Feb 18

Costa Rica- Part 4: Returning to Self

To feel a full untrammeled joy is to walk through the doorway of fear, the dropping away of the anxious worried self felt itself like a death itself, a disappearance, a giving away, seen in the laughter of friendship, the vulnerability of happiness felt suddenly as a strength, a solace and a source, the claiming of our place in the living conversation, the sheer privilege of being in the presence of a mountain, a sky or a familiar face – I am here and you are here and together we make a world.
~ David Whyte

 


ONWARD!

After a couple of days of transformative Eponaquest growth work with the horses and leaving a wheelbarrow full of tears and my own personal manure in the dusty footing of of the Vinculo barn, I was truly ready for something different + replenishing.

We were headed out for our first big ride to a waterfall. We were told to bring our flashlights, which should have been a bit of foreshadowing of the days events. Enrique Molino, our amazing guide who works with Leaves and Lizards, was riding Negro. My nickname for Enrique is Eagle Eye, as he can spot a hummingbird in the jungle from 2 football fields away. A funny and gentle soul, with the heart of a giant, it became clear day one that this man had an incredible and authentic passion for his work.

It would be Negro’s first trip to the waterfall too and I was happy he was with us and grateful I had found the courage to ask for what I needed for my first ride-an steady older horse!

I mounted the small but mighty horse Espartaco who had been my teacher in the arena early that morning, with the familiar knot in my stomach. I have unfortunately developed my own conditioned response to riding since a bareback 180-degree spin and hard fall off dear Annie Two Moons, several years ago. Prior to this fall I was fearless on any horse. Riding had signified, freedom and bliss in my early life. To feel one with a horse was like no other feeling on earth for me. It was actually the ONLY place I felt fearless, so the fall took a toll on my ability to ride with pure joy. Remember, whatever we are feeling, is felt by the horse as well, through their receptivity. We can’t hide it, we’ve got to own it, so before I mounted, I told “Taco,” about my feelings and the fear immediately decreased in size. When we notice a somatic shift, we know we’ve gotten the message. This allows us to reset our body back to The Neutral Zone.

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Off we go! Espartaco’s ears..

About an hour into our journey, I became aware that my fear had completely dissipated! I was totally at ease, laughing, enjoying the phenomenal scenery and chatting with new friends, as we rode through the magnificent countryside together. This little horse had the most amazing gate and it was super easy to sit his trot. Although small, with skinny legs and small hooves, he was incredibly powerful and sure-footed. I felt completely safe and so grateful that I had an amazing partner for the first riding excursion. As we rode over steep terrain, through mud and across creeks and rivers, I never once worried about my well-being and in that knowing, I was able to let go of the reins and be a true partner, not a controller.

Riding Espartaco, supported me in realizing that I could in fact ride a horse and dare I say it…WELL!  It helped me to deepen my understanding that trauma is real and it is cellular. It takes new experiences to retrain our brain and create new neural pathways.

We left the horses to graze the large grassy field while we hiked to the waterfall. I will admit that I had a hard time believing those horses were still going to be there when we returned, as they weren’t hobbled or tied-except the stallion that Shelley was riding for all the reasons you’d expect and we were literally in the middle of the forest. LOL!

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The grassy pasture below the waterfall and Enrique!

We swam in the crystal clear, turquoise water and I jumped off the rock in front of the falls for good measure. And then it was time to head back to the horses. It was now late afternoon, we gathered our horses, continued a conversation that we’d started in the morning about the false self/authentic self and the energy of the group began to shift, as it had become evident that we’d be riding back in the dark. As a sensitive, I’m a BIG feeler, so I was picking up some interesting vibes as they say-and they weren’t pretty. Finally a few members spoke up about their feelings and our facilitators created and held a wonderful container for honest expression-not all of which was joyous about riding in the dark.

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The Waterfall

Personally, I wasn’t at all concerned, which shocked me. Had this been 10-years earlier, I too would have in the shoes some of my friends were wearing, feeling afraid, vulnerable and trying to control the outcome. No judgment here, I’ve been right there, and I still wrestle with controlling behaviors, but in that particular moment, I felt a kind of excitement, I’d not felt in a long time. Plus, I’d ridden the mighty Espartaco over steep hills, down muddy dales and across fast moving creeks and I had a deep sense my steed would carry me home safely and a strong belief that his eyes and street smarts, were going to be a lot better in that environment than my own. This was going to be the definition of consensual leadership: A shared experience  of partnership, where we can dance and tango fluidly and with agility. “Ok Taco, let’s go home!” I said and gave him a loving pat on the neck. I watched Negro from afar, as Enrique who is an incredible horseman, moved with him through the forest.

