Following is the fifth "walk" we can take together. I have been enjoying the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and even more the thoughts you send back to me in response. Please keep the letters coming!! We now have May, June, July and September in the archives, so have fun perusing.
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If you have been to my web site, you may have discovered the Elephant Journals in which I begin an exploratory segment of my life inclusive of elephants and the people who live with them. Initially, I was not certain why I was following up on the idea of learning more about elephants, but the more exposure to them and the people with whom they interact the more I realize how much I can learn from them. They are highly intelligent, savoy, perceptive and incredibly patient. I have gone to Thailand twice to visit with Asian elephants, to PAWS once to visit with Asian and African elephants and to a facility called Wild Things in Salinas twice to interact with African elephants. Not all of my travels have been transcribed onto the web site yet, and by no means is my elephant interest waning. In fact, now that my heavy season with the horses is tapering off I am feeling the call of the elephants again.
Recently, I contacted my friend, Belinda Stewart-Cox, elephant researcher and author of Wild Thailand , to ask her for suggestions. She mentioned Richard Lair who has spent most of his life around elephants and is currently Advisor and International Relations Officer at the National Elephant Institute of Thailand, based at the Forest Industry Organization's Thai Elephant Conservation Center , in Lampang province . I wrote to Richard and he took time out from his busy schedule to inquire into what I do with horses. I am always appreciative when people ask me to explain myself and it mattered greatly to me to be clear for Richard.
I told Richard that what I do is take people into a somatic experience of herd inclusion where what I call "Core Leadership" is defined by the undercurrent of well-being that calls to us all, both collectively and individually. I use the word "leadership" as opposed to "dominance" because whether referring to a human leading a huge business, a bird in a flock of thousands or a horse amongst a substantial herd, dominance never inspires fluid, congruent motion and the leadership to which I refer can. Ironically, one cannot experience this type of leadership until one has affectively established a sense of autonomy from the herd, or in other words until one can definitively "hear" and respond to the call of well-being for Self. Humans are part of a big picture on this planet, but we do not know what that big picture is. I will go into this another time, but for now assuming the premise that we do not know the bigger picture, we can only certainly know what is happening right now and only for our self.
This is where I come in. Through various exercises, I invite those with whom I "play" into a state of awareness of their immediate Now and how it feels. The easiest way I have found to establish some sense of awareness is by having the individual learn how to "clear their space". The goal is to be able to tell when nothing is in your space versus something. This may sound very simple, but it is harder than you might imagine because the fact is most of the time humans are not at all present in the Now. If one is not present they cannot know if there is something in their space or not. It is like being away from your home and having someone break in to your house. You have no idea they are breaking in because you are not there. If you are not present (in the Now) you are a liability to yourself and to any community (herd, school, flock, etc.), so you will not be included. You will be shuffled to the outskirts where you can either get it together or be eaten. This is not done to you. It is a position of your own making which means you have the opportunity to improve your standing any time.
However, if you can demonstrate awareness, and even vision, you can become a leader. This is where the shift can take place for "trainers" of horses, dogs, chickens, rabbits or even elephants. It is also where our current definition of leadership can shift and a new sense of leadership can emerge. Core leadership is magnetic by nature. It is not owned by an individual but it can be expressed by an individual. Core leadership is born of a strong awareness of all the opportunities that exist in the Now and a capability to choose accurately which of those opportunities best serves to secure well-being for self. It is in accurately allowing well-being for self that you can simultaneously reveal it for all others that share your space.
This is so contrary to what we believe leadership is today. Leadership to most people means control over others or the responsibility to guide and direct others. In some cases it is not even called leadership, but referred to instead as dominance. My observations, years of research, absorption of information from mentors like Rev. Kathy Indermill, Dolores La Chapelle , Carolyn Resnick , and Frederic Pignon, as well as my absolute dedication to this subject has allowed me to experience quite a different type of leadership. The ability to make one's own well-being the number one priority with no exception allows others to do the same. Non-human animals do this intrinsically, although it can be difficult for humans to see this because we consider proper social behavior to include empathy, so we see our version of empathy in animals. Interestingly enough, humans also do this (make ones own well-being the number one priority) but sometimes circumstances have to get really bad before we can override our social training.
Why would we want to override our tendency to empathize? Because even when we use words like "compassion", "empathy", and "caring", what we are saying is we know what the other is wanting or needing. Contrastingly, motion within a herd is based on the individuals who are within the herd giving themselves completely to the innate call of well-being. It is built-in, hardwired in, an integral part of who we all are at our core. We do not have to try to be compassionate, empathetic or caring if we allow every moment to call us towards the well-being that is inherently ours. We will be all those things, as opposed to doing all those things. In other words, there is a big difference between being compassionate and acting compassionate. Acting out anything takes us out of our Now. It removes us from our "home" and we cannot effectively maintain well-being when we are not present. So, what benefit does being in the present so entirely afford us? Herd (community) inclusion, the opportunity to play, and the finest intimacy one could ever imagine! How does this apply to elephants and humans? If you could imagine a dance with elephants that did not include dominance or force, would this be desirable? If you went for a walk and all the elephants followed you as they would the matriarch or you could follow all the elephants and be allowed to do so, would this feel wonderful? If you could sense the subtle changes in a herd of elephants in such a way as to shift simultaneously with them and even influence the movement, drawing it closer or sending it away with no effort, would this be fun?
