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Emotional Intelligence Toolkit

Step 4: Learn to Ride the Wild Horse

Ride the Wild Horse: A Meditation for Remaining Mindful Even When Fearful

Our feelings often seem like a wild horse, full of fear and uncontrolled energy. The only way to accept and tame these feelings is to take up the reins and learn how to ride them.

Learning to Ride the Wild Horse

Wild Horse

Ride the Wild Horse offers more than a standard mindfulness meditation. It teaches mindfulness practice while taking into account the effect that intense or chronic levels of stress have on our ability to meditate and remain mindful. It's true that meditation is intended to relieve stress, but many people discover that the process connects them to emotions that they find so uncomfortable that they are unable to continue meditating.

Setting the stage

Set the stage for learning to ride the wild horse by creating a safe private space—a space that’s pleasant and energizing, where you won’t be disturbed. Carefully select and include sensory props to look at, smell, touch, taste, or feel that instantly make you feel calm.

  • Turn off your phone and lock the door if you need to.
  • Select a chair that supports a straight back, or you can sit in a rocking chair if movement calms and soothes you.
  • Take off your shoes and loosen your belt.
  • You should remain alert throughout the process, so don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or dull yourself in any way.
  • Choose a time of day when you are wide awake. After a big meal or when you are sleepy is not a good time.

If you believe you may be traumatized or "stuck" in habitual rage or panic

A few minutes of vigorous muscle movement that engages your arms and legs will prepare you for greater success with the meditation. Pretend you are a three year old and continually move your arms and legs randomly at the same time for a minute or two—or until you are too exhausted to move. If you have time, running or walking while you focus on the feeling sensations in your arms and legs can also be helpful.

Don't rush the process

Every time you correctly practice the meditation exercises, you should feel a little more energy and a little more comfortable with your emotional experience.

As feelings become more intense, you can ride the experience by continuing to breathe deeply and relaxing your body. However, if the feelings you experience become overwhelming and you start to feel out of control, switch your focus back to quick stress relief in order to bring your nervous system back into balance before continuing.

Don't rush the meditative process. You will absorb more if you move slowly. Take time to notice the small changes that add up to life change.

Ride the Wild Horse has four levels

The four versions of the Ride the Wild Horse meditation are each important and each progressively more advanced than the one before. You will build on your skills as you practice the meditations, so please start at the beginning, rather than jumping in at a more advanced level.

Work at your own pace and listen to your instincts. Don’t push yourself too hard, especially if you’ve been traumatized in the past. Some people may take months to work up to the deepest meditation. Keep in mind that you don’t have to complete all four meditations to experience benefits. Every time you practice one of the meditations, you’ll make progress.

Beginning meditation

Learn how to relax and open yourself up to discovering physical and emotional sensations throughout your body. Move up to the intermediate meditation when you feel alive to the feelings and sensations throughout your body.

You can also use your default audio player by clicking on the link below:
Beginning Meditation

Intermediate meditation

Learn how to identify the physical and emotional sensations in your body that stand out from the rest—that feel stronger or different. Move up to the deeper meditation when you are able to pinpoint and focus on different or unusual sensations and feelings in your body.

You can also use your default audio player by clicking on the link below:
Intermediate Meditation

Deeper meditation

Learn how to stay emotionally connected even in situations that make you feel uncomfortable or mildly stressed. Move up to the deepest meditation when you are completely confident of your ability to remain calm and focused in mildly stressful or uncomfortable situations.

You can also use your default audio player by clicking on the link below:
Deeper Meditation

Deepest meditation

Learn how to remain focused, alert, and emotionally aware at all times, even in the most stressful situations. Move on to Step 5 when you’re secure in your ability to remain calm and focused in even the most stressful situations.

You can also use your default audio player using the link below:
Deepest Meditation

After each meditation session

At the end of each meditation, it's important to shift your attention away from an exclusively internal focus on your physical and emotional feelings. Return your attention to your everyday, external concerns such as work, leisure, and relationships.

You may notice that even though you are no longer giving your full attention to your feelings, some awareness of what you are feeling will remain with you, in the background of your consciousness. This means that you are integrating the process into your everyday life, which will give you a greater sense of control over your emotions.

Talk to someone about your experience

It’s important to find a person you can talk to about your experiences with the meditation within 36 hours. What did you learn about yourself? What did you discover about your emotions? Speaking to someone face-to-face will help you retain what you’ve learned.

Frequently asked questions about the meditations

How much time do I need to invest in Ride the Wild Horse?

It takes about 21 to 28 consecutive days to create a new habit, but if you do the process correctly and often, you'll experience daily benefits. As you want the process to become second nature to you—so you don't "forget" to apply the skills in times of extreme stress—it may take a little longer. Practice the Ride the Wild Horse meditation until you are comfortable using the skills in the most challenging circumstances.

What should I do if I initially feel something in one part of my body, and a stronger sensation occurs somewhere else?

Always follow the intensity. Focus on the strongest sensation you feel.

What if I don't feel anything or I just feel empty?

That's normal. Pay attention to the feeling of having no feeling, or of being numb or empty.

I’m getting emotional during the meditation, is that normal?

Yes. Releasing repressed feelings can be intense. If you cry, tremble, moan, or make other sounds, remember to breathe deeply and hold your focus. It is okay to experience these emotions—as long as you can calm and focus yourself and feel in control of the process.

If after numerous attempts you still feel uncomfortable, consider seeking the support of a trauma specialist.

Do people really have to learn to experience joy?

Some do. There are those for whom any kind of emotional intensity feels intimidating because they fear a loss of control.

Would writing in a journal be similar to talking to someone?

No! Writing engages different parts of the brain than speaking face to face.