I’ve just received a copy of the latest review for Meditation for Two…..I can hardly believe that it is as glowing as the previous one. I had to post it and offer my thanks to Mary Daniels for her thoughtful, generous remarks. It’s going to be published in the February Issue of Dressage Today, available January 2, and on DressageToday.com. Dressage Today???? How cool is that for an equine photographer/writer? Pinch me. Again. (You can have your very own copy by clicking on the tab above!)
by Mary Daniels
As the title might offer a clue, this is not a how-to book about how to train horses, but one about a very personal and unique philosophy—“Because the nature of the horse demands it, this is a mystical, metaphysical book,” says Barbier. He writes about “allowing our thoughts to be happy ones, finding our smile and learning to use it through discipline, meditation, visualization and love.
“This book is a reflection about the love of horses and how much they care and want us to be better. It is my belief that were we to allow ourselves to listen, were we to allow them to speak, they would surely have offered such a book to us.”
I agree with what Psillas says in her introduction to this book. That “we ride as we are,” which is true, and “what better purpose for a life than to hold the space for beauty.” To me, horses are a thing of beauty. A joy forever as a great poet once said, and beauty is medicine.
Perhaps I am not mystically inclined enough to understand all of the text, such as the preceding idea that were they allowed to speak horses would offer such a book to us. The ones I know might just ask for a charge card to the nearest greengrocer, or a romp in the hayfield. It may be one must belong to the Inner Circle of this following to be able to absorb the more esoteric aspects of this philosophy.
But there were parts I liked very much and here are a few from Barbier: “Horses and humans: the idea of separation first and then a coming together when mutual respect and understanding are attained is too simplistic, though not to be ignored. Rather, if I can say, it is the sense of oneness first, and then how to remain in that oneness that I believe is the essence of successful and symbiotic interaction between human and horse.
“The horse must trust the student. He must accept and enjoy a comfortable position, something that does not always come naturally. In turn, the student must trust the horse, both physically and mentally. If your riding mentality is based in fear, the horse cannot believe, understand or feel comfortable with you. Panic and evasions follow. A void in the student creates a void in the horse. Horses are the mirror of your soul.”
“The attitude that we are the only or best conduit of energy is a limiting one. The horse is already here. We must learn to be here. Our undisciplined minds and our egos cause us to live in the past or in the future and we must remind ourselves constantly of the goal of self-realization. Unlike the horse, we are so busy doing, we forget simply to be, we are so busy working, we forget to enjoy. Horses demand our presence, and this mental discipline in turn allows communication and oneness to happen. They teach us to be in and stay in the present, to share the same vibrations, the same space, the same energy. They teach us to replace organized unhappiness, unfulfilled dreams and expectation with the attachment and appreciation of the very moment. When acceptance and grace flow between horse and rider, the centaur can exist.
“An undisciplined mind is like a young green horse—full of life, scattered and uncensored. All manner of achievement is possible when the horse, like your mind, comes to the calm knowledge of self and respect of others. Together these notions bring harmony and joy. Gratitude and reverence allow us to be and feel that there is nothing we cannot do. Remember then, to say thank you. The open mind and the readiness for the path to further enlightenment will create real-life miracles.”
And my favorite: “I consider the shoulder-in the miracle movement. But I prefer to call it shoulders-in. The outside shoulder must be included in the movement, in our feeling of the movement. From the daily work for the original work-in-hand around one pillar, a technique centuries old, we need to understand why this is such a revealing movement, why it is such a powerful tool. The simplest answer is that it gives the horse a feeling of togetherness, then of independence. He learns where his legs and his body are in relation to himself and to the rider. This knowledge offers security to him and in turn, imparts an additional, undeniable mental strength, as any successful human athlete can attest,” he writes.
That said about the text, one must remark that the accompanying photos are lovely. Many of the subjects are of the Portuguese Lusitano breed, one of the world’s most striking and handsome. But there are also photographs of natural and man-made wonders, from the floral to the architectural, which make you pause and reflect.
The design of the book, by Psillas, is elegant and pleasing to the eye. “The display type of this edition of Meditation for Two is Cezanne with a nod to Dominique’s French heritage and to link and respect the arts of handwriting, photography and bookmaking, as well as the influence of the painting Masters on the history of photography,” she writes. The Old World sensibility in its creation makes this book a keepsake, a gift book bound to be appreciated by the receiver.