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  • Maude Ouellette-Dube

Just sitting together

I once read in a horse book: "You could just sit with a horse and feel better." This sentence stuck with me. On the one hand, I found its meaning self-evident, almost like a motto to repeat to oneself, to remind oneself of the importance of horses and their unique power to ease pain and sorrow. On the other hand, there is something about this sentence which one cannot fully grasp, and this is why one repeats it over and over, in an effort to keep it before one's eyes and understand its meaning.


Over the years, the intuition that just sitting together could make things better for all of us -- horses and humans -- gave birth to the idea of meditating with horses. Last year, with my friend Rahel, we started doing it: meeting up, walking with our little wooden stools to the field, sitting -- being present around the group of horses for a while. We discovered a space of unsettling rest. Meditation is taking a moment to do nothing, slowing down, sitting still and allowing oneself to be. It's just a different mode of operating altogether, where nothing is expected, nothing is produced. Where silence and stillness promote a form of presence to what surrounds us, to the multiple, simple details of life. It is a deep space of rest, but unsettling because so unusual, even foreign.


We experienced that taking time to sit with horses allowed for a rare quality of presence to them and opened a space where nothing was expected of them and of us. What a remarquable relief. A relief, that is, of the usual agitation one finds oneself thrown into: going to the stable, brushing, saddling, riding, exercising, training, teaching, improving, working towards a new goal, learning how to ride better, teaching your horse to move better, etc. A relief, especially to experience that agitation is not necessary. That just being together is enough. Enough to meet each other, enough to relate, enough to be at peace.


Convinced, we decided to open days to mediate with horses: days where people from different horizons can come, sit with us and the horses and experience a different form of being together.

Our first public meditation day took place a fews weeks ago. A group of 10 humans joined together for guided meditation and presence with the horses. What happened was astonishing. We sat, on our little wooden stools, low on the ground, surrounded by Alba, Chehili, Dorina, Flin, Foxy, Hany, Maica and Medea. 10 humans in silence, breathing, hearing the movement of life around them, being guided through presence. 8 horses who understood what was going on. 8 horses who got it right away that humans were finally giving themselves a break and giving them a break.


It was a winter day. Windy, with a cloudy sky. We could hear bursts of wind through the branches around us. We sat down. Allowed ourselves this moment of silence. The horses came to us, at first intrigued, sniffing, questioning. Rapidly, they naturally became fully tuned. They found their place amongst us, facing us with quiet approval. Foxy, one of the oldest mares, who has worked enough in her life and is usually not convinced she needs humans around her, was one of the first to come and stand, with an almost disconcerting simplicity, face to face with someone. Almost saying: "Finally a bit of peace and rest."


We stayed together like that for a long while. For me, horses and humans, during that time, did not just feel better -- feeling better is too poor to capture the quality of this time shared. Horses and humans were given the chance to experience a deep ethical communion: a place of trust, acceptance, kindness, warmth. A place where one has one's place, where one can just be, where one can just breath.

The French philosopher Simone Weil wrote that moments of silence and solitude are the only path to justice and love.

That humans need moments of warmth and silence to stay in touch with the most important aspects of life and not loose themselves in the constant turmoil of agitation and projects. Moments when one is still, attentive and can see the needs of others and one's own; where one is given the time to recognize, even experience, what is sacred in this life we live together and which needs to be preserved.


It started snowing. On that simple winter day, I think humans and horses were able to experience this space of warm solitude -- this space where love and justice can grown.




Maude



Book hint: La Personne et le sacré (Human Personality), Simone Weil

Foxy and Deborah

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