Awakin Calls » Liz Mitten Ryan » Transcript
Liz Mitten Ryan: The Wisdom of the Herd
Host: Pavi Mehta
Moderator: Anne Veh
Transcriber: Radha Ivaturi
Copyeditor: Brenda Robson
Pavi: Today we have with us Liz Mitten Ryan, someone who has really embodied that theme of “living the wisdom of the herd.”
Behind this particular call, there are some wonderful serendipities that I wanted to share with the listeners. A few weeks ago, through DailyGood, we received an email from Liz with a trailer to the upcoming film on her work titled Herd. Late that night, I clicked on the link and was immediately struck by the wild beauty of the land and the profound presence of the horses. Where is this place and what is happening here? I was filled with questions and wonder. And immediately, parallels to another special film came to mind, a film called Teach Me to Be Wild that focuses on the healing work of a wildlife sanctuary here in Half Moon Bay, California, where injured animals and wounded children are given a chance to hold space for each other in transformative ways. And it just so happens that our moderator today, Anne Veh, is one of the filmmakers behind Teach Me to Be Wild. She is a remarkable artist, educator, writer, an active ServiceSpace volunteer, and so much more. A quick story about Anne that shares a great deal about who she is: when she was two years old or so, she has a distinct memory of looking up into the night sky and its panorama of stars and thinking, “That's my home.” Her connection to nature, her reverence for the inner spirit in all things, and her many expressions of generosity lend a certain sparkle to her presence and all that she does. Within a few days of receiving Liz's email, Anne and Liz had connected on a conference call, and this Awakin Call unfolded from there. I am truly excited to hear these two kindred spirits in conversation and to learn from the deep experiences of Liz's journey. With that I will hand over to our dear friend Anne to take it away.
Anne: Thank you, Pavi. It is such a joy to be in conversation and be a part of the beautiful circle this morning. It is a profound pleasure to introduce Liz. Liz is such a beautiful soul! Liz is a mother of six, an award-winning artist, an esteemed author, an animal communicator, and a facilitator of extraordinary healing experiences. And this year, we will see the release of The Herd, an award winning film on Liz and her transformational Equinisity Retreats.
Liz shares with us an abundance of warmth and generosity; her sincerity invites a special trust and a sacred space for deep listening. Raised in the city of Vancouver, she remembers as a young child sitting on a city sidewalk, scraping at the tar with a Popsicle stick, longing for the summers with her grandmother, where she could roam and play in nature.
In 1999, Liz left the secure terrain of her known life and moved with her husband and her herd of eleven horses to the grasslands of British Columbia. On 320 acres of pristine land, her eleven horses were free to roam wild, as their ancestors had.
Living on the land in a simple tent for several months, Liz first experienced a state of loneliness. She found herself following the herd day after day on the land. And in quiet communion with the horses, she began to recognize their gift of connection to all life. In her heart, she realized her deepest calling--to connect with animals and spirit and to share that understanding with the world as best she could.
At this time, she found the subject of her artwork changing from painting wildlife to horses. Spending less and less time on her art practice, she was drawn to explore the horse relationship with the herd. One day, she felt an overwhelming urge to write, and over the span of two years, she wrote four books, each a collaboration with her animals (the eleven horses, a pony, a steer, and her dogs and cats). She seeks to be a channel of their messages and wisdom.
And for more than a decade now, she has facilitated Equinisity Retreats at her ranch, offering a sanctuary where people come to heal and experience being in relationship with the land and the herd. As one retreat participant stated, “You have to be in your truth and then they will come to you. That is what they ask from us.”
So welcome, Liz! It is such a joy to be in conversation with you this morning.
Liz: Thanks, Anne! It’s wonderful to talk with you again and all of your listeners. That was a beautiful introduction, and it really does talk about this long period of time that I have disconnected from the world as most people know it. It's been seventeen years now. I have gone from, you know, the dark brown hair to some silvery knowing of that sage. Nine grandchildren have been added to our crowd and many more horses. We are at fourteen now. But the real story is that I have been so disconnected from the world that everyone shares, without newspapers or television or radio. I have been absolutely in this blissful, timeless bubble, where I really feel that. This is what many people have forgotten and what is really healing to remember again and to reconnect with.
Anne: I was very curious about your younger life and also just throughout your life. Who are the important people or mentors?
Liz: My grandmother! When I was growing up in the city of Vancouver, I would go up to my granny's summer home in July and August, every year. It was on the beach and in the woods. And that was my very sacred place, just learning from my grandmother who was so service oriented, so generous, so kind. She looked after all the cousins and all the neighbors, and she was just this fountain of wisdom that taught me everything that is important. From there, I have read books and books and books, everything that speaks of spirituality or even quantum physics, trying to understand what is life about? What am I here for? What is my journey? And that's what I try to encourage people who come here to do, to take that deep look within. Am I doing what I came here to do? Am I in my truth as individual because we are all so unique? And we all have blessings and things that we can give that other people can't. And listening to that intuitive guidance, that's what the animals teach. Be in your truth; listen to your intuition, and everything else will follow.
Anne: Liz, when you speak about being in nature and walking in nature, just being among the trees, the plants, touching the land, that you come into nature’s rhythm. I am wondering if you can speak a little bit about the experience of what it was like when you first moved to British Columbia onto this beautiful land. What were those first days like? What were the first experiences like?
Liz: Well, it was really amazing because I had moved virtually overnight from a booming, bustling, busy household. My husband is an architect, and I was an artist. We were raising six children, and the kids were all ready to fledge at this point, and many already had, in fact, fledged. But we were in a very small community. I was doing my art, and he was doing architecture. There were always people coming and going and visiting our home studio. And suddenly, I packed up everything and drove up to the Nicola Valley. It was just a four-hour drive. There I was in the middle of 320 acres, surrounded by the biggest ranch in Canada.
