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Fulfilling a lifelong dream: Finding the right horse and bringing him home

The Hof Westendarp Farm, Wallenhorst, Germany; Tassilo the Magnificient

Occasionally we receive an invitation: “Come with me, just for the fun of it.” I received such an invite in January from my niece, Laura Hermanson.

Last December she accompanied Dinah Babcock on a trip to The Netherlands and Germany to look at Warmblood dressage horses that Dinah might purchase for her clients. Dinah is a world-class judge and Grand Prix dressage trainer and rider with a particularly excellent eye for horses of exceptional quality.

At the Hof Westendarp farm in Wallenhorst, Germany, Laura met world champion dressage rider and horse trainer, Johannes Westendarp, and his lovely wife, Ines. She also met a young horse with whom she instantly bonded.   The next thing we knew, my husband and I purchased this beauty, knowing that Laura would be able to train it in dressage through all the levels of competition. With this horse Laura may pursue her dream.

So when she asked if I would like to go to Germany with her to the Westendarp Farm to see this horse before he came to America, I said “yes”. I jumped a flight to Amsterdam, met her, and we took the train to Osnabruck. The next day I went with her to the famous Westendarp farm to meet Johannes, Ines and our new horse, Tassilo. After seeing him, I began calling him Tassilo, the Magnificent.

I have never seen such a beautiful horse. Clearly present with an inquisitive mind, Tassilo moves with grace and power. A 3-year-old, he is alert and looks directly at you with his eyes. His neck curves beautifully, and he stretches his legs in long flowing strides. A youngster, he is playful with a lot of youthful energy.

Laura Hermanson with Tassilo

Four mornings in a row I had the pleasure of watching Laura ride him as Johannes instructed and prepared her to take Tassilo to America. Watching them brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. How lucky am I to be present at the beginning of a beautiful partnership that will continue for years.

Hof Westendarp is a beautiful horse farm, created by Johannes Westendarp. His grandfather founded a farm in 1904. He and his son farmed the land, raised pigs and cows and had ponies for the children. But it was Johannes who had the dream to create a world-class horse farm, and that is exactly what he has done. Today, he has 28 horses, and he sells 10 to 12 a year to people in Europe and around the world. All his horses are gorgeous, proud and energetic.

(left to right:) Laura Hermanson and Tassilo with Johannes and Ines Westendarp; Susan B. Magee with Tassilo

I salute what Johannes and Ines have built together. I thank them for their warm hospitality, their amazing professionalism and this beautiful horse. And I thank Dinah Babcock for introducing Laura and me to them and to our Tassilo, the Magnificent. Life is good. Life is joyful…

Tassilo and Laura bonding.

 

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

An Approach to Challenging Times

January 20, 2017 – Day of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Our nation is deeply divided as Donald J. Trump becomes our 45th President. Americans on all sides are frightened, angry, resentful and uncertain. We also face chaos and turmoil abroad.

I ask myself: how may I approach these times in a constructive way, not succumbing to fear, anger, hatred or despair? How do I stay centered in my own power so I may contribute to a peaceful America that includes and honors everyone?

To answer, I turn to the example of Nelson Mandela. After 27 years in prison, he walked out a free man in spirit as well as in body. He transcended his own rage, hatred and desire for revenge to lead his country in a process that embraced everyone, faced the truth and reconciled the past.

As we face challenging times, I offer the sentiments of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to serve us all.

Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Join me at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC for the Circle of Meditation and Healing.  In the 2017  series, “Spiritual Practices in Challenging Times,” we will work together to stay centered, clear and focused on a vision of peace for the world.  If you do not live in the D.C. area, you may access these meditations on the following link shortly after each Circle.

Blessings to everyone.

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Circle of Meditation and Healing 2017 Events

All events take place at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

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The full-moon Circle of Meditation and Healing at the Washington National Cathedral is led by Susan Beilby Magee.
It is a continuing series of meditations that explores personal mastery in all realms of life.
All spiritual seekers are welcome. No experience is necessary.
Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 per session payable at the door.
Click on “learn more” below to be directed to the Washington National Cathedral’s ticketing pages.

2017 Series: SPIRITUAL PRACTICES IN CHALLENGING TIMES

We live in challenging times.  In the 2017 Full Moon Circle of Healing and Meditation, we will practice spiritual exercises that help us stay centered, clear and focused on our vision for the world.  In this sacred space, Susan Magee will lead visualizations and teach practices to ground ourselves and be fully present in our personal power; bring our values into focus; clarify our purpose and path; and work collaboratively with others.

