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Experiences from the Edge by Cara Bradley

August 7, 2013
by Cara
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Meditating with Horses

20130801_124847 My first day of vacation was spent in rural Connecticut with a brilliant philosopher and healer named Bonnita Roy. The best way I can describe Bonnita is “The Horse Whisperer”.  Just to be clear, I, aka “Brooklyn Girl”, have spent little to no time with horses. The idea to spend the day meditating with horses was definitely not mine. It was my husband’s.

As the four of us (daughters ages 18 and 19, husband and me) stepped into the corral, we were asked to choose our horse based the one we connected to the most. Funny enough, I chose the dominant mare and my daughters each chose her one of her offspring. Bonnita explained that horses mirror the current state of our nervous system. In other words, if I am stressed, the horse will be stressed. If I am calm, the horse will mirror that. In other words, there is no “faking it” with horses.

And so our meditation with horses began…

We first practiced “Attention”. Picture this, four Bradleys and four horses all standing perfectly still in meditation. (Daughter #2 reminded us that normal families go to the Jersey Shore for vacation). I must say that this was pretty cool. As I relaxed and got quiet I could feel my horse do the same. As kindred hard-headed mothers, I began to bond with my horse.

After an hour or so we moved to the round corral to practice “Intention”. This practice would show us how clearly we communicate non-verbally. If the energy behind our intention was muddled then our horse would respond in a confused manner. If our intention was clear and directed then our horses would prance, in sync with our non-verbal guidance.

I observed my husband and girls at work with their horses before it was my turn. At first the horses mirrored the mixed messages that my family was sending.  They turned unexpectedly, stood still or  act completely uninterested. When the horses received more confident instructions, they immediately responded and galloped with pride. My experience showed me how my horse and the energy around me shifted exactly at the moment that my intention became directed.  (She and I did have a dominant mare show down which was thrilling and frightening at the same time but that is for another blog.)

My mediation with the horses was definitely enlightening. It made me aware of how often we send mixed messages to one another. We are like a herd of horses reading each other’s nervous systems and responding to each other’s muddled directions. Think about how smooth life would flow if we could all clearly communicate exactly what we need and how we would like each other to prance.

July 30, 2013
by Cara

Change is the only constant.

Change is the only constant.
~ Heraclitus

These words of the great Greek philosopher Heraclitus have ring loud and so true for me. I’ve heard this quote many, many times and have nodded in agreement many, many times but honestly have not deeply understood it until now.
Change has been coming at me like gangbusters this past year. It has come out of left field both personally and professionally. In just a few weeks, my little baby girls will both leave the nest for college and Verge Yoga continues on it’s march to morph and expand it’s reach out into the world with new programs and new technologies.

I finally recognize that not only is change and upheaval going to continue in my life but that also it’s pace is going to speed up as well. The bottom line is that my world is changing rapidly. The question is am I ready to accept that?

And so I ask myself this question publicly as I believe that it’s a good one for us all to ponder. Can we become present and still enough in our being and allow the inevitable changes of life to unfold?
I don’t think that we have a choice but to let go of the steering wheel. How about you?

April 1, 2013
by Cara

The Mind versus Reality

As I strapped on my running shoes this morning I felt dread wash over me as I thought of the long inclines that awaited me in Valley Forge Park. I knew that it was going to be a challenging run as my body is sore and tired from the intense triathlon training schedule that I happened to voluntarily sign myself up for this spring. Prior to heading out on the road I had already convinced myself that I that it was going to suck and that I was going to be miserable. Nonetheless, I begrudgingly walked out the door.

What hit me about 10 minutes into the run was the sweet smell of spring in the air. Without consciously deciding my route, I spontaneously chose to run out in the fields mostly on the dirt paths and off my usual loop. The soft, moist ground seemed to support me and seemed to even propel me forward with every step. I actually started to feel light and even, yes, somewhat happy.

It was a glorious morning to be outside, in the spring air, with my heart pumping away. I felt my lungs stretch with each breath and I smiled as the sweat roll down into my eyes. I coasted most of the way home and even picked up my pace (to more than a slow jog that is). I sprinted up a short hill to slap my mailbox, which has become in my wild imagination, just like the Olympic finish line.

It is amazing how our minds can create a story and a scenario and convince us of one thing when actually reality is pretty darn awesome.

