morning glory


I took this photo when I was on Martha’s Vineyard.  It was blooming just outside my room.  Today, Pam saw a rainbow overhead in the wispy cirrus clouds in an otherwise clear sky.  The morning glory and the rainbow are reminding me of the transitory, precious nature of each moment.  And the other thing — the morning glory blooms for only one day – actually only in the brilliant sun of the morning.  Imagine what we would do if we had only one day to bloom gloriously.

riding lessons part 3

IMG_3003Photo:  Jeffrey Anderson

Here are a few more mindful riding words from my forthcoming book, The Common Body

  1. Pausing

Pausing intentionally interrupts what can be an automatic flow and bring us back into a state of mindfulness. As you are grooming and tacking up, pause, coming fully into stillness even if only for a moment. Consciously alternate between moving and moments of stillness. Be still for longer than is comfortable. Notice what this does to your feeling of your own body and its relationship to your horse.

Use pausing during your ride. Transition downward into a halt, but with a feeling of settling into stillness rather than just stopping. Imagine all the cells of your body and your horse’s body coming “home” into a fluid stillness. Notice how this is different from a halt, how the quality of that stillness and completion has a fluid balance to it rather than a more muscular “stop.”   How fluidly can you transition from that stillness back into forward movement? Can you do it without either you or the horse bracing or stiffening?

  1. Helping, not Making  (from Mark Rashid)

Many of the lessons that we teach our horses (or our children) are intentional and some are inadvertant, unconscious. They learn lessons about behavior, action and relationship through our moments of inattention and carelessness as well as our moments of awareness and mindful guidance. When we punish them for the things we have inadvertantly taught, they are learning another lesson about our inconsistency and untrustworthiness.

In riding, because there is another body, sometimes control overshadows communication, harshness and impatience displace softness and connection. We are riding by making statements and declarations, forgetting to ask the question. The horse – a perfect mirror of our inner state – will tell us when we are getting it wrong. They will also let us know when we have it right. Be clear about what and how you are asking moment-by-moment. Helping means looking for emotional and physical balance, consistency and fairness throughout the ride.

  1. Be a Traveler

“Traveling is a rare state. Most people live their daily lives, here and everywhere, appreciating and gravitating toward routine and pattern, creating a known world in the midst of chaos. The traveler invites and cultivates the unknown, the absence of routine with the question, what do I want?”  Rachel Kaplan[i]

Humans are often eager to get there, and have a hard time relishing the journey. Traveling invites a sense of perspective, an awareness of where we have been, where we are now and where we are going. It requires that you journey in your own experience, letting the familiar become unfamiliar. Composer Pauline Oliveros teaches the “unique strategy,” asking us to repeat a simple gesture or sound over and over, letting each repetition be unique, unlike any of those before. Practicing the unique strategy means that this ride, this breath, this moment are unlike any other.

[i] Rachel Kaplan, “Some Traveler’s Tales,” Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, edited by Ann Cooper-Albright and David Gere.


dancing with Jacob



P1010081Two of today’s dances with my autistic godson Jacob.  Photos by Derrill Bazzy.

I am sharing some of my notes from working with Jacob today.  My hope is that they can be helpful to other parents of autistic children.  You can translate this information to your child or adolescent.  Please feel free to write with questions.

HOLDING YOUR OWN THREAD:  What is really important is that all of us who spend time with Jacob are “holding the thread” of our own experience when we are with him. What this means is that we stay connected to ourselves inwardly. This may mean our breath, but mostly it means our own CURIOSITY AND ENGAGEMENT with whatever we are doing. When I am with Jacob, I try not to be thinking about what I am doing, which puts me outside of the experience. Instead, I focus on sensing and feeling Jacob and myself. BEING IN THE MOMENT.

That engagement with yourself has to be AUTHENTIC. Jacob is extremely attuned to you whether it looks like it or not. He knows when you are not authentically engaged with yourself or with him. BREATHE. HAVE SOME FUN.

DANCING NOT TRACKING (BE ALIVE IN YOUR BODY):  I find it helpful to think of what Jacob and I are doing is dancing together. This is especially true when we are outside, because of all the available spatial relationships: up/down, near/far, postural (like running, climbing, ball throwing, swinging) or gestural (mudras, touch, ball spinning etc).

The dancing part is that I suggest improvising spatially with Jacob. What this means is that I don’t “track” him or just follow him around. When we are doing that, generally we have lost our own “thread.” We are just following. Create your own pattern while maintaining a felt sense of connection and movement relationship with him. Be creative. If he is walking in a straight line toward the swing, you can walk in a curvilinear pattern toward the play structure and then loop over toward him and away. That awakens you in your body and engages Jacob’s curiosity. The more juicy, playful and engaged (AUTHENTICALLY) that you are the more likely it is that Jacob will enter a delicious conversation with you. BE ALIVE IN YOUR OWN BODY.