Safety and Connection
Yesterday, I did a reset on my nervous system and felt that lovely grounding sense of safety and connection with another human being. It is central to finding joy in the shitstorms of life, and is something that I realized yesterday, I share with too few people.
In an Equine Facilitated Trauma Therapy workshop I attended with Linda Kohanov and Dr. Rebecca Bailey, they postulated that no movement towards recovery could be made for their clients, until they felt this sense of safety and connection with them. It was central to everything they did. They further proposed that there were things we could do as supporters, to regulate our own nervous systems and to co-regulate theirs, in order to help them achieve this.
Linda and Rebecca had been using techniques to help humans move forward from all kinds of trauma with innovative, intuitive exercises done in freedom with humans and horses for over 20 years. Their methods had proven effective, but until the science of Polyvagal Theory and sentient communication were understood, it had been difficult to teach other therapists how to achieve the results they did. At this workshop, they brought the science of nervous system regulation together with HeartMath technology and horse facilitated exercises, to show us the power of marrying breath with intent. It was Magic!
It was also kind of horrifying. You see, it was here that I was outed for having lost the Magic of connection I once had with horses. As a former member of the Canadian Equestrian Team in the sport of 3-Day eventing - a sport originally designed to test Cavalry Officers and their mounts between wars - I had been known as someone with a facility to sooth sensitive, highly-strung horses - horses others had given up on. My facilitators and peers expected to see a bit of Magic when I stepped into the ring.
But, after years of enduring the stress of bankruptcy, divorce and homelessness, and with a lump growing insistently in my left breast, any Magic I may once have had with horses was long gone. As I stood in a small enclosure with a little Mustang named Cimmaron and was supposed to demonstrate connection, he outed me in front of my new peers and mentors. Instead of respect and connection, Cimmaron paced and screamed to be let out of the pen with me.
Thankfully, at the same time as I sustained this blow to the core of my identity, I understood that it wasn't permanent. I could get the Magic I once had, back again! Our mentors taught us how to create this sense of safety and connection using their proven techniques.
It was in the middle of one of their science-backed breathing exercises that I was struggling with, that I had an epiphany! I realized that I had been doing these things earlier in my riding career with anxious horses, AND with the traumatized animals I helped with in my father's veterinary practice. Back then, I'd been doing it by accident or by intuition - call it what you will ... but now that I knew what was going on, I also knew that I could teach it to others and that I had to find a way to spread this good shit like peanut butter!
It took a while. I had to go through the ultimate 'Shitstorm Trifecta' of cancer, chemo and covid 19, and get to the other side of a complete life trainwreck. But now here I am, embarking on my journey across the continent to do just that!
It's a thrilling and sometimes terrifying place to be. Out here, on a long and shaky limb, but it beats the hell out of that job I had in a call centre and it aligns with my purpose and mission in life.