The Spirit of Sea Buckthorn

* This article is dedicated to honor the earth. To the importance of Wilderness Therapy and to how the earth offers us healing in our times of need.

Here in my hand is sea buckthorn. A small and unassuming berry. We grow it on our land. A suburban plot with under an acre to work with.
The berries are teensy and they sometimes coat the trees branches in abundance and other times they hide in between the tree’s thin silver leaves. They are considered a superfood. They are positively packed with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, protein and fiber. They are said to easily rival Acai and Goji in their potency, which I will just put for reference since I imagine many of you have heard of those superfoods.

I harvested this medicine earlier this day, while the fall teased us with a crisp morning, and the red wing black birds created a cacophony of song in the trees next door.

My boys played in the flowers, looking for roly polys and squealing in their happiness. As I slowly plucked each berry from its home, my brain began to link this moment, this medicine, with my current experiences.

I am creating something new; in my business and in my life. And in this movement of growth and newness, there are losses; both expected and surprising.

(There is something so potent to behold in the little deaths that reside in all our births)

So, lately as I explore what’s next, I have attracted an interesting mix of experiences into my life. And through it all I can sense the call of something new.

As I hold these tart little berries in my hand, as my children’s voices wash over me, I am struck with two questions.

What kind of medicine do I want to bring to the world?
What kind of medicine do I want to surround myself with?

The medicine I am wanting to give and receive is not prescribed. It is not orderly.
It is natural and untamed and messy and, therefore, it is sometimes misunderstood.
It is rooted in the earth. It is ingrained in ancestry. It is fierce in its power. It is elemental.

As I look at the spaciousness suddenly appearing in my life, and as I look at the old medicines that no longer serve me, I reach for this new growth.

And this moment, in the nature of my own front yard, on a small plot of land in Colorado, this moment helped me ground into my path. As I place these berries into the basket, I breathe into the fear of the unknown and I feel myself come home into my body.

The medicine I want to bring to the world is all around me. It infuses us with the wild. The untamed. The raw and real, feet-on-the-earth, howl at the moon medicine. The balm that see the wounds in the strengths and the strengths in the wounds. The gathering that invites in the elements and busts the lid off of containment. The salve that helps shift your should’s into affirmations or washes you clean of them in the afternoon thunderstorm. The healing that delights in your mess and cherishes your realness.

The understanding that all this work we do, is always evolving and never done, and as we do it we heal the systems around us, including the earth itself.
So, here is to sea buckthorn. This year it will nourish our bodies as it inspires my movement.

My hope? When you are in a place of transition, I hope you can find the time to go into nature and get curious about what your intuition is telling you. And I hope you can trust what you hear.


Rupture and Repair

The research in neuroscience is saying that rupture is one of the most important things that can happen- because it portends repair. And repair is the point of relationship.

I love this. It means, truly, that it is OK to make mistakes, to be messy, to “mess up.” More than that, is says it is NECESSARY to do so. It is crucial that we rupture. And it is crucial we repair. A really cool point, we also don’t have to repair with the person we ruptured with!

Research says it is OK if parents have ruptures in front of their kids, as long as they also do their best to repair in front of their kids. Kids can feel and track energetic exchanges. They know when you are really present in forgiveness. So if you aren’t, well, just name your process. Some examples are “I want to be done with this, but it’s sticking in my system for some reason,” “It is hard for me to find forgiveness right now, but I know I will,” “I am going to be patient with myself while I explore what this rupture has to teach me.”

One of the really interesting things I often consider when I wonder about rupture is, How does repair look for the other person? Sometimes repair means a hug, a word, an apology. Sometimes it is an action, a chance to try again, a movement. Sometimes it is space and respect, sometimes it is being heard. The list goes on and on. It is often composed of both people’s love language. It is often more rooted in a larger repair of each individuals system. In fact, I would dare to say, that each repair we have the courage to show up for, is linked with a larger shifting of patterns in family, societal and cultural systems.
It can be easy to expect repair to be your way, when it might actually need to be done in a variety of ways.

The other night my son and I had a rupture. He snuck his meatball to the puppy, from the kitchen table. I know, I know- not a huge deal. But, I don’t like feeding dogs from the table. I think its bad manners for both the dog and the person. I know this maybe makes me sound pretentious, but its the truth. :).
But, that’s not my rupture. My rupture was that he was sneaking it. And he wouldn’t have told me if I hadn’t caught him. He would have let me believe he had eaten it so he could have dessert. My rupture was the deception.

