Sivana Podcast: How To Thrive In The World And Still Stay Connected To Spirit – Interview With Cara Bradley
About this Episode
Join us with Cara Bradley, author of On the Verge, as we discuss the ways in which we can engage the world and thrive no matter what we find ourselves doing, while still remaining connected to spirit. What are some of the likely roadblocks on the path? What is the difference between active and passive attention, and how can they affect our ability to thrive? In this episode, we’ll learn helpful tips and practices on how to remain present, how to show up in our lives, and thrive!
We can train ourselves to slow down, to speak like we’re looking at the sky, or to cook. Everything we do, we do it with so much more quality when we’re in this state of just here.
Namaste, you’re listening to the Sivana podcast. Join us on an exploration of eastern spirituality, yoga philosophy and conscious living for the New Age. This podcast is a production of sivanaspirit.com, where you can find a large selection of om and yoga clothing, spiritual jewelry and unique fair trade gifts from the Far East. Now here’s your host, Ashton Szabo.
Greetings everyone! welcome to the sivana podcast. I am Ashton Szabo, your host.
Today’s show is all about thriving in the world and staying connected to spirit.
Our guest today to join us in the conversation is Cara Bradley, She’s the author of the book “On the Verge: wake up show up and shine” recently published by New World library.
She is a teacher of yoga, meditation and fitness. She’s been a mental strength coach for over three decades at her verge yoga center and as well as the personal work that she does. Shen also worked with teams such as Villanova University and Penn State.
Really excited to have her on the show today.
Thank you, great to be here Ashton.
Well it’s great to have you. Now in your book On the verge, you talk about the word itself the verge and how it comes from this the term in the amazon where these two rivers or any two rivers meet, and there’s an explosion of life, that life is able to really thrive in those areas. And what I want to hear from you is if you could tell us a little bit more about the actual verge, and what it means, and why it matters to us.
Great! I love this is whole idea of there being a place on the planet where wildlife and nature thrive, where researchers found that there’s the most diverse amount of species. It’s incredible! like you said this explosion of life. And so, upon finding out about that, I started to do my own search, I wanted to know if there was a verge around me. and how do I stand on the verge, and where do I thrive the most. And it really set me off on a life’s journey of how do I reach and tap into my human potential, our human potential.
So the verge what I came up with after literally decades of inquiry, was that the verge is this moment. And that really going it all comes down to it, when I show up right here in this moment fully, not just sort of but fully. I thrive in whatever I’m doing I shine.
What initially got you interested in human performance and this idea of thriving?
Well I had an experience when I was nineteen I was a college track runner, and I was running in my last race. And what happened was I was a mediocre runner at best, and so for this last race I did something very different than I normally did.
I went off on my own, before the race, and I did a slow warmup jog, so you can picture a very rhythmic gentle pace and I started talking to myself and said, Let’s just break our personal record. Let’s beat the personal best, let’s get our personal best, our new personal best. And so I started to repeat to myself a personal best and I what I didn’t know at the time was that it was almost like a mantra. I was settling my mind, I was calming my nervous system.
So when I stepped up to the race, to the starting line. I was in a different state than I had ever been in a race. And as the story goes I killed it, I shape six seconds off my personal best and it was my last race and I looked at it, I was like, oh my God I had this in me my whole career, like I had this straight I could have been an elite runner. And so from that day forward, I studied the race and all the aspects of the race and the state that I was in when I was running. And over the course of the last few decades, I’ve recognized that it is really our natural state, where we shine, in the natural state of our being, the ground of our being is where we show up and shine in everything that we do.
Now one of the things that we see a lot, sort of ingrained in many spiritual traditions across the world is this idea that poverty is a necessary part of truly living a spiritual life whether it’s material poverty or even this idea of annihilation of parts of the ego and self.
So I’m curious where we are does thriving in the world actually fit into this and how does it help enhance our experience of spiritual beings?
That’s a really great question, I love it. Because there is such fullness in life, I mean yes there’s emptiness and we can talk about emptiness. But there’s also in the emptiness is this richness, this fullness, this ever present thriving, pulsing, that is constantly informing us of how to continue to evolve, to adapt and evolve, adapt and evolve. To continue to lean forward, to continue to lean in to what’s been done and to breakthrough and create new life.
