Monday, February 21, 2022

Riding With Focus--Dr Andrew Huberman

Some of the most important knowledge that a rider can ever gain comes from sources that have nothing to do with riding, per se. In recent months I have stumbled into the study of the workings of the brain and its wide-ranging effects on behavior and belief. 

 I have always understood that when I focused my vision and my attention on the place that I wanted my horse to go the horse always responded much better than if I was looking somewhere else or if, although looking in the right spot, I was not focused with concentration on that spot. It is hard to teach adults to ride using intense visual focus and it is much more difficult to teach the practice to kids.

One of my problems is that it is hard to teach a concept that one does not understand. 

I think that I might be beginning to understand what is going on with this practice. I am not going to risk muddying the water by giving my thoughts on the matter. Instead, I urge everyone to do what I have done--study the work of Dr. Andrew Huberman of Stanford concerning the brain, eyesight, and a range of other issues that impact human health and behavior. 

He works hard at a goal that I find to be tremendously important. As he says at the beginning of each pod cast, his goal is to provide peer reviewed science in a way that is both free and understandable to the general public.

He achieves that goal with every video and podcast.

An Insideous Darkness

The highest and best use of a horse in this century is to be part of a program that pulls people out of darkness. Depression and anxiety disorder are at peak levels for young people today. Fortunately, breakthroughs are being made in understanding the workings of the brain. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any breakthroughs that are causing people to apply that understanding en mass. 

Suppose that a symptom of having a broken leg was to be completely opposed to x-rays and casts. Suppose that a symptom of a cut was the belief that a band aide will not help the healing and that the best response to a wound is to simply allow it to bleed without any intervention.

Take a moment to recognize the pain caused by the fact that a symptom of anxiety and depression is often the belief that no intervention can help--that no counsellor, that no medication, that no lifestyle changes, and that no amount of social interaction can be of any use. 

Take a moment to recognize that a symptom of these paralyzing conditions is often the deep conviction that, due to the labels that we might apply to ourselves, we cannot have happy lives because we are "introverts" who are kept in a box by "my anxiety."

Take a moment to recognize that these conditions create self-proving explanations of helplessness by simply saying that "I tried that, and it did not work", when the "trying" amounted to visiting a counsellor for three or four sessions without ever opening up and discussing anything of significance with the counsellor. "Trying" medication for a week without miraculous results is not "trying" to get better. It is trying to find further evidence that one cannot get better. 

Finding "solutions" only in avoidance behavior and isolation is not "trying" to get better. Doing so spreads fertilizer on the weeds, brambles, and briers that choke out life. 

It takes less energy to succumb to suffering than to fight it, but not much less energy. "Treating" the pain with avoidance behavior is exhausting, and never invigorating. Mounting a full-fledged lifestyle assault on depression and anxiety can be even more exhausting, but, given enough time, it can be invigorating. It can be exhilarating. 

The horse can be a vital first step into mounting an effective fight against depression and anxiety. 

Go brush a horse until your hands stop shaking. Go take a horse on a long walk on a lead line until you feel like you are going somewhere.

And go ride a horse until you are exhausted. The do it again every single time that you possibly have that opportunity. Gradually you will see a candle in the insidious darkness. 

Eventually that candle will produce enough light so that you can take on other lifestyle changes that can lead to the quenching of the darkness. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

You Have More in Common With Otis, From The old Andy Griffith Show Than You Might Think

Otis was the alcoholic character who, when he was jailed for public drunkenness, had the keys within reach of his cell. In the morning he would reach over, pick up the keys, let himself out and get along with his business. 

 I am beginning to learn how close we each keep the keys to the jail cell that we build for ourselves. What we now ridiculously call our "comfort zone" is the cell that we live in. We built it ourselves. We know how to get out. It is just that it might be ...uncomfortable to do so.

It would be bad enough if the cell stayed the same size as we age, but it does not. It shrinks. And as it gets smaller the bars become thicker. 

But it does not have to be that way. Every time you consciously do something that you find uncomfortable, you weaken the bars. You make your cell larger. You bring the keys into even closer reach. 

Begin with baby steps. Are you anxious when riding? Then everyday eat some food that you do not like. Eat some food that you despise. Learn that it does not kill you and after a few days it does not even hurt you. Expose yourself to uncomfortable weather--again a little bit at a time. Gradually do things that you do not want to do and do them every day.

We teach horses to want to be caught by driving them away from us. We can teach ourselves to be comfortable by doing things that we have deemed uncomfortable. 

I am delighted to see some of our young people applying these principles to their lives. I love watching anxiety retreat as courage advances. 

It is even more fun watching young people grow into strong, healthy adults than it is to watch colts grow into strong, healthy horses.