About Me

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North Lawrence, New York, United States
I can be described as lover of life, an animal lover, and lover of education. I am constantly striving for knowledge and learning opportunities. I've been around horses my entire life. I enjoy working with horses and their human partners through natural horsemanship philosophies, natural balance bare foot hoof care, reiki, red-light therapy, essential oils, aromatherapy, crystal healing, chromotherapy, flower essences, and more. I am a Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Teacher who offers treatments for people, horses, dogs, cats, and other creatures great and small. I also teach Reiki classes for those interested in learning how to treat themselves, their loved ones, and even their animals! Natural Horse Lover Farm is located in Northern New York between the St. Lawrence River and Adirondack Mountains. Heaven on Earth. naturalhorseloverfarm.com

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's not about the saddle...Life Coaching...Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone Was Well Worth The Trip!

Image from: http://www.womensu.com/EmotionalFitnessandHorsesCoaching.htm

On Friday, I experienced something I'd never done before. A deep, self-reflection and exploration about my belief system related to being perfect and what that means, where it comes from, and how it may be getting in the way, using a Life Coach, Lauren Lee, President and Owner of Women's U. She specializes in women entrepreneurs and now, has a specialty is working with Parelli students on emotional fitness (plus, she is also a Parelli student and one of my blog readers). Life coaching, by the way, is a way to encourage and help people achieve their goals, it goes along the lines of leadership training (I am certain Lauren could tell you all much more about that.) As posted on her website:

"As a Parelli student, you are dedicated to learning and improving, and being a better leader for your horse. Your learnings can't help but spill over into your life and other relationships. And as your horse learns and grows through thresholds, you can't help but uncover some of your own.

Often you can clear a threshold easily. But sometimes, a threshold can run deep. You can use support to help you move through those thresholds that are no longer serving you.

I create a safe, confidential space for you to explore your threshold - it's origins, how it's served you, how it manifests in your life, etc. And if you're ready, I can help you release it, move through it, and create a new vision without that threshold present."

This exercise was well outside of my comfort zone and my body reacted to that...I my heart started racing just before I called her and felt my mind racing and feeling worried, not sure why exactly...I can talk to anyone! But, I made the call and afterwards, not only was I relaxed but, I was laughing, learned a great deal, and made a major breakthrough.

So, without getting into all of the nitty-gritty details, our interaction stemmed from my post on June 10, 2010 about a sneaky threshold that I thought was about the saddle. It was a strange and unsettling experience and Lauren thought that there must have been something else going on, thus our conversation. In simple terms, it seems that I have created for myself, since childhood, and in all facets of my life, the idea that perfection is equated with being loved or accepted and that being less than perfect with being dismissed and devalued. I am often and almost always very critical of myself, I push myself very hard, work very hard all of the time, and take on way more than most people. Nothing is ever good enough and I never give myself any latitude. I am my own worst enemy being particularly critical at all times no matter how well I've done something. I am the one who looks in the mirror and only sees faults, that no matter how many things I achieve, I think I should be doing more (it must be why my schedule is so busy with all types of different activities, projects, meetings, etc.) Now, this strive for perfection has allowed me to become very successful in life and gives me a strong drive and strong work ethic. I am independent, intelligent, and able to work under very difficult circumstances, great under pressure and deadlines (you get the picture). I've got a great, successful career, wonderful long-term marriage, lovely home and land living where I want to be, beautiful animals, am part of the Parelli world, etc. but some of my goals or potential experiences (short term and long term) in life have been interrupted because of my willingness to let perfectionism interfere and derail me.