Such absolute, pristine land, and I was absolutely alone because my husband was running back to our home, trying to sort out his business and the move. So I spent many, many days alone in this wild land. We have actually modeled the retreat accommodations on that experience because it is life changing, listening to the wind, listening to the birds, opening the door and walking out--that was my home! The whole land was my home. And my only companions were my animals. So, I spent a lot of time just following the herd, watching the herd, learning from the herd, not realizing that, at times, I was being tuned by the land and the animals to that natural vibration of the natural world, 528 hertz. It's almost like when we spend that act of Samadhi, that time, just walking, communing, spending time on the earth, we get tuned like a tuning fork. And it's something that people are doing less and less of. So it absolutely changed me. I began journaling, and from the journaling, I began writing, turning the journaling into channeled messages that I was getting from the trees, the land, and the horses. I really began to understand that there is only One Consciousness. We all connect to that in our own unique ways.
Anne: I am wondering if you could speak about the moment though, when you do speak about the loneliness, and what was that in your being that inspired you to walk with the herd, that first adventure into the land with the herd and just following them. What was living in you at that time?
Liz: Well, I was absolutely alone. I've always played the woman card--“I don't know. Can I make a fire? I don't know. Could you carry that piece of wood over for me?” And there I was in this tent with the leaky old wood stove that flames would go out. I was afraid at times, and I had no one to turn to. So basically, I began to realize that I was born alone, and I am going to die alone, and I really essentially am alone. My only connection is God, or as my animals began to call God, “The All.” (“The All” and “The Everything.”) So, essentially God was everywhere. It was in every experience; it was in every moment. So, I began to look at everything, instead of as an issue or a problem, more of as a gift that was being given to me to help me understand that bigger picture. And the horses were just so instrumental in that because they were a family group. We had grandmother there and her younger sister and their children and their children's children. They were all essentially that family grouping, exploring this huge playground along with me. But they knew how to do it so perfectly. It's like they had never been city horses. They were just on the land. They knew where to go to drink. They knew where to go to eat. They lay down in the meadow to sleep. It was just so wonderfully soothing to be in their company.
Anne: I just wanted to share with the guests on the call this morning that your horses are outside your window now and are much a part of this call and how special and sacred that is.
Liz: Yes. Over time, we built the barn first because the horses needed the roof over their head before we did. We managed to move into our barn house December 2nd of the first winter. And our house tends to lean over the barn and the paddocks. So, when I walk out of any door, I just go down a few stairs, and I am in a paddock. When I walk down the front hall, I go down a ladder, and I am in the barn. And my view out the window is when the horses come in the morning during summer, when the horses go out. So I am surrounded by them, and it's like one big family home.
Anne: Aw. I want to go back to that time when you were
first on the land, following the herd. How did you receive the communications from the horses? If you could just share with us what that experience of listening and receiving from them is?
Liz: I always suggest to people if they really want to understand animal communication... I remember at that time reading a book called Kinship With All Life. It’s by J. Allen Boone. It's just a classic because it is a story of him being in Hollywood looking after this “Rin Tin Tin” dog when everyone went on holiday. And on one day he was sitting beside the dog by himself contemplating something, and this whole idea popped into his head. He kind of looked at the dog and he thought, “This isn't my idea! Where did this idea come from?”
And it was like a microchip of information that was just implanted. He realized that it had come via the dog. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I would get this microchip understanding, but then I would say to the horse, whoever ... because in my mind the horse would have stepped forward and said, “It's Ellie speaking for the herd,” because one of them was interpreting the herd's vision. And I began to realize that each of those horses was unique in their interpretations. But they all share the same basic concept. And that's how One with the Herd came to be. I just sat down one day and got these huge microchips. But then I would say, “Give me words,” and then the words would follow. And as long as I was following those words, one word after another, I was writing. And when the words stopped, I stopped. That was the end of my writing day. It continued like that, like a flow that wasn't my flow. At the end of the day, I go back and read what I had written and I went, “Ah! I never thought I would be a writer!” I had no idea that I would write books. But they wanted my book. They were connecting to that one mind that animals help facilitate. It’s not necessarily that Ellie is coming forward and solving the world's problems in her horse vein; it is that Ellie is a clear channel to One Consciousness. And when we spend time in her company, we open up and we become that channel. It's all there. It's all available. There is nothing I believe that we are inspired by except by that One Consciousness.
Anne: It's interesting how Rajesh and I were so blessed to be able to spend time on the land of the sanctuary in the Half Moon Bay and to have this film come into being. And it was so clear from the very beginning for both of us that we were there just as caretakers to this story and to be witness to it. It was clear that what we were seeing were the children transforming before our eyes in their relationship with the animals, hearing stories of the animals, and then being able to reflect in their own lives, and developing profound trust and surrender and letting go. We found we had to go through the same experience as the children did. And over time, it was so beautiful to realize, like you say, “Who’s thought is that? Where is that coming from?” It is quite special, quite magical.
Liz: It is! You know, that is where inspiration comes, when we open ourselves in these quiet places and allow that movement of thoughts and ideas. We are allowing the flow instead of directing the flow, which we do during the majority of our day. We have to follow the time clocks, and we have to start for work on time. We are all in our heads. But when you actually allow yourself to have that space to open your mind, that meditative space, it's so important to do that, however way we do it, to be those vehicles of higher thoughts.
Liz: I was just saying to Anne the other day that I am so jealous of Steve Karlin, the fact that he has bears and condors and mountain lions and all these amazing creatures! That was my dream! I have horses, dogs, and cats. They are pretty normal. But at any time if somebody would offer me some other creatures, I would totally be available for that.
You know, what is so amazing too, is that when you are on sacred land, especially where we are, in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest city, the natural wild life is available as well.
