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A Transformative Experience at the Spirit Equine Workshop

By Jeri Lilly, Business Development Liaison at The Meadows

Last week I was given the opportunity to participate in the Spirit: A Somatic Equine Workshop, offered at The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows. The Spirit workshop uses Somatic Experiencing® (SE), mindfulness, and horsemanship to heal trauma and relational disruptions.

I signed up for the 3-day workshop and took an extended weekend trip to Arizona. I arrived just before sunrise the first morning and drove into the ranch. As I watched the sun come up over the mountains, I experienced one of the most majestic and peaceful mornings I have had in years.

A Safe and Natural Place for Healing

The landscape and the natural setting set the tone for the entire workshop. Although we were working with pain and trauma from our past and present there was still a solid foundation of comfort and protection. I believe the physical environment and the skills of the workshop leaders, Colleen DeRango and Buddy Uldrikson, were the reasons I felt so safe.

Colleen is a gifted therapist and natural healer. Buddy is a steady and insightful horseman and therapist with many wise observations. You can tell that they both have a passion for what they do; you felt that they wanted to be there with you through every step of the process. They provided guidance through each part of each day.

The Power of Somatic Experiencing® and Equine Assisted Therapy

I have heard and read about Somatic Experiencing® and even attended a couple of Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) sessions prior to this intensive. I enjoyed equine therapy and believe that the horses have a unique connection with humans that show the participant and the clinician so much more in a shorter amount of time than can be understood with many other traditional forms of therapy. I had no idea of what to expect when the two were combined.

In the beginning, I had difficulty using imagery and guided meditation to connect to my emotions and physical being. Once I stepped into the arena with my horse and began incorporating SE with EAP that all changed. I was shocked at how effective it was for me. I tapped into a place in my past that I hadn’t been able to access using my mind alone. I have always felt it, struggled with it and acted upon it in ways that I either couldn’t understand or haven’t been able to correct on my own.

Uncovering and Alleviating Your Pain

As we started working with the horse and SE I felt a physical pain that I often feel at times of high emotion and stress. Colleen DeRango explained the three areas of the body that hold physical pain from certain types of childhood trauma. I have had physical problems with all three areas of my body throughout the course of my life. Until I attended the workshop, I had been given no real lasting resolution or explanation from any doctors I have seen.

I also learned that self regulating systems can become deregulated when people aren’t able to fully express their response to traumatic experiences. For me, this was childhood trauma that occurred when I didn’t feel that I had a voice. I have experienced negative responses to trauma (anxiety, shame and aggression) that I learned can result from denying the body the opportunity to fully process the traumatic event. For me, this experience and explanation was the first thing to ever make all of the pieces of the puzzle fit: physical, mental and emotional. Saying that it was an incredible weekend does not fully do justice to my experience.

Another amazing component of this workshop was being able to experience it with a small group of other people who had gone through similar life events. I felt a deeper healing in being able to support and reflect while receiving the same from the group. It created a bond and sense of belonging that was an irreplaceable piece of my healing weekend.

I take away much positivity, healing, and understanding and I feel better physically and emotionally. I am eternally grateful for my time spent in Wickenburg with Colleen, Buddy, and my new friends.

Last modified on %AM, %18 %686 %2015 %10:%Dec

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