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Lessons from the Arena

Not too long ago, I started attending equine therapy. I have a long love for horses. As such, the arena amidst a herd seemed like a new and promising space to work some stuff out.

It’s a therapy vastly different than typical talk therapy. To be honest, generally up to 40 minutes of my 50 minute session is spent in silence… just the gentle rhythm of the horses breathing, eating, or moving against the backdrop of nature and my voice only if I choose to speak out loud. In the silence, I am left alone with myself to track my internal experience just as I track what’s happening around me. As I do my best to patiently observe with non-judgment and curiosity, I am meant to see what connections present themselves. Does that dark brown horse that is all alone represent anything in my life? What about that bay resting in a pile of snow? How are they interacting? How are they not? All the while, my two therapists, one for the horses and one for me, simply stand in the corner until I choose to approach them. Getting the power to choose is one of the best and hardest things about this experience so far; I get to choose when and where to move, what to do, how to spend the time. I am practicing listening in and letting my intuition or my organic knowing/longing lead.

As it turns out, this type of therapy is not for everyone… including my husband, who initially started attending with me and soon realized that the land of metaphor and imagination is not for him. And, for me too, at least the first two sessions felt awkward and strange. I was left wondering: what am I supposed to be doing? Am I supposed to walk towards the therapists and start talking? Am I to wait for them to come to me? How does this relate to my therapeutic goals?

When I put the questions aside, I was able to sense that there is no “right” way to do this. Since then, it has become an entirely peaceful and nurturing sanctuary for my whole self.

On this particular day, I was invited to consider what within the arena might represent me. And, if I chose, I was to explore an answer to one of my “goals”: discern how I might keep internal peace and presence of mind even amidst external chaos and conflict.

As I walked into the arena, I was struck that between then and the week previous, a large corner of the space had flooded and then frozen over. It was an icy pond of sorts created by the unique March rainfalls. Naturally, it called to me. On a beautiful, sunny Saturday the ice shone and reflected the blue skies above. Water is my self-selected element; it is my constant reminder of the Spirit within and outside of me.

I stood and quietly breathed as I reflected on holding my internal peace and sense of self. I remembered that in those moments especially, realigning with my spirit can be my anchor to maintaining perspective and balance. I remembered a previous mantra of mine: trust myself, trust my people, trust the Divine. Finally, I had to humbly admit that just as I believe in my own embodied divinity, I also believe in that of everyone else. Yet somehow, when I am in conflict, I seem to easily forget that whomever I may perceive to be “creating” that conflict is also divinity embodied. So there it was, the answer to one of many questions: realign with Spirit, move into trust, look for the Divinity within and without.

As I strolled away from the water back towards the herd, I felt greater confidence and ease. I spent some time connecting with a white mare that after reflecting on my interactions with in the previous weeks I decided must be the representation of me in the arena. From here, I slowly made my way to my providers.

When we met up, one of them asked with gentle curiosity, “so, what happened out there?” I told them about water and how it symbolizes Source, Spirit, the Divine to me. I told them about the white mare.

As we were talking, one of them called my attention to the white mare who was now desperately attempting to make her way to the drinking water on the opposite side of the arena from the frozen reservoir. At each pass, one or another of the horses cut her off and blocked her path as she in turn backed away in defeat. My provider observed that there she was, trying to get to the water, the source, and yet, kept getting obstructed. She calmly asked what blocks me from getting to the water. As I pondered the question, we watched her make another attempt, get scared by a more aggressive herd member, and run away, leaving her further from the water than when she first began.

I watched amidst a mix of sadness and anger on her behalf. I fought off the urge to push the other horses out of the way and create space for her. Deferring instead to trust that she would figure it out… that she could claim her space, her right, her power, her worthiness, for herself.

And then it happened. She circled around one more time and made her way directly to the nourishing font of water. She persisted. She drank. She received.

On our way out of the arena, she walked over to us as if to claim her victory with pride and knowing. I found myself gleefully exclaiming, “You did it, girl!”.

One session. So many lessons, reminders, and questions.

I leave you with a few:

What helps you tap into or realign with inner peace and expansive perspective?

What blocks you from Source, whatever that means to you?

What internal or external resource would help you keep fighting for what you need and


Many blessings. I hope you each find your arena this week.

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