On the eve of Solstice 2020 my menagerie, which until then comprised three horses and two terriers, grew to include a Siamese kitten. Through a small miracle I saw this little ball of cream and black fluff at the forest edge when driving past at dusk. Whether abandoned or lost she was starving and recognised in me the one who would feed her. For the first two weeks, all she did was eat, sleep and ask to be held. Then she would curl in my arms and press her purring little body against me. Whether it was what she needed, or what she sensed I needed, I don’t know. But it was the most magical Christmas present I could have wished for.
The distancing, separation and isolation which the current situation imposes is felt by most of us at a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Humans are creatures who like to touch and be touched. When someone first begins to discover horses the impulse to stroke, pat and be nuzzled by them is intense. But horses, like cats (as I am learning) don’t always want to be touched. They don’t need physical contact, or even nearness, in the same way as we do in order to feel validated or to cement their bond. For a horse, connection goes much deeper than skin and fur. It is something which is made heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. Some of the deepest moments of contact which I experience with my herd are often characterised, in fact, by distance rather than proximity. When they look across the field at me, hold me in their soft gaze and something fundamental between us is understood. That we are far from each other is part of the wordless, touchless power of the exchange.
I have taken learning and reassurance from this equine lesson as I settle into remote working. I don’t need to be in the same room as those I am coaching, or the same field, or even on the same continent. Like I do with the herd, and they with me, I can connect from afar. I can be present, contactful and bring meaning in spite of the miles. When you bring the contact of presence to your seat and your screen it is felt by those you face. They know that they matter. Presence, whether you are meeting in person or not, is at the core of relationship. Having a practise of presence as we navigate the new channels carved out by the health crisis also helps us to stay connected with ourselves, balancing the alienation of isolation. By being present to those who face you each day you can create a space in which both of you will feel restored.
That does not mean, of course, that I don’t regret the temporary absence of my horses in my work. Unfortunately my office is not quite big enough to invite them in. However, I endeavour to bring the clarity, wisdom, grounding and calmness which they exude. And who knows, one day soon, when she is brave enough to leave the barn and enter the house, I and my clients may be joined instead by a small Siamese cat …
Contactful coaching is available remotely from the Equest team on request. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Contact of Presence - an open workshop exploring the power of presence in face-to-face and remote leadership is scheduled for Thursday 24 September subject to prevailing travel restrictions.
Pam’s second book The Spirit of the Horse, More Stories of Life, Love and Leadership will be published on March 16th by Blackbird Books. Available for pre-order from all good online retailers and from bookstores.
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