October, 2008 News

Steve Roach’s Music on New Eckhart Tolle CD

Many visitors to the Epona Center have experienced the richly nuanced music of Steve Roach as a vital, mindfulness-expanding complement to the work with horses. “Long before I wrote The Tao of Equus, Steve and I actually led workshops together on the transformational power of sound,” reveals Epona founder Linda Kohanov, Steve’s wife of 18 years. “But adding this dimension to the work with horses took us both to a whole new level of understanding how music creates an opening for accessing creativity, visionary states, nonverbal awareness, and that profound state of being Eckhart Tolle calls Presence.”

The couple was therefore delighted when an excerpt from Steve’s CD Structures from Silence was hand-selected by bestselling author and renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle for a new collection of contemplative pieces called Music to Quiet the Mind. Steve’s 1984 classic, previously hailed as one of the top 10 CDs for doing yoga by Yoga Journal, is sure to reach a whole new audience among Tolle fans.

Eckhart Tolle is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time. Oprah Winfrey championed his work, collaborating with Tolle on a multi-week radio series earlier this year, and his profound yet simple teachings have already helped countless people throughout the world find inner peace and greater fulfillment in their lives. At the core of his teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. An essential aspect of this awakening involves transcending ego-based states of consciousness to access a state Tolle often refers to as Presence. This is a prerequisite not only for personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic on our planet.

“Music creates a bridge for people to move out of thinking and into Presence,” he says. In the liner notes to Music to Quiet the Mind Tolle correlates music to the profoundly transformative experiences we can also have connecting with the natural world. “I have often pointed out that the contemplation of nature can be extremely helpful in taking you beyond the confines of the thinking mind, thus allowing you to gain access to the realm of inner stillness, from which arises all creativity and a sense of intense aliveness that we may call joy,” he writes. “Giving your attention to music…can fulfill a similar function. Music bypasses the conceptual mind….All of the artists who created and/or perform the music contained on (this CD) are familiar with the realm of inner stillness and are able to create or perform from that dimension and thus bring it into this world. That is why each piece of music has a certain magic to it. Each piece is eminently suitable for reducing or eliminating the activity of thought in you, the listener, (taking) you deeper into stillness…., (showing) you the way back to the hidden dimension of life, the unmanifested, the formless and timeless consciousness. This is the realm of the sacred, and this is also who you are in your innermost nature.”

“It is a wonderful synchronicity to have Steve’s music recognized by Tolle at this time,” Linda says, “not only because we have used his book A New Earth in our apprenticeship program, and some of his principles daily with students and staff, but because of the doubly powerful combination that we’ve found when we incorporate Steve’s music into our horse-facilitated workshops. Horses are amazing examples of beings who live in that state of pure Presence, and are fully capable of leading receptive humans ever more deeply into this highly restorative yet also creative state.”

Music to Quiet the Mind is currently available at the Epona gift store, and can easily be ordered through Amazon.com. Purposefully sequenced for a grounding and calming effect, this inspirational compilation also includes the soothing voice of Deva Premal, international superstar of sacred chant; New Zealand composer Kip Mazuy; a modern arrangement of Satie’s “Gnossienne 3”; the pure and healing sounds of Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog, and more. (The original extended version of Structures from Silence can also be ordered from the www.steveroach.com website.)

In her essays, “Believe” (card 2) and “Promise” (card 26) in the Way of the Horseguidebook, Linda quoted Tolle rather extensively in essays describing how horses lead us to a deeper, more authentic sense of what Tolle refers to as Presence. See the end of this newsletter for a reprint of “Believe.”

The Ultimate Workshop Featuring Music and Horses

While many of the introductory and advanced workshops at the Epona Center feature a mindfulness-enhancing music experience with Steve Roach, Rasa Dance: The Energy of Connection (November 19-24, 2008) is the ultimate Epona workshop integrating music into daily work with horses to exercise presence, creativity, and authenticity in action. Students learn to engage the powerful energy fields of the horses to dance with them on the ground, in silence, and later to music. During the week, participants are also coached in how to improvise music together to develop the timing, co-creativity, and deep listening skills necessary to find a balance between personal expression and sensitivity to others, skills that enhance and are enhanced by, dancing with the horses.

