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The Barred Owl

While sitting at my computer doing work, I received a phone call from a friend who is part of the North Country Wildcare team, an organization that rehabilitates wildlife in need. There was a Barred Owl that had been hit by a car and was on the side of the road still alive. Knowing I lived on that road, she asked if I could go check on it. North Country Wildcare was going to contact the vet they work with to see if she had time to look at the owl that day. If so, could I drive the bird over? If the vet didn’t have time, could I still bring the owl somewhere safe until a rehabber could get her.

Saying yes because of my deep love of owls, I left my dog behind and got in the car (both of us sad to part ways that early in the morning) to search for the bird who was supposedly less than a mile away. I slowed way down while driving the area where they said she was and saw no owl. Turned around and did it again. And again. And again. I could not find an owl. Maybe she was well enough to fly off. Pulling to the side of the road, I called the woman who had first seen the bird. She gave me specific sites to look for and 3-4 feet into the woods was the beautiful owl shown in photo above. I kneeled next to her and as peacefully and kind as possible, introduced myself. As I looked into this gorgeous creature’s eyes, my gut said she wasn’t going to make it. With that, I questioned taking her out of the woods and her home, to bring her inside a car and a building. The intention was kind, but was the actuality of it the best for this particular bird? With questions about human intervention circling in head and heart, I decided to act on what I assured the people who asked for my help. If she did live and get released back into the wild, it would feel good to have been a part of that.

I had brought thick fireproof gloves to protect against the talons and a box to contain her. Once seeing the bird, I wondered if an old horse blanket that was in my car would be a better way to pick her up. I was contemplating this by the side of the road and cars kept driving by. It kind of amazed me that not one person stopped to check in. After about 20 passed, a man pulled up and asked if I needed anything. I told him the plan and he got out to help. I appreciated having someone with me. He picked her up and put her in the box. I left the top off of the box so she would have air. As I began to pull out on to the road, the owl began an escape. I passed a neighbor walking his dog and wondered what it looked like from the outside as this bird’s huge wing span began bouncing in the back window of my Mini Cooper. I drove the bird to the vet who had agreed to see her. By the time I dropped off the owl, my heart was invested in hope regardless of my initial sense. The kind folks in the office told me the exam would take too long for me wait for the results. So, with concern muddling my body, I left her there. I drove home and went back to work, but my heart stayed inside the vet’s office hoping to give the owl some assurance that all the stress she was going through was founded in kindness. Only later in evening did I get word that the bird had broken both wings and rehabilitation would not be possible. She was euthanized and her life ended quickly and painlessly.

I texted the person who originally found the Owl and gave her the news. We both were sad. She felt sorry to have left her when she did, believing maybe if she had stayed the outcome would have been different. I was feeling badly for having taken the bird out of the woods, into a car and then the unnatural lighting of an office where humans poked and checked her. Both of us feeling guilt over the same circumstance for different reasons.

This story is to illustrate a couple ideas. One is that we do not always know what is for the best. All we can do is make decisions based on the information we have at the time. Additionally, it is ok to act in opposition of a gut response, yet it is wise to stay open to the idea that you may have to face the feelings that come up if your gut is correct. For me that meant coming to grips with the truth that even though my actions were contrary to my intuition, they were also based in hope and kindness. There was no sense feeling guilt over a choice that had those two energies as its foundation. Chances are good if I had left the owl in the woods because of my instincts, I’d still have felt guilt while wondering how she was faring. Ultimately, this story is to say do your best and let everything else go.

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Watching a ’60 Minutes’ repeat of wildlife photographer Tom Mangelson left me speechless, similar to how the film ‘The Last Lions’ did. I’ve seen this episode before, and seeing it again had me deeply wondering about my life and if I’ve dedicated enough action to those that I most admire and adore—wild and domesticated animals. Years ago, I asked the animals as a collective how I might help them. They responded by saying they didn’t need help, so much as they simply needed to be able to live their lives. In that way, perhaps I could help them by guiding humans to allow animals to do that. I’ve tried since, and yet I’d like to do more. Watching Tom, the photographer, inspired me. We will see how that inspiration plays out.
 
