By Blair McKissock, MSEd, RYT
The word vulnerable has a new meaning for me lately. As we grow up and watch our children and family grow up, it changes who we are; things can go wrong and not as planned. People make choices we don’t understand. As we come to terms with life’s events, we’re forced to look inward and make sense of the circumstances and events. We’re required to question our own actions and motives. It’s uncomfortable. It’s like standing in a pile of manure; it stinks! When we’re knee-deep in the muck, we’re forced to make a choice. We can either stand there ignoring the smell and pretending it isn’t there, disassociating and disconnecting; or, we can choose to look down, acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable, it stinks, makes our eyes water, and it takes action to step out of it. We can then make the choice to clean it up and start over with a clean stall. It takes work to clean up the mess. We have to be vulnerable, and willing to get in there and do what needs to be done. As we strip away the layers of muck and mire, more is revealed. Our old habits, beliefs, and patterns are brought back for us to deal with, or bury again. It makes us feel overwhelmed, and not in control. We literally feel like crap! (Sorry about the “poo” metaphor but it fits so well!)
At the same time, we can choose to shed everything, and clean it up as it’s revealed. We can choose to be seen. When a horse sees us, they see us for who we really are; covered in muck and sawdust, trying to hide our insecurities, and not doing a good job of it. They know when our lives are turned upside down, and we’re trying to put on a brave face for the world, yet they don’t buy it. To a horse this is a lie. They can react to this incongruence just as prey would react to a predator; freeze, flee, or fight. However, if we acknowledge what we’re really feeling, and let ourselves be seen, we become congruent, and they will react differently, sometimes demonstrating great compassion. To truly be seen, we have to not only let others see us as we are, we have to see ourselves, and in the greatest act of compassion there is, we have to accept ourselves.
In my life I’ve hidden from the world, because I felt like I was never good enough. I felt like a fraud, or that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I could stand up in front of a crowd and speak with confidence, then melt in a heap of insecurity once it was over. I could teach a yoga class, trying to be calm and collected, when thoughts of being a bigger size would make me want to run out and crawl under the desk. I’d also feel guilty for trying to fool people into believing I was confident, yet I could never fool a horse. I’ve found over the last few years that I’ve stayed away from connecting with some of the horses I work with, because I didn’t want to allow them to see me. They, in turn wouldn’t connect with me either. It’s human nature to try to fool ourselves into thinking, “If only things were different, I’d be different.” Try as we might, being in a different pile of manure is still being in a pile of manure. The muck is still there. We can try to change our environment, or our circumstances, like losing weight, moving to a new city, changing schools or jobs; yet the muck just moves with us, expanding the more we try to ignore it. It takes putting yourself out there, and letting the horse and the world see you for who you really are, muck and all, for things to change. Nothing changes unless we do.
It’s become very clear that I’ve been standing in that pile of manure for a long time, as it’s deep and it stinks! It’s time for me to step out of it, and strip that stall so I can start over. You’ll notice less stock photos, and more real-life pictures this month. I’m stripping away the muck, and putting myself out there, so I can create better relationships, and be ok with the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. Today I stand in the arena with a horse, and let them see me as I’m letting you see me, muck and all. I am yogi strong, and open-hearted. This is me today, and I begin to accept and love myself as I am. I challenge you to do the same. Take an honest look at the manure around you, and start digging. Let yourself be seen for who you are, and be empowered. As in the joke told long ago, “you have to dig deep into the manure, because where there’s a pile of manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
It has been an absolute pleasure writing for and working with the Conscious Community Magazine team. It’s with no small amount of guilt that I announce that this may be my last column. Circumstances in my life are requiring me to make cuts in my workload, so I can focus on my family, and schooling. There will come a time when my life slows down, and I am able to return. Until then, you can find my latest posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. With much gratitude, I wish you a quiet mind, kindness of speech, and love in your heart. Namaste.
Blair McKissock, MSEd, RYT is a recreational therapist, instructor, and workshop facilitator, specializing in nature-based learning. She is an author, mother, speaker, yogi, and experiential geek. To learn more about upcoming workshops and clinics, go to: stridestosuccess.org.