10 September 2019, Kate Ensor explores what this time of year means for her and how spending time with the herd helps nurture authenticity.
September always fills me with a strange anticipation. Despite the fact that it is many years since my own time as a full time student, this time of year signals new beginnings - a sense of excitement mingled with a mild anxiety of the unknown.
Taking a moment to become embodied helps me recognise how that manifests in my body - butterflies in my stomach, a mild buzzing sensation from fingertips to toes. When I take a quiet pause to recognise this it is disconcerting at first. Accepting it is so, taking a few deep breaths and feeling the ground beneath my feet - literally grounding myself - helps.
These associations of la rentrée take on a fresh perspective as a parent, preparing my own children for a new school year. We buy new stationary and pack school bags for the first day of school. I take time to listen to their concerns and excitements about the new school year. I remind them, and myself, to pause, breathe, acknoweledge.
If I’m honest, the emotion that shouts the loudest for me at this time of year is sadness. A pervading melancholy at the ending of the heady days of summer and the onset of the cooler weather. A sense of stepping into increasing responsibility: chores, homework, timetables and routine.
Sadness is not an emotion we talk about much. Perhaps a little taboo? It’s preferable in polite society to be upbeat, cheerful and happy. But the horses have taught me that these masks we become so accustomed to wearing as humans do not serve me.
Horses appreciate and respect us when we turn up as our authentic selves, whatever that looks and feels like. In all its technicolour beauty and ugliness. They do not judge or criticise, they respond to ‘what is’ and give us accurate present moment feedback if we have the eyes, ears and heart to listen.
When we wear a mask it is disconcerting for others. We are not congruent. For horses (and for humans, if we are honest and tune in to the quiet voice of intuition) this feels unsafe. Animals much prefer a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach. Then they know how to respond.
The Mirror or the Medicine
One of the concepts that we learnt during our LEAP accreditation was the idea that horses, if we enable them to, can offer us great gifts of insight. Specifically, they can hold up a mirror to help us recognise an, often unacknowledged, truth. Or, they can offer a generous medicine. A much yearned for salve for the soul.
What does that look like? Let me share some examples. When I arrive at the stables angry - perhaps about a stressful drive or a conversation I had earlier - I notice something. The horses do not want to be with me.
They hold up a mirror to help me recognise that my angry energy is repelling. If they are in the field they stay away. If they are in their stables and I pause at the open door, to ask permission to enter, they may turn their back to me signalling my company is not desired right now. Not until I take time to acknowledge and release my angry emotion.
However, if I am honest about my authentic feelings, lets take this current autumnal melancholy as a case in point, they choose to offer a warm hearted medicine, a soothing companionship. My mother in law recently sent me a birthday card with the tag line “The best therapy comes on 4 legs”. I wholeheartedly agree.
So often I have witnessed our generous herd members creating a safe holding space for clients to express their authentic selves. Sometimes that involves what Dr Laura Markham, of Peaceful Parenting, calls “emptying the emotional back pack”. This means letting go of the draining weight of old, unresolved emotional angst we all carry around.
Sometimes cathartic tears flow. Allowing, releasing and eventually revitalising may follow. Sometimes, a sense of simple acceptance is enough. The gift of these large, free spirited horses choosing to approach and stay in our company, to offer comfort and companionship, when they have the free will and choice to be anywhere in their pasture is very special to experience.
And sometimes, the medicine can be an encouragement to access our joyful inner child. The sense of playfulness and fun that can come from sharing an EFL activity, usually at liberty - that is the horse choosing to join in the fun and not influenced by any lead reigns or halters. This lighthearted, yet hugely meaningful ‘play’ can be hugely restorative, leaving a sense of effervescence connection to self and others.
Connect with the herd
This sense of connection is so important. As psychotherapist and radio broadcaster Armand DiMele wrote,“When people go within and connect with themselves, they realize they are connected to the universe and they are connected to all living things.” This is both a gift and a responsibility.
Spending time caring for our herd keeps me in touch with nature and connects me with a lived sense of the changing seasons. An expectation of cooler weather and the glorious colours of autumn in the forest. A sense of being part of something bigger than me. It’s also helps me reconnect with myself, step into the present moment and tune in, through awareness, to what is so moment to moment.
In turn, this offers a connection with authentic self in all its technicolour glory. Come and connect with your own true nature through immersing yourself in nature and drawing on the present moment wisdom of horse. Pause, breathe and discover techniques to connect with a sense of calm within. Contact us to find out more about our current events or book a one-to-one Discovery session.