...a sacred space where it feels safe to be vulnerable
I love horses, children, and relational neuroscience.
I also love language, both verbal and nonverbal, and the effect that words and actions have on how we perceive, and on how we feel about others (both horse and human). So, I spent a over a decade immersed in the study of Nonviolent Communication and Interpersonal Neurobiology, learning what happens when we take the time to slow down and respond with warmth when we relate to ourselves and to others, including horses.
As the mother of five children, I found my youngest is the one who inspired me to dig deeper and look outside of the box. My horses are the ones who consistently stayed in relationship with me, they strengthened my heart when things felt really tough, and taught me so much on this journey experiencing their accompaniment and gentle hearts.
When my youngest son started having what I called “explosions” over what seemed like nothing, I was mystified. I remember longing for understanding, wanting information to know what was going on inside my child. When transitions became a living nightmare, I was so desperate for support and understanding I purchased every single book and CD I could get my hands on, to learn and integrate a new way to communicate.
I learned from research and medical professionals that my son’s diagnosis at five was Pervasive Developmental Disorder, including sensory integration dysfunction. Which is a complicated way of saying he had difficulty processing information from his senses and responding “appropriately”. Like with touch, movement, smell, taste, how he sees things, and especially his hearing. I knew in my heart that there must be a way to create an environment that would nurture his growth and development.
On this journey I developed my own process which I refer to as Living in Attunement ~ Life-Focused Communication ©. To share this passion with others, I teach about the ways that relationships change us from the inside out. I will always remember my first experience of actually living this process in relationship with my son, rather than “doing” the process.
We were in the car, transitioning from school to home, when my son shifted quickly from using a louder than normal voice saying, “I want to buy something at the store!” to screaming, kicking the seat in front of him, hitting himself repeatedly in the face, and banging his head on the door. Speaking any words at all would have been one word too many for him to hear in the face of such anguish. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and glanced at my cues cards tapped to the dash of the car. Immediately deep grief and immense fear overwhelmed me as I frantically scanned my mind for what to do to help him. I negated every idea that came to mind as already tried that, didn’t work.
I remember pausing for just a moment asking myself, “What might happen if I let go of getting it right and simply check in with myself? What might happen if I let go of the outcome for just this moment?”
I deliberately shut my eyes and leaned back in my seat; I could hear my son as he thrashed around in the back seat. First, I noticed feeling exhaustion and deep immense sadness. Then feelings of overwhelm, connected to my longing for ease and understanding. Such a deep yearning for understanding, especially in relationship with my son. Tears of relief flowed as I connected within myself to experiencing the beauty of feeling ease connected with him. Imagining this felt so incredibly sweet in the moment. I placed my hand over the warmth in my chest; and felt a lightness radiate out from my heart. As I rested with the sensation in my body I became curious, what could possibly be the need beneath the anger and fear of my son? Could it be he just wants to be heard and understood? Maybe acceptance…just as he is in the moment…without worry about any judgment or fear that something is wrong with him? To trust he is held with compassion and loved. To be welcomed exactly as he is.
I noticed the loud noises from the back seat had ceased. I turned around and saw my son…curled up in a fetal position…sucking his thumb. Compassion cascaded throughout my body. Getting out of the car I climbed into the back seat next to him. Time stood still as I gently lifted him into my arms and held him in silence; fully present to the ease and beauty of our heart connection in the moment.
I felt my son’s body tense up as a policeman pulled his car in behind us with his bright lights flashing. The policeman approached the window and looked rather puzzled as he asked, “Is everything okay here, do you need any help?” I felt warm and relaxed and replied, “No thank you, my son and I were feeling overwhelmed and needed time to get regulated and calm.” He tipped his hat and left us in peace. I felt my son relax as he looked up at me with tear stained eyes, he hugged me tight and said, “I love you Mommy.”
In that moment I experienced just how vital it is to stop; to connect with awareness to the beautiful needs under any desperate thoughts or desperate behavior. Rather than telling myself it’s my job as a parent to help him, to make him stop it, or fix it, I experienced the transforming power of unconditional love. The power of attuned relationship.
For me this continues to be a journey of faith and a mindfulness practice to embody; integrating within myself the love and understanding that truly being present in relationship provides before attempting to attune in relationship with others, especially the one who is my son. I no longer call the times my son is feels overwhelmed with fear “explosions” or “meltdowns”; instead I remember that dysregulation is fear-based and trust in the power of unconditional love to restore peace within.
Our body’s and brains continue to grow and change our entire lifetime. It is never too late to heal any painful aftereffects of emotional trauma, abuse, heartbreak, or patterns of self-criticism. The latest discoveries in mindfulness, neuroscience, and brain research reveal that our brains are neuroplastic, they continue to change and grow with experience. By experientially learning to accompany ourselves with kindness, warmth, resonance and empathy, the critical voice that develops, as a result of traumatic experiences, can truly be permanently changed. The way of the Horse and their profound heart energy exponentially supports this process to unfold when we partner with them.
So how about you, where in your life do you want to experience the transforming power of love?