Category Archives: horses, dogs & more

inspired conversations

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I had the pleasure of speaking to Amy Schuber for her PODCAST, Inspired Conversations.

We talked about some of the following:

  • Embodiment as a conscious flowing awareness of inner and outer experiencing.
  • Orienting to pleasure and how horses can help us
  • Inter-species communication through the shared language of movement and touch
  • Consciously moving toward greater expansion and flow in our lives
  • Gaining access to more of our creative selves
  • How we can open to the unexpected, and have a more improvisational, playful relationship to life
  • How our relationships (human and equine) are about reciprocity: the balance between giving and receiving

I hope that you enjoy listening.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with the email link below if you have questions or would like to schedule a session in my studio, at the stable or via Skype.

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the common body

IMG_3224Sarah Hollis, DeAnna Pellecchia, Ingrid Schatz and Pony, in Pony Dances.  Photo:  Jeffrey Anderson

The second half of the title of my book, Our Horses, Ourselves,  is “Discovering the Common Body”. With that phrase, I want to emphasize that your body is not separate from my body or from the body of the horse, the praying mantis, the hummingbird, the manatee or the earth itself. We are not separate.

The false idea of our separateness is both harmful and in fact painful – teaching us to experience ourselves as essentially disconnected from other beings, other species, and the earth itself.

Every moment, we are sharing air, sharing breath. Our bodies are shedding and absorbing the water that makes up 60-70% of our bodies. At the same time that our “individual” biospheres are interacting and changing each other, we are sharing the biosphere of the earth.  In measurable ways, we are continually becoming more and more part of each other.

My colleague Andrea Olsen puts it this way:

“Understanding that body is part of Earth is an essential component of human awareness. Our bones, and our breath, and our blood are the minerals and the air and the water around us, so that when you arrive someplace new, after a few days of drinking the water or eating the food from that place, you become that place. So the idea of separateness starts to fade and this larger model of interconnectedness becomes more primary in our awareness.”

So all living beings are an interconnected, interspecies, biosimilar, cross-pollinating network in a constant flux of adjustment, response, and transformation. Often though, we are not feeling that ongoing connectedness. Or we are feeling the (conscious and unconscious) downside of that inextricable oneness.  The pollution and cross-contamination of the toxicity of discourse and environmental action and inaction that surrounds us.

In my experience, the horses can help us with that. There is something so precious and profound about entering the mystery and the silence of connection with them that has little or nothing to do with technique or conventional horsemanship, and everything to do with the deep alignment of relationship and, in the words and practice of the late Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening.

In my book, I tell the story of Nelson, a Mustang stallion that I had the privilege of working with. He had been captured by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management  – the agency that controls the fates of the wild Mustang herds in the West) Nelson was severely traumatized by that experience.

 “When I first met Nelson the Mustang, I felt how my body reflected the fractured landscape of fear and withdrawn indifference that he embodied; how
we mirrored each other’s uncertainties and nervousness. Over time that fearful terrain softened into new contours. After many months I noticed that the texture of my body changed when I was with him. I felt that I had been homogenized— as if my body was expressing a single harmonious tone, instead of a hundred nervous, little notes; as if my cells were aligned and humming together like the deep, resonance of a meditation bell. I could feel us echo-locating each other, skin-to-skin, cell-to-cell, bone-to-bone. Later on, when Nelson would seem nervous, instead of reacting, I would settle into my body and wait. Eventually he would join me there, in the shared landscape of breath and stillness.”

In these peculiarly fraught times, I believe that each of us has to find a way of comforting, reassuring, and supporting ourselves.  I just finished reading Philip Pullman’s new book, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage. La Belle Sauvage is the sleek little boat that carries the heroes, Malcolm and Alice, through the wild flooding rivers and seas to at least temporary safety.

As I read, I thought about the current wild flooding rivers and seas (political, actual and metaphoric) that are carrying us all to god knows where.  I thought about the urgency of finding a way of navigating whatever is here and whatever is coming.  A practice, a shelter from the storm.  For me, besides my practice as a dance artist, it is the horses.  I can soften and rest in the grave and sweet grounding of their presence, the matter-of-factness of them, and the way in which I am held in their witness, the reciprocity of their touch.

For more about that: Embodied Horsemanship

 

 

fires, humans, horses

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Fires are raging in Southern California.  I cannot imagine the terror for humans and animals. I have been particularly moved by the stories of people trying to save horses, and images of horses being led out of fire zones.  Everyone is, I am sure, doing their best in the face of this disaster.

Here are a few tips for those who are rescuing horses, or caring for horses who have been evacuated.

  • To the best of your ability, stay calm.  Horses are prey animals, and they are reading your nervous system like the professional decoders of human emotion that they are.  When leading a horse, move as smoothly and calmly as possible.  Yanking on the lead line,  scolding the horse, or moving roughly only adds to the distress of the horse and ultimately makes your job more difficult.
  • If you are feeling agitated take a few minutes before approaching the horse to breathe and settle your own body. Feel your feet on the ground, the breath moving through your body.
  • Move slowly and mindfully around the horse.  If they have been evacuated in haste, or trailer loaded quickly and with any difficulty, they are on high alert for the next scary thing.  Use the slow, steady quality of your movements to reassure them that they are safe.
  • Once the horse is in a place of safety, and has water and feed, take a few minutes to stand and breathe quietly with the horse, speaking soothingly in a soft, friendly voice.  Let this shared breathing meditation help to quiet and settle your body and mind too.
  • If the horse is comfortable with being touched, softly rest your hands on the horse’s neck, or use some soft strokes (TTouch) down the mane of the horse, or slow strokes along the ears.  Use your touch to support the feeling of just being, rather than doing.
  • Feel the reciprocal quality of your touches.  Remember that as you touch, you are being touched, and are, in fact, soothing each other.

For more ways of making mindful connection with your horse, check out my book:  Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body from Trafalgar Square Books.

 

 

 

 

touching Mamacita

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This is Mamacita, the formerly feral mama cat who now lives in my studio.

In my book (just released!!!) Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering the Common Body, I devote a chapter to the nuances of touch.  Besides TTouch (developed by Linda Tellington-Jones), I explore how understanding the developmental stages of touch can help us to become more intentional and mindful with our touch, whether with humans, horses, cats, dogs, or your morning tea.

Those stages are, in order, yield, push, reach, grasp and pull.  They are the usual sequence in which infant movement develops in relationship to the world and what she wants to be close to, or bring close.

For the first six years of knowing Mamacita, I could not touch her.  She was very fearful, but also curiously connected.  We fed her, built an outdoor shelter for her, and then one winter, she decided that coming into the house might be a good idea.  That was probably year seven.

I spent a lot of time sitting and breathing and making myself less scary.  Touches developed.  Slowly, with frequent setbacks.

Today, Mamacita’s favorite human is one that is lying on the floor so that she can do her verson of Contact Improvisation.  I can lift her, carry her, roll with her, tumble with her.

This morning, I experienced a revelation.  Mamacita, I realized, was doing ALL OF THOSE TOUCH STAGES AT ONCE WITH DIFFERENT PARTS OF HER BODY!!! Her back yielded into my legs, her nose and head pushed at mine, her paws reached, grasped (claws) as she pulled herself toward me.

I love what I learn daily from my creature companions.  I love the wordlessness, the openness and the fullness of it.  I love feeling the reciprocity – the being touched as I touch.

What are you touching? How are you touching?

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