Deepening Your Longing For Life

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I’ll make no secret of it .. this post is, as are all our stories, a plea, a call, a yearning to your belonging. This is one of the central teachings the herd has called me into .. the ongoing work of our longing to help make the world a better place.

Belonging is, etymologically, the deepening of longing. Longing for place, for another, for a mission.

The act of belonging is a longing after life.

And, the herd knows, I think, despite the effects of domestication, or perhaps because of it, that it is their work to long for what life yearns for through them. Connection, regard, togetherness, the land. To soar with the spirits and sleep peacefully with the earth, in deep togetherness with everything.

One of the things I am so endeared to in the field of equine learning, is the thread of belonging that ties humans and horses together.

The growing community of people working in equine facilitated learning have as many different forms to their longing work as they are different people and horse teams. I hear story after story of how practitioners serendipitously came to be with their horse partners.

Some work with one special horse partner who lives in a herd of mates at a boarded stables, others have a small plot of land and a paired bond of horses, others have a mother and daughter who live with a good friend’s herd, others have no dedicated horses to care for and they work in partnership with people who do.

Somehow through the strength of their longing, the right horses find the right people and their work together grows and evolves. There is no “fake it till you make it” when you work with horses.

In 2015 Echo and I first began to call in a herd (I had purchased the farm but it would be 3 months before we were to make the 500km move to it and Echo kept asking me to start the herd now). Given that our work does not require any particular physical abilities on the part of the horse, I decided to start the search at a rescue farm I had come to learn about. The work of the woman who ran it resonated with me not only because of her dedication to the horses, also because she very often saw the worst of what humans are capable of and never spoke disparagingly of them. There was an integrity she still holds that calls me to rise up.

On my first visit to her farm, I met a beautiful mare – tall with a golden mane, a strong, large body, and loved by all the volunteers. There were so many beautiful horses at this farm and I could only take five at most – I was looking for maybe two plus Echo to start with before we moved. I decided that I would start an experiment and play with the dance of my own felt sense of connection to a specific horse and their response to my invitation.

I would stand near them and simply breath, being still in my presence with them. Asking nothing, regarding them and holding a feeling of love and peace in my heart. If I felt a spark in my body, I would then extend an invitation.

The invitation was a series of images I imagined in my mind’s eye as I was gently speaking to them. The images always started with Echo at this point – I wanted a horse to say Yes who wanted to be with her.

When I stood with this first golden maned mare I could feel her gentleness and soft, warm heart. Now I love horses, as you can imagine, so feeling a spark for one and not another is a challenge for me! As best I could discern, I felt a tingling in my stomach.  

She moved closer and arched her head around to mine. As I began to tell her about our project and offer images of Echo, she softened and turned away. I felt the tingling stop and a sort of ‘disconnect’.

I’d done enough training and exploration in equine facilitated learning to know that this was not a personal rejection. It was a simple ‘no’. Soft and kind and clear.

“A focus on self-satisfaction and personal meaning takes us away from our belonging. The thing you belong to will not reach out and grab you. It’s your work.”

~Stephen Jenkinson

I thanked the mare and after meeting a few more horses, could not find a clear yes. It was on my second visit that I would meet Sonnet (for the story of her Yes, see the post Ready For The Turn?).

Sonnet continues to be an integral and oh so inspiring member of our herd, friend and teaching partner to me and it’s very likely that if I had not regarded the no from the mare with the golden mane, Sonnet and I would never have met.

Oh, and the mare with the golden mane? Serendipity had its way. She went on to say yes to a colleague and is thriving doing the work with her.

Belonging takes courage. It takes work. It asks to be held in a story bigger than your personal self. And it seems to me that in these troubled times, so consumed with immediate satisfaction and feeling good, it’s work that has great value.

Thank you, mare with the golden mane, for helping me learn my path of belonging.