Tag Archives: horses

Building resilience – March 2017 Newsletter

sun moments 20161125-06-36-57-Fiilies back paddock-IMG_4176 It’s not what life throws at you but how you respond – how many memes are there floating around based on that sentiment? What does it really mean though? To me, it’s about resilience.

If you look up the definition of resilience what pops up first is:

  • the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  • the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

I wasn’t sure at first about the word toughness as it conjured a more unyielding response, but with reflection about the sort of toughness that is still elastic, my opinion changed. You can for instance look at the difference between one of those big fit balls and a party balloon. Both can move and flex to pressure but one you can sit on the other you cannot. One is tough, the other is not.

Another example that the weather over the last couple of months has brought to mind is the toughness and resilience of grass. Just the normal soft grass that grows in my paddock. Its toughness is not because of its thick skin but its deep roots and its ability to go from dormant to full life in a very short period of time. In February my paddocks were dry and cracked and the grass looked dead. By the middle of march those same paddocks were knee deep in vividly green grass.

So how do we cultivate resilience? One of the ways is mindfulness. When we operate from a mindful perspective, we are fully present; and when we are fully present we don’t become mired in the past or lost in the future.  We are able to respond, not react.

Books we love

The books that support our work in Horsanity, where we gain inspiration and learning and which we think you would find valuable.

Mindfulness is a topic that has been around for quite a while now and there are lots of schools of thought about how it should be approached. Should you immerse yourself in a spiritual practice such as Buddhism, or at least take your instruction from that tradition? Should you enroll in a more secular course and be guided through an intensive course in a group environment? There are plenty on offer to choose from. Should you take the time to immerse yourself in the now with another sentient (horse) being skilled at being present (yes!)?

My personal belief is that if it works for you to achieve what you want to achieve then there are no wrong answers to how you go about finding your way to deeper practice. The problem is that often the barrier to taking such an approach is our over busy minds and lives that convince us we have no time to commit. And that is where books like the following two come in. They guide us through short practices of habit and get us started.

Before we launch into the books though, what do I mean by mindfulness? My thoughts are pretty main stream so this explanation from the University of California works for me.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

littel book of mindfulness

The first book is “The Little Book of Mindfulness, Dr Patrizia Collard, 2014”. For a start it is pocket sized. If you want to carry it around with you it slips easily into your bag or pocket and you can take it out if you need a bit of inspiration. After a brief introduction about the history of secular mindfulness practice and what the aims of it are, the books outlines a number of 5 and 10 minute practices for the everyday. The book is also beautifully illustrated, which always helps.

In the section on mindful eating: Food should be savoured for the mind as well as the body.

From the writer Peter Altenberg on a tea ritual: Drinking my tea at 6pm never seems to lose its power over me. Everyday I long for it as intensely as the day before, and when I drink it I lovingly embrace it into my being”

Midfulness practical guide

The second book is “Mindfulness, a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Mark Williams and Danny Penman, 2011”. The authors come from the same school of thought as Dr Collard, based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn so much of the ground covered is the same as in the smaller book but in much more detail. It offers both practice and theory and the copy I have came with a CD of guided meditations which is a real bonus!

From the foreword by Jon Kaat-Zinn: While you are putting yourself into the authors’ hands for guidance, you are also, most importantly, putting yourself very much into your own hands by making the commitment to yourself to actually follow their suggestions, to engage in the various formal and informal practices and habit releasers, and put them to the test by seeing what happens when you begin to pat attention and act with kindness and compassion towards yourself and others, even if it feels a bit artificial at first.

In other words, remember, Mindfulness is a practice and our skill, and thus the benefit, develops as we persevere with that practice. These two books are a great resource in that practice.

Back in the saddle

February  was a month to remember both for the searing temperatures and St Ivans and Carwoola fires that affected many people we know, but also for me a trip in rural India where I discovered the delights of the Indian National Park system, which is quite extensive. Hence no February Newsletter.