Monday, March 13, 7:00pm
“Staying Centered”
In challenging times, how do we stay centered, release fears and be fully present in all our power? Join Susan Beilby Magee in this sacred circle as she guides us to the still point within and teaches us to listen to our own wisdom.
Learn more

Wednesday, May 10, 7:00pm
“Bringing Your Values into Focus”
What are my values; how am I honoring them; and what activities are not in alignment with them? Join Susan Beilby Magee in this sacred circle as she helps us clarify and manifest what is most important to us.
Learn more

Thursday, October 5, 7:00pm
“Finding Your Path”
What is my most important goal at this time? What are the obstacles and how do I remove them? How do I transform negative thinking into positive realities? Join Susan Beilby Magee in this sacred circle as she shows us how to find a clear path at this time.
Learn more

Thursday, November 2, 7:00pm
“Working in Community”
What is my vision for this world? How may I manifest it? Join Susan Beilby Magee as she leads us to explore how we express our values and collaborate to create a better world.
Learn more

Holy Conversations: A Pilgrimage to Iona

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The Abbey of Iona

“Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits.” John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Last May, I joined a group of pilgrims from the Washington National Cathedral to spend a week on the holy Isle of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. I wished to experience silence and listen to the stillness.

After spending 20 years as a community activist and leader in government and business, I had a strange and beautiful experience that opened new worlds to me. I was doing a meditation when I had a vision of my father on his knees, asking me to forgive him for committing suicide 23 years before.

My third eye opened, and from that time I have been able to talk with individual spirits and communities of spirits in this world and “on the other side.”  I have sought understanding, healing and compassion for myself and others. This spiritual journey continues.

During the week on Iona, we walked the island, participated in ecumenical services in the abbey and discussed the meaning and history of Celtic spirituality. I also spent time alone in prayer and meditation, sitting in nature.   I listened to the wind howling, the waves crashing, and watched the sun glimmering on the ocean. The very air I breathed was holy, carrying the resonance of 2000 years of prayer by Druids, Celts and Christians.

Here are some journal notes:

Sunday, May 1: Sitting in the hotel’s quiet garden, I feel the leaves on the trees sprouting; the flowers bursting forth with their blossoms, and I hear the chickadees chirping. Surrounded by nature, I feel enlivened, connected and hear the small voice within: “Be still and open to God.”

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Quiet Garden, Iona

 

Monday, May 2: I walk to the middle of the island to meditate in a circle of stone, called the Hermit Cell. In the late 500s, St. Columba (521-597) prayed there regularly.  St. Columba was a monk who left Ireland and settled in Iona in 563. There, he founded and led a monastery on Iona for many years and from this base he evangelized parts of modern day Scotland and northwest England.

With the wind blowing, I enter the circle, sit quietly and listen.

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Hermit Cell, Iona

Wednesday, May 4: We walk across Iona and when we reach St. Columba’s Bay, I stop and sit on a boulder by the water’s edge. The sunlight is shining on the ocean and the waves crash and retreat. The wind whistles past my ears; I listen to the stones tumbling across the sand, and the seagulls chat with each other as they dart back and forth. I feel exhilarated and peaceful.

St. Columba’s Bay, Iona

As I leave, I walk the stone labyrinth in silence. Sheep graze on the land nearby. The wind still howls in my ears.

Labyrinth, Iona

Friday, May 6: My last day, I speak with a familiar spirit who fills me with love. After long travels, she tells me she has decided to remain home in Iona.   I ask: why? She responds:

“I draw strength here, strength from the wind, the sea, the smell of the kelp. It is wild here, untamed and splendidly raw. Feel the elements yourself. The birds fly on my currents. I tousle the water and create waves. I send them crashing against the rocks and create great plumes of salt water. Nature is raw here.   I am home.”

I, too, feel at home. Iona is holy, communal, and intimate. I am grateful to share this journey with my fellow pilgrims.

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Bay at the Back of the Ocean, Iona

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Pilgrimage to Scotland: Orkney’s Neolithic Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae

IMG_0203cropDuring a meditation one morning in Palm Desert, California, I received an invitation to visit the Ring of Brodgar. I had a vision of the stones and noticed white light coming from one of them. I heard:

“You are ancient.” I responded: “I feel it.” “No, really ancient. You carry great sadness for Mother Earth and all life on her. You know that she and all of creation are alive, and you wish to help heal her. First, heal yourself. Leave in the center of the Ring all your sorrow, worries, anger, guilt and shame. We will transmute them. It is time for you to be free—to radiate all that you are—to walk in health, balance, love, compassion, equanimity and joy.”