I have a hawk story. There was a big party at our neighbors, and the sky opened and a huge storm poured! These boys in their twenties were out driving around in the hills and having a great time. There was a hawk in the middle of the road, soaking wet. Apparently, when hawks are soaking wet, they can't fly. And they then could be prey for coyote or whatever else is around. So, these boys went into a rescue mode, picked up the hawk, wrapped it in a blanket, and drove straight to my house. And me, without thinking, I go, “Oh my goodness!” It was a beautiful red-tailed hawk, so incredibly beautiful! And all of us just went into “help the hawk mode.” It didn't occur to me until the next day that the hawk could be dangerous! Overnight, I just picked up the hawk and put it in a little Tupperware with all kinds of hay, and I was stroking it and talking to it and saying, “It’s okay. We are going to look after you.” And then we moved it into a doggie crate, and I went and got it raw meat. I feed my dogs raw. I opened the dog's door, and I put in the raw meat with my bare hand, and the hawk looks at it, says, “Thank you,” and eats a little bit of it.
Next morning, I went in and did a hawk research. So, I went on the Internet and learned that they mostly eat rabbits and birds. So I am thinking it probably doesn't like beef. So, I’ll give it some raw chicken. It looked beautiful the next morning. It's all dried off, and it looked all bushy tailed. I am saying, “We are going to let you go. Let me just give you some breakfast.” So I opened the crate and reached in my hand, and I take out the beef; I put in the chicken. This hawk just held me in its gaze. It was so magical. It was unbelievable. And I had one of my participants come over, and we spoke to this hawk. I said, “What’s your name?” It just answered, “Weee.” It's a hawk call. It said, “Weee.” It was just amazing. We decided we are going to take it back to where we found it. It's great, and it's doing really well. My friend's husband, who is a big strong guy, goes to pick up the crate to take the hawk to put it in the truck and these claws grab the doors of the crate! You know, they are like two-inch long claws. I am like, “Oh my goodness!” We took it off of the shelf, opened the door, and it just walked out, and it opened its wings and sailed. Oh my God! I was just so in love. But the sequel is this hawk comes back to visit me because it was only few miles up the hills where we released it, and it came back to me. And I'll just stand out there and go “Weeee!” It says, “Thank you!” I mean, it's all of the natural world really knows when we are in the heart space, and there is no need for defensiveness.
Anne: It reminds me of the moment when I was at the sanctuary and spending time with Steve, and Veedor is the Andean condor. He is a bird with a wingspan of 8-9 feet, extraordinary, extraordinary bird! I remember asking Steve, “Do animals enjoy our presence as much as we enjoy theirs?” Steve looked at me and said, “Yes.” In my heart, I knew that. But I still, in my mind, was questioning that. But in my heart, I could feel it. I feel like that was such a profound teaching for me, spending time on the land, spending time with the animals. The communication is, you know, you lose it if you go into your mind and try to rationalize or think about it. If you could just stay open and not have any expectations, those images or those words, they come.
Liz: Yes. They just help us, being in that space. The more I see my horses heal and work with people, I realize that they are using sacred geometry in their patterning. And they are breathing; they are literally changing the vibration, so they act like a tuning fork onto others, whoever is in the area. And that goes into the surrounding land. Everything that is in its natural state is tuning up. It’s all vibrating at the 528 hertz. When we become tuned to that place, we suddenly remember who we really are before we got caught up in the business of our day-to-day life. And with that connection we are connected to the “All,” as my animals call it. Creatures that come by here, the cranes that come by every spring, you can't describe it! Like you say, if you try to figure it out, there is no figuring it out. But thousands and thousands of cranes come from probably down by you, back up to the north every spring. And when this happens, I can hear their call. They have their very unique call, but they are miles up in the sky. They look like flies up in the sky. And I am inviting back, “Cranes! Welcome back!”
Well, those cranes dip down over the gateway, and they have gone so low that they are just at tree height. They will come and circle around my paddock, and, weirdly, the horses will actually look up. Horses normally don't look up. But they will all go, “Oh my goodness, the cranes are back.” And then I'll run down to the paddock, and those cranes will circle so many circles and then rise up again and carry on. And I know they feel my connection and my energy, and they are coming to say hello.
Anne: I am wondering if you could share with us how these beautiful retreats came into being and how you welcome people to come and heal and a chance to be. Could you share a little bit about how your vision of these retreats came to you?
Liz: Well, just like almost everything that has flowed into my life, it really wasn't my vision. It just kind of happened, and I am always kind of the last one to get in on the picture, quite frankly. “Oh! I guess we are doing retreats now!” I have written these books, and people were beginning to read the books. I was getting emails that said, “I just would love to come there and experience that.” Around about that same time, I had healer friends, reiki masters. I had a reiki master come out and set up the healing table on the paddock, and we thought, “Let’s do these near the horses. The horses are interested as well.” The horses came right over and began to tune. Horse is like, “Oh my goodness!” It just evolved from there. Someone would ask if they can come with their dog--sure.
We started adding more tents, so we have more room, and then we added on to our guest house. And then we began to kick family members out who wanted to go because we had many people wanting to retreat! I mean, it has just grown. When I say that our retreats are not large, we have maybe ten people as the average, maybe even between six and ten. We have a capacity now for eighteen just this year. Because last year was so busy, we had to add, in addition to the guest house, a few more tents. But they are very small scale compared to other places you go to. We can't have very much larger because then there is not much of a one-on-one experience that you can have when you are just a group of close friends, which you become very quickly .
