It was during my morning meditating that I started to feel overwhelmed. I had spiraled into the depths of examining a certain issue with such scrutiny that I’d lost sight of the larger picture. I got up, expanded my view in every sense, and the energy shifted for the better. This incident began my musing…
The eyes are the windows to the soul. —English Proverb
The first time she looked at me with her gold eyes, I went weak in the knees and felt my heart expand to the size of a forest. I knew irrevocably that she was the one after nearly six years of looking for my next dog.
Many of us have experienced a moment like this with another living being, where there is a timeless connection through a mutually held gaze that surpasses all the other seemingly trivial details of everyday life. Powerful, isn’t it?
Keep your eyes on the stars,
and your feet on the ground.
In addition to the eyes being a way to “see” and “be seen” on this deep level, there are some practical applications for our eyes and vision. How many people have experienced riding lessons where the instructor tells us “Eyes up!”? Why?
First, alignment and therefore balance is greatly influenced when looking down as the head is actually the heaviest part of the body. Looking down can tip the balance of our upper body forward, causing us to pinch our knees and often sending our lower leg back to compensate…and that combination may contribute to our horse going faster than what we actually wanted!
Secondly, “eyes up” instruction is a reminder to look where we are going; setting the intention of a direction is powerful, but to embody it and actually see it, plays quite a powerful role in actually getting there! (And the weight of the head turning and looking helps our body cue the horse properly as well.)
Yet, I like having choices and resist “always” and “never” statements and teachings; I feel there are times when looking down briefly, or having a more internal focus, may actually be helpful—even when riding a horse!
Seeing is believing. —St. Thomas
What about SEEING if what you are FEELING is accurate when you are riding? For example, one way of knowing if our horse is truly bending the direction of travel is being able to see the corner of their inside eye. We may think we have bend, but do we really? I find it helpful to check our perceptions every once in a while, and I encourage students to do the same. The trick is to stay fluid and choiceful about what type of seeing we may need at a given time!
Humans are designed as many predatory animals are designed—with eyes in the front of our face. This permits a linear view straight ahead, and also the ability to maintain a micro focus on details. We tend to face forward, reach out and directly, e.g. shaking hands, lean forward and often even have the energy of striving forward simply walking to our cars or get a horse out of the paddock! (My last blog spoke about half halts to help with this, as did the blog prior.)
Prey animals like horses, deer and rabbits, have eyes on the sides of their face, which allows them nearly a 360 degree macro lens view of the world! They literally have a wider view than predators.
Sally Swift of Centered Riding speaks about “soft eyes,” which is a related version of the prey animal way of viewing things. Riders are asked to expand their peripheral vision by relaxing their visual acuity. The soft eyes practice tends to relax the rider and soften their cues, therefore allowing more attention to the tactile interaction between horse and rider.
Practicing soft eyes can not only change our own perspective, but it can also take the pressure off of another being whether we are mounted or unmounted, offering a more passive and receptive energy to a shy horse or animal…including 2-legged ones!
Look up and find something beautiful. —Me
I value both the Healthy Human Predator and the Healthy Human Prey Animal way of viewing the world and others in it. There are times where I need to focus in on the details, other times I need to relax my way of viewing things and see the bigger picture.
I often tell my riding students to “Look up and find something beautiful” when I see them looking down and fixating on something related to their horse or their ride past the point of it being valuable for them, i.e. it no longer gives them information they can apply, but has actually become a distraction or obsession.
They might look out at the beautiful Sangre de Christo mountains lining the valley, or catch the magnificent red-tailed hawk just as it is flying overhead, or another horse nearby making a silly face as they ride by. Inevitably, I see them relax and take a deeper breath; it’s as if expanding their view expands their experience.
So this week, the invitation is to practice your Predator eyes and your Prey eyes; experiment with the gifts of Hard/Focused Eyes as well as Soft/Macro Eyes. You can do this nearly anywhere, e.g. in the grocery store, while with your horse or making dinner. Notice the limitations of each. See if you have any preferences. What is it like to change back and forth instead of stay with your dominant tendency? Feel free to share about your experience!
P.S. Interested in finding out more about Life Mentoring, Equine Guided Healing or VIP Gallop to Freedom sessions for individuals and groups? Please contact me for more information; available live in Santa Fe or by phone or Skype. At your location or barn by arrangement.