A couple weeks prior, I went to Healing Pines Mustang Sanctuary in Corinth. I was there to see a Navajo Horse Blessing Ceremony the day before one was taking place at our barn. I rushed my time with my own horse, Tom, to get there for the beginning of the ceremony. Upon arrival, I learned that things were running 2 hours behind schedule. What started as a disappointment, turned into an opportunity to meet a new herd of horses. As we approached a group of 8, 3 were close to the gate and 5 about 20 feet beyond. I said hello to the first group, all lovely. Then one of the horses from the further group caught my attention, as he looked at me with curiosity. I walked towards him, eager to meet a horse that introduces itself. While he was interested, there was also a bit of hesitation seen in his expression. So, I stopped approaching. With me standing still, he eventually came over on his own to investigate. He decided he liked me and began showing a sense of humor. With him comfortable, two others also came over and I had peaceful and rich moments with each of them. This was not an entirely unusual experience for me, as I strive to connect with animals on their own terms often. Yet, because each horse is different than any other, every experience is new. One of the first books I remember loving was called ‘Happy Horsemanship’. My grandparents gave it to me about 40+ years ago. I’ve been studying how to be with horses ever since. In this moment, however, I was not consciously aware of using any method or technique, I simply engaged in the moment with love and admiration. It was bliss. I learned new horses and felt seen and blessed by them in return—not because of conditions that they do as I said or me doing everything right. It was simple and true. While sharing time with these horses, the others were not interested and I let them be. When allowing for freedom with animals, you may not get the connection you desire. Each animal has their own free will and preferences; let us give them the honor of choice. May we also listen and allow animals to show us how to hear beyond words, connect without conditions and be true to the moment as it is.
 
This morning on a run, I came across a baby snake. I love snakes and didn’t want this one to be among those who’s life ends as roadkill. So, I stood in front of it hoping to shoo it out of the road. It continued to lay there, unafraid of my tallness and its tongue came out to “taste/smell” the environment—probably to identify the large shadow overhead. In that moment, I recognized the difference in our perspectives. What would it be like to experience life from the ground and tasting the air rather than observing it through sight? Then, as happens most every day, I thought about how little we humans understand. After showing me that I know nothing about sensing the world, the snake moved away and out of the road, hopefully to live a long and prosperous life.
 
I’m telling you these three somewhat unrelated stories in hopes of fulfilling the animal’s request for my help human’s perceive them differently. One of the many reasons for my adoration of animals is that they do not intellectualize themselves away from their nature. Even my dog Z, who would have no idea where to sleep if not on her own love seat, still maintains the very things that make her canine—sniffing the ground to know what happened during the night, chasing potential prey and guarding her territory. Meanwhile, our first human ancestors lived similar to certain animals—in tribes and hunting food. Yet, in modern mainstream America we have little sense of such a lifestyle. One might say we evolved, another way of seeing it is we’ve separated ourselves from the natural flow of Life. Both perhaps are true. Is it time to bridge the two? The comfort of both Z and Tom is one of my forethoughts every day. So, it is hard to understand the numbers online for unwanted pets. I won’t bore you with the details, just know it’s a lot of dogs, cats and horses. Meanwhile, in contrast the earth has lost half of its wildlife over the last 40 years, lion populations included. That’s a statistic I can barely comprehend and makes me angry and sad simultaneously. From an archetypal perspective, this discrepancy between the overpopulation of domesticated animals and the decline of wild populations can be seen within the human species as well; our domestication is in surplus, while our wild—the ancient part that knows its self to be simply one facet of the natural world—is on the decline. It is my assertion that this fact is the cause of many modern problems; addictions, depression and a variety of illnesses. It is time to reclaim our nature and integrate it with civilization. This will be the new modern. If doing it for the animals is not motivation enough for you, the Earth also will thrive from this shift. Additionally, humans will benefit connecting back to their own nature—personal and environmental. It’s worth trying anyway. Will you come along with me?
 