He did not look like a 3-year old horse-or whatever story I had about what that looked like-he was a grounded, sure-footed, kind hearted horse. Note to self, “Drop the drama and ride that horse tomorrow!”

Twilight turned to darkness, as we rode home to the retreat center. The noises of the jungle became more alive, as the sun set over the horizon. Crickets, frogs, birds and monkeys could be heard in the distance, along with the gentle sounds of horse snorts, hooves and even some human giggles, as we rode the trail home. Our fearless leaders did an amazing job of keeping the group safe and out of panic mode. Sally was in the lead, Debbie in the middle, Shelley holding our group together in the back with the stallion. Enrique and Negro rode the line up and down to check in with us. What struck me too, was the support of this extraordinary group of people. That’s kind of rare in this experience; things can get cutthroat pretty quick when things get tough.

Within this tribe, there was no shaming, no blaming, just a lot of love and support for wherever anyone was in any moment, the entire time we were together. Maybe that’s because of the values we hold in this work. We call those values Authentic Community. 

I rode mostly in silence, in absolute awe and gratitude. Lightening bugs flickered for miles around us in the high grasses, like little fairies lighting our way home. It was during the ride home, that I began to see the truth of who I am when I’m not living in my stories of fear and doubt. I felt my Higher Power, my mother’s angel and my guides walking that path “home” with me.

On that night ride home, I began to reconnect with my childlike wonder and as a result I began the journey of returning to my TRUE SELF.

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Posted in Awakenings, Creativity, Empowerment, Equine Facilitated Learning and Growth, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
Feb 16

Costa Rica Adventure, Part 3- Authenticity Over Perfection and the Willingness to be Vulnerable

Love is born from a great, vulnerable daring “YES,” after an unbearable silence.
~ Michael Xavier

Gypsy Spirt Outpost, Leaves and Lizards Eponaquest Adventure, Arenal, Costa Rica with Shelley Rosenberg

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Title: What Gets in the Way…Releasing the Ego Mind with Negro
© 2016, Sheri Gaynor

There are three main values that we hold in the work of Eponaquest. (Footnote: 1)

1. Congruency over conformity.

2. Authenticity over perfection.

3. Adaptability and Inquisitiveness over methodology.

These values have always been a part of my work as a facilitator, but when I went through the Eponaquest instructor training, I came to understand that it is also how I have come to live my life as a sober person. Living life on life’s terms is not an easy task. If we were all honest enough to tell the truth, we might all agree, that most of us are addicted to something and distracting ourselves from feelings of any kind has become a cultural art form.

What we fail to understand is that feelings-although painful at times-won’t kill us. They actually have the capacity to enhance and transform our lives! It’s kind of an oxymoron. 

One of the emotions we invite our clients to experience with horses is vulnerability. When people hear this word, I generally witness the deer in the headlights look of terror and hear this phrase, “Vulnerability! Are you kidding me, if I show vulnerability, I will be annihilated!”  This voice is what we call the conditioned self. It’s what we’ve been acculturated to believe. Vulnerability = Weakness and sadly it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

Vulnerability leads to authenticity. It’s not about slaying ourselves open and exposing ourselves to harm, it’s really about the willingness to feel the truth of what lives inside us.

It’s important to understand that whatever we attempt to mask or control, the horses will read because as prey animals, they have finely tuned radar devices to keep them alive, so they become living and breathing bio-feedback mechanisms and as such, help us become truly authentic, passionate human beings. What we learn through them is honesty. It’s much healthier to simply say, “I am scared shit,” so we can move through the emotion and become congruent. This is the gift of emotional agility and it’s how we become more horselike.

For me healthy vulnerability has become the willingness to suit up, lean into fear, be willing to fail and most importantly, as needed, be able laugh at myself in the process. 

