Presence and Permaculture…


permiedef4. Think spatially in 3 dimensions
5. Work in the dimension of time

I thought the phrasing of these two points interesting. Most people assume that one must work in the dimensions of space and time — it’s the reality we live in, right? We get up, go through our day in some kind of sequence, encounter other objects and beings who appear solid just like us, then sleep — or not — and get up and do it all again the next day. So why take up two whole lines to mention the obvious? It’s as if the authors knew what Einstein knew when he said, “Time and space are not conditions in which we live, but modes by which we think,” acknowledging other dimensions of awareness.

einsteinSo… Is our reality not what it seems? And if so, why is it important to work in the dimensions of space and time? What does it mean for us in practical terms?

Spatially, when we imagine a garden, most of us will picture it planted in the ground. It takes up a certain length and width, making up our plot. If we live in the suburbs with some kind of yard or in more rural areas with room to spare, we are not usually prompted to think beyond this conventional style of sowing a neat little row of one type of vegetable into the ground. But if we live in the city, does this mean we can’t grow a garden?

Seven commonly thought-of layers of a food forest.

Seven commonly thought-of layers of a food forest.

In nature, a food forest has a variety of layers, vertical growth complementing length and width. Such patterns can offer us far more possibilities in how we plant to suit our lifestyle and circumstance. Being observant of these patterns allows us to become creative in our thinking, and suddenly we “see” more options as our viewpoint becomes enhanced. Now we are no longer “working” (taking action) in the dimension of time. We are changing our

Urban buildings of the future?

Urban buildings of the future?

way of thinking. Thoughts are not solid nor do they take up space, yet we can add more and more of them to develop an expanded idea that becomes the catalyst for more appropriate action, design, or other modes of creation.

growth succession

Beginning at the top right and moving clockwise, a clearing or bare soil provides space for perennials creating conditions for shrubs leading to woodlands before attaining the status of a mature forest.

Working in the dimension of time can mean that we are aware of a succession of growth happening all around us, all the time. For example, if we were to observe an un-grazed, abandoned field over 50 to 100 years, we would see an inevitable transformation, illustrated in the diagram to the left.

Okay, okay, okay… but remember, we’re horse people. What do all these plants have to do with horses?

Well, I often find that using metaphors can be helpful. Sometimes we’ve become so acclimated to seeing what we think we know that we rely on what we’re familiar with, and not what is actually right in front of our nose.

This happened to me recently. I was excited to be working once again with a Hanovarian gelding belonging to a friend and client of mine. She and I have been working together for a number of years and have spent a lot of time re-schooling Robin, as he is called, out of tensions he developed by being pushed too hard too fast during his early years in training as a dressage horse. This past year, he has been doing exceptionally well. Reliably well, making great strides (pun intended) without strain, irritation or excitability. So when I got on him again for the first time in a month, I expected him to be butter in my hands.

He was not butter in my hands.


Robin, owned by Elise Lalor of the Monkey Tail Ranch:

I began to do suppling exercises, and when he did not improve I became firmer, asking more poignantly, and when he still did not improve, I became firmer still. I mean, they were suppling exercises. What could be wrong with that? But at the end of the ride, I had a vague sense of being disappointed in myself. I quickly buried that thought and went home.

The following day I did ground work, the uncomfortable taste of the prior day’s ride still in my mouth. He started out sticky, but ended well, so the next day I rode again.

Again, he was not butter in my hands.

At that point I had to admit that I had made an assumption of what he should feel like based on the last time I’d ridden him. In other words, I was living in the past. Then, when he turned out not to feel the way he had in the past, I began to push for him to feel better than he did in that moment. Now, I was living in the future. Because I could not achieve what I wanted in either dimension, I felt compelled to try harder to “fix” the “problem.” Now I was straining.

Looking oneself in the mirror is often a good way to reflect.

Looking oneself in the mirror is often a good way to reflect.

When I finally stopped to think, I recalled that the first night Robin arrived he had merely picked at his food. This horse is normally a voracious eater. In addition, for the first 2 or 3 days, he had not engaged with the other horses in his pasture, also an anomaly. But he’d had no temperature, he was sound and moving with energy, and well, he was eating, albeit slowly. I dismounted, removed his tack, and continued to ruminate.

It then occurred to me to palpate his back. There was no real “reason” to. He had been relaxed at the mounting block, did not react to the girth, my seat, or the saddle. Indeed, he was not sore over his withers or where the saddle sat. But when my hands glided into the muscles of his lower back and sacrum, he made a sudden dip with his hips, trying to get away from the pressure. He was sore.

In the beginning, we usually have no idea how things will turn out later on.

In the beginning, we usually know little about how things will turn out later on. It’s the nature of life, and gives us good reason to remain observant.

Okay, but what did that mean? Again I had to accept the fact that, in that moment, I did not know the answer. But now it was clear to me that I could not proceed in the usual way until I found out.

Because this was happening during the holidays, attempting to locate an available chiropractor or body worker was an impossibility. And so I was left to spend more than a week doing ground work and light riding only, noting the minute changes in his progressively favorable or unfavorable responses to me each day. This, interspersed with several conversations with his owner via telephone and email, allowed us to come up with an understanding of what his issues were and how to address them.

Sometimes it's surprising what we can get away with when we take the "time" to feel our way.

Sometimes it’s surprising what we can get away with when we take the “time” to feel our way.

Getting to this point took time, but in order to simply allow myself to observe what was happening, I had to abandon all concerns about time, about being held back, and about not being able to go some where. For me, time and space could not exist, else I’d place too much importance on them, thereby devaluing the depth of heart and spirit presenting itself as flesh and bone in each moment.

At the same time, I had to observe the effects of my actions as they became apparent, using them to inform me of the appropriateness of my decisions. In short, I had to approach this horse with awareness and feeling, and let that be my guide through time and space.

einstein“A human being is a part of the whole called-by-us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein


About findingpegasus

Author of 'Finding Pegasus'
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2 Responses to Presence and Permaculture…

  1. Patricia says:

    Loved the nature of change this requires. As a friend said “Don’t think outside the box, realize there really isn’t a box.” I recall years ago, Terry, I finally ‘got’ your teaching that we work with what presents, not what we think we should be or plan to work on. Sometimes it seems easier than others – sometimes I confess to feeling “REALLY – this again”. And yet I gain nothing when I push – and so much when I allow. Thank you, thank you.

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