Audrey Hepburn is credited with saying, “Water is life, and clean water means health.” One thing good horse management requires is a plentiful supply of clean, fresh water.
My retired horse, Lady Grace, has a health issue that requires her water to be filtered. As in, forced by pressure through a vacuum filtration process called “reverse osmosis.” The filter involved in this process is so fine that the water emerging from the system is composed, literally, of only hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms and absolutely nothing else – no chlorine or fluorine molecules, no contaminants, and no particulates.
Recently, I’ve spent a good deal of time pondering the concept of “filtering.” As a highly-sensitive, empathic person, my emotional radar is so sensitive I often pick up on the negative emotions of others and erroneously assume I’ve done something to cause those negative emotions.
For a “stress eater” like me, my default response to negative emotions is to put up my defenses and build a wall to protect myself. This process manifests itself in excess weight. My body literally layers on the fat cells in some primitive form of self-preservation.
But is there another, better way to deal with the negativity of others? Is there some way to lighten our emotional load to help us be less burdened and less heavy so we can feel lighter, live lighter, and ride lighter? After all, our goal is, “ask light, get light,” right?
So, instead of letting the negativity of others “stick” to me and overburden me, what if, instead, I develop a good mental and emotional filtration system? What if I explore the possibility of letting the negative dissipate without reacting to it, instead of clogging my own mental house with someone else’s junk?
Lately, I’ve been in a high-stress environment for many hours each day (and night!). One way to handle such stress is to overeat. Been there. Done that. Got the stretchy pants. Bleah.
Another way to handle such stress is to filter, and I am learning to use a multi-step process that includes both my mind and my body. When I’m feeling stressed these days, I pause and take several slow breaths. I inhale slowly, starting deep within the pelvic bowl and using my diaphragm to pull in as much air as I can.
As I inhale, I tell the worried me within, “you are safe, just relax, you are safe.” As I exhale, I imagine the outgoing air is carrying away any mental contaminants, such as worry, anxiety, or any emotions that try to make me feel “less than.”
I find this exercise to be extremely useful. Instead of turning to food to build a padding of fat to protect me, I’m learning to absorb the good in any situation and let the bad filter out and away from me.
I’ve used this exercise in riding before – deep breathing helps one relax and sit deep in the saddle – but it has been only recently that I’ve used it for ridding myself of stress in other areas of my life.
A variation of this exercise, if location permits, is to spend a few minutes outside in nature, walking while doing the deep breathing exercise. In these moments, I think about inhaling all the light and beauty around me while exhaling any dark thoughts. I tell myself to “breathe in beauty; breathe out rancor. Breathe in joy; breathe out worry. Breathe in happiness; breathe out any thought that makes me sad or anxious or unhappy.”
Filtering out the negative means all that remains is the positive. And, like Grace needs purified water to enjoy her best health, so I need to filter out any negative thoughts so all that remains is my positive, focused mindset.