Mindfulness

Search… and REALLY ENJOY.


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Karen Rohlf has a concept called “Search and Enjoy”.

The idea is that you search… search… search… and then enjoy. When you’re enjoying, you’re doing just that. You’re not telling your horse anything. You’re just enjoying the feeling that you’ve found together.

In the beginning, you can search for a while… but as you go along, your time searching should become shorter and shorter, and your time enjoying should become longer.

I’ve been focusing on this a lot recently. I’ve found that in the past, I’ve often been okay with searching for far too long… or not searching skillfully (i.e., floundering instead of searching)… or not enjoying it once I do find it. I also realized that I almost expect to end on a good note… but also to find that good note just before I end the session. I don’t spend time enjoying that good note. Most of my session with my horse is okay, and the last couple of minutes are really what I wanted the whole ride to feel like. Why wasn’t I spending more of the session or ride there?

I also brought into this layer the intention of enjoying the searching process. So, search and enjoy doesn’t just mean that you’re miserable while searching and you enjoy once you find it… it means you enjoy the search process, and then you REALLY take time to enjoy the enjoying.

I found that my horses were much happier this way, and that we had so much more fun! I enjoyed the session more, the searching was done with clear intentions to search skillfully and then find a space where we could enjoy. If I realized I was asking for more than they could realistically find to enjoy, I lowered or changed my expectations. This created a lot more enjoyment and a lot more clarity in my sessions… my horses were definitely thankful.

Again, just a little something to play with…

Wellness with Horses

Move With Your Horse–Pushing Hands for Horseback Riding


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Have you ever practiced “pushing hands”?

The exercise is done by placing your palms against the palm of another person. The two of you then begin to move together. You move where you feel an opening, you give where you feel gentle guidance into an opening. You try to create as little brace as possible… as much fluidity, so it feels like you’re gliding through air. This exercises really doesn’t involve push. It should be called “NOT pushing hands”.

A couple of days ago while riding Hope, I set the intention to move with her–not just in terms of biomechanics and seat, but to really move with her, in the whole ride, in all directions. I wasn’t sure what this meant to me at first, but I knew I wanted to explore it at a deeper level than I had been.

I was really feeling into her body and her movement, trying to feel those openings–the places we could move into easily with no brace.

As we continued to play with this, we both started deepening further into softness, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I started feeling openings not just in directions, but also for a specific bend or movement. As we played, we began to slowly dance across the field… we began to breathe softly and deeply… gliding across the grass. It began to feel like we were home together… neither of us pushed or pressured or told… connected, wild, and free.

Enjoy exploring another layer, another concept with your beautiful friends.

Lifestyle

Happy Birthday to my Favorite Mom!


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As a kid, I would often walk up to my mom, wrap my arms around her, and tell her, “Mommy, I love you. You’re my favorite mom.”

It’s still true.

My mom is a beautiful, kind lady… she helps everyone everywhere she goes. She’s my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my best horse friend too. And today, we’ll be spending the day doing all of our favorite things, hiking, laughing, doing yoga, and playing with ponies… and I get to do it with my favorite mom.

*Cue the song My Favorite Things*

I’m so proud of her for reaching into the unknown and developing a new way of helping riders overcome stress and fear… one that’s empowering and honors the whole individual every step of the way. Here’s to many years of friendship and partnership in playing with ponies and helping others.

Mindfulness

Do what you love and you will be what you love.


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Do what you love and you will be what you love.

In this picture, I see two beings doing what they love.

I see a beautifully imperfect girl and her beautifully imperfect horse.

In this photo, I was tight. I had to bend my knees to touch my toes.

In this photo, Hope was tight. Her body is not perfect. Neither is mine.

In this photo, we were learning a new way to be together.

In this photo, I was taking care of myself so I could offer her the space she needed to love and be loved.

In this photo, we were blossoming.

In this photo, we are beautiful.

Often times when we see photos, whether of others or ourselves, our initial reaction is to judge. We see what isn’t perfect. What isn’t good enough. What doesn’t look like enough healthy movement, or enough of a smile, or a weird angle.

We often categorize our life in moments, judgments, tests, measures, and comparisons. We look for whether or not we’ve “made it”. Whether or not we’re “there yet”. Whether we’re “being who we want to be”.

If we’re doing what we love every day, aren’t we being that person? Aren’t we being our most authentic selves? If we’re loving openly every day, aren’t we? If we’re doing something, even a little something… aren’t we? If we’re at least taking a moment to take care of ourselves… aren’t we? Even if it’s not every day but on average… aren’t we?

