She Rides Horses…

Self-compassion groups

as her newest form of meditation. She told me the story just last week. She was realizing that nothing gives her more of a sense of mindful awareness and oneness than being on the back of her favorite horse and running free. She spoke of how she centered herself emotionally and aligned herself physically with the movements of her horse. She said a ride is always very uncomfortable when you are resisting the horses’ stride, or tightening your own muscles. So the intention is about getting into a “flow.”

Sounds like meditation to me: centering, surrendering, aligning, getting into the flow.

She was delighted to realize this active form of mindfulness is her way, and that it is okay to meditate in a form different than sitting still. Sure she might learn a hundred different ways. But for now it is important that she is finding her own best way.

He described fishing as an excellent form of meditation for him. Whereas the usual mind loves to jump around in a million directions, he is noticing that his mind can learn to focus attention into one place through fishing. He watches the bobber for the slightest movements at the water’s surface, as a sign that a fish is nibbling on his worm. Or he uses an acute sense of feel with a rod in his hands, as he trolls the lure through the invisible dimension below the river’s surface. The sensitivity of his hands in feeling that fishing line running through his fingers is a very specific form of mindfulness. His senses are alive, his attention is focused, and his awareness is trained on the one thing.

Fishing is a long way from horse-riding, but both are excellent ways of being mindful.

That’s the thing about learning mindfulness. Everyone has to find their own best ways to practice. And no one’s way is wrong if it works for them. So when you see the photo above of some of our contemplatives sitting in silence, do not presume everyone has to become comfortable with that way. Silent sitting is a good way, and it is only a way. Fishing and riding are great ways too.

The challenge is setting our intention and actually experimenting with many ways to find our own ways. I happen to be lucky in that I experience both mindfulness and heartfulness in a wide variety of ways. And it isn’t wrong if horseback riding is not one of them, (I never learned to relax with the horse enough to keep from busting myself in the saddle over and over).

Mindfulness is present moment awareness. And we can use most anything to cultivate that awareness. Heartfulness is what I am also seeking in all of these practices. Heartfulness to me means experiencing a full heart, a leb shalem or whole heart, a heart where love can dwell, which means where G-d can dwell. These are my intentions for the day: to be mindful and heartful. In that Sourcing I have a chance of radiating compassion as the highest ideal of my life.

So this morning I needed an hour of practicing visio divina (sacred seeing) and audio divina (sacred listening). I was seeking to be mindful and heartful in the cypress swamp that is our backyard. I was seeing this.

Ecoutez! photo

I was surrounded by nothing but the sounds of the yellow warbler, the crickets and locusts, the bull frog, the green heron’s call as he flew through the trees, the blue heron’s flapping wings as she took off when I got too close, and the high-pitched whistles as the brown whistling ducks came in for a landing. All of their sounds helped me focus my attention on the present moment, and open my heart to experience the oneness of all sentient beings. That was my form of audio divina this morning.

The thin green fronds of the cypress trees, the deep blue sky, the rugged texture of the cypress bark, the myriad plants and flowers growing on the water’s surface, and the image of the various birds sweeping through the trees were all part of my visio divina.

Listening and seeing, such simple ways to practice mindfulness and heartfulness. Both have sourced my intention to radiate lovingkindness as I head out into the world today. What will be your ways today? How will you focus your awareness and open your heart? Take the challenge, accept the adventure, and find your path today. It is not too late!

Next week I will launch a Men’s Meditation Challenge with 8 practices in 8 weeks. Each week we will commit to the daily practice of one way. If you are in the New Orleans area, contact me and let’s take the challenge together.



About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through; and of a blog on, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (, adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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