Issue 2016-01 - January, 2016
Shadow Work® Through the Way of the Horse
Chrissy McFarren, co-founder and president of FCFGHC, has drawn from her years of experience with horses and Shadow Work® facilitation to create a unique personal growth and healing experience that brings our authentic self into the light with all our strengths and gifts.
We all have personal stories of pain and suffering that have caused us to hide away parts of our authentic selves to avoid experiencing pain again. Horses are exquisitely gifted by nature to guide us as we traverse the path between our internal and external worlds. They offer real time feedback through relationship and their ability to embody metaphor. They willingly journey with us into the territory of shadow to recover the gold of our authentic self.
When you choose Shadow Work Through the Way of the Horse, you choose to embark on your own "Hero's Journey" with the horse as your guide, a journey dedicated to the search for, and rescue of your authentic self. The discovery of your authentic self is the key to loving more fully and living the life of your dreams.
Some of you have already experienced Shadow Work Through the Way of the Horse in our Women of Wisdom retreats and workshops. Chrissy has been working closely with her Women of Wisdom sisters, Cris Lindsay, and Natalie Allio, to develop the structure, process and materials that will support this amazing program. Women of Wisdom is all about a community of women that supports one another as we bring our gifts into the light and into the world.
Shadow Work Through the Way of the Horse will officially launch this fall with workshops in two Colorado locations. Check our events page for updates!
Women of Wisdom is Growing and Expanding its Offering!
have been on a journey together for nearly 9 years. We have supported one another through everything from the mundane challenges of everyday life to major life transitions, seeking and finding our authentic life purpose, and following our dreams. We recognize and have a great appreciation for the value of this community. So much
so that in 2013 we created the Women of Wisdom (WoW) community to share it with all women.
WoW is a community of women supporting women in re-membering their authenticity and living their lives to the fullest. We started with a series of workshops and retreats and expanded our community virtually through social media with Women of Wisdom Living Full Circle on Facebook. This year we are adding coaching services as a way of offering ongoing support to women who have chosen this journey. Learn more about WoW here.
Launch of Our Men's Program
Men, do you feel disconnected in your life and relationships? Are you longing for joy, peace, and serenity? If so, you are not alone. Come join other men in exploring what it means to be a man with purpose in this modern world. The men of FCFGHC are presenting the inaugural Shadow Work through the Way of Nature retreat on September 11 through September 15, 2016 at Badger Creek Ranch in Cañon City, Colorado.
Through the use of Shadow Work® and connecting with the healing gifts of nature, Shadow Worker Dave McFarren, nature specialist Brian Allio, and spiritual counselor Andy Carlson will guide you through the four directions of relationship to find the balance, harmony, and congruity of living your authentic and powerful masculine self. Check us out online for more information about FCFGHC, Shadow Work through the Way of Nature retreat, and the retreat facilitators. Special prices available to veterans and military members.
Issue #5 - August, 2013
Stromberg Fundraiser a Huge Success!
by Cris Lindsay
Despite the foggy gray day that we were given for this event, the evening at
Twin Oaks Tavern Winery with world class equine photographer
Tony Stromberg was one of illumination. It was so wonderful to see our friends of Full Circle Farm Growth and Healing Center and meet new folks who came to enjoy the evening.
The evening began with some light fare, wine tastings and delightful Irish music provided by our friends
Pat Egan and Tabby Finch.
A big thanks to Tony for sharing his life with us and his slideshow of the photographs that moved us to tears and laughter all in a span of ten minutes! It goes to show how these amazingly beautiful animals have drawn us to them and inspired us throughout history.
The energy was awesome in the winery that evening. It was warm, authentic, connected and fun! Thank you for coming out and being part of this experience.
We appreciate the opportunity to share with you what we are offering at Full Circle Farm Growth and healing Center. Your support is vital to our offerings and we thank you from our hearts. We also decided to share your generosity by splitting the proceeds from the fundraiser with another organization we believe is doing important work:
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.
