The Black Horse Speaks
We’re pleased to report that Tabula Rasa celebrated her 20th birthday on March 24. The black Arabian mare, who compelled Linda Kohanov to write the now-classic book The Tao of Equus, continues to teach and inspire people from around the world, most definitely the author herself.
“Words can’t do justice to the profound moments we’ve shared over the years,” Linda says. “Rasa’s intelligence and compassion continue to amaze me. She has had some pretty serious close calls over the last two years, mainly due to the arthritic condition that ended her riding career at age three, setting us both on an unexpected path with a lot of strange twists and turns. Yet every time I assume she needs to retire, she steps forward and does something truly magical in a workshop or private session, reaching out to people in ways that, once again, threaten to blow all the circuits in my logical human mind—expanding my perception in the process. As she gets older, I’m grateful for every day we share. Yet even if I live to be a hundred I still don’t think I will have enough time or skill to write down all she’s taught and inspired in me.”
In honor of Rasa’s birthday (she’s 60 in human years!) Linda wanted to share a prose-poem written by Adriana Sevahn Nichols (pictured above with Rasa). “I’ve been so touched and honored over the years by the amazing letters, poetry, artwork, and even songs that people have written after interacting with Rasa,” Linda reports. “Choosing one for the newsletter was difficult. But I have to say that Adriana captured the essence of what I have felt Rasa communicating consistently over the years so well that I really can’t imagine ever being able to represent this horse’s open-hearted yet exacting, challenging nature any better in so few words. Adriana, a talented actress and playwright, wrote this after meeting Rasa for the first time, essentially spending 15 minutes with the mare during a one-day workshop two years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Adriana in two advanced workshops since then, and I have to say that, every time, she accepts the “Rasa challenge” so eloquently conveyed in her poem. Thanks Adriana for giving voice to what Rasa embodies so powerfully in silence!”
And Happy Birthday Rasa!
Beautiful Black Mare, Queen of the night, one who knows all that is hidden from view: Your lunar sight penetrates all shadow.
Beating your laser light drum of truth, you summon only that which serves awakening. Uninterested in the details, no chit chat with you. You say:
“Bring me something delicious, something glorious, something so brutally alive, it hurts. Then you will have my full attention and my deepest heart.
“I see you, all there is, and ever was, and ever will be. Do you dare look into my eyes and claim it? Your brilliance, your magic, your path!
“I am bored with your preoccupation with time and process, your worn out excuses. Wake up! Join me. And together we will race through the heart of breath into eternity.
“Can you resist your heart’s desire any longer? If the answer is yes, then we are complete, and I have some grass to go and eat.
“But, if the answer is no, oh joy that it is, then tonight, you will find me, under the dark of the moon, and together, we will fly to the stars.”
— Adriana Sevahn Nichols/ November 2009
Black Horse Wisdom in June
On searing afternoons, when the habits of logic evaporate in the trances of an unbridled sun, you can see waves rising from the desert floor, and you begin to recognize the things your eyes like to hide. This is the same secluded brilliance that pours through deep hours of the night illuminating your dreams with myths of the recent future and memories submerged long before your birth. It is white embraced in the blackest of black, the quiet companion that whispers in silence and makes the darkness smell of roses, urging you toward the distant sound of the gathering….
— Linda Kohanov, from the liner notes to Steve Roach’s CD Well of Souls
The summer version of the popular advanced workshop Black Horse Wisdom will offer a chance to work with Rasa and the rest of the herd in the moonlight. The June 7th through 10th seminar will take place from noon to 9 p.m. each day.
“If I could manufacture the ideal atmosphere for the intuition and creativity-expanding theme of Black Horse Wisdom, I would have to say that June in the desert hits the mark,” Linda insists. “Something amazing happens when you meditate with the horses in the heat of the day, interact with them at sunset, and move with them in the dense blue light of the summer moon. In the Sonoran desert, when the temperature rises near 100 and above, and the air is very dry, the sweat evaporates instantly off your body. You literally can’t tell where you end and the rest of the world begins because your body temperature is equal with the air temperature. This has a natural mind-altering effect, gently stretching your consciousness. Sunset, on the other hand, is suddenly much cooler, a very pleasant time of day to work with the horses more actively. And then there’s the shift in awareness that happens in the moonlight, when you step into the horse’s world and let them lead as your reliance on human vision fades and your feeling sense naturally intensifies.”
