Con Su Permiso: a practice of mutual consent
I often practice an exercise called “Con Su Permiso” with my horses. Directly translated from Spanish it means, “if you please”. It’s a practice of being present, and a place mutual consent. It’s an opportunity for me to connect to my breath and body, sense my energetic being, ground myself in the moment, and notice whatever is there to be noticed. It’s an opportunity for my horse to be a horse. This present, open, and connected space is after all, their natural way of being in the world.
The general idea of this practice is to approach another being from a distance, sensing for even the smallest bit of recognition. This could be as obvious as an eye or ear turning toward you, and is most often as subtle as an inward sense in your body; a new sensation coming in, a current sensation changing shape, a slight shift in the energetic field.
The moment that small sign of recognition is given, you stop moving, take one step back, and take a deep breath. This moment of pause is where you allow this new energy to settle in. You take in the landscape around and within you. Before moving again you ask of yourself and the being, con su permiso? If you please? And you sense for a resounding yes from all parties involved before moving forward again.
The Peace of Being Present for Your Own Experience
My time of engaging in this energetic game of sense and response has been focused on our newest herd member Nova. Nova came to us (via Ellie I’m convinced) from a local kill pen. She was 21, starved, weak, thrown out, and forgotten. She also belonged to my heart the moment I saw her. I asked no questions. I just said yes.
Her history as I’m learning it a bit more each day, is far more traumatic than I could ever imagine. It’s clear she wasn’t only neglected, she was abused. By humans, of which I am one.
When I approach her from a great distance in the field, I feel the weight of the stories I, as a human, carry with me. Stories of neglect and abuse. Stories of harm perpetrated on a sentient being. Stories of pain, anger, hopelessness, and above all else, fear.
I can acknowledge in those moments that I personally was never the perpetrator of harm to her, AND that I may trigger fear responses from her as I approach. I’ve never hit, starved, beat, neglected, or forgotten about Nova, AND as a human, I still carry those stories with me. It’s this history of story which places me in a position of power to change the narrative. It is not her work to trust me; it’s my work to be trustworthy.
When I stay present for my own experience rather than popping up and out of my body to tend to hers, I remain grounded in my power to transform both my inner and outer landscape simultaneously. Cultivating this generative presence brings a sense of ease and simplicity into our relationship which is ripe with complexity and nuance.
The Hard Work of Being Present for Your Own Experience
Because I am focusing more of my already very limited time with her right now, I’m spending less time with the other horses. Some days I really want to skip the emotional work of connecting with Nova because it’s hard and it’s draining.
It’s also vital to her health and wellbeing because if no one can work with her, she can’t get the medical help she needs on a consistent and ongoing basis. I do take short moments to be with and tend to the rest of the herd. It’s easy and affirming and reminds me there is hope, as trust was not at all a part of my initial relationship with most of the animals here.
I don’t always get it right. I misread signals. I get into my head. I want to speed up the process. I want to push the river. Under pressure, old stories and old shapes still show up. When the work of reconnecting brings up feelings of frustration and anger, my work is to remain present for my own experience.
These feelings are present and they are not for Nova. This energy of frustration and anger is for the system and people within that system which caused her harm, left her with no options for health and safety, and which resulted in her being dumped in a kill pen. I am sad, and angry, and frustrated – but not with her. My work is to own that, correct it, and reconnect with myself, and then the world.
The Joy and Connection of Being Present for Your Own Experience
Con su permiso is an activity that I ask my clients to engage in to help get them in touch with their own somatic presence. To slow down, feel what they are feeling, and recognize and honor that first within themselves. Connecting with another sentient being flows from whatever connection, or perhaps lack, you have with yourself. Your greatest work will always begin with being present for your own experience.
Inevitably and without being prompted, clients will return home and begin playing with this exercise. They’ll sense and respond with their partner, children, cat, dog, fish, and even beloved houseplants. It is an engaging and even playful way to become deeply attuned to the wisdom of your body.
