Aesop’s Fable: Wind and Sun

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A long, long time ago a teacher once read out a short story in our school assembly. It was a fable written by Aesop in the 6th century (B.C.) and it went something like this:

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on and took it off.

Differing morals of the story include:

“More by gentleness than strength”

“Persuasion is better than force”

“True strength is not bluster”

“In every passion moderation choose”

“Gentleness and friendliness are always stronger than fury and force”

The fable came to mind whilst I was thinking about light and dark energy, of how we can engage with either energy to make something we want happen and what the difference is between the two.  One of my father’s favourite words ‘Machiavellian’ also came to mind, ‘the ends justify the means’.  As I have already pondered in my blog ‘the dance between light and dark‘ we all have different perspectives on what is dark and light, something else to take into account in our interactions with others.  Sometimes we may feel that we are totally doing something for the right reasons so therefore, of course, we think we are engaged with light energy, but are we actually engaged with dark energy? We may believe it doesn’t matter if we engage with dark energy as long as we get our desired outcome which is a ‘good’ one?

Life can often present lessons to us like this, be it animal welfare, human rights, safeguarding – we are all passionate about something, which is great, but this can also be our Achilles heal. How far are we willing to go to get what we want? To get others to believe what we believe? Are we willing to engage with the dark to achieve it? Do the ends justify the means?

When we engage with dark energy it causes a reaction around us which is negative – similar to the cold wind blowing in the fable. This consequently works against the very thing that we were trying to achieve – the ‘good’ thing, the thing we are passionate about. We may find our dark energy triggers a dark response in others – so people hold their cloaks around themselves even tighter than before.  As dark energy manifests it is powerful, and it attracts other negativity our way – a dark cold day.

In contrast, if we are engaged with light energy the reactions around us are more positive – the sun shone out in all its glory. People are more likely to engage with us, if things need to change people are open to listening and want to help; they are more likely to engage with their light energy – they remove their cloaks.  Try not to be disheartened if we engage with light and are met with dark, continue to shine.  As light energy manifests it is also very powerful, and it attracts other positivity our way – a bright warm day.

If we are someone who prefers ‘a bright warm day’ sometimes it can be hard to recognise or admit when we are engaged with dark energy. Dark energy can easily sneak in through a door of insecurity inside us we didn’t realise was open. See it as an opportunity to know ourselves better, and to start closing some doors as we re-write childhood scripts based on conditional love.  It can help to spend a moment to see if we are drawing in energy externally and manifesting something negative, or if we are drawing on energy from an internal source and healing or inspiring others to shine bright.

So to me, the moral of the story seems to be about the power struggle of light and dark energy within ourselves and how our struggle impacts on our outside world.

“Being made of stardust, you are very much like a star. You shine with light, give warmth, and burn with your inner fire. You don’t need outside energy, you are energy” – Unknown

 

LEAP of Faith

leapgraduationride

Graduation Ride at LEAP Gloucestershire

The definition of faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. Confidence is the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

FAITH. TRUST. CONFIDENCE.

I have heard that 2016 is numerically a ‘9’ year (2+0+1+6) meaning its a year of completion or an end of cycles. The idea is the ditch anything this year you don’t want to carry with you for the next 8 years. Through my training to be a counsellor I have become more aware of issues I have with both trusting people and in setting healthy boundaries. So in the little time I have left of this year can I do something that rectifies that?

It is said that knowing where an issue lies, the root cause of it, is a massive step towards healing the issue itself. I was given David Howe’s book ‘Attachment Across the Lifecourse’ to help me understand someone else’s attachment style, whilst researching I discovered my own style was ‘disorganised’. Which meant my default status was feeling ‘unloved, alone and frightened’ and felt that other people are ‘frightening, rejecting and unavailable’.  It is possible for anyone with ‘disorganised’, ‘avoidant’ or ‘ambivalent’ attachment style to move toward ‘secure’ attachment as they go through their adult lives. It may take some inner child work it whatever form that suits you best. I have tried personal counselling, guided meditations and shamanic healing work to allow my inner child to grow up safely and trust that me, as the adult, has her safe.