PS. photo is my own from time in Zimbabwe.
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There was a decision I needed to make. It would probably seem inconsequential to others, but was a big deal to me—move or not move my horse. Tom is happy where he is, so moving isn’t necessary, yet maybe it’s time for us both to have some new scenery. I asked Life to help me make the decision in a way that I’d understand. With trust in my heart, I went to the potential new location and walking in the field came across four Deer. They ran a few steps, stopped, then looked up and we stared at each other for awhile until I moved on. There are tons of places to check on the symbolism of animals, but before the internet I used Ted Andrews’ “Animal Speak” and still use it as my dictionary. This book says Deer represent gentle new adventures. I was all in for that, and figured seeing them was a good sign for moving. Then while walking back towards my car, a Red Fox ran in front of me from right to left. “Animal Speak” says Fox represents magic. More energies I welcome and why I put one on the cover. Upon arriving home, I stepped out of the garage and looked up to find four deer staring at me. The others were at the farm and these were at my house. Again, seemingly a good sign.

The next day, still questioning, I got in my car, pulled out of the driveway and within 50 feet noticed branches falling from a tree even though the wind was quiet. Being nature-aware, I knew to look up and see what was causing the falling branches. Doing so, I was treated with the sight of an adorable Porcupine sitting far out on a limb eating the budding leaves. “Animal Speak’ says Porcupines symbolize a new sense of wonder, something I could use. Later in the day, a neighbor sent a night photo of a Red Fox family—two parents and two kits—living behind our wood shed. Another confirmation that while the choice of moving Tom is neither right nor wrong, it will bring forth a wonder-filled magical adventure. The next morning, I was sitting on the front porch drinking coffee and a Blue Jay in our apple tree caught my attention. I quietly watched as this bird seemed to struggle in breaking off ends of branches. Another Blue Jay flew up and they worked together on the same goal. Eventually both flying off with twigs in their beaks, as a male cardinal flew into the apple tree. I later looked it up to find out Blue Jay couples break fresh branches laboriously to build their nest with. Witnessing them gather materials to make their new home felt like more messages suggesting moving Tom would have a beneficial result. That afternoon I gave my notice to the current barn. Time will tell if the outcome will follow my interpretations of the messages.

Now with the decision made, I sit in the sun while writing and a hawk is flying overhead making its piercing scream. Within seconds two crows come through chasing off a single Raven. All while a cardinal, probably the same one that ‘scared’ off the Blue Jays, is repeating his call and seemingly waiting for a response from his girl. Why tell you all this? First, because no matter what spiritual practices I learn, observing the beings that remain in their natural state is the most Divine for me. Also, to illustrate how to ask for guidance and allow Life to show you potential answers. For me, it comes through animal sightings because that is how I want to see it. For you, it may come through an article, a conversation or perhaps when you stop thinking and suddenly know the answer in your bones. You come up with the method and Life will respond. That said, there needs to be a frame of reference you agree upon. Again, for me it’s the animals along with “Animal Speak’ and any intuitive understandings that come to me in a particular situation. The third point, is that regardless of what signs you see, “voices” you hear or things you know, YOU have to take action yourself. The animals in my case, were not there to make the decision for me. They may not have even noticed my presence and doubtfully knew I was looking to them for help. Yet, because we are symbiotically connected, their presence was there at perfect timing to bring me clarity. Trust in what you see. Sometimes it takes practice understanding the messages you are receiving. Know that through trial and error you will get better and better.

UPDATE: Tom moved yesterday and things went smoothly. When we got to the new place, he ran and explored for over an hour, calling to see who was around to answer. There was a Red Tailed Hawk soaring overhead while he did so, a welcome sign. Tom enjoyed my company, but didn’t act needy as he has during some moves. Then this morning, I got a text that all three boys went out together without incident. All and all, the wild ones spoke the truth and I can’t help wondering how much their energy surrounded the horses through the transition. I’m also curious how much effect my telling the horses what was going on for the week leading up to the move. I had even asked the other two to help Tom during the transition. Regardless of why, I am thankful it seems to have worked. Take that as your message to speak to the Universe, Divine, Wild Ones, Life—insert your choice—knowing it listens and responds although not always obviously.

