The Ojai Foundation and Way of Council is a relatively new form of practice for me but at the same time, it feels so very familiar and nurturing. I would like to share my journey with you, how my horses and I are stepping into a dream I’ve had for 50 years, and am reaching out to invite inspired dialogue with you. My story is filled with risks of intuitive faith, and consequently experiencing many twists and turns, not knowing what the bird’s eye view is. I’ve made the joyful discovery that the purpose and direction of my two businesses (Peaceful Horse and Spirit Bird Intuitive Arts) are kindred to the Ojai Foundation, in that they are centered on nurturing embodied awareness, and active presence from the heart space as much as possible.
The last twelve years have been an epic time of continuous, uncontrollable life change for me. A repeating cycle of stripping away layers of deeply engrained decisions and beliefs about life I remember making as an infant and toddler. These twelve years have led me to reawaken my desire for community, now with horses, and so is named Peaceful Horse LLC. These dozen years have been quite the initiation period of stirring that sleeping wish awake.
In 2016 I experienced a vivid, visceral dream that foretold of my life with horses. Many weeks after the dream, I followed my heart’s call to drive solo to South Dakota’s Black Hills as a volunteer health care facilitator and intuitive for a four-year-annual public event. That weekend I experienced a heart-opening spiritual encounter with a horse named Zen. It was during a workshop on prayer with seven Native horses. From there, I went on to Standing Rock, North Dakota, twice, becoming a water protector. I established GoFundMe campaigns to make my way and my car was loaded with donations of winter clothes, food and medicines from my local community of health care workers. These experiences were epic, solitary journeys and are whole chapters for another time.
After the great heart opening experiences in the Dakotas, I wondered how I would participate in society in a way that felt right to me. I was forever changed and the return to the regular life wasn’t the way. Between 2017-2020, my path led me to rescue six neglected horses with no prior equine care experience. I started from utter scratch.
Maggie, my first rescued horse:
Maggie and I met February 2017. She was the horse next door. It was never my plan to be involved with horses, though I have revered them from early childhood and always dreamed of horseback riding on a sandy beach somewhere. But, after a few months of slipping under the fence into Maggie’s paddock, and doing what I could to clean up her horrific living conditions by taking dangerous things out of her reach, and offering her my companionship, I realized I was facing a decision: to adopt Maggie and accept full responsibility for her welfare, changing my life path forever.
One evening, after making the arrangements with her then owner, I went out to Maggie in the old rickety barn in June 2017. I was so nervous but my gut told me this was the right choice. I sat down on the railing near her and in the soft light of the barn, I shared that I had formally adopted her. We were paired for life. I also admitted I was really scared with only four months of horse experience under my belt at the time, all with her, and no community guidance. While tears were rolling down my cheeks, my heart filled with joy and anxiousness for this new responsibility and role. I heard myself say out loud “This decision needed to be made in order for the next chapter to open.” And as if in perfectly timed response, the barn light suddenly went out for three seconds and then came back on. The light never did that before. Then and there I knew I’d made the right choice, even with all the unknowns ahead of us. So many stories since then with Maggie and the five rescued horses that followed.
Simultaneously, in 2018 and into 2019, I was unexpectedly supported by someone new to me to attend several in-depth courses in Devon and Crete, on myths and fairytales, including an initiatory 5-day sitting vigil on Dartmoor, in Devon. All were programs by storyteller and mythologist, Martin Shaw. As this wild year was unfolding in stories, I was balancing, somehow, learning from and rehabilitating my horses by myself, while holding a full-time job at a clinic as a medical massage therapist. These experiences came in from seemingly nowhere, yet I was compelled to attend and accept. In hindsight, they were forming significant aspects of my new life.
To keep this story from turning in to book-length, there are many stories and details that I’ve left out. Countless serendipitous moments that have affirmed this was the right step when I was sure I’d lost connection to common sense. February 2020 was a very difficult month, as two of my horses had to be put to sleep before we made a move to a new barn. March 2020, as the pandemic began, I was faced with the question, what are we meant to do, the horses and I?
How the seed idea of Peaceful Horse came to me:
I will never forget the intense moment when, soon after my mare Artemis moved in, she and I were standing together. The hoof trimmer had come to trim her feet. Being a rescued horse and having withstood untold mistreatment in her time before me, she was in a high state of terror, struggling to contain herself to lift her feet calmly. Standing close, I held the lead rope with her in my gaze, our eyes locked in an eternal moment while the trimmer attended her feet. A wave of emotion moved through me and I knew Artemis was on the edge of her risking trust in me. We stood so close, I could feel the heat coming from her face. She was holding her breath. A tear made its way down her cheek. Being so focused on her, my whole body welled up with feeling her intensity, and tears started falling from my eyes too. I took a deep full breath and released it hoping she would understand “I am here with you, Artemis. I am protecting you.” That was a day I understood there were layers within me that, if I dedicated myself to improving from within, I could become the confident leader that she needed me to be. I also needed to give myself the same patience to develop in my own timing. I made that commitment to her. That moment was the very beginning and inspiration for Peaceful Horse.
Over the past 2 ½ years the vision of what Peaceful Horse is meant to become has grown clearer and deeper. In the Council facilitator training, Dave Bingham continues to share the history and ways of Council. It has become blatantly obvious that Council circles are to be at the center of what Peaceful Horse offers, worldwide. I’m eagerly working away at creating the structure of the online community portal, aiming to launch it in March. I welcome conversations, sharing insights, feedback and suggestions with me on this next evolutionary chapter. I am in it by myself at the moment, hopefully not for long as I welcome others to join me in the making of it, and many in the community receiving from it.
The goal is to have land that we steward long-term with Peaceful Horse. My experiences in Devon (especially the 5-day vigil) have put Devon at the front to eventually anchor down to. I know we need to move this year, so it may be that we move to an interim location first. Devon is a big leap of faith but feels absolutely real to me. With all the amazing connections and events these past six years, I believe there is more yet to materialize. I’m staying open. It feels like we are just getting started. I welcome any thoughts and connections on finding our way there or to an interim location.
May this journey inspire you if you have a vision to bring Way of Council into your offerings and community. May this journey inspire you if you have a stirring to connect and talk with me about Peaceful Horse, as this next chapter opens. I also welcome inspired forms of sharing this story to raise awareness of the community portal and overall vision. You can reach me at email@example.com and visit my website https://spiritbirdintuitivearts.com/
Blessings and thank you for reading,
Erika Rado, with Artemis, Luna, Duncan, Zen and Geronimo