Dear Dorset: A letter to a place

 

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Chesil Beach from Portland – Photography by Gerry White

Creative writing can be a useful tool for personal growth and development.  I recently attended such a workshop with Sue Ashby included as part of my counselling training.  We were challenged to write ‘free-flow’ for 6 minutes, even if we repeated the same word until other words came to mind. We started the exercise with the word ‘If’.  After the 6 minutes we stopped writing and underlined things that interested or surprised us. We then chose a sentence, used it as our next title and began writing again for 6 minutes.  For me, it was great to express and not worry about editing for readers, that was the cathartic bit and the time limit seemed to help with the flow.  It was an interesting exercise which I will take into the counselling room with me for clients who wish to use writing as a way of expressing themselves.  If you like the idea of creative writing for personal development here are 5 more ways to use creative writing for yourself:

  1. A letter from your heart to your mind – for times you have conflict, you could write a letter from both, but often the heart doesn’t have the voice over the logical part of the mind.
  2. A letter from your emotions (anger, sadness, fear, joy) – expressing our emotions can be difficult, it is interesting to see what things get written on free flow.
  3. An unsent letter to someone (or something) lost – because its unsent there is an honesty that can come from free flow writing that allows us to just express our feelings without sending it anywhere…and sometimes there is nowhere to send the letter.
  4. Same event, different perspectives – this is a little bit like the ’empty chair’ exercise in Gestalt therapy where one person talks at an empty chair imagining someone in it, then changes seats and becomes that person to reply. Of course there may be many perspectives over one event which may give the writer more empathy for others at the end of the exercise.
  5. A letter to a place – this could be as a goodbye upon moving and could even be more specific and include an old home, or to express feelings over an event that occurred in a place.

When I move from a place, a home more specifically, I usually smudge with a joss stick or white sage to take my energy with me.  I think I got this practice from reading a Feng Shui book 16 years ago and its stayed as part of my moving homes ritual, which may seem a strange ritual to mention until perhaps I add I have moved 34 times so far.  My DBS checks are always so much fun!  The longest time I have spent in one house is 10 years. This was my family home in the town where I was born, but I only lived in that town throughout my teenage years.  I have stayed in one other county for as long since then, but admittedly moved homes 8 times within its boundaries…

DEAR DORSET,

I first met you in autumn 2007, when I was on a coastal trip from Exeter with St Luke’s Teacher Training College.  The chemists and physicists got to see Lulworth Cove and study the amazing Jurassic rock formations, and the biologists (myself included) walked a steep hill and did quadrat samples on the grass and quite frankly we could have been anywhere in the country.  At least we saw a bit of your coast line whilst having our lunch. On the trip back, a fellow PGCE student asked if I would swap my placement for his as he was a surfer. He had got Weymouth and Poole, whilst I was down for Barnstable and Ilfracombe (better surfing opporunities).  Although Barnstable was where my grandpa George was from originally and I was intrigued about living there, I thought Dorset would be closer to my sister and niece who would be an hour away in Salisbury so I would get to visit more often. I swapped.

I visited you again for several days later that year when I visited my first school placement at Budmouth College in Weymouth.  I met a geography teacher who was looking for a lodger and I moved in with her for the start of Spring term 2008. Barnes Wallis Close my first address here, around the corner from school and perfect for someone without a car.  I got to know Weymouth pretty well, which bus to take to town and when to avoid the bus as it would be full of students!

I bought an old red micra called Noddy just before I moved to lodgings opposite Poole Park for my summer term placement at Parkstone Grammar school, Poole and got to know Poole and Bournemouth fairly well too. I was a big fan of Poole pottery and ‘painting your own’.  I also enjoyed a mindful walk around the lake and sometimes coastal path between lesson planning in the evenings or at weekends.

I returned to Weymouth for my first teaching post at Budmouth and rented a room above a teachers garage for autumn term. I finally admitted defeat when it got so cold in there that the water froze as it touched the sink.  I moved back in with the geography teacher and warmed up for spring and summer term.  At the end of summer that year I organised a fossil hunting trip for a group of year 7 for activities week, we got to explore chisel beach and we went successful fossil hunting.  It was a shame the weather was too bad on the Friday for the glass bottom boat trip on the lagoon. Harry Potter at the cinema was the only thing that could have helped the disappointment – that’s me, not the students.

I explored and climbed your rugged rocks around the isle of Portland, as a mate at the time rented a room from a rock climbing landlord. I recall he had a sofa called ‘the seat of truth’ turned to face the window and the view of chesil beach linking Portland to the mainland in Weymouth.  It was great to watch the sun go down from there.  And it was a sobering walk from the The Cove pub back to her room. When she moved to Weymouth we discovered Finns, a very important haunt that got us both through a standard teaching week!