Do what you love and you will be what you love.

My friends… you are that person. You are where you need to be. You are the person you want to be. And your horse is right there with you… The two of you, together, to help and support and do and be along the way. Loving and expressing the ups and downs… being what you love.

Mindfulness

Simplifying Choices with Heartspace


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An initiation of change from a decision. A decision that has rippled out to affect my entire life. Thanks to my mom for capturing this photo and Aimee Brimhall-McCord for creating the space for others to realize their change.

Love is gentle. Love is kind. Love involves fluctuation, adaptation, give and take. Love is a choice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices recently–the choice to wake up early, the choice to be productive, the choice to simplify things so that it’s easier to do everything that’s most important.

I’ve also been thinking about how we make choices. I often make choices through logical explanation, reasoning, and a lot of overthinking and circling around, a lot of stress, and a lot of indecision… and finally, at the last moment (essentially when I have to), a choice.

This causes me a lot of grief, a lot of hours, and a lot of frustration. How not fun is that?

Recently I’ve been playing with the concept of simplifying, and adding in some flow and some heartspace. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these concepts, I’ve written the general idea below.

Heartspace: Feel the area around your heart. Feel love, compassion, kindness, or another positive emotion that you can access. Breathe into that emotion. Imagine a time where you felt that very vibrantly. Bring it into this moment. Allow yourself the space to share that with yourself and others into this moment.

Flow: Letting loose, softening, not being so mechanical… feeling. Moving. Not getting stuck.

So I’ve been applying these concepts to the idea of making decisions. I’ve been timing myself–giving myself five minutes, let’s say. I wasn’t open to this idea at first, but decided to try it anyway. I got to a point where I was desperate to not be drawn out into a long and dramatic epic of decision making. Then I breathe into my heart. I bring up that positive, loving feeling–whatever flavor it takes on today. I bring up the opportunity, the decision, the question. I sit on the options. Feel into them. Feel how my heart, my self, my emotions respond. I honor that. I notice. I might ask another question, or I might just feel into it more. Often though, I get a simple answer.

I might also take a few minutes (also timed) to make a chart, to appeal to my inner logic referee.

(Chart example)

I do this to soothe my worries… but then, at the end of the time, I make a decision. I always take both into account… but honestly, my heartspace hasn’t lied yet. It’s usually what I want, what I need, what makes sense… And even when it hasn’t been the easiest or the most logical decision with the information I have at the moment, it’s usually clear a few weeks or months down the road how that decision carved an important path into my life.

So… try it. Try simplifying your choices and decisions.

First, set the intention: I’m going to actually MAKE one. Not flounder. Require that it be simple. Clear.

Then, timer. Heartspace.

If you need to, time again. Create a rational chart. Keep it simple.

Now, decide. Jump to it. Dive in. 100%.

And accept… whatever you decide, if you really don’t like it… Life is always changing. You have more choices to come. If you don’t like it, make another choice. To change.

Thanks to Aimee Brimhall-McCord for being open to us using her word “Heartspace” in our language

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Lifestyle

Taking Care of Yourself v. Wishing for Something Different


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The idea of taking care of yourself versus wishing for something different.

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When you have the intention of taking care of yourself, it’s out of love. It feels good. Your movements or care-taking practices are centered around making sure that you are and feel supported to enjoy your life… so you can move, breathe, feel, and adapt throughout your day.

When you approach wellness practices from the perspective of wishing you were or had something different, there’s a certain amount of stress and pressure. You’re doing something so you can be different–which means if you aren’t different yet, you haven’t “gotten there” yet. Your actions have still not led to accomplishment. Until you are different, everything feels somewhat empty. Until you are different, everything is for the sake of an image, or a word. The enjoyment is taken out of the process–difficult times become setbacks, instead of opportunities to learn more about something or take care of yourself better, or feedback as to how you didn’t take care of and honor yourself fully. It becomes about the goal, rather than the journey. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that when you get there, you’ll recognize it or be satisfied with it. You’ve developed and become attached to the pattern of never being satisfied… of having pressure on yourself… of expecting something more, something different, something better. Unless you consciously become aware of and decide to change the pattern, you’ll likely remain there.