So this idea of getting rid of everything and there are these spiritual practices in Buddhism there’s the neti practice which is looking at everything and what life isn’t. What the awakened state is not, it is not being dragged down by thoughts, it’s not being succumb by emotions, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not. So there is this yes and no constant paradox in the world. But thriving in shining the way I put it isn’t necessarily about winning the race or winning the election. It is about thriving in this moment is showing up in your fullest potential as a podcast host, as a partner, as a friend, as whatever, as a cook making dinner, so we can look at it as so many different angles.
One of the things that I see as a trap in our self-help culture, is this tendency to sometimes get caught up in constantly striving whether that’s materially striving or spiritually and in your book you talk about this moment, where you let go of needing to look where feel better all the time.
And I was wondering if you could tell us about what brought about that shift and how important it is to find the balance between thriving in the world but allowing the process to take place so that you’re not constantly striving for something and feeling that you are less than or not enough in the moment.
Yeah! that’s a great question, and I think it’s what happens, and what happened to me, and what happens for so many people as we journey on this road to awakening from the illusions that really hold us back from just being purely alive, is that we start to recognize all of these cultural conditions to push, force, fix constantly want more better. And so when I use thriving and shining, I don’t necessarily mean getting right or being anything different than who you genuinely are in this moment, when we can show up in the moment fully. We are the best version of ourselves we will never be any better than we are when we’re present.
And so, I was in a yoga pose and as a yoga teacher I see a lot of striving and pushing and forcing and I certainly have done my share myself. And so I’ve learned from watching my students and also watching myself in my practice. It’s like, I was in a pose I remember in the back row in a yoga center and I was in this post called humble warrior. Humble warrior, when I’m trying to push my head to the floor in the pose. And i was like, what the heck am I doing, like where am I going and what happens if my head touches the floor. Like is it going to be any better, or is my life going to be better.
And it’s just in that one fell swoop, I just saw it all like, wow, you know the forcing is just keeping me from just being present in this, to feeling my heartbeat, to feeling my muscles. the whole stiff feeling, the connectedness with the rest of the room like my pushing is holding me back from just living and being. And so I came up with these my own way of reminding myself,
It’s not about thinking, it’s about being.
It’s not about thinking, it’s about being,
It’s not about doing or achieving, it’s about experiencing like can I experience this moment?
And so that’s where I was.
When I think that’s a pretty common thing too, especially in asana work, where people interpret the asanas as a destination instead of the journey itself. Or it’s like, “oh something magical and spiritual happen once I get to a certain place in a posture”, instead of recognizing that the opportunity in the journey that the posture allows is the practice itself.
In your book you talk a lot about active and passive attention and this is something I do a lot with my students when teaching. And I’m curious to hear how you think like how important is active attention in, not only learning new skills but in thriving in the world? and how is that different from passive attention?
Right, so it’s a great question I don’t often get asked it’s a thank you. See, these subtleties of our practice are so important. And so, active and passive attention really comes down to mindfulness and we all know this. And I try as best as I can to speak as widely and as simply because that’s the way I respond best as well. Like you know I love to dive deep into these practices but it’s all really common sense, we already know these stuff that you and I talk about all day long, right? Everybody knows this.
So active and passive attention. Passive attention, if you think about driving home from work and you’re sort of here and sort of not, you’re driving down the road, you always go down, you’re not noticing, you know what’s going on around, you’ve got the news on, your kind of listening to the news and you’re thinking about dinner. Well you’re doing all this stuff, but you’re really not paying attention to anything. You’re kind of just moving through life on autopilot.
Where active attention, it doesn’t mean you’re noticing the ant crossing the road but you are actively aware, there’s a brightness and alertness, a sense of ease and peace. Also, arises when you’re actively paying attention, so what is catching my attention right now, well it’s the yellow light, so I better slow down and that news, it’s getting a little bit loud so I’m going to turn it down so I can focus on what’s happening in the noise around me. You know we just become more vividly alert in the moment, so this active attention on our yoga mats is about noticing how to press your big toe down, maybe even your inner heel. Sometimes I have yoga students come to me as some of these cues are crazy, like who really cares where your inner heel is, right? And I just explain, it’s a way of training our brain, we’re just training our brain to be able to focus on the subtle details of what’s happening in this moment because that makes life rich.
