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Meditation and horses? Yes, that is correct. There is an intimate relationship between caring for horses and meditation. This relation starts with attention. Research in neuroscience and philosophy explains that our attention dynamics are responsible for the ways in which we relate to the world. As neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist put it: "attention...dictates what it is that we come to have a relationship with." More so, attention dictates how we relate to the world. A form of focused, piecemeal attention helps us to make use of the world - it is goal directed. A form of open, broad attention enables us to connect and relate with the world. It is this last form of attention that meditation promotes. It is a relational practice.
Meditation has been part of my life for over a decade. This relational practice nurtures daily life. Taking a moment just to be tends to our health, our hearts, our relations. I study and teach meditation in L'Ecole de Meditation.
Meditation and horses come together around moments of open attention. When I meditate with our horses, it is not yet another training exercise that I do. These are moments without a goal, without expectations. During these relational moments we are not trying to analyse what the horses are doing, we are not trying to direct their actions nor ours. As the American philosopher New Noddings put it: "We are in the world of the relation, we have left the instrumental world [goals are suspended] We are not trying to transform the world, but we let it transform us." We are being together.
In the past years, I realized that mediating with horses nurtures our relation. The horses I live with tune into this space of presence. They sense the tone when I sit with them with a meditative attitude : it is a kind, welcoming atmosphere. It is also very simple. Doing nothing together is so simple, that humans forget that it is the source of life.These moments of presence and silence open novel perspectives to meet and understand horses. I find that it is as rich an experience for those who live with horses as much as for newcomers.
I might even go a step further, and say that meditating with horses -- sitting with them, present, silent, welcoming, as a listener -- is a fundamental building block of any right relation with them. That is to say that to build ethical relations with horses, those moments of open attention are necessary. First to meet them (la rencontre), but then also to maintain our relationship. Training books and riding manuels emphasize more and more today the need to, first and foremost, be attentive to the horse: attentive to what she communicates through subtle bodily movements (nostril flare, composure of the lips, swish of the tail), attentive to her individuality, general responses, progress during learning, etc. The appeal, I take it, is to move away from a technique-centered focus (which risks concealing the horse as an individual, to present her as a 'training-project' (about that, see my blog about how entrenched instrumentalism often prevails in riding narratives)), towards a more holistic living-creature-to-living-creature experience during education and training. Here meditating with horses can act as an underlying ethos to support these activities.
To share our experience, we now organise, with my friend and horsey colleague Rahel Grunder, meetings to meditate with horses and courses to learn and deepen the experience. Meditation sessions and courses are open to everyone, no prior experience with horses or meditation is required. We design our courses so that they can benefit horsey people as much as those whose heart longs to meet these superb creatures.
See below for our offers, and to read more about the experience of meditating with horses, check out my blog post: Just sitting together
Offers for 2023
Weekend 1: Initiation course (Cours d'initiation)
Dates: 6 and 7 May, 2023
*In French - Please sign up before April 15th, 2023.
Weekend 2: Initiation course
Dates: 26 and 27 August, 2023
*In German - Please sign up before August 1st, 2023.
2 days of activities
Sitting meditation in nature
Meditation with horses
Deepened experience of togetherness
Horse-human communication exercises
Grounding body exercises
Replenish your energy!
The course is based in nature and your lodging is a round tent. You can also bring your own tent, but please check with us for sizes and space availability.
The price is CHF 480 for 2 days. (This includes snacks, tea and coffee during the day and diner on Saturday evening. Breakfast and lunches are not included.)
(Bus 129 from Fribourg, stop "Oberschrot, Ried")
To register for a meditation course please contact us.
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