In Sep 2009 I moved to Portland to teach at Royal Manor, and lived in Wakeham by Church Ope Cove which was peaceful at that time of year.  I often walked down the many steps to the beach to listen to the waves crashing upon the rocks and pebbles.  I once ran from Fortuneswell to Portland Bill Lighthouse with a colleague who was training for a half marathon. My goal was to blow off the teaching blues and being ex Army I always think I can just do these things without training.  I recall I couldn’t walk normally for about 2 days much to the students amusement.  Years later I would finally get around to walking up all the steps in Portland Bill and be lucky enough to see dolphins swimming up to the boats out at sea from one of the windows.  On the rugged rocks around Portland Bill after a nostalgic walk around Fortuneswell I even received a marriage proposal.

I briefly left you in 2010 when my career in teaching came to an abrupt end, and consequently I couldn’t afford to stay in my flat so stayed at a mates in Amesbury whilst she was on tour.  Weeks later Budmouth offered me a supply teaching post which I came back for but sadly the damage of teaching was already done.  I did however make up my mind to stay and the only way that was achievable was to invite a long lost father to rent with me – and his two terriers.  We moved to dog friendly Cerne Abbas in a lovely home called Ginger Fox Cottage, Duck Street and I could see the cheeky Giant waving his bits at me every morning as I drew back the curtains.  I appreciated the village life in your more rural parts and I soon rekindled my love of horses up the road at Home Farm in Minterne Magna and it all inspired me to set up my business Juniper Animals.

I bravely took a teaching assistant job at Colfox in Bridport to support my business and became a little more familiar with your more arty bohemian town.  A year later I took up lecturing at Kingston Maurward college teaching the science and welfare subjects in the Animal Care dept.  Moving around the campus between lessons sure beat the noisy corridors of a secondary school.  My niece joined us for a year in Cerne and she ran wild in a way you could as a child in yesterday years.

In October 2013 my niece and I moved to your county town of Dorchester. We went on several ghost walks and learnt more about the Roman town of Durnovaria and often went for walks around the place taking in the old architecture.  I became reacquainted with Lulworth Cove and other old haunts as I explored them again with my niece.  For her birthday we went on a coastal activity and got to kayak out of your cove and around the coast towards Durdle door. We ditched the kayaks at the stair hole for a bit of coasteering – can’t beat a bit of jumping off rocks into the sea in October!

When a friend moved in with us for a while and we got touristy once more. I finally visited Brownsea island and travelled around Old Harry Rocks by boat.  We visited Athelhampton house which is just stunning and we set the world to right in the secret hiding seats between two conifers in the garden.  My niece and I got to know your Piddle Valley area very well as that’s where Jac our first horse lived for 3 years. I enjoyed the hacks out and foraging in the hedgerows with him.  There was a bit of time spent in Dorchester hospital when my niece was paralysed, but thankfully more time spent at Aquae Sulis chiropractors where she fully recovered. I remember I had to find a posh dress to wear for the Venus Business awards finalists ceremony in Poole and I never did find out who voted for me in the first place.

I began my counselling studies in Dorchester, and continued at Poundbury, where I have watched Prince Charles’ project town develop more and more.  I have even spotted 2 royals whilst being here.

Like my teaching career, fostering came to an abrupt end. It ended before my counselling training was finished and the only way to continue studying and keep Jac (our pony) was to give up renting the flat. An opportunity came up which would mean leaving you, but I did not take it as I had decided to wait.  Wait to see if ‘blood is thicker’ than the pull of dark energy. Wait to see if there was any foundation to that marriage proposal on the rocks at Portland. I embraced my vulnerability in waiting, then I accepted my reality, there was nothing more to wait for as it was all in the past.  As they say, there’s no point looking back, as you ain’t going that way. Thankfully that opportunity has come back around to make sure it collects me this time. Dorset, I appreciate you letting me stay this long, and I am grateful for a real mix of opportunities and adventures here.  I may have moved many times but goodbyes don’t get easier, so here is my fond farewell to you and I ask you to look after all those lovely people I have met here over the last 10 years, even those who are no longer part of my life. I’m not going too far away and I will no doubt be back to visit from time to time.

“And suddenly you know its time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings” – Eckhart von Hochheim.

 

 

 

Messages of Hope

Equine Therapy Key4Life Portland Juniper Natural Therapies Paintedhorse EFL LEAP

I was invited to join a team of EFL/P practitioners and equine specialists this month to deliver the Equine Therapy part of charity Key4Life‘s pre-release programme for young offenders at HMP/YOI Portland. Livvy Adams from Paintedhorse headed the Equine Team and organised a 2 day programme suitable for the young men at the prison and we headed in with 4 amazing horses from Portland.  Amazing because they never failed to get their messages across to the young men, whether they acted out behaviourally to mirror the energies presented or gently stood close to the men, some of whom had not seen a horse up close and personal and calmed their anxiety levels.

