Here at the ranch this week we have gotten 4 inches of rain and even woke up to snow on the ground on Wednesday morning. It's made for some sloppy feedlot pens and not much time with the horses, but what a blessing the moisture has been and it couldn't have had better timing, right in between small grain planting and row crop planting. Calving is near completion! ‪#‎farmfriday‬
We have all committed the unforgettable sin.  And, no, it’s not lust, or anger, or even greed - it’s something less obvious, but more dangerous, a transgression that is fatal to our spiritual growth:  we have committed the act of self betrayal.  We deny our inner truths, look outside ourselves for answers, we hide who we really are in order to fit in, and we fail to hold ourselves accountable to our own standards and commitments to ourselves. For some of us, it is an occasional slip that feels noticeably wrong; for others, it is a way of life so deeply-rooted that we hardly know who we are anymore.  

We hear it all the time, “be true to your Self”.  But what does that really mean?  And how do we do it?  Last week I wrote about how horses teach us to follow our intuition.  Following our intuition is the answer to both questions.  It is what guides us to our foundation, restores trust and faith within ourselves, and is the only path to true partnerships.  The further away we are from our intuition the more off track our lives are.

We have two selves:  our false “s”elf, or ego, and our True “S”elf.  We have spent years laboriously building our false self.  It is our fabricated and concocted persona that we show the rest of the world - it is our appearance, our roles, our success, our education, our race, our personal identity and self image.  It is how we define ourselves as separate from others and it over defines itself as unique, special, and superior for outside approval.

Our higher or True Self is the indestructible part of ourselves, it is what makes you, you, it is the soul - our inherent dignity that no one can give you or ever take away from you.  It is who we really are, without all the masks, labels, and personas.

Horses serve as “four-legged authenticity meters.”  You can be dishonest with yourself and others, but a horse will see through all of your ego’s delusions; they are a mirror to our souls.  You can’t fool them or change their opinion.  A horse will call ‘em as they see ‘em. 
The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” Buck Brannaman
It’s easy to blame the horse when things don’t go as we hoped in our relationship with them.  As, Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance all have said - “horse problems” are almost always “people problems.” The invaluable reflection of working with horses helps us to better evaluate our own motivations, perceptions and responses, as they guide us to our True Self.

To be true to ourselves really means to be true to your higher True Self.  Our purpose in life is to follow the road, the path, the light to our True Self, embody it and make a difference in this lifetime by expressing it.

A simple guide, as a rule of thumb, you can always tell if you are operating from your True Self or your false self by paying attention to when you are feeling offended.  The false self is always offended, and your True Self can’t be offended, because there’s nothing to offend.  Your True Self cannot be anything you need it to be or what others want it to be.  It has already achieved its purpose in just by being itself, without having to do anything or be anything. 

Your True Self has no capacity for selfish or separateness, it sees everything in wholes.  The false self sees everything in hierarchies and in reference to it’s place in the hierarchy.  Being true to our false self always results in selfishness, where as, being true to our True Self always results in self-fulfillment.

The false self is not bad or something to fear, attack or hate, rather it is something to be aware of.  The false self is the raw material we fall through to find our True Self.  I believe everything we encounter in life is used to help us grow and can be transformed to lead us to our True Self. 

We don’t magically find our True Self.  It is the struggle with the false self that brings us to our True Self.  Our beauty, our bank accounts, and our success are all short lived, and can’t be what sustains us.

Our True Self gradually appears to us as we face the difficulties of this life head on; as we confront the masks and personas we wear, because keeping them only continue to hurt us and hold us back from our highest potential. 
When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey.”  ~ Elizabeth Lesser
It is only after the age of 30, that I truly began to find my True Self. Everything I’ve learned since, has been from divorce, humiliation, sin, failure, rejection, and betrayal.  Even though I don’t enjoy it, would do almost anything to avoid these life experiences, I’ve had to find a way to transform my own suffering and expand my soul.  The alternative is continuing to suffer and create suffering for those around me, those I love most.  It is only after the fact, through surrender and acceptance that I can see that I’m a better person because of it.

We are all on this same journey, which I believe is a lifelong process.  I’ve never met someone who could be their True Self 24/7, we are all human with our doubts, fears, and insecurities.  Yet, if we follow our inner compass, our intuition, once we know we’ve strayed from our path, it will drive you to evolve, leading you to creativity, innovation and change.  Everything we do, create and learn is ultimately to lead us back to our True Self.  We can fight it or embrace it, but it’s our path just the same.