I have a trigger around deception. And I know that. Also, it was the end of a day of parenting and I was taxed out. So I asked for my husbands help, to help me keep my response and the repair clean. My husband helped create an experience that allowed me to have what I needed, an acknowledgement and an apology. Then- here is the really cool part- he also helped my son have what he needed, which was a re-do.
This was an incredibly important moment in my learning as a parent, because when my son asked for another meatball, I had a moment, when I was not fully in my adult brain. In this moment I did not want to let him eat more food. I felt tense and resistant and almost got stuck in the tenseness. There was a sheen of righteousness to my feelings, and a tightness to what I “expected” the repair to look like.
I recognized this tensing in my body and thoughts. I named it to myself, and I took a breath. As my breath moved through my body with intention, I was able to recognize my resistance and in turn, I could recognize my sons offer of repair.
As I did that, these new thoughts came into my system.

How am I to determine what his repair looks like?

How can I expect him to offer me repair, but not offer him his choice of repair?

The only way I can navigate this is by hearing what he needs to integrate and process his experience. He also gets to repair, and his repair right now is the chance to try again.

He ate his extra meatballs with gusto and expressed his apology again, unprompted. We truly repaired. Not just an “I am sorry- How can I help”— but a deeper connection of our nervous systems. We sat together, and talked. We explored what sneaking means and when it might be “fun,” and when it might be “mean” or an untruth.

This moment. This one tiny moment, brought all this up for me.

So, cheers to rupture.

And to all the different movements of repair.

My hope is that repair is possible for you. That you are able to recognize which relationships create ease around repair, and which ones are sticky. And, that all parties needs can be seen and acknowledged in the repair.

Feed Your Herd, Feed Your Heart

*When the world gets too noisy, let’s come here. To the place where the horses graze and nudge and nicker. To where the hay sticks to your clothes and the sun shines down on grassy fields.
To the fields where we can be wholly present, where time slows down a bit and the beauty of the world comes into focus.*

The world has always been both incredibly beautiful and incredibly terrible. It has always been a masterpiece of despair and hope, a confluence of happiness and sorrow.

But, now, in today’s world we are positively inundated with information.
Research is saying that screen time is changing our brains. All of ours. Young and old alike. And one of the most interesting pieces of research says, we experience information overload from scrolling, reading the news, and answering our emails and texts. And that information overload registers in our brain as threat.
Our brain is convinced, that we are actively under threat every day because of the amount of information available to us.

It’s too much to decipher, too much to unwind.

When we believe we are under threat, the mechanisms in our brain shifts and we start to interpret the environment around us as threatening. We start to pick up on the threatening tone of the stranger walking past us, we notice the overwhelm and the difficulties of our day. We move away from connection and into protection.
We have trouble connecting to ourselves, our intuition, our decisions, our lovers, our families. Instead we protect. We turtle. We distance ourselves and isolate.

One of our biggest jobs of being human is reminding ourselves to not only track the threats. We must track the beauty. We have to work hard to choose connection.

We must dig deep into redirecting our thoughts, as if our own brains were the angsty toddler or the wild horse. Bring ourselves back into our bodies, into the moment, gently and purposefully. Remind ourselves that for every terrible thing, there is something beautiful.

Viktor Frankl is one of my absolute favorite individuals for this reminder. A man who found meaning in a death camp of the holocaust. A man who held onto hope in a situation entirely bereft of any decency. He states; “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

How can you increase your ability to track beauty? How can you trust that doing this will not threaten you- but instead will allow you to access balance in today’s very busy, very noisy world?

This Time of Intentionality

Intention matters. As a therapist, having intention and being intentional is necessary to being ethically congruent. As a mother and family member, it means presence. As an animal and land steward, it speaks to care.

However, since Covid has hit our world, intentionality seems to be getting mixed up with hyper vigilance.
These days every single thing we do has to be intentional. The days of spontaneity and frivolity seem far away.
What used to be normal, is no longer met with ease. Some of the ingrained and basic ways we used to communicate have been, irrevocably, shifted.
So, we have needed to shift our ways of relating and engaging.