I quickly added a week to visit the Ring of Brodgar to my plans to join a Washington National Cathedral pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona.

Orkney: An Austere Land, Shaped by Nature’s Elements

IMG_0344On April 26, I fly to Orkney with great anticipation. The sky is grey. I catch a few glimpses of the ocean below. After landing, I drive to Stenness and get my first glimpse of the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic circle of stones. No one knows how old it is. The current guess is 4,000 to 4,500 years old.

Even more so than in Edinburgh, the wind and rain determine my schedule out of doors. I see no trees except one grove that sits in a gully, protected from the wind. Along the horizon, hills are rounded by retreating glacial ice of 10,000 years ago. Wheat-colored fields meet green crofts. Water is everywhere, be it the sea or the lochs. Orkney is an austere land, compelling and beautiful.

The Ring of Brodgar

IMG_0329The Ring sits on a raised, broad land. As I walk up the path towards it, I see the standing stones jutting out of the earth, silhouetted against the sky. Water glimmers on two sides; brown heather fills the center. It is a wide circle, over 300 feet in diameter. Stones, varying from 7 to 15-feet tall, greet me. They have mottled surfaces of varied colors. Twenty-seven of the original 60 remain standing. The circle sits on sacred ground.

I quietly walk around the ring, talking to the stones. I touch them and ask that they enliven and realign themselves in harmony for this time in the 21st century.

These ancient standing stones capture my imagination. Who built them? How were they used? What have they witnessed?

 

Skara Brae, A 5000-Year-Old Neolithic Village

IMG_0203IMG_0312In 1850 a severe storm hit Scotland and stripped the earth from a large knoll, revealing a village whose homes were sunk into the ground. Named Skara Brae, it sits on the Bay of Skaill. There are 8 stone houses, clustered together, connected by stone paths. In each house a fireplace sits in the middle with two areas for sleeping on opposite sides. A dresser or altar stands across from the entrance, and next to it is a square area dug into the ground to hold water to keep fish and crab fresh. Archeologists believe about 50 people lived in this village over a period of 600 years from 3180 BC to 2500 BC.

I visit it twice.

I feel a connection to these people. “From where did they come,” I ask? “By water, of course.” “Who were they?” I hear: “They are we.”

 

Impact of the Ring and This Dramatic Landscape

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The night before I leave, I return to the Ring for the fourth time. I want to watch the sun set and light the stones against a glowing, orange-red sky. Such beauty! I feel alive. My soul stirs. I feel connected to this land and the ancients.

Having returned home, I carry an image of the Ring at sunset in my mind’s eye. I am more alert to nature–its power and beauty. Orkney’s gifts to me:

I am awake.

I am connected.

I am grateful.

I smile.

 

Photos © Susan Beilby Magee

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Pilgrimage to Scotland: Nature’s Vivid Moods

 

RainbowOverIona2Rainbow Over Iona © Jonathan Hohman

Recently I spent 18 days on pilgrimage to Scotland, visiting Edinburgh, the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Iona. Nature’s elements were in my face: the howling wind, spitting rain, brilliant sun and roiling sea. Magpies and seagulls flew overhead; sheep grazed as their lambs frolicked in the grass.

The changes in the sky were constant. One moment, massive dark clouds rolled across the sky, hiding the brilliant sun; an hour later, gentle grey clouds replaced them, dropping soft raindrops. In the evening, the setting sun bathed the sky in brilliant hues of orange and gold.

The Scots seem chiseled from the volcanic rock that bursts forth like giants seeking the sun. Weathered like the land by nature’s elements, they stand tall. They are proud, powerful, deeply grounded in Mother Earth and connected to all of creation surrounding them.

I once asked an Englishman how the people of a small group of islands, known as Great Britain, ruled an empire. He replied: “Oh, the answer is easy. The Scots did it. Being comfortable in any challenging environment, they went around the world, knew what needed to be done and did it.”

Mother Nature’s changing kaleidoscope is a metaphor for our lives. I am reminded that the only constant is change. She draws a vivid picture of the moods, mysterious rumblings, challenges, breakthroughs and gentleness we experience as we grow and mature. One afternoon after a gentle rain on the Isle of Iona, a full semi-circle rainbow formed across the water. We stood in wonder. Is this not a symbol of the brilliance and harmony we achieve after we have walked through dark storms and emerged into the light? As within, so without.

