11.05.29: Revisiting the Tao

The Memorial Day holiday weekend was scheduled to be a busy one, and I never stopped moving. After a great trail obstacle clinic on Saturday, Anne's fourth Fundamentals of the Tao of Equus workshop got started. We had arranged to house Maria, a woman coming all the way from Nova Scotia for the workshop, and once everything was prepped Saturday evening we headed to the airport to pick her up. She turned out to be a delightful woman, of which I had no doubt, and we enjoyed her company thoroughly. We grabbed dinner and brought it home so that we could show her the farm before it got too dark.
Saturday morning came bright and early as I hit the ground running again to get everything organized and prepped for the day. Heather arrived with the coffee and ice for the coolers, and Anne decided to move the opening circle up to the top of the hill across from the house where the shade stays thick under the trees for most of the day. We drove the cars down the hill to pick up the chairs and supplies, and managed to have everything prepped nicely by the time everyone started to arrive. With 8 participants, it was a big group, but the energy was good. As usual there was a wide range of woman attending from young to older and novice horse experience to advanced.
We opened the workshop with the mandala exercise. Two sheets of paper with a circle drawn on each, the first is for where you feel you are in the present moment, and the second is where you wish to be by the end of the workshop. I find it quite interesting that my mandalas very rarely have any sort of objects or recognizable things in them, they are generally based upon color patterns. The colors are bright and bold, and I always prefer to use the creypas rather than the crayons that are also available. This time my first mandala featured circular rings of color, but they were not concentric. Some of them didn't complete the circle, some were thick, some were thin. Some rings had fat spots in them, and some were just very narrow bands of color filling the gaps between others. I felt as if there was a world of potential for me, but that it was not very organized, and I had a lot of information but didn't know yet what to do with it all. My second mandala had bright rings of color that were fairly consistent concentric circles, representing my desire to gain more clarity in the new things that were opening to me. We went through the group and shared our mandalas, and several people had pretty powerful representations of their current state. There was quite a bit of pain and loss among the group, which is not surprising, but the second mandalas represented a lot of hope and clear goals.
We shifted gears a little bit and moved into going over what authentic community means and how to hold the space for others within authentic community, what projection and transference are, and how they manifest in various situations. We then prepared to go "meet the herd" for the first time. The group is instructed to view the herd quietly, and observe 4 horses and make any notes about feelings or thoughts that they have about those horses. I was pleased to find that the herd was all in the shed, rather than all the way down in the bottom of the pasture, so it made observing a little less of a hike. I stood back and watched as the horses began to interact with the group. Lily was one of the first to come over and greet, and explore a bit, she wandered down the fence line before moving off to graze on her own again. The rest of the herd began to move out of the shed, and Storm stopped almost immediately to pee before coming along to greet people at the fence. Macchi and Audrey moved among everyone nosing and greeting and exploring, each offering a connecting to a few of the participants in their own way. Storm very distinctly made his way down the fence line, connecting with each person that he came to in an individual way giving each one a moment of time. Piper drifted through and made her greetings, and then moved off with the other two girls to graze down in the bottom together. Storm and Macchi stood at the fence together for a while, Macchi attempting to play with Storm's fly mask (much to my relief that he never really got a hold on it), before the two boys wandered off to eat. The only horse that did not make an appearance (save for Winston who was out of the pasture at the time) was Woody. I was quite concerned because he remained in the shed, with his nose in the corner, shifting around only once or twice but remaining shut off from the rest of the group. This was quite unlike him, and I was concerned that he was not feeling so good about what was happening. I knew that the session that Heather and I had with him on Thursday had been a good one, and I was sure that he realized that something was up and that he was to be involved. I mentioned it to Heather as we finished up, and asked her to be sure to check in with him and make sure that we was ok when she had a chance.
We adjourned back up on the hill in the shade to discuss the impressions of the group and the reactions that each person had to the horses. Storm was chosen, as usual, as the first horse to discuss. His presence is unmistakable, and he really spent quite a bit of time connecting with each person as he moved down the fence. Each person that connected with him felt his presence and he really touched them energetically. Interestingly, more than one person commented on a feeling of sadness when connecting with Macchi. Anne pointed out that it was likely due to his owner's past troubles with finding sound and healthy horses, he is their fifth horse. Everyone's impressions of the horses were very well in tune with the horses, and many of them gained interesting insights into themselves and the horses simply through observation and being open to the possibility.
Taking a quick break to get lunch set up, the group began to work through the emotional message chart, identifying each of the negative emotions and the real message behind the emotion along with what that emotion can intensify into, and what needs to be done to help work to find a resolution of the emotion so that one can "go back to grazing."
