The French retreat where you can meditate with cows
In our new series, #pebbblesmakeripples, we're running illuminating features from people doing things differently. Farmer, Dave Mountjoy, shares his experiences of meditating with cows and how these gentle giants can play a role in healing grief and finding calm.
Mon 4 Feb 2019
It was in the middle of October 2015, on a sunny autumnal afternoon, when I got the news: my beloved younger brother had committed suicide. He was supposed to be visiting us on our farm, in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, three days later, yet it just wasn’t meant to be.
Five weeks later, on returning back to France from my family home in Worcestershire, I went straight to the wooded hillside where our cows, the Galloways and Castas, had been in our absence.
Perhaps it was the events of the preceding weeks that stirred up such a depth of emotion, who knows, yet on calling them, hearing them respond and eventually seeing their heads coming out of the woodland edge, tears came to the eyes and for a moment, all the grief just melted away.
Image Dave Mountjoy has found the peacefulness of cows has helped his grief
Over the coming weeks, as autumn rolled into winter and the twice-daily round of feeding the cows began, I found myself becoming ever more grateful just to be in the presence of the six young females we had at the time. I also found myself clinging less and less tightly to the pain surrounding the death of my brother.
In the company of the cows, without any apparent effort or setting of intention, I began to slip gently into a deep sense of meditation. By meditation I mean quietness, a ceasing of all thought or sense of a separate self – what it is to simply be.
It became clear during these moments with the cows that they already existed in this deep quietness – that for them the meditational state is the normal way of things.
Their presence and stillness enabled me to come to a finer appreciation of what meditation might actually be, for they showed me that it isn’t something one can attain, but is in fact the very fabric of life itself. They helped me see that meditation is the one sole constant in what we think of as our lives. It simply is, free of all attempts of explanation or identification.
As the relationships with the cows developed and the quietness deepened in being with them, their purity and no-mind state began to act as a mirror for me. On going to see them, it suddenly became obvious that they were bouncing straight back whatever it was, emotionally-speaking, that I had carried to them.
This was particularly so with regard to the local French breed that we have on the farm – the Castas.
When one of them shook its head somewhat threateningly, or refused to let me approach, I began to see that through their incredible sensitivity, they were simply telling me that I was identifying with an anger or fear that served to pull me out of the quietness of meditation.
Their constant encouragement to simply be quiet has led to an incredible sense of trust developing between us.
This became increasingly evident with the small herd of Galloways who we share the farm with. All of them now stand to be stroked and rubbed and scratched quite freely. The feeling of union with them and ultimately with the entirety of life, of a natural completeness free of fear and all thought, is it seems what meditation is really all about.
Supporting me in this way then, the cows have helped me to acknowledge what it might mean to be quiet. It is an ongoing process.
Some projects that seem designed by life to help us understand our true nature as human beings, are often inspired in their conception by deeply painful events.
The retreats that we now hold on the farm are our way of saying thank you to the cows and ultimately, to life itself, for the support that was given through the period of grief that followed the death of my brother. Out of this sense of gratitude came a simple wish to share what had happened with the cows with others and perhaps prevent another suicide.
It felt and continues to feel as if a rich seam of gold had been discovered, an inexhaustible source of wealth that could enrich the lives of any who came into contact with the cows and landscape. Simply being quiet in their company amidst beautifully supportive scenery seems to be the key to opening the door to these riches.
From March through to November, we offer guests the opportunity to come and stay on our 100 acre organic farm in the foothills of the French Pyrenees mountains.
Simplicity is the essence of the five day retreats. Silent walks in a stunningly beautiful landscape, sitting in quietness with the cows and supportive activities such as yoga, all combine to help us acknowledge that meditation is nothing but our true natural state and condition.
No particular teaching or discipline is followed and we offer no teachers or gurus or guides to show us the way. Our trust is in the beauty of nature, in the cows and in the acceptance that truly, home is where the heart is.
For more information on the Being With Cows retreats, click here.