Horses of the Four Directions
A special advanced workshop leading up to the July full moon will also feature gentle activities and meditations with the horses, with two special guest facilitators from the Northern Arizona/Western New Mexico Dine’ (Navajo) nation sharing traditional horse-related stories, songs, prayers and ceremonies.
“For several years now, people who’ve attended advanced workshops like Black Horse Wisdom and Rasa Dance have wanted to come back for even more advanced work on a similar consciousness expanding theme,” Linda says. “I’m very pleased and honored to be able to offer a brand new workshop, a collaboration with a profound and compassionate medicine man and his apprentice from the Dine’ tradition who are steeped in the wisdom of the horse.”
Horses of the Four Directions: A Sacred Path of Remembrance, Gratitude, and Transformation will take place July 11 through 14, again from noon to 9 p.m. Indoor and outdoor activities will offer a direct connection to the Dine’ history and creation of the horse, as well as the spiritual teachings associated with these highly respected four-legged beings. The workshop will be facilitated and supported by Harrison Jim, Gino Antonio, Kathleen McGarry, Linda Kohanov and the Epona Herd.
Harrison Jim is a widely respected advocate for the integration of cultural teachings and healing ceremonies in residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment programs, educational and counseling programs for mental health and substance abuse issues. He is a Traditional Counselor certified with the Dine’ Hat-aali Association of Window Rock, Arizona, and a certified Peacemaker with the Navajo Nation. Harrison co-founded the renowned traditional program Hinaa’h Bits’os (Eagle Plume Society) of the Na’nizhoozhi Center incorporated in Gallup, New Mexico. Recognized as a Native Scholar by the University of New Mexico in 2000, he also developed a traditionally-based healing program for adolescents at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital’s Adolescent Care Unit.
Gino Antonio, one of Harrison’s apprentices, is an innovative cultural leader in his own right. Gino and his wife Molly founded Pollen Tracks/Pollen Circles, a native-based organization that weaves culture, adventure, service and environmental stewardship into an indigenous holistic learning experience drawing on the Navajo philosophy of wellness, which addresses the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the individual.
“It was truly a blessing to meet Gino and Harrison,” Linda says. “Gino contacted me in 2009 after reading The Tao of Equus, and offered to come to Epona to bless the horses and the Epona work. I was quite astonished, honored, and a little bit nervous to meet them, as you might imagine. Their enthusiasm, kindness, and dignity were inspiring. Over dinner that first night, they shared from the heart stories of their personal hardships and triumphs. But what was really astonishing was how oddly at home I felt as they moved seamlessly back and forth between the world of practical reality and the mythic ancestral otherworld. For the Dine’ it seems, there’s no separation between the two. I’m looking forward to the workshop we will create together this July.”
The workshop staff will also feature Epona Approved Instructor Kathleen McGarry, a recent graduate who has made significant inroads in taking this work to a variety of Native American tribes, gaining introductions and support from Navajo, Apache and Hopi leaders, the White Bison Wellbriety organization, and members of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
This workshop is limited to ten participants who’ve attended at least one of the following advanced Epona workshops (Black Horse Wisdom, Rasa Dance, EASE, or the Epona Apprenticeship Program). This special offering is already starting to fill by word-of-mouth. (It will not be formally listed on the website.) To register, contact Sue Smades at 520-455-5908 or email@example.com.
New Directions for the Epona Apprenticeship Program
A note from Linda Kohanov:
Nine years ago, when counselor Kathleen Barry Ingram and I started the Epona Apprenticeship Program based on a request from now-Approved Instructors Joe Esparza and Ris Higgins, the fields of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and Experiential Learning were not yet defined. Over the years, however, it became apparent that the psychotherapeutic and educational dimensions of this work, while related, were quite different in focus, facilitation techniques, required experience/education, and workshop themes. It has long been a dream to have two separate tracks for the Epona Apprenticeship Program, and this year, we were finally able to make it happen. Epona faculty member and psychiatrist Nancy Coyne, M.D. has agreed to lead the apprenticeship program for mental health professionals, with a class that started in March. (The faculty also includes trainer Shelley Rosenberg and myself.)
