“Awareness means that you are in the here and now, living in the present. Awareness is a skill that we need to grow and evolve throughout life if we are to enjoy freedom and true choice. With awareness, we can have a brighter, more cheerful, joyful and alert life.” — Anat Baniel
What does it mean to embody stillness? Myself, I struggle with being still. A short while ago, I had surgery to remove my appendix. This followed months of feeling unwell and a trip to the ER because I refused to listen to my body. Healing from this experience required me to stop; experience the now; be non-productive. Just be.
Home just hours following my surgery, I spent the first few days almost motionless on the couch. That weekend, with eyes closed trying to manage my raw post-op pain, I listened to the flurry of my husband’s steps around me. The frenzy and intensity attached to each step felt tiring. “Be still,” I wanted to say. “Sit with me for a while.” His constant movement took me back to an old episode of Sesame Street, the one when Grover shows us near and far. You can watch it here. Step, step, step…”this is near” — step, step, step – “this is far.” At the end of it, even Grover needs a breather. (Note: I am incredibly grateful for his support this past week as he has taken on all of the chores that come with a farm while I am recovering).
My husband noted that it would be difficult for me to sleep that night because I’d been sleeping all day. “No,” I said. “I’ve been embodying stillness.” Then I slept.
Choreographer and movement artist Paula Josa-Jones introduced me to this idea of embodying stillness. In October, a colleague and I drove to Connecticut to participate in a two-day workshop with Paula and her two beautiful horses, Amadeo and Capprichio. Paula brings an improvisational perspective to all of her work with horses and humans. She believes that this approach helps deepen connection to others and ourselves by opening access to our innate, intuitive, and creative selves. She is also the author of Our Horses, Our Selves Discovering the Common Body published by Trafalgar Square Books in 2017.
I’m not a dancer. Clearly, I don’t always listen to my body. When not working directly with horses and clients, I’m in my head. I didn’t know what to expect from this experience. But I’d read Paula’s book and knew that her words and experiences were familiar to me; validating actually. I was excited and also feeling vulnerable about how the weekend might unfold. What would be revealed? Would I come undone?
When Paula greeted us, the first thing I noticed was how calm and fully present she was. Her home is an 1870’s barn converted into a beautiful open concept home overflowing with plants, dogs, cats and original art reflecting a creative life of international travel.
We stepped down into her studio, a sacred space looking out onto a backyard of mature trees and ornamental grasses that appeared to be waving back at us.
The walls were adorned with art, theatre masks and a large authentic silk kimono covered in butterflies. This year, butterflies have symbolized so much for me, including the presence of my mom, who died a year ago. I knew in that moment I was where I was meant to be, calming the fluttering of nerves activated in a dance deep within my body.
What followed from there was a full weekend of in studio and in field experiences inviting connection between mind and body, while experimenting with movement and stillness.
In her book, Paula notes “when we practice embodied awareness, we become more horse-like: sensitive, alert, and able to discern and differentiate our surroundings with more precision and subtly. Horse time is breathing time, hearts opening to the fullness of what is here right now.” The ‘horse time’ I spent with Paula’s Andalusian stallion Amadeo was particularly moving. If I stop and close my eyes, I can still feel that moment, the stillness, the presence, the breathing, and yes, the healing.
I’m thrilled to share that one of our first workshops this spring will be hosted by Paula Josa-Jones on May 25 & 26 called Embodied Equine Experiencing: Expanding Body, Mind and Spirit with Horses. Visit our Events page here to learn more.
About the Author:
Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.
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