PS. While editing this article one last time, a Bald Eagle flew overhead—giving me chills of love and more confirmation something beautiful is beginning.

Photos of Tom on his first day and the fox family….

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From my car earlier today, I saw a guy dancing to the music playing through his headphones while walking down the side of the road. It was obvious he was lost in his music and loving it. This made me smile. Yet, no one but him could hear the music, so it would have been easy to think he looked ridiculous. What struck me, and why I write about it now, is that this is an example of how it is for all of us really. Instead of music, we each have a running commentary in our head that no one else can hear; sometimes we can’t even hear it ourselves. This commentary is the basis for our movement in the world. Sometimes it’s very obvious because we can hear it say something like “I want a glass of water.” The words then create the movement of going to get a glass of water. Other times it’s silent telling us the likes of “no one makes money creating art” which creates the opposite of movement, replacing it with inactive creativity. Or a voice of doubt that ask things like… Am I good enough? Am I really able to have what I want? Does anyone care? It can also wear the guise of spirituality, such as “you need to stay positive all the time to get the life you want.” Whether it is loud, obvious or quiet, it still moves us in much the same way the music moved the kid. All my examples seem to lean on the negative side, which isn’t an accurate representation for this “voice.” The “music” also plays us into our dreams when we allow it.

Just as the ongoing commentary in your head isn’t heard by the one next to you, neither do you hear what is going on inside someone else’s mind. We do not know what anyone is experiencing as they go through their life. We may love them, feel close to them, and even sometimes think we know them better than they know themselves. We still do not know what it’s like inside their head. They may be able to tell us, but words are limited by their nature and are not always the best expression of the nuances we actually feel. The person telling you about their day may have beliefs and understandings that are shaping their moment and memory, that you cannot understand or hear because it’s not a part of your experience. So, while you can, and perhaps always will, have opinions about how someone could act or respond, it is wise to simply be curious about everyone you come in contact with—those new in your life, as well as those you see every single day. Doing so, allows everyone the space to also be curious about his or her own self when around you, rather than following a prescribed way of being. The more this happens, you in turn will be curious about yourself and may find new and interesting things that are truly authentic. Get so busy enjoying Life you get lost in the movement—just like the kid dancing, while allowing others to do the same.

In my early life, I had a friend that asked me what my motives were. With hindsight, I know he was asking me for his own benefit. Yet, it set me up to examine my reasons for doing things, which was my first experience with being curious about myself. It may be worth noting he was a boyfriend. Like it or not, they do have more impact, hence why I was inclined to listen to his question and take it to heart. Now, I’m thankful for its impetus. Often we are told what to do or how to behave. As beings that want to belong, we follow the ways of others in hopes of finding our place. This isn’t always our family of origin, as we can leave them in search of somewhere more “us.”Yet, the more we fit into a group, the less likely we will look at our own reasons for following their ideas. As a way to of examining your inner commentary and become curious about yourself, I suggest looking at the motives for your actions. Don’t judge the answers, just ask yourself honestly ‘why am I doing this?’ If the answer is ‘I have no idea,’ sit with that and maybe contemplate why you would do something for no reason. If the answer is one you don’t like, such as ‘I have to,’ ask yourself if that is true. Do you really have to do it, or do you prefer doing it over the outcome of not doing it? With each honest inquiry and answer, you clear out the commentary running your show. By purifying the ‘noise’ that interprets your experience of life, you will touch the most honest you and life will respond in kind.