So, today, when doing your wellness practices, or even just when living your day… enjoy taking care of yourself. Enjoy honoring yourself. Enjoy adding to your day, this time in your life, this activity… Allow difficulties to come up, and appreciate the feedback or the knowledge you gain. And always, appreciate the time you take to take care of yourself. What a wonderful thing to do.

I find that when people approach wellness, bodywork, or their horses in this way… in light of taking care of and honoring, they get so much more out of everything. They absorb more, feel more, and grow more. They let go of more, and find more calm. They gain more from their challenges and their enjoyments. Because they’re here. They’re present. And they’re coming from a place of love.

 

I would like to add to this that I have nothing against goals–in fact, I think goals are wonderful for keeping yourself on track (so long as they’re adaptable, of course). While goals are not bad, I still think it’s nice to keep a primary intention of taking care of yourself or your horse, and then making secondary goals around that intention.

Wellness with Horses

Horses and Connection


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I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment for the past week or so where I do whatever I think I should maybe do… Rather than disregarding the little thought inside of my head, I try my best to do it with the time that I have.

I’ve been sick the past few days, so everything’s been a little harder to manage. The other day, I had the inkling that perhaps I should go walk out to the horses for a minute. It turned out that Cherish needed her hooves to be trimmed. I was able to trim the front two, which needed it the most, and then play with her some at the walk. It was such a beautiful time.

I’ve also had inklings of ideas that I should meditate, or go for a short walk, or breathe deeper, or call someone, or text a friend, or dance with ribbons, or do yoga… or even just be more present in the moment. These little thoughts are usually centered around connection.

Recently, with this listening to the little nudges, I’ve also been getting some bigger nudges… One in particular–a bigger nudge to let my spiritual journey and my horse journey intertwine deeper.

I realized that my body, in being sick and sensitive, has been trying to tell me something for the past few months (I’ve had yucky days or weeks off and on at different periods). Not unlike me, I’ve been cramming in way too many things for the sake of education. I’ve learned so many things that I haven’t had adequate time to truly use any of it. It’s all in the mechanical and technical part of my brain, before it becomes a part of my heart and natural movement. My horses have noticed this, I’ve noticed this, my heart has noticed this… but until I started listening to those nudges I wasn’t really feeling it. I found how much I need to connect more, how much I need to allow these things I’ve learned to deeply become a part of my being.

Hope connection
A moment of beautiful connection the other day with Hope… who happens to be very excellent at letting me know when I am or am not connected.

Naturally, central to our journeys with our horses is connection. We all want to have beautiful, meaningful connection with our beloved friends–but how can we when we can’t even connect to ourselves? How can we have the most beautiful connection to our horses when we ourselves can’t live in a state of connection?

The way you find that state of being connected, present, and full of heart, able to be a guider and a leader and a friend, feeling and giving and receiving… the way you find all of that is up to you. But for me, for now, I believe my next step is to allow my spiritual journey and my journey with my horses to intertwine. I believe that the horses are quite powerful spiritual teachers. Who is more connected to the earth, the heart, and the herd than a horse?

True, horses can also get disconnected… but perhaps if we start to help them find connection, we will find that we also have to find more ability to connect in ourselves to help them. Either way–whether your horse is already connected or whether you are both teaching and giving each other feedback–I encourage you to learn to be connected from one of the most sensitive and connection-driven beings I know… your horse. Your friend.

I may write some of what I learn as I go along… Know that my spiritual journey is a personal one, and that what you find for yourself with your horse, whether you’re highlighting the spiritual and connection side or not, will always be unique and beautiful to you.

To be discovered…

 

With Love,

Kara

Lifestyle

Mind-Body Tools for Anxiety and Stress


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When you have anxiety or stress (whether general and all the time or over one event), there are a lot of free resources out there. There’s nothing wrong with being stressed–it’s a natural reaction. When we feel stressed, we’re doing our best to take care of and protect ourselves… but sometimes we get a little too stuck in our mental whirlwind.

Please note that I am not sponsored by any of these references and do not receive any compensation for the links. These are simply things I believe in. They’ve worked for me and I wanted to share.

 

Tools for Coming Back Into Your Body

Tapping

There are many resources on tapping. EFT and the Masgutova Method’s Fear Paralysis Reflex are the two that I am most familiar with. I personally choose to use the Fear Paralysis Reflex most of the time. Scroll further down the page for instructions and more information.

EFT has a lot of variations. Below is a basic selection of points from The Tapping
Solution.

