I’m sitting on a train en route to Liverpool from London with David Gray’s Mutineers playing in the headphones. As the English countryside whizzes by, I can’t help but think about what an incredible experience this has been for me.
A few months ago in Atlanta, I was sitting in Chastain Park Amphitheater watching David Gray perform in complete awe. I’ve seen him play several times before, but this show was particularly noteworthy. He had an energy about him that was significantly elevated from previous shows. Any list that I might have of my favorite artists living or dead would certainly have him toward the top.
Sunday night, I returned from my last great adventure of 2010. This time, it was a road trip to Northern Vermont – the Green Mountain State. However, on this trip, the mountains were pure white – covered in 2 feet of fresh snow. Awesome!
This was a significant trip for several reasons. First of all, it was the first trip that I have taken in a long time that didn’t have a lot of activity set out in advance. It was really a trip of getting away from the grind. Letting go. Disconnecting. Absorbing in the moment. Relaxing. Opening up.
And by the way, it just so happened that the entire northeast region got rocked by a huge blizzard right before we left! We had plans to leave on Monday the 27th, and the storm hit New England on the 26th and 27th. So, we basically drove right into it, or followed it to be more accurate. Continue Reading…
Continuing from my earlier posts on my experience in New Mexico and Vista Caballo, this entry details my experience the day that I left Vista Caballo and headed up into the San Juan National Forest for another adventure.
I started the morning off with the group at Vista Caballo as we had breakfast and wished each other well on our respective trips home. Before I left, I had spoken to David and Bruce who know the area well to get some last minute advice from them. David had recommended that I check out Molas Pass – about 45 minutes north of Durango, so off I went. I checked in and got a map from the Forest Service visitor’s center in Durango before heading up to Molas pass.
I arrived at Molas Pass (10,900 ft. in elevation) around 11am and gathered my things together and packed for the night. I remembered David and Bruce warning me about the weather and how storms can pop up quickly in the higher elevations. They told me that if it looked like the darker clouds were already forming, I shouldn’t go in. Well, the clouds were already forming, and I ignored the advice and went in anyway. I was very well aware of the risk I was taking, but decided I was ok with it. About half an hour into the hike, the storms were clearly visible and there was lightning popping up all around the area. Finally, my luck ran out and it opened up into a wet and windy snow shower. I hastily pitched my tent a few yards off the trail and rode out the passing storm.
Sitting in the tent with snow and rain falling, claps of thunder rumbling all around, I sat quietly and took a few minutes to admire the awesome power of nature and give thanks for the opportunity to appreciate this magnificent display. I felt very connected to everything around me and despite some initial anxiety with getting the tent up, I wasn’t really fearful. I was certainly very vulnerable, but not fearful. When the storm passed, I took down the tent and resumed my hike. The storms were still in the area, but a pocket had opened up where I was – enough for me to feel better about proceeding. I hiked in a couple of more miles until I started to get pretty tired and I needed a break. I was near two small lakes and in a fairly open area – I had the choice of stopping there or continuing on into the more dense forest. It seemed like I had gone far enough, so I stopped and pitched the tent there and gave myself plenty of time to relax, eat, and explore a little bit of the area. I was having camera problems, but when the camera started working again, I recorded a quick video of that experience:
It’s interesting to me looking back on this video and how different my energy was compared to the first video in the Pecos Wilderness. Certainly, I was exhausted from a long weekend and a few miles of hiking at relatively higher elevations, but beyond that I found myself to be fairly contemplative after the experience at Vista Caballo. I was processing a lot of information, feelings, emotions, etc. and I supposed I needed some down time to let it all sink in. That’s exactly what I had that evening. I went to sleep early that night and slept fairly well at first. About halfway through the night I heard the sound of an animal calling out somewhere nearby. I didn’t recognize the call, but it sounded pretty big! My heart started racing as I played all sorts of doomsday scenarios in my head initially. As I was laying there imagining what this could possibly be, I was able to ground myself and remember that we are all connected, and this animal, whatever it was, was just doing what it normally did every night. I just happened to be there to hear it this particular night. There was a realization in there for me – it wasn’t about me. I was lucky enough to be a participant, but the fact that there was wildlife in the area did not mean that it was out to get me. Sounds funny, I know.