And it is exhausting. Facing a new unknown each day, fueled our adrenaline and drained our nervous systems.

For a long time, we were all walking around in a state of hyper vigilance. We were constantly scanning for threats. And our brains were so keyed up to recognize threats that we started seeing them everywhere. The threats became so big, that we started persecuting each other.

“Can you believe she wears a mask everywhere!?”
“Can you believe he doesn’t?!”
“They vaccinated their children! How could they? What’s even in it?”
“They won’t get vaccinated, this is why we can’t get through this.”

It goes on. And on. And on. And even though Covid has shifted, its effects linger.

Just typing this up, makes my jaw tight. And my head hurt. It makes me angry and unsure.
(And as I name it to tame it, I breathe)

And throughout this adrenaline fueled crusading that our brains were doing, we were limited in our easy friendly connections. Our world view got smaller and smaller, as we insulated in a desire to protect ourselves. Our perspectives were shrinking and becoming more and more narrow. Causing us to believe our opinions more and more.
And, causing our flexibility to become more and more rigid. And while our connections diminished and shrunk, our access to information increased. This created a huge disruption in the balance of our systems.

As a result, we are still inundated with opinions, facts and information- and yet, we are still starving for touch, co-regulation and spontaneity.

The definition of intention is; a thing intended; an aim or plan. That lands. Almost all things these days take a plan of some kind…

But it also means; the healing process of a wound.

How beautiful is that? The healing process of a wound. So, maybe we can look at our need to be intentional as a healing process.
Let us use our intentionality to be aware of and breathe into our hyper vigilance.
Let us relax our vigilance, intentionally.
Let us create intentional spaces and in those spaces we can have spontaneity and frivolity.
Let us intentionally recognize our biases and try to balance them with compassion.
Let us notice our reactions and intentionally turn them into thoughtful responses




Equine Assisted Therapy: A Unique and Effective Intervention

Growing evidence supports the effectiveness of treatment with horses in a therapeutic environment. Studies have resulted in a body of literature supporting the therapeutic value of the human-animal interaction. Equine Assisted Therapy can help clients with depression, anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders, addiction, trauma, eating disorders, spectrum and health difficulties, dissociative disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other mental health difficulties.

Read Full Article by Azmaira H. Maker Ph.D.

How Horses Heal Our Emotional Wounds

Unlike other equine health spa programs, which focus chiefly on horseback riding, the Equine Experience offers what it says is “a program designed to help participants challenge learned behaviors, correct false beliefs, and rediscover one’s authentic self.” This is accomplished not only by interacting with horses without any riding but in short periods of time. Tasks are simple and range from getting a horse to walk from point A to B without the aid of a halter and lead rope to picking up and cleaning each of a horse’s four feet.

Read Full Article by Tim Hayes

Horses can recognise human emotion, new study shows

“…’What’s really interesting about this research is that it shows horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier. We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions,’ said Amy Smith, a doctoral student in the university’s mammal vocal communication and cognition research group…”

Read the full article written by Tim Radford

Horsing Around in Childhood Really Can Change Your Life

We all know it’s true, but now there’s proof: horses have a positive effect on children.

A study published this month in the American Psychological Association’s Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin documents work done at Washington State University (WSU). The WSU study, “Randomized Trial Examines Effects of Equine Facilitated Learning on Adolescents’ Basal Cortisol Levels” is the first evidence-based research within the field of human-equine interaction to measure a change in participants’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The study is much more than a reinforcement of the “ feel-good” benefits of being around animals. In particular, the researchers designed the study to see if there was a way their research could be utilized in the prevention of mental health problems later in life…

Read the Full Article by Fran Jurga

The Science Of The Horse-Human Heart Connection

Read the Full Article by Berenika Bratny

“…Here comes the best part. They paired people with horses and measured their HRV [heart rate variability] in the same time. The result showed that people were able to relax and change their HRV in the presence of the horse. “It appeared that each person synchronized his or her particular HRV frequency cycle to match the horse’s specific frequency cycle.”

So this is why we want their company so much, we feel a strong urge to be around them because, unconsciously, we feel they might help us with as much as our lives. They are our healers. The more stressed we are, the more we seek them. The fact that later most of us is devoured by riding, jumping, competing seems even more sad and cruel now. Cruel both to the horse, but also to the man, who went to the stable to seek help and found violence instead…”