Please give your heart and soul a treat and see the documentary film The Horse Boy, now opening in theaters nationwide. (See http://www.horseboymovie.com for a list of upcoming screenings.) I recently saw the film at the Mill Valley Film Festival and can't recommend it highly enough.
The film documents a family's journey to Mongolia in search of a way to heal their son, Rowan, who has been diagnosed with autism. They travel to Mongolia to ride horses–because even sitting on a horse calms Rowan's tantrums, which can last up to four hours–and to visit remote shamans, whose healing rituals actually do open up Rowan's capacities to connect with other human beings again. The film mostly chronicles the family's journey, but it also includes interviews with leading scientists studying autism, and these interviews help transform our view of autism from a disease to a different way of perceiving and participating in the world.
What impressed me most about the film was the deep love the parents have for their son, and their unwavering commitment to his healing. Rowan's father, Rupert Isaacson, is a lifelong lover of horses and a journalist who had researched shamanic healing among the Bushmen in the Kalihari Desert in Botswana. Rowan's mother, Kristin Neff, is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas who has done pioneering work on the concept of "self-compassion."
Rupert Isaacson was present for a Q&A at the screening of the film that I saw, and he added many details about their journey. He also discussed how scientists are now thinking that the warmth, touch, and movement of riding a horse releases oxytocin, the "love hormone," and that the rocking motion of riding on a horse helps re-balance the brain and open the way for quantum leaps in healing.
The Horse Boy is transformative for viewers as well as for its subjects. It opens our hearts to the healing powers of love and compassion; it opens our minds to the importance of different ways of being in the world.
Linda Graham, MFT, publishes an e-newsletter, Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, archived at www.lindagraham-mft.com.