The next morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a gorgeous scene across the valley and onto the other ridge. I sat outside looking down toward the two small lakes, and I could tell that there was wildlife down there, but it was so far away that I couldn’t say for sure what they were. I’m guessing most of them were deer or perhaps elk, but I saw one of the larger animals wallowing around in a dark patch of soil right beside the lake. It seemed to be exhibiting behavior more in line with a bear than a deer. Of course, I’m no wildlife expert, and this might have just been a playful deer or elk. I was hoping to find out for sure, but I wasn’t about to go invade that scene with my curiosity. It was enough for me to witness it from a distance and hike out quietly in the other direction.
This experience was definitely one that I will remember my whole life, and it provided many valuable lessons that I can apply to daily life back in the city. Perhaps most importantly is the enhanced awareness of the connectedness of all things, and the role we can play in our interactions with nature and with each other. I was just one participant in a much larger system during this experience, and by maintaining awareness, treading lightly and observing, I was able to be a part of it without exerting too much of my influence into the equation. I’m very thankful for this opportunity to be a part of this and learn, and I appreciate all the help and guidance I was given that made this experience everything it was.
Continuing from my earlier post, I wanted to describe the experience I had at Vista Caballo the weekend of June 25-28. This was the inaugural ‘Horsewhisperer Experience’ at Vista Caballo, and was a different kind of immersion from the ongoing work that they are known for. Disclaimer: Vista Caballo is a client of mine, but I did pay to be a part of this weekend.
The weekend was a sort of bonding experience between 6 participants (of which I was 1), and the 4 incredible horses that are really the teachers. We were fortunate to have renowned horse specialist, Bruce Logan as one of our guides, along with Lisa and Jess from Vista Caballo. There were other, more personal and spiritual elements to the weekend that I won’t get into here, but if anyone is interested in hearing more about it, I would be happy to have a one-on-one conversation about it.
Primarily, my point of this entry is to convey what a huge impact the experience had on me. I was with a group of 6 men that are all leaders in their own fields, and the things we learned during the course of the weekend are applicable to our personal lives and professional lives as leaders. We learned how our presence and our energy had an impact on how the horses responded to us, which was of course a strong metaphor for how we have an impact in our daily lives with our interactions with others. By approaching the horses with confidence and intention, we were able to alter how they behaved around us. I personally learned quite a bit about boundaries, and realized quickly that I had none around the horses. Simple changes in how I handled my personal space had profound effects on how the horses treated me. It was incredible to be a part of this experience and see firsthand how these things work.
One of the horses, Mikey, has a troubled past and was going to be put down by the previous owners. Fortunately, Lisa Dee found him and adopted him before that happened. He was the least balanced of all the horses we interacted with, but he was an excellent teacher at the same time. We were able to interact with Mikey apart from the rest of the herd, and what happened during that experience was nothing short of mind-blowing! This horse did not want anything to do with any of us at first, and was very difficult to approach. By the end of the afternoon, each of us were able to ‘catch’ him and even put the halter on him, which we never would have imagined at the start of the session. I felt very connected to Mikey and had a hard time leaving him. I appreciated the opportunity to help him feel positive energy from humans, and heal some of the emotional wounds from his past.