“The more often I’ve taught horse dancing from the Epona perspective,” Linda says, “the more I’ve realized that our approach is in some sense more natural than what has come to be known as ‘natural horsemanship.’ It’s less about training a horse to perform certain moves than it is about interacting with a horse energetically, listening to him at very subtle level. When you realize how much horses use their extensive, multi-layered energy fields to communicate with and move each other, you can actually get them to join up with you and trade leads in a dance of relationship that evolves far beyond what you would normally consider possible. It becomes a conversation through movement that flows from the music of connection. It is available to us at any moment, with any horse, regardless of his/her level of conventional training.”

The November Rasa Dance workshop will also feature guest lectures by Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., author The Living Energy Universe and The Energy Healing Experiments, and Ann Baldwin, Ph.D., a University of Arizona professor of physiology, who has been recognized internationally for her research into alternative medicine and energy healing.

Experience with horses and/or music is optional. All that’s required is a sincere desire to have fun and connect with others. Under the guidance of composer/recording artist Steve Roach, participants will be introduced to music as a reliable and powerful way to access expansive states of awareness, increasing empathy and intuition, while at the same time enhancing and supporting creativity, self-esteem, and a deeper understanding of nonverbal communication. Through group explorations of sound and silence a sense of deeper listening, feeling and seeing is activated and efficiently integrated, offering participants who may consider themselves as “non-musical” an entirely new way to think and create outside the box. Participants are coached in relating these qualities to subtle movements in the arena with horses—and in creating mutually fulfilling human relationships, as parents, friends, teachers, leaders, and, most certainly, as romantic partners negotiating the ever changing rhythms of life.

“Throughout the animal kingdom,” Linda writes, “mating is often characterized as a dance. Cultivating relationship, it seems, is more art than science, the language of love more musical than verbal. In human relationships, however, we often become impatient with the natural rhythms of engagement. Yet if we treat our significant partnerships with the same sense of discovery and delight we experience with music, we might actually revel in the ebbs and flows, harmonies, and dissonances of our daily improvisations.”

A New Direction for the Epona Apprenticeship Program

Since 2003, the Epona Apprenticeship Program has grown by leaps and bounds, attracting professionals on six continents who now offer equine-facilitated experiential learning and psychotherapy programs of their own as Epona Approved Instructors. Over the years, however, the Epona staff has seen a growing need for change in this five week program for a very specific reason:

According to Linda Kohanov, “The combination of such a wide variety of special interests—therapists, horse trainers, life and executive coaches, and people more oriented toward the mystical/transformational/mindfulness training dimension of the horse-human connection—has meant that I have to be too general in what I’m presenting, offering apprentices only a taste of the variety of directions one might take this work. For instance, in previous apprenticeship groups, people interested in using the Epona Approach for corporate leadership training were sometimes frustrated in studying alongside therapists who wanted to delve more deeply into how this work can bring up personal issues—and vice versa. Horse trainers who wanted to use this work with equestrian clients didn’t get enough time seeing how we adapt the work specifically for horse owners/riders. And some people who were very interested the mindfulness, shamanic, creativity, and energy healing dimensions were frustrated that they only got to experience a brief taste of what we offer in that area, while some of the leadership people didn’t really find the mystical side of the horse-human connection of interest.”

Now that the Epona Center is offering a number of in-depth workshops in these specific areas, Linda felt it was time to be able to create an apprenticeship that offered people the ability to attend workshops that address their special interests so that they can experience how she refines this work and adds certain activities with horses for specific purposes. Then, people who want to become Epona Approved Instructors can join a three-week version of the apprenticeship where they learn and practice how to facilitate. As it turns out, many people who attended the five week apprenticeship (which also requires an introductory workshop to apply, for a total of six workshops) are now planning to attend additional advanced workshops to get those special interests addressed. Linda really wanted to see if Epona could tool the significant investment people make in the apprenticeship program to address many of those special interests in a five week plan (beyond the initial introductory workshop).

“At the same time,” she says, “I’ve seen that many people interested in the Epona Apprenticeship Program are dealing with work and family-related time and budget constraints. It was difficult for them to attend the five-weeks-in-one-year version of the apprenticeship. I wanted to create a program that could be more flexible, allowing people to spread their Epona Center studies out over two or even three or four years.”

People who are interested in the deep personal development and authentic community building aspects can already attend a basic workshop anywhere in the world and then travel to the Epona Center for the two week EASE program. This program also includes phone conferences, small group support, and assignments in between. For the last three years, Epona has provided an abbreviated, three-week apprenticeship program for graduates of EASE, previously called the “Fast Track” in which the entire concentration was devoted to learning to facilitate, a completely different mindset than exploring one’s own process.