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Also, play with feeling areas that your body carries or stores emotional tension. Try tapping here. Tap gently, then more firmly. Use the palm of your hand, the heel of your hand, and just a couple of fingers. Tap on a stick or ball (like your hand is a hammer). Play with it. See what happens. Just remember–if you feel physical pain, do it lighter, more gently, or stop altogether. Pain is not the aim. Relaxation is.

 

Grounding and Breathing

Feel your feet. Feel how your feet are connected to the earth. Place a hand on your stomach. Breathe into your hand, expanding into your hand, and then softly releasing as you exhale. Ground into your feet again. Feel the weight of the earth supporting you. Rock softly on your feet, forward and back. Breathe deeply into your hand. Rock left to right on your feet, slowly and softly. Notice when you feel more balanced or more supported. Now rock around, just playing, finding where you feel most balanced and most supported by the earth. Once you find that spot, feel free to still rock ever so slightly, to keep a slight ebb and flow in your movement. Continue to breathe deeply into your hand.

There are many guided audios for grounding, and everyone has different preferences. There are some with music, and some without–and many different variations of grounding practices. I have not yet found one that is my favorite–rather, I use the above sequence.

 

Yoga with Adriene, yoga practices

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Adriene has multiple practices for stress, anxiety, peace or inner peace, and calm, all with different lengths. Many of her practices are free. Many are contemplative, some focus more on noticing different feelings in your body. She’s fun, quirky, and all her practices are light-hearted and meet you where you are. And sometimes her adorable dog joins her–even better. Pick the one that sounds like it will best fit your needs today. One of my favorites is actually the Listen practice.

Yoga with Adriene Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

Yoga with Adriene Listen practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTo07ejsYoQ

 

Yoga with Adriene, Meditation for Anxiety

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This is a breathing based meditation that encourages you to sit with the emotions that come up and then focus on the breath.

Yoga with Adriene Meditation for Anxiety practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pLUleLdwY4&t=2s

 

Stop. Breathe. Think. App

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This is a nifty little app I’ve often used over the years for simple, short guided meditation practices. I’ve only ever used the free version, but there are enough practices to support you for a few minutes. The woman’s voice is especially calming to me. I often use this to help me calm before going to sleep if I’m having trouble winding down.

Their website: https://www.stopbreathethink.com/

 

Easy breezy movement.

Don’t think about it–just blend your movements. Walk around, take some funny steps, move like a horse, maybe bring in a yoga pose–whatever it is, do it as soft and easy as you can. Flow. Move about the room if you can, or if you’re out in nature, step up and off a log… Enjoy your surroundings, enjoy yourself. Maybe turn on some music, whatever you find most relaxing. Just play in this space.

 

Take a walk.

A ten minute walk can put you in the parasympathetic nervous system for the rest of the day. We’re talking lowered cortisol levels, deeper breathing, softer movement that’s better for your body, less reactive, more adaptable, calmer, happier you. Don’t be worried about power walking, or even timing your watch. Just go out, breathe, and enjoy the day. If the weather’s too yucky to walk outside, try walking around slowly inside in curved lines while listening to calm music or looking out the windows. This helps you be less direct-lined and get more into the calm, flow state.

 

Walk outside barefoot, even for just a few minutes.

The connection to the earth is calming, and brings our attention more to our feet. Our feet have almost as many sensory nerves as our hands do. This helps bring us back into our bodies, and back in touch with nature–a much slower moving, more organic thing.

 

Soft senses.

We often have our laser beam focus on. Take a moment to soften your vision. Soften your hearing. Sit back a little bit. Take in a wider focus. Soften your senses some more. Allow the edges to blur. Maybe turn the corners of your lips up a little. Soften your face. Soften your vision and your hearing. Soften the space around your heart. Breathe softly. Blink softly. Smile softly. Soft eyes, soft ears. When you perceive the world through soft and big-picture lenses and hearing, you experience the world as a soft place, and mentally think more big picture, allowing you to not stress so much about the little things.

 

Thoughts on Shifting Perspectives

Loving-Kindness Meditation

I appreciate the free meditations by Barbara Frederickson, PhD. She used them with some of her Psychology and Mindfulness/Positive Psychology studies and now offers them for free to the public. What a nice gal. She also has a very soothing voice.

Barbara Frederickson’s LKM (there are multiple practices): http://www.positivityresonance.com/meditations.html

 

Gratitude

Taking a few minutes (or seconds) to write down what you’re grateful for and why can start to shift your perspectives to the things you love and appreciate rather than all the things you don’t love and wish didn’t exist. If that’s what you perceive, that’s your reality.

