Years ago I participated in ACTT Naturally’s Hearts and Harmony program at Long Shadows Farm in Cambridge, NY which gently guided me home, back to the ground of my being, into deep experiencing of instincts I had somehow lost…. and forgotten. Through engaging Natural Horsemanship principles, these amazing Thoroughbred horses have been retrained by Valerie Buck from being the sport of kings to literally being dancing partners, humanizing what the modern world routinely dehumanizes as a matter of natural course. It was in that dance, through the lens of the horse’s instincts, that the mind-body-spirit insight into the primal “Yes” of God woke in me and I have been dialoguing with and teaching from this point ever since. Inside the dance something deeply fundamental in the mystery of our being is confirmed and resurrected.
In the summer of 2019 I began partnering with Valerie, blending the spiritual practice of Natural Horsemanship and Kairos (holy feminine time) contemplative practices to guide participants into accessing deep interior resources. Participants are invited to leave the city for a restorative retreat that will enlarge their vision, imagination, and leadership in any context, in any role we play in this great theatre of life.
Learning to engage the spirit of a horse opens our hearts to listen, lead, and reconnect to our core instincts, our bodies, our voice, our spirit, our truth — all that lies on the axis of personal authority — with a form of intention and grace that only nature can summon. These beautiful creatures help us remember our natural, best selves and hear our deepest calls into wholeness which is too easily suffocated by real survival needs and worldy demands. Meeting them at Long Shadows farm in Cambridge is a real return and with each meeting, I bring something back with me to this world.
-Rachel Magnell, Founder of Kairos Center for Change
A Mirror To Your Soul
As a student of Kairos Center for Change, I was excited about participating in this retreat. This approach of combining the ACTT Naturally practice of natural horsemanship with Kairos’s contemplative practice was intriguing.
Through the teachings of Dr. Rachel and Valerie, I learned how to find that peaceful, noiseless center within. There is an instantaneous response when you are one with these gentle giants…a mirror to your soul. I have continued to gain the tools necessary to find my voice and energy within me to face those challenging times and to appreciate the peaceful ones.
I am so grateful and blessed to have had this experience. I cannot thank Kairos Center for Change and ACTT Naturally enough!! When is the next retreat?
Marge, Retired Teacher
Finding Your Still Point
As an animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the three splendid, strong, graceful beasts. The experience of extended silent time to simply touch and stroke the horses began the establishment of trust and acceptance that was necessary for the work (play, to them) at hand. As a musician, I am well-acquainted with performance anxiety, and the finesse of looking and sounding as cool as a cucumber while my kneecaps are shaking and my heart is pounding. “You look so relaxed and comfortable!” I am often told, while thinking to myself, “Guess I fooled them again.” There is no fooling the survival instincts of the constantly vigilant prey animal that needs to identify and follow a trusted leader. These highly-trained retired thoroughbreds are highly attuned to energy, moods and cues. The learning in this workshop provides some basic communication tools to relate to and lead the horse appropriately. In order to succeed in gaining their trust to follow, one must find and feel a calm centering. The experience of finding this point is both exhilarating and humbling, but most of all grounding. This is a unique feeling that I hope I am able to somatically recall and know better over time.
Beauty and the Beast
Growing up one of my favorite books was Black Beauty. I imagined myself conquering the world as I galloped on a horse! The dream, however, was thwarted by reality- – my body responded with asthma, itching, sneezing, and very red eyes. Turned out that I was a mess around horses, cats, and hay. My ten-year-old self closed the book and steered away from the Beast. I’m now at an age where I get to choose my consequences. When Rachel invited me to enter an arena with a Horse my internal self-laughed aloud- It felt like the most outrageous, incongruous invitation! But as my life is meandering, curiosity and wonder grew. I wanted to find out how her invitation would reveal parts of me well hidden by fear and supposition. If my eyes got red and itchy- well, a small price for the mystery of stepping towards a Horse. There are no words to describe the moment when I walked into the ring toward Budder. Under the masterful direction of Valerie and Rachel, I was handed a brush and encouraged to begin to groom Budder’s coat. My heart was pounding but indeed a dialogue with a 2000-pound beast began–moment to moment to moment- stroke after stroke after stroke. After a while I lay the brush down and, hands trembling, I began to feel the silk and warmth of Budder. He watched me with careful stillness as though asking- am I safe with you? As the minutes wore on I realized there was between us just my truth, my courage and vulnerability and above all, my awe. I could not be anything more or less than who I was. Ultimately, I began to understand that in order for him to stay, I needed to know that I was enough and that he needed me to be in charge. I write this now after spending a Sunday of progression with this beautiful exhilarating Program provided by Kairos Center for Change and ACCT Naturally. I am a teacher and when I woke on Monday morning to go back into my life, I felt there had been an inexpressible shift in me. When I approach my college students (I teach acting and Voice) I realized that in my charge, they were asking no more or less of me than Budder – They were asking to be seen and safe. I saw Budder’s eyes as I looked into theirs. I felt the calmest and, dare I say, the presence of myself differently. There was nothing to prove, there was only an opportunity. Kate