You see I am also a recovering perfectionist and as such, my modus operandi (MO) in my early years, was that I was unwilling to try anything new, because I feared failing and the feelings of shame that come with that experience or in an effort to create a false sense of courage, I drank and drugged my way through them. The educational system only reinforced this as I was a child with undiagnosed learning issues. Through my personal creative process and the time I’ve spent with the horses and DreamWeaver Sunday, I have come to understand how this way of being keeps us incredibly small. It was during my year-long trailer adventure in 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11, which inspired my classes and eventually my book, that the Gyspy was unleashed and I knew that I could no longer put the lid back on the box. It was during that road trip with my ex, that I uncovered and discovered my true, authentic SELF and there was no going back to the old way-the mask of perfection.

In Costa Rica, my small group spent time in the Vinculo barn. We were told that Vinculo means relationship and an inexplainable bond. As I stood in the arena with Negro that first day, attempting an Eponaquest activity I had done-what felt like-hundreds of times before, nothing I attempted to communicate, was clear to Negro. Or so I wanted to believe. Remember…horse as mirror. Horse as metaphor. They give us exactly what we need, whether we want to see it or not.

I was having a split screen moment, the authentic self, understood that this was a horse who had never done this activity and felt a sense of excitement and calm and the false self (my Venomous Toad Committee) was screaming, “YOU ARE AN INSTRUCTOR, you SHOULD know how to do this and you’re failing miserably in front of the entire group and your mentor, get it together”

It’s just this kind of thing that sends a very convoluted message to the horse, which can put them over the edge, which is pretty much what happened for both Negro and me and as I’ve come to understand…”It isn’t about the horse!” What was needed in the moment was for me to “get BIG,” aka dominant, which is absolutely NOT my forte. In my eyes, I felt like I was already hugely upping my internal dominant, for Negro, not so much. And suddenly there I was in the midst of a horrific shame attack.

It happens that fast. I can go from a confident adult woman, to feelings of abject mortification in the blink of an eye…still! 

At dinner that night I spoke with Shelley about my feelings. I then asked Debbie (the owner) and Sally, another Eponaquest instructor, who had worked with me that day, and who recently made a huge courageous life leap and moved to Costa Rica to join Leaves and Lizards, if they would support me in working with Negro, before breakfast the next day, because my intuition was that he was not being “stubborn,” but as a new member of the herd, he did not understand what I was asking him.

We met in the arena at 7am. and Debbie suggested that instead of Negro, I work with a mature dominant in her herd, a small but mighty, little Criollo horse named Espartaco (Spartucus) who I nicknamed Taco. Debbie felt Espartaco could better support this particular learning experience. All I heard was the word,” DOMINANT.” “Oh great, another F’ing challenge, I thought this was a vacation!!!”–I  said to no one but myself. Really??? The night before I spent some time with my journal processing the experience with Negro, in an effort to go back to the Neutral Zone and re-embody my true self. I wrote and created an expressive arts piece and was able to get to some pretty big personal insights.

The next morning, I was able to share openly (vulnerably) with Debbie and Sally, what had surfaced for me during my experience with Negro and what I had uncovered processing the experience on my own. As we finished our conversation and I was ready to begin the activity, Shelley walked down to the arena. I felt my conditioned self attempt to shove it’s way into my head, “Oh, look your mentor has arrived, you better get this right!”  It’s exactly this kind of experience that would have shut me down in the past and caused me to quit—and drink. In the moment I had an awareness, Shelley was not judging me, no one was! I was judging mySELF! We project what we want to protect.

I promptly took a deep breath and said to my hideous internal Toad, “No more perfectionism, I’m going to give this my best shot without your critical voice!” This was a moment of growth and self-love.

Debbie’s choice to work with Spartacus was brilliant. He was challenging enough not to be a push over, yet gentle enough to help me stay in my body to support the internal shift that was in need of healing. He truly embodied what the role of a mature dominant leader. On our first day, Shelley told us that “No is a complete sentence,” so I pulled the lifeline cord and asked to ride Spartacus for our first excursion to the waterfall. This “ask” in itself was a major victory. The willingness to risk what I perceived as losing face in front of my peers, my teachers and my fellow participants and asking for what I truly wanted, was BIG. Why?  Because it is truly believed that the horse that chooses you-Negro-is the horse you are meant to be with, I was requesting an experience with another horse.

Big growth experience Number 2: I asked for help and what I needed to feel safe in the moment.

Footnotes:

1. Eponaquest Values ©2016 Eponaquest. Linda Kohanov

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Feb 15

Part 2-What Happens in Costa Rica…stays in Costa Rica!