Whenever I coach , my sole endeavor is to offer you a moment of this kind of connection. Once you have tasted it, I cannot imagine you would not fall in love with it. How I do this best is with horses, although someday perhaps I will play this way with elephants. I work in a large arena (I try to avoid small spaces that can create a trapped feeling in the horse because I always want the horse to have the choice to stay or leave), preferably with two to four horses, but sometimes only one. I am close to the person I am coaching at all times until they begin to get a feel for it. Two hours is plenty of time for one to two persons and not too exhausting. Three or four hours are better for a group. I have worked with people from all over the world, many who are in the position of leadership as it is currently defined by our society. Many more are not in that position, but have the desire for expanding their dreams and this work certainly promotes that possibility simply because it speaks to a different standard for leadership; one in which we are all leaders.
Story Time...Now & Now
I have learned from my love affair with horses how to give up, submit, and inhale; how to receive, allow, lie down, and be vulnerable. I have learned how to love; hopelessly, haplessly love. There is a place of peace that resides at the core of me... that IS the core of me. It is the river of life and love that courses through us all. Horses seem to inherently know of this place. I have found that, when I meet them there, my binding definitions of "what is" dissolve and we can mingle and tangle our souls together in the eternity of the ever-expanding now.
Horses offer me this kind of peace. Being with Indigo, my 4-year colt whose back bone stands level with the top of my head, is also soothing. He is so beautiful. He has a regal, long-boned head, bright inquisitive eyes, and a forelock draped haphazardly around his alert ears. He looks utterly wild and in love with life. His nose is always dirty. Where does he put his nose to always get so dirty? He will look straight at me as I walk through the pasture, and I cannot pass him without going to him. I love to run my fingers over the angular bones of his face, to place my palm beneath his whiskered, soft lips. He likes to nibble and lick, greeting me and searching for gifts. He allows me to step into the curve of his neck to be cradled between his head and his shoulder. Warmth rises from his breath, his body, the earth beneath his hooves. He folds me in a trusting hug. I bury my fingers in the wavy tangles of his mane, right to the roots of the long strands. I am caught like a fish in a net. Indigo leans into me, his dark eye looking at me. I turn and put my face in his ribs and inhale his scent, then lay my head on his young neck. Peering through the jungle of his mane over the land, I barely discern the line between him and the Earth. He smells like dirt and dry grass, like rivers and blue sky, like rocks and ancient trees. He smells familiar. I am open wide at my heart and we breathe together, shifting and swaying. Seconds dissolve into the timelessness of now and now and now.
It is a good thing the horse is patiently waiting by the river for me. I am not always able to sink into the stillness, but when I am, the horse is consistently willing to meet me there.
Weekend Along the Farm Trails was a whopping success. We had around 400 people show up to participate in the Farm Life Tours and watch The Horses' Tale demonstrations. One woman came up to me and said she had come to have a simple farm experience and had received a life-changing experience instead. Aside from the broad acceptance of the ideas surrounding my work with the horses, we had many happy families eating home-made apple pie, buying our veggies, and admiring our new Art Gallery and Tea Room. We displayed my photographs and poetry, Karen Hammer's watercolors of cows and chickens, and Chris Moore's whimsical oil paintings of children and horses. These remain on display for those who are interested in viewing!
We are preparing for winter now, the last of the pre-set Harmony with Horses Workshops having been on November 3rd. The weather has been so nice I have been able to fit in a few privately arranged workshops all the way up through November. I am happy to arrange a time for you if you would like to set up a custom workshop. Also, if you live in a part of the world where weather allows, or if you have an indoor facility, we can arrange for a retreat, seminar or workshop in your area.
December/January Vacation Rental Special!
Mention this newsletter and receive 5-4-3. Book Sunday through Thursday and you will get all five nights for the price of three!!
Know anyone who could use this?Imagine arriving at Full House Farm Vacation Rental & Retreat for a short reprieve from your fast paced life. You drive down the driveway and park next to the little path leading towards the house. Climbing out of your car, stretching out the kinks, you follow the path into the lush, shaded landscape. Just over a little rise you hear the soft murmur of a waterfall as it tumbles into a small pond at the edge of the patio. A patio table and chairs call to you, but you decide to check out the house first. Inside, a bottle of locally grown and bottled wine sits on the kitchen table with two wine glasses beside it. On the counter is a tray with a luscious loaf of fresh-baked bread from