Once in a while a moment occurs in your life that causes your jaw to drop open in awe. Recently, my wife, Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I were at Denim N’ Dirt Ranch in Santa Clarita, California giving a workshop on mindfulness for equine-assisted psychotherapists. The premise of the workshop was to teach how mindfulness and self-compassion enhanced presence for the therapists and ultimately made them more effective at the work they did with their clients. But what happened was completely unexpected and I might even borrow a word from one of the participants, “magical.”

We were all sitting in a circle in the horse ring, here’s a picture of me talking and my impromptu horse assistant “Jazz” encouraging me.

Elisha and horse

While we were attempting to guide the class through a teaching of mindfulness, horses walked in and out of the circle and at one point there were a few horses in the center and they were starting to gnaw at each other.

In the spirit of mindfulness, one participant said, “I’m noticing a lot of anxiety with these horses in the center of us right now. I’m feeling it in my chest, in my face, it’s really present.”

One of the core components of self-compassion is to recognize the common humanity of any struggling and so my wife and I asked the group if anyone else was feeling this way and a few other people began to voice their concerns with the horses in the center of us.

As we began to get curious about the anxiety and people saw that they weren’t alone in this I could sense the stress lowering in the group and this is where the magic happened.

As the stress lowered, the horses began to leave the circle.

It was as if the horses were there to teach us a mindful lesson. The lesson was exactly what the chapter in The Now Effect, “If you can name it, you can tame it” conveys. Once the participant named her anxiety to the group, this gave permission for others to name it. Once it was named, the horses were tamed and left the circle. Their teaching was done.

I was in complete awe how synchronistically this happened and what a dynamic lesson everyone in the group learned. Apparently this kind of thing happens in equine-assisted psychotherapy all the time.

In the days that follow play with the idea of naming when you’re holding an internal struggle or even naming when there’s a struggle within a relationship. The moment we name it, we can approach it and work with it.

In the days that follow also play with naming a good moment and allow for moments of savoring and lingering. This allows the brain to record the good in life in our memory more. Memories are what influence our present moment perception in life.


As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.



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    Last reviewed: 6 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2014). If You Can Name It, You Can Tame It. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2014/01/if-you-can-name-it-you-can-tame-it/


Mindfulness & Psychotherapy

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Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind

The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life
A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook

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