Spring at Epona
The first day of spring arrived at the Epona Center March 20 with an infusion of new growth and new possibilities on all levels. Luminous green leaves seemed to burst out overnight on the ancient cottonwoods winding through Apache Springs Ranch. Looking out the west windows of the conference center and residences, the fruit trees were exploding with color as white apple, pink peach, and magenta crab apple blossoms accented views of the Santa Rita Mountains.
After a winter of ample snow and rain, the waters of Apache Spring overflowed, filling the ranch pond, spilling into small creeks flowing by the pastures where Rasa and her six-month old colt Indigo Moon live with mare Comet’s Promise. Ever stronger and more independent, Indie loves to play with “aunt Comet,” giving his mother some much valued time to herself. Across the walkway, stallion Merlin watches over his herd, waiting no doubt for Comet to rejoin him in April, optimal mating season in the high desert grasslands.
Merlin’s and Rasa’s first son Spirit turned five years old March 7 with members of Epona’s ninth apprenticeship class singing happy birthday to the young stallion who, by virtue of a sturdy new fence, gets to run and play next to his family. Oddly enough, though he was able to run with several bachelor herds of geldings over the last year, Spirit is most content when he lives in the vicinity of his mother, father and brother.
Epona founder Linda Kohanov celebrated spring with the completion of Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self Discovery, a collaboration with noted equine artist Kim McElroy. This deck of horse wisdom cards, with an extensive guidebook, will be published in the fall by New World Library.
“We’re very excited about this project,” Linda says, “because it will allow people to explore the wisdom that horses embody, whether or not they have access to living members of the herd. We actually spent over three years developing and testing this self-discovery tool at workshops throughout North America. Writing the guidebook was as involved as my two other books. My goal was to design a collection of essays on the various lessons horses teach us, simultaneously creating a book that could be read straight through on its own merit, or referenced daily as a key to the cards. People who work with horses will find some new ideas for enhancing their relationships with these sensitive, powerful animals, as well as enhancing their relationships with other humans, and perhaps, most importantly, the relationship with their own power and creativity.”
Linda and Kim will offer a pre-publication unveiling of the deck at the upcoming workshop Spring of Inspiration: Self Discovery and the Way of the Horse. Held at the Epona Center at Apache Springs Ranch April 9-12 (see details below), this four-day workshop for six people is the first of a series of spring Epona retreats with lodging and meals included.
“It’s long been a dream to create retreats for smaller groups of people who want to not only learn from the horses during workshop hours, but to live on site with them, to wake up and meditate with them, to journal sitting next to them at sunset, perhaps taking a trail ride or private lesson; perhaps just exploring the lost art of ‘doing nothing’ with them,” Linda says. “Now that the Epona Conference Center is in full swing, we can finally offer the experience of really immersing yourself in that feeling of expanded yet relaxed awareness that horses generate 24 hours a day.”
The residence overlooks the pastures where Rasa, Merlin, Comet, Indigo, and Spirit live, yet the 130 acre ranch has over 40 horses living in herds, and plenty of inspiring views and quiet places to get lost in reflection, surrounded by miles of national forest trails. With chef At Donatelli conjuring up meals like grilled Mahi with basil, prime rib, sautéed scallops, roasted natural chicken, herb-crusted salmon, homemade soups, salad bar, and plenty of vegetarian choices, participants are nurtured on multiple levels.
“I think it’s fitting that our first spring Epona retreat pays homage to the horse’s ability to inspire increased creativity in people,” Linda continues. “Kim McElroy and I are excited to share our experiences and insights into the creative process of self discovery as a part of this workshop led by Epona Approved Instructor Cathryn Clerc.”
A trail riding retreat limited to four people takes place April 24-27. Led by Epona Ranch Manager and Advanced Instructor Shelley Rosenberg, participants will explore the high desert terrain of Sonoita on daily rides while learning basic Epona methods of restoring spirit and communicating more effectively with horses and humans. Titled Trail Rides: Tao and Zen, this workshop is for people with some basic riding experience. Shelley, a grand prix dressage rider, certified judge, and horse trainer in multiple disciplines, recently published My Horses, My Healers, a book chronicling her own journey to greater self awareness and healing through working with horses. The book is available at Amazon.com and many bookstores.
Then there’s The Tao of Equus: Mindfulness through the Way of the Horse (May 9-13), a five-day workshop exploring the horse’s ability to exercise mindfulness and meditative states in people. Linda Kohanov will be joined by experienced mindfulness practitioner Mary-Louise Gould and composer Steve Roach. This retreat can accommodate up to eight people. (See workshop descriptions toward the end of this newsletter edition for details, or log onto the official Epona website at www.taoofequus.com .)