“This more relaxed pace allowed people to embody the Epona work more fully before learning to facilitate and start their own programs as Epona Approved Instructors,” Linda observes, “and we’ve seen many benefits to this for graduates, both personally and professionally. So with all of this in mind, key staff members and I decided to suspend the year-long, five week apprenticeship option, in favor of two to three weeks of personal studies over time, followed by a three week concentration in facilitation skills taking place over six months. The EASE option leading to the three-week apprenticeship is still a viable track for those interested in personal development and authentic community building through the way of the horse.

“As of fall 2008, however, there is another option: to attend workshops that address your special interests on site at the Epona Center, then join the three-week apprenticeship in facilitation techniques. Since this new special interest track involves autonomous workshops, some of which are four or five days rather than the six-day weeks of EASE, with no conference calls/assignments in between, I decided it would be best if people oriented toward the special interest option attend a minimum of three workshops on site at the Epona Center before they join the three-week facilitation apprenticeship.”

Here are some interesting tracks:

For equestrians: An introductory workshop such as Way of the Horse orFoundation Horsemanship, then The Sentient Herd, the ultimate workshop for taking the Epona ideas into riding and training horses. And Rasa Dance, a workshop specifically exploring the intricacies and benefits of dancing with horses co-creatively.

For those interested in corporate leadership: Pioneering Spirit: Leadership for the 21st Century, then Horse Sense at Work (an advanced clinic in emotional fitness, conflict resolution, and leadership skills for the workplace, coming in 2009), and, at any time, Rasa Dance, which exercises assertiveness, motivational, and non-verbal leadership skills in learning to dance with horses.

For those interested in exercising mindfulness, energy healing, and intuitive communication skills: The Tao of Equus mindfulness workshop, Keeper of the Mysteries (the ultimate experience accessing transformational equine archetypes, journeying skills and intuitive communication with horses), Riding between the Worlds (which adds holotropic breathwork and journeying activities to the work with horses), and/or Rasa Dance.

People who have more general interests could go in depth into different areas to see how the vocabulary we choose, lecture topics, group work, and horse work vary, sometimes significantly, according to workshop theme/interest. So someone could come to Sentient Herd to get the riding/training dimension, then attend Horses as Healers: for Trauma Survivors (whether you are one, or plan to work with trauma survivors, it’s very powerful), then perhaps Keeper of the Mysteries for the mystical/transformational aspect, or Radical Self Care, a new workshop in recovering balance of body, mind, and spirit (coming in January 2009).

And finally, people who attend the four-week Professional and Life Coach Training through the Way of the Horse program (which teaches core competencies in skills that allow graduates to become certified with the International Coaching Federation) can also decide to attend the three-week Epona Approved Instructor apprenticeship in facilitation training—after completing three weeks of the coach training program—if they’re really ambitious and want to complete both programs as soon as possible. Or graduates of the coach training program can take their time to decide whether or not they want to get the Approved Instructor status, joining the three-week apprenticeship a year or two or three down the road.

“The best news,” Linda says, “is that workshops you’ve already attended at the Epona Center count, and those of you who aren’t sure if you want to create a practice as an Epona Approved Instructor can attend workshops of interest over time and decide at a later date if becoming a facilitator of this work is right for you. I’m very excited about this new, more flexible direction for the Epona Apprenticeship Program!”

If you have any further questions, including which series of workshops may be right for you according to your interests and professional goals, please contact Victoria Bol at the Epona Center office at 520-455-9208 or Victoria@theeponacenter.com.

“Believe,” An Excerpt from the Guidebook to Way of the Horse

Copyright 2007 by Linda Kohanov

Michelangelo’s classic statue, David, is a stunning, three-dimensional portrait of the surface of a man, but it can never be any better than it is right now. It can deteriorate over time and become less than it was in its prime, but even a greater artist than Michelangelo himself couldn’t come along and add the qualities of a woman, a lion, a stallion, or a star without defacing the original.

And so it is when we fall into the trap of identifying exclusively with images of who we are. Encouraged to practice the fine art of ego building from the day we’re born, we learn to deftly slice off shards of what we don’t want to be while refining the qualities we think would make the most pleasing sculpture of our own identity. Parents, teachers, and peers are the first critics we encounter; over time, we internalize their aesthetics, trying to live up to their expectations.

The problem is: what we carve in stone threatens to turn out minds to stone. Any mask or idol we cling to becomes a cause we must defend.  Once the statue of the ego gets past a certain point, it becomes impossible to add new and unforeseen ideas to the equation without rendering the entire masterpiece obsolete. The same goes for all those static images we use to define, and ultimately confine, our parents, spouses, children, friends, and horses.