Trees and All Life

Earlier this year, I was close to many trees as they toppled over, falling to the ground. Some were obviously old and many looked completely healthy. Some fell during storms and others didn’t have obvious outside influence before falling. It was a recurring theme that I couldn’t help but take note of and contemplate. Perhaps it was telling me something. About a month ago, I was at Uncommon Grounds, Saratoga’s best coffee shop, and went blank, fell to the ground and hit my face hard. Having no memory of it, I was told later what happened and it was described as though I fell like a tree. Hmmm….. Was I emulating the trees, or did they try to warn me what was coming? What most interests me about the ‘coincidence’ is the reminder of how symbiotic life is. It’s easy to forget this, since we live separated from the natural world in buildings with temperature controls etc. Meanwhile, the organism called earth, which humans, plants, trees and animals are all parts of, is living as a whole. Where do we get our oxygen but the trees? What holds us to the planet but gravity? What waters our gardens but rain? What helps our bodies create Vitamin D but the Sun? Thich Nhat Hahn says it well; “We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realize that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you—what you see is not your environment, it is you.”

Today, I went for a walk on a trail that I’ve been doing for 20 years. It is not one we do every day, so it’d been awhile since I was last on it. At the bottom of this trail is a group of 7 maples that I call the 7 Sisters. They have shared wisdom with me, which you in turn have heard through my written word. Today, after passing the “Sisters” I got to the top of the hill and was shocked to find 100s of trees cut down. Many even blocked the trail. It felt like a newly created gravesite. “Coincidentally,” prior to this walk, my heart was heavy. I had slept until 10am, which is abnormal. While I did so because of exhaustion, it was accompanied by feelings of incredible sadness—as though grieving something unknown. When I saw the disruption of the forest and felt their despondency, part of the reason became clear. Trees have been proven to have social networks, they help each other grow and warn of danger. Like all families after tragedy, the network will rebuild. Yet, that humans rarely take the whole into consideration when cutting trees down shows a lack of understanding or empathy, which says a lot about modern life. While I try to stay positive, there is much heartbreak in the world. For me, much of it stems from how artificial the modern way of being is. It unsettles me at a deep soul level. I can go about my business, but there is always unrest with a tinge disappointment.

For a week or longer (and periodically for years) I have felt the presence of Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull was a Lakota Indian Chief who led his people during years of resistance to the United States government. It was under his leadership that the Sioux tribes united in their struggle to survive on the North American Great Plains. Is his presence with me in spirit or simply an archetype, I know not. What I do know is that I grieve along with the great Chief for the loss of a way of life. The trees falling nearby me earlier in the year, were doing so at the “hands” of nature. Those I came across today fell at the machines of man. That difference is painful for me. Today, the trees were scattered on the ground like the Indians after the Wounded Knee Massacre, which took place a couple weeks after Sitting Bull’s death and exactly 128 years ago on the day I write this.

 You do not need me to tell you that we live in an artificial society. And yet, maybe you do. Perhaps not personally, but as part of the whole. People seem to value that which man has created, over that which was here long before us. We would do well to examine our priorities and see where we take the path of convenience and comfort rather than acting in alignment with our values. Let us not beat ourselves up over it, but do pay attention to our actions. For instance, how much plastic are you using? How much gas do you waste or electricity—anything that runs on fossil fuels? Are you spending time on things you “should” over what you love?

As already mentioned, my heart aches lately. Some reasons have to do with me, most of which are to do with the big picture—such as what the trees represented. Still other facets come from and for the ancestors that walked this continent in times gone by. Perhaps I am able to help all by allowing it to pass through and release. Even if not, it feels like what I need to do for now. I hesitated to write about this, not wanting to hear how to ‘fix’ this state of being. It is for me to move through, allow, merge and transmute when it has had its time. Until then, I pray—for the trees, the humans and all of LIFE.