This can manifest itself in many ways but one has been to slow my Parelli journey because things were not perfect and thus, I might fail. For instance, I waited to tape my level 1, not because I could not do the tasks but, because I hated how I looked on video (and frankly, I dislike all of my videos and tend to avoid taping even though I know how important it is for assessment whether personal of official). Now, I realize logically this is ridiculous and that being perfect all of the time is not possible. No one is perfect in everything in their lives (except maybe in the movies...lol). However, thinking from the emotional side of my brain is something altogether different. (Is this a right-brained left-brained thing? HMMMM) Being able to let go and allow myself to be vulnerable, to allow myself to try even if I may be less than perfect, can be very difficult, especially if other people are around to "catch me" being less than the image of perfection. I think this has played a huge part in my riding or playing with horses in public, going to events, despite the things I did with the play groups. I am comfortable with the Parelli people, just not the others (normals). I don't want to defend what I am doing and certainly cannot make a mistake in front of them! I can do it but sometimes feel inept, concerned, and was certainly this way when Clare visited, all I could focus on was trying to be perfect and what it got me was nothing. I wanted to show her all the good stuff we had going on but that is not what happened at all. I became direct line with my horses to the point they didn't recognize or interact with me like usual, and I found myself feeling unusually nervous and worried because I didn't recognize them either. (Sorry Clare.)

One thing to note about the saddle issue. Although it is not about the saddle, it kind of is. What I mean is, I feel most comfortable bareback. The real reason is that I feel more one with my horse, I can feel their emotions and body language. I tend to use only nonverbal cues with them and body language with them and it is no different while riding, not really (no voice commands, no clicker work, as Parelli always said to communicate through my body so I do and it works for us--but I recognize others do what works for them and it may be different--I have to remember that it is okay that we are all different). Anyhow, having a saddle that properly fits will help with the saddle issue when I need to use one (as explored with the fitting exercise) and, Lauren also suggested my trying a treeless saddle as a potential compromise and option. I also understand that even though many people say I need a saddle, that it is also okay for me to be riding bareback if I want to (like on a trail ride) even when they cannot, and that is does not make me the weird one or the imperfect one, that I am doing what works for me and my horses and that it is really okay. I have alternatives and just needed to remember that. I felt like I was stuck with riding because I didn't have a saddle that fit when I can still ride, just without, as I've always have done! Why was I letting other people interfere with my belief system and process? The only answer I can come up with is because I was trying to be what I thought they saw as perfect. What it got me was not riding my horses at all (or very little).

So, this week, my assignment, one that Lauren and I came up with, is to play approach and retreat with being perfect, being particular not critical (as Pat Parelli has told us time and time again to do with our horses), celebrating that I am human and thus, cannot achieve 100% perfection, and being okay with that. This does not mean for me to not strive to do my ultimate best, to always look to improve, but what it does mean is to give myself a little respect and breathing room, to treat myself like I treat others, and learn to accept myself with open arms and not a scowl and a reprimand. Does this sound strange? I think I am really happy about this. I think it is the love yourself and you can love others thing in a way.

Another part of my life (and I am sure there are many more) that is full of perfectionist thoughts, that I face daily, is Weight Watchers. Although I've lost a great deal of weight so far (42.4 lbs), and receive many compliments about how great I am looking...one person even said she didn't recognize me from afar, I often have berated myself for not loosing enough, for not being on track all of the time, not starting WW sooner, allowing myself to get heavy in the first place, etc., you get the idea. And, for any of you trying to be healthy, you know it is difficult to be perfect all of the time (at least for me) and that can be maddening. If I let it get to me (like I did so many years ago when I lost 50 lbs on WW---but gained it all back because I quit when I could not be perfect and plateaued), I'd just quit again (which would do me no good at all not my horses for that matter). I don't want to quit, and won't quit, I am dedicated for life. So anyhow, this morning, I had a small gain at WW weekly weigh-in, it was expected because I was off track towards the end of last week, struggling, not exercising, but I am okay with the gain because it is a life-long journey, a lifestyle, and not something that can be perfect every minute. I have made huge progress since January and am looking forward to the rest of this journey towards goal. I enjoyed my meeting and found a renewed energy. My new week started today and I am on track, feeling great, and feeling human (not like a nutsy perfectionist).

I can also happily report that today I played with and rode all three horses (more riding than anything) for two hours, all over the place (up and down the driveway, near our camping area, in the playground) I had fun and success, we did new things, I felt great, felt liberated, felt safe, felt competent and confident...I rode in sandals, bareback, (with a helmet) all over the place and they were not stressed about anything (nor was I), not the tacking up, not the things I asked for, nothing (except maybe the deer and horse flies--ouch they bite). I know it has something to do with the non verbal communication we have and my emotional fitness. I know that my discussion with Lauren helped me to loosen up, give myself a break, and finally allow myself to have fun again. No worries, no concerns about what tack, what other people thought, what I "should" be doing. Just freedom and fun.