So anyway, it wasn't my plan. But then again, after over ten years of retreating, I developed a manual to introduce some concepts for people to explore. We pass talking sticks, and we share people’s day: What flew in from the east? A raven flew in. The deer crossed their path. What had the horses had been up to? So, what we basically are doing is meeting people through the adventure of just being open to what will inspire them, to what will appear for them. And we share that and help them discover that place that they haven't allowed themselves time for. It is life changing. It really is. Everybody that comes, comes for a different reason, and yet the groups that seem to come at the same time were perfect for each other.
I mean, one time I had a group of women; I think it was seven or eight, and everyone of them clearly remembered having a past life experience here on the land and being in that same experience together. That was pretty bizarre. And they all randomly decided to come and reunite here at that time. So it is very free form--not at all planned.
Anne: Well, it struck me too and even watching the trailer of The Herd, you experience a group of people arriving and just being held by the incredible beauty and just walking down the path to the house and circling on your deck to have a conversation is so.... I think all of us who experienced the Awakin Circles through ServiceSpace has that very same feeling. You arrive and become part of a circle, and there is this beautiful trust and surrender that happens. In that space you get to be, whatever is living in you rises up. We may not even realize why we are there. It will become known over time.
Liz: Well, it's sacred space, and when you hold an intention, kindred spirits show up. They are called. People will show up and say, “I have no idea why I am so deeply called to do this.” But that is the important reason to do it. When you do surrender to that higher calling, it is amazing what that has in store for you. You have no idea where it's gonna go and how it's going to come out. But it is always perfect.
Anne: Can you share a story of a participant coming and what happens in the retreat space. How do you introduce them into this incredible experience?
Liz: Well, we have certain tools. First of all, the manual. I give everybody one when they arrive in the afternoon. I ask them to read through and get an understanding of mindfulness and how we are going to be in this experience, being present, being quiet. The tools we use are the oracle cards. I have this one pack of oracle cards, actually two by the same person--Colette Baron-Reid. Oh my God! People every morning are asked to draw one card from each deck and that kind of sets the tone or gives a message for what possibly could happen on that day. Well, those are so divinely guided! It's like everything that happens here is divinely guided. Somebody will come in and say, “My totem is a deer.” And they will be walking to the tent, and a deer will say, “Hello, welcome to Equinisity Retreat. I heard that your totem was a deer.” It's so hard to explain how those threads all come together. But I encourage everybody to journal, and you write down your card set in the morning.
You walk across the property alone and mindfully, not chatting with your friend or relative that lived in the same city, but being here and now in this space. And people arrive. And the herd is all at liberty. This is so interesting because the herd, of course, can go anywhere they want on 320 acres. They go out very often, and when we have done our healing time. And they come back in at about five thirty in the morning; they check themselves back into the paddock and are waiting here when people come at nine o’clock in the morning. The herd is all free. There are no halters or lead ropes. So, it's really that the horses pick the people. And I tell people, “Just walk around and see where you’re called, and if you feel called to a certain horse, just go stand nearby and ask them, ‘Are you open to spending time with me?’” And the horse will respond. The horses will actually go into sacred geometry, and they will all gather around in the big open barn space. It's really like a big open riding arena with seats around where the posts are, so people can be right in the center of the horse activity. And then they will move in and take up some morning meditation position, and that can be anything from a circle to a square to individual spokes of a wheel to a zipper. We have begun to actually describe some of these positions because we are going, “Oh my goodness!” And they all hold up for a little while and then all change. And then if somebody is sitting near, and they sense something is going on with them, one of the horses will just go over and deal with it. So, when we have horses who will open their mouth over your nose or mouth and give you mouth-to-mouth for fifteen minutes, I say to people, “It’s okay. They are totally safe. They really know what they are doing.” Or they will tip your head sideways and breathe in your ear. And they do that a lot with people who have had chemotherapy. I don't know what they are doing, but they are repositioning their head, and it kind of makes sense because with chemotherapy, you lose your hair. So they do so many amazing things! They will lie down at people’s feet. They will put their heads into people’s laps. It's all extremely unique and individual. And yet, if there are people that have boundaries and are a little uncomfortable, I just stand back respectfully until day two or day three when that person says, “It's okay. You can come now and give me mouth-to-mouth.” So, there is all of these unseen things going on. I can look, and I can say to somebody, “Have you ever had any injuries below the waist?” because all the horses will be going to that person and nosing up and down their legs. Or if they are sitting on a stool, they will put their foot on the stool when the person gets up or they will put their nose on the stool. Or somebody will be writing in their journal, a horse will come and put their nose right on the journal. And I will say, “They want to know what you are writing.” It is really magic! I cannot begin to interpret everything they are doing. But the more I watch, the more I realize you know their color, their vibration, and their patterns, and they’re using them all to restructure the energies. And the result is that people connect on that higher level of oneness, wholeness, and allness. And from there comes healing and wellness. So it's a mystery, but it's really fun.
Anne: I think that's the key right there, when you say it's really fun. You also use the word invitation on both sides--invitation from the horses and invitation from the participant. And when that meeting happens, there is this really... you can kind of feel the palpable joy and curiosity and, “Okay! I am open.” I can almost feel in my own body how these barriers just kind of disappear.
Liz: That is the secret! When you are in the space of oneness, there are no barriers. And that's what gradually evolves through the retreat. People just get it, whether they get it because the horses have tuned them to a place where it's just a spontaneous breakthrough or whether they get it because they are finally allowing the silence and the connection to that place. Even the land, I mean, amazing things happen on the land to people. People see different things; Everybody sees different things. I had people here who told me that they have seen crystal children coming up over the earth because we have some areas on the land that have these big holes that go deep down into the earth. We have rivers of crystals that run under the earth. We have quartz and fluorite and chalcopyrite, all of which are just amazing tuning minerals for healing the body. I had people who say, “I see unicorns. Oh! A unicorn just jumped off that log!” And everybody is just different and unique. Some people see fairies; some people just see natural creatures on the land, and they have huge meaning for them. So, it’s just a playground. It's like being allowed to be a child again and out with yourself in nature and hanging out in special places with special animals.
