Australian spas are trotting the line between weird and wonderful with treatments incorporating horses, space-age pods and baths good enough to drink, finds Celeste Mitchell.

Jack and I are getting fairly intimate.

My chest is pressed against his muscular shoulder; I try to synchronise the rise and fall of our breath.

I open my eyes and take in every part of his neck, his hair, running my hand down his back.

But he knows I’m not really into it, with a quick jerk he moves away.

Out of reach.

“What were you thinking about just then?” Jack’s trainer Megan breaks into my consciousness.

It’s not that we’re being watched that’s off-putting.

I’ve been trying to learn to meditate for the past year, being told the mind is like a puppy you need to train.

Apparently mine is a very naughty puppy.

The analogy likens your thoughts to the puppy’s penchant to wander, or chew its lead (or bark like mad), but it’s up to you to rein it back in.

To calm it like Cesar Millan calms a dachshund.

Never has the metaphor been so apt for me as right now, as I’m standing in an arena at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat with a handsome horse named Jack.

This is meditation on an entirely different level.

There’s nowhere to hide from this wise soul whose bare instincts can hold a mirror up to my headspace, and whose every whinny or foot stomp is telling.

Admittedly, I find it hard to shake off the image of what I must look like crouching down in front of Jack, trying to relax enough for him to bring his nose down to touch my head.

I’ve tried alternative therapies before, but this really takes the apple.

Megan developed the Equine Assisted Meditation sessions two-and-a-half years ago after noticing the sense of calmness that overcame her when she spent time with the horses at the Gold Coast Hinterland retreat.

“They’re very wary if we have our walls up, or if our communication isn’t clear they won’t do things,” she says.

“So they show us how to connect and develop a rapport so we can then play together.

I think what all of us truly desire in life is to feel connected to something or someone, and then to have a really healthy way of communicating and expressing ourselves.

Equine meditation is about getting guests to slow down and understand what the monkey up here can do [pointing at her head] – it can either be friend or foe.

But in that moment, when this gets busy, I notice the horses just walk off.”

After my initial trepidation wears off and I realise my entire goal for this hour is pretty simple – to be present and relax – Jack seems more at ease.

“He likes you,” Megan comments.

“He doesn’t usually like anyone touching his face.”

By the end, using only my breath and the slightest inclination that I might take a step forward, Jack and I are prancing around the ring together.

Then, with a deliberate exhale, I stop him in his tracks.

Just like that.

Forget about the puppy; I’ve just trained my mind to be a stallion.


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