Text and photos by Gonzalo Bénard.
Not even for one moment did I have a conscious break asking, “What am I doing here, naked among the sheep, trying to create a dialogue with these piles of wool when the only thing they know is how to bleat?”
I’m one of those people who have so called ‘difficult mornings’. A period of time between ‘waking up’ and ‘being awakened’. A period of time when the conscious remains inactive, so not filtered. It is in this period of time when we create, when everything flows through our subconscious as if it were free.
A few years ago I woke up from a coma which made my brain run out of oxygen. I was living in Barcelona at the time, right in the centre of the city, in a building much like any other. Surrounded by concrete. Concrete people. And windows looking on to more concrete.
Previously I lived and studied in Yolmo, in the Himalayas, with Tibetan monks in a monastic school of arts, dance and philosophy. This was many years ago. Maybe 15. I lost my chronological memory during my coma, and never worked at recovering it as I never found it necessary to live. Time just doesn’t exist. There is the past supporting the present to help build the future. And all of these, the whole life itself, is a collection of moments. Moments with no time. Making a single major moment called life.
In the same area where I spent summer holidays when I was a kid, and teenager, there was an immense field where I used to run free. Most times naked. Sometimes painting my body and playing Indians with my brother’s presence, after he died. It was the way I had to make him feel closer. We used to collect pieces of wood and sculpt them creating rituals of life, and rites of death. We used to perform ceremonials in nature, to nature. Acting like wolves. Birds. Trees. Wind. Feeling the elements. Earth. Fire. Water. Air. The air we could feel on our naked bodies. The cold waters of the river near by. The heat of the sun. On earth. Sometimes we used to steal a horse to ride free. As if the owner wouldn’t know that.
Since a kid I had this connection with the elements, and with death. It has always been part of me, growing up with this. Talking with dead people who come asking for help, when they left unfinished issues in their life here. I’m used to listening to the elements. To creating dialogues.
After some years living in Barcelona I started feeling a need again for this. For nature. For the basic elements as I couldn’t find them in the concrete. I then had a motorbike accident on the highway going to a place where I used to find it. I needed more than a moment. I needed that time to connect life. With life.
When I woke from the coma I took finally the decision to find a wooden house in the middle of a forest near the sea, far from everything so I could find myself again. Fix lost puzzle pieces. Find memories lost. Knowing that I could only be successful if I were being me in nature. After this first re-encounter with me and nature, sometimes dancing nude under the moonlight being touched by moon beams filtered by the trees of the forest, I moved to the country house for a sabbatical year, far away, closer to myself.
There I found my brother again. In nature. Where I left him the last time, waiting for me to play again.
If before the coma I had had an intense and immense fight between the subconscious and conscious worlds, the whole sabbatical year in the country side was a battle to fix the whole me.
I decided to stop.
To create new boundaries so I could feel and understand them—so I could break them.
To feel nature and be a part of it; as a giant cactus can co-exist with a fragile flower.
To observe and learn how an eagle was building its nest in that tree, and how the kids were born there, and how they had the first lessons in flying free. And not falling down. Feeling the wind and going with it or through it.
To create dialogues. Within and without the fences.
And no, I didn’t give up for a single moment when I decided that I would have a deep dialogue with the sheep walking around there. I listened to them bleating as if they were teaching me how to do the same. And I answered till I achieved dialogue. Naked with them on my four legs. I was happy. I was feeling part of nature again. I felt one of them. I broke boundaries to be in oneness again.
Then something happened as a welcome from nature; one of them gave birth next to me. So I helped the baby one to come out. I was giving life to life. Participating in Life. Living Life. Again.
I took the horses then, and ran wild and free. Feeling the winds and breezes, its breaths and heart beats. As oneness, or in oneness with the horse as if it were the horse taming me. The horse felt that I trusted her. And when you trust you receive the same back. When it’s honest and deep trust without questioning. Just being. I let the horse tame the man to become one with her. So she become one with me.
And the wood. The trees, the mud. The plants growing. The smell and all the senses renewed day after day. I started dancing again, dancing rituals of life. Dancing rites of death. Dancing stars and infinite skies. Feeling the mud underneath my bare foot. The air feeding the fire feeding the earth feeding the water feeding me. Dancing as air as water as earth as fire. Feeling the eagle’s wings, the wool’s warmth, the wolf’s heart, the horse’s power as a steady rock. Feeling myself in nature. As a wizard, a shaman, a boromatchi… a wise being feeling nature as it is. Without labels. Without boundaries. A hybrid of many lives.
With respect. In Oneness. Being honest. Being death. Being rebirth. Being alive. Being life.
And Being One.