And finally, we want to say an extra special thanks to Donna Evers and
Twin Oaks Tavern Winery for hosting us and the graciousness that was extended to all!
New Program for Veterans - Full Circle Veterans
Earlier this summer we held two Open Houses for local military veterans introducing them to the idea of equine-assisted therapy/learnng and getting their feedback as to how we can best serve them. Our intention has always been to introduce healing and restoration through EAP/EAL to not just our warriors, but eventually their suffering spouses and children. Before we opened the farm to our service-members, we reached out to MSgt Joseph Smith, USAF, retired, to assist in formatting and structuring the group and we are very excited that Joseph has accepted the position of Program Director for what will now be known as Full Circle Veterans. Under his guidance our highly committed task force will be working directly with veteran's groups and transitional housing/VA medical units to bring our heroes to what we hope will be their home away from home as Full Circle Veterans. Joseph's wife, Dawn Smith will be managing promotional materials and media support for outreach from West Virginia to Virginia to DC and Maryland. The Board of Full Circle Farm Growth and Healing Center welcomes both Joseph and Dawn and Full Circle Veterans. It is an honor and a privilege for us to be able to host and serve our veterans utilizing equine assisted learning and psychotherapy with those who have selflessly served on behalf of all Americans, in our armed forces.
The Full Circle Veterans' Days in 2013 will be:
- Saturday, Aug. 24
- Saturday, Sept. 21
- Saturday, Oct. 19
- Sunday, Nov. 17 (cancelled)
- Sunday, Dec. 15 (cancelled)
Join us for one of these days or all of them
Here is the letter Joseph wrote about his experience and vision after he attended the Veterans' Day on July 21st:
"On 21 July, I joined several military veterans and staff at Full Circle Farm Growth and Healing Center for an afternoon of friendship, discussion, and a delicious lunch with good company. During this warm, sunny day I made two new friends, one a previous member of the US Army and Air Force and the second a former Marine. These gentlemen on their own were smart, kind, and pretty darn funny, we laughed through lunch talking about experiences we'd had.
But more importantly, they were part of my people, my tribe. They had served our great nation with the highest of sacrifices. They had put on a uniform and promised to step into harm's way to protect us. They were military veterans.
I say my tribe because I am also a military veteran. I served in the United States Air Force for twenty years from 1987 until 2007. I have continued to work for our armed forces as a civilian for the last six years. I have fought in every war the United States has been a part of for the last quarter of a century, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and a handful of places I can't even write about. My most recent deployment was to the steeply mountainous regions of Afghanistan in 2010 where I fought alongside my Army brothers near the Afghan-Pakistan border area. I understand veterans and I understand the unique things we share. We share a unique sense of humor, a unique vocabulary, and unfortunately we share a unique type of pain.
This is where Full Circle Farm Growth and Healing Center comes in. They have an incredible staff and facility that are there to answer veterans’ unique needs. Full Circle sits on a beautiful 15 acre horse farm that provides a peaceful and private setting to relax, learn about ourselves and each other and grow. There are a variety of animals around the farm, including eight beautiful horses (several of which are the “miniature” variety). The barn is large and authentic, but with updated amenities to include a large meeting room, a kitchen, and a bunk house for retreat use. There is a large, covered, outdoor corral for use when working with the horses. This is a place that veterans can talk and feel secure that they can share their feelings and concerns in a caring, open, safe environment.
The owners, Chrissy and Dave McFarren, are certified in a variety of help and healing arts, including certification by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Grown and Learning Assoc). Cathy Burns is a licensed professional counselor and a certified EAGALA mental health specialist. The bottom line is that when you combine the staff and the farm, this place is almost magical. When I visit, a peace comes over me that allows me to focus on things that I most need to. And in this context, it means we can collectively work to help and sooth the spiritual and mental wounds of those to which we owe so much, our veterans.
As a veteran and a staff member, I invite you to enjoy your visit to this beautiful 15 acre farm, a place to relax, to heal, and to make new friends of both the two and four legged variety. I hope to see you there.
