Finding Your Ecosystem

By Shawn Rodrigues - 05/10/2021


I live my life in metaphor. I do not know how I got there or when it started. I just know it has always been. I feel it deep with my soul. It makes it difficult to communicate sometimes. I see connectedness everywhere yet do not always have the ability to put this connectedness into words. Today I will try my best…

I am trained as a Gestalt therapist and primarily practice equine-assisted psychotherapy utilizing the Eagala model. ( At its root the word Gestalt means “whole”. On that note, I will make a departure from writing about working with horses in therapy and look at a much bigger picture.

As I stood in my garden I could hear the hummingbirds above me enjoying the nectar from the flowers of my Moringa tree. I could not see them but their vibrations were unmistakable. They then darted out of the tree, disappeared across the pasture, then reappear just as quickly, only to once more be out of sight but not earshot. I peered up into the branches of the Maringa tree and marveled at both its beauty and the speed at which it grows. I then felt a large presence at my shoulder as Addy, our 9-year-old Morgan horse, breathed a hot breath into my ear before stretching his long neck to take a nibble at the Maringa tree. He loves that tree – its tender leaves, beans, and sinewy branches in the morning and its shade in the afternoon. Although the Maringa tree blooms year round, it is most heavy with blossoms in the Spring. This means bees. Lots, and lots of bees pollinating their little hearts out. I realize that standing in this spot I have created my own little eco system. It is all connected. Without the blossoms we have no bees, without the bees we have no beans, without the beans there are no new trees, without the trees we have no air, without the air we have no life. Okay, that’s a little dramatic but in the grand scheme of things it is true. We need the green stuff so we can breathe. So in that grand scheme where do I fit in? And what about Addy? What do we contribute to the process? While we have plenty of sunlight here in the desert, without water and fertilizer the Maringa tree won’t grow. I make sure it has lots of water and he provides the fertilizer. We are part of that connected process. Where does the hummingbird come in? She was the catalyst. She grabbed my attention and pulled me into this lovely awareness of the connectedness that was swirling above my head and growing under my feet.

As a therapist I find that every element in this little eco system shows up in the therapeutic process as a metaphor. If you are reading this and you are not a therapist, I would bet you can find relevance in your life without looking too far.  The hummingbird may represent a subtle comment or email that leads someone to dial the phone to inquire about therapy. The water and fertilizer is the non-judgmental voice on the other end who helps the interest grow and schedules that first appointment. The therapist might be the tree offering nourishment or comfort as the process begins. When I lead groups I feel like the bee – making learning and healing contagious and take on an energy all its own. The blossoms – that is easy. The blossoms are the hope of growth and healing that therapy can provide. The flower itself can be bitter. We help those who come to see us lean in, like the hummingbird, to find the sweet nectar of growth and healing that lies within. We sometimes have to hoover in place – holding that safe and sacred space. For me this is an honor and gift. Then there are the beans that provide nourishment to fuel the therapeutic process. Early in treatment I think of them as the skills we teach to help folks tolerate the discomfort of looking within. The beans eventually grow long and strong and produce seeds that have wings that carry them in the wind. Isn’t that what we do? We help people become strong and move into the world differently and share the strength, love, healing, caring etc that they have found. The wind… what about the wind? You name the wind!!

Now, step outside, take your shoes off and put your feet in the grass. Wiggle your toes, walk around, notice your footfall. Get out of your head and come to your senses. Connect to the Earth and look around. What is your little eco system – in your backyard, your office, your family, your social circle?

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