Gentle was his name

Lying still in the dark, his eyes were of little use to him, but his sense of touch and his hearing became all the keener. He heard the sound of someone breathing and felt something soft brushing against his cheek. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, he felt lovely and warm, and most of all, he felt safe. Sensing that he was in good hands, he closed his eyes again and listened to his heart beating in time to the beat of another much larger heart. It was a pleasant sensation, and before long, he fell asleep knowing that everything was going to be alright.

Brendan stood still in the clearing for a few moments and took a deep breath of fresh, pine scented morning air. “Ahhh,” he sighed, releasing a great deal of the tension that had built up inside earlier that morning. It was good to be out in the wilderness near his house in south-eastern Montana, even if it was only for a short while. The birth of his son two weeks ago, had brought on a wave of emotions that came surging seemingly out of nowhere and threw him out of whack. When he and his girlfriend, Sandy, talked about it at dinner last night, it dawned on him that what he was going through, had something to do with his early childhood. Unfortunately, he had little recollection of his life before that grim day in the summer many years ago. He was only three years old when his parents somehow lost sight of him when they were camping, allowing him to wander off into the nearby forest and get lost. Now that he knew what it was like to have a child of his own, he realized how vulnerable children were and began to remember the vulnerability of his own childhood. It appeared that his past had caught up with him and was challenging him to finally face his traumatic experience and come to terms with it.

He had only just realized this when he heard a snorting sound to his left.
“Bwwwrrr,” it sounded again.
He turned his head and found himself face to face with an appaloosa stallion. Normally, such an unexpected encounter would have startled him, but looking deeply into the horse’s gentle looking dark brown eyes, he instantly became calm.
“You seem familiar,” he said.
“We met many years ago,” the horse replied, “but you probably don’t remember.”
“No, I don’t,” Brendan said, visibly racking his mind.
“My name is Iya Tate, by the way. It’s the Lakota Sioux word for ‘wind’.”
“Mine’s Brendan.”
“I know and I also know why you are here.”
Brendan arched his eyebrows. This acquaintance from the past was becoming more mysterious with every word he spoke. Iya Tate instantly sensed what Brendan was thinking. The wild but magnificent looking horse ambled towards him until he stood so close that Brendan could feel the warm breath from his flaring nostrils on his face. Then Iya Tate turned ninety degrees and gently pressed his shoulder against Brendan’s chest.
“Place your left hand on my heart and your right hand halfway along my spine,” he instructed.
Brendan complied without hesitation and waited patiently for what was to come.
“Now, close your eyes and just feel.”

Level 42 – Eyes Waterfalling

Let me out to play
Let me find a way to be
Let me feel the sun
Life has just begun for me
From ‘Eyes Waterfalling’ by Level 42

As soon as Brendan closed his eyes, memories from the past flooded his mind’s eye and he found himself standing in the schoolyard at age nine. Along with his memories, came an intense feeling of loneliness. He remembered why when this scene transformed into one of him sitting at his desk in the classroom with the other children. He had been  listening to the teacher for a while, when slowly but surely, he drifted off to his imaginary world. Then, unaware of how much time had passed, he was rudely retrieved and forced back into reality by the stern voice of the teacher: “Brendan, stop staring out of the window.” She was determined to mould him according to the principles of a system that she had come to accept as the truth. 

Once again, Brendan experienced the same feelings now as he did then. A dark and heavy force pressed down on him and instilled in him the belief that there was no way out. Absorbed by feelings of powerlessness and of being controlled by the outside world, his memory took him to the home he had grown up in. The place where there had been little regard for who he really was. Where his sensitivity had been unappreciated and rationalized, and his truth had been criticized to the point that he habitually abandoned his own truth in favour of that of others. Above all it was the place where he had transgressed his own boundaries to conform and comply and to fulfil the needs of others. Not that others had left him wanting for anything. In fact, his material needs had been sufficiently fulfilled. It was the affection, acknowledgement and confidence that he so craved for that were lacking. It had led him to believe that affective deprivation was the norm. Ironically though, when he left home at the age of seventeen, he was plagued by homesickness.