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When you’re emphasizing your attention on where you’re placing your foot ,and how you’re lifting your arm, one of the things that you’re not doing is thinking that same cyclical thinking that’s normally filling up our head of, oh my gosh I got this bill to pay, I got this thing to do and it’s providing that powerful anchor point for your mind.
I see this a lot. My friends, myself, and my students too with people in this idea that like, oh well they’re just good at everything that they do and me I’m not good at these things. And so, when people are trying things that are new to them, you have certain people that tend to always thrive in what they’re doing and people like, oh no I’m not good at this, I suck, or whatever it may be.
And when you look at the main differences, a lot of it comes down to that attention piece. That someone may have never have done that skill before, but simply because they’re paying attention to what they’re doing, they’re more likely to thrive instead of that passive attention of,
“Well, I’m kind of there but I’m also thinking about how I’ve never done this before, and I might not be good at it ,what are people going to think of me if I fail.”
It completely changes the relationship to that, whatever task it is we’re doing in the moment. Which I think it’s one of the reasons why our practice can be so powerful. Because it allows that training of the mind to be more active in how we pay attention. So I love how much that is brought into the work that you do.
What are some of the likely roadblocks and distractions someone might encounter when they’re really actively out thriving in the world and they’re living in the world and they still want to stay connected to spirit.
Well first, what I’d like to just emphasize here is because when I teach, what I don’t want students to think and when I write is that, Oh gosh, now I got to be mindful, now it’s like another thing that I have to practice every day” And so, instead of thinking that this is something you have to do, why not start to recognize the moments in your life when you are already present, when you are noticing. Like start to notice that, this is my whole kind of switcheroo is that we’re already present and noticing, all the time. And this is going to lead me into the roadblocks that you’re talking about. So we are already present much of the day and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.
And so, this is what I’m pointing to in in my book, and in my teaching. So why not recognize that moment when you pause and watch the sunset or the moment you just pause before you dive into your dinner. The moment you gaze into somebody’s eyes and hold the gaze for a moment, or you think about the email before you send it.
These are moments. We have these moments already.
When we start to recognize the times when we are present, not only do they start to lengthen because we get better at paying attention, but we also start to notice when we’re not. So when we start to notice those moments, when we do pay attention actively or pause we start to notice the moments when you’re speeding through life.
Or when we meet up against these roadblocks or obstacles that hold us back from living fully, that hold us back from showing up in the moment. such as doubt, fear, restlessness, laziness. These are these are hindrances the Buddhist call them hindrances to practice.
There are all these habitual patterns, this cult, this conditioning. This idle conditioning that many of us just kind of are born with some of it and we collect some of it along the way. So when we start to notice, when we are present, we can then start to notice up,
“Here I go again now I’m in doubt. This is doubt arising, I know this because it doesn’t feel like I am present. Something’s blocking me.”
And so, it’s like this beautiful painting, we just analyzed it, look at it from different perspectives.
And you talk about some of our cultural conditioning as well and our culture and even just our modern day, not even in our culture alone but perhaps worldwide. It feels like it’s constantly speeding up and rushing forward to some goal.
How important is slowing down in this process of really allowing ourselves to thrive?
It seems like we’re always stepping on the gas pedal.
Is that is that the way to thrive, by always adding more and taking on more things to do?
Or is it about observing so much about what you’re talking about ?
Where does slowing down fit into all this? Does it fit into all these?
Oh yeah! It certainly does. So there’s this great quote and think it was Chuck I’m trying to says when there’s no speed, there’s no struggle. When there’s no speed, there’s no struggle. It’s when we’re speeding through life that we accumulate struggle but when there’s no speed when we’re able to show up in this moment, which is the verge, in this moment. In this moment maybe I need to hit send in this moment, or I need to drink some water in this moment. We slow down time.