And, for the first time, an apprenticeship class devoted exclusively to experiential learning (emphasizing techniques for leading workshops and private sessions in advanced personal development, leadership, emotional/social intelligence training) started in late-February at my new facility Epona at Eagle Way. (Faculty includes ML Gould, Carol Roush, Shelley Rosenberg, and myself.)
We’ve seen greater clarity and cohesiveness in the two groups as a result of this development. And we already have significant interest in the next experiential learning class starting in October 2011, so if you have been thinking about applying for the apprenticeship, now’s the time to inquire by contacting Carol Roush at 520-455-5058 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read complete descriptions of the Apprenticeship programs click on the following: Equine Facilitated Learning or Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.
We have also honed the pre-requisites for the apprenticeship to better serve specific interests. In the early years, we created a five-week apprenticeship program with the only pre-requisite being a basic two-day Epona workshop (in addition to the experience and education requirements cited in the application). However, we found that we had so many people with varying interests that we could only briefly touch on the various ways you could apply this work. To be able to address special interests in more depth, we decided to create a three-week apprenticeship in 2007 to teach facilitation techniques only, allowing people to do two advanced workshops that go much deeper into how this work applies to leadership, equestrian, intuitive/creative, trauma survivor needs, or personal development skills specifically.
And this year, we’ve expanded the scope of these advanced workshops. So, for instance, if someone is interested in using this work for personal development audiences, they would be best served by attending the two-week EASE program led by faculty member Carol Roush — email@example.com — to experience that dimension of the Epona work, or the NOW program in the United Kingdom. Someone who is interested in taking this work to equestrians can choose from a variety of riding and training workshops led by our horse specialist/faculty member Shelley Rosenberg, as well as one workshop led by me, such as Rasa Dance. This year, Shelley is also offering an in-depth two-week riding program (similar to the two-week EASE concept with assignments and conference calls in between) called the Epona International Integrated Riding program (EIIR) U.S. in conjunction with Epona Approved Instructor Laura Barrett at Barrett Farm in Florida, or the international program taking place in the United Kingdom, in which participants explore how to create a deeper, more effective relationship with their equine partners through increasing intuition and self-awareness, accessing a deeper understanding of the horses’ mind and body, and developing awareness of how they and their emotions effect their relationship with their horse or the horses they train.
Applicants with varying interests can also choose two different advanced workshops, perhaps a riding workshop with Shelley, and the Pioneering Spirit leadership workshop with me. Those who want to learn to dance with horses on the ground, a great technique for horse trainers and also people who want to hone more creative leadership skills, can attend Rasa Dance, and those who are interested in the intuitive/visionary dimension of the horse-human bond can attend Black Horse Wisdom as one of their advanced workshop requirements.
And finally, this fall and winter, I will be leading an advanced two-week intensive (similar in format to EASE and EIIR) specifically for people who want to learn advanced leadership skills. The program carries the same title as my upcoming book Power of the Herd: Building Social Intelligence, Visionary Leadership, and Authentic Community through the Way of the Horse and is designed to support people who feel called to move into an innovative leadership role, whether they are working to create social change through educational, non-profit, church, or community organizations, or lead more effectively and creatively in corporate settings, or develop the necessary skills to take a more original vision out into the world with the most power and effectiveness (and least amount of drama and confusion) possible.
(The specifics of this program, along with another excerpt from my new book, will be featured in the next Epona News edition in May. But if anyone is interested in the meantime, you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. With dates for the first week of Power of the Herdset for November 14 through 19, 2011, this two-week program will not start in time to act as a pre-requisite for the AP18 class, which starts October 29, 2011.)
In the meantime, I want to congratulate our current AP 15 (experiential learning) and AP 16 (mental health) classes for being the pioneers of a new era in apprenticeship training, helping us to further define a vision started by a black horse named Rasa who I first met back in 1993. When I was grieving the stifle injury ending her riding career in 1994, I no idea that the confusing and frustrating process of learning to walk beside her — and really listen to her — would subsequently take thousands of people on such a long, intricate, fulfilling and mind-expanding journey. Thanks to all the horses around the world who continue to support and inspire their “owners” and caretakers in ways that we are only now beginning to fathom and embrace!