After finally letting his suppressed emotions surface, Brendan briefly returned from his memories to the present moment. He opened his eyes, allowing the tears that had welled up inside for so long, pour out over his cheeks and into the corners of his mouth. The salty taste enforced the feeling of abandonment and Brendan was just wondering what had brought this on, when he sensed that he and Iya Tate were no longer alone. He let go of Iya Tate and slowly turned around. No more than five metres away, a splendid looking male wolf lay on a narrow earthen ledge by some bushes. By the expression on his face, it felt as if he had been there with them the whole time, listening to their conversation and virtually accompanying Brendan on his trip to the past. 

“Good morning,” the wolf said in a warm and friendly tone.
“Ahh, Wahwala. Good morning, brother,” Iya Tate replied.
“Good morning,” Brendan said.
As Brendan spoke, his heart began to glow. It slowly emanated a pleasant warm feeling throughout his body. He smiled, but his smile soon vanished when his heart wrenched and he for no apparent reason began sobbing like a young child. Wahwala responded by leaping to the ground before him and gently nuzzling his stomach. Brendan sank to his knees and wrapped his arms around him. While he held his head close to Wahwala’s, their connection led him back to the past and to the source of his deep feeling of abandonment.

John Barry – Dances With Wolves | Two Socks Theme

“Mommy … Mommy!” he heard himself crying, hoarsely, over and over again, while trying to find his way through the forest. His heart began beating even wilder when he realized that the light would soon fade and make it even more difficult for his swollen eyes to see where he was going. Then a flicker of hope lit up from the depths of his soul when he heard the sound of water flowing rapidly to his right. He began running towards it, knowing instinctively that if he followed running water, it would eventually lead him back to civilization. ‘BOOM!’ it sounded in his mind and everything went black. When he came to a few minutes later, it was not much lighter. He felt a painful throbbing sensation above his right eyebrow, but it was warm and comfortable where he lay and the sound of breathing very close to him soothed and reassured him. Soon afterwards, he muttered: “Mommy, where are you?” one last time before falling asleep from exhaustion.

“I remember,” Brendan said, opening his eyes.
“I’m glad you do,” Wahwala said.
Brendan let go of the wolf and looked deep into his eyes.
“You saved me, didn’t you?”
“Well, I had help from my partner and our cubs, and of course from Iya Tate here,” Wahwala replied as he glanced at his friend still standing behind Brendan.
“What happened?” Brendan asked.
“I think you know,” Wahwala replied. “Go and stand with Iya Tate and feel his heart again.”

Brendan rose to his feet and went over to Iya Tate. As soon as he placed his hand on Iya Tate’s heart and closed his eyes, the events of that summer day came flashing by like the scenes in a multidimensional film. He saw the campsite where his family was staying. His parents were looking for him and frantically calling his name. He heard them alright, but by the time they found out he was missing, the distance he had covered was too great for them to hear his little voice. Looking back, Brendan was once again overwhelmed by fear. He was all on his own in a hostile environment and with no one to look after him. With his heart pounding away now just as it had then, Brendan again saw himself running desperately towards a river. He had only run some ten metres, when he tripped over a tree root, bumped his head on the ground and fell unconscious. 

“Wahwala,” he now whispered, when he recognized the wolf in the scene that was being presented to him. He saw Wahwala carefully grabbing him by his collar with his teeth before dragging him to his nearby den. Brendan spent the night with Wahwala and his partner as if he were one of their cubs. Just before dawn, Wahwala left the den in search of humans, but came across Iya Tate instead. He told the horse about the human child he had found and led him to his den. There Iya Tate dropped to his knees so that Brendan could clamber on to his back. With Brendan holding on tightly to his mane, Iya Tate made his way out of the forest and on to the plain. He then picked up speed and cantered to a small town nearby, where he let Brendan climb off and neighed loudly until an elderly couple came outside to be surprised by a young boy standing all on his own in their front yard. 

With a deep sigh, Brendan returned to the present moment. He remained still for a while, still holding on to Iya Tate with his eyes open. As he did so, grief and unrest made way for tranquillity. His body felt calm, reflecting the change that had taken place in his mind. From this calmness came a sense of power that emanated to every cell in his body. Something had definitely changed.
“Thank you, Iya Tate,” he said.
He then turned around to discover that Wahwala had disappeared.
“Where did he go?” he asked in bewilderment. “I wanted to thank him.”
Iya Tate came and stood right beside him.
“The Wahwala you saw only minutes ago, passed away a few years ago. I saw him go in a dream one day. His spirit returned when you reconnected with me, to help you leave the past behind you once and for all. His name is the Lakota Sioux word for ‘gentle’.”
Brendan nodded, silently. Although he had hoped to embrace and thank Wahwala one more time, he knew it was meant to be this way. He readily accepted the situation as it was, knowing that Wahwala’s spirit would always be present with him in his heart.
“Thank you, dear Wahwala. Thank you for guiding me back home in such a gentle way,” he whispered, placing his hand on his heart and smiling broadly.

