• vslachman

The Self Beneath the Self

A very successful east coast business coach advocates bringing our "whole selves to work," and has a lot of ideas about how to do that. He observes that many in positions of power today walk around with what he calls "bruised and bloody souls."

A pretty stark phrase to describe our plight. To me, it's not only applicable to the business world, but also in our day-to-day lives. How many of us fit that description, at least from time to time?

We can't be authentically present to or as ourselves until we are present in ourselves

My interest is in getting to what I think of as the "self beneath the self." That means not brining merely our "whole selves" into our lives, but our "authentic selves."

Which is where, to me, horses come in . . . .

Nice day in the pasture . . . lots of calm, lounging around.

Case in point:

The other day I pulled Dorian out of the pasture and plodded slowly down to the barn, Dorian weaving from left to right behind me finding the least gravely way forward. Because he wore shoes as a racehorse most of his life, he never developed that cushion on the interior of his foot so no matter how great his feet are now, he's never going to be comfy on rocky surfaces.

Below is what Dorian's feet looked like when his shoes were pulled (ugh), how I had to create duck tape boots with "Magic Cushion" inside so he could walk, getting his feet trimmed by Eric Knapp, and what they look like now . . . long road back to some good feet, that's for sure.

Anyway . . . back to the story . . . I got him down to the barn to feed him. I have to hold his big bucket under his mouth because I'm trying to teach him not to fling his head (and so all the food I buy!) around--I don't want to be feeding BoBo the pot-bellied pig the chickens (and before that the turkeys!) Which I seem to be doing a lot of if I hang the bucket.

Everybody knows when Dorian eats, they eat!

Dorian is much too curious about his surroundings! (the darling)

He was also frozen in place the first time he saw a cow! :)

First photo--COWS! Second, the terrifying cows, third is D. and friend doing his favorite thing.

So the point here . . .

Teju Cole (writer, historian, photographer), speaks of "sitting together in darkness waiting for something to happen." It's a riff on Virginia Woolf's idea that, though we --as a culture--may be in darkness, that's not altogether a negative thing. For Cole, darkness is a place where hope comes forth and Cole asserts that we're responsible to be hopeful on behalf of those who are not.

That's something Dorian has taught me. He does require a lot of care--the racetrack, in many ways, did leave him a "bruised and bloody soul," (though not literally, thank goodness).

Dorian required constant care for months and months through that horrid fungal infection last winter.

I was joking with Shannon Huber, who did his feet the other day. "He's lucky he ended up with me . . . ," I said, and she burst out laughing, shaking her head.

But the work he requires nourishes me, too, as I think does all work we authentically devote ourselves to. The truth is, he's given me so much more than I've ever given him.

For instance, that year and a half it took to nurse Dorian's feet back to health provided me great insight into our human journey . . . When the shoes came off, he literally couldn't walk. He had no "foundation" to stand on. What a great metaphor that was for me in the work I do outside the horse arena.

Pretty boy.

Without being in touch with who we really are, we also don't have a firm foundation--and that gave me a great insight into how to help people who want to, not just "find themselves, but to stand in that self and live out from it.

Once Dorian's feet improved, he grew bars underneath and his feet actually spread to accommodate his big, muscled body--he's so much more stable now. And so much healthier.

I've found that to be true for us in the people realm, too. Research has shown that authenticity is highly correlated with what's termed "secure" self-esteem--a positive understanding of our worth no matter negative feedback from the outer (or inner) world. And authenticity is also highly correlated positively with physical and emotional health. Dorian galvanized me, through his dire need for care, to actualize my love for him in daily ministrations. And the realizations I've had doing that have informed literally everything I do--from my work with students to Equine-Assisted Coaching clients, to darling little Lily, my daughter, my friends, my colleagues . . .

Dorian and Lily at the rescue.

So yes, in this era of conflict and political polarization and loss, we may certainly be sitting in darkness, bruised and bloody at times. But if we embrace it, being a little light of hope in such dark times, is achieving a lot, I think.

And we can certainly all do a little more of that.

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