Joseph Smith, MSgt (ret), United States Air Force
A proud veteran and staff member
Welcome Mission and Chili
by Chrissy McFarren
This spring we welcomed Mission and Chili into our herd. They are 5-year-old miniature horses who spent most their lives living in the sonic shadow of interstate 70 outside of Frederick, MD. They seem to like the peace and quiet here at Full Circle Farm and have settled in wonderfully. And our other mini Tanka is thrilled to have buddies his own size. The three of them now share a pasture and we affectionately referred to them as "The Three Stooges."
Issue #4 - January, 2013
Celebrating the Spirit of the Horse-Human Connection with Equine Photographer Tony Stromberg
by Natalie Allio
Tony Stromberg’s career started some 30 year ago in commercial photography. By most people’s standards his is a story of success working in San Francisco’s fast paced advertising world with prestigious clients like Wells Fargo, Nike, Apple, Boeing and Cessna. Yet Tony shares that after two decades in this fast paced, competitive world he found himself “burned out and completely lost.” He could no longer ignore the sense of emptiness deep within, the voice that whispered of a world out of balance.
Horses had not always been a part of Tony’s life, however “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Tony was ready and through a series of synchronistic events, horses became a big part of his life, they became his teachers.
Tony left what he calls the false security of the corporate world behind to follow a path that nurtured rather than negated life and spirit, and moved to New Mexico where he found the stillness and space to listen more deeply, through photography, to what the horses had to say.
Photographing horses rekindled Tony’s love for photography. As he started spending more time with them, his world began to change. He realized that the nourishment in photography did not come from the medium itself; rather it came from what he was using it to capture and share. Tony describes a moment early in the development of his work when a monumental shift occurred, a moment when he started to look at images and ask himself, “how do they make me
feel?” He states, “this is what I strive for with my work with horses.... there are a lot of “pretty “ horse pictures out there.... horses in fields of flowers.... but I want my images to make people feel something.... an aliveness, a freedom, a wildness, a mystery. Capturing the true spirit and essence of the horse in all its power and beauty….and sharing that spirit with the world…this is my life’s work.”
In the introduction to his book
“Spirit Horses” Tony writes:
“Through the unfolding of this book, I came to learn that horses remind us of valuable truths that are beginning to fade in our culture. These include collaboration instead of dominance. Honesty and authenticity versus manipulation and falseness. Presence vesus distraction. Trust and leadership. Harmony, community and the plain truth that we are all connected.”
Tony captures the spirit of the horse in a visual message that reminds us all of our longing for connection to something beautiful, something wild, something long forgotten. His photography draws its strength from the very simplicity and grace that the horses live. His work is homage to the equine spirit and what it has brought to his life and to the lives of so many others.
What Would Horses Do?
by Cris Lindsay
Looking back over this past year, time has seemed to speed up and the outward experience of our world seems to be filled with fear and negativity. At least that’s the type of energy that is pervasive within our media, our entertainment, the economy, this past Presidential election and the grim predictions that surrounded the Mayan calendar. It’s a lot to “be with” and not get drawn into these thoughts and emotions. As always, I look for the opportunity within these experiences and try to figure out what lessons I can glean from them in order the “be the change I want to see in the world."
As I have been mulling this over, I spent the other evening with my small herd of horses and witnessed a simple but profound event.
We were just hanging out, enjoying the dusk of the evening when all of the sudden they start running around, bucking and snorting. Something had frightened them. They ran for quite awhile and then suddenly stopped and started munching hay again as if nothing had happened…hmm interesting . Horses live in the present moment. Unlike us, they do not worry all night about the “scary” thing or what might happen next or remain upset about what happened last month, well, you get the idea. Horses do have the capacity to remember, they just don’t hold on to stuff. They are extremely in the present moment. It was such an example of a new way of handling the challenges we face today. They acknowledge the danger. They run to a safe distance and look back to see if they still need to take action. They may need to charge, kick, bite or full out attack…they may need to run a bit farther. Whatever the case, they determine what action to take or not take, they act and then they let it go…back to grazing. Wow, what a lesson for us to try on and see if we can’t be more present, CHOOSE our response and then be peaceful again.
