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  • Writer's pictureFotini Chandrika Walton

The Ecology of Community

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Living in communion with Nature has offered me the opportunity to 'unlearn' what I once believed made me a 'whole' human.

I was clouded by the ideas that I needed to complete a certain level of accomplishment, receive a certain level of praise and exceed the expectations of society through my ultra-independence. The model that was laid out before me through the institutional culture of modern day western society left me anxious, overwhelmed, confused and numb.

I had worked so hard to become successful, independent, accomplished...why did I feel empty?

Twenty years ago, when I moved out of the city and finally realized my childhood dream of exploring the world of Horses, everything changed.

It began with visiting multiple barns with Horses living separately in stalls, being removed from them in order to be ridden in an enclosed arena where their optimal performance was expected. For a short time, I dabbled in some of the riding activities, but, for me, the richness came from observing and noticing the feelings I had when I was around the Horses. Without passing judgment, it was clear that the practices I witnessed were considered 'normal' to those who had learned that it was, but something just didn't feel right to me. The Horses seemed anxious, depressed, confused and shut down. All feelings I could relate to. It seemed that they were only regarded as 'whole' when they were performing well, otherwise, they were treated as if something was 'wrong' with them. Again, a stigma I knew all too well. My gut was my radar and I remember having terrible stomach pains when I was in environments that were not conducive to the authentic 'wholeness' of Horse. Those environments were most often not conducive to the authentic 'wholeness' of human, as well.

When I first became a Horse Steward in 2012, I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to experiment with what I had intuitively felt to be true insofar as ways to support the whole Horse, and boycott anything I did not feel served this personal project with my Horse, who was a foal at that time. I would raise him as his own Horse, honoring his autonomy to make choices and communicate preferences with me along the way.

One Horse quickly became four and I began Stewardship of an authentic community, within which I got to be a part of and learn from.

In many of the books I had read and research I had done, as well as my experiences at various barns, it was always emphasized that the Horse had to look at the human as their leader. In most of the traditional barns, Horses were unable to live naturally as Herds so they did not have any way to offer an example of leadership within a Herd, the way the Horses did that I was caring for. They lived outside with each other, 24/7, with a large round bale of hay always available which minimized any type of resource guarding. With plenty of room to move and lots of resources available, I was able to learn what leadership was like in the ecology of the Herd.

It was not what you may think or may have heard. There was no full-time leader. Instead, they took turns leading at the times that their gifts and skills were needed for the betterment of their community. They welcomed me as part of their ecosystem and I followed their wisdom and my heart's knowing that I did not need to be their leader at all times, as I had been told. There were times I would lead based on my abilities and there were times that they were my trusted leaders. Within the Herd, the role of 'leader' was fluid, and not patriarchal like most of us have become accustomed to in society. The true essence of a leader was one who could support while also being supported, listen while also being heard, lead while also following, to be strong so others could be vulnerable while also allowing themselves to be vulnerable so others could be strong.

Through our incredible shared connection, intuition, willingness and the plentiful intuitive teachings, it was clear that we had found our WAY together! A way that allowed us all to lead and allowed us all to follow.

We were experiencing new levels of health, wellness and wholeness, both Horse and human. It was not because of being high performers, or being successful at something outside of simply being was because of the level of authentic communication, connection and community that we had co-created among us. And this community did not end at the Herd and I, it continued into the Chickens, the Bees, the Flowers, the Trees....and, of course, the humans who felt called to join us in unlearning and following the 'way' together.

By unlearning what we had been taught to be true and listening to the heart of what we knew to be true, we opened ourselves up to a whole new world of harmony and wholeness. Despite what society told us, this wondrous world did not open by being ultra-independent and standing strong by oneself, this spectacular world opened up by relying on, not only our own inner resources, but the resources available to us within the wholeness of community, and the sharing of those resources together, not claiming them as our own, separately.

A brand new learning came about for us through this experience. One where no Horse would be labeled as 'barn sour' and no human would be labeled as 'independently successful'. Those labels were unlearned by the Herd and I. The way I see it, a Horse who is 'barn sour' is a 'whole' Horse who knows that it belongs within a Herd community. And a human who is 'independently successful' is one who has been removed from the innate need for connection and interdependence within the sacredness of their Village.

We are unlearning together.

All of these things...and more.

As we step deeper into our heart's knowing of what it means to be a Horse and what it means to be a human, within the context of wholeness and harmony, we are realizing an incredible ecology of community. Where we remember our interconnection and the harmony of true wholeness. Where we dance together in the present moment, without grudges of the past, and without worry for the future. We are here now. Together.

We weren't meant to do this alone. And we don't have to. There is an entire community wanting to be a part of this journey....

The days of being ultra-independent have come to an end for me. There have been so many valuable teachings along the way, especially having the strength to reach out for support, something that I may have put upon myself as 'weakness' in the past. Now, I see this as an ultimate strength; a wonderful example to others that they too can ask for help when they need it.

For Horses, it takes a Herd.

For us, it takes a Village.

In the wise and timeless words of Rumi; 'We are all here to walk each other Home.'

Written with all my love and abundance of gratitude for you, the Village,

Fotini Chandrika

P.S. We are thrilled to have our 2023 Calendar of Events ready for you! We hope to see you on the farm this coming season to share in the beauty of community, as we unlearn through Nature and the Horses as our great teachers!


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