Take a moment to journal on the following prompts.  If you have horses, journal in their presence and observe their reactions to your answers.
  • Who do I know my True Self to be?
  • How is my false self controlling my life?  How has it served you? 
  • What might become possible for you if you were to let go of your false self?  How can I be more authentic, honest and show up more visibly in my life?
We would also love to hear from you, how do you stay connected to your True Self?

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One of the first inductees into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Mattie Goff was a pioneer in the sport of rodeo. Which three events did she compete in?   ‪#‎TriviaTuesday‬ ‪#‎CowgirlGritAndGrace‬
Mattie participated in bronc riding, trick riding and relay racing during her rodeo career. The first rodeo Mattie participated in was at Sioux Falls, SD, in 1921. Her trick riding skills were self-taught. She perfected her tricks and the speed at which she performed them. Mattie was soon nicknamed "the fastest trick rider on the fastest horse around."

In her career, which spanned over a decade, Mattie had three main horses - Bob, Pal and Buster. She performed such tricks as the Roman Stand, Under the Neck, Under the Belly, Slick Saddle Stand, Back Drag, Spin the Horn, and many others. The most dangerous was the Back Drag. This stunt required Mattie to place a foot in a loop on either side of the saddle, bend over backwards laying over the rear of the horse until her hands touched the ground, and then pulling herself into an upright position unassisted. This trick is so dangerous, because you don't have your hands in control of the horse. In addition, if the horse's hooves would come too high, they could hit you in the head. Luckily, Mattie was never hurt while performing at a rodeo in any of her three events.

Mattie retired from her rodeo career in the late 1930's, but not before earning the title of All-Around Cowgirl and World Champion Trick Rider several times.  After marrying, Mattie turned her attentions to her ranch in South Dakota.  

She was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in September 1961 as a Charter Member and into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in September 1989. The Casey Tibbs Foundation honored Mattie at their Tribute Dinner in 1991. Mattie was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Fort Worth, TX, in November 1994.

Here on the ranch it's been a productive week - we have gotten some much needed rain and the pastures are starting to green up! We are still calving. We've had the guys here from Precision Ag Solutions getting the corn planter ready for the field and had our new sprayer arrive. Ready, set - Farm! ‪#‎FarmFriday‬
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."   ~Albert Einstein
Intuition is a rich resource for acquiring knowledge about yourself and the world around you and it is the first principle of horsemanship that I use and teach.  Horses are very perceptive and intuitive and can teach humans to trust our hearts and guts as well.

It is the first principle I teach because without intuition there can be no intimate relationship with God (Spirit, our Higher Power, or The Universe), the horse or ourselves.

It doesn’t matter what you call it or how you access it, your intuition touches the wisdom of All-That-Is and leads you to what you are here to learn and accomplish.

In horsemanship it is what the great horseman Tom Dorrance referred to as ‘feel’ - his belief that we as humans need to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is.  When we have ‘feel’ for our horses, and they ‘feel’ us, we form a true partnership. (Read last week’s blog post about true partnerships here).

Intuition is a sixth sense that I believe all species possess.  As animals preyed upon in nature, horses must know the intentions of those around them.  The horse actually intuits whether or not it is safe and if it can trust those around it to support its safety.  Rather than analyzing the situation, as we humans do, the horse actually feels through its intuition and responds accordingly.

(We would love to hear your thoughts. - If all animals have this innate ability that connects us to the Divine and to one another does that make them conscious beings?  Or do you believe that in order to be conscious requires the ability to reason?)

Our intuition is a gut feeling, a deep inner knowing, and a form of guidance and wisdom from God.  Like the horse our bodies are designed to be responsive to our environment and the world around us.  We continually receive information about anything that is a threat to us or that is our best interests.  We like the horse have an instinctual self that serves to not only help us survive but also helps us to thrive.

Intuition is like a radio or television station that transmits twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; but we only hear them when we turn the radio or television on and tune into it.  Our failure to hear the messages doesn’t mean the station isn’t transmitting.

As children, we are often conditioned to not listen to our intuition, our feelings, or our gut instincts in order to fit into what is considered ‘normal’ in our families and the society we live in.  Over time we forget that we have this innate guidance system.

I believe that intuition is a connection to our soul, a way for God to communicate to us.  Through our intuition we can access profound guidance that allows us to make the best choices for ourselves.  Only through listening to our intuition and following it can our lives be led to a life that is abundant, successful and full of limitless possibilities.

