Me and Mom on the beach, just before the 2nd gallop.
We’ll be putting together an audiolab exercise for breath work as part of this series but in the meantime I thought I’d share a recent experience that reminded me how important the simple act of breathing is in any intense situation.
Now, of course working with the breath is a piece of advice Christine and I give a lot, in many different contexts. However there’s nothing like a visceral moment of experience to prevent advice from going stale. In traditional communication settings, working with the breath is part of my routine and at this point it flows pretty well. During this most recent experience I found myself needing my breath to affirm presence and keep my head clear, as you do in standard communication activities, but the situation was unique in that failing to do so could have ended with me being launched off a horse and into the ocean.
In my Olympian post a few weeks ago I touched on my past experience as a member of the United States Pony Club, which I absolutely loved. Being around horses and riding are among the things that make me the happiest in this world. So while spending some time with family in Scotland this past week my mom and I decided to look into doing a ride on the beach. We found a lovely equestrian center that was able to book us in and headed over for an early evening ride. It was exactly the kind of place I like, down to earth; we got to brush our horses and our guide Ed, was hilarious and no-nonsense. My mom was assigned a very noble steed named Snowy and I rode Ed’s beautiful chestnut mare called Charm. As we headed into the scenic Scottish countryside Ed put us through a few tests, trotting and cantering, evidently we passed because what followed was two hours of the most intense riding I had done in YEARS. Important note about my mom, it had been even longer since she’d ridden like this and she handled it like a champion.
When I say intense what I’m specifically talking about is galloping, which for those of you unfamiliar with riding, is the fastest gait of a horse where all four feet come off the ground together with each forward movement. It’s thrilling, challenging, and something I hadn’t done in quite a while. We galloped through the forests, through golden fields and finally across the beach. It was during a walking break on the beach that I realized although I was having fun and being amazed by the scenery, I was breathing in this shallow, protective way. Charm wanted to go (she is very fast) and I was fighting her because I was afraid to fully release into the moment and be there. This was not the kind of rider I had been in my younger days. In fact I can’t really ever remember feeling timid when it came to racing through fields until that moment. So I thought, this is a communication issue. If I can let my breath drop and feel grounded to connect with Charm, I can be present and let go of the fear to fully enjoy this exceptional experience. This was critical point because Ed had told us the horses go even faster when they turn to head back down the beach, it was hard to imagine that but would have been far more foolish to not take that information seriously. So I put my heels down (riderspeak), took a long, steady breath in through my nose, picked up my reins and seemed to feel Charm say “Buckle-up Buttercup!”
It was a fantastic gallop down the beach. If any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, I’ll put it like this: it was like I was a full-on Rider of Rohan with the strings music blasting in the background as I charged to save Middle Earth. The feelings of freedom and exhilaration were intoxicating. The ride was easily one of the best in my life and I was able to enjoy it because I got myself to breathe with connection.
All this is to say, autumn is a time of returning to endeavors, starting something new, gearing up for hard work, it’s a time of transition. Don’t breathe shallowly through it; find your breath and your pace. Maybe even try a gallop! You might surprise yourself.
Take Good Care,
Lindsay and Christine