2023 - September - Centered - Arriving Where I Started
I love the T.S. Eliot quote, from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
That is what my personal spiritual journey feels like. I continually arrive back to me, where I started, but know me as if I’m me for the first time. And when I’m open to receive this spiritual exploration, guides often appear to help me on my journey, sometimes in unexpected places. Such as horses in fields.
Throughout my life, I’ve had frightening experiences with horses on trail rides. So when Equus life coach, Erika Isler, invited me to spend two hours with her and a few horses at Buffalo Run Farm, I was anxious, but something in me knew I had to explore this opportunity. (Full disclosure: Erika is also the founding editor of this publication and former editor of our sister publication, State College Magazine.)
Erika and I met near the barns and started walking to the fields where the horses were grazing. While we walked, I explained to Erika my previous horse experiences. After listening to my stories, Erika used her calming presence and caring words to allay many of my fears. Soon we arrived at the gate to the fields, Erika opened it, and we entered and crossed the threshold into the horses’ domain.
There were five male horses eating grass up on the hill in the field. Two pairs, and one horse off by himself. We walked toward them, stopped when we were about 50 feet away, and stood watching. Erika asked me which horse I was I drawn to. I quickly said, “The one off by himself.” She asked why and I answered, “Because I feel sorry for him. Maybe he’s being ostracized.” Erika asked which horse I was least drawn to. I pointed to one of the others and Erika again asked why. I replied, “Because he’s walking around a lot, stomping his hooves, and shaking his head.”
Erika and I stood a little longer and the horse I was least attracted to, the rambunctious one, came over to us (of course it had to be that one!). I was a little afraid, but Erika put out her hand and the horse put his mouth on it. I offered my hand and the horse did the same with mine. I felt his teeth and the inside of his mouth. Erika then invited me to put my hand on the horse’s shoulder. I did, although at an angle that kept most of me as far away as possible from the horse.
Soon after, the lone horse took off running down the hill and the rest followed. I wondered out loud to Erika if perhaps the lone horse wasn’t being ostracized after all, but was instead the leader.
We followed the horses down the hill and watched them as they again separated into the same pairs in shade shelters, while the lone horse stood outside in the sun on his own. Erika suggested we spend some time with the lone horse. We walked closer to him, stopped, and he walked over to us. He started to repeatedly nudge the quad muscle area of my right leg — coincidentally where I had been having some sacral iliac issues. I placed my hand on his shoulder and told Erika he felt calm and confident. Erika then confirmed that the lone horse was in fact the leader of this group of five. My initial “story” about the horse was wrong. Erika continued, explaining the intuitive and nonjudgmental nature of horses. My comfort level was increasing.
We walked back to the two pairs and again stood and watched. The rambunctious one and his buddy came over to us. Feeling braver myself, I started interacting with the rambunctious one. I petted him for a bit, standing much closer than before. However, eventually he started pushing me around with his head, harder and harder. Feeling my bravery, I placed my hand, palm forward, straight up in front of his face in a stopping posture. We both stopped. A shift occurred. There was silence and a pause. Erika said, “Something just happened.” I turned to her with tear-filled eyes. “Yes it did,” I said without even knowing what it was.
The two horses walked away as Erika and I stood watching them. The rambunctious horse went over to a dusty spot in the field, laid down on the ground, and rolled around.
This was not an action to be taken lightly. Erika explained that her Native American mentor believes horses do this to release energy into the earth. Erika has only seen it happen on a few occasions. Before I had words for it, I could tell some energy had been released in me and this horse’s actions affirmed it.
Our two hours were coming to an end and Erika invited me to spend some time by myself with the lone horse. I petted, spoke to, and placed my head to his. I felt this message rise inside, “I have a calm, confident presence within me.”
Leaving the field and closing the gate behind us, Erika and I walked back to our cars. She gifted me with a small journal to write down notes from my visit. We said our goodbyes, and I got into my car, turned off the music, and drove home in silence. There was a lot moving for me.
I’ve continued to process that exploring experience and two lessons emerged. One, like my interaction with the rambunctious horse, when people frighten me and try to push me around, I can simply say stop and let it end there. I don’t need to create a story in my head how I was right and the other person was wrong, or complain to others to receive affirmation for my actions. And two, like the lone horse, I too have a calm, confident presence inside of me.
It was these lessons that brought me back to me, where I started and I “knew the place for the first time.”
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA is a spiritual director, Life-Cycle Celebrant™, and end-of-life doula whose work helps people find hope, healing, and wholeness. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with Koch Funeral Home in State College, PA. Jackie can be reached at Jackie@JackieHook.com.
~ Published in the Fall 2023 issue of Centered.