Words by Audrey Daniel
Photography by Valerie Noell
This winter workshop + farm meal was the second in our seasonal living series, and it turned out to be everything I could have hoped for. For this one we decided we’d keep it a bit smaller and more intimate as a reflection of the season, as we were expecting typical Oregon winter rainy weather. However, just like our fall workshop, we had an unseasonably beautiful, clear day.
We began the day with meeting the herd, then expressing our inner-selves through creative expression with watercolor mandalas. Valerie prepped us for this ritual by explaining that the purpose of the mandala was just to flow with whatever needed to come out in that moment, and to center our energy & become grounded. It was so beautiful to see each individual mandala come to life as a totally unique expression, and then to see them all together as one connected masterpiece.
Since our intention with this series is to experience authentically living in accordance with the season, we touched on what it means to live in our authentic self & body. Horses are always living authentically, so they are perfect guides and mirrors for this practice. When we learn to be present and notice our environment in each moment, we can truly experience life instead of just our thoughts.
Kit also brought in the concept of “winter body”, and showed us how our body is a direct reflection of whether or not we’re living in the present moment or holding on to stories we’ve trained our thoughts to repeat – both physically and mentally. She taught us about proprioception and our body’s “6th sense”, and gave us simple tools for releasing tension and awakening our body’s sensors.
As the emotion of winter, we discussed fear and its role as both a necessary protector and a crutch. We learned about fear’s true messages, and how fear manifests in our bodies. Kit gave us tools for unwinding winter body & fear body as a way of calming our nervous system.
We then experienced a meditative winter sound bath– as Brianna Sas played her crystal singing bowls and allowed us to release and explore whatever came up during this calming healing process.
As always, it was especially magical for me to witness the transformation in the group after the day’s activities – and taking this new energy out into the herd with the horses.
As we breathed in the cool, winter air in the peace & calm of the horses’ space, we experienced our environment and gradually became one interconnected unit– merging with the herd as our final group activity.
We ended this special day with a mindful winter tea tasting by Briana of Aesthete Tea, followed by an incredible seasonal, local farm meal by vegan chef, Sean of Folklore PDX. As we gathered together in the candlelit barn – reading our animal spirit cards and getting to know our neighbors – I reflected back on how inspiring the day had been for me. As with all workshops, I end up learning just as much as I teach– and that’s the power behind getting people together for in-person interaction.
We closed the evening around a giant bonfire and sipped warm kombucha drinks made by Folklore. And as was fitting for the new year, we ritualistically wrote down & burned something we were ready to “let die” in the bonfire. As the sparks flew up into the starry night sky, and I watched my small paper fade to ash, I felt a warm glow build inside of me, and a part of me finally accepting the winter season just as it is.