March 8, 2013
by Cara

All is well – How these 3 little words changed my life

DSC_0192All is well. Three little words, but what a game changer they have been for me. They are simple, certain and they are bold.

“All is well.” Last week, I heard those words in every encounter with my new Jamaican family at Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach, Jamaica where I taught a yoga retreat. This resort in the quiet, quaint fishing village of Treasure Beach on the southern side of the island oozed peace, serenity and, well, “chill”. Over the course of the week I got to know and grew to love many of the Jake’s staff and the locals of Treasure Beach. And I found my smile growing wider as these sunny folks somehow found a way to squeeze “All is well” into every conversation.

Interesting – because just a month ago, I was completely spellbound by Proof of Heaven, the story of a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, in which he described the miracle of his survival after contracting E. Coli infection/meningitis and his experience of several days in a severe coma. Upon awakening from his near death experience (NDE), he uttered an uncharacteristic phrase to his family “All is well”.

I knew that I had to sit with this phrase. I pondered it and pulled it apart and after doing so the answer simply fell in my lap…   All really is well. The sun keeps coming up everyday. I have plenty of food, shelter and love in my life. I am healthy and happy. All is well. And the rest of it, the drama, the drain, well, as they say, it’s just small stuff.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary these simple words are defined as follows:

All: the whole amount
Is: a state of being
Well: as one could wish

During my week in Jamaica surrounded by sweet smelling flowers and fresh ocean air, it was easy to adopt this new response. I shared it with the other yogis on retreat. It quickly became our retreat mantra as we flowed through a dozen plus yoga practices, settled our minds in meditation, soaked up the sun on deserted beaches and swayed and swirled during the reggae nights. We reminded each other of our new mantra as little daily inconveniences arose here and there.

You see, it is all okay, life that is. For most of us reading this blog, all is well.

We can learn to start right there, with that intention; our lives are as perfect “as one could wish.” Try writing “All is well” on some sticky notes as I have and place them where you will see them throughout the day, i.e. the steering wheel of your call, your refrigerator, your laptop, your pillow etc. Hold this simple, positive phrase in your pocket and it may just change your outlook on life. It may make you smile more or chuckle louder. You may feel lighter and sunnier. You may even take on the cheerful demeanor of my lovely Jamaican friends.

Watch out, because your new mantra just may fill you with positive energy, happiness and a new sense of excitement.

Ya man… All is well.

January 24, 2013
by Cara

I too have a Secret and my Secret is also Silence

I too spent the long weekend with Kristin Page at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA. Without having read Kristin’s insights I offer you my own “ah-has.” I am sure that many of my insights will sound like her insights for as we dive deep individually we meet each other collectively in that quiet, empty place and share the same experience.
• Being silent for 3 days was an incredible relief for every aspect of my being. I feel cleansed from the inside out.

• Moving my body both slowly and vigorously is necessary and fully supports a deeper meditation practice.

• The mind, when surrendered to the moment, seeks stillness and emptiness.

• We are always transmitting our state of being, always. Being silent helped me to get under the noisy mind so that I could get intimate with the subtle ways in which I transmit.

• The ears hear, the eyes see and the mind thinks. Thoughts will continue to come and go. In stillness I learn that I cannot stop my thoughts but I can allow them to come and go without getting involved.

• Stillness is found below the neck. I found profound stillness when my awareness dropped below my mind and rested in my heart and body.

• To meet the world from a place of deep stillness is a miracle.

• The word “quiet” has a completely new meaning for me.

• At the deepest level we are all seeking connection with silence and emptiness.

• The mind will exhaust itself if you sit with yourself long enough. It gets tired of telling the same old stories. That is when stillness emerges.

• In the quietness and stillness of the weekend I proclaimed the following: “I release and relinquish the “me” that I thought I knew and I step back into the world:
o Quiet & Still
o Spacious & Clear
o More loving
o Kinder & Gentler
o Non-judgmental
o Ready to serve

I still feel a deep sense of quiet now two days post retreat and have a new sense of commitment to my daily meditation and silence practices. This state of being feels too good to lose. I hope to be able to sustain this deep inner stillness. My experience in the woods was profound and I am forever changed. I will go into prolonged silence again. For now I will practice carrying my stillness into the world and sharing it with others.