• vslachman

A Whole Lotta Doing Nothing

Updated: Jun 2, 2019




Giles Hutchins is an executive business coach—on the surface. He’s actually much more than that. A profound thinker, he notes that our Western mindset is based in a “corrupting logic” that separates us from each other and the natural world.


In a video discussion of The Illusion of Separation, Hutchins comments on the “innate wisdom flowing throughout life” that we are in dire need of paying attention to. Hutchins calls for a paradigm shift “from power over to power with, from separation to synchronicity, from fear to courage.”


The idea of partnership, foregrounding empathy, and moving into a wider, more wholistic understanding that our existence is inextricably bound to the welfare of others is becoming pervasive in the business and in the social world.


Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is the founder of Theory U and the Presencing Institute, both instrumental in changing the social and business paradigm from “ego to eco.” Theory U’s focus is innovation and reinvention across sectors as diverse as government and education, as well as economy and business.


Among the features of the Presencing Institute is Arawana Hayashi’s “Social Presencing Theater,” which uses body postures and movement to expose blocks to effective communication and intuition, removing those to “make visible both current reality, and the deeper – often invisible – leverage points for creating profound change.”


She’s been doing this work for ten years, serving businesses and government bodies around the world. You can view short video clips of her work here.


Hayashi’s work emphasizes two points I think intersect with experiencing profound changes in partnering with horses: the location of change is both individual and resident in the body. In other words, the source of these shifts comes from deeply within individuals—at a most essential level—and can be accessed through the body.


I don’t contend, of course, the body is the only entrance point, nor do I suggest the body absent conscious reflection about what it tells us is effective.


But I have found that using both the mind and the body creates potent opportunities for the sorts of changes that will reveal and energize each one of us, and that’s the leverage we need for wider shifts and beneficial changes in the world.

The location of real change is both individual and resident in the body.

My friends and business coaches, Dixie Gillaspie and Philip Penrose, founded Return to Your Power, a practice that marries changing our behavior by rewiring our brain. Philip does that work through the body, while Dixie does it through verbal explorations with clients.


Their work is based on an understanding that we’re not body and mind, but body/mind. And the work is, predictably, successful as well as satisfying for clients.


Isn’t this sort of fundamental change necessary—this change to the “primitive” self I spoke about earlier—to be of any genuine help to others?


For example, my dizziness following Dorian working through his own trauma was the literal result of me participating with him, of a union with him enabling me to help him come forward and release the trauma that had been buried below the surface.


This would not have been possible without me experiencing an authentic sense of myself as we both went through this. You can’t fake being yourself—you either are or you are not.


Choose one.


If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s what I’ve discovered in my experience with Dorian. The shift Hutchins speaks of is exactly what our relationship to horses offers us--a short-cut to our most authentic selves—you simply cannot have a relationship with a horse if you aren’t honest, synchronous, and congruent. And . . . present.


We’re not body and mind, but body/mind.

And yet, as my own experience has shown me, there’s a need also to practice kindness and patience with ourselves. In fact, I think employing these two attitudes, coupled with persistence to uncover and live authenticity, will do more for our world than perhaps anything else we might contribute.


And so . . . patience and kindness. That and “doing nothing” are lessons I seem to need to learn over an over. And . . . over.


Case in point . . .


For several days in a row during winter break, Dorian and I had been together for hours and hours, and we’d done tons of riding. The day before the event I’m about to relate, I was on his back riding the arena and woods, moving through obstacles, or doing groundwork--all tolled, about 5 hours of fun and "work."



Yet the next day, heading to the barn and knowing it was a sunny, warm day, saw me planning what we would “do,” what we would “accomplish.”


It’s a mindset exactly the opposite of the more productive “open to outcomes” approach that’s been such a revelation to me. And so the lesson once again awaited me.


We’d practice our Pirelli games, I thought. We’d do round pen work and I’d send him mental and body “walk, trot, canter” signals, we’d ride all over the place. It was Sunday and it was sunny and by gosh, we were going to accomplish things!


But Dorian was very tired. And, I was, too. If you’d seen me, you would have noticed dark circles under my eyes and a body that moved a bit slowly and was a little sore. Nevertheless, I forged ahead with my “plan,” and into the round pen we went, longe whip in hand.


Dorian was listless and not interested in moving with any energy at all. He complied, though, and trotted around, cantered some, but clearly had no interest whatsoever in listening to me—either my voice or my thoughts.


We were far, far from being in any kind of sync.


Asleep on his feet. :)

At one point, I walked to the far end of the pen and sat down. I’d just wait for him to connect and come to me. But pretty soon, what I saw was a big chestnut horse sleeping in the sun!


He literally fell asleep on his feet. After more time (it takes me a while to get the message), I realized this was not going to be a work day by any stretch of the imagination.


And I was frustrated. Enormously frustrated. I looked up at the deep, clear blue sky and thought “What a waste of a day . . . We could have done so much.” This line of thinking went on for quite a while, and then I tuned into Dorian and realized what he wanted was to be turned out in the paddock with his friends.


It’s been such a tough winter on him because we just couldn’t completely kick the scratches he’s had and I was suddenly aware that, more than anything, he just wanted to hang with Bentley and Spike and John.


What I saw was quiet, peaceful contentment, beautiful horses in the act of just “being.”

It was still muddy, but patches had dried out, so I tossed some flakes of hay in the dry parts and turned Dorian out, anticipating that even if we couldn’t get anything done together at least I could watch him play with his friends. At least I could watch them race up and down the paddock, kicking and rearing and tossing their heads. I could have some fun with him, if vicariously.


But he didn’t want to play. Nor did anyone else. Dorian plodded up to Bentley and they both lowered their heads and ate hay. Which is what all the horses were doing that day.

A whole lotta nothing, it seemed to me. A waste of a good day, is what I thought.


So I watched them a while, standing at the fence. And what I saw was quiet, peaceful contentment. What I saw were some beautiful horses in the act of just “being.” Not doing anything. Not planning or getting things done. Just . . . being.


Suddenly the whole world got quiet for me. I heard some birds far off chattering to each other. I watched a hawk, wings spread wide, riding the gentle currents up and out to the north, then pivot and glide toward the west.


Such effortless grace, I thought. And a deep calm settled over me, a quietness, a restfulness . . . a way of being in the world that seemed utterly natural.

This wasn’t a day to get anything done at all. But in moving into the lovely gift of simply being Dorian had shown me, I came nearer then I have in a long while to feeling completely at peace with myself.


Quite a gift.

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