Dave the Horse Whisperer
Last week I had the privilege to travel to Sundance, Utah, to visit the world renowned Cirque Lodge. What a glorious place of beauty and healing, all rolled up into snow covered majesty. Among the offerings of cozy lodge sleeps, delicious fireside meals, and an exhilarating helicopter ride, was nestled an opportunity to work with the horses and the legendary Dave the Horse Whisperer.
My long time friend and co-worker Caitlin Stowell traveled with me. When we were asked about doing some “horse work” we both immediately thought- equine therapy. We eagerly agreed! But we soon discovered it wasn’t equine therapy…. it was much more.
As we walked into the indoor, albeit still chilly, arena, the sights and sounds and smells of hay and of horses greeted us right away. Dave strode in and welcomed us with a warm handshake and an assured smile. We sat down to talk and after some pleasantries and general exchange of information about our respective programs, Dave launched right in…
“Tell me what one word you would like to be associated with your personal legacy”, he instructed, “and then say your first name and then your word.” Wow! Big stuff- big instruction! After a few minutes my friend replied, “Caitlin… kind.” And after some digging into her choice, Dave turned to me. I answered, “Marsha… courageous.” And again, after some digging into my choice, he ended the talking portion of our process and led us into the ring with “the two year old horse who still has no name.” Hmmm … blank canvas I thought…
For the next 90 minutes Dave and the two year old led Caitlin and me through a series of exercise which included running in circles, creating energy and movement with our bodies and our own intrinsic power, and learning to communicate with one another and with this gorgeous animal in a safe and trusting way. So very interesting and challenging, yet so mundane and simple. I can say for sure that through throughout the exercise, time stood still and I was present to the moment.
At the beginning, Caitlin was timid and I was overbearing. In the middle we learned to lean on each other to accomplish the tasks at hand. And, by the end, Caitlin was bold and I was humble. We both began to naturally, and without any real thought or effort on our parts, draw from the very essence of our surroundings and our partners. Truly, almost magically, Caitlin became more courageous and I became more kind.
The entire experience reminded me very much of my own experience in recovery. At the beginning of my journey, I heavily relied on my own instincts (read- defects of character) to attempt to produce the relationships, self-esteem and security I so desperately craved. Somewhere I knew I needed these God given attributes; my human mistake was attempting to produce them from within myself, and through self-will and self-reliance.
Quickly, I learned through the recovery process that unity, service and recovery would ultimately produce the only true and lasting forms of these and other attributes that I needed in order to live with freedom, joy and happiness. Just as in the horse ring, in life, I needed direction from trusted authority, communion with others, and lots of willingness and action on my part for the desired result to be produced.
With gratitude, I can honestly say- It works, if you work it! So to the kind folks at Cirque, and to the horse whisperer Dave- thank you for reminding me once again of the truth of my experience! And thank you for reminding me that recovery is possible and that I and ALL of my fellow travelers are YES- kind of courageous!
Happy Holidays, and love and joy to all –