There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to look at ourselves square in the eye and honestly ask ourselves if we are living our lives fully, authentically, and courageously. 

The horse symbolizes personal drive, passion and an appetite for freedom.  No other animal has played a more significant role in the history and development of mankind.  While we no longer need the horse to conquer new lands; the horse plays a new role, in the field of Equine Assisted Learning and calls us to conquer new territory within ourselves.

We, like the horse are meant to be wildly passionate, fiercely independent, the creators of our own lives, chase after our dreams with a ferocious passion for life and create our own legacy.

We are meant to express our power, freeing our lives from the social, emotional, creative, financial and spiritual chains that enslave us.

We have allowed situations, circumstances and others to dictate, direct and control our lives and reality for far too long.  We have given our power away.  Only you can allow people and things to have an unhealthy level of control and influence on your life.

Because  like the horse, we all want acceptance, approval, connection, security and love of the herd.  In order to get this we continually compromise ourselves eventually losing our True Selves.  We’ve allowed others to tell us what we can and can’t do.  What we should think.  What we should believe.  What our future holds and even what our life purpose should be.
People can only take our personal power if we give it to them.
At some point we have to stop worrying about what others think, open more and more to the direct experience of our own lives and no longer settle for mediocrity.  Our desires to play it safe and be accepted only dull the full experience of life.  

Those who are obsessed with power, money, or adoration have to constantly wear the mask of the false self in order to succeed.  When we can’t be who we truly are, we create insecurity in ourselves and in our lives.  They are constantly trying to figure out who they have to please in order to get what they want.  There is no true joy in living someone else's life.

In our society today there also seems to be an overwhelming movement toward entitlement.  These people live in a lie that the world and this lifetime owes them something.  The reality is by choosing not to be the master and commander of their lives, their lives will unfold by default.  Will your default be to continue to experience the same old patterns and to allow the outside world - your family, friends and society dictate your life?  

Living a life that is not your own is the ultimate suffering in life!

It is only in being your True Self, having strong boundaries (which we discussed the last three weeks), and choosing your own path in life do we find integrity and the foundation of happiness in life.

It’s not always the easiest path, living your life fully takes grit and courage. But the rewards are authenticity, empowerment, unbounded independence and self-reliance.  

Are you content to play small in life?  Are you ready to live your life with full presence and personal power?  Are you ready to set clear goals and intentions that steer the course of your life?  Are you ready to live your dreams and voice your desires? 

After surviving breast cancer I had to get really honest with myself and ask myself these hard questions.  I wasn’t living my life fully, knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential and was miserable when I looked at living the rest of my life the way I had previously been.  It took me awhile to work through all the excuses I had rationalized in my own mind as to why I couldn’t be living life fully.  I found I was the only one holding myself back from having the life of my dreams.  Which we will discuss in detail over the next several blog posts.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” 
Marianne Williamson
I began by declaring the life I wanted to live without apology, using only my intuition and True Self as my guide which became The Cowgirl Manifesto on the About page of this website.

Nothing external can save us or make us happy and the fateful hour is at hand when you decide to stay trapped in the life you’ve created up to this point or create the amazing life you’ve always dreamed and deserved!  

If you have signed up for this blog you received with it a Personal Power Inventory worksheet and a guide to help you create your own manifesto. If you would like to receive these worksheets please sign up for this blog at - http://cowgirlgritandgrace.com/thoughts.html

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Last week we discussed what unhealthy boundaries are and how we can be violated by them, but what are healthy boundaries?

Someone with healthy boundaries is able to identify how they feel, what they think and chooses how they will react or behave in any given situation; taking full responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and behavior.  They do not blame others for what they think, feel, or how they behave because, they are able to stand up for themselves calmly and intelligently, without using intimation or manipulation.

A person with healthy boundaries does not allow others to control how they think, feel, or behave, nor do they try to control others through manipulation, guilt, blame, or by being bully.  They refuse to play the role of the victim or the martyr. 

They are able to recognize their own needs, take responsibility for those needs, and ask for what they need honestly and openly without drama or mind games.  They are also able to accept "No" from others without having their self-esteem demolished. 

They have a strong enough sense of self that they don't absorb others negative emotions or personalize another’s bad behavior.

Our culture romanticizes love as being totally absorbed or enmeshed with another.  This is not love and can’t be sustained without losing yourself.

A true partnership requires that each person be healthy within themselves before they can form a healthy relationship together.  In order to be healthy within yourself, we have to have a clear definition of who we are in order to clearly communicate that to another.  It’s impossible to do this if you are carrying someone else's emotions, blaming others for your behavior, or practicing someone else's beliefs.

We set healthy boundaries in relationships to protect ourselves from being manipulated by the emotionally needy or by those who are self-aggrandizers.  When both people in a relationship have healthy boundaries all the “games” are eliminated.  There is no need for blame, guilt, manipulation, victimization, martyrdom, or scapegoating. 

It also makes the resolution of problems clear and simple.  If your partner hurts your feelings, we can take another lesson learned from the horse.  The horse will experience the hurt, get the message behind the emotion, set the appropriate boundaries, release the emotion and go back to grazing.  
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We can do the same if someone hurts us, knowing that we have a right to protest the hurt and stand up for ourselves.  You can do this in a respectful manner without guilting or blaming, but by simply stating that you are feeling hurt and asking that the behavior not be repeated.  If the person who caused the hurt, decides to keep hurting you, healthy boundaries will allow you to walk away from them.   