To close, here is an excerpt from Chief Seattle’s letter to the government; “This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Trees and Sadness

Today I walked a trail I’ve been doing for approximately 20 years. At the bottom of the hill is a ‘pod’ of 7 Maples that I call the 7 Sisters (they once said I was the 8th). I have written about these trees previously, if you’d like to read go here. As I got to the top of the hill, I was shocked to find large machinery and 100s of trees laying on the ground. To some this may look like normal modern life. To me, it felt like a newly created gravesite. Prior to taking this walk, my heart was heavy. There was no seemingly obvious reason, simply sadness prevailed. As I saw the disruption of this tree community, the reason became clear. Trees have a social network. If you’d like to read more about that, here’s a link to a NY Times article entitled Trees Have Social Networks. While there is no doubt the networks can be rebuilt, humans rarely take it into consideration when cutting them down. This lack of understanding shows a lot about modern life, for we separate ourselves from the very things that gift us with the oxygen we need to live.

While I try to stay positive about life, there is a lot of heartbreak in the world. For me a lot of it stems from how artificial the modern way of being is. It completely unsettles me at a deep soul level. I can go about my business, but there is always this unrest. I will end today’s writing with an essay I wrote in 2015 about the same subject.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as the trees I have visited most every day for the last 18 years were being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees have witnessed my tears, heard me sing, soothed my fears and given me a sense of belonging that the human world has not. They are my friends. I use the wood products these friends will be made in to; so who am I to be against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence; it is the cycle of life. Additionally, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? With contemplation, I find it to be the lack of reverence for life and the community these trees live amongst. Trees have been proven to communicate and help each other grow through an underground network of fungi. Not having words or tears does not equal an absence of compassion or community.

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Later, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer who were wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or sighted the porcupines that move slowly among these trees—what are they doing? And the Barred Owls I’ve run into regularly, how have they been affected? This forest is personal for me, as I know it intimately. Yet, the tears that roll down my cheeks are not just for these specific trees and animals, but equally for the condition of our culture. We live in an artificial and disposable society that believes itself to be real and important. Money for instance is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life force. In America, we seem to groom kids for winning more so than good character. In this situation with the trees, the falsity is that we need to “manage” the forest for it to thrive. This is only potentially true, because of the damage humans have done over the last two hundred years interfering with the natural growth cycle of trees. No matter what, life will go on—for the forest, for the animals that call it home, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues? Will we be mindful of the others, humans and non-humans, we share our home with? Will we recognize that the tree’s life does not depend on us. Instead, we depend on the trees, as they produce the oxygen that allows us breath. Thank the good lord they are willing to share. How are we reciprocating?

Thich Nhat Hahn suggests; “We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realize that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realize that you are the Earth. You realize that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.”
So, my question turns inward as well—will we have reverence for our own personal nature?

Another favorite quote was spoken by Howard Thurman; “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

One of the great tragedies of our time is how hard it is to hear our genuine voice. The “strings” come from everywhere—the greater whole, advertising, our families or that one person we most love. Their ‘sound’ is often loud, perhaps rational and appears real. Meanwhile, our true guide is quiet, humble and when heard sounds too much like ourselves to be taken seriously. To hear it takes silence and subtle listening, as well as a belief in our deep self. None of which are strengths of our busy, noisy, outward-focused society. Additionally, I sense that because our culture lacks a function of unconditional belonging, there is a fear that going inward to meet and know our own self, will further separate us from the world—from others. My senses also tell me that the opposite is actually true. To go inward and revere our own nature will ultimately show us our connection far deeper than blindly following society, someone else or an ideology. When we are true to our genuine voice, we have no desire to attach strings from either end—the controlling or the following. Such an appetite is the result of weakness and insecurity. It is worth noting that a poverty of strings does not mean pure solo flight, rather that we have self-responsibility within the whole.

This essay may seem hard on our society, let that be no reflection on the beautiful people within it. Culture is a structure in which people live, not the people themselves. However, it is up to us as individuals to create the change we want to see within it. We have reached a turning point. I feel it, my guess is you have too. While, we may differ in what we want, it seems most of us sense a need for transformation. I personally and whole-heartedly want to see a world that is genuine, true, and reverent for what is wild and alive. I want to see love for our inner and outer environment and to know that we belong. I want mindfulness and questioning to bring us to what is real. Mostly, I want humans to feel the connection that exists between the earth and all that live upon her; those with two legs, four legs, wings, and roots. To do all that starts with loving oneself. Not love based on personal achievements, but for the divine fact that we have been given the extraordinary gift of life. Let us choose wisely how we use that gift.