March too seems to have just flown by but this time at least we have been engaged in honest labor. With both Public  and Organisational workshops it was a nice blend of emphasis. Of particular pleasure was to run the fifth “ignite Pharmacy Leadership” workshop in Canberra with our friends at Peakgrove. So far we have conducted the workshop three times outside Melbourne, once outside Newcastle and now outside Canberra. Participants fly in from all round Australia and are always highly engaged. If they arrive slightly skeptical, the skepticism soon vanishes as they work with the horses.

Meet the Herd

We have been looking at the new editions at Tashkent but time for a change of pace and a look at one of the more venerable members of the Yaroonga herd.

The big majestic grey mare Ladybird has been instrumental in much deep learning by participants at Yaroonga workshops. As Pam’s first born she holds not just a special place in Pam’s heart, but also in the dynamics of the herd. Very much the matriarch, she has her avid followers and communicates in no uncertain terms. Born during the EI crisis of 2007 (this was a complete lockdown of horse movements in much of QLD and NSW as a result of a rogue infection that escaped Australian Quarantine with potentially devastating effects on the equine industry) she was bred to be a dressage horse and had success in her early career. Some breathing issues combined with a lack of interest on her behalf put an end to her dressage career and instead she has embraced the role of People Whisperer with enthusiasm.

Our Calendar

Workshop 1 See with Fresh Eyes – Getting started 

Thursday April 6th  (Tashkent, Dungog) (limited places still available)

Saturday  April 22nd (Yaroonga, Blandford)

Workshop 2 Deepening

These workshops are no longer scheduled but will be offered “on demand”. They are designed to deepen the practices from both our Getting Started Workshop and one day Custom  Organisational Workshops. If you are interested in doing one please contact us

Save the Date

At the moment these dates are all designated as See with Fresh Eyes – Getting Started. We may change some to be new standalone modules or too a Deepening if requested.

  • April 29th Yaroonga
  • May 8th Yaroonga
  • May 15th Tashkent
  • June 3rd Yaroonga
  • June 10th Tashkent
  • June 23rd Tashkent
  • June 28th Yaroonga

The problem with Vulnerability

Like many people I first came across the work of Brene Brown through her TedEx Huston presentation (which at 13 055 030 and counting on the Ted platform alone is one of the most watched Ted talks ever) and have since dived in very deep to her work. There often seems to be two worlds in which knowledge operates. One if the academic world where a lot of rigor is placed around primary research, literature review and writing dry dense academic papers that are off-putting and intimidating for the large majority of readers, where the other is the free-form, largely unreferenced, highly anecdotal but highly accessible writing of various individuals who’s credentials are not always obvious and sometimes dubious.  What I love about  Brene Brown’s work is that it grows from her academic work, but it is so accessible to us all that it can touch and influence so many lives.

She does not run the Guru model. As someone talking to us about vulnerability she never claims to have beaten it, to have the the 5 tips to invulnerability, the 10 fail-safe strategies for overcoming imperfection, rather she makes herself entirely vulnerable and allows us to see her imperfect self. Good on her !

So what is the problem with vulnerability? Actually the problem is with our interpretation of the word, our confusion of it with weakness. As I am want to do, I googled the definition of vulnerability for its usage outside of the context of personal growth. Before I started the first phrase that had jumped to my mind was “the castle defenses were vulnerable to attack through the postern gate ” (don’t ask me why, perhaps because I went to school near a castle and I still carry a lot of baggage from my school years, fondly though I mostly remember them) which for attackers was perhaps better that the sewer! As we might also say something like the postern gate was a weak point in the castle’s defenses the mind goes “hmm they are vulnerable because there is a weak spot, therefor to be vulnerable is to be weak”.

So, Oxford Dictionary definition of vulnerable

“exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: we were in a vulnerable position, small fish are vulnerable to predators”

Exposed to the possibility of attack! Wow. Every time you put forth a new idea, every time you are required to give or ask for feedback, every time you create something new or open your heart to someone you are exposed to the possibility of attack (or something that feels like attack) but if you do it anyway that is not being weak, that is being courageous.

