Paula is a contributing blogger to Women Move it Forward. For additional inspiring blogs from other contributors go to the Women Move it Forward blog site
Paula is a contributing blogger to Women Move it Forward. For additional inspiring blogs from other contributors go to the Women Move it Forward blog site
Recently, I was feeling puny from an ordinary head cold. I am not usually much of a fan of TV, but I found myself watching a children’s film, Charlotte’s web. Based on the children’s novel by E. B. White, the story is about Charlotte the spider, who befriends Wilber the spring pig. Wilber is more than ordinary, he is a runt. Clever Charlotte spins words into her web, to make the locals view Wilber in a much higher manner than becoming bacon at the smokehouse. The whole rural community is touched by the magic. By the end of the story, it makes everyone in the community including the barn animals a little more thoughtful and kinder. As the credits were rolling, Sarah MacLachlan sings a beautiful song titled “Ordinary Miracle.”
Hence the inspiration for this blog, as the song captures just how miraculous everyday life can be. The spider’s web is a symbol of connection. If we are mindful, we can begin to see how we creatively and intricately weave the webs of our lives.
If we are aware and present, we can often catch breathtaking glimpses in nature of ordinary miracles. Oh yes, I could list them endlessly here- but perhaps it would be better if you pondered some of your own.
Humans, too, can touch our lives with ordinary miracles. Last summer I picked a friend up from Union Station. She came loaded down with luggage. She is petite and I had an injured shoulder. We had several blocks to walk to catch the light Rail (public transportation) here in Denver. I literally prayed out loud for help, because I did not know how we would negotiate with me being injured and all her luggage. Dragging heavy luggage up and down the steps seemed out of the realm of possibilities. I even chewed my friend out a little. Miraculously, young strong guys appeared at every precarious place to assist us. No one even seemed irritated at our slow progress. The final test was in the parking garage, as even with two of us working on it together, I wasn’t sure we could master lifting the one overfilled large suitcase up into my jeep. A young man actually ran across the parking deck to assist. In one hefty swoop he grabbed the bag and had it stowed. He barely stopped long enough for us to thank him.
I have to say, I was fairly awestruck that day that a simple prayer of desperation led to a team of earthly angels manifesting to help.
During this often stressful season of hustle and bustle take a few moments to experience an ordinary miracle. Better than that, add to your list a way of being an ordinary miracle for someone else this season. It may even be an invisible act. After all it is the season of sharing. You never know how you might touch a complete stranger’s life by being a little more thoughtful or kind. Allow your inner light to shine even brighter as we await the New Year, and the return of ordinary daylight and warmth. My wish for you is that you give and receive an ordinary miracle. After all did not an ugly spider and a runty pig become steadfast friends? Really, wasn’t that extra-ordinary?
As I have been writing this, a spider has been crawling and hanging around on the screen outside the window. Her message is: “Be mindful of the web your words weave. Use them wisely and constructively, to make intricate connections.” AHO!
Up until a few weeks ago, this has been a year of grace for me personally. I was enjoying life and things were going well. However, it does not mean that I am insensitive to the many natural disasters and other horrific events going on including the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and political unrest and undertones of war. It seems a huge cataclysmic time of change and transition.
I began to find myself mentally trying to make sense of it all, trying to find the meaning. Projecting my spirit outwards to a time of looking back to see what lessons as humankind we need to learn and what the eventual positive outcome might be. I began looking for whatever would distract me. One newscaster said after the Vegas incident that it often takes the worst things to bring out the best in humans. One survivor in Puerto Rico said the island looked as if were destroyed in nuclear war. Why can’t we humans always bring forth our best? Why it is world leaders think weaponry and displays of power is a solution? I am not looking for debate or even simple solutions.
I have tried every coping skill I have in the past weeks. Even though life in general for me is going well- I do not want to be in my body right now. This became evident when first I took a nasty fall at 5:00 in the morning nearly breaking two toes and smashing my knee on concrete. One week later in a freak accident while turning out horses at a local rescue, I got between a panicked horse and fence and was kicked just above my ankle. My lower leg is twice the size and incredible hues of black, purple, green and yellow. It blistered and has been oozing at the actual kick site. I did not even shed a tear. I just continued to push through my pain, because others were suffering so much more. Is the instability in this world affecting me and being reflected in my own personal instability? I certainly feel out of balance. Perhaps I could just rationalize it off as my balance is impacted by my aging body. Is my body saying “slow down?” I have been feeling frantic with no real explanation. Pushing how I was feeling away, denial, distractions, feeling powerless, physical, mental and emotional pain became overwhelming. I decided to be mindful about it and sit with it. Knowing answers may not come- but feeling it anyway.
I remembered a beautiful Buddhist chant: The Great Bell Chant (The End of Suffering) with words read by Thich Nhat Hanh.
May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos, even in the darkest spots. Living beings are able to hear it clearly so that all suffering in them cease, understanding comes to their heart, and they transcend the path of sorrow and death.
