It rained all week.
My boots sank in the flooded arena. The horses snorted in the puddles. Pine needles swept off the trees by the wind covered the ground. The barn floors wet from the rain blowing in.
The horses’ coats thick with mud.
But Saturday morning, as if by personal request, the clouds broke. The skies became a brilliant bright blue. The sun beamed down on the damp soil and puffs of steam rose from the earth.
Women arrived, boots on, layered up, ready for hiking, and horse time, the scent of pine, and the afternoon dip of the sun behind the trees.
Women with different backgrounds, different lives. A Master’s in Chemical Engineering turned entrepreneur. An accounting leader. A full-time working student. An executive in the music business. A small business owner. A teacher. Women from the city. Women from the country. Married, single, divorced. Children. No children. Grown children.
During introductions, there were nods and laughs and the space to realize that we’re not alone in the challenges we have in our daily lives. The way we give until we’re empty, the way we push ourselves to perfection, the way we judge – ourselves and others.
Everyone wanted to unplug. To take a nature bath. To have fun. To explore.
In preparation for the day, I’d asked participants to respond to these questions, “What does Freedom From mean to you?” and “What does Freedom To mean to you?” This is what they said.
- Worry and anxiety
- Other’s beliefs and principals
- (means) I may say “no thank you” to those who want to preach their ways to me, or listen – MY choice.
- Fear of success, self-doubt, limiting beliefs, family baggage, old stories, debt, overwhelm, lack of enough, playing small
- Worrying what others think or even what your own inner demon thinks
- Negative thoughts
- (means) That my beliefs/principles are as valid as anyone else’s, and that I may freely practice such, including speaking out where I see inequities
- Be able to bring the best of me forward all the time. By focusing in the moment.
- Be able to flow the beat of my own drum, being able to create, to direct and control my own destiny.
- Be imperfect
- Run with the wind, create freely, spin in circles til I fall down, be authentically me, make magic!
- Be able to do things without judgment or mental inhibitors
- Roam, explore, create, be joyful, believe
- Feel shine and joy
And in this space of women – all incredibly different – we find our struggles and desires are the same. And we all agreed…
Freedom is an inside job.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~Viktor E. Frankel
The path to internal Freedom looks like this.
It’s not like there’s some big day. A day when you’ve done all the work…the reading, the Podcasts, the meditations, the retreats, the yoga, the breathing, the salt baths, the sound bells, the ayahuasca, even, that you’re suddenly free from all negative thinking. Our brains will always have an opinion and it’s likely to be negative most of the time. Once you accept this, you can make the shift.
Fill the toolbox
Build your arsenal of tools for internal Freedom (these are tools that allow you to choose your state).
You choose your attitude. Stay in the negative or get out.
It was at this point in our discussion when a participant said, “I have Bipolar II, there are times when I can’t just tell myself to choose my attitude.”
Which is exactly the purpose of working with horses and in nature. Telling our brain to do something, like, “stop thinking that bad thought” or “think positive, think positive” doesn’t work. We need somatic cues and daily practice to change neuropathways in our brains.
Our Virago Day here at WRR was focused on being with horses to acquire the body/mind tools that help us to choose our state. Anytime. Anywhere.
The first tool for getting out of a negative thought spiral was using our body for information.
Ninety-eight Percent of our brain does not use language, or logic, or belief, or strategy, yet we rely on this minuscule 2% to navigate the world. Our body speaks to us if we’re willing to tune in and listen. And, more specifically, our heart and gut are sensory organs, – they learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.
We spent the morning learning how to tune in to our body and receive the messages it has for us. Then, we observed and interacted with three horses to see how the brain judges, often incorrectly, behaviors in others.
And after that, we entered the arena in silence and practiced being with the horses while listening to our heart and gut. Going where our bodies instructed us, watching to see how our thoughts interrupted our bodies and understanding how the horses respond when we’re in our heads vs. when we’re in our hearts.
“My biggest takeaway from Virago Day was getting back to finding and following my joy and stop trying so hard that life just becomes a drag. Get out of my head and into my body, be still, be present, energy attracts energy.”
After lunch, we took a short hike to the Ridge.
Here, all the Virago Day participants had a chance to work individually with a horse to create an “anchor.”
This is the Tool
Here’s how anchors help you.
You’re eager to be done with the day. Your big, multi-million dollar project is coming to an end (hopefully). It passed beta testing and you have one final sign-off meeting with the C team before launch. You’ve prepped for the meeting. Stayed up half the night adjusting Powerpoint slides.
You get to the conference room. Half the people arrive ten minutes late. You’re tired, a little nervous and eager to wrap this up. You crank up the PPT and begin with the data.
Before you know it, the room is pummeling you with questions about your data. You know your pitch is sound. You know the data supports your recommendation. But, all of the sudden, you’re on the defensive. You feel attacked. You’re pissed. You know these questions are all about ego, all about them needing to prove to the CEO that they’re smart.
But, being on the defensive is getting in the way of your story. It’s blocking your ability to show the big picture. Suddenly, you start worrying that you’re not going to get the approval you need. And if you don’t get approval at this point, your team is going to be so pissed off. You think, “oh my God, they’re all going to quit.”
You’ve got to get back in your flow before the whole meeting crumbles.
This is when you fire off your anchor.
When you’re not in a positive state, you have a choice.
You can either stay in the state or get out.
To shift, you fire off an anchor and create a more resourceful state.
This is not about burying your feelings, it is about choosing a mental state that will allow you to be more productive.
In the round pen with the horse of her choice, each woman worked with the Circle of Excellence. Through facilitation, they brought forth positive experiences in every sensory aspect (sight, sound, smell, touch), to which the horse responded. We created visual anchors (the horse) and physical anchors (body movements…a twist of a ring, holding a charm on a necklace, etc.) that were associated with the positive experiences.
Now, each woman can fire off this anchor whenever she needs to shift out of a negative state. Personally or professionally.
“The biggest learning at Virago Day was the ability to find my desired state with a personal cue.”
We wrapped up our day by deepening the focus on our anchor while walking the Labyrinth.
Why is leadership with horses so powerful?
By using our thoughts and feelings to connect to the horse, we bring forth inner wisdom that results in the ability to empathize, to collaborate, to create, to be vulnerable, to adapt and to be resilient. Horses help us return to natural simplicity of navigating life.
When we have this ability, we innovate without the struggle.
We lead with integrity. We are present. We are mindful. We employ our intuition. We become a better self. And when we are better, the world is better.
Think outside of the box. Amy, as a leadership coach, has a seasoned – almost intuitive ability – to guide you on a path to self discovery and healing. Working with horses brings in the energy and truth component that helps one have intersection in a way that can’t happen in an office. This all happens while taking a nature bath on beautiful Wisdom Ridge Ranch.
Amy Buck, former tech exec turned coach, guide, equine facilitator and a ranch owner with grit translates nature’s life lessons into heart-centered leadership practices. She works with leaders who want to elevate their impact 1:1 in full immersion VIP experiences at the Ranch. Inquire about availability: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Virago Days for Women, visit: https://wisdomridgeranch.lpages.co/virago-days/