As you listen for guidance on a daily basis, you will find yourself being given one step at a time, because God never gives us more than we can handle.  The answers may come through an inspired idea, an image, a song, a body sensation, or a sudden insight that offers a new direction.  Intuition comes in many forms. It communicates in different ways to each of us. Following are some of the ways intuition makes itself known.

Emotions - Intuitive information often comes through our feelings or emotions. Our feelings are neither good or bad, they are simply messages to guide us in life.  Linda Kohanov has written extensively about the emotional intelligence of horses and what we as humans can learn from them in her books.  She has developed the Emotional Message Chart to demystify the message behind each message.  (We will further discuss how our emotions affect our horsemanship in a  later blog post.)
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Instant knowing - You may receive a sudden flash of understanding. The answer may seem obvious even though moments before you were still confused. You may simply feel right or know about a certain course of action. Or you might experience a sense of distrust about an individual or situation.

Physical sensations - Our thoughts and emotions are deeply connected to our physical body.  Rarely can we have a thought or feeling without a reaction from our bodies.  We generally call such sensations a gut feeling,  but they can be any sensation in your body.  The sensations in your body, especially those in your stomach can be a clue as to what your true feelings are.  You might find that your body feels heavy if a decision you’ve made is wrong. Your body may feel light or experience chills if it is the correct path for you.

Inner Voice or Heart Communication - Many people report a still, quiet, inner voice.  Your intuition will always communicate with you in a compassionate, loving manner that is perceptibly different from your normal often critical inner chatter. 

Dreams - You can receive a wealth of guidance when you learn to ask for intuitive insight from your dreams. 

Symbols - Intuition often comes to us in symbolic images or through the symbolism of a song. You might receive a symbolic impression of a rocky road if you choose Path A.  If you choose the alternative Path B, you may see a clear, well-paved path in your mind’s eye.

Inspiration Through Nature - Nature and animals has an ability to bring me peace in a way nothing else does.  Seeing the beauty, creativity, and complexity of creation has had a profound effect on my spiritual life.  All of God’s creation has something to teach us if we are only willing to listen.

Circumstances, Coincidences and Synchronicity - It's been said that coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous. When you experience frequent synchronicity you'll know your intuition has led you on the right path.

While I have always wished intuition would proclaim itself in a loud voice, saying, "Here's what you should do," it doesn't. Intuition has its own language; its own code. There is no one right way to hear its guidance.  I personally have to quiet myself, look within, and position my heart to hear the still small voice within.  The following are a list of exercises to help you tune into your intuition.

  • In your journal, write about the last time you trusted your feelings about something and you turned out to be right.
  • Sit quietly in nature and just listen to the sounds as you breathe.  What do you hear, sense, or feel?
  • With your horse, see if you can sense through your intuition what the next  movement he/she will make.
  • Notice what’s going on in your body.  Breathe into the sensation and ask for its guidance.
  • Check in with yourself on a regular basis, pay attention to the messages behind your emotions.
  • Keep a list of synchronicities and coincidences.
  • Keep a dream journal.
We would love to hear how you practice checking within for the truth?  

My hope for you is that you’ll find your intuitive guidance like the horse, a steadfast companion on your path in life; a true friend who wants what’s best for you, who is always there, guiding, listening, encouraging - showing you the way to achieve your heart’s desire through love and compassion.
Feelings are your guide. Trust your feelings and learn to express them, and do not blame anyone for how you feel. Be yourself, observe yourself."  ~ Barbara Marciniak
Our relationships are essential to living a full life.  Connecting with others may be the most important thing we do in life.  Our relationships affect the quality of our lives which is why it’s important to learn how to build good relationships. 
Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement...all success... all achievement in real life grows.
-- Ben Stein
Horses like humans are biologically programmed to form close bonds.  They are social creatures that readily and honestly respond to the challenges inherent in forming and sustaining a true partnership.  They live from their heart and can show us how to do the same and offer us the experience of what it’s like to be in an authentic relationship.

True partnerships are complex, deeply personal and can be an inexplicable thing, especially if it wasn’t modeled to you as a child.  People have all sorts of misleading ideas about relationships and what a true partnership is.  Movies, romanticize it as being an all consuming passion that is supposed to last forever, with someone who understands you completely, or takes care of your every need without you having to ask.  But healthy relationships are more than that, they are about creating a true, equal, caring partnership with another. 

Our relationships don’t start out as true partnerships.  They take time, effort, and are often a dance of give and take and only by working together can a relationship reach its full potential.

The following principles of a true partnership are universal.  They apply not only to romantic relationships, but also to, friendships, business relationships and our relationship with our equine partners.  Relationships that have these characteristics will grow stronger over time.

