Got a splinter in your contentment?

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One of the projects now on the boards (and as yet to be officially named, but springboarding from the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat we had last spring at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa), is programming (some combination of live events and online/downloadable coursework) geared toward using horses and a series of reflective exercises (including some of those introduced in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses) to help people in transition to build self-awareness, identify obstacles and solutions, and create a plan for moving forward with authenticity to find the fulfillment they’re looking for.

People ask me all the time exactly how it is that horses, of all things, can help people in this way. For people who haven’t spent much time around horses, it may seem ludicrous that a big “dumb” animal can open such doors to insight in the types of unmounted exercises known as “equine assisted learning (EAL).”

For those who may have heard of equine therapies, including therapeutic riding and equine assisted therapy, their understanding limits this idea to addressing serious physical, mental and emotional challenges. Far different, but in a few ways similar to equine assisted therapy, equine assisted learning is a wonderfully effective tool for developing the self awareness that can help us address any sort of dissatisfaction in our lives — and to help us identify and acquire the tools we need to move forward on whatever brings us joy and contentment — at any age or stage.  “It’s kind of like when you have a splinter, ‘” one friend summarized recently as the distinction became clear to her. “You wouldn’t go to a surgeon to get it removed. You’d go find a mom with a pair of tweezers.”

We’ve decided we want to be that mom with the tweezers.

Pooling the combined wisdom and resources of key members of the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats team, we want to share what we’re learning to help others get “unstuck” when life shifts happen. And, the more we learn about this process and the results it can yield to shore us up and move us forward through the more ordinary kinds of ennui that besets all of us from time to time —  especially in the face of transition — we’re more convinced than ever of the good horses can do if we’ll just open ourselves to the process.

“True equine therapy occurs when people learn to extend the fundamental principles of horsemanship to the rest of their life,” says Deborah McCormick, PhD, co-author of Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path. “Horses show us with their behavior how we need to fine-tune in ourselves in order to achieve that balance and internal harmony we’re all looking for.” Deborah, along with her mother, Adele von Rust McCormick, PhD and her late father, Tom McCormick, MD, are the founders of Hacienda Tres Aguilas — The Equine Experience™ and the Institute for Conscious Awareness (ICA), a non-profit organization devoted to human development, advancement and leadership in which they pioneered the use of horses in psychiatric treatment and psychodynamic therapies.

By becoming aware of the basics of herd behavior, and then observing how horses interact with us in a series of non-riding exercises, we see in very concrete terms how we may be getting in our own way without even realizing it. When there’s inconsistency between what we want and how we behave, a horse will make this obvious in very concrete terms. For example, a horse may invade the personal space of someone who struggles with setting and enforcing boundaries; he’ll likely take a much wider circle around someone who is more skilled at holding the line. (When you watch a 1000-pound animal act out what’s going on inside of you, you can’t help but get the point!)  As we learn how to observe and learn from this revealing dynamic, we begin to ask ourselves the important questions:

Why is the horse doing that?

What is my first impulse in response?

How does this interaction (or lack of) mirror other relationships/situations in my life?

From there, we begin to build your toolbox. How you use your tools and what you build from this experience is limited only by the edges of your imagination and your willingness to “go deep” in order to achieve the life satisfaction that may have given you the slip.  If you’d like to know more about this program as it evolves, or if you would like to apply to participate in one of our test groups, please email me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

Last call! Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s retreat registration closes at midnight tonight with only four spots left to fill!

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If you’ve been sitting on the fence, thinking the Dust Off Your dreams Retreat sounds really good, but for whatever reason you haven’t signed up yet, stop reading right now and click here to register before it’s too late — registration closes at midnight tonight! (But the retreat’s still a month away!)
After our onsite dry run last week on our slate of activities for the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat April 13-15 at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham Texas, this dynamic team of presenters was simply giddy. We knew what we wanted this thing to be, and I think for the first time we all fully realized how well it has all come together — and what a fantastically cool thing we’re offering women at this pivotal time of life — and how much truly usable life-and-awareness changing insight people are  going to get out of it.
That is, of course, if they’ll just find some way to stop their busy-ness for just a few days, grab a friend and come! I know, this is easy to say  — and I’m the worst saw sharpener you’ll even meet (remember that old Steven Covey analogy about the guy too busy sawing with the dull saw to stop and sharpen it?)
And, believe me, I KNOW it can be difficult, especially when we’re busy attending to the day-to-day urgencies of our life, to make time for self-renewal. To really believe our dreams are worth this kind of investment. But they are. And so are you.
It’s hard to imagine the difference just a brief weekend focusing on what brings you joy and how to get more of it into your life can make. But trust us. This is a weekend that could make an incredible and joyful difference in how you approach the “patchwork squares” still waiting to be filled for Part Two of your life.
So this is it. Last call for the April 2012 Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat. We built it — y’all come!
And if you’re interested but for whatever good reason are not able to attend this one, I’d still love to hear from you. Maybe you’re not quite ready to drag those old dreams back into daylight. Maybe the issue is time, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s a schedule conflict — or maybe it’s that laundry basket of feral Dachsund puppoes in your utility room. Whatever the reason, if this retreat concept is something that interests you, please let us know.
We’ll be doing more Dust Off Your Dreams events of all shapes and sizes around these topics, and we’d love some input and feedback from like-minded women. If you’d like to be on our email list for future programs and events (and to receive our free e-book of inspirations!) click here to go to our home page (scroll over to the box just to the right of the video) and enter your email address!
Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

Sometimes horses are horses. Sometimes, they’re much, much more.

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Click on the cover to order now

There’s something new bubbling up about this book that tickles me even more than its escalating holiday sales.

Beyond hearing from all sorts of people who have purchased several copies to give as gifts to their horse friends, what’s surprising and maybe even more gratifying is when I hear of people who aren’t middle-aged women or don’t have horses who read this book (usually either because they know me or someone else whose story is in the book) and exclaim, “This is a great book for anyone, whether or not you have, like, or want horses — and whether or not you’re a woman!

This puzzled me at first. I realize, of course, that getting a horse at this time of life does tend to upend everything you’ve come to count on as “normal,”  and and the experience does cause you to look at many things in your life differently. Often, our emerging authenticity and “inner lead mare” authority (our horses are SO good at helping us find, regardless of whether we thought we wanted to look for it) does paves the way for different choices and a more engaged and joyful life. This, sisters, is the gift of  Midlife Horses. (Click here to view the  new trailer  that will tell you more about  this unique journey.)

But then one of of these non-horsey, non-middle-aged-woman readers explained to me that since the book touches on so many of the issues we all face in midlife (whether or not we have the horse thing going on), the book provides a framework, using horses as a metaphor, for examining these issues in the light of any dream or passion we’ve let slip to the wayside. As the last group of Boomers to cross the center threshold of our lives, it is important and natural to go back and revisit those things that once made our heart sing and see if there’s something there we’d like to do again while we still can.

I’d love to know more about how The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses is starting to reach beyond the barn and into the hearts of anyone who wants to dust off a dream and discover a new path to living more fully in the second half of life. Post a comment here, join us on Facebook, or tweet your thoughts when you see this topic pop up on my Twitter feed.

 

And above all, to anyone out there thinking about dusting off an old dream,

Happy Trails!