Thursday, April 1, 2010

Breathing

Yesterday I finished Linda Kohanov's The Tao of Equus. It's one of those books I've been meaning to read for years, but it seems that now was the right moment.

Kohanov is one of the pioneers of equine-assisted psychotherapy, which takes advantage of the horse's amazing power to facilitate emotional growth, healing, and transformation. Her book gives many, many examples of this kind of healing, starting with her personal story.

The book is especially relevant to me right now as I begin to think seriously about using horses in my own psychological practice, on a professional level. Galahad and Midnight have brought about profound changes in my own psyche, and the stories in Kohanov's book resonate strongly with my personal experience.

Near the end of the book, Kohanov relates the story of a woman whose horse had recently died, but she still felt his presence, as though he had not "crossed over." In a waking dream, the woman encountered her horse, Wally:

All of a sudden, I was walking through this beautiful field of grass with a single tree. The image went from normal to sepia tone, and I saw a chestnut horse grazing in the distance. Someone was walking with me; it felt like my spirit guide. I said to this person, "Is that Wally? It must be; his coat is so shiny."

Wally looked up and recognized me. I could see he was wearing the halter I had gotten for him. He came cantering toward me and said, "Is this the new place where you're boarding me?" I said, "No Wally, you've died. You don't have to wear that halter any more."

The halter unclasped and fell off by itself. Wally bowed and trotted off happily toward the horizon. As the vision faded, [I] heard [my] guide explaining the rhythms of the soul's journey through life and death in a way that suggested this world, the one we believed to be so solid and stable, was really the dream.

As I read this, I burst into tears--but these felt like tears of relief. Suddenly I began to breathe--great, deep, gasping breaths that slowly subsided. I felt like I hadn't taken a deep, free breath for longer than I could remember. I kept hearing, “You don’t have to wear that halter any more.” (p. 333)

Suddenly, some deep part of me understood that the restrictions that I’ve had around my heart and spirit are finally loosening. I can let go of the internalized cultural restraints that chafe and restrict me. In my head I heard the words, “The animal knows what it needs.” By giving my true nature its head, perhaps, I can the trust the internal knowing that shows me my path through life.

Today, I find myself deeply happy and more relaxed than at any time I can remember. What a blessing!

1 comment:

k said...

That's a powerful metaphor in the book. Being able to drop the halter, drop the things that bind us to a pre-conception of ourselves BY ourselves and others. I can see why this would have such an effect on you--if I might permit mixed parts of speech, like a tight corset loosened, allowing you to breathe freely.