Below is an entry that I wrote in my journal the night that we worked with Mikey:
Today’s experience with Mikey was one that I will never forget and will always cherish. I learned what the human heart was capable of – from a horse. We were able to collectively heal the heart of a horse that has a traumatic past, and despite all the odds being stacked against us, we balanced the energy and together we brought peace to his world, and in effect, ours. Speaking with Tom Blue Wolf earlier was similarly profound. His words rang true for me and his message of hope was inspiring, but also urgent. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” These are his words, as they are mine. The message and metaphor are clear to me – if we can bring balance and peace to a troubled horse, can we also bring balance and peace to our mother, Earth? I believe this is the lesson we are here to learn. All of us here on this journey truly are the ones we’ve been waiting for! We must take our role as leaders seriously, and just as a dominant horse assumes leadership, so must we. It is our destiny and our burden to bear. Our time is now. We must carry this message forward.
This weekend had a profound impact on me, and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this inaugural experience. I’m excited to take the lessons that I learned and apply them to my life and my own journey. If you are interested in learning more about my experience, feel free to reach out or post something in the comments. Thanks for being here and letting me share my journey with you!
I have just returned from what I can only describe as an epic, life-altering journey to New Mexico and Colorado. I have always felt drawn to the West, and any chance I have to visit, I take it. This trip was on a totally different level however. I’ll do my best to explain, but please know that nothing I can write here will do the experience justice.
The trip came about as I was introduced to Lisa Dee and Vista Caballo through my friend Lewis. We are in the process of doing various work together, and during this work, the inaugural Horsewhisperer Experience came up. Before this, I had very little knowledge of horses or equine culture, but I felt a connection forming from a distance. In my work with Vista Caballo, I poured over all the website content and got a sense for the possibilities that awaited me. Little did I know just how much of an impact it would have on me.
Before I go on, it’s important to realize that I’m not the type of person who likes to have these things scheduled and structured too much. In fact, I like to sort of let them unfold as they will, and just roll with it. Part of this experience for me was driving instead of flying. I’m so glad I did, for multiple reasons that I’ll describe later. The other caveat is that I was totally offline for 3 days, and parts of 2 other days during the trip. In effect, I was out of communication for 5 days straight, which I have not done in a very long time.
I’m a road warrior and the drive out sort of flew by. I did Atlanta to Amarillo, TX with only 2 stops in between. Yes, I’m that crazy. It helps that my car can go 600 miles on a single tank of diesel and I have a strong bladder. It really does make the drive go by much quicker to just roll on through. Anyway, day 2 was New Mexico play time. I was looking forward to this the entire drive out, as I’ve had such amazing experiences in New Mexico before. This trip was no exception. Before I left Atlanta, I had received the July/August issue of Sierra magazine, which had a picture of a guy jumping off into a beautiful lake. I commented to a friend of mine that ‘I want to be that guy.’ I brought the magazine with me and had it sitting on the passenger’s seat of the car the whole drive out. I suppose on some level, I knew I would manifest that experience, and I did – almost exactly.
While I was driving through the desert, I stopped a couple of times to have a little picnic and take some photos. As I continued, I saw signs for Conchas Dam and Conchas Lake State Park. I couldn’t resist turning in to see what it was all about. Amazingly, this lake provided the exact scene that I had seen on the cover of Sierra magazine as seen in the picture below. I parked and went down to the edge of the lake and walked along the rocks where I ran into some local kids that had been swimming. They sensed that I wanted to jump in and asked me ‘You looking for a place to jump?’ They showed me the spot on the rocks and before I knew it, I was recreating the scene from the magazine. The water was cool and refreshing – an incredible departure from the hot, dry desert I had been walking in just minutes before. Awesome!
After my brief swim, I got back on the road and headed off toward Santa Fe. I didn’t know where I was going to camp that night, but I had some general ideas of the area. It was getting late, and I wanted to find a ranger’s station to get some advice. That was served right up to me in the form of the Pecos National Historical Park. I went to the visitor’s center just as they were closing and talked to the rangers Christine and Rick. They gave me some advice and sold me a map of the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness. I drove up along a long winding road through the incredibly aromatic evergreen forest, and arrived at the Panchuela campground trail head at 7pm. I hiked in a couple of miles and camped for the night in an area that was truly one of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Check the short video about my experience: