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The Butterfly and The Caterpillar

February 16, 20235 min read

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE CATERPILLAR
February 15, 2023 | Inspiration

monarch butterfly in chrysalis

I haven’t written a blog post in a while because I have been working in the background to bring my equine-inspired programs forward in a new way.  One of the major shifts for me was to finally bring my dream to life of creating a program where we partner horses with Veterans and First Responders (www.hoovesandheroes.org). I’ve also created a fully hosted online version of my “Learning to Lead” (www.spirit2spirit/emerging-leaders) program forward as I realize the self-paced version may not be the best fit for everyone as many of us long for that connection with others to help share ideas, discuss challenges, and look at concepts in a new and unique way that can only be experienced in a diverse group setting. The biggest shift for me however came when I stepped back from my corporate job to bring these equine-inspired programs to life. As many of you may know through your own experiences, major decisions to step into the unknown and take a leap of faith can be a bit of a rollercoaster! The sheer volume of tasks that must be undertaken to present even the simplest of components for your business has a bit of an iceberg effect. When I think of the iceberg analogy I’m reminded of a phrase I heard in the program I’m currently taking via NaturalLifemanship (www.naturallifemanship.com), a trauma-informed training program for equine practitioners such as myself.  One of the founders quoted a friend of hers by saying: “Butterflies get all the credit, but the caterpillar does all the work.”

woman standing facing paint horse from Epona Rising Retreat Center

When I reflect on this, I think about all of the small things I’ve done over the years that have led me to this place. I feel like I’m still in caterpillar mode, however, I have my butterfly moments to be sure! I began studying Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) many years ago, when it was a small sub-culture within the horse community and not widely recognized or understood. To this day, I get about a 50% response rating from those within the horse community when I say “EAL” – which is up from 10%, so I feel like we’re getting somewhere! When I first discovered this magical pairing of horse and human learning; and applying horse behavior and dynamics in a herd to human behaviors, I went “AHHH! It’s what I’ve said all along!!” I’ve been known to say in a somewhat cheeky manner (me?! Sarcastic? No….): “I learned more about leadership from horses than I ever did in college.” First: please don’t tell my college professors this, I’m pretty sure I won’t be picked as their next spokesperson! Second: I really did learn a lot in college, but I’ll tell you something I got from horses that college didn’t provide: the somatic experience of putting it all to practice and getting immediate feedback from the horses. Ultimately, learning there were others out there who shared my passion for pairing horses with humans to teach life skills and leadership skills (which can be argued are one in the same – more on that in a different rant), gave me a bit of a push to start taking steps to build something where I could share my experiences with others. 

Two women standing facing horse herd one woman sitting in herd

Over the many years I have invested I read all the books, watched all the videos, and then I started mentorship programs. Hillary Schneider (www.hillaryschneider.com) of Epona Rising Retreat Center and Schelli Whitehouse (www.schelliwhitehouse.com) of the Equine Inspired Life made a huge impact on my progress thus far. I learned from amazing humans and horses in the business of helping create better connections and communities.  I moved my family and my horses to a facility where I could better utilize the space for EAL work.  Then I practiced. I subjected my friends time and time again to my efforts, I took feedback, reflected, and rebuilt. I tossed whole programs and started again. I put in crazy hours. I molded the clay until I had a product that spoke to my years of experience and what I felt was at the core of how I show up and interact with my teams.  Then I practiced again. Slowly but surely, the butterfly started to emerge. I quit my job and I started two businesses – one of which is a non-profit. If you’ve never started a non-profit….well let’s just say that stepping into it naive was probably best as I may not have tried if I’d known how much work it would be! Rewarding to be sure, but it can be daunting at the outset to build something completely from scratch of that magnitude, and I’m barely out of the starting gate.  

butterfly perched on fingertips of seated woman

Overall, I can’t measure my investment in this dream in hours, it must be measured in years.  Yet- I’m just getting started! Caterpillar or butterfly? When do we move from one phase to the next? Do they both exist at the same time? This is what I am starting to realize. Another quote from the same session with the NL founder: “The butterfly’s journey is really that of the caterpillar.” The story of the emergence is really told in the chrysalis; in the formation of it all.  Deep within the container in which it grew into what you see before you. I’m sure a wise guru on top of a mountain somewhere would say the journey of the master is that of the student or some such thing.   As I move through this process and reflect on how far I have come I think “ah, here’s the butterfly!” but just as I unfold my wings, I begin the process of the caterpillar again - refining and building over and over. Somewhere in the midst of it all, we emerge – just as we are beginning the process of going within to reflect, to turn to goo, and to re-emerge again.  And so, if you see me stretching my gossamer wings, please give credit to the caterpillar inside the chrysalis who has put in so much time and effort to bring forth such a beautiful creature as the butterfly; and know that just beyond what you can see, the caterpillar begins the process once again.   

In good health,

Sonia

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