The sky was misting that morning, releasing energy as we had as a group the past day of our retreat. We woke up to a much cooler day, less sun than prior and yet so much more life in us.
I took my orange tea out on the wooden deck, pulled my hooded raincoat over my head and began to sip. I watched as Black Jack, the black stallion, paced along the fence. The foliage peaked through the wet fog. Sip. I drank my tea, outside in the rain. I never do that. Something about the air in Vermont made me want to be outside all of the time. Any chance I got, I was taking in the environment around me and using it all as my living room. It was as if there were whispers from the air, “Get outside and absorb me.”
The rain steadily turned into larger drops and the landscape became a grey watercolor. Yoga with horses was supposed to take place that morning, but we were waiting for the weather to clear. No such luck. Amongst the group, there was a general sort of curiosity and fear when imagining doing yoga on top of a horse. Opening up as much as we already had that weekend through yoga and writing was scary to begin with, for many just getting to that retreat was pretty damn intimidating. I am not afraid of horses, nor do I fear yoga, in fact I ardently love both. But, I came to Vermont cradling a bounty of fears.
Jen Pastiloff one of our retreat leaders, a captivating woman, yoga instructor, writer and passionate beauty hunter had us write, just the day before, about our fears. Damn she’s good. The scribbles inside my notebook were proof. They reflected back to things I wasn’t willing to let go of, in fact so much so, I packed them up and schlepped them all the way to Vermont, hoping to unpack a few while I was there.
I need to let go of claiming that there is something wrong with me
I need to let go of thinking that I am a disease
That my disease defines me
I need to let go of who I think everyone wants me to be
I fear my own version of success
I am afraid of not being able to serve others with all that I have to give
I am afraid of not doing/being all of the things I am and desire to be
This chicken scratch with my pen marked a shift within. Don’t get me wrong I still have fears. I realized though that I do have the power to let them go, to direct my focus away from them and on to all that contradicts and nulls them. One woman, who I came to adore and admire while in Vermont put it perfectly,
“Fear is just a question demanding my attention.” I decided then not to give fear what it wants.
The rain steadily fell as we stood in the muddy field wrapped in our scarves and raincoats. A couple of women, including myself decided we would do yoga in any weather. A majestic Clydesdale Thoroughbred with a broad back and tenderness in her eyes greeted us in the pasture. Her name is Sheree.
The first woman took off her shoes as recommended by Gerry the ranch owner and our yoga with horses guide. I watched as she connected with the horse. The magic began as she went from seated poses like starfish, prayer and reverse prayer into fluid yoga movements. We watched in awe. We were yet to understand the experience she was having.
Until, it was my turn. Stepping onto Gerry’s knee I hoisted my right leg up and over Sheree, straddling her bare back. The rain continued to fall. Her hair was soaked and while the dampness settled into my yoga pants all I could feel was the warmth of her body and her steady breath radiating through my pulse.
Into prayer, starfish, and reverse prayer. I laid back and grabbed my ankles and looked up at the sky while Sheree held my weight. The steady rise and fall of her breath with the temperature of her backside on my head, so peaceful. I felt every drop of rain land on my face. Sitting up, I reached out for her mane. Inhale into cat pose. Exhale extend left arm out then the opposite leg out, I told myself.
Suddenly, I was afraid.
My body began to tilt favoring one side and the thought of falling off Sheree flooded my mind. I am on top of a giant horse, falling off seemed not only embarrassing but a pretty high fall with potential broken bones in my future. I tightened my abdomen and looked to my right where one of the other women stood a few feet away, just in case. I was reassured by her smile and regained my focus. I concentrated on how capable I was to balance on such a strong animal, to hold my weight.
I looked ahead past Sheree’s mane and her glorious nose. I looked down and the woman to my right was standing closer to Sheree and myself. “I have to tell you something,” she said as she placed her hand over my right hand.
“You think your disease defines who you are,” a pause for her breath and our shared gaze, “but all I see in you is your strength.”
A smile overcame me and instantly I felt the strength of Sheree transcend my physical body. The energy inside of me was ready to burst open, and I took a large inhale. All I could think was HOLY SHIT! But really.
I absorbed so much strength and courage from all these women. It allowed me to see past these fears and instead see myself as an untapped reservoir ready to be resourceful. I took a deep breath and gave Sheree a bareback hug.
These fears have nothing on me.
The image below was taken during my second session doing yoga with horses, when there was sun. The experience I’ve written about involved no technology, and much of the trip I didn’t have my phone or camera, for that matter, but I am proud of this picture below. For more pictures of my trip to Vermont, check out Instagram @wholelifefullsoul