Equine behaviour can of course be explained based on what we know, having a degree in Animal Science, the behaviour unit was fascinating and hooked me into the world of animal behaviour and welfare.  In recent years, I have had this knowledge challenged by something far more connected, on a deeper level altogether, and its this new knowledge that always leaves me a little open mouthed and shaking my head in slight disbelief as I realise how our animal kingdom has remained connected whilst we humans have isolated and disconnected ourselves. Horses tap into the very energy we carry with us, they let us know what it is if we don’t know; they respond to us with immediacy, they are incredible Gestalt therapists and can detect incongruence a mile off.

Some of the heart felt comments made by these young men have sat with the equine team and brought tears to eyes when recalling them. You see it can be easy for us horsey people to forget what it is to experience a horse for the first time, that we receive unconditional positive regard from one of our long standing animal allies on a daily basis. We know already that horses don’t care about what has been done in the past, they only respond to who has turned up today.  Imagine experiencing that for the first time?

After the programme the young men wrote messages about hopes for the future on ribbons which were tied into the manes of the horse that connected to them the most. The horses then carried them out of prison and they are now hung in a special tree in the orchard at Glastonbury.

“No tree it is said can grow to heaven, unless its roots reach down to hell” – C.G. Jung

Walking Down the Line

Juniper Natural Therapies Counselling

The last day of the year tends to always find me reflective and perhaps a bit melancholy – this year is certainly no different.  To me this picture captures it all without words. It was taken by a friend who I met a couple of years ago at work, she returned home to New Zealand after life changed unexpectedly and dramatically.  Luckily for me she came back to England this year, on New Years Day, and ended up staying most of this year in one way or another with me. As a result she was there to witness my life change dramatically and gave me the support network I realised I never had. Consequently that knowledge created more change, that was perhaps inevitable but painful nonetheless.

The last time my life changed as dramatically was when I found out my marriage was over. Immediately I lost my husband, my best friend, and instead he became someone I never knew. Within a month our house had sold, my notice was in at work and I left the area for the south west in my little old car with what could fit in it and the rest didn’t matter anymore. Although I was supported by random acts of kinds all around, I felt alone. I listened to and over identified with Greenday’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  I promised myself nothing would ever floor me like that in life again. I was going to study a degree and see what happened, a beautiful beginning from a sad sad ending.  This year I was presented with the end of my fostering placement. Similarly to my marriage ending, it was not my choice so it was hard to accept as giving up on someone I love was not something I did. I was 37 when I fostered my sister’s daughter and am now nearly 42, I know it cost me my last chance of having a child of my own. But even now, knowing how it played out, I would do it all again. I have been deeply hurt by events this year and felt the sting of betrayal by people who supported them, some of whom I let into my life properly without any caution. All part of life I guess.

That moment caught unaware of me walking Jac back to his field was the last day I had with my friend before New Zealand called her home. It was also one of the last days before I moved Jac to a new home out of the area, away from our past as it now was. Like me, he was mostly on his own when he went home and was no doubt hurting. Unlike me, he was able to shake off our past as soon as he entered his new home by rolling and shaking his body a couple of times. It is taking me a bit longer to shake it off and as daft as the rolling around on the floor sounds, its actually one way of moving blocked emotions in the body. Wherever my body is feeling tension or pain, that’s where I put movement and it seems to release the blocked energy. I did keep my promise to myself that nothing would ever floor me like my marriage ending. People come and people go, even family. And I guess once you have let possessions go, its easier to do it again as the attachment just isn’t there. So here I am with some belongings on borrowed time in someone else’s living space, attempting to finish my counselling training and earn enough to live on around that. It is not as secure as I found university, with friendly student accommodation, a student loan and a three year plan. But I feel a lot stronger in myself this time around, even though I am perhaps more vulnerable security wise. I am once again surrounded by random acts of kindness which always give me faith and hope. Again, all part of life.

I have appreciated all the beginnings gifted to me alongside the endings. Opportunities that fill me with excitement. And those harder lessons in life made me stronger, less afraid and gave me the motivation to chase my dreams.  I am grateful for those people that have reached out to me this year with kindness, love and light freely given. All those that sent Christmas cards or gifts and invited me to come stay with them or pop in for a mince pie – I thank you once again but hope you understand I really just wanted to keep this Christmas low key, and spent it with Jac and his new herd.

“Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone” – Green Day

Thanks also to Jac who did find me and now walks beside me making the road less lonely.

