Understanding Consciousness With the Herd by Marilyn Rousher

Just as it is a daily habit for some to pray, it is my inclination to go out into the barn and spend some “herd time.” It is there, amongst my equine family that my meditation begins, where my consciousness melds with my mind.  Horses are my lifeline and  true teachers. Bay, paint, sorrel and roan, are my four-footed gurus.  Exemplars not encumbered by “outside thoughts”, nor fighting against the sacred harmony of the soul, but flowing with, the All That Is.  The paddock is the location wherein I  am able to close my eyes, slow my breathing, and feel my connected consciousness merge with their heartbeats and the life breath of the divinity that is Creation.  Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a yogi in his own right, taught followers that by understanding consciousness we become part of the universal oneness.

Contemplative “being-ness” did not emerge  easily for me.  Universal union is my birthright, just as it is to all; but the delusion of separateness has afflicted my true existent self, and my need for reconnection, has been an ongoing, and driving force. My best-est, happy thoughts come from my horses.  When things are the worst, and believe me I have had my share of worse things over the years, my equine buddies have always been out in the barn waiting for me.

Buddy, my twenty-eight year old mustang gelding was my best friend, confidant and  worthy opponent for twenty-one years.  We had high-five occasions, and tornado frenzies.  There was many a day I swore I’d sell him for dog food, and many days his forelegs struck out in an attempt to make me into hamburger.  We both vowed that until one or the other of us was properly instructed, we would not, could not, give up.  Separate and at odds with one another and the world in general who would want us anyway?

He, like all of the others of his kind who have been a part of my life, was full of heart.  “Heart” is the best compliment a horseman can bestow upon an equine.  Buddy always gave me what he had and then some.  Whether negotiating technical mountain paths, teaching young children to ride, or schooling this cowgirl in the sentience, the evolution and consciousness of all beings, Buddy did his jobs superbly.

Of all of the horses I have owned, and worked with, he was the one, who by taking ownership of me, became the better teacher.  I’ve been told that the horse you need is the horse you get.  Never has that saying  been as true as when I was entrusted with my wild gelding.  Budsters took me by the halter and led me into the world that is Horse, and the collective consciousness of spirit.  A place where I had been a spectator as opposed to a participant.  He was my teacher/companion through cancer, a daughter who became pregnant at sixteen, and the death of my mother.  He bucked me off every year, stomped me down, and packed me out of some dire situations.  He was a rough teacher, able to instruct me like no other through these experiences, to teach me to be the best horse I could be.

It was many a day that I trekked out to the pasture, put my forehead to his forehead, and breathed his breath into my lungs, as he breathed his into mine.  It was in those moments that I was able to be in the nirvana of yoga, or partake of the complete peace found in church.  Breathing in the same air, taking up the same space, our souls became infused like fiberboard.

August  22,  2011, out in the pasture, under his favorite pine tree, my friend was down.  I hoped he was doing what I often take pleasure in- just being lazy and comfortable- enjoying the earth, the birds in the maples, and the sun poking through the clouds.  But, in my hoping, I went up to the barn and got myself a halter and lead rope.  Entering the pasture, the other horses ran up to me, crowding for a pat, a sniff, or a goodie.  Buddy did not move, he looked up at me with his calm brown eyes, front legs splayed out in front of him, hind legs tucked under his belly.  I drove the herd away, I wanted to be alone with my friend. I was ready to laugh when he jumped to his feet and put his head to my head.  Only, he did not jump up.  He stayed where he was.  I talked to him, petted him, checked him out.  I reminded him that no self-respecting mustang would continue to lie on the ground while a predator stood over him with a halter and lead rope.  I sat down on the earth, he put his head on my lap and closed his eyes.  Stroking his forehead I scanned his body.  The years had not been kind, and old age had robbed him of his sturdy muscles.  His once soft coat had become boar bristles and grew mammoth long.  Yearly, I body-shaved him so he could stay cool during the hot summer months.

Putting his halter on, I encouraged him to get up and get moving.  We had places to go and things to do.  Slowly, drunkenly, he stood.  His head hung down nearly touching the ground.  This was not the high headed snorting Buddy I knew.  In walking him he staggered and swayed, putting one foot in front of the other was a torturous affair wherein he pointed his toes and straighten his front legs in an awkward strut .  His hind legs splayed outward, a traveler on a swinging bridge trying to keep his balance.  He was elbows and hocks, bones and sunken muscles.

The herd gathered round, a protective circle.  They still revered him despite his decrepitude.  They took turns nibbling his neck and withers.  Honestly, it had been a long while since he had been able to keep up with them.  The snorting, bucking – tails flying – stampedes from one field to another  had long left Buddy watching,  standing somber and alone under his tree.  Once a bell has rung, there is no way to un-ring it.  Once you get old Buddy taught me, there is nothing to do but accept it with grace.

Our forehead to forehead days are gone.  Buddy gave me great joy, and taught me to delight in each moment.  I am able to live in the “now” because of his teachings, an ingredient of the consciousness and the mind, of the  All That Is because of him, and not just a spectator to It.  My wild mustang days are over,  I have had to say “adios” to my old caballo amigo from the hills of Bishop, California.

A friend came over and reverently dug a grave for my compadre under his favored tree.  Our vet did the deed of injecting him, and swiftly and peacefully he crossed over  to the wild places that are waiting for such a good fellow as he was/is.

I know that when my time comes, Buddy will be waiting for me on the other side.  In heaven he will meet me, standing belly deep in good grass, licking and chewing, to let me know he is ready to join-up and begin a fresh adventure.  At that point my aged body will be set  free and I will run to my stable mate, swing up onto his back, and without saddle or bridle we will gallop faster than the wind, and follow every trail our wandering hearts beckon us to.  There will be no fences or damaged bodies to stop us.  But for now, alone under the favored tree, I will be the best horse I can be to the herd followers left behind. I’m a better horse, a better human and most importantly, finally able to be  in tune with my connectedness with all things.  And so it is on every morning that I stride to the barn, my true meditation spot, the spot where I begin understanding consciousness  through the breath, the same breath that is freely given to all creatures; my thoughts slow and I am able to connect with the heart of all, and find myself one with Universe.