I love this little clip about changing  language for better understanding “A new sign for Vulnerability”

And because new life is always vulnerable, young Renlyn TK, 3 days old 29 December 2013

Renlyn day three

New Beginnings

So 2013 is over and my facebook feed is full of New year Wishes for 2014. As it is also the year of the Horse again, a lot of those wishes are horse shaped. So ever hopeful my photoshop expertise would suddenly be enhanced by neglect I attempted to create my own Year of the Horse New Year Card.

This little guy is Renlyn TK, born 26/12/2013 photographed on 1/1/2014 and galloping into the New Year full of expectation.

New Year copy

 

I guess it is one of those “the only way is up” moments. The “if your try you may fail, but if you don’t try you have failed before you start” or perhaps “treat every failure as a lesson”.

My New years Resolution is (alongside the perennials that aren’t even worth mentioning)  to pay some serious attention to my post processing skills and source some one to teach me.

 

A Blank Slate

I’m a little distracted at the moment. It is that time of the year when my sleep is disturbed by the constant beep, beep, beep that demands I get out of bed, search around for my clothes, find the torch and stumble over to the yards. There I am greeted by a hopeful face (green eyes glowing back at me from the torch light) that was having a but of a rub and on hearing the house door open has been alerted to the possibility of a midnight snack.

Just occasionally the alarm has done its job and instead of the hungry hippo I am greeted by the shape of a grunting beached whale and it is on. I grab the iodine and settle in to ensure all goes smoothly.

The first of four arrived this week, at 1.00 am Monday morning to be precise. He has his whole life ahead of him, I wonder what will be written on his slate?

Djohari and Rozze (1024x942)

 

 

The Future of Leadership or Future Leaders?

I had a discussion with a colleague about the expression “Future Leaders” the other day and as  it often is the discussion centered around our subjective interpretation. Her point was that we shouldn’t be waiting for some “future time” to become leaders, we are all potential leaders now. The seeds of leadership are in all of us, it is a matter of realizing them, not waiting for leadership to be bestowed on us sometime in the future.  That is the philosophical view that sits at the heart of what we do with the horsework at Horsanity. Providing an experience that opens people to their own internal  leadership capability and how that integrates with their outer world.

IMG_8362 (427x640)

My interpretation was not about bestowing leadership on someone in the future, but about generational change. Who will be the leaders we see “in the future” in both formal and informal positions of leadership, those at the helm of organisations , professions or social movements. The highly visible leaders. To become those visible leaders, these leaders of the future need to be opened to their leadership capability now. A reason for working not just with today’s recognised organisational leaders, but also with those at the beginning of a career, in junior positions, at University, at school. It is why I am so excited to be working with the Future Leader Ignite program of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Chioce

And then there is the question of what is required to be drawn forth from leaders “in the future”. What new as yet un-dreamt of challenges will they need to meet? It is thus with great interest I read a report by the World Economic Forum from the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership :

Tomorrow’s leaders will need to go beyond the limits of the system within which society operates today to perceive what those systems might become”

A new leadership space is opening that

will require a profound leader journey. At the heart of this journey is an inner and outer journey. The inner journey describes how the leader learns through reflection, mentoring and practice. The outer journey describes the crucible experiences in which leadership is forged and includes challenge, risk and working at the edge of the system“.

Enter Horsanity stage right!

Horsanity 420 (2)

Building strength through self-compassion

In my former life I was given an assessment by my peers that my greatest “skill” was compassion. I reacted very negatively to this feed back. Compassion after all did not seem to have any direct correlation to boosting our revenue, to giving clients accurate and timely results, to being able to advise them from a position of knowledge and business acumen or even to being able to transfer my (apparently non existent) skills to other in the business, Clearly they could not  think of anything nice and businessy to say about me so they came up with something that seemed nice whilst backhandedly giving me a slap about the chops. I almost spat, like cat.

cat

And I continued to beat myself up about being a waste of space, a failure as a good little worker bee, as a human being, if the only thing I was good at was being compassionate.