Journey with the Horse

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‘Journey with the Horse’ is an equine-facilitated activity which I use with clients to help aid self development and learning. As I was thinking of ways to adapt the programme in the winter months, it got me thinking about on my own journey with the horse. Not the workshop I did as a pre-requisite to becoming a LEAP practitioner that was insightful in itself [read more], but about my journey with my first horse Jac. The beautiful young man up there on the left with the long eyelashes.  Who in the three years he has been with me, has now had three homes and settles down quickly within each herd he has been with. Usually passive within a herd, this time he lives out with only mares, so has become quite assertive and I am experiencing a whole different side to him. He is a wise pony, humorous and does not like being stabled (just last night due to the forecast of heavy rains they were all stabled, he undid his bolt to go and stand in the rain all night). He likes people to get on ‘horse time’ with him and I love watching him spend time with clients who get so lost in the here and now with him, they forget I am there, their concept of time and become so peaceful in their surrounding environment.

As a kid I always wanted a pony. I borrowed other peoples horses where possible and in some places we lived it wasn’t possible. I always thought one day I would have a horse, as I grew older that turned into working with them. After school I joined the Special Constabulary with the longer term goal of working in the Mounted Police. After a year in the specials I had my application ready for Merseyside police and they stopped recruiting for 3 years. I joined the Army instead, but as ‘girls can’t join the household cavalry’ my path then took me a different way for a long while.  I did sign up for horse riding wherever possible wherever I was. It wasn’t really until 2010 aged 35 that I spotted an advert for Monty Roberts Horsemanship that I remembered my old dream. It probably helped that my life had spectacularly crashed around me, so it was good opportunity to reassess what I wanted from life. I signed up and I worked voluntary for a horse sanctuary and also for a lady who needed help with about 18 horses.

In 2013 whilst I had been fostering my niece for a few years, that little grey pony came into our lives and I am not sure to this day whether I would have bought him for me. You see I had got used to the feeling the horses were for other people, people who knew more and had more money. So I would have talked myself out of it, ‘you don’t have time, money, know how, you’re too old to start this, everyone else has loads more experience’. But here’s the thing, that thought process didn’t apply to my niece. I made it happen for her, something I couldn’t do for my inner child. No big deal, that’s what parents do for their kids all the time. My ‘inner child’ watched as my niece learnt more and more about horsemanship, and gained valuable qualifications that would help gain all those wonderful equine jobs that passed ‘her’ by. She literally sat there within me and watched, filmed or took photos. For a Christmas present one year, she spent days or rather weeks helping me put together footage of 5 years into a movie for my niece called ‘my journey with horses’. On reflection I think she started to get angry with me, and as I didn’t give her time to express herself it became resentment.  If I think back to this time I imagine her like a butterfly trapped in a jar, wanting to get out and spread her wings, but I did not take the lid off.

In 2015 as I have mentioned in my blog anger I had a small non-spreadable malignant tumour removed from my solar plexus and I knew this was a nudge from ‘the universe’ about sorting myself out emotionally. I had already had the warning from my body for about a year to get the mole checked and I ignored it. It was easy to write it off as I was dealing with my nieces paralysis, ‘I’ll get to it’, ‘It’s probably nothing, you had a mole removed at 17 and that was nothing’. One night I woke up in pain with blood on my fingers and it turned out I had tried to scratch it out in my sleep. Three weeks later it was cut out professionally, then I received a letter to say they were ‘surprised’ at the result and ‘couldn’t guarantee clear margins’. They hadn’t cut enough out so it could grow back or alternatively my immune system could probably deal with the stray cells and it wouldn’t. I decided to leave it to heal up, boost my immune system and work on the emotional front. I always thought that my resentment was triggered from external sources but I see now it was also internal. My inner child knows what our dreams are, I rarely let her speak as there is always a reason I can’t follow them, not yet. She perhaps just upped the ante on continuing to be ignored.

This year, has been a whirlwind of change and has challenged my resilience and adaptability.  For the first time, here I am at the tail end of the year with a pony but without my niece. My inner child stepped up, she knows she can handle it, and for the first time in a long time my adult stepped up with her. My adult made a few ‘big’ and perhaps ‘crazy’ decisions that other adults would question (and they have), but I acknowledge what our dreams are now, and know what I have to let go of and keep hold of to realise them. I know this is my path, it has been very uphill and rocky and I am determined not to step off it again. There have been a lot of obstacles on this journey, the one I am still dealing with now is the part of me that doesn’t believe I deserve my dream. This is the fourth obstacle that Paulo Coelho talks about in his book that I keep close to my heart ‘The Alchemist’ [read more].  I now have to “believe myself worthy of the thing I fought so hard to get, then I help the Soul of the World and understand why I am here”. Pondering on this thought whilst sat in the car having just seen Jac and his friends, I re-discovered a chocolate bar in my bag that a friend bought back from Ireland and on the packaging was a Gaelic blessing I thought apt…

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back…” Traditional Irish Blessing

LEAP of Faith

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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