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A Reluctant Healing

January 9, 2019

By Diane Detwiler-Zapp, MA, LPC

Spirit: A Somatic Equine Workshop is the one that always called to me when I would read through the list of excellent workshops offered by The Meadows. So when, at the last minute, the chance to attend this workshop came about, one would think I would be elated. That was far from the case. In all honesty, I was terrified.

I was in the middle of reeling from a health event that was manageable, but for some reason, it had shaken me to the core. I had experienced a heart ablation that was supposed to have cured an electrical issue in my otherwise very, healthy heart. Some of the literature on the procedure stated it was 90%-95% successful. I found myself in a small percent where not only did it not work, but I ended up with a new diagnosis. Add to that a terrible drug reaction making me feel as if I had aged 25 years in a single day. In other words, I was vulnerable and unconnected to my usual coping skills. The last place I wanted to be was in a workshop where all of the feelings I was trying to ignore, would be encouraged. So I gave a few excuses that had some validity, but not really. I felt a little sad to miss the workshop, but I was mostly relieved. And that was that, or so I thought.

I am honored to have a loving friend, Jean Collins, Director of Workshops for The Meadows, who called me and told me that I needed to go. She not only called, but she showed up at my house on Sunday night about 14 hours before the start of the workshop. “In the car,” she said, “I want to show you the way to the ranch, so you get there on time.” Everyone needs a friend like this. At some level I knew she was right, but left to my own devices, I would have stayed with my poor decision.

So Monday morning found me on the way to the ranch. The turnoff from the highway is one of the most beautiful spots in Wickenburg. The morning air was cool; a gift after a long, hot, Arizona summer. The smell of an early morning campfire greeted me. Perhaps this would be good for me. I met the other participants and Buddy Uldrikson, the horseman who was one of the workshop leaders. I already knew the other leader—Colleen DeRango, a therapist trained in Somatic Experiencing ® and an exceptional horsewoman. Colleen’s huge smile of greeting was so welcoming. After the introductions and guided meditation by the fire, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

The pace of the workshop and the work with my two horses adopted for the week began to teach me how unregulated my daily pace was. Go, go, go, sit down, and fall asleep was the way I operated when on automatic pilot. I had a meditation regime before attending the workshop, but my experience with the skilled leaders in the ranch setting invigorated my practice and taught me techniques that enhanced my meditation skills. The week was filled with insights and helpful experiences, and I want to share the most profound.

By day two, Tuesday, all of my reluctance had vanished; replaced with impatience. I wanted to work on my issues, and I wanted to do it NOW. A wise voice in my heart told me to calm down and wait until the time was right. More than once, that voice had to remind me that waiting can be creative doing in its own way.

On Thursday, day four, my healing occurred. Colleen talked to me before I entered the round pen with her and my horse that I called Lil Gray. She helped me center myself, and she asked me what I wanted to work on. I spent a few minutes just connecting with my horse. Colleen then instructed me to go to a different part of the pen and just be with my feelings, and when I experienced pain I was to come back to the horse.

The first time I did this Lil Gray walked slowly toward me, and I touched the soft side of her face. I could see my reflection in her eyes. This experience repeated itself two more times. On the fourth time as I approached the mare with tears rolling down my cheeks, she came close to me and rested her head on my chest at heart level. Like all spiritual moments, time stopped for me. I don’t know how long her head rested there, but I do know it wasn’t just a brief nuzzle. I found myself smiling and then laughing with joy. I was strong; I was healthy. Colleen asked, “Now, what?” And I told her that I wanted to work with my horse. It was magical; we were working together. Lil Gray knew what I wanted and did it. We were a team. I was at peace.

Diane Detwiler-Zapp, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor in the Phoenix, Arizona area.