Somehow over time we forget that we are not the sculptures we create, we are the sculptors. Each artist reveals certain aspects of himself in his work, but no single piece of art, in fact no entire medium can ever sum up the totality of a living being, that glittering array of thoughts, feelings, experiences, perspectives, wishes, and dreams. Beneath all that is something even more elusive, the pure, undefinable light of awareness. Consciousness expresses itself through time and space. But just like an artist is not his artwork, his technique, or his raw material, the Authentic Self cannot be framed and hung on a wall for all the world to see.

In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle describes the ego’s traps, and the pure, lucid Presence underneath. “Spiritual realization,” he emphasizes, “is to see clearly that what I perceive, experience, think, or feel is ultimately not who I am, that I cannot find myself in those things that continuously pass away. The Buddha was probably the first human being to see this clearly, and so anata (no self) became one of the central points of his teaching. And when Jesus said, ‘Deny thyself,’ what he meant was: Negate (and thus undo) the illusion of self….

“What remains is the light of consciousness in which perceptions, experiences, thoughts, and feelings come and go. That is Being, that is the deeper, true I. When I know myself as that, whatever happens in my life is no longer of absolute but only of relative importance. I honor it, but it loses its absolute seriousness, its heaviness. The only thing that ultimately matters is this: Can I sense my essential Beingness, the I Am, in the background of my life at all times?”

That “Beingness in the background” feels like light shooting through and reflecting off of the prisms of physical existence. When we engage with this Presence, in ourselves and in others, we experience, according to Tolle, “the simple yet profound joy of connectedness with Being, the Source, God.”

Perhaps this is why the Old Testament abhors any kind of idol. On the surface, this makes the creator of the universe seem like a jealous deity, but the intrinsic impermanence of anything that comes to form is not meant to be a curse. It’s meant to free us from the tendency to cling to static images. To have faith in the unknown, unformed, unexpressed aspects of yourself is to access a pure stream of energy, power, and potential. Though our egos may try to corral this Presence, this Beingness, it can never be fully tamed or explained. It can only be invited to dance with, and finally through, our limited self perceptions.

Learning to separate our true selves from the masks we wear, and the masks we expect others to wear—those sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening sculptures we create, initially to understand ourselves, and later to define and predict others—is the challenge of a lifetime. In this effort, horses can be effective teachers. They’re not only attracted to authenticity, they can help people shift out of ego orientation into an experience of pure Presence. One student, who was relaxing with my bay gelding Noche after a particularly intense session, sat with him for almost two hours, enraptured by a much more profound lesson he taught when the two seemed to be doing absolutely nothing.

“Noche would move away sometimes and come back at other times,” the woman told me. “I started noticing there was a pattern that followed what was going on inside me. I mean I was just sitting there doing nothing, but he wanted to be near me when I became more . . . uh . . . centered, even though that word doesn’t come close to describing what I was feeling. And when I got my head to spinning, worrying about what friends at the executive club back home would think, wondering if the whole afternoon was just my imagination, starting to criticize myself again, Noche just didn’t care to be near me. After a while, I started to see how long I could hold the first feeling and keep Noche with me without saying a word or lifting a finger. It was like he was exercising something in me, like I was being tuned to . . . I don’t know . . . sing a new song.”

That song is the sound of the soul, fostering, as Alan Watts observed, “a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club.” Defining this elusive state of being is like trying to measure the limits of the human spirit, but it can be glimpsed by its fluid, open-hearted, fully engaged approach to life. While the ego, the persona, the False Self fixates on methods, rules, and external sources of gratification, the Authentic Self is eternally observing, creating and experimenting, unhindered by what the ego thinks should or shouldn’t be happening, willing instead to dance with the nuances of whatever is happening. The key to Presence is its ability to be present.

Eckhart Tolle tells the story of J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher. After nearly fifty years traveling around the world, attempting to convey through words what is essentially beyond words, he surprised his audience by asking “Do you want to know my secret?” Everyone leaned in closer and waited for Krishnamurti’s reply.

“This is my secret,” he said. “I don’t mind what happens.

“Does this mean,” Tolle asks, “you can no longer take action to bring about change in your life? On the contrary. When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment, your actions become empowered by the intelligence of Life itself.”

When you access your true self, you don’t have to control what’s going to happen next. You only need to realize that your spirit is much larger than your persona can fathom. When the ego finally realizes that it’s a representation of a limitedaspect of your being, it releases its grip, and the universe becomes your palette.

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