Excerpts from Kohanov’s upcoming guidebook to Way of the Horse
In celebration of finishing the Way of the Horse manuscript, Linda has offered to share some excerpts from her soon-to-be-published book in this edition of Epona News, as well as future Epona newsletters, highlighting bits of equine wisdom she has learned from working, playing, and reflecting with horses over the years. (For previews of Kim McElroy’s stunning art work for the project, check out the artist’s website at www.spiritofhorse.com )
Flashes of inspiration are a lot like wild horses. You must travel through untamed territory to find them. And whether you seek them out, or come upon them unexpectedly, that first sighting takes your breath away.
As the best wranglers will tell you, to track and tame a mustang, it helps to think like one. The same goes for new ideas. In the early stages of innovative thought, creative geniuses tap states of mind more common to horses than civilized people. Yet great artists also have the tenacity, concentration, and endurance to communicate these innovations in ways that only a human being can. An overemphasis on logic, language, will, and focus has actually been shown to decrease creativity and awareness. Sensations and feelings are constantly pouring into our bodies and bubbling up toward the surface of our minds, yet few of these nuances make it through the powerfully discerning frontal cortex of the human brain. Because when we form a thought and narrow the focus of that thought enough to fit into spoken or written language, we are abstracting from a much richer field of information…
A horse’s mind is literally swimming in a sea of nuance that exists in the human brain before it filters experience through language….Creative geniuses continuously struggle with the task of communicating their revelations to the world through the most amenable form of expression—music, visual art, poetry, mathematics. Their talent for continued innovation, however, stems from an ability to engage and process a complex, interconnected, nonlinear series of insights rising from enhanced sensory awareness (card 9) and intuition (card 30), states highly developed in horses. Artists also spend a large amount of time “doing nothing,” alternating periods of intense concentration on a project with periods of “creative indolence” (card 8).
With or without wings, the white horse is universally depicted as a messenger of wisdom, creativity, healing, and redemption. Pegasus spirited the heroes of ancient Greece to the stars of immortality, and the magical waters that nourished artists and poets sprang up where his hoof struck the ground on Helicon, the mountain of the muses. Mohammed received his holy visions astride Alborak. The white winged mare, sometimes portrayed with a woman’s head and a peacock’s tail, took Islam’s revered prophet to heaven—and brought him safely back to earth again, where he struggled to share the immensity of his insights with the world.
Epona, the Celtic goddess of fertility and transformation, often appeared as a luminous white mare. Some legends also tell of Druid priests employing white horses as oracles. Through a series of simple, ritualistic movements, these sacred steeds would answer “Yes” or “No” to questions about everything from battle strategies to planting times and lovers’ quarrels.
Hindu prophecies speak of an avatar named Kalki ushering in a future era of peace on earth. The final manifestation of Vishnu, he’s sometimes depicted as a white winged horse carrying or accompanying the blue-skinned god. Statues also portray him with a horse’s head and a human body, harkening back to an earlier manifestation of Vishnu, Hayagriva, worshipped as the god of wisdom. Sitting on a white lotus, this brilliant white horse-headed avatar rescued the holy text of the Vedas from demons, representing thereafter the triumph of divine knowledge over the dark forces of ignorance and misguided passion.
White winged horses continue to inspire artists and visionaries. Kim McElroy’s portrait of The Messenger (the image for this card) was evoked by a personal encounter with this luminescent archetype. Appearing to her as a guide in one of her first shamanic journeys, he took her to “a magic place, a place of spirit, where all things are possible.” There, he asked her to join him, to become one with him for a time, echoing the fluid hippomorphic transformations associated with this image cross-culturally.
“I was deeply honored,” she wrote after this powerful experience, “but also a little afraid of losing myself in his greatness. He explained that we could share this experience and still be individuals. And so we become One in his horse form, and I was both self and horse. And I knew what it was to be powerful, and gracious, and beautiful, and wise, and we accomplished great things. Other people who came to this place defeated and saddened sought out the white winged horse and opened their hearts to him, and they were healed.”
“There was a calling in this experience for me as well,” she told me years later. “At the time I created The Messenger, I didn’t even own a horse, but my experience joining him infused my art with a deeper source of inspiration. I found that I had the ability to become the horses I paint, to feel their bodies and souls from the inside out. This helps me touch the hearts of people in this world with the spirit of the horse….”
On a wider scale, this archetype echoes the myth of Pegasus, a messenger from the Gods and a loyal companion to the Muses, capable of jump-starting artistic talent and carrying those who have lived heroically to the stars. Engaging with the white winged horse, inviting him to fly through your imagination, helps you access a divine source of wisdom and inspiration, allowing you to find deeper meaning and purpose in your own earthly journey. Ride this horse, become him for a while, and you’ll begin to create your life as the work of art it was meant to be.
