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Yoga can be a wonderful personal practice–body, mind, and spirit.  Through asanas we can bend our body, stretch our muscles, and flex our physicality.  Internally we can learn to quiet the mind, decrease anxiety, and find inner calm and centeredness.  In the intangibles of spiritual connection we can find through space to breathe we find connection to something larger than the self, something part of a collective whole and a union that persists inside ourselves and out.  From this we can, if we choose, extend that unity further.  If we choose.

I am coming to the close of my teacher training, beginning my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” class and planning forward working and preparing for a variety of upcoming talks on mind/body wellness, yoga for mental health, and complementary therapies at the NASW Conference in Florida, at hOMe yoga in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in a graduate elective at a university here in Southern Florida.  As I prepare to move out of this phase of my life, an intensive training phase, and into an intensive action phase I think of the extension and arms of yoga.  How far can yoga reach?  As far as your mind and metaphors can reach–and much further forward than I can stretch in forward bend.

Karma yoga, selfless service, and yoga as action is becoming more and more synonymous as yoga communities are taking the internal calm of mind that comes from meditation and a quiet graceful posture and using that clarity to effect change in the world around them.  Such figures as Seane Corn and her “Off the Mat and Into the World” campaign highlight the ways in which yoga and a well-known voice can be channeled to create change both on the mat and in the world at large.  But we also don’t need to have a voice that is known to say something of value.  Yoga can imbue us with a sense of strength, empowerment, grounding, and centering and these essential tools of being can be taken by any yogi or yogini and be tailored for wherever your heart and passions might lead you.

I wrote earlier this month about Swami Padma, of the Sivananda Center in San Francisco, and his work to bring yoga to inmates in the California Prison System.  This is just another example of one person’s passion creating a ripple effect, a focus on a cause that might otherwise be ignored, and monies and services put in place as a result.  Imagine what you could do taking a combination of your passions, creativity, yogic centeredness, and spirit for action and creating change in the world.  Whatever your passion is, wherever your voice takes you, you have the potential to effect change for a population or a cause that otherwise could have been ignored.  What you believe in matters.  What you fight for can make a difference.  Lending your voice, even if it is just the voice of one, can change the hearts and minds of many.  We all have the potential to create ripples of change in this world; even ripples that could extend farther and wider than your imagination can imagine.

Lately, as I extend and deepen my own yoga practice, center inward more in meditative moments, follow my passion and lend my voice to what I believe in the more it seems that voice and these words of mine seem to blossom and grow branches upon branches.  I am still not sure how far this will take me or how much I will be able to do but I am setting my sights on infinity and anything along the way, on my pursuit, amazing and beautiful things are happening.  Connections are being made, changes are happening almost organically, and the contagion that is my own passion seems to spread as I open my mouth, write my words, and purvey my dreams for what could be.

My aspirations reach as far as creating a nonprofit and learning institute that could bring complementary therapies and yoga for mental health to a variety of populations at low to no cost as well as train persons in the field of yoga, mental health, and complementary therapies how to integrate the two and be sensitive to the needs and issues of mental health populations.  I believe healing and the capacity to heal can emanate from all manner of creative and holistic approaches and in my own trauma healing yoga, contemplative practices, and animal-bond/relational experiences have been profound.  I want to extend these tools to anyone I can.  So for now I will speak anywhere I can on the matter, create programs wherever I have the option to, and hope for a future where I can reach past the branches of my own dreams into something even more profound than I could imagine.

What do you dream about?  What do your passions lie?  What would you do to effect change in the world you are in, the life you have, and using whatever skills or knowledge you have at your disposal?  It is amazing the well of talent and internal resources we all have.  Every person is the authority on something or passionate for something that might be ignored by everyone else.  Every voice matters!  How are you going to use yours?

 Old Sidesaddle from Early Montana days by Bitterroot on flickr

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. 

Sharon Ralls Lemon

  

As a little girl I was in love with horses.  I was mesmerised by dark beautiful flanks and haunting equine eyes watching the films Black Beauty and National Velvet and ached for a horse of my own and wide open fields to ride her in.  I remember from as little as five going to the reservation near our house and running ahead of my parents on the trail so, away from their sight, I could mimick the sound of hooves on dirt, creating a  rhythmic beat of feet on paths and with my imagination, as I stared straight ahead, I could believe I was sitting atop a horse of my own, meandering down trails on a Saturday afternoon.  But I was a suburban girl from an area where reservations were as close to fields as I got and where riding was too expensive to really be possible. 

 

Right before entering middle school I saved up an entire year of allowances and odd jobs money for summer camp  riding school which my parents promised I could take if I could earn enough to pay for it.  I made just barely the allotment, maybe a little less (and my kindly parents pitched in the remainder) and I remember the heart pounding glee of walking into the barn on that first day of class–the smell of hay in the air and the sound of hooves on the dirt.  This was the closest I got to really being anything like the “country horse girl” of my dreams. 

 

Because, as a suburbanite raised person, I am not a country girl.  I may be one in spirit or musical orientation, but I have never been able to qualify myself as a bona-fide, born and bred, workin’ boot wearing country girl.  I aspired with great adulthood imaginations during my time living in Fort Collins, Colorado, surrounded by pickups, cowboys and horse ranches, but I was never able to bring it to fruition–I lacked any of the practical skills and I could never two-step.  The closest I got were a few wonderful rides on horseback through the mountains of Estes Park, care of the local tourist ranches. 