Our world seems much more complicated than that of our equine friends but nevertheless, I am constantly reminded of how simple it really can be if we practice being present to what is and practice being the change we want to see in our world, for the sake of all beings.
The Equation of Life
by Natalie Allio
The New Year brings new resolutions, new hopes and new dreams. And with these often come a mixture of emotions; excitement, fear, hope and sometimes overwhelm. We may start with determination and before long find ourselves discouraged. We fall back into old patterns and our goals suddenly seem beyond our reach.
While this happens in many different areas of our lives one area where it happens for me is my work with the horses. I am blessed to have a great mentor who recently helped me see this challenge in a new way. I was working with a little roan mare who was having difficulty with the task at hand. After watching for a few minutes my mentor ambled over to talk about how things were going. He asked me if I took algebra in high school. I smiled ruefully, it has been a long time and algebra certainly wasn’t my favorite subject but yes, I remembered the basics. He bent down and scratched out an equation in the dirt with a stick. "Where do you start?" he asked.
I looked at the equation, noting its complexities. Then somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind the light went on, the parentheses, you always start with the parentheses! My mentor grinned and went back to the horse he was working with. I looked at the little mare; she gazed back at me, the expression on her face reminiscent of the one I wore in algebra class. I paused a few moments longer thinking about what I was asking her to do. I realized what I had thought was a simple task was a complex equation for her. I began to break it down looking for what was in the parentheses. It wasn’t long before we had solved one set of parentheses and moved on to the next, then another and another. In a short time we had solved the equation and the mare was happily performing the task that had initially seemed beyond her reach.
Recently my husband and I were talking about our hopes and dreams for the coming year, 2013. As we talked, the question of how we could accomplish these things kept coming up, a question for which the answer was not immediately apparent. Suddenly I looked at him and grinned, the parentheses I said, always solve the parentheses first! No matter how complex the equation, no matter how big the dream, start with that first small step, and then the next, and the next, and don’t forget to (CELEBRATE) each parenthesis you solve!
Issue #3 - September, 2012
What Would Horses Do?
by Cris Lindsay
Autumn…2012. Ahhh, Autumn…what a relief after a hot summer! In our part of the country we have the privilege of witnessing the colorful transformation of the fall season. The leaves that turn from green to crimson red, bright orange and soft yellow is truly a gift to see. It is the season of harvest. A time to take up all we have sown and store it carefully for the upcoming winter months. The days have a quality of light that has changed from bright to more muted, jewel-toned. The sun is warm and the air is cool. The nights come a bit earlier and have a slight chill. It is truly a time of transformation and variation, a shift of patterns that calls us to change our own schedules and patterns.
I again watch the horses and look for pattern changes in them. How do they so subtly begin to shift their patterns of behavior, the correlation of what happens in their physical environment and their own physical bodies? Over the next few months, I will notice that they will begin to grow a heavier “coat” again, preparation for the winter. Their physical bodies intuitively sense the need to prepare for the next season. They, like us, seem to enjoy the cooler season. A relief from the heat and the bugs, except the big horseflies! This is interesting to me that in this colorful, transformative season of harvest and preparation, they have a seriously nagging, large, biting fly that persists. This is the proverbial time to say “my life is perfect, except…”. Ha! Interesting! So here we are… beautiful, colorful surroundings, a shift in patterns and schedules, a relief from the heat and humidity, a harvest from the summer crops, a preparation for the winter ahead. The beginnings of the letting go process of the year that mostly lies behind us…and a big, biting, nagging horsefly that tries (and sometimes succeeds) to divert our attention to his bite! It’s not like we can completely ignore this pesky aggravation because it really hurts when he bites. We have a few options:
- We can try to ignore it
- We can wave it away
- We can put on repellant and try to shield ourselves
- We can squash it
- Or a combination of any or all of the above
What does the big, biting, nagging horsefly represent in your life? What do you want/need to do about it? How does it divert you attention away from the beautiful, colorful life you have all around you?
