body feature gratitude

my prince charming

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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.

― T.S. Eliot

 

Beer Ranch Dirt Road

 

Driving on a winding road in late April to Beer Ranch, I’ve accepted an invitation for a session with  Vicki Jurica, a certified Equine Gestalt Coach and Prince, her 1,300 pound assistant.

Rarely hesitant about new experiences, I pulled up to Kim Beer’s ranch an hour south of Kansas City. Kim and I met in our writing group. She’s a gifted writer. Her stories and poetry often refer back to her experience as a country girl surrounded by horses. Today was a gift to experience this bit of her life I’d only read about. And meet her horse, Prince.

My boots were muddy by the time I trudged over to Kim and Vicki behind the barn. Prince was already inside the green metal fencing of the round pen. Kim left to go do some rancher duties and Vicki started to explain Equine Gestalt Coaching in more depth. Occasionally, Prince would utter a sigh or a neigh, but was quiet for the most part.

Vicki asked if there was anything I wanted to work on during our time together. Nothing immediately came to mind so I opted to let the universe choose for me and pulled one of the element bundles from her bag.  They were comprised of  feathers (air), seashell (water), lava rock (fire) and a twig (earth). Each one was secured with jute and included a white porcelain tile inscribed with a word. 

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Beauty.

Really? Beauty?

That was the last word I would have wanted to show up. Ugh. I felt no connection to beauty… certainly not my own. The familiar tapes started – how can I possibly be beautiful? I’ve gained so much weight since mom and dad died, my divorce, etc. I avoid contemplating beauty the same way I sneak past mirrors refusing to look at that person staring back at me.

I felt disappointed and my session had barely started, so I tried to just let it go.

It was time to meet Prince. Vicki opened the squeaky round pen gate and we stepped inside.  According to her, Prince would show me the way. He would also help to energetically remove what was not serving me. Vicki discussed certain safety aspects of being so close to one of these magical creatures. I learned what his sounds meant and how ear placement and movement are a communication form. She asked if there was anything else I wanted to share before she left the round pen.

What?

You’re leaving me?

I told her the story of my cousin who raised horses. Her youngest daughter was behind one of their horses one day when it kicked. Her little girl was struck in the head and killed.  I shared, “I’m terrified to be behind a horse.” Vicki assured me my fear was justifiable, but showed me what to do if  I ended up behind him. We practiced. She promised me she’d pay very close attention to Prince’s movements.

And then she left me alone with Prince.

First, Beauty and now? Vulnerability.

IMG_5251Vicki marked the cardinal directions by guiding me through a path of questions. In doing so, the round pen became a sacred space. A mandala. A labyrinth. Together Prince and I would stand in the center of this moment with Vicki on the threshold as both guide and translator.

Prince sniffed me and made that sound that’s like the motorboat sound you learn to make as a kid. Vicki interpreted him for me.  He shuffled around and before I realized it Prince was standing in front of me with his big old butt in my face. I freaked out. But just like I practiced with Vicki, I put my hand on his hindquarters and walked around to his side so he could both see and feel me. My heart was racing. He was so big. Prince turned around and nudged me. He sniffed and then rotated around in a circle and again started backing into me. He did the EXACT thing that I said terrified me. And then he did it again. Each time moving a bit closer.

After the fifth time when he actually backed up and bumped into me knocking me a bit off balance, I opted for sarcasm, “So, I guess he is wanting me to work with Fear?” I am sure Vicki sensed my nervousness even if, above the winds, she couldn’t really hear how shrill my voice was.

Vicki’s laugh was natural and real. Her smile relaxed and peaceful.

“Yes, Jen, I think so.”

I looked back at that huge round red-haired ass and the ripples of muscle. I thought about all the power in those taut muscles. I thought about my cousin and her family. And her little girl. A little girl that, had she lived, would probably have her own young daughters by now.

And then? Out of nowhere it seemed, I was graced with a feeling surrender. I stopped trying to control the process. Stopped trying to laugh it off. Stopped pretending to be someone I wasn’t.

I vaguely remembering saying out loud, “Okay Prince, I give up. I’m listening.”

Instead of walking to his side and putting my hand on him so he could see me, I didn’t move.  With my hands resting against backside, I took in a deep breath. Exhaled. And stood still.

I felt my fear.

I felt Prince’s power and strength.

I felt his gentleness and peace.

My heart opened.

I felt my gentleness and peace.

I felt my power and strength.

I felt my beauty.

Just like walking a labyrinth etched in stone or mowed into a grassy meadow, the way into the round pen was also the way out. Beauty led to fear and fear led back to beauty. That’s why Eliot came to mind,

“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

I walked around and stood next to Prince. I draped my arms over his neck and rested against him and whispered, “Thank you Prince Charming. Thank you.”

 

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about Kim Beer and Beer Ranch or Vicki Jurica and Studio Gray Horse please give them a call. I can’t recommend a session with Vicki highly enough. I look forward to collaborating with both Vicki and Kim to offer workshops out at the ranch. I hope to see you out there. Sometime very soon.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Janet Sunderland
    July 12, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    What an absolutely wonderful post. Standing buttressed against a powerful horse’s hindquarters is not something I’d take to kindly or even comfortably (although I’d do it with a cow…isn’t that interesting, but I’ve been kicked by cows and know how to get out of the way….). Big horse would be more of an unknown. Your retelling the experience is glorious. Thank you. So glad you posted this and I got to read it.

    • Jen
      Reply
      Jen
      July 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Thank you so much Janet. So much.

      I am not planning to be behind a horse anytime soon. But am very grateful to Prince.

  • Reply
    Mike
    July 15, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Out of the mouths of babes and the business end of horses.
    I’ve always thought you were beautiful. Glad you got to experience it too.

    • Jen
      Reply
      Jen
      July 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Aw Mike you always say the sweetest things. I’ve missed those love letters. Thanks for the love note. You’d like Prince.

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