Do you see the hole here?

I may well have been perceived as being compassionate to others but there wasn’t a whole lot of self compassion going on. What was going on was a whole lot of repression, of just push it down, keep a lid on it, ignore the pain, grin and bare it. Write out those to do lists,  repeat a few affirmations, but above all do not under any circumstances acknowledge the pain.

The truth is that I did have those other skills; except perhaps for being timely, that has always been a struggle for me. Not being “on time” to get somewhere, I’m generally pretty good at that, it’s a simple goal, but to weave complex threads together to finish in a timely manner without getting lost in a maze of side roads and rabbit holes as something attracts my interest.

In the end I could not contain it any more. I had to do something and that something was to leave my business and enter a new one where my outward focused compassion was perceived (by me) as a more positive attribute.

Horsanity Jackpot (1024x683)

And along the way I started to develop just a little bit of self compassion. Wow, you mean I can be kind to myself as well as to others! Surely not. Does that not mean I am just giving my self a bit of self pity, or an excuse to slack off, to be a wuss? Not at all. To be have self compassion is first to be aware of the pain you are feeling, to be mindful, to acknowledge with no judgement and to accept and be self comforting in order to be resilient. Not to hide the pain, suppress it, try and make it go away.  Rather like the description of courage as being afraid but doing what has to be done anyway.

Recently I have been following the work of Kristen Neff and finding it is helping to build a process to rely on around what was developing ad hoc.

 

 

Innovation and Creativity – A beginning

I was doing a bit of musing about some low-tech innovations that I am the beneficiary of but first need to take the photo that explains it, so when an article appeared in my inbox about creativity, innovation the neuroscientific understanding of the process, I thought I’d talk about creativity and innovation in general.

So lets get clear on what I mean by creativity.

I feel the need to do so because for many years I had a very narrow definition of what creativity meant. Where or how I picked it up I don’t know but it  is so deeply seated that it tries every now and again to steer my thinking. In my little universe I divided people into two types, those who are creative and those who aren’t. Those who are creative are artistic, and those that are artistic do one of two things, paint (and draw) or play music. So if someone said to me “you are so creative”, I’d bemusedly deny it as both playing music and drawing are way out of my skill set. And besides, I’m a scientist I’d say. (Even though it is many years since I have worked in any scientific capacity, I still identify myself that way which is is why I get so excited about Neuroscience articles). So sorry all you photographers, writers, film makers, dancers, cake decorators, knitters of the world according to DjD you are neither creative nor artistic.

How silly is that! I probably got told in an art class at primary school that I had no future as an artist and from then on art meant painting and I was hopeless at it.

Here are a few definitions of creative garnered from almighty Google

  1. Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative
  2. The tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others
  3. Any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one
  4. Relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something
  5. Having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas
  6. Generating new ideas and concepts, or making connections between ideas where none previously existed.

I particularly like the one from this mornings article “the purposeful generation and implementation of a novel idea”. Within an organisation that becomes valuable when it “results in a measurably useful outcome”. In fact we can all be creative (regardless of our ability to wield a hog bristle filbert) and we can develop our creativity given the right conditions.. Our organisations, our world, is crying out for us to increase our creativity in response to the ever increasing complexity of life. We need creativity to pervade everything from the response to how to improve customer service to tackling climate change and species extinction.

The first step –  Idea generation

A fallow field

After the rain

In traditional agriculture a field was left fallow (no crop) one year in three. A period of rest for the soil, that led to a stronger and more productive crop the following year. In order for creativity to flourish we need a fallow mind. Not an empty mind, a fallow field is not devoid of life, but one where there is space for new ideas to generate and be noticed. To put it another way, an open mind, a mind that is not overly constrained by rules. From a Neuroscience perspective – lower cognitive control. A playful mind

creative play

When we take people out of their normal environment and into the paddock with our horses, we give them an opportunity to open their minds, to be a bit playful, to be unconstrained by the usual clutter of their work day mind. We offer them a fallow field in which to open to their creativity.