Radically Authentic- An Australian Woman Beginning Her EFW Journey In Canada
Her language is the language of the universe. She belongs to no country, religion or moment in time. The language of her kind has a knowing, a connectedness we seldom allow ourselves the pause necessary to listen. Taken deep into the dark brown pools, I let go and allow myself to touch the essence of what we all seek, that which cannot be described in words, a universal language. The letting go and allowing does not always come easily, it means trusting in the process, and acknowledging that you will not always be comfortable with what arises. While the cedars and the earth under my feet held us both in this moment, I was able to allow safely, a depth of experience that I may not otherwise have been able to hold. This was the gift, an introduction to Radical Authenticity. A gift given to an Australian woman, by a beautiful black mare from the West Coast of Canada.
As a social worker, passionate about working with people, especially children and youth, and a horsewoman, who has been atop horses since before I could walk, I knew that equine facilitated therapy could be all my passions combined. I chose to undertake the certification in Equine Facilitated Wellness through EFWCAN and Generation Farms, as the core principles and philosophies along with the structure of the certification resonated with me on both a professional and personal level. Furthermore the opportunity to learn from accomplished therapists, who grounded themselves in evidence based practices and professionalism, is something that I value deeply. What I couldn’t have known before undertaking my training though, was that no matter where I was in the world, the ultimate teachers would be the horses and they knew no borders.
As all of the best therapists I have read and listened to have said, it is imperative to “do your own work,” in the journey towards becoming the best therapist you can be. I had a number of wonderful experiences during my time learning at Generation Farms, a journey that has been and is continuing to be personal, profound and professional all at once. The experience I described at the beginning of this piece felt like the real beginning of my EFW journey. It was also when I came to realise that horses do not dichotomise a therapy session, nor do they even call a session therapy as far as I know! Horses are able to act as a catalyst and guide to come alongside on our journey, without the confines of an office, words, prescribed theories or pre-conceived notions.
The definition of radical is “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something, in a manner that is far reaching and thorough.” Authenticity is the “degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character despite external pressures.” For me, the horses provided me with insight into what it means to be radically authentic; to allow the far reaching effects of being true to my own personality, spirit and character, and to be courageous in this pursuit. It is by no means something that has an end date, and is an ongoing process of learning and growth. It is a concept that I time and time again, saw horses introducing people to, accordingly with how much we could take in, at any one time. Radical Authenticity was something that came to me through the opportunities for learning and partnering with the horses, the natural environment and the people at Generation Farms.
For someone who has been with horses my whole life, the integration of the Nature Based approaches with EFW work allowed me to be held in a container that afforded me the opportunity to pause, to listen and to resource, in a way that I had not been introduced to previously. The world of EFW is exponential in its potential to affect change in people’s lives and provide opportunities for alternate ways of learning from and working with horses. Had I not however, been shown the inseparable ways that this work is interdependent on our connections with Nature; the journey would have been lacking aspects that I see as essential to my learning and growth in the field of EFW. I came to know the cedars as I know the gum trees from my home, the rain fell and my ears took me back to the comfort of rainy days, and I was able to be grounded in the felt sense of the natural world, knowing that this is where I begin, no matter where I am.
On the other side of the world I found myself more at home than I had been in a long time. I was brought back to my roots, to nature and to the horses in a way that I had not known I could be. It was extremely humbling to realise, that what I needed was to strip away all the preconceived ways of being, and bring myself back to my body, back to my animal self, back to my feet on the ground. My journey in the field of Equine Facilitated Wellness is only just beginning, but near the small town of Cedar on Vancouver Island, I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of learning from, and most importantly the horses, whose teachings’ sent me on my way.