Zen Mind, Zen Horse -- The Science and Spirituality of
Working With Horses
Zen Mind, Zen Horse is a book like no other that has been written about horses to date. It is a primer on spirituality, brain function, and the bonds between the equine and human species. It is also a technical manual of groundwork and training exercises with horses and the profound spiritual lessons we can learn from them and apply to our daily lives.
The author, Dr. Allan Hamilton, is a Harvard-trained brain surgeon and also a well-known horse trainer. Dr. Hamilton discusses new findings about the profound neuro-anatomical and biological reasons humans feel such direct, powerful, and emotional connections with horses. While evolution has pushed the human brain to the pinnacle of language abilities, it has also separated us from nature and the world around us. Human beings find themselves increasingly constrained within a cognitive cage, where our “autobiographical self” separates us from a wider communion with the Universe.
The horse, however, offers us a solution to this dilemma. As a species, equids are so radically different from our own that they present us a unique and transcendent perspective on ourselves. Horses appeal to us directly, at a primal, intuitive nonverbal level. This is where artistry, emotion, and creativity are housed in the cerebrum. Groundwork with horses provides a vital tool for anyone—from a complete novice to an accomplished horse trainer—to gain access to these functions.
Zen Mind, Zen Horse covers scores of spiritual exercises and lessons including:
- How to silence our inner voice,
- Learning to focus our intention
- Adopting the infinite patience of a fence post
- Turning attention into ritual
- Living in the moment
- Being of service rather than being in charge
- Letting go of emotional attachments to gain spiritual strength
- Engendering partnerships based on integrity rather than ambition
- Earning the responsibility of being our horse’s leader
- Clearing our minds of our personal agenda
- Why we need to slow down to speed things up
- How to turn personal breakdowns into breakthroughs
- and dozens more….
As herd animals that have evolved over thirty million years, horses have developed a powerful system of nonverbal communication that relies on perceiving the subtle nuances of vital energy—or chi—incorporated into every horse’s stance, posture, head position, or even a glance. Horses must be able to “read” a herd member’s intentions over hundreds of yards and to detect the focused, penetrating stare of a predator making its way through the grass towards the herd. Sensing, focusing, and manipulating chi is a way of learning a “language” that binds all living things together.
Zen Mind, Zen Horse is not just food for thought, it is also a pleasure for the senses. The text is profusely illustrated with original water-color artwork as well as images culled from some of the greatest equine art from around the world. It is illuminated by unique, original innovative conceptual drawings about training modalities with horses and conceptualizations about the principles we can apply to create the most successful, empathetic partnership with our horse. Finally, drawing upon his understanding of human brain function, Dr. Hamilton develops a unique neuro-equine model about how the vital kinship between horse and human has shaped us as a species from prehistory across the whole sweep of our civilization.
A Book For Anyone Interested in Spirituality
This is a book not just for those who feel the deep tug of affection for horses but also for everyone who experiences the spiritual itch to find a way to make themselves into a better, happier, more fulfilled individual and wonders where to start and how to accomplish it. Zen Mind, Zen Horse is intended to be a road map to seeing the power of horsemanship as a path to personal spiritual development.
Dr. Hamilton’s first book, The Scalpel and the Soul (2008, Tarcher/Penguin), focused on spirituality and medicine and was awarded the Nautilus Silver Award for “books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change….” Previous winners have included Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Anatole France wrote: “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains un awakened.” Now, in his second book, Dr. Hamilton addresses how each of us can take this profound and all-important step to enhanced self-awareness.
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