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all.”

~Helen Keller

This was the quote on the cover of the binder I chose Day One, at the Eponaquest Adventure Retreat at Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat, in Monterey, Costa Rica with our hosts Debbie and Steve Legg. This trip had been on my bucket list for a long time and I was blessed to travel to Monterey with my Eponquest mentor and friend Shelley Rosenberg, where she teaches several times a year. This quote was not a new to me, but I chose it, because I feel it sums up my life theme in more ways than I can share and also because the life I had been living and come to know-illusion-shattered into pieces, one year at a time, beginning 6 years ago, with the final decline and death of my mother.

It has been more years than I can count, since I’ve had the opportunity to take a vacation for mySELF. For me, just me. What that means is that there was no caretaking of an ill parent, or anyone else for that matter, which has been my “vacation” time for literally 20+ years in one way or another. Although I did this with love and compassion at the time, it did indeed take a psychic toll, which was not immediately evident. In hind site, I had no idea how much I needed this adventure and the ability to unplug, literally and figuratively.

Front Porch Swing
Front Porch Swing
Leaves and Lizard, Monterey, Costa Rica
©2016, Sheri Gaynor

And now for my confessional dear readers…I’d forgotten this part of myself, the part of me that knows that, life’s journey, not a destination.  As a result, for the last 1.5 years, since moving to California, I have been living more from a place of survival and terror and less from the place I believe helps us live a life of passion and purpose, which is about taking calculated risks, one small leap at a time, so we can live intentionally and from the heart.

I think loss of SELF can be what happens to us, when we have what I am now calling a mid-life awakening.

Midlife is often a bit like the journey of Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, who made her descent into the dark underworld, her sister Ereshkigal’s domain. As a result of her high dive, she had to pass through 7 gates-portals. At each gate she was required to leave behind an item of clothing, until she stood before her sister, Queen of the Dark Abyss, completely disrobed, aka stark naked.

See the metaphor here?

As if that wasn’t enough, her sister decides it would be a great idea to fasten Inanna to a hook, where she hung like a fresh piece of meat for three days until her faithful loving friend Ninshubur, Queen of the East, with whom she made a deal that looked like, “If I don’t come back, please come find me…,” sent a couple of feral creature types, to beg for Inanna’s release. The metaphor here is a bit astounding as before leaving for Costa Rica, I faced my own possible mortality as a single woman, and created a Last Will and Testament, with instructions for my beloved horse and dog. I sat with pen and paper and in long hand wrote these words, “In case I don’t return please honor these final requests…,” and left it with my landlord. Prior to this moment, my husband had been that person, the one who knew my last requests and what I wanted post mortem. With no children of my own, facing this, “I’m truly alone now..” awareness head on, I left another layer of grief in the dust.

Back to our mythology.

When the wild things arrived in the underworld, to plead for Inanna’s release, Ereshkigal was in the process of giving birth, so I guess she figured she had enough to deal with and begrudgingly set Inanna free to resume her rightly place as the Queen of Heaven. I have to admit, I kind of see Ereshkigal’s side of things, it would be some kind of purgatory stuck in Hades for eternity, but it’s pretty clear from her behavior, that she too had some unexpressed feelings about her lot in life.

This might be the ultimate sibling rivalry story…but I digress.

The take away lesson of this Sumerian family drama is the understanding that symbolic deaths in mid-life-divorce, empty nesting, job loss, loss of home, loss of community-are gateways to a new cycle of life and part of the recurring death, rebirth cycle that we experience in a lifetime and that the only way out is through.

Ashes to dust = the fertile soil that is a mid-life awakening

I am truly grateful for the years of personal growth work I’ve done, because the truth is, you don’t want to take this kind of vacation if your not willing to LET GO AND TRUST! And I mean, really release the reins and allow the the horses to do their magic.

If you’ve got any control issues, I can guarantee you they will surface in the name of transmutation. It’s your choice what you do with them once they arrive. You can surrender or kick and scream your way into a shit filled adventure. For me, it was a bit of both.

Owl Butterfly
Out of the Cocoon
Costa Rican Owl Butterfly, © 2016 Sheri Gaynor

There was a lot of kicking and screaming when I realized that the horse that chose me during the opening ceremony, was a three-year old, brand new to the ranch, never ever, black horse named Negro. After almost three years of working to desensitize my own horse DreamWeaver Sunday from whatever human imposed agony she’d been through prior to rescuing her, I had envisioned a cool eco-trip with a 30 year- old, nose to tail, sure-footed, kick back and relax, trail horse.