I have been aware since my teenage years that I have not been able to set healthy boundaries with some people. They walked all over me, deeply insulted me and made me feel exhausted as they took and never gave. I was often angry at myself for not speaking up or standing my ground. This life lesson continued to play out, different people appeared but same thing was being displayed. I happened to watch a seminar with Heidi Sawyer on ‘How to handle a narcissist’ and discovered my ‘life code’ which gave me more self awareness and awareness of others. I suddenly understood why I wasn’t able to set healthy boundaries with some people and what to do about it. This together with Transactional Analysis ‘ego states‘ awareness and shamanic work/guided meditation on ‘tie-cutting’ myself from people has begun to help address this issue. It is also addressing the trust issue.

My kinship fostering placement has abruptly come to an end this month and things became bleak financially with a weeks notice. I was faced with two straight forward options. 1) go back to the last career I had and be able to afford to stay in your home or 2) leave your home and follow your dream to work with horses. I had an interview to return to my last career, it would have been safe…but not necessarily healthy. I had already left that career due to health reasons 6 years ago. My logic reasoned that my circumstances are different now, I could be OK now, able to set healthy boundaries (?) and then I could keep my home. My heart, my body and my intuition told me to follow my dreams and have faith that it will work out.  The second option means trusting in someone else, rather than being self reliant with the first option. With a huge leap of faith, I put my furniture up for sale today, will let my home go and follow my dreams. Someone in need will be able to move into this lovely flat before Christmas with a little luck and it will make their day.

I am now a fully qualified Equine Facilitated Leaning Practitioner having recently completed my LEAP training. I am so grateful that I was in the right place at the right time and the right people around me helped get me there this year. I am also grateful despite the emotional impact of big changes in my personal life, I was able to focus and complete the next step to achieving my dream. I plan to continue my counselling training over the next 2 years to qualify for private practice, then offer Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy too. I am currently looking for a place to run my business from in Dorset, and am already lucky enough to have the nicest, wisest little horse with me. He will need a herd to run with as horses in this line of work are best kept as naturally as possible which helps them connect with each other, and consequently with human clients.  In parallel, am also lucky enough to live close enough to fellow LEAP practitioners in Sherborne and Glastonbury and circumstances may well take me closer to them. I have faith, trust and confidence that whatever happens, following my dreams is the right option to take and its the one that allows me to put the most positivity into the world.

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure” – Paulo Coelho

Evolution

Juniper Natural Therapies Phoenix

When the phoenix shows up it indicates a new beginning, a fresh start, the ability to create a future different from the past. The phoenix showed up at the start of the year for me and with it came the message that a part of me has to die in order for it to be reborn. I didn’t have to wait long before I discovered what part that was. I was going through a bit of an intense time emotionally, something felt wrong with my lungs and eventually I woke in the dead of night with pain every time I breathed. I recognised the symptoms as a panic attack and managed to calm myself down by counting my breaths. If the body never lies and we listen to what that part has to say, we can help ourselves. It is amazing how and why we override this information with our busy minds and our busy lives at the detriment of our bodies.

My lungs indicated sadness, disappointment, hurt, rejection and despair. Having worked hard to release my suppressed anger this year, underneath that protection layer was sadness and disappointment. I felt a crushing feeling on my lungs, like I was under rocks. More and more rocks were being placed on me and it got heavier and heavier. What did the rocks represent? Other peoples responsibility. Why did I take it on? A script learnt from childhood perhaps? With a strong link of not being left alone? If I looked after ‘this’, that would stop ‘that’ happening and I would still have a family. In trying to keep a ‘family’ around me I have taken on a lot of responsibility. What would happen if I gave the responsibility back to its rightful owner?  I imagined a rope which pulled me up and out of the responsibility rock pile until I was above it looking around at the panoramic view breathing freely. I then knew what I had to do, and consequently what I would have to face. You see under my sadness was fear, fear of being alone.

There was a shift in me as I stopped taking other people’s responsibility. My mantra ‘I am responsible for myself, not responsible for others’. They were responsible for themselves. It did leave me with conflict with my niece I was looking after as my foster child, I was responsible for her. On a soul level however, she is responsible for herself, I am only there to guide her for as long as needed. Anyone who has brought up teenagers probably knows, there is a shift in them at some stage that pushes away the parental guidance as they know their rights, and you just have to hope you have guided enough that they can take responsibility for themselves.