So I had this you know crazy conquest about ten years ago is like how do I slow down time it’s going so fast and I remember reading in The Power of Now, Eckhart Toll. He said, if you want to make time slow down, just be present.
OKay, wow! And it’s so true because each moment becomes full of life. I talk about it a lot being fully alive, being lit up. So we’re actually not more productive when we’re moving quickly. And we can slow time down be so much more efficient and effective even in speaking if we slow down. Everything we do when we’re present, we do better.
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I don’t know if that answers your question, but..
No I think it does, and I mean the slowing down allows for so much more and I think I might not be getting the quote right but something to the fact that, ”when you can go slow, then you can go fast, but just because you’re going fast doesn’t mean you can actually go slow like you’re inhibited. just cause you’re trying to constantly raced forward. It’s a lot harder to actually slow it down, but sure if you’re taking the time to be present, then you develop the skill set necessary if it’s appropriate to then speed up but it doesn’t really work the other way around. So I think starting from that place of present of just sitting in the moment as you said, so much more becomes available at that point, because you’re paying attention to what’s happening now so trying to rush off and race after the next thing to come in front.
Now in your book you share a lot of practices and I think that’s so important that we’re not just caught up in this idea realm up in the head and thoughts. You’ve got these primer practices and verge practices as one. If you talk about that a little bit and perhaps offer our listeners two really powerful practices. Obviously, to encourage them to get and read your book. What are two practices that people could do to start to incorporate in their lives to really help them thrive more?
It’s great! You know the primer practices are really simple by the way. Having been a teacher for so many years, I know. And having read a lot of books like this by the way. I know that most people are just going to kind of, “oh nice there’s another practice just flip the page.”
So I really wanted to make sure that they were simple to do for everybody and they’re really helpful. They’re just ways to interrupt your busy mind so that you can be here now.
One of my favorites and one of the ones that a lot of readers come to me just saying, “Yeah yeah this really works” is sky gazing. So this is simple, everybody can do it, you can do it at any time of the day just to pause maybe three five breaths. If you can do more, do more and look at the sky.
And just pause there’s this expanse when we look at the sky. There’s this vastness takes over us and it just opens our mind up from the tightness, or the speed or, the business that we get so stuck in imprisoned in. So look up at the sky, nice sky, morning sky doesn’t matter even if it’s through a window. and just pause for a few breaths and it’s amazing the shift that can happen or the slowing down that you may feel.
And this done over time like you said before, we’re training our brain. We can train ourselves to slow down, we can train ourselves to speak like we’re looking at the sky., or to you know cook like everything we do, we do so with so much more quality when we’re in this state of just here.
So I love Sky gazing and the other one and that one of my favorites is called “Be kind”, it’s actually called the verge strategy, which is something that we do all the time. We can just constantly remind ourselves to be kind to ourselves. We live in a culture where we’re really really good at beating ourselves up, myself included. But the more we can befriend ourselves, just even by putting your hand on your heart, or just giving yourself a little encouragement like, “Come on. You got this, you got this” or “It’s alright. Let’s just do better next time, it’s alright. Here we go, here we go, let’s try again. This loving kind of talk like you talk to your dog I talk about in the in the book. You know talk to yourself like you talk your to your dog, or cat, or young child and it softens things. It slows things down, it opens you up to again just moving more slowly in this moment, in this moment doing the best that you can right now.
Okay. What do some of your daily spiritual practices look like?
So I have a lot of practices but I do a few consistently. And I’m not like crazy extreme type of practitioner where I have my moments. But what I can say is that I’m really consistent and I think that works for me. So every morning I write in my journal, for five ten minutes. Every morning depends on how much time I have up to half an hour, and every day I move my body in some capacity, even if it’s just a walk. But every day, I’ve got to move my body in rhythm. It aligns my whole energetic field. Movement helps me, I don’t always move to work out, I just move because I’ve got a body and it wants to move.
I often tell people, you know if you could just move your body in these directions every day your spine is going to be really healthy and happy. So you wanna to go backward forward, bend to the side and to the side and twist, twist. So backward forward side, side, twist, twist, even if you just do that for a few moments, few minutes you’ll feel better.