Finishing that exploration of emotions we moved into doing body scans. Doing a body scan is a great way to check in with our feelings and emotions internally to note what our 'neutral' feels like, and then to really be able to listen to our own internal hum and take notice when it is out of our norm. Much of the time in our society we spend entirely disconnected from our bodies in the first place, so we completely miss the first signs of emotions. We only notice them when they become the next level of intensification and we can't figure out how we got there. We completely miss the subtle signs of anger and land ourselves directly in rage without knowing how we got there, when we passed go or where our $200.00 is. Learning to use the body scan as a tool to really check in internally and learn to listen to what our body is trying to tell us allows us to receive so much more information about our environment and our experiences. The whole world is humming with energy and when we tune into that hum we can pick up a lot of information.
Armed with this new found knowledge, the group returned to observe the horses once more. This time with the task of viewing the horses, connecting, and then turning to face away from the herd to explore what messages and communication are available through feeling. While the group was working I spoke with Anne and Julie to work out the details of the next couple of exercises while the group observed the horses. I was pleased to see that Woody was up near the gate, and seemed pretty engaged in what was happening with the group. As we wrapped up Heather and I walked back to the shade of the trees together and she said that he was ready, which made me feel much better!
the discussion turned out to be a fascinating one that exposed a lot of layers. The discussion quickly turned to Storm again, and this time Sheila and Amy had quite interesting things to say. Both of them felt a pain on the left side of their head, close to the ear, and Sheila had the thought 'Oh God, where art thou?" come into her mind. Amy had the song "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" come into her mind. When one person gets a feeling or thought it is often tough to decipher if the thought belongs to the horse or the human. Projection and transference are slippery things to deal with. However, two different people getting impressions that are startlingly similar indicates that there is clearly something deeper happening. It was interesting to note that several people pointed out that most of the horses were in the run-in shed as they were watching, and Storm was standing between two horses (my guess is Winston and Piper) which is a very apostle like position. The connections are quite interesting. We discussed the rest of the herd, and many people got deeper understandings from the horses by simply being open and "listening" to the messages.
We wrapped up that exercise and Heather and I headed off to get Storm and Woody from the pasture while the group went over a few more things. I was a little concerned about her catching Woody knowing his reactions that morning. I gave her Storm's halter knowing that he would be patient with her even if she didn't quite get things right at first, and took Woody's halter and we headed down the hill. As we got closer, the horses began to come out of the run-in and much to our delight, Woody headed out and made a bee-line right for Heather (my what a difference from the usual reaction when the students come to work! How interesting!). I looked at her and held out the halter to her, it was clear as day that Woody was ready to go and had already created a connection with Heather. She handed me Storm's halter and I collected him since he came out and stood a bit behind Woody. The pair of them were obviously very connected with what was happening and prepared to get to work. We took them to the arena and I put Storm into the round pen inside the arena, and we took Woody to the round pen outside the arena. Once they were settled we headed up the hill to check in again and let the group know that everything was ready.
We split into two groups and I went with Anne and the group of four to work with Woody while Heather took care of Julie and her group of four. The exercise was on establishing boundaries, and Woody turned out to be quite an interesting case. I believe it is exactly what the ladies needed to deal with, but it isn't what anyone expected. Woody took the option of keeping his feet glued to one spot. So creating a connection was difficult with Woody's reluctance to move, and then establishing a boundary was almost too easy, too much pressure and he would stop anyway. Each of the four experiences that the ladies had was quite individual and what they needed. Maria went first, and when she "got it" so quickly, she almost overlooked what was happening expecting there to be something more than what actually happened. The connection she got was easy and fluid and beautiful, and it happened so smoothly that she almost wasn't aware that it happened at all. The human drive to 'do it again' or to 'do it better' or 'do it just like the demo' kicks in so easily. Learning to allow the experience to simply be authentic and appreciate the moment that is given is a challenge for task driven humans. Each one of the other ladies went, and slowly Woody began to find some movement a little easier. Anne worked together with one or two of them in the round pen in order to help Woody find his feet and move so that he could create a connection. Bringing the energy up pretty far was needed in order for Woody to begin to move his feet and then be able to establish a boundary. The exercise ended up being a bit of a lesson in what is needed to raise the energy level and that in certain situations it is ok, and important, to actually do so.
We finished up with a group debrief and got everything organized for the next day. Heather and I put the horses away and cleaned up. I was hungry and so Jim and I took Julie and Maria up to the Sunshine Grill for dinner. It was a great wind down to a long day.
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11.05.30: Deeply Tao