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Listening For Guidance
Asking for Help

If we listen and trust, it (Spirit) will teach us all things and bring all things to our remembrance." –A Search for God Book / Edgar Cayce

The first beautiful April week of 2012, just before I turned the magic seventy, I arrived to help my friend, colleague, teacher and student, Melissa, at her lovely Program. Situated atop a mountain, in a sparsely populated horse community, the closeness to awe inspiring Nature is very healing. I was looking forward to helping her offer a day long Equine Facilitated Learning session from a high acuity facility in the city.

The evening I arrived we had a lovely dinner with her daughter and granddaughter. The conversation had not moved very far when I brought up the topic of our pending co-teaching gig for a small private college. My discouragement over staff reported mal-designed equine inter-active exercises that teased the horses and used power over techniques while purporting to fulfill treatment goals was so huge that I told Melissa I was considering not going.

"OhOH", she responded. "You are definitely not going to like what we've been doing after lunch before the individual energetic gestalts". Melissa proceeds to tell me of a round ring exercise with her small grey horse, where buckets of carrots are used as obstacles to recovery. One patient is challenged to keep the pony away from the buckets without touching him while remembering to ask for help from the rest of the observing group.

"I don't know. Let me meditate, pray and sleep on it", I respond.

Next morning, I'm up early for coffee and meditation in an easy chair by the fire with a spectacular view of the still snowcapped mountains. On a nearby ottoman rests The Big Book. I pick it up to form my morning spiritual reading. The pages flip to Addendum on Disease Concept of Alcoholism.

My inner voice sparks alerting me to spinal thrill bumps coursing through as I read Dr. Silkworth's famous words on the two things that Alcoholics Anonymous has going for it -major contributors to its spectacular effectiveness. First, is the inherent power of the "herd" community formed by recovering people and their stories. He actually uses the word "herd".

Second is the spiritual nature of these stories, non-religiousaccounts of spiritual awakenings. William James is quoted with his notion of spiritual insights not of the Fire and Angel Lightening variety, but those that come to pass over months and years of personal practice in prayer and meditation.

I fold my body into prayer pose and hold the closed Big Book on my lap. Paying attention to my breath, I almost immediately hear my German teachers Gerhard and Karin Krebs. "For us, Horses are Medium to the Universe." Their favorite oft repeated quote that when I first heard it in 05, bonded me to them as fast friends. We have since become mutually admiring respected colleagues, teachers and students.

Ahaa! Coming out of my settled trance, I see clearly our plan. I've been shown Gerhard telling our '07' class '' of Licensed HorseDream Partners ( during our ten day seminar in an Austrian castle about the multi-national CEO of a world mega corporation and his 'sand tray' like session with one of their Friesians, Durk.

This particular story tells of the head CEO and his five colleagues, all themselves CEO's of their particular country, with the Krebs' Friesian herd in Germany that includes my heart favorite equine partner, Benny, a half Percheron-half Friesian on a restricted eating plan of packaged imported Russian Gold hay. This CEO's heart 'favorite' was Durk.

The five men and one woman were asked to build in the arena a representation of their personal perception of the major obstacles to their effective communication. They were to use the jump standards, poles, tarp, buckets, bright colored balls and pool noodles and hula hoops (especially cut and threaded back together with rubber hose for easy breakaway).

Once all in the group had assembled an obstacle or part of one, the group toured around and spoke to each other and to Gerhard and Karin of their creation and how they perceived itobstructed effective communication and same page thinking in their work. Then the group was advised to retire to the grandstand bleachers where they watched and observed in silence the behavior of the horses as they explored the arena space containing their obstacles.

Gerhard suggested that perhaps the horses might offer a different perspective. Their behavior might indicate a fresh response to or perception of the obstacle. One by one the horses were turned loose in the arena to explore. Karin reminded the group that for them, "Horses are Medium to the Universe". When Durk entered, he immediately went to the head CEO's obstacle.

Durk sniffed it all over as he circled around it. He then deliberately did a slow turn on the forehand. With his butt to the carefully constructed obstacle he mule kicked the heck out of it. "Whew", gasped the CEO. "Maybe, I'm not in touch with the real issue. This is clearly nothing."

As the horses moved around the arena exploring the obstacles and elements, a different view of the problem came into being. The resulting 'picture' opened up rich dialogues on possibilities.

After breakfast Melissa asked me for my thoughts and ideas. I told her about my morning meditation explained above. "Hummm, I rather like it", she responded. "It involves the whole group in the process and may generate mutual support. One of the treatment goals is to develop comfort in community". On our morning walk with the dogs we crafted a shopping list for her up-coming visit to town.