The human race was blessed with the faculties to imagine and manifest, to draw new ideas from the void, to “create something from nothing.” The same mind designed for innovation, however, can wreak havoc on an individual’s quality of life—and ultimately, the world at large. Quite often we use our immense powers of imagination to cloud and manipulate reality rather than to expand it.
The ability to “create your own reality” is a doubled-edged sword, especially when the small-minded ego hijacks this divine birthright. The historic abuse of women, “lesser races,” and animals is a prime example…. It has taken centuries of cruel experiments to finally “prove” that animals do in fact have feelings—that they can reason, love, and learn in sophisticated ways. Anyone attached to upholding the previous view can only be disillusioned by a higher truth seeping through, challenging us to re-create society, letting repressed populations finally have a voice….
The key to using your imagination — without letting it run away with you — involves the practice of mindfulness, which trains the brain and the ego simultaneously, bringing them into balance with reality, releasing ever higher, deeper, more creative forms of consciousness.
When you stop ruminating on the past and planning for the future, when you let go of preconceived notions and simply notice what is happening from moment to moment, you’re exercising mindfulness. It’s easier said than done, of course, because the ego relentlessly tries to defend its self-serving theories….The alternative involves a willingness to see the world as it is while imagining fresh ways of relating to an ever emerging, more richly nuanced vision of reality. Of course, you will, at times, remember the past (as opposed to obsessing on it) and plan for the future (without becoming overly attached to one particular scheme). With your mental faculties revealing the truth, as opposed to defending a self-image, you’ll begin to live life as an improvisatory art as opposed to a rigid formula. In the process, you’ll reclaim that God-given gift for creativity in the most constructive, life-affirming sense.
People searching for soulful ways to unlock the mind often look to Buddhist and Taoist techniques, but you don’t have to subscribe to any belief system to practice mindfulness. You may very well have an experienced teacher munching hay in your own backyard. Horses embody many of the attitudes and skills people develop through a more formal discipline, including the ability to engage fully with reality….
Horses are actually hardwired for the state of nonattachment championed by the Buddha. In the wild, they don’t defend territory, build nests, live in caves, or store nuts for the winter. They move unprotected with the rhythms of nature, cavorting through the snow, kicking up their heels on cool spring mornings, grazing peacefully in fields of flowing grass, despite a keen and constant awareness of predators lurking in the distance. While they react quickly in the face of danger, they also show remarkable resilience in recovering from traumatic events. They don’t ruminate over and over and over again about the injustices of the past, clouding their vision and their enjoyment of life with ceaseless internal dialogues about how cruel it is that God invented lions.
Unless they’ve been trained into a state of extreme dissociation or learned helplessness, domesticated horses also mirror the truth of what’s happening from moment to moment, keeping their handlers from becoming mired in projections and illusions. These animals not only reflect incongruities in emotion and intention, they highlight unrecognized strengths and improvements in people as well, providing a form of biofeedback for self-awareness, the most difficult aspect of any mindfulness practice.
Learning to manage your big human brain is a lifelong endeavor. Ironically, becoming more horselike in your thinking is a shortcut to freeing your mind from all the misguided habits that keep you from using it effectively….
—Excerpts from Kohanov/McElroy: Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self Discovery (New World Library, fall 2007) Copyright © 2007 by Linda Kohanov
Epona Retreats: Spring 2007
A Spring of Inspiration: Self Discovery and The Way of the Horse
- April 9-12, 2007
- Cost: $2,000
- Includes four nights lodging and three nutritious meals per day
- Limited to 6 participants
Each of us have gifts to share with the world, and inspiration is the creative force that enables us to bring those gifts forward. In the creative process we discover our Selves, our true nature, and our passion.
Throughout history horses have been associated with inspiration and creativity. Greek mythology tells us the winged horse Pegasus struck the ground on Mount Helicon, the mountain of the Muses, creating the Hippocrene (“horse spring”), magical waters that nourished creativity in artists and musicians. Rasa, Linda Kohanov’s Arab mare, was the inspiration for her books and her workshops. During this retreat, Rasa, her herd, and many of the other horses at Apache Springs Ranch will inspire us as we engage creativity and self discovery through the Epona Approach™. No artistic or equestrian skills are required—only a sense of adventure and an interest in nurturing yourself are needed for this four-day journey.
