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The Case For Connection, Part One

December 6, 2013

The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human.  – Thomas Berry

Study: Some Horses, Riders have 'Co-Being' Relationship

From a recent article in The Horse: “Norwegian and American researchers recently found that riders and horses can enter into a unique state of interspecies “co-being” with one other…Co-being refers to a state of relationship in which each partner evolves to “fit” better with each other, both physically and mentally…each species learns to adapt to the other in unique ways for the specific…partnership….“(Humans) are balancing according to a feel of the other, the horse, attuning their bodies to sensations of the horse bodies…action and response between the species bring about riding as a collaborative practice, where bodies become in sync. And sync is a product of intra-action in that both are changed through a process of training from the meeting between the two—literally flesh to flesh.” -

As I read this, I was shaken with a sense of familiarity.  I have been working for 15 years to facilitate and encourage exactly this type of co-being relationship between people and the natural world.  And the elements of connection; the co-evolving sense of “fit”, the engagement of both body and mind (and feeling is fundamental to both relationships but unmentioned, perhaps because it’s an academic study), the way that “flesh-to-flesh” interaction is what causes the change, and the elements of inter-species communication and familial-arity.

That’s why my classes often look like this:

blindfold tree touch

and this:

sneaking kids

and this:


and this:

student buried in leaves 10-29-2013 5-42-01 PM

(can you see what’s being buried?)

and this:

frog in hand

and this:

ast fire 2011

See the contact, between people and all the elements and creatures?  My job as a teacher is just to prepare modern people for the meeting, then arrange the meeting so connection happens.  And once it happens, it’s like priming the pump, it creates some kind of a vortex and it just keeps happening.  And there’s something fundamental about nature connection that seems to open up connection in other realms, facilitating links between individuals, and opening up exchanges within each of us, individually, creating this sense of “co-being” even within ourselves.

After all , “We’re not individuals. We’re colonies of creatures,” (Bruce Mirren, microbiologist) and this is true not only biologically, but psychologically as well.

I”m pretty sure that the more connected we are to the world, each other and ourselves, the better off we are.  I begin to suspect that we might be suffering from what looks like an epidemic caused by a radical constriction, a truncation, a cavitation, of our tremendous, innate, bio-mechanical capacity for connection.

Next time we’ll talk about some of that capacity, how capacious it might really be, if we learn to correctly tune and play the instrument we have- the human body. And then the really interesting part is exploring the other side of the dialogue, that we don’t even believe anymore: that the earth and other creatures perceive us, listen to us, know us, and speak to us.

…to whom can I turn?

            Not to angels, not to humankind, not to animals

Who already know that in what I call the world

The world as interpreted by me,

I am not at home. 

-R. M. Rilke, First Duino Elegy

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