Fundamentally, as hard as it may be to accept, it is their journey, not yours. Just as your journey is your own and not anyone else’s. Journeys are how we can evolve spiritually and hopefully by the end of our lifetimes we achieve all the growth we set out to achieve when signing up for the deal down here. As part of that deal, we ticked boxes for experiences, some that test our resilience and adaptability to change greatly. We are all evolving at different rates, sometimes our paths line up with others and run together for a time, and other times we walk alone. I was trying to keep a ‘family’ around me for fear of walking alone. I think its more the fear of something, rather than the reality of it that makes us clutch to the chains that bind us (see Mary I do listen to you quoting the bible at me). To those worrying about me right now, try not to. Empathise with me instead, then you get to see the world from my perspective. Its empowering for someone to get that understanding from another. If you sympathise or pity, it is more likely you are dealing with your own fear projections about what you would do or how you would feel in my shoes. Dealing with that can be quite exhausting for a person who takes other peoples responsibilities on. Thankfully I don’t do that anymore. Being ‘alone’ allows more energy to go on self development and figuring out where and what next. I can see in time there will be other peoples paths lining up with mine as we all continue to evolve on this journey called life. Right now I am happy walking alone.

“True initiation is a response to an inner calling; it requires that you face personal challenges heroically and experience a genuine rebirth into a new way of being” – Alberto Villoldo

Advice to my younger self

Juniper Natural Therapies Counselling Equine

Aged 5, 10 and 15

This month has mainly consisted of a lot of self care, healing and discovery. One exercise that got me thinking was drawing a time line from birth to 2016 and writing down significant things that happened – good or bad. That wasn’t really the part that got me thinking as I have done this before, although it was good for dusting off the ole memory and also interesting that different memories pop up when redoing this exercise. The real thinking started when I was asked to write down what advice I would give myself during that time. Being a kid of the 80s in the UK I have inevitably seen ‘Back to the Future’ so I know its dangerous to know too much about the future.

Even though my life isn’t ‘perfect’, I have never really wanted to change anything from the past to make my future different. Even the bad home perm hair at 15. There have been some mistakes and detours I could have avoided with a heads up from my older self. There are people it may have been wiser to avoid, and others to cherish more as their time with me was short. But if my journey in this life is like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. Would I advise myself to click my heels together so I could get back home?

If I did, it would save a lot of heartache, trauma and drama to be sure. But in doing that I would have missed the point of coming to Oz. I came to grow and develop and that means going through all that I have. Redoing some lessons as I didn’t get them the first time around. In not travelling down the brick road, I would have missed all the breathtaking scenery out there – in colour not black and white! I would have missed the eclectic selection of friends who are my mirrors and my medicine, as I am for them.

When I was younger it annoyed me that Glenda (the Good Witch of the North) knew about the heel clicking all along. Why didn’t she share her knowledge to save all that hurt and trouble? Why go through all that suffering? Now a fair bit older, I can see that she helped Dorothy more by allowing her to walk the path she had chosen before coming to Oz, and she made sure those ruby slippers were on her feet. In that way she was always there, guiding every step of the way. We all have our guides. I for one am pleased not all chose to wear the pink taffeta dress though!

In my opinion the most important character was the Wicked Witch of the West, feared or even hated, she probably taught Dorothy more about herself than anyone or anything else. Therefore she was a fundamental part of the journey. Maybe Dorothy is actually grateful for Elphaba coming into her life and is not sat there wishing she had avoided her or done things differently. Maybe she is being kind to herself and accepting she did what she did what all the knowledge and skills she knew at the time. Anyone who has watched Wicked knows Elphaba had her own path too.  Maybe its as a friend once described to me, that when our contracts are up in this lifetime we will have a laugh about the characters played in this one and whether we managed to learn what we needed from the experience or not. I will have some laughing to do then.

So what would I tell my younger self when going through a significant event? The common thread that seems to run through is about love, hope and trust. About learning. Healing. Self care. All given (hopefully) without unravelling the very fabric of space-time continuum.

Ever wondered what you would tell your younger self?

Goodbyes and Endings

Love Rejection

We were asked to explore Beginnings, Middles and Endings in counselling recently. Beginnings can be a little bit nerve wracking as we establish a new relationship, the Middles all about developing the relationship and the Endings are often a little sad as we say Goodbye to a relationship. It got me thinking about Endings in general. How do we feel at the end of a great book? At the end of a good movie? A bad movie? How about when we are expecting one more sweet in the packet and realise we already had the last one? Does it help to know an ending is coming?

