Do this until your own thoughts are quiet for a length of time
Breathing is a cyclical activity and, of course, goes on throughout this horse’s and our own lives every minute we’re alive. It is an elemental body function that accompanies our every moment on earth that allows us to stay connected to life. Our breathing adjusts itself to our condition: rest, exertion, excitement, relaxation, etc. We can also affect our breathing consciously to initiate those same conditions in our psyche. Indeed, the mere act of breathing calmly is known to create calmer feelings.
Because of its regular rhythm and fundamental role to life, focusing on breathing is a technique often used to teach meditation. Horse trainers look for deep sighs from a horse during a session because these indicate places where the physical and mental are coming together — the horse’s comprehension of the task at hand has just taken a ‘leap forward’ towards ‘getting’ the task at hand.
How would you describe the horse’s breath – physically and rhythmically?
What is your own breathing like when you are stressed, nervous or scared?
What does breath sound like when a being is in deep sleep?
When you sigh – what does it feel like emotionally?
Draw air in your sketchbook.
Hint: because of its qualities of invisibility you may find it easier to draw the evidence of ts existence — movement, life force, cyclical rejuvenation.