We can easily honor the experiences of those we love and those whose stories we know. We can remain present in our own experiences while allowing our loved ones to not only have theirs, but own it as their truth and their worldview.
I invite you to practice this with those you love, and know, and understand. Memorize what that feels like in your body to be present for your own experience while bearing witness to another’s. Do not take it personally when the stories you carry trigger someone, but instead honor their experience and extend to them compassion. Just as you would Nova if you were here right now.
The Importance of Being Present for Your Own Experience
Continue this work. As you go out in the world your greatest work is to remain present for and within your own experience. Notice what is there to notice. Notice when you feel those sensations taking new shapes. Notice when the energy of anger has been misplaced. Own that, correct it, and reconnect with yourself, and then the world. Notice when you’ve slipped into the swirl of a shame spiral. Own that, correct it, and reconnect with yourself, and then the world.
It’s so easy to slip into a comfortable zone of offering compassion and understanding to those we know, love, and understand, and pull back when others’ experiences feel unknown and uncomfortable to us. But that’s not what’s most needed in this world.
It is vital to the health and wellbeing of our entire community, local and global, that compassion is extended to the hard to reach places. Yes, this emotional work is hard and draining. Check in with your herd from time to time. Allow them to give you the affirmation and energy to go back out in the world and do the hard work.
To begin this work of being present for your own experience, and simply noticing how it has shaped you, I offer you this guided meditation. This is where you can begin to notice the unique landscape of our own being and what shape this livingness takes within you. When you are (re)connected with this aliveness within you, you awaken to the truth of how deeply embedded and interconnected you are with all of life, everyone, even those you don’t yet know and don’t yet understand.
Generative Presence: how being present for your own experience transforms the world
When we are looking at transformation, whether it be personal or systemic, social context is the greatest influence and most consistent trainer in shaping our worldview. It is the air we breathe, and the waters we swim in. This also makes its influence on us more subconscious, and perhaps more difficult to acknowledge. Social context in the U.S. is built upon the framework of capitalism (“the American dream”), domination (“winner take all”) and a long and continued history of colonization, and slavery. Some of the most “successful” organizations and institutions have helped destroy the earth while oppressing certain groups and privileging a select few.
Whether or not we have actively engaged in this social context, it has engaged with us. These stories are carried within our brain, body, and nervous system. It has shaped who we are. This shape results in multiple and complex patterns of thought and behavior, which we repeat automatically.
Changing our thoughts isn’t enough to challenge these conditioned tendencies. Under pressure our old stories and old shape become visible and apparent. It is only when we fully embody a new way of being in the world, a new shape, that we can change the external landscape around us.
To embody a new shape, you must become present and aware of your current shape. This is where your work begins. It begins within your own Field, and there’s no better place to practice than right here with Nova and the herd in their F/field.
A Personal Note on Generative Presence
If you’ve read this far it’s likely you resonate in some way with the subtle language of energy and have an understanding of the vast influence our social context has on our energetic being and the collective energetic field.
As a white, cis/het, woman I carry a great deal of privilege. As I move through the world I carry that story of privilege alongside my stories of discrimination and assault. My work is to understand what that means for me and what implications these stories have had on my own experience. I notice how my shape has changed because of what has happened within and without me.
When I encounter others, my work is to allow them to have their experiences, bear witness to that, and understand how the stories I carry with me, (whether I wrote them myself or not) will affect their experience. While an inability to be present for one’s own experience as you hold space for others to do the same can manifest in a myriad of ways, discrimination, appropriation, and white fragility are unfortunately quite common. And I have engaged in each of them in some way.
I wanted to specifically highlight these because the nature of these microaggressions, just like the nature of our energetic beings, shows up in subtle and patterned ways. What’s important is that you notice it, own it, correct it, and then reconnect with yourself and the world. We need you being present for your own experience, so that you may be present for our collective experience. Only then can we reshape our world together.