As the horses continue to teach humans how to set healthy (non-angry, non-striving, non-aggressive) boundaries, I realize how as a species (culture?) we humans seriously suck at boundary-setting.
Is it any wonder that so many of us feel unprotected, unmoored, untethered?
As I look at ads for Covid facemasks and women on the street who are turning them into a fashion accessory, the thought strikes me: Are the face masks being so readily adopted because deep in our core, most humans do not feel safe? At a visceral level, is there a part of us that is reaching, hoping for protection, because we do not feel secure in our own strength and resilience?
Most of us are aware that surgical or fabric masks do not stop all the respiratory particles carrying viruses (only some are stopped). But even with a country-wide death rate in Sweden of 0.056% (where no masks, lockdown etc were compulsory) many still feel that constitutes sufficient risk to force everyone to wear a face mask…. to smother our voice, inhale elevated CO2 and wear a visible symbol of… what? Fear? At the root of safety or caution is fear.
Images of the niqab flash in my mind. And some pictures make face masks look like part of a sexual game… yet another symbol of our repressed desire?
If we learned to more fully inhabit our bodies and take personal responsibility for our health and immune system (rather than outsourcing that to a doctor or pharmacist)… how would our world change?
If we learned how to deeply listen to our bodies and adjust our food, our exercise, our herbal fluency – according to our body’s direction… how would our fear of illness shift?
If we felt our bodies were strong, resilient and resourceful and we no longer needed substances to numb our fears, our distrust of life, and our soul’s calling… how would our entire interface with sociopolitical elements transform?
I wonder how our world would change if the majority of humans understood what healthy boundaries were and how to hold them? I’m sure those of you in any kind of therapy, including equine-assisted therapy, must see this as a major theme in your clients. I know the horses have worked extensively with me to teach me in great detail what IT IS or IT MUST BE boundaries look and feel like: No anger, no threat of violence, no escalation of emotion. Simply, this must be. How long it takes to set the boundary or get the desired result is not an issue; persistence is an important part of healthy boundaries. It is a large part of what forms the structural strength behind the boundary, behind the request. The steady assertion that I will not release my request until it happens, regardless of how long it takes.
Trapping you in your deepest fear… to transform it
I watched Montaro and Jax routinely block the wheelbarrow when one of my barn workers, let’s call him Sam, went to dump in the manure pit. They told me to get Sam a stick/whip – they know who needs a visual representation of energy and who does not. Then I coached him through pulling energy up from the earth and pushing/blasting it out his solar plexus to get them to move. He tried just whacking the whip around first, but they wouldn’t budge. No one is allowed to actually hit the horses and they have played often with the whip, so are not afraid of it. The whip in this context is simply an aid for the human – a visual representation of energy/intention to help the human focus.
When Sam finally combined the motion of the whip with pushing energy/force out his solar plexus, then they moved immediately. They continued to give Sam ‘opportunities to practice’ this periodically over the next couple of months, gradually increasing the pressure on him; increasing his focus/ability whilst increasing his fluency. Sam got to the point where he no longer needed the whip as a visual aid to represent his energy/ki. He could simply bring up ki/chi/prana from the earth, through the soles of his feet, and project it out the center of his chest, and the horses would move.
And then one day they trapped him in a tight corner so he could not physically move or escape, and began slowly squishing him into the corner. He panicked, calling out to me to get them off him, get them away from him. They threw him into a visceral experience of his worst fear.
Of course, I did not rescue Sam, but stood nearby and talked him through the exact same process. And the second he could bring the energy up from the earth and push it out his solar plexus (with sufficient force) they calmly, nonchalantly walked away. Then Jax and/or Montaro continued to trap Sam in corners from time to time, until he was no longer afraid and could move them away easily.
Sam didn’t work at the barn for a couple of years and when he returned, what was the first thing Jax did to him? Yep. Trapped him in a corner. But this time, Sam didn’t bat an eye, he simply extended one arm, snapped his fingers and said, “C’mon Jax, let’s go.” And Jax immediately moved away as Sam followed out behind him. Of course, it was not the voice cue or finger clicking that moved Jax. Rather, Sam had internalized the ability to push the lifeforce energy (chi, ki, prana) out his chest/solar plexus when he set a boundary and so it now required very little thought or effort. Fluency is awesome!
Boundaries and good girls
Recently, I participated in another boundary/personal power lesson between Zorra and Juliet. As a naturopathic doctor and healing intuitive, Dr. Juliet works with people and boundaries all day long. She is also a wife, mother, sister and daughter – plenty of opportunities for healthy boundaries there too!