To end my day (besides being on my computer and watching TV tonight), I ran my C25K run with my dog Morgan to kick off this week's exercise. We are doing great and planning to do week 5 starting tomorrow which makes us on track for the July 8th race. I had run behind on our workouts and cut a few repetitions of week 3 and 4 workouts out but am able to keep up so, here I am, pushing myself to week 5 tomorrow and I know I can do it! Should we hit a point where it becomes too difficult,I won't give up, I'll just keep pushing until I can do it. :)

Well, this is a lot to think about and I've barely scuffed the surface here. There is so much more scrambling around in my head and I think I've written this post many times over in my head but, the more eloquent language seems to still be up in there somewhere! LOL I hope that this was interesting and enlightening. In closing, I feel empowered by the work (play) Lauren and I did and feel compelled to move forward, especially in my horsemanship, and ready to not worry about taping and trying to do other things without worry of ridicule and persecution (especially from myself). I'll report back at the end of this week and let you know how things are going!

Just a note that my husband has been telling me for years, but especially recently, to be happy with myself, to love myself, and to give myself a break and celebrate my life. He encourages me to spend time with the horses, to run with Morgan and have fun, to go to WW and enjoy it, etc. He is a great guy and wonderful supporter. I often have felt guilty about spending time with the horses or doing other things without him and he has told me time and time again that there is no reason to feel that way. Today I felt no guilt, just had a great day (and found time to be with Rick too).

If you have any concerns about your emotional fitness and your PNH journey, PLEASE contact Lauren, she is wonderful, kind, thoughtful, and caring! I plan to have another conversation with her in the near future and may continue the life coaching relationship, it was fascinating!

Here is her information (she approved me passing it along on the blog).

Lauren Lee
Emotional Fitness Coaching for Parelli Natural Horsemanship Students


Naturally Gaited said...

I think that Lauren has helped you to hit the nail on the head.

In my case it manifests as "procrasto-perfectionism" and the tendency to over-think things to the point that my flight response kicks in and I quit. (Tenley refers to this as "catastrophizing"!)

You, however, sense a challenge and rise up to conquer it! A true fight response. You tend suppress your feelings to get the job done in the most direct manner - but may suffer emotional costs later. (I, on the other hand, tend to bail first and ask questions later.)

We are sure learning TONS about ourselves. Perhaps this is the gift of age? (There has got to be some sort of up side to it!!)

Love ya!

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Taking a hard look at oneself is dificult but important. I think that our age lends us maturity, which is needed to go through this exercise.

I agree, Lauren hit the nail on the head and it was nothing I'd suspected or expected, a total surprise really. How interesting!


inchwormwv said...

Hey Michelle, it is liberating to feel okay about making mistakes in front of other people. Willingness to try something when you are not sure of the outcome, or when you know you cannot control the outcome really cuts down on stress. Good for you for sharing your experiences on your blog, I know you have helped me, and probably many others. :-D

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Thank you Tenley, I appreciate your insight and kind words. I have been enjoying reading about you and Augie...Clare says that you two will go anywhere and do anything! How awesome and inspiring!


inchwormwv said...

Thanks Michelle (and Clare!) I think it was the pigs at Broadview that set us free LOL.

Kerrin Koetsier said...

Thanks for writing this post, Michelle.

I guess that a constant dilemma that successful people face is that of being a high achiever, yet allowing oneself to be human, and of course learning to accept oneself. As Pat Parelli says, learning to expect a lot but at the same time, being willing to accept a little.

Kerrin Koetsier
Parelli Central

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Kerin, Pat's words certainly ring true to me on so many levels... Thanks for reading the blog. I am pleased that you are enjoying it.


Kerrin Koetsier said...

...and none of us realized that when we signed up for Parelli, we were actually committing to a lifelong journey of self-improvement! And what better way to discover oneself, than through relationship with a horse!

Parelli Central

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

I could not agree more, Kerrin! :)