Anne: I remember a time being at the sanctuary, with Pavi actually, and Steve invited us to come and spend time with Veedor the condor. We pulled out some chairs and just sat in front of his vast enclosure where he can fly; he has the room to fly and play. As we sat there, he stayed right where we were, and he started to play with the ball and run, I mean, just like a little child. It was hysterical. We were just playful together. All of a sudden, we realized two and one-half hours had passed, and I felt like we were beyond the sense of time. It was extraordinary! Again, that invitation is always open.
Liz: As children, that's that space that we all remember, all those summers that lasted forever; days just seemed to go on and on and on. My horses told me years ago that truth in book two. They said time is not linear. Time spirals and loops and falls back upon itself. And time is ever present. That's the kind of world that children are in. And then we grow up and become part of this accepted belief system that we all listen to, and we are all told by the schools and by our parents that, “No. You have to go from A to B to C. Everything is linear. Everything has its time and its space.” But now in quantum physics, they are beginning to realize that’s not true. None of this has been true. Particularly for our generation, there have been a lot of beliefs that we have grown up with that are all being challenged. What is interesting, my horses have already told me this. I have a bumper sticker that says, “Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learnt from my horse.” It's so true in the natural world. All of those things are apparent.
Anne: I want to go back to what you shared earlier in our call, where you said you were jealous of Steve Karlin because of his relationship with his Susie Bear and the sense of profound relationship that Steve and Susie Bear had, even when she was dying. Steve shared the story of when he had his hand on her paw, and as she was getting close to passing, he removed his hand, and she just put her paw on top of his hand. He shared that a piece of him went with her, and that even now, today, he receives so many teachings from her. The teaching continues. The relationship continues. And just the beauty of opening to... we have no idea how we are held. We have no idea how we are protected. Really, these experiences open up this incredible possibility, this beautiful mystery of sacred life we are all part of.
Liz: When you look at the gift that earth is, that planet is, and when you look at the series The Planet Earth and that incredible beauty and diversity, and you think that’s all a gift.
And every creation is so unique and so special, and they are all God in form. And when you start to look at everything in that way, you realize we are all interdependent. This is how my horse put it in that book, the truth according to horses again, is that we each are like an organ in the body of “The All.” And if you say the humans are the liver, the horses are the heart, and you know the birds are the kidneys, whatever. We are all parts of that one body. And if one of those organs gets sick and dies, the body dies. It's that important. So, obviously the creator, who is all knowing, all loving, has created every single little nuance of this amazing experience, and every single bit is important. And yet humans have become so careless. And yet humans have become so careless, using all these things for their purpose, for amassing a whole lot of money. And the horses say, “What do you need green paper in the bank for? How does that serve you?” Because animals, in their wisdom, take only what they need. And it is always given. They have whatever they need in the natural world, and that's all they need; they kind of look on humans as needing to understand the importance of those simple, foundational truths. Because we have just strayed so far away that animals are our only chance to get back to that place, to that Garden of Eden space again.
Anne: I would love for you to share with all of us too, when you think of the herd or when a new foal is born, how does he become a part of the herd? Can you share a little bit about Tesoro?
Liz: Well, we have one herd member who is a steer; everyone else is horses. When I got Tesoro, I got him because I went to the ranch below and said to them, “If you ever have an orphan, think of me.” My horses were terrified of cows. We would go out riding in the hills, and they would see cows and wanted to run home.
So when we brought Tesoro, their first reaction was, “Oh my God! Why did you bring one of those for?” And over time…. Tesoro started out playing with the dogs on the front porch because he was very little and five days old. I fed him with the bottle, and he followed me everywhere. And then I gradually introduced him to my two little ponies I had at that time. So, he became a pony slowly. Since the ponies accepted him, the horses began to accept him. And this is ten years later now, and he is just part of the herd. And in fact, he is in love with Crystal, who is the biggest horse in our herd. When she is in heat, he licks up and down one side and Crystal will say, “Get me right there. Oh! That’s so good,” because he has a big raspy tongue. And he even mounts Crystal; although now that he is getting so big, it is getting hard to get up anymore. He really has no concept of himself as a cow. Once in awhile, the neighbor’s cows will break in, and there will be a little band of five or six cows that will go over to Tesoro and say, “Hi.” And he will go, “Oh, hi.” He will have a short conversation, and then he will go, “I got to go. My herd is leaving.”
So it's really amazing. He is such a Buddha! Cows are so different than horses in that they have a very quiet nature. I see why Indian people revere them because they just have this Buddha presence. He will lie down in the barn. And people who are afraid to go up to the horses in the beginning, they go sit with Tesoro. You can lie on him, lean on him, and he will just hold that space, chew his cud, and just spread that peace. It's wonderful having an unique creature other than a horse.
Anne: The beauty of that acceptance…. And I was also really moved to see in the trailer one of the participants connect with the steer in such a beautiful way! And the playfulness and the incredible patience, you could just feel the patience of Tesoro!
Liz: He is. You know what he is doing right now because we are talking about him? He wandered over to the porch and what he does is make eye contact with me, and he gives me his silent, “Meeww,” that says, “Mommy, give me two apples.”
I am walking over with the phone, and I am going to open the door because I have to give him his apples when he asks so nicely. Tell me if you are losing me. I am taking the phone with me.
Anne: No, it's perfect. I am giggling because my little puppy, Gus, who is almost three years old now, has been playing the whole time we have been in conversation and is throwing his toys and being so joyful. It’s wonderful!
Liz: My dogs, if they want attention, just line up outside. I can see them from my kitchen, my dining room, and my bedroom. So they just line up there and just stare right at me and transfer a thought, “Mom, I need something.” I go, “Really! What could that be?” It's got to be an apple or carrot or both!