 

I have also, for quite some time, been a great proponent of animal-oriented psychotherapies.  I know from personal experience (much the way I do with my own practice of yoga) the healing benefits that can be derived from a relationship with an animal–their silent acceptance free of judgement, their love without conditions, and their quiet ability to intuit emotions and pain in another. 

 

It was my greatest hope to be able to combine my therapeutic practice with an animal oriented approach and even throw in body/mind elements to create innovative holistic practices.  The idea of truly being able to bring this to pass just seemed a bit too much to hope for.  Well with recent fortuitous events it seems that I may be able to find a way to enter into the amazingly inspiring world of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP), which I spoke about briefly in my Friday list from last week. 

 

In this pursuit and active research into the is therapeutic area (I am perhaps a compulsive researcher) I have learned about and ran into some passionate and wonderful people involved in EFP.  One thing that I have found, overall, as I explore all of the holistic realms of the complementary therapies is how many amazing and vibrant people there are out there and I am only lucky to have fallen into their path.  I am forever grateful for where my passions have led me so far and where they continue to lead me.

 Angel Smile Farm Grazing

I happened upon, this past week, a wonderful little patch of heaven called “Angel Smile Farm” in a rural area of Southern Florida right on the periphery of the metropolitan cities of this Southern tip of the state.  This farm is something that replication images could barely do justice to and radiates the kind of beauty and calm that leaves one breathless–at least this “one”.  It smells like freshly cut grass and stallions and looks like something out of a glossy equine photo shoot.  The front corral is edged with crisp white fence posts that stretch out into the distance.  A long sandy path takes you down to an equally crisp white barn with bright mexican blankets and splashes of turquoise and leather that feel quintessentially country with a touch of softness and feminine decor. 

 

The owner is a woman, Maurette, with a friendly laugh, a bold personality, and a passionate heart.  She is one of many people I have discovered in a short period of time with a passion for working to heal through horses.  She, like myself, is full of hopes and plans and dreams for where this work can go and I only had to see her farm once to fall immediately in love with expanses of blue skies and green fields speckled with palms and rugged Floridian trees.  It takes little imagination, even for someone like me who teems with imaginative wells, to imagine such a place being  a site for emotional healing or for someone like Maurette to be a person to bring those hopes to fruition. 

 

I am enthused at the prospect of becoming intermingled into this equine world that seems inexhaustible in this area of the world.  I have found my home in Florida, in the work that I am doing, and the professional and personal adventures which are following with each step I take. 

 

My dream is to find a way to bring all of these worlds together into a cohesive whole.  My teeming imagination envisions a center built on an expanse of land much like the one I discovered and fell in love with this week.  A center under which someone could find all manner of holistic treatment–where psychotherapy, yoga therapy, equine facilitated therapy, creative arts therapy, and so many others can work hand-in-hand, collaborating and overlapping at points for the most complete therapeutic healing approach.  A place that could help those in emotional need of effecting changes in their whole selves–mind, body, heart, soul. 

 

The more I meet amazing people with passionate hearts full of the same yearning to make change and healing happen whatever it takes, the more confidence I have in a future that includes all of these things.  Having met people like Maurette of  Angel Smile Farm, Michele of Heal My PTSD, as well as Geri and Penni of Kula for Karma, I become more confident in the potential shifts for the better in the future of healing both locally and nationally. 

 

I wrote in my prior post titled Elephant Tears about elephants experiencing trauma and finding healing again.  This post I’ve explored how animals, particularly horses, can assist in human healing.  One thing I know, there is something magical in both large majestic creatures–horses and elephants. 

 

There is something intrinsically wild and free watching a herd move.  The earth rumbles and they beat out a rhythm only nature could write.  Their intrinsic freedom provokes the same in the humans they touch–evoking a strength and invoking a freedom in a person that is potent.  Both animals have done muchto help me understand healing in a multidimensional way.  Both make my heart race and my soul ache for a taste of what they have inside of them. 

 

 

Below are some Links to Lists of Therapeutic Riding Centers around the nation enacting this fantastic work of equine facilitated psychotherapy. 

*I have no formal knowledge of these centers, this is just meant as a general reference list for those that are interested. See the NARHA website for a comprehensive listing of accredited horse therapy centers.*

 

NARHA (General Website address: See “CENTERS” link for all variations of links to accredited centers):

http://www.narha.org/

EFMHA (Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association):

http://www.narha.org/SecEFMHA/WhatIsEFMHA.asp

Maryland Horse Country Comprehensive Listing of Psychotherapy and Physical Therapy Equine Programs:

http://www.mdhorsesource.com/therapy.htm

NARHA Premier Accredited Centers: (National and International)

http://www.narha.org/Centers/center_status_search.asp

NARHA “Horses for Heroes” Program (for Veterans) with links to nationwide facilities:

http://www.narha.org/Horses%20For%20Heroes/NARHAHorsesforHeroes.asp

 

Angel Smile Farm Barn  

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
Friendship without envy,
Or beauty without vanity?
Here, where grace is served with muscle
And strength by gentleness confined
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent.
There is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

 

Ronald Duncan, “The Horse,” 1954

 

May 2020
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