Recreating the "Real World" through "Rewilding"
"We all share the challenge to enter the abyss, tame our demons, discover our power, and return with the light." ~ Brian S. Woods, Author
I was inspired to write this blog post from a conversation with my husband last night.
We were getting ready for bed and, in discussing a recent experience our son had at school, we began a deep conversation and contemplation about the school system.
Despite my son's feelings (expressed earlier that day) that many teachers are not truly concerned for the holistic well-being of the students (this is not in his words but the essence of his response to a personal situation he had at school), my husband's view was that school prepares children for the "real world".
My feeling was that the teachers are delegated a heavy curriculum, large classrooms, homework to mark and reports to complete...all while trying to take care of their own wellness and, for many, their families too. With these unrealistic demands placed on the school teachers in our society, I must admit, it is not a position I envy...even with the pension plan and summers off!
Going back to my husband's view, because that is where the richness of this conversation really began, I asked him to further explain what he means by "the real world" that school is preparing children for. His response was that the "real world" is "really hard" and school helps children to grow "thicker skin" so that they can deal with the "really hard real world". He truly felt (or has been conditioned to feel - more on that soon!) that in order to survive in the "real world", children had to learn how to deal with high pressure situations and the difficult challenges that arise in their interactions with other children.
My views are very different. Here are some of the questions that we contemplated from my contributions:
Could it be that we are creating our own demise of a "really hard real world"?
Are the children being empowered to listen to their own wisdom and connect with their unique gifts or are they being shut down to conformity?
Is the school system encouraging chlldren to exercise their primal instincts and innate abilities?
So, lets see, you put 500 (and in some cases, many, many more!) children in a school together all day, every day, for five days per week. You pack them in classrooms of 25-40 under the supervision of one teacher (sometimes with an assistant) and ask them to exercise their brains for most of the day. Let's face it, some of these children have not eaten breakfast. Some of them are coming from terrible conditions at home. Some of them are dealing with major life circumstances and challenges.
None of these things are factored into the curriculum. These very "real" factors in these children's (and teachers for that matter) lives are not even considered. What matters is that the children can adhere to social norms and can score good enough marks, in one teacher's opinion, to move on to the next grade.
Breaking this down further. So many children are being diagnosed with special needs. The increase in the numbers are outrageous! It is estimated that 1 in 4 children in the classroom will
experience a form of mental illness before the age of 19 years old.
As a highly sensitive person and someone who shares the company of nature and horses every single day, I may have a different perspective of what the "real world" is. I don't consider it real to have these expectations of children and teachers. No wonder why so many people are suffering in the "really hard real world" we have created! What I consider real is allowing the self to be creative, experience connection and feel compassion. These things are about as real as we get. The qualities of connection, creativity and compassion are hardwired in our ancestry.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
I see a striking similarity between the school system and the schooling system for Horses.
We, the humans, remove these majestic beasts from the wild and create an expectation for their optimal performance in environments that are so far from their truth that I remain so surprised at their willingness to conform.
We ask them to walk onto tiny trailers (in comparison to their size and their natural instincts to be in open spaces) and carry a human (equivalent to a mountain lion, given that we are classified as predators) on their backs. We put them in small stables for hours at a time with rations of food that don;t even remotely compare to what (or how) they would eat in their natural environment (slow grazing for up to 20 hours on an approximately 40 mile walk per day).
And then we get "those" horses. If you are a horse person, you know the ones I'm talking about. They are often described using words like "saucy", "naughty", "pushy". "rude", "bossy", "marish"....and the list goes on. This is a parallel to all of the labels and diagnoses that are being tossed around when it comes to our very own children!
Let's step back for a moment in this shift of perspective. I mean, really, what do we expect of these Horses, these children, each other, We have put them in situations that are so far from their natural instincts and asked them to, not only fully accept these conditions, but also perform at an optimal level in them! When they don't, sadly, they are ridiculed, and most often, punished.
Is this really how we are choosing to see the "real world"?
I truly believe that the "real world" is what you make it. What is "real" is a perspective that we can allow to shift and undo back to our more innate and primal ways. In combination with the advances in technology, there is a "real world" that can help us rewild with access to the "creature comforts" we have come to depend on.
Here are some tips to help reconnect with the wild within, giving access to ancestral and primal wisdom:
1. Cook dinner with love. Eat at the table, without any screens or devices. If you have a family, make dinner at a time that you can all sit together to enjoy the meal. Eating is a sacred ritual that has been long lost for many of us, resorting to fast foods and fast meals surrounded by blue light (screens) and noise (internal and external!). Bringing back the ritual of mealtime will help a deeper connection to the wild we come from!
2. Get outside in Nature. Even if you work in the big City, take lunch break outside, sit with a Tree, turn off your cell phone. You will be shocked at how much, even if just a few moments, this will bring you back to the Natural world within.
3. Read an inspirational book before bedtime. There is something very special about a physical book with written (or typed) text. Our ancestors would pass on information and wisdom through scriptures and stories. This is innate to us.
