Life Lessons From the Barn--Relax Your Mind

March 12, 2018

I rode Tank on Saturday while a lesson was taking place, and I heard the trainer call out one of my favorite expressions to one of the students: “Relax your mind.”

I’ve heard her use this phrase often, usually when a student is stretching outside her comfort zone and becoming uptight about it. In riding, if you’re anxious about taking a jump, for example, your horse will pick up on it and might refuse the jump, or spook at it. After all, if you’re worried about it, there must be something to worry about…

So much of horseback riding—and life—depends on our mental states. Our anxiety levels, expectations, intentions, our ability to let go of fears and worries. It’s all too easy to get worked up about specific situations, or even life in general, until our minds resemble spinning hamster wheels of thoughts (I’m especially prone to this at around 3:15 a.m.).

The antidote?

Relax your mind.

It’s a good skill to learn, and one that I’m still working on. Here’s what I do when I remember to relax my mind:

  • Stop holding my breath and start taking deep, slow breaths. This sends a calming message to my nervous system.

  • Unclench my muscles, releasing physical tension.

  • Open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the entire situation—i.e., stop staring intently at whatever I’m worried about, expecting it to blow up in my face.

When I’m able to relax my mind, the outcome is always better, even if it’s not ideal. 

How would you follow the direction to “relax your mind”?

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