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Photos, clockwise from top right: Sheep Grazing, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Sunset and Low Tide at Skara Brae © Susan B. Magee

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Blizzard Whispers

A blizzard will be embracing those who live on the East Coast shortly. A dear friend emailed “Blizzard Whispers” below that explains what we may do to protect our trees, plants, animals and people from being hurt. Today and each day of the storm we simply ask that the spirits of the blizzard, trees, plants, animals, bees and humans connect with each other so no harm comes to anyone or anything. Even if we are not in the middle of the storm’s path, we may send intentions from any location in the country to protect our ecosystems, animals and people.

During Hurricane Sandy, I spoke to the spirit dragon of that storm and said ever so respectfully: “I do not want to interfere with your purpose; nor do I understand what it is; but I have a home and garden in Cape May that I love with all my heart, and I ask that you not damage it in any way.”  My home was not damaged, and I learned once again about the power and magic of our intentions when working cooperatively with the world of spirit and nature.
 
For those who are interested, I got the idea that we may affect weather systems from reading The Occult Diaries of R. Ogilvie Crombie, the story of a Scotsman who quietly became a bridge of understanding between the world of people and nature spirits.
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© Susan Beilby Magee, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

One Small Act of Kindness

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We all see killing, bigotry and fear erupting in America and around the world.

What we dwell upon is amplified.

Let’s release our fears and hold a vision of peace and compassion for our families and the world.

Let’s radiate our light and remember: one small act of kindness connects with others and seeds peace in the world.

 

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Michelangelo’s “David”: A Metaphor for Life

M__471F“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”— attributed to Michelangelo

What does the David mean to an American woman of English and Spanish descent—500 years after it was created? I first saw the David in Florence, Italy in 1989. Twenty-five years later, I returned with my granddaughter so we could see the David together. It had a far greater impact on me. It is a metaphor for my journey in life.

For the past several years, I have had a vision of Michelangelo looking at a huge block of marble, seeing David inside. All he had to do was chip the extraneous marble away to reveal him. Isn’t that what we do in life? We chip away at our anger, sorrow, grief; we expose our imperfections and uncover fears. In short, we do what Michelangelo did. We chip away and in the process reveal our own radiant selves.

davidI learned two new things about the David on this trip.

1) Knowing that the block of marble he was given contained imperfections and cracks, Michelangelo chose to to use it anyway.  Aren’t we all imperfect? Don’t we all have cracks inside? Isn’t it through our imperfections that we reveal our humanity and become vulnerable? Doesn’t that vulnerability allow us to chip more away which reveals our true selves?

2) Michelangelo sculpted the pupils of David’s eyes in the shape of a heart. Perhaps Michelangelo is suggesting that David sees with his heart, and it is through his heart that he is able to face this giant of a man called Goliath. I, too, have learned that truth and courage lie within my heart. While I love using my cognitive mind and always will, I access true power, vision and wisdom through my heart.

Bless the genius of Michelangelo for his creation of the David. It will forever be a symbol of life’s journey of transformation.

Join Susan B. Magee on September 28 and October 7,  2015  from 7 to 9pm for the Circle of Meditation and Healing at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC.

 

© Susan Beilby Magee, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Photo credits: (top) Michaelangelo, The David, from a postcard, Firenze, Galleria dell’Accademia, right: image from Wikipedia

Mother Nature is Alive and Well in Italy

unnamed-4“It was dowsily warm with dozens of bees, lazily buzzing through flowers and trees…”
—Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack by Lynley Dodd

I have just returned from the countryside in Tuscany, Italy. How alive the land, harmonious the old stone buildings and fresh the food! There were bees everywhere, busily doing their work, reminding me of the opening sentence above in Dodd’s book.

I have never seen so many bees, and they had no interest in the people around them. The 7-foot tall hydrangea bushes, olive trees shimmering in the sunlight, upright cypress trees and clusters of grapes hanging from the vines were all alive with spirit. My granddaughter and I stayed with a dear friend, Lynn, and her niece, Michaela, in a small village called Borgo San Felice. We spent time in the herb garden, walked through the vineyards and played bocce ball. One night after dinner we were stunned by June’s “blue moon” hanging in the sky over the land, and as we turned around we watched Jupiter and Venus dance together on the horizon.

I came home to a land that is not as alive with the spirits of nature. Nor is our food as consistently fresh.  What have we done to our home? Upon my return I read about the controversy about a copper mine going into a river valley in Montana where my husband fished with friends in the 80s. I saw another article about the deleterious impact of Donald Trump’s cutting down 460 trees along the Potomac River to have a view for his new golf course.

Profoundly affected by the experience, I ask myself: what may I do to treat Mother Earth with more respect and invite the nature spirits to return? How may I improve my relationship with them?

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© Susan Beilby Magee, 2015. All Rights Reserved.