Step 4: Learn a New Mindfulness Meditation
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
The 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. 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.
More than a mindful meditation
The goal of the Ride the Wild Horse meditation is not simply to help you relax and stay focused as you meditate but to carry these feelings through into your daily life, even in situations that feel threatening, stressful, or uncomfortable.
The Ride the Wild Horse meditations focus on breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, but also take into consideration barriers to practicing the meditation. When you begin to feel strong emotions, they can become so uncomfortable that they interrupt the meditation process. By integrating quick stress relief into the meditation process, Ride the Wild Horse teaches you how to remain focused and tolerate strong emotions.
Learning to remain mindful under stress also opens the door to emotional connection with others. This in turn helps you to reduces stress further, enabling you to be more mindful.
If you fear the outcome of intense emotions, understand that learning to mindfully experience strong feelings like anger can give you the ability to contain your emotions and control your behavior.
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.
If you believe that you are 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. Football players have been known to collapse after a few minutes of this kind of movement! If you have time, running, walking, or swimming while you focus on the feeling sensations in your arms and legs can also be helpful. Experiment by bending your elbow slightly and paying attention to the sensations in your inner thigh and buttock as you move.
Listen now to the meditations
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.
Learn how to easily identify feeling sensations throughout your body.
Learn how to easily identify stronger emotions or feelings that stand out in your body.
Learn how to stay emotionally connected even in situations that make you feel uncomfortable or mildly stressed.
Learn how to remain focused, alert, and emotionally aware at all times, even in the most stressful situations.
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 Ride the Wild Horse meditation. 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.
Short-term memory tends to dull quickly, so it’s best to speak to someone about your experience within 36 hours of completing the meditation.
If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can talk to yourself in a mirror about your experience, although this technique is not as effective as having an actual discussion with someone else.
If you are having difficulty playing the meditations
Make sure your browser is updated to the latest version. The meditations may not play on Firefox. If this happens on your system, please switch to Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari.
Ways to listen to the meditations
- Use the players above to stream the meditations on your laptop or mobile device.
- Download and save the files below to listen at your convenience (online or offline).
- If you play one of the meditations above, you can record it onto your device by using a voice-recording app. This allows you to customize the meditation to your preferences.
Note: iPhones and iPads do not allow you to save files to the device.