  • Feeling safe to express yourself without judgment.  It’s important to be able to feel like you can fully be yourself.  We can’t create a true partnership when we can’t fully be ourselves with another, either out of our own self-consciousness or because we fear a negative reaction.  Horses don’t judge us and we are free to be our truest selves with them.  When our guard is down, our defenses soften and we can gently open ourselves to receive love, affection, friendship and insight.
  • Feeling heard.  In a true partnership you should feel as though your partner listens to your thoughts and feelings and makes an effort to understand you without judgment or an agenda.  Working with a horse depends wholly on non-verbal communication they are always listening to our every expression and movement.
  • The truth is more important than not hurting each other’s feelings.  Far too often we fall into the trap of not saying how we’re feeling out of fear of hurting another’s feelings.  Despite our well-meaning intentions, not talking about an issue only creates rifts in our relationships. A true partnership can’t survive emotional dishonesty.  Horses are always honest with us.  You always know where you stand with them because there is never a hidden agenda.
  • Respecting each other’s boundaries.  Many people think that a true partnership means enmeshment.  A true partnership is about two people who come together with common goals and mutual caring, but that doesn’t mean they own one another.  We all need space and freedom to be our authentic selves and there is nothing more empowering than realizing we are responsible for our own needs.  The size of the horse motivates us, simply out of safety to command respect.  Once a person learns to set boundaries with such a large animal their ability to do so with their own species is much easier.
  • Having an equal balance of power.  In a true partnership both people share the same sense of obligation, emotional investment and responsibility for making the relationship work.  It’s a hopeless situation when one person wants more from the relationship than the other, resulting in a power struggle.  You can’t expect obedience from a horse without earning it.  If you don’t give them trust, they won’t trust you.
  • Serve as an avenue for personal growth.  A true partnership strengthens your personal growth.  It should expand you, not contract you.  Our relationships are one of the greatest ways we grow emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, they bring out all our fears, insecurities, character defects, and unresolved issues in a powerful way, and if you want the relationship to work, we have to work through them.  Working with horses also does this because they have the ability to mirror exactly what our body language is telling them. Allowing us to become aware of the messages we are sending and how this impacts our human relationships.
Our best relationships begin with, being a true partner to our authentic self.  It is impossible to change someone else, but we can always change ourselves.  We would love to hear how you apply the characteristics above in your relationship with yourself.
It's surprising how many people go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you're not comfortable within yourself, you can't be comfortable with others.
-- Sidney J. Harris
I received a lot of feedback about last week’s blog post on overcoming criticism.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the haters in my life are uncomfortable because I do not meet their expectations of how I should live my life and how I should feel about my life experiences.
"Don’t worry about the haters, ever.  Don’t let them get to you.  They’re just upset because the truth you know contradicts the lies they live.  Period!"

This got me to thinking about how often we are attempting to live up to the expectations of others without even realizing it.

We are born into living up to others’ expectations. It starts with fitting into our parents’ expectations and then goes through our educational years to living up to our teachers’ expectations.  No where in life are we taught how to live up to our own expectations.

Way too many people live a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, according to what their parents, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media thinks it`s best for them. When we spend most of our time trying to be whatever everyone else wants us to be, wearing all kind of masks based on the role you are expected to be playing, you begin to lose yourself.  We begin to ignore our inner voice, that inner calling. We forget what makes us happy, what we want, what we need….and eventually we forget about ourselves.  
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” 
~Raymond Hull
A study by Dr Mark Snyder from the University of Minnesota found that we quickly sense how others view us and play to these expectations.  We are influencing each other continuously, trying to live up, or down to each other’s expectations. Of course we only have direct control over our own expectations of others, so one implication of this study is that by changing our expectations of others we can actually change another’s behavior for the better or worse.  

The effect may be subtle, but it’s a powerful realization that other people’s behavior is partly derived from how we view them, just as our behavior is partly derived from how others view us. Think of any of the standard stereotypes about class, race and nationality. Each of these create expectations in other people’s minds.  Being aware of this we can consciously choose for ourselves how we will react and consciously choose what expectations we hold for ourselves.