I think back to my childhood where I said goodbye to people every two years, always to be the new girl somewhere else.  I knew the ending was coming as most of our things would be packed up in MFO boxes for weeks before the event. I tried to lessen the blow by having a lot of pen pals (way before mobile phones and social media if I have any younger generation reading this, it was harder to stay in touch). One day my dad left, without a goodbye. Boxing day. I was 10 years old. I recall that experience left me with a lot of questions, trying to make sense of things for years and coming up with my own conclusion, or ending. Whilst on duty as a Special Constable patrolling the hospital grounds I had a feeling that I needed to pop into the ward to say a goodbye to my grandpa. He had gone in for a hip operation but suffered a stroke. I said a goodbye that night, and he had died the following day. I am glad I listened to that feeling. I think mostly it helps to know an ending is coming. Maybe its more the deterioration that hurts and the ending is a relief?

I can’t help thinking change is constant, endings are inevitable and every story has a happy ending – depending on where you stop the story. ‘Happily ever after’ is a nice way to stop the story in the middle but avoids the real end. I guess that’s why its in every fairy tale going and we feel happy about the ending. Apart from the Grimms brothers tales, I recall being quite disturbed by some of their endings. In real life we know that even princesses don’t have happily ever afters, and endings can be abrupt and shocking. I recall the end of my marriage, I knew we were having issues but I did not know we couldn’t overcome them. Until I did know, and it was over. I think that ending was an ending to prepare me for all other endings, nothing has ever floored me like that again. Within a month our house had sold, I packed the car with just the things I came with, handed in my notice at work and headed to another part of the country to start over. It took me a while to accept that things had changed that dramatically. That’s when I figured out what endings were about, embracing change. It was a hard ending, but there were so many positive beginnings that came from it. I guess we are all here to evolve not to stand still.

In those wonderful moments of finding love its hard not to want the world not to stand still when you know about endings. It can be hard to stay in the moment of the beginning and the middle and not get worried, fearful or upset about the end. When a relationship ends, the change can be very painful and as John Seeley says it can bring up a lot of self worth issues; especially if they have started another beginning before you were done with your ending. My mother always used to say it would have been easier for her to deal with if my father had died, not left. Her memories wouldn’t have been tainted. But then sometimes on a death bed you may receive confessions that do just that. It’s my sisters birthday today. I lost my sister to psychosis, she’s somewhere in the world both literally and spiritually, but I don’t know where, both literally and spiritually. So maybe the common thread with endings is change and a way of coping with change?

In life as we all know, noone gets out alive, so can we stay in the present moment and enjoy it? There have been enough signs in my life so far to accept that death isn’t really the end, it’s a change. Once I was receiving Reiki healing when I was told that a maternal figure from the other side was here to help, the healer corrected herself and told me the spirit had said “I’m not dead yet you know” and said she was between worlds. I knew that would be my gran. She had Alzheimers. Even science tells us we can’t create or destroy energy, it can only change form. The energy inside us (a spirit, a soul) therefore changes form, whilst our biological body breaks down, becomes part of the carbon cycle and we are recycled in the world too.  Dr Brian Weiss explains in his book of the same title that only love is real. It transcends lifetimes, so we can take love with us. This may be a belief of mine that softens the blow of endings – like writing pen pal letters to people I will never meet again. I guess one day we will all find out. For those out there who are going through a difficult ending right now, remember there will be a beginning that follows, that love is always with you even if it doesn’t feel like it and that…

“You may not control all the events that happen in your life, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” Maya Angelou

Equine Counselling

Juniper Natural Therapies Equine Counselling Equine facilitated Learning Psychotherapy EFP EFL LEAP

This month I have had the opportunity to experience an Introductory Workshop in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy & Learning (EFP/L) and begin a Practitioner Training Programme at LEAP in Gloucester.

On arrival I was greeted by Jo Saunders and directed to a welcoming yurt which upon entering was even more welcoming when I discovered it was full of refreshments for the day. The teaching itself was conducted in a tipi across the other side of the field. Wandering freely in between the two tent structures was a good sized herd of mares and geldings of various shapes and sizes. In the tipi sat Ella Jones, Mike Delaney and Sarah Watson ready to welcome our group and begin our training programme.