Last month, I led a meditation amongst horses at the Heading For Home Racehorse Retraining Center. We had 2 retired racehorses. Rock DJ is standardbred who was a regular at the Saratoga Harness track for 8+ years, where he had the majority of his 29 lifetime wins and earnings of almost $290k. The other, Romans Paradise, last ran on the flat track in late 2017 and won $105,256 over his 5 year career. Contrary to some opinions, most racehorses are treated quite well. That said, they lead very regimented lives. Because of this, sometimes freedom can be the most challenging adjustment after retirement; not unlike a lot of Americans. So, the experience was new for horse and human alike. I suggested everyone (self included) drop their awareness down from their heads into their heart. Then the two horses were led in and walked around in their halters. After which, their leads came off and they were free to mingle.

There is a trend of teaming horses with humans to help the human to feel empowered. Often these scenarios involve a human asking the horse to do specific tasks. How they request the movement from the horse is indicative of how they respond in life. This was not what we were looking for with Rock and Roman. Instead, I was asking for everyone to tap into the sense of what it feels like to share space with others while all having freedom. Humans were free to walk up to horses or stay where they stood—the only requirement was to stay fully aware of their safety. The horses were free to walk up to humans or explore the large arena. As said earlier, it was a new experience for the horses to be around people without being handled or told what to do. It didn’t really take long for them to realize this truth and they went around exploring everything. At first we humans were talking and pointing out the horse’s behaviors. Then after 10 minutes or so, I suggested we be silent. There is immense power in silence that modern humans rarely experience, always filling their head with noise—including constant mental chatter. In the arena, we were actually silent in the quiet—being so, changed the energy within the arena even though we were doing the same things as moments previously. Both horses approached each attendee in time, sniffing and lightly touching the person.

When leading meditations, I drum a steady rhythm along with the guided words. As I began to to do this, Rock and Roman came over to check out the drum. They put their noses all over the head and tried biting the beater. It seemed like a possibility that drumming wasn’t going to be part of the night. However, they eventually wandered off to investigate other things. During the meditation, the horses remained free, so humans had their eyes open. That made it challenging to go into an immersive meditation. Even so, there was another moment when the energy shifted again and dropped even deeper. From my position as an observer, I felt the horses respond to the humans. Or was it the other way around? Doesn’t matter, what I know is that the energy within the arena became one of true peace. The horses lowered their heads in this aura. Shortly after that moment, the horses walked to my bag and opened the flap which made it fall. This was enough to distract the relaxation and I brought the meditation to an end. To close, I played my Native American flute. Towards the end of the song, I looked over and Rock and Roman were off to the side yet staring at me with interest. As I walked over, Roman moved off a step and I began playing directly in front of Rock. He stared at me while his energy shifted. He seemed no longer aware of what was going on outside of himself and was only focused on inside his body. At least that is what it felt like from my perspective. Eventually, I stopped playing. I think Rock would have basked in the flute’s vibration for another half an hour or longer. Regardless, all things come to an end and we did so before anyone lost interest. Hopefully, the next time we can start up right where we ended.

Why repeat this story for you? First, because it was extraordinary and perhaps you can feel that. Second, because it exemplifies my belief that animal relationships benefit people. Perhaps the wise Eckhart Tolle says it best;

“Just watching an animal closely can take you out of your mind and bring you into the present moment, which is where the animal lives all the time—surrendered to life.”

Humans have excellent cognitive abilities. Yet, it seems we’ve lost some of our common sense. By that, I mean the ability to sense all that goes on around us. That includes the feelings of humans and animals, as well as what is happening within group dynamics. Are we smart enough to know that these latent skills are needed again rather than something to continue to suppress? Perhaps after centuries of gathering information, it is time for us to believe in and trust our animal instincts.

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