November 4, 2015

To Thine Own Self Be True

This past January (was it really only this past January??) my horse guru Mark Rashid shook my world a bit with his very simple advice: do what feels good.

Mark wasn’t advocating hedonism or following your bliss or any of that sort of thing. He merely proferred the suggestion that if we do what genuinely feels good inside us, it will probably feel good to others, and then look, there’s a whole bunch of us feeling good together.

A radical notion. Especially for one with a life-long habit of doing things the hard way, complicating things unnecessarily, stubbornly clinging to her own clearly ineffective methods, and thinking—rather than feeling—her way through life.

In the intervening months I’ve gotten a lot better at following the path that feels good. And I’ve generally found that when I do that, I’m still going where I both need and want to go—I just get there with a lot less drama, agonizing, analyzing, and head banging than I used to. And way less second-guessing and obsessing.

I’ve noticed, too, that how I feel gives me a lot of helpful advice about where I want to go. I used to think that feelings were just things that got in the way of where I wanted to go and that I should be able to tamp them down and carry on. Now I get that my feelings are probably much more valuable as information than my thoughts.

For instance, I’ve been to horse clinics with three different teachers this year. I enjoyed and learned something from each teacher. All of them were very engaging and had an interesting perspective to share. But when I started thinking about how I *felt* after each clinic, the difference was staggering.

After Mark’s clinics I felt calm and clear and as if the path in front of me was a simple and happy one. Perhaps not entirely easy, not without some difficult moments, but still peaceful in the way that moving forward in harmony with who you are gives you peace.

After the other two I felt excited at the hope that there might be a better answer out there than what I had found so far, but I also felt fairly cranked up about all the things I had been doing wrong, all the things I felt I had failed at. And even my successes in those clinics didn’t feel right to me, despite the fact that they got results. I didn’t realize this, though, until I stopped thinking about the ideas at the clinics (which sounded very good) and started thinking about how I felt as I responded to them.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying this to dis anyone in any way. I say this because it’s a fairly radical notion to me that my mental and emotional state tells me something about the influences around me rather than just being something that I need to sort out, dammit, so I can get on with what I’m trying to do.

I react differently to different people and different ideas, and that’s not a judgment on them or on me. What it is is information about the best way forward for me—the opening that I can move through with softness and peace, hopefully bringing that softness and peace to others as I go.