The horses seem to do a combination of all of the options and sometimes come to me to “squash” it. Sometimes they ask for help from a friend to rid them completely of this thing that’s causing the distress and discomfort. Then they go right back to enjoying the softer sunlight and grazing peacefully, taking in the beauty of the fall season. Such wisdom…
Issue #2 - May, 2012
What Would Horses Do?
by Cris Lindsay
Spring… 2012. Well, I don’t know about where you live but in our “neck of the woods”, spring has come fast and furiously! Not that I am complaining here!! The truth is that March was unusually warm and everything blossomed all at once. The normal progression that happens over two to three months happened within weeks. It amazes me to witness the correlation between Nature and our own personal experience, another reminder that we are all one, connected with this flow of energy. As I have learned through this practice of observing the horses, witnessing the harmony they have with however the season unfolds, I am reminded of my own life and the mirror that Mother Nature holds up for me to see.
Horses grow a heavy, longer Winter coat that, come March and April, starts to shed off to reveal a shorter, sleeker, shiny new spring coat. This particular spring, the process was earlier, faster…hair flying everywhere! That’s how the season has shown up for me as well. Fast and Furious. All of the sudden, time seemed to speed up, the days are full, the calendar is booked…I find myself back on the fast moving train, sound familiar?
So again, I look at my compass to find my way, to search for the keys to balance. I watch what the horses do…. They seem to love the spring as much as we do. The grass is lush and green, which means fresh, sweet spring grass for them to eat. Their energy has increased. They run and play more. They roll and rub to get the old, no longer needed winter coat off. They lay in the sun and enjoy the warmth that they also have awaited. So basically, they do speed up, they shed or release what is no longer needed AND they slow down here and there to enjoy the sweetness and warmth of the season.
Spring is a season of rebirth and renewal. The “shedding off” of yesterday’s experience to a new, fresh, lighter, smoother, greener and sweeter experience. If we choose to let go of what no longer serves us, a new experience is able to emerge, blossom and bear fruit. Sometimes it takes a bit of “rolling and rubbing” to release the past…sometimes it takes help from a friend to “brush” it off for you or maybe a little bit of both. What past stories are you ready to release in order to experience the spring in your life?
Engaged Contemplative Practice – The Fine Art of “Being”
by Natalie Allio
Mark Rashid, well know clinician and horseman calls it “horsemanship through life”, I learned it as “engaged contemplative practice.” Whatever you choose to call it, it becomes a way of being. I first learned about ontology (our way of being) from Julio Olalla, founder and leader of the Newfield Network, it would be years after hearing this term that I would begin to understand its meaning.
I am a “doer”; I learned this at an early age. We are rarely asked what we are “being.” Even when we are asked what we would like to “be” when we grow up, the implied question is really what would you like to
do when you grow up. When asked as a youngster “what are you doing?” I learned it was best to have an answer that implied productivity. “Reading” would usually result in being given something to do, i.e. chores, while ”doing homework” would result in being left alone with my books.
There is a similar phenomenon in the horse world. Horsemen and women are frequently asked – what do you do with your horse(s)? We even ask one another, what are you doing with your horse? Or, how often are you riding, showing, competing, and how did you do? If we dare to answer these questions with something like –“I’m just hanging out with my horses and enjoying being with them,” we are met with puzzled looks and shrugs. This is not unique to horses and horsemanship, we are often asked in one form or another – what are you doing with your life? Here again if we answer I am learning to just “be” we are met puzzled looks and tentative smiles.