One of the exercises I experienced ‘Journey with the Horse’ left me reflective for a week or so later. In the exercise there were four obstacles which could represent four things to you, such as childhood, adolescence, present and future. There were two horses in the arena, one to go on your journey with you and the other to represent your interrupter (something that interrupts you/your journey). As I went on my journey, I thought about what the obstacles represented and felt the emotions that went with them. My companion horse picked up my energies and reflected them for me to experience behaviourally and energetically. After the exercise I interpreted what I had experienced and Ella who had observed my session, fed back on observations I did not pick up on.  Some fellow trainees started off sceptical as they observed ‘normal’ horse behaviour, but as the same two horses journeyed with all members of our group and ‘behaved’ differently each time, their scepticism faded and their amazement came to the fore.

Even knowing what I know about horses and working with energy myself, I can’t fail to be in awe of how connected horses are to subtle energies. Yes, having a degree in Animal Science I could explain how horses have adapted to survive their environment (Dr Eddison if you are reading this I mean genetically not individually of course!), as a prey species those that are more alert to subtle changes in the herds energy and to the energy presented by predators are the ones more likely to survive to breed – passing on their genetic traits. It is the adaptation of being able to pick up on subtle energies that makes horses especially good at equine counselling/learning/psychotherapy.  Population genetics is absolutely fascinating in itself, but add to that their natural ability to connect on the spiritual level to access another kind of knowing leaves me quite dumbfounded.  Horses pick up on our thoughts or energies, they know when what we present on the outside is different to what is on the inside – even if we don’t notice it ourselves, and they even know that too. They will either be our medicine or our mirror in this kind of work. And by mirror I mean some sort of reflection, response or reaction to our energy.  We can often be so lost in our thoughts that we spend more time in our heads than in our bodies. Our bodies often have a lot to say, but we sometimes either forget to, can’t or won’t listen. Horses notice this too.

It’s hard not to compare Equine Counselling to Gestalt therapy, a counselling model that brings the client into the ‘here and now’. You can still experience the past, and plan the future with this model but the idea is to express the emotions coming up in the present moment. Fritz Perls the founder of Gestalt suggested in our patterns of behaviour we have 5 layers of resistance protecting, hiding or burying our ‘real’ self:

  1. Phony layer (the roles we play, or script we act out)
  2. Phobic layer (fear of rejection or pain, avoiding self acceptance)
  3. Impasse layer (fear of changes/challenging beliefs, avoiding personal responsibility)
  4. Implosive (a habitual ‘safe’ life, no energy, a ‘deadness’ to life)
  5. Explosive (emergence of hidden self, expressing that which has been suppressed)

As the horse can sense the real you the experience of this type of counselling can be very powerful and profound, as it has the potential to peel back all the layers of resistance to reveal the real you, the wholeness that is you.

Two things occurred on my equine journey that really stood out for me; a mare not involved in the exercise (outside of the arena), came as close as she was able to support me as I was dealing with the obstacle that represented my marriage breakdown. It was a time in my life where I became more aware of my spirituality and tapped into the inner and higher wisdom, wisdom that we all have if we connect. The other thing was my interrupter who played ‘masculine’ energy suddenly reacted as I was just about to finish my journey. He came over to my companion mare, stood over her back ‘intimidating’ her and she moved away. He chased her. My arousal level increased as the circling and chasing got bigger. I focused on my breathing to bring my arousal level down and decided to walk her out of the circle and to an area of the arena she felt safe in. When I got there I turned around to face him and I realised he wasn’t following anymore. This reflected an incident in early childhood, earlier than I had even chosen as my first obstacle. I had suddenly found myself intimidated and in the grasp of an 18 year old boy when I was 9 years old. I managed to get away from him and ran home with him chasing me, upon reaching my door I looked back and realised he was gone. My interrupter had pinpointed the moment where my fear of men came from, so now I could address it and change it to stop attracting more of the same.  Finally.  In the words of Sarah Williams, from one of my all time favourite films Labyrinth (1986)…

“…you have no power over me”

 

Thank you Maisie, Holly and Milo for this experience and this insight.  Horses truly are counsellors in their own right.