Last week we completed our first of three 4 day retreats for our Horse Wisdom Yoga Certified Teacher Training Program. It was an incredibly transformational experience for everyone who stepped into the space, including myself and the Herd.
This is not the first time we have had people come together in a circle here on our farm, nor is it the first time our Horses have been together with people in the round pen. We are going on 5 years now of doing this unique work with individuals and groups. However, something shifted this time. The openness of the women who joined us for this training as well as their attentiveness to the subtleties of the Herd created space for a much higher learning experience. This program was co-created by the Herd and I and our intention in this offering was to provide an awakening experience for those who were feeling called to self-discovery guided by Yoga and Horses. We all could feel that something very powerful had manifested through this vision.
So much was communicated by the Horses about this coming together in circle. They spoke of the connection of energies and the importance of authenticity within the Self and with one another. This could only be felt through a keen awareness of the subtle nuances of sharing space. Attention would have to be given to the interspecies relations between predator (human) and prey (horse). As such, all aspects would require consideration in order to facilitate an authentic experience for both the Horses and Humans.
Anyone who has worked with the Herd and I knows that there is no performance here. What you experience is what it is and our Horses are not trained in any way to perform. They are actually untrained from the schooling mindset that they must perform in order to be honored and served, much like the mindset of many humans in the Western commonplace of society. As one of my great yoga teachers once said:
"Yoga is not about the doing. It is about the undoing."
Given the high level of openness and the deep healing that was taking place for the participants of this 4 day experience and the fact that there were 9 of us in total to enter the round pen during the group activities, I felt the Herd asking for extra care. They are highly sensitive in nature and honor space for processing, especially when surrounded by such a large group. You can only imagine how much desensitizing is needed in order for them to confidently enter show rings or parades. If proper consideration is not given, they will shut down or dissociate in order to be able to tolerate such an experience which is extremely unnatural for such a highly sensitive animal. Think of the true nature of the Deer. Horses, in their true nature, are very similar.
This experience of shutting down or dissociating is also common for humans when experiencing high levels of fear, anxiety and trauma. As someone who understands, first hand, the process of trauma, it has always been my intention and priority to provide special considerations for the humans as well as the horses, in order for all to feel safe to relax into the experience in a way that is fully present in mind and body. Our sacred space and circle is built on the premise of honor and choice. The safety of both humans and horses always comes first. Safety of mind, body and soul.
I decided to leave the gate of the round pen open for the Horses during the first 4 day experience when they were becoming acquainted with each one of the eight Teacher Trainees. This was also done in consideration of those who had expressed some fear around Horses. Having an opening for the energy to be released from the circle provided the sense of safety and relief that one requires in order to truly be present within the body, within the circle and, ultimately with the experience. The opening leads to a dry lot area, and was also offered in order to give choice to the Horse of whether or not he/she wanted to be in the round pen/sacred circle with the energy of the group. Each one of the Horses chose to remain in the round pen until they felt their work was complete. I saw this to be a reflection of the choice given to the humans when sitting in sacred circle, one of healthy boundaries, honor, respect and of course, the choice to leave the circle for time to process.
The eight women gathered together each day in circle in the studio and the round pen, facing inwards to each other as the Horse was moving around the pen in arcs and circles around the human energy fields, providing insight and clarity to those in their heart space. On the last day, in order to prepare for re-entry after 4 days of looking inward, we faced outward in order to symbolize the support of "having each others backs" in community, and the importance of taking our awakening experience out into our homes, workplaces and the entire planet in a way that was compassionate and kind. It also symbolized the freedom of the awakening experience, not one to be limited to our circle, but one that would be held within the Self by all of Nature. We are, therefore, never alone.
What was most amazing to witness was what the other Herdmates were doing while the round pen was occupied by the exploration of Horse Wisdom Yoga. Each of them held space so intently, standing completely still with the purposeful intention of the Horse Teacher in the pen. When the Horse Teacher in the pen fulfilled their intention, thus signalling his/her work complete, the other Horses would also display this completion by going "back to grazing" or breaking off from a very obvious coherence into their own respective spaces. I found this, once again, to be an honest and clear reflection of what was occurring in the sacred circles of the humans. When we were in the space of the circle together, we followed a very intentional "space holding" for one another that held the very same same energy as the Horses did while being present for the Horse in the pen. When it was time for a break or for lunch, that same shift was felt as we joked and conversed in the reception area.
It became so clear to me, in retrospect, that the Horses weren't just holding space for the Horse Teacher in the pen, but they were also holding space for the humans, and the energies of the Divine experience, in its entirety. In the same way, the humans in circle were not only holding space for one another, but holding space for the unity of All That Is, that was felt with the presence of the Herd, the skies, the sun and the moon.
And that it was.
A Divine orchestra of energy.
A Unity of All That Is.
And THAT is Yoga.
We remain in humble gratitude to the women who have heard the call of the ancestral wisdom of Horses and the ancient practice of Yoga as an entry to explore, learn and awaken within themselves, thus helping to awaken the planet.