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Meet Beth Anstandig of The Circle Up Experience

Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Anstandig. 

Hi Beth, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I was raised in Michigan in the Troy and Bloomfield Hills area. I attended Cranbrook Kingswood School and was given incredible opportunities for experiential learning, art, and outdoor education there. We also had a family property in northern Michigan where I spent summers in the woods and on a lake. I went to college and graduate school in Arizona and then moved to California in 1998. 

My animals have always been my teachers. Since a young age, I’ve been drawn to animals because of their presence, authenticity, and honesty. Animals have always led me to what I needed to do personally and professionally. When I was teaching poetry, my dogs were in the classroom with me. Then, as a therapist, I brought them to the office, and that was before it was popular to have emotional support animals. 

Now, at my ranch, I live and work with a herd of horses, dogs, and other animals. I spend long hours in the pasture with them, in their home, grazing alongside them, and learning their way of life, their state of being, and their patterns in relationships. The lessons in which they have to offer and the gentleness in which they teach I have yet to find in a human-led classroom. 

My new book, The Human Herd: Awakening Our Natural Leadership, is full of their lessons. These are their stories and concepts as much as they are mine. I hold in the highest regard the honor and the challenge of putting words to the animal experience so that the human herd can benefit. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I’ve had a circuitous path from poet to therapist to providing leadership, culture, and well-being training and programs. 

Despite once having a successful and thriving traditional office practice with a waiting list for clients, something was missing for me. I would open all the windows and go outside in between sessions. I needed to move and needed space. At first, I thought something was wrong with me — that I wasn’t happy at work. It was a pressure inside of me that I could feel. 

But being outdoors, in nature, and with animals has been a part of my life forever. I needed to make it part of my work. Ultimately, I realized the human development piece and the therapy I was providing needed to take place at my ranch, in nature, and with the horses. 

I knew the animal piece was essential to the kind of work I wanted to do because it had been essential to my own healing and growth process. After moving to my ranch, I was completely transformed. I knew that by having ranch experiences here with my animals that some of those same transformations would also be possible for my clients in their human groups. 

But I had to push myself beyond my fear that this was not going to be accepted or it was seen as too weird. That it was the human outcomes, not the therapy office with the diploma and license on the wall, that validated my work. 

We need to pay attention to the signs and signals that our human animal body is sending us because incredible innovation comes out of struggle and crisis. It’s about resilience, adaptability, and what natural part of us drives pivot and change. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about The Circle Up Experience?
I’m a licensed psychotherapist with over two decades of experience but I’ve come to believe, we are human animals first and foremost. We have a lot to learn and reclaim about our mammal selves. 

As human animals, we have a superpower, and when we reclaim this innate mammal power it allows us to access a new source of information to better respond to life’s extraordinary pressures and build more authentic relationships in our lives and work. This is our Natural Leadership, and it allows us to move through the world with a keen advantage that benefits our entire human herd. 

Through my company The Circle Up Experience and in partnership with my horse and other animal herds we offer retreats, courses, and coaching to help leaders and teams reconnect with their Natural Leadership so they can live, work and relate with greater clarity, stability, and ease. 

I named my business The Circle Up Experience because “circle up” is what we used to do. We circled up our wagons to share resources and create safety in numbers. We have the instinct, as human animals, to form herds – to form community. We have it in us to be good to ourselves and to each other, to look for ways to be of service. But we must nurture these instincts and practice these skills daily. 

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
People are often surprised to hear that I’m a poet. It can be hard for people to track the narrative of how I got from poetry to therapy to experiential learning with horses! But I promise it makes sense. Living in the world as a poet, I see the world in details and images. Things are what they seem but they ask me to pay attention, stay in curiosity, and ask what else is there. The work I do with humans and horses is very similar. I explore the non-verbal world of mammals so I have to see, hear, and feel the nuances of every moment. Most of my work feels like being in a poem. 

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