Spirit had other ideas.

Instead, a black horse came in to help me uncover a shadow aspect and support me in healing a part of myself, that was not in any way the reason I signed up for this vacation.

Digging out another F’ing layer was not on my packing list. My handsome steed, an old Soul, had other ideas.

For me what surfaced was some deeply buried stuff, which amounted to years of unexpressed anger, which surfaced in the arena as Rage, with a Capital R. You see, in the Eponaquest work with the horses, we understand that Rage is an intensification of emotions that we’ve been unwilling to recognize, identify and move through, in service to the art of getting back to grazing, what I like to call The Neutral Zone.

Negro nailed it, when he chose me as his partner. Let me count the ways. It was not a pretty picture and as the title of this post says, “What happens in Costa Rica…stays in Costa Rica.” It has not gone unnoticed that this all took place at the base of the Arenal volcano which is smoldering, active and very much alive.

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
© 2016 Sheri Gaynor

I had uncovered a bit of this simmering lava, during a sound healing event about 3 months ago, when an psychotic man disrupted the beautiful healing experience.  WhyTF can’t a woman go anywhere and just feel safe?, was the immediate response I had to this crazy man’s yelling and screaming at our host, who asked him not to touch the instruments. The fury bubbled up from the deep well of unconsciousness and if I could have been in a sound proof room, I think I might have screamed until my voice was gone. Instead, once he was subdued, I crawled back under my blanket and I rocked and shouted into a pillow-so as not to disturb the other participants-and my right hip, which had been in a chronic pain cycle, popped and released. Two days prior to the sound healing, after a massage, I had created a drawing and a poem about the pain in my hip, I titled it, The Return of the Feminine.

The sound healing and the psychotic guy’s unraveling, was Step One of my you can’t make this shit up experiential healing journey. Step Two was a young black, four-legged Master Teacher and Healer.

Part Three…coming soon, I hope you’ll join me for the rest of this wild ride. You can subscribe to the blog here on my home page, by entering your information in the box that say…”Subscribe to Sheri’s blog..” Imagine that!

 

 

Posted in Awakenings, Equine Facilitated Learning and Growth, Uncategorized | 6 Comments
Jan 30

Gypsy Spirit Outpost-Arenal, Costa Rica

I am writing from the open air covered porch in beautiful Arenal, Costa Rica! Toucans and parrots sit in the bird feeder sharing bananas and papayas with the turkeys. The Arenal Volcano is hiding behind the cloud cover, remnants of this mornings hard rain. A dream come true for sure.

The journey started with an incredibly and synchronistic experience in the Santa Rosa airport, by taking a risk to engage in a conversation. Truth be told, the person I was 10 years ago, could never have taken that risk,  the Creative Awakenings process and the work with the horses has changed everything for me in that dimension.

Shelley Rosenberg, one of my Eponaquest mentors, Barb and I, took the red eye out of Los Angeles-a first for me-and arrived in Costa Rica at 7:00 am. We then took a 3-hour journey with our driver on a winding narrow road, to the rain forest of Arenal and our final destination, the Leaves and Lizards resort. This is where Shelley has run her riding programs for many years. It is a magical slice of heaven to be sure.

I set my alarm intending to do yoga this morning, but my body had other ideas and I slept in until almost 8:00, waking to the sound of the rain pummeling the porch roof.  I heard a Voice say,  “There is no hurry, tranquilo…” And so I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep.

Blessed sleep. No Chores. No responsibility. Time to let go and shed a few more layers.

I have made an agreement with mySELF, our only task while here is to LISTEN and be more horselike. To drop my agendas and hear what my body is saying to me…

NOT MY MIND.

During this adventure I am determine to once again ask the question, “What is calling you?…”

In these many years what I have learned is that is truly is about the journey, not the destination!

The sun is working her way through the clouds. Time to put away the devices, pull out my journal and water colors and take some time to BE present.

I’ll be blogging a bit here and there while I’m away and I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment below this post.

