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Beth Killough's picture

We are human animals first and foremost, and our innate health and stability comes from our natural instincts. As a life-long cowgirl, ranch owner, license psychotherapist, and mom, I turn to my herds for lessons about parenting, leading, and living and working together peacefully. Lessons from nature and animals are incredibly relevant as we face new cultural challenges and limitations on selfcare.
 
Human animals over-rely on our intellectual selves and when we do so, we stop using our wealth of inner resources that guide us to care for ourselves and others.  Often when we over complicate things, we do so because we are trying to prove our worthiness, flex our competency muscles, or because our human brains love to create complex thoughts and ideas. Human animals are ruled by thought and language and our minds can get us into serious trouble when we’re cut off from the information of our human bodies, our most natural fundamental wisdom.
 
Now more than ever humans, women especially, need to wake up and utilize our Natural Leadership instincts and skills inherent to us as mammals including signals, sensations, and sensors about well-being and needs. We must return to the human animal, the inner mammal, we lost as we became busy adults and parents. When we apply animal models to our own lives and learn how to tune into our Natural Leadership, we have a wise and primitive power to respond to pressures within and around us and take better care of ourselves and our human herds. 
 
With so many parents working at home as schools and camps remain closed, millions of moms are more acutely feeling the pain of an invisible labor imbalance that’s always existed in households and parenting. Women’s roles have become even more demanding as mothers take on childcare and schooling in addition to our jobs.
 
Such long-standing marriage and family patterns are hard to shift and take months of counseling to rework. And, when we’re just trying to get through each day, the ability to problem solve or create new systems is impaired.  Mental and physical health suffer.
 
My horses have taught me more in the past 30 years about what it means to be a female animal than any professional course. Horse herds, dog packs and, in fact, every animal group is a matriarchy. In the world of mammals, all cultures are created and maintained by the females in the groups. The implication is profound. It’s time to step up and own a much-needed role in our families, workplaces, and communities. It’s time for human women to be the matriarchs of our lives.
 
When we apply animal models to our lives as women, it cracks open the idea of ourselves as leaders at home, work, and among friends.  Animals are always honest. They give clear and immediate feedback about what is happening in their relationships and their environments. Their lives depend on awareness, presence, selfcare, care for others, and group cohesion. The same is true for our human herds, except it often takes us years before we connect with symptoms that our survival is at risk. 
 
COVID-19, a virus, has woken us up. It’s sharpened our senses and snapped us back into a deeper layer of our animal awareness. The virus brought us back to our mammal bodies, to a deep connection to movement, proximity, and the delicate nature of our health. 
 
The Busy Disease was the precursor to COVID-19. It numbed us with to-do lists, errands, the activity shuffle, the more more more, and the better better better. We had been limping along and we didn’t even know it. We needed a rock bottom. We didn’t know how painful our pace had become. We didn’t know how much more we have to offer each other, our children, ourselves. We didn’t know we were half asleep. We are only beginning to see. We are still waking up to our Natural Leadership.
 
Spend a little time getting to know yourself as a human animal, a fierce female mammal who knows a whole lot about how things feel in any given moment. We’re so used to suppressing that sensory system that it’s a bit dormant. A lot of this work is about bringing your sensitivity back to the party so that your wise animal body can inform you. 
 
Animal wisdom remains simple and shockingly easy to connect with. After all, it’s part of our nature. 
 
A life-long cowgirl, writer, professor, and a licensed psychotherapist, Beth owns Take a Chance Ranch in the San Francisco Bay area, providing on site and online leadership and culture programs, retreats, and training through The Circle Up Experience. It is her personal journal to integrate the basic practices of animals into everyday human life with the inspiration to share these with others.  


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