If Steve wants to move any animals if he is too full, tell him I have lots of space.
Liz: It's really funny because my husband is not an animal type so much. He likes cats. He loves children, but he wasn't brought up with animals being part of the family like I was. Every animal that I had wanted to add in over the years was always met with this sigh, “Ah! Another one?” Now I am up to fourteen horses, a steer, three cats, three dogs. Every once in awhile I’ll say, “You know, wouldn't it be fun to have a different type of animal?” Right now, he has just given up. He is surrounded by animals. That's his life. But he loves me, and he puts up with it.
Pavi: Wonderful! Liz, I am going to go ahead and ask one of the questions that came in via the Web.
Cindy is asking from Austin, Tx: What happens when a new horse is introduced to the herd, if indeed that happens? Is there a learning curve for each horse? Or do they automatically and instinctively become healers?
Liz: Well, horses are much more easily integrated into the herd, but it depends on whether that horse has knowledge of herd language. My herd is one family. They were all born here. They were born into the situation. Every once in awhile, I’ll have a ranch help who wants to bring a horse. My most amazing experience for having a horse being integrated was when this one girl came, and she sent me a picture of her horse who looked exactly like my dominant mare's daughter, Magic, could have been born into the herd. So I went, “Hmm. That will be interesting!” So I left all the herd in the paddock, and we brought this horse and put it in the pasture surrounding. So it was free to come and go wherever it wanted. And it just stood out there, and one by one, my herd went up to the fence and asked to go out and meet it. As they asked, I would let them out. It started with the youngest ones. They were like, “Oh! A new horse. I’d like to go see.” So I let one out, and that horse would put a run on this horse to see if it would be respectful of them telling it what to do, and the horse would respectfully run. But then it would stop and graze and say, “I am no threat.” So then we let the next horse out. And we went through the whole herd that way until we got to Ellie, my grandmother spirit and lead mare, and Diva, my dominant mare, the two older sisters. Everyone else in the herd had gone out, was grazing peacefully. I opened the gate, and they went out at the very end. They just walked out and didn't even put on a run and said, “Hey, it’s okay.”
It was so amazing. But there were other horses that I've seen, because they are kept in a captive situation in a paddock, they are separated from other horses; they don't have any etiquette, and they don't have any herd language. They all have a very hard time integrating into a herd and particularly into a herd at a rental place where none of the horses have any social skills. None of them have a common language because they have all been brought up and separated. And that's when it is very difficult because nobody listens to anybody.
Pavi: That seems so telling in something that is not just restricted to horse herds but any kind of family.
Liz: Exactly! As far as healing goes, most horses are just natural healers. But again, it's like saying that a criminal you pulled out of a jail cell is the same as a monk because they have both been in isolation. Two different scenarios, right? Again, if you give a horse a natural way of living, you’ve given them freedom; you give them a family; you give all of those tools. Then you invite them to share; then they have something to offer.
Pavi: I have a couple of questions of my own. One is regarding your personal journey. When you look back at the journey you've had with horses, where did that love stem from and what can you share about that recognition that you've had, at some point, that you were meant to share this destiny with the horses? And the other question you can segue into from that is horses and humanity, it seems, have shared destiny for a long, long time. Is there anything you can share about that from your experience and what your herd has communicated to you?
Liz: Yes. My particular instance was that I was born loving horses. As early as I can remember, the minute that I saw a horse, I went, “Ah! Horses! Must be with horses!” So my mom took us riding horses when we were five, and then I begged and begged for a horse. Of course, I didn't get one until I was sixteen. Then there was this problem of it having to live in a little cramped place in the city. So I didn't really follow that calling until I had grown and had a family of my own and could choose to live in the country and have a space for horses.
Many people I've spoken to have this innate connection with horses. It probably is past life and many life times in the making. Like you say, horses have given us the civilization that we have today. They have been our friends for millennia, as have dogs and cats. They are our closest connection to nature, like my horses said in The Truth According to Horses, which is their kind of guidebook for humans to understand how animals know better than we do. So, they kind of have this disdainful attitude sometimes. They say, “Think about it.” You know, if you really understand the animal communication and this microchip of information that gets given…, before, horses pulled carts or carried things on their backs first of all; then suddenly, humans got this inspiration: why don't we put wheels on cart because that will make it easier to move? Where do you think that inspiration came from horses say? And then we went from pulling the cart to “horse power.” Then we got the electric engine, so the horse didn't have to pull the carts anymore. They are basically taking ownership of channeled thoughts that make humans just suddenly go, “Oh! I think I have an invention!” Where did that invention come from? One Mind. Higher Consciousness.
So, I think a lot of people feel that connection to horses because they have just been a part. We could never have become the civilized world we are today without horses to take us further and faster.
Pavi: That's incredible! I think what's also so powerful about the work that you've done and the experiences that you are opening up for people is that you talk about the “wisdom of the herd.” Again, it’s not something that is just applicable within the horses or within a particular herd. It’s wisdom that's there for all life.
In the film, there is a little piece where you talk about the difference between the command-and-control way of doing things versus the invitation way. You touched on it a little earlier, as well. Can you speak about how herd language works and what does the invitation approach means?
Liz: Yes. It's interesting because humans have translated herd language into “you move or I’ll make you.” You know, really authentic herds is a family group, which people don't often see. They are seeing two dominant mares or two dominant horses saying, “you move or I'll make you.”