I spent Sunday morning listening to this video on YouTube over and over. The chant became my prayer. I turned the volume up. I began to release the deep sorrow I felt over the suffering. I felt the pain in my body, my heart, my mind and in my spirit. I felt pain for Mother Earth. I felt pain for humanity. I feel pain for this great transition. I felt how deeply I wanted the whole scheme of things to be released from suffering. I felt sorrow for my friend who is healing from severe childhood abuse and neglect. I feel deeply for a client diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel for those seeking relief from the anguish of mental health issues. I have a dear friend in crisis over her faith due to being overwhelmed with caregiving. I have been sick at heart with my experiences at the horse rescue over the horses that end up with kill buyers to be shipped across the border to become meat. What little I do, holding space seems like such a tiny drop in the bucket. It is not enough! I have briefly touched some of the darkest places in the cosmos. I have seen/ experienced transcendence. I seek the highest possible outcome for those who suffer.
Feeling deeply leads to compassion, hope and faith. Only then could I return to my belief in the cosmos and the beauty and value of this planet and all beings. My spirit refuses to give up on concepts like understanding comes to their heart, they transcend, humans can gain a higher consciousness and find deeper meaning and value life and the gifts of this planet. Perhaps one day higher understanding will penetrate deeply to the darkest spots of the cosmos. Staying present and looking for the minute things in each perfect moment counts. Manifesting for the highest good could become realized.
Sunday afternoon we went out in the warm fall sunshine to visit our rescue horse that we have boarded on a 100 acre pasture. I noticed migrating butterflies on late blooms. I smelled the pine trees and turning leaves. Nature helped me to transcend the pain in my leg as I hobbled the mile on the dirt track to find our rescue horse. She was calm and responsive that day in her new surroundings. I felt gratitude and relief. The afternoon was breathtakingly beautiful with the bright blue sky above us. Each season reminds us of transitions. I found myself once again offering up prayers that this season of instability and cataclysmic change will be completed with kindness and grace and the highest healing of powers- love.
Compassion is part of my nature. It seems that I am being asked recently, to reach even deeper within myself to discover a more expansive aspect of compassion. In some situations, I do not have any solutions. I am to show up in love, with no agenda and no perception of outcome. The challenge is to show up with immense love, knowing that the healing will come from a higher source.
The challenge is also, that these situations are giving ME a valuable GIFT by being in my presence. The challenge is me practicing extreme patience and dropping any sort of judgment at all. I am to feel the struggles and the pain, even the futility. I am to remember that the wrapping is not important- it is finding the gift inside.
I have always said that in my coaching work, I do what shows up for me. I am called to do what I do, and it is Spirit driven. I was given a gift of grace earlier this year when a horse showed up that needed some healing and also by her presence offered healing for the hole left in my heart and my herd. I thought it was complete.
Yet Spirit has been sending subtle messages about another horse at a nearby rescue, Drifter’s Hearts of Hope. I am so frustrated by what I can’t do- I can’t bring her home- the limit is four horses here. I can’t incorporate her in my herd. I can’t afford too many expenses, like paying board elsewhere. (HEAVY SIGH). “Candy” the teenage Appaloosa mare is lame with navicular (inflammation in the heel bones of her front feet) and not rideable. She is out on a large acreage pasture and does not want to be haltered. She is a self-preservationist, and is hesitant to trust. I have no idea if she really wants to be a coaching/healing horse. That is quite a new concept to her. Perhaps a friend and companion horse, once she learns to trust? It is an unknown at this time.
By divine chance the other day, while I was at the rescue for an entirely different reason, I ran into one of her advocates (Gina). Overnight, my heart was moved from the frustration of what I can’t do- to a place that says- yes, this horse deserves a chance. Feel for others, and do what you can. I have some time, I have some limited funds, I have lots of experience with these kinds of horses. She wants to live, her pain is manageable. Candy deserves a chance to know that there are humans out there that are kind and gentle and who want to connect with her. There are humans that have her best interest in heart. What Candy has done in a matter of a few days has created a connection with me and her friend and advocate at the rescue. I believe in both of them! I just need to show up in support and immense love for both of them, even though I don’t have solutions, and can’t say what the outcome might be. I will partner with both of them offering support and help out financially where I can. Candy has begun to create her advocacy team. She must be very special to have so many each contributing in ways that they can. Hopefully she will one day respond, to the many that are holding out hope for her.
What might seem like tiny increments of progress for her viewed from a different perspective are actually huge steps. I felt honored when she approached me the first day. The next time we hung out in the pasture. I briefly got to touch her as we shared the same space. Day three of contact, she said no to brushing and haltering- but with horse cookies I was able to touch her nose, face, forehead, poll and stroke down her neck. She hangs out and has not run off- even though she could. Candy had to be convinced with a catch pen for haltering. Even after that she refused to let me attach a lead rope to the halter out in the pasture. But she will soon learn that no harm will come to her.
Out of the “challenge of compassion” I have committed to becoming part of her visionary team. I have been in this position in so many ways with humans and horses before. I have been given valuable gifts in these situations previously and I am so excited for Candy and the new connections being created. I am humbled and grateful that this horse is getting a second chance. It is more frustration than magic right now. Only time will tell with her.