While boundaries should not vacillate wildly according to what is happening around you, it’s important that we have the ability to adapt and change when it is needed and appropriate.  Boundaries are there to protect us but, they can also imprison us if they become too inflexible. Healthy boundaries include awareness of your emotions, the situation you are facing, and your ability to set or relax boundaries in response to your needs.   

It’s also important to remember that what is healthy for someone else may not be healthy for you.  Everyone has to determine what feels "right" for themselves.  Some people have very thin, permeable boundaries and are comfortable with this.  Others require more rigid boundaries to feel safe and comfortable.  Define for yourself where your boundaries are and what feels comfortable for you and stick up for your right to feel that way.  

We all inherit different sets of family rules that determine our boundaries.  No one is right or wrong.  They are simply different and have the right to have that difference respected.  Realizing that you come from two different, but equally "right", ways of doing things validates both of your feelings and avoids the blame game.  Communication about how to negotiate these differences and the willingness to compromise is crucial.

Healthy boundaries are not selfish.  They allow you to have a clear sense of how you experience the world around you.  They also allow you to have empathy for others, without taking responsibility for them.  Healthy boundaries create a good balance between taking care of yourself and being there for others without being manipulated or exploited.

Healthy boundaries lead to empowerment.  They empower us to make healthy choices and take full responsibility for ourselves.  Learning to sense and articulate your own needs and choosing where and when to share them might be the single most empowering life change you can commit to.

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."
~Alice Walker
 
 
A boundary is simply what’s ok and what’s not ok.”
— Brené Brown

I have come to believe that setting appropriate boundaries is perhaps one of the most important abilities that defines our maturity and helps us accomplish our goals in life. Just like teaching an unruly colt manners for your own and the horses safety, we also teach others how to treat us.  

Our personal boundaries are the basic, yet often invisible rulebook that guides all of our relationships and fosters a true partnership. Our boundaries define how and what we communicate, what we give and receive, and even, in the most basic sense, provide the parameters for what we expect from others and life itself.  

They are necessary because, not everyone is playing from the same moral deck.  We’ve all had the insecure friend or co-worker that is always trying to put others down, in order to inflate their own egos and boost their self-esteem; or the overly critical family member, that feels their hurtful words are beneficial to your well-being.  There are a lot of people in the world who are willing to project their issues onto others and it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves.  
Last week we talked about the difference between our True Selves and false selves.  Boundaries are the truest measure of how we love ourselves and what we value most, therefore, in order to set healthy boundaries, it has to be from the place of our True Selves where they can be set with a firm compassion that exudes power, will and respect.  Brené Brown, believes that we can’t be our True Selves without boundaries.

In this six-minute video, Brené Brown speaks about how boundaries are the key to self love and treating others with love.
Defining our boundaries can be challenging if we’re not connected to our True Selves because the very nature of boundaries is fluid and change with our sense of self.  Knowing when we want to say yes, when we want to say no, what feels like self-respect and where our own needs start and end are the foundations that create the boundaries that impact every aspect of our lives.  

Every relationship will negotiate boundaries: what is individual, what is ours, and what is public.  Sometimes we work out these arrangements head on, but more often we approach it with trial and error approach. Like horses, we often see how much we can get away with before we cross a line.

A look, a comment, hurt feelings resulting in bruised silence are the clues we have to interpret. Whether above board or below, we delineate the boundaries of separateness and togetherness in all of our relationships.

Our definitions and expectations of commitment are transforming. These lines that are drawn are not as obvious as people think they are, and therefore it is an important conversation to have early on in relationships.  

It’s much easier to teach someone right out of the gate, that if they want to be in a relationship with you, then they are going to have to treat you with respect.  

Horses are great teachers of this because it is their natural tendency to test the boundaries of their handlers and of other herd members.  A horse feels secure when they know where they stand in the herds pecking order which they determine by testing boundaries.

If you watch a herd of horses interact you can observe this play out.  It generally starts out subtly - a hard look, a toss of a head, tightened lip, or pinned ears.  This is usually enough to get another herd member out of their space.  If not it can escalate to a bite, kick or a striking front hoof.  Their communication is fair, authentic and effective.

If we as humans don’t let someone know their behavior is inappropriate it will continue. We must communicate directly and immediately following the incident, that this behavior is not acceptable. And if it does continue, then you follow it up with immediate action, like ending your involvement with that person, because they are then showing you that they are the type of person that does not respect boundaries.

Your True Self and your self-esteem are extremely valuable and yours and only yours to protect.  No one, regardless of their issues, has any right to to diminish you!  By consistently enforcing your boundaries, you are cementing that line in the sand and if another continues to cross it, let them keep on walking, because you deserve so better!
Standing up for yourself and enforcing boundaries does not make you a bitch. It makes you someone that loves and respects yourself.”
If you don’t enforce your boundaries with immediate action, then your words are empty and people will not take you seriously. People will eventually show you who they really are, but by having and enforcing your boundaries early on, you can uncover someone’s true intentions before you become emotionally invested.

Relationship boundaries are also not a topic that you negotiate only once. Your personal and relationship boundaries may change based on your relationship or your individual preferences at varying stages of the relationship. The most successful couples are agile, and allow this to be an open and ongoing discussion.

What boundaries are important to you and your sense of self? Leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned next week as we continue our discussion on healthy and unhealthy boundaries.
Whatever you are willing to put up with, is exactly what you will have.”
— Anonymous

 
 
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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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
 
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    I embrace life with passion and gratitude. I love connecting with others in meaningful ways and I share my journey with you in hopes that it will in some way inspire, encourage and as a way to grow with you!  I am truly a work in progress that has not arrived in any form of perfection and am continually learning and growing.  I hope you will share the journey with me.

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