Because they are very disjointed, separate, they are not family. They are individual. In a natural family, where everybody knows the language, where everybody is connected and close to the family members, it's all done by focus. The lead mare is always confused with the dominant mare in “made” groups of horses. Because that's who surfaces, the dominant mare saying, “Hey, I am going to eat before you; you move when I tell you.” But the lead mare is the grandmother spirit in a natural herd. She is actually the older sister to the dominant mare. And the lead mare teaches by love and by focus. So, she just simply walks through the herd and, out of respect for her wisdom or her compassion or her love, all members part. The dominant mare would never argue with the lead mare. So it's all done. The horses taught me herd language in this way by watching Ellie and how she trained. She would walk toward the horse and focus on the body parts she wanted to move. If she were looking a horse, that horse would just take a few steps, move out of the way, and she would sail through. It's so simple. When she wants to get them to go somewhere, it’s invitation and reward. So, “Let’s now go down to the meadow, and I’ll show you where the best grass is.” So, I began to invite my horses and reward my horses and make my horses feel happy and loved. When I want them to move, I just simply focus and out of respect they go, “Oh!” They began to relate to me as their grandmother, as well. They have respect when I ask them to move something. That translates to everybody who comes here. If they spend ten minutes with a horse, following those principles, saying to the horses, “I understand your language. I know how to back you without touching you. I know how to move your body parts, and I have some really yummy treats. Would you like to come for a walk with me?” It's like horses just go, “Ah! Duh!”
So, in the movie you actually see horses who have spent ten minutes with people they never met before. People take off the halter and drop it on the ground. And the horse follows them down to the playground and gets up on tires and cross bridges because they understand that communication system.
Pavi: It's amazing because, for even those of us who may not have had any personal one-on-one experience with horses, the wisdom behind what you’re sharing feels so natural and true: That we can teach and effect the world through our love and our focus in a way that works with the energies of nature as opposed to against the tide.
The first book that you wrote after moving to Gateway Ranch is One with the Herd, a beautiful collection of pictures, journal entries, art. That was the book that you felt, at that time, that you wrote it. But by the time you wrote your second book, you said it was clear that it was the horses who were writing with you. Can you describe how that became clear to you and how did that collaboration work?
Liz: Actually, it was clear very close to the beginning of that book. I had no idea in my mind that I would ever write a book. I was an artist. I just didn't have any idea in my head. And one morning, I was sitting at the breakfast table, and my husband looked at me and said, “When are you going to write your book?” And it was like he could see it sitting in the air around me. It is the weirdest thing. I went, “What?” What is he talking about? And the next morning, I just had this desire to grab a pen and a pad of paper, and I was sitting looking out the window at the herd. Suddenly, there was this flow, and I started to write. And I went, “Oh my God!” I wrote. “I am writing a book!”
And within the very first few times, I realized that this is not my book. This has to be the horse’s book. They wanted me to start writing this book. As I began to realize that, I actually made a conscious effort to sit down with my pad of paper and my pen, and I would visualize all the herd members there with me. Then I began to actually be able to see that one of them would step forward and say, “It’s Magic. I am speaking for the herd.” Or, “It's Diva.” Each one of those became unique interpretations of the general herd message. So, the individual is connected to the family herd. The family herd is connected to horse consciousness. Horse consciousness is very connected to all animal consciousness, and beyond that, human mass mind consciousness. Beyond that, to All Consciousness. So once you get in through one of those channels, the world is open to you. All information flows when you have a connection.
So, very quickly after that book, we began asking the horses questions. I said to my husband, “I don't even know what to ask them.”
“Why don't you ask them?” he says,” (his first question for Ellie) “How would you improve upon (undecipherable )?
I go, “Wow!”
And Ellie wrote about six pages on that. Really, I would just be in this world, the question would be asked, and I would call them all in my mind’s eye. One would come forward and I would just write, write, and write, as fast as I could because I am a two-fingered typer. I had to hand write all this stuff. And I would read it at night and go, “Wow! Equestrians should really rule the world. They would do a much better job of it than humans.”
Wendy from Half Moon Bay: Thank you so much for such an inspiring call. I especially loved the soundtrack of the barking dog. It gave me the experience of actually being there.
I wanted to just comment on how I am struck with the holistic opportunity that you provide for people, both in terms of the experience you were talking about earlier, the solitude of being on the land and walking on the land, but also the experience of being part of the herd and how you are able to integrate both of those. It's a beautiful experience. And I also appreciate the fact that you are able to give people the opportunity and the confidence that anybody can communicate with animals. I think so many people don't have that kind of confidence. They think we would have to be born specially gifted. But then we all have those gifts. I want to thank you very much for that.
Liz: You are very welcome! I think it really comes from quieting our mind, being open and receptive. And also, I'd suggest to people to put their hand on their hearts when they are near the horses and be in the heart space and consciously train yourself to be in that heart space of unconditional love. That makes it much more available.
Deb from Ontario via the Web: Do you do individual Equine Facilitated Learning sessions with clients?
Liz: You mean online or at the retreat?
Pavi: I think she means at the retreat.
Liz: Well, everyone is an individual session. Every person that comes here is on an individual journey; the land and the horses know it. There are many, many different facets that are available, and people just tend to gravitate toward the one that they are ready for. So, yes. It is all individual and unique and special for everybody in their own calling.
Pavi: And just in case, if it's on anyone else’s mind, are there online sessions as well or is it all in person?
Liz: No. You know, I keep saying to people I am not the teacher. I am just the facilitator. The land, spending that time in nature, in a natural powerful setting with this powerful group of teachers and healers is very similar to when people go swimming with dolphins or whales. Or when they go to some of these very powerful vortices in nature, like Sedona or Egypt. This place has it all: it has vortices; it has powerful trees and rocks; and it has this resident group of powerful teachers and healers. So you are just dropping yourselves in this amazing microcosm. Whatever you need becomes available. It's not something that I can transplace across the Internet.