“The way we do anything, is the way we do everything,” and the way we “be” in any situation is the way we will “be” in every situation. Mark Rashid goes on to explain what he means by “horsemanship through life” by relating that his observation of many horse people is they really only practice their horsemanship while they are with their horses. In this day and age of busy schedules this is a relatively limited amount of time. In our daily lives we rush through our day often impatient, frustrated, and overwhelmed. We then somehow believe we can “check our emotions at the gate” and work differently with our horses. We also believe we can “check our emotions at the door” and interact differently with our co-workers, our clients, our spouse and our family.
Frequently we tell ourselves and our children, “Don’t just sit there, do something.” However, when we practice mindfulness, we make an unusual discovery, the discovery that the opposite, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” might actually be more useful. Stopping from time to time allows us to pause in order to see more clearly. Engaged contemplative practice offers us the opportunity to bring the practices of mindfulness and contemplation to our horsemanship. When we practice “horsemanship through life” we have the opportunity to extend our horsemanship beyond the arena and hone the skills that in the end make the greatest difference in all of our relationships. The qualities and skills required to have a good relationship with horses are the same qualities and skills required to have good relationships in general.
I invite you to “whoa” - don’t just do something, sit there, even if only for the time it takes to breathe in and out deeply for two or three breaths. Try the following brief meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh:
Breathing in I calm my body,
Breathing out I smile.
Dwelling in this present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Smiling relaxes hundreds of muscles in the face, enjoy the power of pause!
Testimony of a Therapist
by Cathy Burns, MA - Licensed Professional Counselor
It has been a privilege for me to be working in the arena as a mental health therapist over the past two years at Full Circle Farm Growth and Healing Center with Chrissy and Dave McFarren, Natalie Allio, Cris Lindsey and the therapeutic team of horses. I have been a therapist in private practice in Fairfax, VA over the past 20 years serving children, adolescents and adults with a wide range of presenting issues including: anxiety, depression, addictions, relationship issues, self injury, anger issues, PTSD, parenting issues, ODD, ADD/ADHD, serious health issues (chronic and acute), abuse, academic/work issues, as well as legal issues.
I have had the opportunity to co-offer EAP and EAL sessions as a mental health professional to a number of clients, children, adolescents, and adults who I have worked with in the office. The results have been impressive.
I find working with the horses helps the client to be more in their body and less emotionally defended and resistant. The way the horses respond provides a real time experience and safe environment to explore feelings and to work through life issues and to "try on" new patterns of responding with immediate feedback from the horses. The insights have been profound for the clients and impressive on many levels. The ability of the client to work in metaphor and to understand on multiple levels their own patterns that serve them and those that do not has simply been miraculous. Instead of being told by a professional how they could do things differently, it has been so rewarding to see these clients come to their own awareness and knowing. I have found that this work has had more of an impact and the results and insights seem to be deeper and longer lasting than in traditional talk therapy. The natural dynamic between human and horse has a way of cutting through an individual's natural psychological defenses and brings the individual more quickly down below the chatter of the mind into what is really going on for them. The responsiveness of the horses is amazing and consistently accurate, often responding to what is not apparent to me as a clinician. I have found that more can be accomplished in a single session with the horses than be accomplished in several sessions in the office. I have also enjoyed the group work and I am very much looking forward to the summer camp for the girls in June.
Full Circle Farm feels safe and grounding upon arrival and the team of specialists and the equine team of horses are all remarkably wise and gifted healers. I am delighted that this work is available and provided at Full Circle Farm, especially at this time in history, when so many people, young and older, are facing tremendous pressures in the very fast-paced world we live in today.
Testimonials from the Women’s Spring Retreat
by Chrissy McFarren
On March 18th, we offered our third seasonal one day retreat for women. The day provided a mix of equine assisted activities, wisdom circles, walking the labyrinth, and time outside in the quiet and beauty of spring and nature. The following is a poem offered by one of the participants and testimonials from two others:
Cherish protection ~
Pray for clarity and courage.
Nourish connection ~
Honor the past,
Support the present.
Spill out blessing ~
Play in the joy,
Sing a new song~
Blessed be Spring.