“I am sure he can hear you, Brendan,” Iya Tate said.
“So am I,” Brendan said and turned to face him.
Iya Tate looked into his eyes.
“Face southwards and feel the warmth of the sun caressing your face. This will help you to leave your shadows from the past behind you and to move forward and shine your light into the world.”
“Thank you for your wisdom and everything you’ve done for me, Iya Tate. Because of you and Wahwala, I have learned that I only have to be consciously present to feel my inner strength and remain true to myself.”
“That’s a wise insight, my friend.”
Brendan smiled from ear to ear. He then leaned forward, placing his hands on either side of Iya Tate’s muzzle and kissed him just above his nose.
“Thank you once again, Iya Tate.”
“You’re welcome, Brendan. I am sure we will meet again.”
“Same here. Goodbye Iya Tate. I wish you all the best.”
“Goodbye Brendan.”
Brendan gave Iya Tate a pat on the shoulder, before turning around to head back home.

Sandy smiled knowingly in the doorway as she saw Brendan walking up the driveway towards her. She had already sensed what hat taken place the moment that Brendan had said goodbye to Iya Tate.
“Hi, my courageous young brave,” she said.
“Hi, my wise wife and mother to my child,” Brendan greeted in return, smiling radiantly at her with a warm feeling in his heart.
Then he stepped through the doorway, wrapped his arms around her and tenderly kissed her lips like never before. In that moment, he vowed to himself to be as gentle with himself as he would be when holding their newborn son.
“I’m proud of you,” Sandy said, dewy-eyed.
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
“Come and see your beautiful son,” Sandy said as she took him by the hand and led him to their son’s bedroom.

“Hello, little Josh,” Brendan said with a slightly higher pitched voice, when he saw his son looking up at them from his cot.
“Googoogrrooh,” Josh gurgled, waving his little arms and legs enthusiastically at seeing his father again.
Brendan leaned forward over the cot, gently cupped Josh’s tiny feet in his hands and kissed them.
“I love you, my little cub.”
Deep inside he felt the power of his affection. In the same way that he was nourishing his son’s heart by physically expressing his love for him, he was nourishing his own heart too.

That night, while Brendan lay on his back with his eyes open in bed, with Josh in between him and Sandy, he looked back on his reunion with Iya Tate and Wahwala. A contented smile appeared on his face when he remembered himself embracing Iya Tate and Wahwala. He then rolled over to Josh and gently placed his arm around him, making sure not to wake him. His heart glowed as he lay there cherishing the magnificent gift of being a father to the child that was sleeping peacefully in his arms. Slowly but surely, his eyes grew heavy and as he made his way to the world of his dreams, he heard a woman’s voice softly singing a lullaby that his mother used to sing to him. A lullaby that had been handed down from mother to mother for many generations since his people, the Lakota Sioux, had first roamed the plains. Hearing the familiar tones, he fell asleep feeling safe and loved. Everything was going to be alright.

EPILOGUE

This story is based partly on my experiences during an equine facilitated coaching session at Hartpad in Dinxperlo, the Netherlands. Thank you Losos, Esplendida, Nana, Peppino and Benno Mallee for your connection, compassion and insights. Thank you for helping me to find my way back home.

For Losos

Lakota Lullaby – Lakota Song – Cover by Alexia Evellyn 

Symbolism and terminology:

Horse: Endurance; freedom; courage; spirit; mobility; sensitivity; passion
Iya Tate: Lakota Sioux word for ‘wind’
Wolf: Intuition; connection with instincts; family; freedom; sense of social connections; wildness; teamwork; loyalty; playfulness; curiosity
Wahwala: Lakota Sioux word for ‘gentle’

Images

‘Father’ by EdgarSax on Pixabay
‘Autumn’ by Tomasz Proszek on Pixabay
‘Horse’ by Suju-Foto on Pixabay
‘Wolf’ by Wildfaces on Pixabay
‘Explore’ from an inactive account on Pixabay
‘Carnivore’ by Diapicard on Pixabay
‘Horse’ by Hahndigital on Pixabay

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