In the power of warm, resonant magic?
Experiential learning is powerful, especially when building a relationship, especially with a horse. Yet it is just part of the picture. For healing to happen, we need to begin to notice the patterns of our inner experience, and where we place our attention. The formation of neural pathways that shape our brains are stimulated by our behavior emotions and (energy in motion) especially in relationships with others. Where we focus our attention, consciously or unconsciously, our energy follows. This practice either reinforces old patterns or initiates new ones.
We all have emotions that we are very familiar with and know that if certain things happen, one or more of the emotions will flare up and dominate our awareness. (Limbic hijack) We also have underlying patterns of thoughts that accompany us all the time. So, the emotions we feel and thoughts we think (the quality of our consciousness) increases the energy and information flow, which strengthens our neural pathways. Which patterns of thought and emotion do you tend to strengthen? Do you do so consciously or unconsciously?
When you experience something unexpected, startling, or apprehensive, do you have the capacity to focus your attention? Do you direct your own inner experience or does your auto-pilot kick in? Can you slow down subjective inner experience and selectively focus your awareness where you wish to? According to Ernest Rossi, “we could say that meaning is continually modulated by the complex, dynamic field of messenger molecules that continually replay, reframe, and resynthesize neuronal networks in ever-changing patterns.”¹ In other words, it is possible to change your brain patterns.
The magic of being accompanied in present time, by a warm, resonant being, expands a person’s awareness of their own inner journey and their capacity to “see” from a larger perception. Peter Levine shares, “The spanning of time allows choice of the imagined options. This strategy, however, is only effective when the organism is fully present in the now…Only man routinely becomes lost in regret for the past and fearful of what will happen in the future… It appears to be a by-product of a loss of connection with our instinctual animal nature.”² The magic of being accompanied in present time is powerfully healing when that being is a magnificent, very sensitive horse, regardless of size.
At Healing with Horses Sanctuary, our horses are recognized as sentient beings, we partner with them to co-create a field of healing. This means they are given freedom for choice and movement at liberty to communicate directly with both the facilitator and client. We practice deep listening. For many people this can feel uncomfortable at first, being up close to a large, very sensitive, 1200 lb. being. Yet it is exponentially healing when the neuroception of safety is monitored and maintained.
Clients are also recognized as sentient beings, whole, complete and perfect as they are. The dance of connection that unfolds, as they develop their unique relationships with the horses, allows each client to begin to glimpse those patterns that are below conscious awareness in their relationships. Time slows down, and they begin to “see” through the eyes of the horse, new possibilities of what they might begin to do differently in relationships. The following testimony reflects this beautifully.
“In my session I noticed there was still a part of me that needed to know it is safe to have a voice when big energy comes up. I saw the big horse standing tall, looking at me. He started to move toward me. I was doing my best to imagine slowing down inside, when an image of my husband and son in conflict popped up in my mind. In that moment, my heart raced with fear, and I could not think or imagine what to do different. I lost my words and my breathing became shallow. To change this long-standing pattern of shutting down with big energy, I was thinking to myself, “I need to be able to imagine it first.” And then the horse grabbed my sleeve with his big lips, which felt intrusive. Immediately, I raised my arm and told him, “I do not like that and I need some space!” Amazingly, he listened.
I felt my body was strong and tall, with shoulders back and leaning towards the horse, rather than my past pattern of collapsed and retreating. He left, and came back, several times. Then he stood by me quietly in the center of the field with his nose on my heart. My body felt incredibly different; calm, clear, and present. I wondered, was he was seeing if I had boundaries? Or was he seeking connection with me?
When I set my boundaries I was heard, and when the big horse came back close, in relationship with me, he came back with softness. What a powerful moment in time. Everything looked brighter and clearer as I gazed at this magnificent being. We did end up connecting hearts and my body now felt empowered. The empowerment to have a voice and set boundaries with that big horse is my new inner model. I now will be able do this with my husband and son – to stay present, to set boundaries, to check in, and to have and enjoy those moments when there is a quiet, soft connection.”
It is a sacred space we hold for them as they access the inner-wisdom of their body, mind and spirit. It is a timeless field where inner peace is restored by warm, resonant relationships.
Today the field of the horses is covered in snow, yet spring will bring new growth and sunshine. Are the horses calling you?
Rossi, E. (2002). The psychobiology of gene expression: Neuroscience and neurogenesis in hypnosis and the healing arts (p. xvii). New York, NY: Norton.
Levine, P (2010). In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.