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I bounced over to Jaye, the 28-year old dark brown, wise and majestic mare, with curry comb and brush in hand. The instructions from my coach Kathy were simple – I had 10 minutes to groom the horse and notice what I was feeling. I was in good spirits that day at the barn. I’d been working on getting my life in order and the results were showing. How hard could this job be, I thought? But as soon as I started using the comb to release dirt, Jaye turned her head to look at me. What did that mean? Was she uncomfortable? A moment later when she backed away, ever so slightly, I got my answer.
A horse is a powerful mirror.
The smile and hop in my step were quickly disappearing. Jaye and I were both uneasy and agitated. I didn’t like it. But I kept on going. And finally as I passed behind her to groom her other side, something happened. A deep breath entered my lungs without conscious thought. A release swept over my body and there was a noticeable weakness in my knees. I laid a hand on her to steady myself as I groomed with the other. We fell into sync. We were connected.
I knew instantly in that moment that Jaye had picked up on what was really going on with me before I did. She saw through my positive exterior and instantly recognized the fear deep inside. Uh, oh. But as I checked in with the feeling, I realized the fear was there, but it wasn’t paralyzing. It was that excited kind of fear; like when you’re on the brink of an amazing new journey. Ahh! So this is what I was meant to learn, huh? This is what you were trying to make me see!
Jaye reflected my mismatched emotions back to me until I paid attention. I wanted to hug her. Her gift was powerful. I felt warm, appreciative, known, accepted. I felt authentic, empowered, courageous. I was ready to face my fears.
And then it happened.
I looked up at my coach, flashed a smile loaded with the message, “I am complete with Jaye; is it ok if I’m done?” She smiled back giving no indication I had permission to stop. My 10 minutes must not be up yet. What do I do now?
So I ignored my gut and did what I was “supposed” to. I moved back to Jaye’s right side and kept on grooming until my 10 minutes were up. Those last two minutes were excruciating. We got agitated again. We lost our connection. I suddenly felt I was on stage for my audience to critique. I was doing it wrong. I let Jaye down. I failed. Everyone else was better than me. I ran back to my seat as fast as I could when time was called.
As she debriefed with me, my coach Kathy challenged me, “Where else in your business or life do you stop yourself from acting on your intuition? How has that held you back?” Another participant of the workshop threw in another one, ”Are you trying to be the “good girl” and do it “right” rather than taking authentic action?”
My mind raced through past experience where I ignored my intuition to disastrous results and those where I listened and although it felt risky, all turned out better than expected.
And almost like Jaye was still communicating with me from the barn, an opportunity to listen to my intuition showed up. I had been in conversation with a colleague about collaborating on a project together. On the surface, there was so much synergy that it seemed like a no-brainer. But the more we talked about it, the more drained I got. The more I felt trapped.
So during our next call, when the topic of how we’d work together came up, I took the chance and opened up. I had fears. I had reservations. It doesn’t feel like the right time for me. But I didn’t want to close the door to future collaboration.
Turns out the fears and doubts were mutual. We had a great conversation and things are better than ever between us. We’re finding other ways to support each other and keeping our eyes open for future opportunities to collaborate. I think we may have even saved our friendship from potential damage.
Trusting your intuition can be a challenging task even if we know the rewards.
To strengthen your awareness and integrate it into authentic action, try these following steps when faced with your next decision:
- Check in with your body. Notice any feelings, twinges or stiffness. What message is this trying to tell you?
- Check in with your emotions. Are you feeling fear, vulnerability, anger, frustration, sadness? Or happy, confident, empowered, clear, courageous? What message are these emotions trying to tell you?
- Take action. Building the muscles around trusting your intuition take practice. Take a chance. Act in a way that honors the messages you received from your body and emotions.
- Reflect. Take time to reflect on how this new authentic action felt for you. Did things blow up after you took the risk or was your risk rewarded with a pleasant surprise? How will you integrate what you learned the next time you’re faced with a decision?
Please share your stories with us. We’d love to hear how you’re learning and growing!
PS Remember how I shared that I wanted to hug Jaye for the gift she had given me? Well even though it felt like a silly request, before I left the barn that day, I shared my desire with Kathy. She led me straight into Jaye’s stall and I wrapped my arms around her. Thank you, I communicated with my embrace; I’m grateful you were here to teach me. And turns out it wasn’t so silly a request after all. One by one, my fellow workshop participants stepped into the stall asking for their chance at a hug.