Power Is A Feminine Attribute

In Native American shamanic traditions, the warrior’s path is one of self-mastery. Within the path there are eight pairs of warrior attributes to be mastered. In each pair there is one masculine and one feminine attribute. In this tradition, POWER is a feminine attribute. It is the ability to stand in a moment and accurately perceive what is needed; and then to respond, for the good of all.

Life today asks most of us to act from STRENGTH, the masculine partner to power. Push to do more; drive for results. We’ve become human doings. The result is we’re all going faster than we’re competent. And we’re burning out, losing touch with ourselves, others and true joy.

Horses rest in being, completely aware of themselves in every moment, alive in connection to each other and the environment. They don’t act until something calls them to do so. And then they return to being. We too have this ability but we’ve lost sight of it in our mad dash for “more.” Rebalancing ourselves by integrating our masculine and feminine sides is essential to bringing a new balance and ease to our families, teams, organizations, and more globally, to government, business and the planet.

Last week I had 27 executives from a national retail chain at the farm for a workshop. Their intention was to better perceive how each of them shows up and the impacts they have on others. They wanted to be more conscious of themselves and their relationships so that they could be better business partners.

My horses are brilliant at this work. And the work can be hard on them. Human energy is often chaotic, ungrounded and ego-driven. We’re unconsciously spewing it about most of the time. Our animals feel it all, and it’s stressful for them. In the past I could only ask a horse to work with 3 to 4 people in an entire day and generally they needed a break after two. Well this day, I had 27 people and only 5 horses I could use. I needed “greater productivity” from them and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice them to the assignment.

That’s all I knew entering the day. I did not know how I would accomplish it. Turned out the answer was easy to find and the results came quickly. All it took was standing in my power.

As soon as I saw a horse begin to stress I stopped until I could feel the right response. I named it as stress for the human participant and then asked us both to take a deep relaxing breath and fill our heart space with gratitude for the horse with us. It never took more than 30 seconds for the horse to release the stress, begin to lick and chew (a gesture of completion) and be ready to engage again.

I was astounded when I noticed that my horses were each working with focus and enthusiasm with up to six people without a break. Even my most sensitive mare, Whoopi, played happily with five people that day. We needed only to acknowledge their stress, relax our energy and express heart felt gratitude for how much they were helping us. Again, all it took was 30 seconds!

At the end of the day the herd was as refreshed as they began it and they didn’t need a couple of days vacation before being ready to go again.

That ‘intervention’ came to me because I stood in my power, sought only the highest good for all, and allowed the answer to come. Had I done anything active or strong I would have only added to their stress and resistance! Instead we all came out of the day joyful, and with fabulous results for the humans and the horses.

I’m a driver by nature…more has always been the right amount for me. The horses have been very patient with me these last 17 years, as I’ve asked repeatedly how to better BE with them and then rushed past any answer they might have given me. I feel I’ve struck gold, not only for myself but for all us humans that just plain don’t feel good about how we go about living our lives today…. professionally and personally.

Experiment with these tips:

  • Take a week or two and become more aware of how often you’re PUSHING something…yourself, your kids, your team. Notice how it feels…to you and to them. Pushing creates resistance; the harder we push the greater the resistance.
  • When you notice you’re in a contracted state (e.g. pushing, impatient, anxious, angry, worried) STOP! Acknowledge it, breathe deeply towards relaxation and find something for which you’re deeply grateful and fill your heart with the feeling of appreciation. Notice your energy relaxing and expanding.

You might also like to join me and Rose De Dan of Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing on March 23-24, 2013 for our next collaborative and groundbreaking adventure.  During this very special weekend we will:

  • play with the horses to see how we limit ourselves.
  • spend time in sacred ceremony and dialogue with them to discover the way back to our power.
  • experience how the horses, and in fact, all animals, can help us to heal and renew ourselves.
  • feel the joy of living, loving and leading from a more expanded place

So that we can experience greater ease and productivity in all our human doings!

For more information, please see the Animals as Healers and Teachers workshop description  on www.reikishamanic.com.