Horses. Open landscape. Fresh clean air. Just to be in the quiet of the moment in this space does as much to restore your soul as anything you could hope for in your life. The addition of wise and compassionate counsel from Chrissy and Cathy only serves to deepen the relevance and meaning of the experience. ~Jenny Banks
A day with the horses...with Chrissy, Cathy and a complement of lovely womenfolk, in a beautiful and peaceful setting. What a way to dig deep, renew or just “be.” Whatever your spirit on arrival, you will be at peace upon leaving. This has become a quarterly gift to myself. ~JDB
Issue #1 - February, 2012
What Would Horses Do?
by Cris Lindsay
Winter…2012. I often find myself in a struggle during winter months. Fighting the cold, the wind, the lack of bright sunshine, shorter days…my mind goes into resistance, negativity and I dream of warmer days ahead. In this work of Equine Assisted Learning I have gained one hugely important tool when my mind goes “there” and my body and spirit are tempted to follow, I ask myself, ”What do horses do?” They are my compass, my true north. Horses don’t seem to ruminate over such things. They live in the present moment and respond to whatever is taking place in that moment. Like me, they may not “enjoy” the cold wind but, unlike me, they don’t seem to let it ruin the moment or the day or the whole season!
It’s interesting to watch. Horses, in a natural setting, seem to be in a place of acceptance. It’s funny to observe them on a cold, rainy/snowy day. Sometimes they act as if it’s nothing at all…sometimes they seek out shelter to stay dry and warm…sometimes they turn their backs to the wind and bear it. Hmm, interesting… It seems they are true to themselves “in the moment” and are simply OK with that. No lingering emotion around it, no yearning for better days, no thinking forward or backward in time. It’s just a matter of “it is what it is”…end of story.
So therein lies my lesson from the wisdom of this inspiring animal. If I can take the lesson and remind my Self to be present, access where I am at, determine my needs and actions and not allow my mind to lure me out of this moment, I find I experience peace, acceptance, a calm place deep within my Self. I still may not necessarily “enjoy” the cold wind but now I am in a place of “being with” it instead of “fighting against” it. Nothing has changed in my environment. What has changed is my perspective. HMM…interesting!
Pace, Presence and Jingle Bells
by Natalie Allio
Some time ago while browsing in one of the local equestrian tack and gift shops I came across a pretty string of beads with small bells attached at various intervals. The string made a large enough loop that it could be hung around the neck of a horse. Not only were the beads pretty, the bells jingled softly in time with the horse’s movement allowing the rider to synchronize with the horse’s rhythm more easily. The beads were aptly named “rhythm beads”. Intrigued I purchased a set and tried them on my horse. He seemed to enjoy the jingle of the bells; secretly I think he also believed himself to be even more handsome when wearing them. As an added bonus he seemed to find the sound of the bells soothing when we rode in the woods and was less distracted by the rustling leaves as wildlife moved among the trees and bushes.
A few months later I encountered the woman who designed and made the rhythm beads at a local horse expo. Recognizing my own tendency to move through life at a brisk pace I asked her if she could make a set of rhythm beads that I could wear around my ankle to bring my awareness to my own pace. She was happy to do so and I soon had my very own ankle size loop of rhythm beads. I loved the effect the bells had of bringing my awareness to each step I took. The reminder of the bells helped me first notice, then slow my pace. Soon the holidays were upon us and I forgot about the beads as life seemed to take on a pace and rhythm all its own. The calendar was filled with holiday preparation, events, dinners and parties. One evening as I dressed for a party I pulled on a pair of holiday socks, complete with jingle bells around the cuff. Distracted by a long list of things to do on the way to the party; I barely noticed the bells or their frenetic jingling as I raced to the barn to feed the horses. “Come on guys” I mumbled, pushing eager noses aside as I filled their buckets. Then in the stillness of the evening I heard it, the frenzied jingling of the bells on my socks. I paused mid-stride, remembering the gentle tinkling the bells on the rhythm beads made when I matched my pace with that of my horse. Thoughtfully I compared that with the frantic jingle I had just heard, noting how quickly we can lose our rhythm as we are drawn into the hustle and bustle of the world around us. Slowly I walked to the final bucket; my horse nickered softly as I poured grain in his bin. I rubbed his head gently, taking in the softness of his winter coat and breathing deeply the scent of grain, hay and horse. I listened for a moment to the snuffles of contentment as the horses chewed their grain. It was only as I began to feel the tension slowly slip away that I noticed how tight my neck, shoulders and jaw had been. I paused long enough to take three or four deep, slow breaths. The whole scene had unfolded in a matter of minutes yet the impact was powerful. Slowly I replaced the grain bucket and turned off the lights. As I closed the barn door and walked quietly from the barn I heard the soft tinkle of the bells on my socks. Smiling I began to hum - jingle bells……., jingle bells……., jingle…..all…….the…….way………….