In this very special workshop, Linda Kohanov, founder and director of the Epona Center at Apache Springs Ranch, author of The Tao of Equus and Riding Between Worlds, speaker, horse trainer, and internationally recognized innovator in the field of equine experiential learning; and special guest, horse artist Kim McElroy, will be sharing their upcoming book and card deck, The Way of the Horse ~ Equine Archetypes for Self Discovery. They will offer insights into how they have learned to access the flow of their own creativity.
Kim McElroy has been engaging with the spiritual and emotional dimensions of horses in her art professionally for over two decades. Her pastel paintings evoke feelings of being in the presence of horses. Kim’s experiences as an artist and writer offer a unique viewpoint into how one’s passion can be fuel for self discovery.
Cathryn Clerc is founder and director of Hippocrene Spring. She lives an inspired life following her passions. She holds a masters degree in integral counseling psychology, is an Epona Approved Instructor, and she is a beginner at pursuing studies in art. She is in the creative process of designing and constructing a facility in Shingle Springs, California where she will continue to create Epona Approach inspired workshops.
This very special workshop is limited to six participants. The tuition includes lodging on site in the new Epona facility beginning with check-in on the evening of April 8th and ending with check-out on the morning of April 12th, all meals beginning with dinner on April 8th and lunch on April 12th, snacks for each day of the workshop, and materials.
For information on the content of this workshop contact Cathryn Clerc at 415-810-2740 or visit www.hippocrenespring.com
Trail Rides: Tao & Zen
- April 24-27, 2007
- Cost: $2,250 includes four nights lodging and three nutritious meals per day.
- Limited to 4 participants.
Begin the connection of horse and human on the trails at Epona. From the back of your horse, explore the scenic Sonoita high desert grasslands, streams and mountains, while learning to practice Epona methods of restoring spirit and true communication. Epona Ranch Manager and Advanced Instructor Shelley Rosenberg will be your primary guide and facilitator, with colleagues Denise Moody, Epona approved instructor; and Epona apprentice, Dr. Nancy Coyne. This workshop requires some basic riding experience.
For more information and registration contact Shelley Rosenberg 520-455-5918 or email@example.com
The Tao of Equus: Mindfulness Through the Way of the Horse
- Facilitated by Linda Kohanov, Mary-Louise Gould, Steve Roach
- May 9-13, 2007
- $2500 includes five nights lodging and three nutritious meals per day.
- Limited to 8 people.
This unique five day workshop, set in the beautiful and restful Santa Rita Mountains surrounding the Epona Center, offers a cloistered, meditative retreat from the stress-filled reality of “life as usual,” combined with an active engagement with horses, the master teachers of self awareness through Mindfulness. What seems so difficult for a grasping, hoarding, controlling, competitive human being comes easily to these highly social, intensely aware, nomadic prey animals. To become more horse-like, by developing a mindful approach to everyday reality, is a powerful, efficient, and fun way to awaken the delight of touching life deeply in every moment, and a path to greater peace and self-acceptance.
Horses not only embody these attitudes and skills, they can offer humans an accurate, yet innately non-judgmental form of biofeedback for self-awareness. Workshop activities with horses will include reflective work, which exercises being and sensing, energetic and subtle body awareness. Active round pen work develops inner stillness and balance within movement, culminating in the ability to dance with a horse in a co-creative improvisation. Participants will also receive guidance in simple, traditional Mindfulness practices as well as an opportunity to enhance their sensitivity to the nonverbal nuances of awareness through meditative musical experiences.
To assure a comfortable and secure environment conducive to a willing exploration of mind, body, and emotional mindfulness, this will be a fully residential workshop that includes lodging and three nutritious meals, as carefully prepared by Epona’s outstanding chef Art Donatelli. Enrollment is limited to 8. No equestrian experience required.
Mary-Louise Gould spent significant time studying meditation in India, as well as 25 years of practicing mindfulness under the guidance of such teachers as Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, and 20 years as a clinical counselor teaching clients the benefits of mindfulness for healing and personal/spiritual growth. “During the last 10 years,” she says, “my greatest mindfulness teacher has been my wise and gentle thoroughbred, Timeless Trick. He has guided me to a deeper appreciation for all of nature, helping me hone an expanded awareness of the blessings in inter-being relatedness, giving me a greater sense of contentment with life as it is.”
Recognized as a leading innovator in contemplative music, Steve Roach has created a number of releases considered essential listening within the fields of meditation, yoga, and bodywork. Titles like Structures from Silence, Quiet Music, and The Dream Circle are considered classics. Yoga Journal, in fact, chose Structures from Silence as one of the Top Ten all-time CDs for practicing yoga. Steve’s music will be supporting the workshop throughout, culminating in a live meditative concert experience.
Linda Kohanov is recognized internationally for her unique ability to characterize in writing, and teach in person, how horses help people reach greater levels of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual mastery.