Until next time,  happy trails,


You are welcome to share this article with others by email, on your blog or to your mailing list so long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. All links must remain in the article. And, you must include the copyright notice and the bio.

©2012 Peggy Gilmer. All Rights Reserved.

And A Small Bird Shall Lead Them

We all know endless variations of, “There are two kinds of people.”  This time the divide is over how, as leaders, we exert influence. Half of us over ask.  The rest, under ask; which often looks like beseeching. Taken to the level of caricature, it’s Bullies v. Wimps. Over- asking is, quite frankly, abusive.  Under-asking is simply ineffective and irritating for all.  Both increase resistance in our ‘followers.’   What we want to find, in each moment of asking, is minimum essential influence.

I’m a bully.  I may make a first request with spot on sensitivity, but if the first ‘ask’ doesn’t accomplish the task; and I’m not in the present moment and aware, I’ll almost always ADD energy.  Which isn’t optimal in about half the situations…with horses or people.

I thought for a long time that, as Boss Mare, I had to escalate in authority when a horse, or human, didn’t meet my expectations.  One day, my big chestnut mare, Reba (boss mare in her own right) set me straight.  The superintendent of a large school district and 26 of her principals were at my farm for a workshop in leadership. Very sure of myself, (some might say with a swagger) I asked Reba with a familiar hand gesture to come to me.  She looked at me and then looked away.  I “saw” haughtiness in her and became more emphatic.  She moved away.  I added a crisp vocal command. And, away she continued, refusing even to look at me.  My ego kicked in. After all, I was the boss and the teacher!!  With all those people watching, I needed to “win.”  I marched towards her with a carrot stick and string, swatting the ground.  About 20’ from her I saw the disdain in her eye; another horse might have been afraid.  Reba took charge and her look alone was minimum essential influence.

I was stopped cold and completely humbled.   With 27 people watching, and tears streaming down my face, authenticity was the only acceptable response.   I looked at her and I apologized from the bottom of my heart, both out loud and with my energy.   I waited there, in genuine remorse until I saw her soften…and, yes, “forgive” me.  Then I went to HER.  We had a quiet moment breathing together and when I asked her to walk WITH me, she happily came alongside.  I promised her I would never so condescendingly demand anything of her again …she licked and chewed… and it was over.  Relationship strengthened. Task accomplished.  Bully tuned.

“Wimps” come into my arena and repeatedly ask a horse to do something with the same energy and technique.  I equate them to the worn out Mom, repeating endlessly to her children, “Clean your room.” “Clean your room.” “Clean your room;” with absolutely no effect.  Like trying to teach a pig to sing, it exhausts her and really irritates the pig.

To ask with minimum essential influence should be our conscious strategy at all times.  We must request in such a way that we get their attention AND their willingness to act… without creating resistance.  Often now, all I have to do is open my heart and visualize what I want to happen… like putting fly spray on my horses’ faces, and over they walk, sticking their noses out for me to rub it on.

My African Grey Parrot, Tao, demonstrated the concept perfectly a couple of months ago.   Fanny, then a 65 lb pit bull puppy, liked to slither around on her belly; playfully pushing herself along with her back legs.  One morning, Tao, weighing in at 2 lbs, was strolling across the living room floor coming to share my morning tea.

Fanny sees him and starts slithering towards him.  When she is about 3 feet away, he, in perfect Cesar Millan fashion…as he’s seen me do so often in training her, faces her and crisply says, “Uh!”

She keeps slithering.  He responds with more energy, “Uh! Uh!”

On she slithers.  He stops, looks her straight in the eye and escalates to a firm, “No!”

I am breathless and riveted (and desperately wishing I had a video camera.)   He’s cool and collected as she continues towards him.

Fluffing up his feathers and repeating himself with a louder and even more commanding “No!!!,”  she stops, turns and walks away.  He praises her with a cheerful, “Good Girl!” and continues his walk to his morning tea.    That’s minimum essential influence!

Leadership tips for the two kinds of people:

–Determine which type of person you are; and notice (for a few days) how well it’s working for you

–Before asking someone to do something, ask yourself what would be the best way to ask that ‘follower’ for what you want, in this moment.