4. Create something! It is our true nature to be creative! The right side of our brains, in this modern day society, is becoming dormant. This is the part of our brain that is responsible for connection to creativity, art and self expression. There is something incredibly healing when we work with various art mediums without expectation of outcome. This type of art creation traces back thousands of years, right to cave sketches and sculptures we created, as well as tribal songs and dances.
5. Commune with Animals. Human and animals have been closely linked for tens of thousands of years. Our most ancient sacred symbols (dating back some 50,000 years!) include animals! History shows a special connection between human and horse, as well as the dog. Take some time to connect to animals. If you identify as not an "animal person", there are still ways you can commune with the Animal Kingdom without beings "hands on" with animals. You can bird watch, you can watch horses grazing in a field, you can observe bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks from afar. With an empty mind and an open heart, it is incredible how the creatures of the Animal Kingdom can help us return to our wildness.
6. Meditate. Meditation brings us into the quiet and neutral place of the observer. From this place we can receive insights and clarity from the Source which carries Infinite Wisdom. Meditation is not a goal or something to accomplish, but rather referred to as a "practice", whether you have just begun meditating or have meditated for 80 years. It continues to be a "practice" that nurtures an ongoing, deeper connection to the innate wisdom we are all privy to.
7. Listen to your Heart. I know this one sounds a bit cliche, but it is the most profound path to our wildness, when put into practice. The Heart is so much more than a blood pumping organ. Much like the brain, it picks up and processes information from a place of feeling rather than thinking. In doing so, it is our most reliable guide to Truth. By listening to the Heart, we know when something "just isn't right", long before our brain has the opportunity to analyze it and rationalize against the heart's wisdom. More information about this theory can be found at www.heartmathinstitute.org, an organization devoted to research on the incredible capacity of the heart's intelligence.
There are many more ways to get in deeper touch with the wild within, including getting know the healing power of herbs, aroma, crystals and any other modality that brings us closer to the healing power of the Earth that we were once deeply connected to. As humans, we naturally crave connection and expression, which is why the number of people dealing with addiction and depression has drastically risen. Connection is the opposite of addiction. Expression is the opposite of depression. We NEED these aspects of our wildness in order to thrive in today's world.
1. Free choice bale hay in a hay net. This is so important for the health of horses and mimics their natural way of grazing for most of the hours of the day, with slower consumption. Feeding horses small rations can wreak havoc on their complicated digestive system.
2. Bondafide Herd. Horses are herd animals. There is nothing more detrimental to the holistic wellbeing of a Horse than to have it living alone or turned out alone in a pasture where they cannot create a dynamic relationship with a Herd. A mixed herd is a more natural way for them to live together, each bringing important qualities to the Herd dynamic. In a herd environment, they also have the opportunity to engage in their natural rituals such as grooming and play.
3. Living outside 24/7. A 1200 pound horse in a 12x12 foot stall is equivalent to a 120 pound human living in a 1.2 x 1.2 foot pantry. Let that sink in, These creatures, when in the wild, move up to 40 miles per day! They need room to move, walk and run in order to maintain good health in mind, body and spirit. Giving access to free movement, a herd, shelter, fresh water and free choice hay is, in most cases, all the horses truly need to be happy.
4. Connection. Horses are herd animals and thrive on connection. When in relationship with humans, the connection they feel is the key to anything we ask of them. In connection, horses feel safe. When we ask them to be our partners, we owe it to them to offer them this safety net of heart connection. As we practice our own rewilding, we become better partners and friends to our horses.
5. Do nothing. The best way to build a trusting relationship with your horse is to let go of all goals and expectations and just be. We are human beings, right? Not human doings!
6. Less restraint, more rewild! Over the evolution of time, we have learned how to restrain horses more and more in order to gain control over them. The truth is, they have so much more to offer when we learn how to speak their language rather than exert more pressure onto them. There is nothing more rewarding than when a horse actually wants to be your friend! From there, the possibilities are endless!
There are so many ways to help our horses rewild. Too many to list here, including access to herbs and plants for foraging, stimulating games and obstacles like they would encounter in the wild, and the ability to grow a thick winter coat without blanket (other than the horses who truly need one). By giving our horses what they need to reconnect to the wild within, they become happier, healthier and more willing to be our friends.
Awareness is the first step to awakening.
Rather than prepare our children to grow "thicker skin" for the "real world", maybe we can help them keep their voices heard; encourage their creativity, and shine the light for them to rise into their power as they grow into the next generation of a new kind of "real world".
Rather than take Horses so far away from the truth of their natural ways, maybe we can partner with who they really are and witness the pure magic that comes from our ancient connection.
We can create a "real world" for ourselves that puts less emphasis on performance and more emphasis on connection. Less emphasis on power and more emphasis on purpose. Less emphasis on money, more emphasis on abundance. By implementing some simple shifts in our schools, workplaces, and farms that allow the nurturing of our respective true nature, I believe we reconnect to our wild within.
Just like the Horses, we were born wild and free. With a shift in perspective, we can experience bliss and balance in this "real world".
"We all share the challenge to enter the abyss, tame our demons, discover our power, and return with the light."
Let's make our way back now...with the light.
Fotini Chandrika and the Horse Teachers