Zorra and Posa were in the arena that encloses our hay container and both Juliet and I had already been with the herd for over four hours on this hot day. We were both tired, hungry and ready to go home. I asked Juliet, “Do you want to man the gate, or get these two out of the arena?” The gate is easier, but Juliet felt a voice telling her to go into the arena. It’s always a dance, because all the horses want to get into the arena, and no one wants to leave. So when you have 7 horses looking for any opportunity to get into one small area, it can make getting a horse out of there (who also doesn’t want to leave), a wee bit challenging.
And yes, we take turns with the horses and they all get equal treats (alfalfa, vitamins, compost leavings) but the horses love the arena because they’ve decided it’s the ‘special place’. It also allows for more intensive/focused interaction with a human, because the horse doesn’t need to stay aware of where all the other horses are.
We have two gates in and out of the arena so sometimes the herd is clustered at one gate and we open the other one and the horse walks out easy-peasy. Another way to induce almost any horse to leave is to give everyone outside the arena some alfalfa, so then the only way to have some is to leave. Four of the horses can be haltered and led out (Posa, Xadaa, Zorra and Aude) but this is often pointless if they’re resisting, because I won’t pull on their face (except in extreme circumstances). So that leaves using just your body, or the long stick/whip and combining it with your energy to drive them out.
On this day, neither Posa nor Zorra wanted to leave the arena. Juliet first asked Posa to leave in the normal way (beckoning to her, sending her pictures that she needed to get home, etc) and Posa refused. So Juliet used the small stick and waved it a bit. Posa left easily with the first request.
But when Juliet asked Zorra to leave, she was adamant that she would not. I realized fairly quickly that Zorra wanted to teach Juliet a new level of usage/mastery of her ki. So first I left them alone to dialogue back and forth and for Juliet to try all the tools in her toolkit. After a while I realized that Zorra didn’t just want Juliet to get more firm and clear, she wanted her to GET BIGGER.
I directed Juliet to pull the energy/ki from the earth, swirl it around her pelvis to build the power and then send it out her chest. That the force pushing out from her chest had to be huge and powerful – to think of it like a tsunami coming to move Zorra. Nope. Didn’t work.
I kept feeling that this had something to do with Juliet’s voice, so I suggested she find a sound or vocalization that was the auditory representation of this kind of force and vocalize that, while she was pushing the ki out her solar plexus. She struggled, but even I could feel her voice held little strength. As I watched Juliet struggle with her voice, I asked her, “Do you ever yell at anyone?” She replied, “I yell and scream in my car.” Ah. That explained why Zorra was pushing her to twin her voice with her ki.
I could see Juliet tiring and becoming pale and worn out, I asked if she wanted to leave it for today and try again another time. But no, she wanted to lean in. At one point I came in to demonstrate for her what Zorra wanted. I walked away from Zorra to the corner of the pen. I pulled the energy up from the earth, swirled it and grew it, then pushed it out my chest as I strode towards her vocalizing, “Hup, hup, hup!” while whipping the stick to the left and right of myself. Zorra resisted for a moment and I instantly GOT BIGGER in my ki. She swung around and moved quickly towards the gate. When she was 3/4 of the way there, I dropped everything and told Zorra that’s enough. She slowed and circled back to where she’d been working with Juliet.
Meanwhile, this whole time, I was doing a similar kind of energy work at the gate – keeping the other 7 horses well back from the opening so that Zorra would feel safe to exit. About a half hour into this ki session, 5 of the horses were lined up in a row against the arena panels – directly opposite where Zorra was working with Juliet. They were absolutely still with ears pricked and eyes riveted – like they were watching a cliff-hanger adventure movie! If only I could see what they saw.
It took Juliet one hour to find her way to the place Zorra was calling, urging her to embody. And then Zorra finally left the arena. I imagine Zorra was as exhausted as we were by the end of it! The next day, Juliet messaged me:
“So many realizations coming in still from Zorra’s teachings yesterday. The difference between saying no with your voice and saying it with your whole being. Holding the boundary of my space and pushing back when someone pushes in. To feel feelings of fear, inadequacy, embarrassment, self-doubt and yet breathe past them into certainty and trust in myself.
I know how to manage and direct people with heart energy when they are open… but this does not work when there is resistance or a powerful counter-emotion. Asserting my will in the face of resistance requires something else entirely. Deep confidence that my will is my truth in that moment. And self-doubt weakens this. I literally did not know how to do this.