If you have been pretending for far too long, chances are that you’re not even aware anymore of the fact that you are playing a role and that the life you are living is not really the life you once intended to be living.  This is why there are so many unhappy people in this world and this is why we feel so lost, so disconnected and so confused by everything and everyone. We live in fear, hiding ourselves, not wanting to be fully seen and not wanting to be hurt. But the irony is that we are already hurting. Our hearts and our souls are bleeding and because they have been bleeding for so long, we’ve gotten used to it. We’ve gotten used to the pain and we are drowning in our self created misery.
Become aware of your unawareness and decide to remove all the masks and all the costumes you have been wearing for all this time. Let the world see, love and appreciate the real you!
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” 
~ Carl Gustav Jung
In this crazy world that’s trying to make you like everyone else, find the courage to keep being your remarkable self.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path. Dare to give up living your life to other people’s expectations and start living it Your Way instead.

A life spent ceaselessly trying to please people who are perhaps incapable of ever being pleased, or trying too hard to always be seen as doing “what’s expected of you,” is a sure road to a regretful existence.  

Do more than just exist.  We all exist.  The question is: Do you live?

Existing without ever truly living was not what we want for ourselves. It takes a lot of courage to stand alone, but it’s worth it.  Being unapologetically YOU is worth it!

First and Foremost - You are good enough!

Don’t ever forget your worth.  Don’t you even dare, not even for a second, to think that who you are is not good enough and that you have to go around pretending to be something that you’re not just to be loved and validated. You are good enough!  Know that in this moment you are enough, you are good enough and you don’t need anyone or anything to feel this way. Never get your sense of worth from outside yourself. Don’t let other people tell you how much you’re worth, decide for yourself. After all it’s called Self worth not others worth.

The worst form of betrayal is self betrayal

You are not obligated to anyone more so than you are to yourself.  Your relationship with yourself is the closest and most important relationship you will ever have.  So don’t forget about YOU, and don’t be too hard on yourself either.  There are plenty of others willing to do both for you.  And remember, if you don’t take good care of yourself, then you can’t take good care of others either; which is why taking care of yourself is the best selfish thing you can do.

Life is all about expressing who we are fully and learning to accept, embrace, honor and treasure our authenticity, our uniqueness and our Divinity.  You didn’t come here on this planet to blend in, to lose yourself in the crowd and to pretend to be something you are not. You came here to honor yourself and to share your authenticity, your perfection, your unique and beautiful presence with the whole world. You came here to shine, to share your unique gifts and talents with all of us and to make the world a better place with your presence.

Don’t betray yourself just because so many people are already doing it. Stay true to who you are and in time you will be able to discover the power, the beauty and love that comes from doing just that. Don’t be like everyone else, be like YOU!

For when you start pretending to be something you are not, you automatically start rejecting your authenticity, your beauty and perfection. And as a result, you die on the inside, little by little.

Returning to your Self

Give up living your life to other people’s expectations and live it Your Way instead. Don’t get to the end of your life and say, “I did it all wrong. The life I have been living was never the life I intended to be living.”

No matter how old or young you are and no matter for long you have been living a life that was not yours to live, it’s never too late to return to your Self. Free yourself from all the things that are not aligned with who you are deep down inside. Be like a sculptor. Carve away the rough walls that imprison your beautiful and loving Soul and reveal yourself to the world. Throw away all the masks and let the whole world see what you are truly made of.

You are not obligated to live up to everyone’s expectations.  Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect.  And you are under no obligation to give others what they expect.  Never let someone’s opinion define your reality. Period.  Do things because you care.  Do things because you know it’s right.  Don’t just do things because everyone else expects you to.  You don’t need permission to grow.  
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”  ~ Steve Jobs
Only YOU can define what’s possible for you and your life.  Remember that real success in life isn’t what others see, but how you feel.  It’s living your truth and doing what makes you feel alive.  In the end, happiness is simply living your life your own way.  Start making progress on what’s truly important to YOU.  That’s when you begin to live life according to your own morals and values.  That’s when you can finally be at your happiest.

Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and pursue it at all costs.  That’s what this world needs – people like YOU who come alive. 

Allow yourself the freedom to speak your truth.  Yes, speak your truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, uneasy, and your voice shakes.  Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say.  Push your concerns of what others might think aside.  Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally.  What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all.  And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve started behaving in a way that makes them feel they have less power over you. 

This life is yours and yours only and no one should take charge of it. Let go of living up to others’ expectations by listening to your gut feelings and by aligning your beliefs, values and rules to match them. Use your feelings as a guide. 

So while you’re out there making decisions instead of excuses, learning new things, and getting closer and closer to your goals, know that there are others out there, like me, who admire your efforts and are striving for greatness too.  

Why do you think so many people are willing to betray their own Souls just so that they can please those around them? I really want to know what are your thoughts on this. You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below.
“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.”
 ~Fritz Perls
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