As part of my usual coaching with clients, I had the client make contact, or connect by “Being” with the four horses. I often ask the client for their intuitive insights on the horses. I asked the client what she got, if anything from Shadow. She stated “Not much, he seems stand offish.” I gently asked if she ever feels that way. She replied yes that she did. I then asked her why the horse might appear to be stand offish. She answered quite quickly, “for self-protection.” The client was absolutely correct in her observation.
A Mustang is a wild roaming horse in a herd management area overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, a government agency. The BLM periodically rounds up the wild horses and removes some of the younger ones. From there they are placed in holding pens. Some of the once wild ones are placed up for adoption. Many are shipped across the border for slaughter.
Shadow was saddle trained and socialized through the Colorado Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP). The inmates gave him a job to do, so that he might have a better chance at adoption. If a wild horse is passed over three times in adoption opportunities, it is basically the three strike law. Three strikes and you are out. Shadow is typical of a small, 14 hand bay Mustang. Not flashy to look at. He does have a beautiful, glorious mane and tail. He can be ridden, but suffers extreme anxiety when taken away from his herd. That behavior is quite typical of a horse that depends on his herd for survival. Survival instincts are deeply ingrained in the DNA of wild horses.
We are Shadow’s third set of guardians. Somewhere, his trust in humans was broken. Perhaps the very day he was taken out of the wild and from his herd and came to live in the world with humans who asked him to do what he could not quite comprehend.
In Gestalt Theory terms, the shadow side is what humans do to survive that they might not like about themselves. The shadow side is not looked at as the dark side, but a more neutral position. Perhaps more like poor coping choices. The Shadow horse in our little herd portrays a profound role. People feel rejected by him. He causes clients to dig deep into their shadow part. It is often our background stuff that continues to show up in our current lives.
My first encounter with The Shadow Horse provoked my shadow. I approached him one day after spreading the hay out. I gently reached up to pat him on his shoulder and say good morning, a ritual I usually do every morning with the horses. Shadow is food aggressive. He pinned his ears and flung his head at me and nearly bit me. Out of reflex, I hit him hard in the shoulder with my balled up fist. I shouted at him that he should never do that again. Afterwards I felt guilty. I spent the next several weeks asserting myself and moving him off his hay, then allowing him to eat peaceably. Our ritual for the past four years every morning is for me to stroke his shoulder and tell him I love him. He has never done that again. We have come a long way.
My horses work as a herd with clients. I never know when Shadow will show up- but he often does. He supports the work in incredible ways. I will never forget the client who was working on some deeply entrenched family issues. In the round pen first Shadow plodded behind her as she walked. Then she invited him to walk beside her- essentially inviting her Shadow side to walk with her. By the end of our work, I asked her to do an exercise. The client said no, and proceeded to do things her way. She turned around and walked backwards. As she walked backwards, Shadow placed his nose near her chest and walked with her. When she turned, she faced her shadow! They were no longer at odds. It was deeply integrative work. She faced her shadow that symbolically weighed about 900 pounds. She came to terms with why she made certain choices in life, the sacrifices she made due to her deeply entrenched beliefs regarding her family. She appeared to come to terms with her shadow side. She had chosen to do things her way. It was very evident to me, and I applauded her for doing things her way.
I had a client recently who refused to make friends with her shadow side, preferring the polarity, possibly wanting to annihilate her shadow side. I was ok with that, because that was truly where she was at in that given moment. Her shadow side had given her much trouble. But I think she became much more aware of how she felt.
By the following day, I fully realized how my silly Shadow Horse reflects my shadow side back to me. He is a reminder. I understand why he is the way he is. I have chosen to love him anyway. My life has also been deeply troubled. I have realized that it became part of me, and now I am able to use painful life experiences to assist others including having a deep understanding of The Shadow Horse. He plays a perfect role in this healing herd.
I do not know if the Shadow Horse will ever come to truly trust me, or ever see his incredible work as anything more than that- just work. I have come to understand what a gift he bestows on me and others, when he does connect, when he offers a little affection, when he allows me to halter him without running off. Shadow has some stomach issues as he holds things inside as do I. He had an eye infection at the same time I was having issues with my third eye also known as intuition. For two weeks I had to catch a resistive horse and apply ointment to his eye. What fun struggling with 900 pounds of resistance! The Vet had to come out a second time and clean and drain the long tube from his eye duct that drains down the length of his nose. Sedation required! But after all that, the Vet even noticed how compliant Shadow got with daily handling. The don’t mess with my head horse now enjoys gentle stroking of his face. How odd that whatever was messing with my head and blocking my intuition also cleared up over time. Last summer, when we had to release our beautiful horse Firefly from the physical realm, Shadow called and screamed all afternoon. I could not release the grief from my heart, but every shriek he made cut me to the core. I finally went outside and had a very stern talk with him and asked him to stop because it was upsetting me so much. After the stern talk, I became aware that he was doing exactly as I felt and that I was too reserved to show it. So I then told him to go ahead and scream, because it was exactly how I felt!
I honor the Shadow Horse. He reflects back to me that which I want hidden. Yet when those things are exposed, it provides a greater opportunity for the light to shine. Perhaps the lesson is that one must learn to love the shadow as well as the light.