Hasta  luego…

Sheri

Arenal, Costa Rica

 

 

 

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Dec 08

How one Menorah Brought me Out of Hiding. | elephant journal

©2015 Sheri GaynorAnd so the elephant journal expanded version of yesterday’s story just arrived with these words…

Dear Sheri, Thanks for sharing your words with us! This was beautiful! I’m so glad you were able to get your revisions in so quickly. We’ve been looking for great Hanukkah content and you rocked this!

FRONT PAGE TODAY on ej!!!! I know my mother is KVELLING from the heavens above! I am too. WOW! GRATEFUL!!!!

 

If you want to to read the full short story, you can read it here.  Please share if it touches your heart emoticon and soul, it helps it stay on the front page.

 

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Dec 07

First Night.

12311175_10208150930676559_6227032800734892501_nFirst night. My ancestors.

I was in my early 40’s when I asked my mother to find me a menorah. It made her “kvell,” when I asked. She was so happy that I think she dropped everything and ran to the store! She called the same day to share with me that she had found the perfect gift for me and had already put it in the mail.

 

When I opened the box I felt like the artist who made it had channeled my life.

I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was a Chagall-inspired menorah. On the front side, there was a violinist flying through the sky, a young girl floating in the clouds holding a bunch of wild flowers and in the center, a big red horse. On the back, an artist holds an easel in her hand, standing before the Eiffel Tower, an oversized yellow and red chicken by her side.

The horse is the most significant part of this story. How could she have known that they would return to my life 11 years later, to carry me through the grief of her loss?

I have never followed my families faith, I ran from it. There were very deep unconscious fears I carried in being “Jewish.” I had an early experience with anti-semitism that brought that unconscious knowing to the surface. I was only 13 and working in a bakery, when I came to understand…”It’s not safe.”

Each year at this time, I light my menorah in honor of my ancestors and especially my mother, as the “tradition,” was so important to her. I’ve found a song on YouTube-complete with phonics-that I can sing when I light the candles, which helps me to feel some connection to my relations and to the process. I didn’t have official candles last night, but I was compelled to follow through with the ritual, so I lit a tea light and placed it in front of the menorah.

In my life I have embraced many forms of spirituality and have woven them into my daily life. My altar is fluid and ever changing. To those of you who celebrate-and for those who may not-let their be light and peace for all around the globe

Here is the video for those who might like to sing along.

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Dec 03

Healing Hearts with Horses: Veterans & PTSD. |elephant journal

© 2013 Sheri Gaynor.com

Today’s Bliss: My elephant journal story has been published. In light of the state of our world today, this story was written from my heart and soul.

Today I invite you to look up. Look a stranger in the eye. They may have a story to share with you….

If you like the story, please share. The more shares I receive, the better it’s chances to be on their main page. What the world needs now…is LOVE…sweet LOVE.

Excerpt:

This week I had—what can only be described as—a spirit-driven encounter with a veteran. In my work with horses, I have had the great privilege and honor to work with veterans at two of the therapeutic riding centers I’ve worked at—in both Colorado and California. Read more…

Posted in Equine Facilitated Learning and Growth, Gratitude, Lessons from Life's Highways, Today's Awakening, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
Nov 24

Healing Hearts with Horses – PTSD and Veterans

I found the video in this post today and it brought me to tears. This week I had what can only be described as a Spirit driven encounter with a veteran. In my work with the horses, I have had the great privilege and honor to work with Veterans at two of the therapeutic riding centers I have worked with both in Colorado and here in California.

There is something incredibly humbling about standing with these men and women who have served our country and to be witness to the deep pain and suffering they now live with as a result. The horrors of war embodied and realized.

This week I went to the market to pick up a couple of things. I don’t typically park directly in front of the store, but today I did and I noticed a beautiful Native man sitting on the ledge of a mechanical toy horse, dressed in a blue checked, button down shirt and khaki pants. By his side was a speckled companion, a mix of red, white and blue. True. I was compelled to look into his eyes and say hello as I walked into the store. He didn’t ask for anything, he just looked back at me, smiled and said hello.

As I walked out carrying my arugula and yellow pepper he rose and walked toward me and said, “You work with horses?” A shiver went up my spine. “Yes I do,” I responded wondering how on earth he knew that. “I saw the medicine stick on your dashboard. I am a war Veteran, a Navajo and I used to work and train horses on the reservation.” Interestingly, the medicine stick is something I created during a one day vision quest with Huichol Shaman, Tom Soloway Pinkson. It is wrapped with turkey feathers and brightly colored yarn and with horse hair from both Annie Two-Moons my first horse and DreamWeaver Sunday, the mare I partner with now.