With the holiday season behind us we may only just now be noticing we’ve forgotten to breathe for weeks and our shoulders, necks and jaws ache from tension. Winter is the season when all of nature slows to rest, quietly gathering strength as new life germinates. Taking our cue from nature we too can take this time to slow our pace and breathe deeply. Perhaps this is a good time to integrate a meditation practice in our lives; quieting our minds and bringing our awareness into the present even for a few minutes each day can have a powerful impact. Wondering what to do with all those holiday decorations? See if there is a jingle bell or two among them and wear it for a day as a reminder to slow your pace and enjoy presence as the best “present” of all.
Lucky and Tanka
by Chrissy McFarren
I would like to share a story about one of the most profound equine assisted growth & learning sessions that I have ever experienced. This session took place on our farm on November 6th, 2011. It was the day that our dear horse Lucky passed away. Lucky was a 33 year old paint horse and he was one of the main inspirations for Full Circle Farm Growth & Healing Center, Inc. The lesson that was re-confirmed for me that day was that death often brings new life.
Two weeks before Lucky’s passing, I came across an ad for a 2 ½ year old mini paint horse gelding named Tanka. For some strange reason I read the ad and then clicked on the picture and was immediately smitten. I was not looking for a new horse, especially not a mini horse. An inner voice told me to go and check out this little guy. Our family went out to see him and we all fell in love and I realized that he would be a perfect "little" addition to our equine program. We made arrangements to pick him up on Monday, Nov.7th.
On Saturday, Nov.5th, I found Lucky down with an injury to his hind leg. He managed to get up and it was clear that he could not put weight on it. The vet came right out and said that he had dislocated it (most likely from a kick from one of the other horses). He gave him some medication to relax the muscles and said that hopefully he would put weight on it and it would pop back into place. He hobbled around that day and I did not have a good feeling about his prognosis. Sunday morning, Nov.6th, I found him down and it was clear he had been struggling some time to get up. I knew that this was it and called the vet to come put Lucky down. During that hour wait for the vet, I laid down next to Lucky in the warm autumn sunshine and I thanked him for everything that he was and everything that he did to help heal so many humans while he was at our farm. I thanked him for being the inspiration for our Equine Assisted Growth & Healing Center and I let him know that we would carry on in his honor. Through my tears and my humble heart of gratitude, I heard a voice and it said, “You're welcome, and don’t forget to pick up Tanka tomorrow." And there it was, as plain as day, Lucky was the one who guided me to Tanka. He had picked out his replacement and even had the timing of Tanka's arrival set for the day after he passed. I was amazed.
That night, by the light of a full moon, we buried our equine relative on the highest point of the farm and placed a totem pole as his grave marker. You can see it from any point on the farm and he will always be watching over us. The next morning, we went to pick up Tanka and when we arrived I went up to him and knelt down so I could look at him eye-to-eye. In that moment all went still, and in his unblnking eye I saw Lucky's eye and I got that little Tanka knew his place in this sacred story of death and new life.