Absolutely. When you figured too with our sedentary culture and even what we call the active sedentary where people are going to gyms for an hour, maybe even three plus times a week. But the majority of the time they’re sitting at a desk, they’re sitting In the couch, they’re laying in bed, so even though they have those moments of getting their heart rate up, it’s still not the way we were designed in nature to be moving regularly. And you point it really well to the consistency piece like, hey, just when you get a moment twist, move, move from side to side like get your body active it has such amazing effects not only physically for the body but emotionally, mentally as well to ground us down into that present moment. And like we’ve been talking about so much slowing things down, paying attention.
I think that’s where the movement practices in particular with yoga can be so helpful and just hey we don’t need to always set aside an hour or two for practice, but just throughout the day, taking those moments to move your spine or to move through just a basic set of movements is so helpful for everybody. I think that’s great.
Now let’s take a hypothetical for a moment and say you’re walking down the street and you see somebody with their head down and they’re clearly, you know, not thriving in life and they kind of turn to you and they asked for some type of advice. They’ve only got this minute or so chatting with them along your walk to distill the bulk of your message that you offer to the world.
What would you share with this person?
Wow, One minute. That’s tough.
It could be a few minutes. We’ll given, even a few minutes will be tough but you know someone comes across your way in and you’ve just got that moment to share with them something to get them on the path. I mean obviously, you know we can’t transmit any type of a big message but sometimes those big complicated messages aren’t even what people need, it’s that little bit of inspiration, that little bit of push.
How can you really draw your message into a container that could allow someone in that space to really begin to thrive more?
That’s great, Well firstly, I definitely went through a few breaths with them. Because so much happens experientially that goes beyond words. There’s so much that’s indescribable. So that’s why I love teaching yoga so much because it does get people moving.
But to answer your questions I’d probably do a few breaths with them, just so we can both settle and steady and stabilize. Because once we’ve settled down and I would tell them, once you’re able to settle your mind down in your nervous system down a bit, the world opens up. All of a sudden you’re able to see more clearly, just start to hear the wisdom arise from within. That direction, the information, comes up through us, every single one of us. And when we can start to trust ourselves and trust the messages that we’re hearing from within, we will start to move and speak in a way that we haven’t ever done before perhaps. So it’s about settling, stabilizing and then listening and trusting yourself because there’s no better version of you waiting out there.
Who you are at its best arrives right now, right now in this moment and so we have to continue to experience that in order to really trust it, otherwise it’s just someone giving you some advice.
Beautiful. Well, Cara I really appreciate the work that you’re doing in the world. I enjoyed reading your book.
Where can people find out more about you?
I know you’ve got carabradley.net and for listeners making sure that they’re going .net not .com.
Where can we find about you?
What’s the best way for people to get your book?
Where we can find out more about the things that you’re offering?
Yeah. So my websites chock full of stuff I’ve got loaded, loads and loads of stuff on there. I also have a free app, I developed an app to go along with my book it’s called “on the verge” and it’s on the App Store right, now coming soon for Android and it has a primer practices, audio, guided practices, video, I have some yoga on there and some moving meditation. It’s a great app that really can help you keep this book and this information alive so that it actually you start to gain some ground. So on the verge is the app and then my websites got lots CaraBradley.net and then again I’m all over social media Youtube channel, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
So come and join me, follow me, and love to hear from you.
Awesome, love it! So read the book do the actual practices that’s in the book and then the app’s to help support people along that journey as well.
So it’s awesome, like that.
Again, thank you so much Cara for being on the show today really appreciate you sharing your wisdom I hope people go out and find out more about you, read your book, check out all the things you’re doing out there in the world because you obviously have a lot to share.
To all listeners out there thank you so much for tuning in today, I hope you’ve learned a lot as well. Many thanks to Cara.
I hope you all have a very present moment and Cara thank you again.
Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this show today. Please go over the iTunes, write a review, and let us know what you think. It helps us in creating new content for all of you. It also helps new listeners get a sense of what to expect from the show.
We really appreciate your feedback. Thanks again for listening. Namaste.
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