–Check in:  Did your request work?  Did it create enthusiasm or resistance?

–If it didn’t work, clear your energy and your beliefs (e.g. Reba’s haughtiness) and ask yourself, “What now?”.  That question alone will bring you into the present moment, get you curious, and begin to open your heart.

–If you’re an ‘over asker,’ one way to find a more authentic and effective stance is to apologize when you notice the effect you’ve had on another.  It resets the situation (if its genuine!).

–If you’re an ‘under asker,’ raise your energy, change tactics, get playful, but persist until you accomplish your objective…else you’re creating deafness in the organization.

And until next time, Happy Trails,   Peggy

You are welcome to share this article with others by email, on your blog or to your mailing list so long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. All links must remain in the article. And, you must include the copyright notice and the bio.

©2012 Peggy Gilmer. All Rights Reserved.

What’s In It For Them

Traditional leadership focuses on leaders’ styles.   Their followers…at least the smart ones… learn to adapt to the boss’ style; often at the cost of their own creativity and productivity.   As boss mare at Silk Purse Farm,  I’ve learned that I make greater progress when I flex my leadership to a style that brings out my horses’ desire to fully engage in our work together.  And, as with people, it’s different for each horse.

Some, like Whoopi,  need time to process what just happened before taking the next request.    If I don’t give her digest time she becomes overwhelmed, stops learning, and eventually balks; setting back progress AND our relationship.

My young gelding, Dewey, (in the photo above) insists that our ‘work’ together be fun.  If I come into the arena with my energy on Drive, rather than playfully engage with him, he becomes intent upon getting my goat :-)  We make very little progress and, neither of us has any fun!  (Well, that’s not completely true…Dewey loves to poke the bear :-)

My beloved Luna is motivated by food .  She is the most accomplished of my herd.  She understands everything I ask of her, but her attitude is often one of boredom.  I can almost hear her saying,  “Fine, but I won’t enjoy it!” …  unless I have carrots in my pocket :-).   While at liberty a few days ago, I asked her to jump some barrels in the round pen.   I pointed in the direction I wanted her to go and she took off at a lovely canter… until she got within 10’ of the barrels.  She looked at me, did a 180, and took off in the other direction; repeating herself as she approached from the other side.

Evidently,  it was more fun for her to be defiant than to comply… until I satisfied her #1 life question, “What’s in it for me?”  I held up a carrot as she approached the barrels.  She started to spin, saw the carrot, reversed direction, jumped the barrel, turned around and without a request from me jumped it from the other side; then  trotted over to me for her reward.   She was happy, proud, and highly enthusiastic…giving me more than I had asked for!

There is, however,  one leadership response I use with ALL my ‘followers’ ALL the time. Whenever we complete a task or a learning vignette, I stop completely… breathe in deeply…relax my whole body on the exhale…and fill my heart with gratitude for what they’ve just given me. It bubbles up in me and they pick it up.  Their appreciation is palpable.    They too, take a deep breath, relax, lick and chew… and snuggle with me,.  In that simple moment of FELT gratitude we reset any frustration that may have been evoked in the working together …  and strengthen our bond.   We both move on to the next activity satisfied and happy!

So, for improved enthusiasm and productivity…with people AND horses:

  • seek to meet the unique needs of each team member.  It doesn’t take any more time and the acceleration is impressive AND measurable.
  • saturate the ‘field’ with gratitude and appreciation.  There’s an inverse correlation between gratitude and resistance.  People become physically healthier too in an appreciative environment !
  • make it fun.  It’s a high leverage productivity tool!
  • focus on the task and the people will languish; focus on the people; they will thrive AND you’ll know everything you need to know about the progress of the task as well.

Please, share widely and let me know how this resonates with you.  I’d love to hear your comments, opinions, and questions. Until next time…

Happy Trails,   Peggy


You are welcome to share this article with others by email, on your blog or to your mailing list so long as you leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. All links must remain in the article. And, you must include the copyright notice and the bio.

©2012 Peggy Gilmer. All Rights Reserved.