Anne: Liz, I also wanted to share, to invite anyone, even taking a walk in nature... I remember walking a beloved path up here in Marin. We lived next to a sacred mountain, Mount Tamalpais. There is this wonderful trail called Tenderfoot. I walked it for years. And one day, I decided to walk slowly and listen and be guided to where I am going to sit. Every time I felt “this is the spot to sit,” I looked around and there was a little stream coming down; there were redwoods in a circle around, almost like every place I felt called to had this, as you speak of, vortex of energy. It was so beautiful. I was amazed by how much information there is and how guided you are when you are just open.
Liz: All you have to do is ask. That is the simplicity of connecting to the intuitive or animal instinct. When you ask, you will be guided. You just have to be open and clear and notice. Because so many times people will walk in nature, but the thoughts going around in their head is the conversation with the person they’re walking with, takes them right out of that mindful place. And that's why one of the key things here is being present, being in the moment, being mindful, or you are going to miss what is being offered to you.
Pavi: Beautiful! We have another note of appreciation from Mish in NY:
Liz, feeling so enchanted by everything shared during this call, such beautiful energy gifted by this listen. I have learned much and am blessed with joy often by the feral cat colony we feed here in Brooklyn. Thank you.
Liz: Ah! Lovely! Even in Brooklyn there are places. I often tell people, “When you are in nature, just scan the horizon and look at how unique and different all the trees are. And you will see one tree with its arms spread out that welcomes and another tree that is a double tree. Anything that stands out uniquely is almost calling to you, ‘Come and experience me.’” Like you said, Pavi, just feeling this is a special type. You just have to be open to that.
Pavi: I wanted to ask one more question. We could go on for hours on this call; there is so much to share. I just wanted to mention to our listeners that Liz actually does have a newsletter that she puts out quite regularly, where she shares stories from the herd and the herd experience and the retreat. There are beautiful insights, and the anecdotes and everything comes alive.
Liz, I wanted to ask, as someone who has been on this special channel, as you look forward to what's ahead for you and the herd, what is the vision that they are holding and you are holding for the world at this time? Is there anything that you feel is more urgently communicated?
Liz: Yes. I really do believe the earth is at a period where there is a huge shift happening in consciousness. We are moving from a third dimensional into higher dimensional consciousness. The only way we are going to make that shift is to realize the importance of doing it together, together as a planet, together as all creation, as one consciousness. So, I believe that nature and animals are going to offer us that higher connection to higher dimensional thinking, living, and being because it's innate. It's in us. We've just forgotten it. We've gotten buried in the hustle and bustle of the television and the radio and the media telling us what we should feel, what is going on in the world. But really, is that really what's going on in the world? There is just so much to be discovered by connecting to that one source of truth, of oneness, of unconditional love. That is what I think will be our salvation.
Anne: Thank you, Liz. I wanted to share that, right next to where I am sitting, I have my beloved kindergarten teacher's creed. On it she writes, “I bring the gift of myself to this celebration of life.” Further, she goes on to say, “Seeds of the future are in the oneness of all nature and all people in tune with the Divine, to be found in our hearts that I give to the joy and beauty of love.”
I just wanted to express so much gratitude to you Liz, Betty, and all of us who are willing to be living our hearts and have the courage to listen, to really listen and participate because it is really a sacred experience to be a human.
So my last question to you Liz, how, as a ServiceSpace community, how can we support you on your journey?
Liz: You know, I was just going to thank you and Pavi and all of you ServiceSpace people for sharing what you are sharing. It is so powerful, so important to find kindred spirit out there in the world and realize there are people out there who come from that unconditional heart space. It's up to all of us to rediscover that and reconnect with it in whatever way we can and help bring that force into the world.
I am willing to help in any way. I've always been open. When somebody says, “I need your help.” I go, “How? How can I help you?”
I'll just tell you this short story. The other day, I was grocery shopping, and there was this young man; I guess he is twenty-six years old. He was sitting outside the grocery store playing his guitar. He looked like a very nice, clean-cut, nice boy, like one of my children. I went and did my shopping, and when I came out, he was still there.
I said, “What are you doing here?”
He said, “Well, I need to raise money. I want to go back east and visit my grandmother.”
I handed him twenty dollars and went, “Uh, that's not going to go very far.” And then I said, “What do you do? Do you want a job? You know, we are building an addition to our guest house. How about construction?”
He is like, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I'll do anything.”
“How about settling up after horses?”
He said, “Yes!”
I said, “Come with me.”
We did a tour of the grocery store. We stocked him up with groceries, whatever he would need for a week.
I said, “Get in the truck. We are going to the ranch.”
So, he is now in the tent.
And he said, “This is such a gift. Thank You! I haven't been around horses for years! This is wonderful.”
All the people here, they love him. He is just a sweetheart of a guy that was having difficulty in his life. And now he is going to make some money. He is going to be warm and fed and carry on in his way.
But that's just one little thing. So, whatever life brings to you, in whatever manner, treat each of those circumstances differently and be open to it because each one of them is a calling and an adventure and a chance to serve. They are not only fellow people, but God. Because every single event in our lives is a conversation with God. It's God speaking to God, whether that God is a horse or a tree or a human. So it's all wonderful. Instead of being afraid of people taking advantage of us, or I think when you are really in tune with that, you get the lemons and you make lemonade. It’s all beautiful.
Pavi: That's a beautiful closing note. I was just remembering that early on in the call you said, “Animals, in their wisdom, take only what they need, and what they take is given freely.” That idea of sharing and gifting is kind of what comes naturally when we are in that channel; it is so much of what you embody in the work that you do. It is such a gift, what you are making available in your corner of the world. This call has been nourishing to all of us on so many levels. It's a friendship that is to be continued, I am sure, in many beautiful ways.
Liz: Thank you, everybody. Thank you for listening. Everybody, be in your heart space. The world is such a magical place.
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