Wood to World is in large part a research project with which I aim to deepen my relationship to beyond-human nature. I am experimenting with differing (aligned and contrasting) ways of thinking and practicing relation to and communication with nonhuman beings.
Animal Communicator James French’s one-day course in the ‘Trust Technique’ is a newish venture for him, and draws on his Reiki practice (to Grand Master level) and many years of teaching and practicing animal communication. It aims to condense and clarify his understanding to date, such that the technique is clear, simple and effective enough to teach the key elements to people with animals in their lives in a single day. Almost uniquely among the 38 participants in the barn in Surrey, I do not own a pet or work (exactly) with animals.
James separates his approach from that of ‘whispering’ calmly but vociferously. Whispering, he says, is about applying pressure, and rewarding a desired behaviour by the release of that pressure. In as such, it is still intrinsically dominating, replicating the core hierarchies that conventional animal training employs. The trust technique, on the other hand, seeks to commune with an animal for the purpose of healing, and of deepening the relationship, resulting in loving relation rather than obedient servitude.
James asks us all to become completely still and fix our gaze on a point. The process is described as ‘delivering the present moment’. We note and release each of our thoughts as we would note and regard an animal’s distraction or activity when we are practicing with them.
He defines the key concepts as ‘creative reaction’, ‘realization learning’ and ‘trusted cooperation’: Creative reaction uses the innate sensitivity of intelligent creatures to one another’s moods and actions, and encourages positive change by managing one’s own role in that dynamic. In practice, this means giving the animal your active, thoughtful understanding and loving attention, or ‘mindful regard’. Realization learning is described as a deep process that can heal the sufferer of traumatic events by providing an alternative (contradictory, positive, nurturing) experience of human beings. This deep process-learning works only when the animal is completely peaceful (indeed, for a portion of it, asleep). Trusted cooperation is the position in which one can then ask the animal to do something, perhaps scary, without dominating them – they look to you for reassurance and guidance, because they trust you.
After a morning learning the theory and practicing ‘delivering the present moment’, we follow James around the Mane Chance Sanctuary as he demonstrates his technique with (and tells us the horrific histories of) some of the rescued horses. We all stare at a point near the horse with him, and whenever it flicks an ear or changes its position we think actively about it. Some horses drift easily into snoozy relaxation, one lies down almost immediately, one seems more interested in nuzzling James and licking his ear. Everything proceeds at the animal’s pace. Patience and persistence are watchwords.
It is a very windy day, but many of the horses are still remarkably keen to come and see forty people and ‘get present with us’ which considering that one of them was nicknamed Doctor Death, for no small reason, is pretty impressive. I ask if it is possible to use the technique with the birds in my garden (my code for wild creatures of all sorts). James says he has had considerable success with his own garden birds, although he doesn’t elaborate. (He has worked professionally with lions and turkeys among other things).
James is practical, grounded and remarkable. His kindness and clarity is refreshing in a world so often dominated by ego, pretension or woo. His thoughtful passion and intent to benefit animals (and indeed people) is palpable.