I realized that I was equating asserting myself with harming others. As such a high sensitivity empath, I have always lived with acute awareness of how any action or words of mine affect others. That awareness was my continuous companion 24/7. I lived my life trying to prevent anything from landing in a way that was hurtful, or would trigger anger or disappointment in others, because this was paired with the deeper fear that the other person’s negative response to my voice/action would equal the loss of that person’s love.
Zorra showed me all the ways I was trying to say No, but it was not communicating as a No. How I was trying to direct my will but she kept saying “I don’t believe you.” She was providing the resistance, the counter-will, the immovable object. I had to place the energy in my solar plexus and direct it outward from there while at the same time using my voice to clearly state what I wanted to happen. Any other way did not work.
She really helped me see and accept that in those moments in my life that I most needed to voice a ‘No’ in this way, I simply did not know how. It felt easier to slip into passivity, or to give up and let someone stronger do it for me. Wowza.
When we know better, we do better. Thank you for helping to hold the space for me to grapple with these truths. So intense. I think Zorra is the only one who could have done that for me and held the right energy. She was able to give me a visceral experience of being in and acting from my power.”
Learning to assert and hold your desires, your safety parameters, in the face of opposition (i.e. a strong, healthy boundary) is not like learning a dance step, or a training technique. It is something that involves the totality of who you are. And as you can see from Juliet’s account above, it will bring up all your emotions that currently block your self-esteem or self-confidence. These emotions may be different for each one of us, because we each have different blocks, different traumas, and different fears.
And like any good martial arts sensei, the horses will have different requirements according to who you are at this time. If someone was at a beginner level of working with their power or prana, Zorra would have moved far more easily than she did with Juliet. The more fluent you become with ki, the more difficult the challenge, the higher the bar, the bigger you have to become, or the horses won’t move.
Keep in mind, that when we discuss using personal prana, or ki, we’re not talking about ‘power over’ or dominance. This is not about bullying someone to do what you want because you’re bigger or stronger, or can levy a terrible penalty for disobedience. Juliet could have whipped that stick at Zorra until the cows came home, trying to bully her into submission and Zorra may have run around the arena, but she wouldn’t have left. Because Zo was not resisting Juliet in order to have a power struggle, she was resisting in order to teach her how to control and manage her own personal parameters in better, cleaner, healthier ways.
Real strength is never about ‘power over’. It is about being big enough to envelop every creature in strong, unconditional love. It is having the willingness and ability to extend compassion to the person with the vilest energy. It’s being able to manage your ki so that you can stand firm against any pressure or coercion that would violate your soul.
It enables you to set your intention for the highest good and then be able to manage all the elements – or puzzle pieces – of that co-creation. Real strength encompasses resilience, and enables you to hold the responsibility of leadership – to anchor others who are in the beginning stages of their earth journey (compassion again). When we learn to manage, or dance, with our lifeforce energy at this level, we are also able to manifest, in the moment, whatever is needed for the highest good. That’s what abundance is all about. Grounded strength is big enough to encompass yin and yang, light and dark, and to realize that each has a purpose and a usefulness. To be BIG ENOUGH to hold it all.
Remember we talked about persistence? If you’re not able to hold a boundary, or get your needs met, or manifest the abundant co-creation you desire, perhaps you don’t need to make your ask louder, you just need to quietly commit to persistence; that you will hold that ‘ask’ for as long as it takes.
Life will always ask us to GET BIGGER. I believe we’re here to develop into the fullest expression of our truest self. And animals are here to assist us, if we’re open, if we’re willing. I have had amazing experiences with wasps, hornets, ants, ladybugs… amazing demonstrations of healthy boundaries and co-creation; even the tiniest creatures have massive wisdom to share with us.
Some of us put on masks to hide our intentions… or our fear. Some of us put on masks as a shield to give ourselves permission to be someone else; it’s us, but not really us. Throughout history humans have employed masks for certain events/activities – like war, parties, initiation ceremonies, religion, aggression, or oppression.
During this time when opinion is so divided, ask yourself: Why am I wearing (or not wearing) this mask? How much fear is in my body right now? What can I do to increase my real strength and resilience, expand my health toolkit, adjust my environment, and align with my truest self?
As the animals in your life call you towards wholeness and empowerment, and you use powerful mind/body healing tools like hypnotherapy, Lazer Tapping, and somato-emotional craniosacral… remember to also be gentle and compassionate with yourself.