More shivers.

We began a conversation, human to human, eye to eye, and as I began to truly see him, I noticed that his khakis were stained and worn, revealing a much different story then I’d first imagined. His story poured out, a veteran of the Kuwait war, “The first war,” he said. He shared that he suffers from PTSD and has been trying to keep his life together-sometimes successfully, other times not. He had just returned from an attempt back on the reservation and has come back to California to be near his adopted “anglo,” grandmother, who walked out of the store, her arms full of food she handed to him.

“My dog helps, he keeps me sane and safe. His name is Yodi,” he said.

We talked for awhile about his life with the horses, the Navajo dialect interspersed as he spoke. He shared how it’s been hard to get a lot of support from the VA and that he’s determined to stay healthy “this time.”

It was hard to keep the tears from rising. I felt incredible compassion for this soul.

I told him about my work with the Veterans at the riding center where I work part time and the transformations I’d seen occur, as they were seen unconditionally through the eyes of a horse. I wrote down the name of the center for him on a piece of paper and handed it to him. He looked down at the page and said, “Oh, I was supposed to go there last week with the other Veterans and I could not get over the Bay bridge.” And sure enough, we did have veterans out to the center the week before.

I gave him the phone number to the center and invited him to call to see if we could set him up with some support and time with the herd. I pray he takes the step. As I began to turn to walk away he took a step toward me outstretching his arms in an offering. I stepped toward him receiving the warmest hug I’ve had in a long time. He thanked me, and I thanked him. This was an intimate exchange of humanity.

I watched him walk away, red, white and blue, prancing proudly by his side, thanking Spirit for bringing this gift of love, compassion into my day.

You Tube Video of the Program: Saratoga War Horse

 

Posted in Awakenings, Equine Facilitated Learning and Growth, Gratitude, Lessons from Life's Highways, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Nov 19

The Coat of Many Colors…A Short Story for Your Day…

The Jester

He glides through the town with the greatest of ease, an urban bedouin, a bull dog bedecked in a jesters collar, his faithful companion. His bi-wheel chariot, both abode and transport, a mystical delight, draped in royal purple, pinks, flowers, glitter and anything he might find, that shimmers in the days sun. He is Joseph embodied in his amazing technicolor dreamcoat, worn flamboyantly in warm weather or cold; his velvet multi-colored crown bespeckled in diamonds and tiny bells which jingle in time, as his gnarled hands strum his banjo. Deeply etched lines map his face, betraying his years and a journey I will never know; yet have a deep yearning to comprehend.

He cares for his dog, with the kind of tenderness reserved for our beloveds. On the days the journey is long, the jester is seen riding proudly in the chariot fast asleep, as his master navigates their destiny. On rain soaked days, his four-legged friend is lovingly adorned in rain gear fashioned from plastic bags, secured with colorful ribbon. Each time I see them, I am transfixed in wonderment and on the days our paths don’t cross, I find myself questioning their whereabouts and praying for their safety.

I call him The Magid. Anointed before I knew the true meaning of the word. It came to me the first time I saw them; I thought it meant magician. I recently came to know the actual definition and it took my breath away: “Magid (or Maggid) is a Hebrew word, it is used as a term in Kabbalah describing the Jewish communication with God, whereby an angel or the soul of a saint who died, reveals a living mystical experience, via a dream or a daydream, usually resulting from using magical means.”

Each town and city has them, unconventional spirits whose stories we may never know. Many of us chose to look away, the clashing of values and culture too difficult to abide. The stories I create in my mind about The Magid bear the fruit of a wild-hearted soul, living authentically outside the lines and have offered me the opportunity to question my own. Perhaps someday I will gather the courage to look in his eyes, sit by his side, say thank you and ask, “Will you tell me your story?”

Posted in Creativity, Lessons from Life's Highways, Today's Awakening, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
Nov 16

Today’s Awakening: A New Day Rises

Rooster crows
pink light weaves through dark green pine boughs,
Mist leaves her dew on the frost covered ground
soaking my boots and soul,
The smell of hay and earth fills the air
as steam rushes from wild nostrils,
A new morning, a new day rises
©2015sherigaynor.com

All Photographs ©2015 www.sherigaynor.com

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