Interview with Unbridled Alum Jen O’Hare
What was your vision going into your first retreat? Afterwards, how did that change? And how do you stay anchored to it?
My first retreat was at White Stallion Ranch in Arizona in November 2021. It was right after I’d turned 50, and I wanted to do something special for myself to mark the occasion because it was a milestone. That first retreat was an opportunity for me to really reflect and learn and enjoy a new place and experience for myself. And giving myself the space to create meaningful connections with other people, and a more meaningful connection with myself. At that time, my vision truly was a celebration. I found myself in a new chapter, in a very different place than I had been in 5 years ago. And I was asking myself, “What is this new life?” That was the spirit behind my first retreat: be open enough to take it all in, because I had no idea. I just wanted to embrace all that was coming my way in this new chapter.
How has your vision shifted since your first retreat?
Going back to a second retreat in Colorado at Sylvan Dale Ranch in May 2022 was also very intentional. I once again fully committed to embracing the experience. And then coming back home and continuing to learn to ride, just be around the barn and the horses. It was a great way for me to create a greater sense of well-being for myself that I didn’t have previously. Horses became part of my self-care.
Did fear and discomfort come up along the way as you started to explore these new possibilities for your life?
Yes, and they still come up. Experiencing my partner’s death four years ago and feeling like this is not at all what I thought my life was going to be like. I had spent so much time in that caregiving space that I had to really reflect about where I wanted to spend my time going forward. How do I go about identifying my wants and my needs? And then how do I take some steps to execute and engage? I think the fear was a little bit around there being so many options that it all felt so new.
What does that look like when the fear comes up? How do you nudge yourself along?
One of my strengths has always been taking action. When I find myself in this place, good or bad, I feel like the clarity tends to unveil itself through my engaging in something I like to do. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I like going to the barn where I take lessons two days a week. Yesterday I went, and I was feeling anxious about work, and I could feel it inside my chest. But I knew the horses would help me process just being in their presence.
Before I walk into the barn I stop, and I do what Devon tells us to do. I feel my boots, and I dig my heels into the dirt, and I ground in. I just stand there, almost like a yoga pose. I close my eyes, breathe in a deep breath, and then I walk into the barn. I keep breathing, grooming, and touching the horses, and as always, by the time I leave, I have forgotten what I was worried about.
The fear never goes away completely, but I try my best to engage in things that allow me to put it to the side. And then relax my mind and my nervous system enough that I’m better at gaining a broader perspective.
It’s like I’m driving the bus. And all these things may be in the backseat. The grief is still there, frustrations about XYZ, the fear still there, the anxiety might still be there. But I’m doing my best to not have them move up into the driver’s seat. I am trying to stay the primary driver. So I’m doing all these things with intention so that I keep them in the backseat and attend to them, but not have them control me.
Action gets us out of our heads and into the next moment.
I’ve just learned that there are a few things that really help me. One is being around the horses. The second is I’ve taken a big step this year, and I’ve cut my schedule back to four days. It has been such a gift to my well-being. And the third thing is that I live in a space where I love to be outdoors, and so every day, I will try my very best to go for a long walk in the forest. And if I don’t do that, then I will try to start or end my day with a little bit of yoga to at least ground and reconnect with my body. Even when I’m feeling a little bit of that fear, the combination of those things will really help me.
What does being an Unbridled Woman mean to you?
When I think of Unbridled Women, I think of freedom. I think of openness of spirit. Being an Unbridled Woman is two things to me: being unapologetic, which, by the way, I’m not yet. And being comfortable or practiced at expressing her wants and needs in a way that allows her to increase the success that she is going to get what she actually wants and needs. This is the journey I am on right now.
What would you tell a woman who was trying to decide whether she wanted to do a retreat?
There’s got to be a certain level of motivation and commitment to self to sign up for a retreat. I think this idea of being open and willing is just so paramount. If they are open to being in a situation, a safe situation with other women who are likely experiencing very similar thoughts and feelings, despite the fact that their experiences, life, and situations are completely different…if they’re open to connecting with them at a level that they feel comfortable with, and knowing that they can learn from people and take it in, and perhaps even share a little bit about themselves that would provide some learning and insight for someone else…that in itself is a gift. I do feel like if someone’s wondering about a retreat, I think I’d ask them, “How open and willing are you to look at your life differently?”
You’re totally right, you must be ready for a shift. It doesn’t have to be a monumental shift, but you must be ready for some level of change.
At my first retreat I was like, okay, I’m going to take the chance. I’m going to take a risk, and I’m going to go into the ring, and I don’t know what to expect. But let’s just see what happens. And yet I felt safe, and I felt like in some ways, I was learning more from the lessons and the experiences of the other women in the group. Wow, this person is experiencing some hard things at home that they’re tackling. And while I’m not in her shoes, I can 100% empathize and relate to little bits and pieces of what she’s saying and how she’s responding. I can see parts of myself in her. And I see how the horse is responding, and the care and nurturing that Devon and the rest of the women are giving. That tells me that even if I’m not in a space where I might be ready to work on that piece in my own life, I’m still receiving the lessons. And that actually opens up. It broadens the story that I’m telling myself about it.
What’s the biggest gift the horses give you?
Groundedness. I can walk into the barn in a complete swirl of emotions, and feeling reactive, and the moment I get in there, give me five minutes of brushing, and then just connecting with them, and there’s not a worry in the world.