Next day, the group was lovely. Several had never touched a horse. They loved their first arrival moments greeting the horses whose heads poked over the half Dutch stall doors. Fran, horse safety support person, and I kept a watch on barn isle activities while Melissa directed them to restroom and coffee.

Once we circled up, Melissa covered introductions, paperwork and expectations for safe behavior around horses. She offered information about the equine instinctual nature and their fear responses so similar to those of us humans. Our first activity was to place ourselves on the arena rail and watch the horse's interact as they were turned out by Melissa and Fran.

When the miniature donkeys arrived, they were placedin the adjacent round ring. Nelson was mere days new to the herd, on loan from a neighbor who knew of Sam's grief over recent loss of his barn buddy.

I was assigned as safety support person for the people engaged in meeting the donkeys on an individual basis. All were offered the opportunity to take turns and choose to come into the arena and move closer to the horses or donkeys. Melissa and Fran helped with individual introductions to the larger horses, two geldings and two mares.

The activity of being supported by staff to get up close to a horse or a donkey on an individual basis in the arena or round ring proved an accurate 'diagnostic'. For those people on heavy anti-psychotic medications, the horses appeared stand offish and uninterested. It's as if they are uncertain who is present and thus remain on alert and unengaged.

The principle of "like attracts like" proved accurate when in the circle, Melissa asked which horse or donkey each wanted to work with during their individual reflective round ring session. She divides the group into six for her round ring and six with me in the ring near the arena. I'm taking the large gelding and aged mare, a firmly bonded pair according to the gelding; they can be switched out while remaining in sight. He is very insecure and unable to focus without being near his beloved; a relationship dynamic familiar to many of the patients.

These groups are formed by the participants' personal choices and the needs of the bonded herd mates. Fran moved between the two round rings helping transfer horses and monitor safety. The mini donkeys worked together in the round ring; they knew their individual and honored the mutual choice.

After lunch both of us explained the 'sand tray' concept of building the obstacles to recovery. They could work individually or together. I emphasized the "Horses as Medium to the Universe" or Higher Power surrogate the donkeys would take in this equine role play. Fran had organized the materials in a corner of the arena and on the golf cart. Melissa provided paper and colored markers for labels and drawings.

Before turning the donkeys out, we toured each obstacle as a group and listened to the intentions of the builders. Melissa asked clinically oriented clarifying questions. The group placed themselves on the rail to watch Fran and Melissa remove the halters. We spent fifteen or twenty minutes in silent observation of the donkey explorations.

During this time one of the elements was totally ignored. Given the high curiosity drive of the equine nature, their 'not interested' attitude was interesting and proved enlightening to the three women who worked together building the world's largest best endowed cowboy. At one point, during the construction phase, one of the men, looked over and exclaimed quite loudly, "Hey is that really what I think it is?" Crafted out of lead ropes forming two circles and a huge hanging loop between the pool noodle legs, it was explicit and graphic.

The donkeys tromped all over a stick drawn margarita glass while leaving the RC Cola can intact. It represented one patient's fear of losing her friends now that she wasn't going to be drinking during their sun bathing afternoons together. The donkeys persisted in knocking over and dismantling the elements of one man's rendition of the drill rigs he worked on. He kept entering the arena to re-assemble and over would come the donkeys to again knock it apart.

Suddenly as he was struggling with a pesky piece of structure, he stopped and stared. He suddenly "saw" a different way it should be fitted. It would be safer. He shared how his boss, not an alcoholic, was a man who didn't drink or do the after work tail gate parties; he was into organic food and drink with healthy life style emphasis. The boss was very supportive of this man's recovery. Our patient switched from not wanting to go back to work to excitement over the safer possibilities his engineer 'vision' offered with the help of the donkeys.

The three women, all worried about their sour and manipulative relationships, voiced how uninterested the donkeys had been in their iconic cowboy. Maybe they needn't be so focused on men or sex. It was just going to be no big deal.

Later, after the van departed on the dot of five, the three of us cleaned up the barn and processed the teachings of the group, Fran laughed. "I had no idea this work could be so much Fun. The whole group was so supportive of each other. I loved the laughter - the cheering. What a remarkable Fun Day!"

YES, I'm feeling replete with the richness of my own internalized insights. I affirm my gratitude for recovery, for the Twelve Steps teaching me to remember to ask for help. I especially appreciate Melissa, her lovely herd, her precious family, Fran and her 'good hand' nature and all the dogs and cats. What a Happy Barn!

It's been an especially rich recovery day for me; my last as 69 yrs. I am feeling blessed for being able to do this work surrounded by trees and mountains. I am delighting in my total trust of Melissa and Fran and the horses. AHO

4. 26.12
Skyview Casita
Tucson, AZ

PS 4/15 reading in GOD GRANT ME meditation book is: Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. –Voltaire

Adventures in Awareness(TM)
Adventures In Awareness