 

Positive Psychology–being aware of the positive

Positive Psychology is not about always being happy. It’s about continuously expanding our ability to be aware of positive things, have resilience in tough times, and be calm and enjoy our lives.

One of the fundamental concepts in positive psychology is the Broaden and Build Theory (by Barbara Frederickson, PhD). The idea is essentially that the more you begin to focus on positive elements in your life (or something else), the more your body expects that that is the normal way of living, and the more it broadens and builds over time, creating an exponential curve of growth in whatever thing you are implementing more intentionally.

If we intentionally bring positive perspectives (even of negative situations), loving-kindness, gratitude, and calmness into our lives, our bodies will naturally broaden and build on those elements in preparation for the next season–so it is more prepared to respond to that version of reality in the following season.

There are many different exercises you can do with this. Barbara Frederickson’s books or her Coursera Course with UNC at Chapel Hill are good resources. Here’s a couple of simple concepts:

Compassion

Choose to see things through the perspective of compassion, whether for yourself or others. Know that everyone is trying their best to honor and take care of their needs. They do not always carry out that intention positively, but they fundamentally meant well. We are all struggling. Extend compassion to yourself and to others when you find yourself getting frustrated.

Positivity Box

Keep a few photos or items in a box, or on your phone. These can be quotes, trinkets, doodles, or photographs you’ve taken. On a daily basis, look back through these things. Take time to appreciate them.

Recalling the Positive

After each day, write down (okay, summarize) all the positive things that happened that day–they can be things you appreciated, or things you loved, or things that simply made you smile. Many of us have access to food, water, and rest. We can all make choices. Even if this is all you can write down, do so. The idea with this is that not only are you remembering the positive things in the evening (thereby getting better sleep because you’re more relaxed and positive), you’re also looking for positive things the following day.

Barbara Frederickson’s Coursera Course: https://www.coursera.org/learn/positive-psychology

Her two books are Love 2.0 and Positivity. They are both lengthy but good, if you are looking for more of the “why”. They are available as audio books through audible.

Love 2.0: https://www.amazon.com/Love-2-0-Finding-Happiness-Connection/dp/0142180475/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529703023&sr=1-3&keywords=barbara+frederickson

Positivity:

https://www.amazon.com/Positivity-Top-Notch-Research-Reveals-Upward/dp/0307393747/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529703023&sr=1-1&keywords=barbara+frederickson

 

Know that you are doing your best to try to take care of and honor yourself.

Our bodies and minds are wired for survival. Likelihood of survival goes up when we are feeling well, doing well, and are able to respond well to a variety of situations. If we’re responding negatively something, it’s not because we wish to bring chaos to the world–it’s because we want to take care of ourselves or someone else, but we don’t know how, or we have insecurities or traumas that cause us to react emotionally instead of respond mindfully. Don’t be hard on yourself for this–everyone experiences this. Extend compassion to yourself and to others, and hope that they will do the same for you–but know that if they don’t, it’s only because they, too, are hurting, and are trying their best to honor and protect and maintain the safe version of reality that they have chosen for themselves.

 

Releasing You from a Physiological Stress Reflex

Masgutova Method Fear Paralysis Reflex protocol

If you do not have a practitioner near you, Svetlana’s Parents’ Guide to MNRI book has this reflex outlined in it. https://masgutovamethod.com/estore/featured/parents-guide-to-mnri

Another effective method to use is to tap on your sternum. Svetlana uses a Cha-Cha—Cha-Cha-Cha rhythm. I find this more soothing than a constant rhythm.

Another way to practice the Fear Paralysis reflex somatically is to lie on your back, and slowly curl up into a ball, bending your arms and legs into your center. Slowly come out of it, focusing on the expanding and lengthening. When you reach the table, simply lie in a neutral place and breathe deeply. Enjoy a feeling of peace. Repeat this a few times.

Another thing you can do with this–if you start to feel like you are freezing in fear, begin to tap on your chest, but then slowly use the idea of easy breezy movement to unlock yourself from this position. Even if you are walking, walk with some amount of ease and fluidity. Do not force yourself to walk in straight lines or very erect–allow softness and curved lines to come into your body and movement. Continue to tap while you flow in your body. Feel into the perspective that you can move forward–even if you cannot move directly forward. Ask yourself if there is another way to approach the situation that feels better to you. The important thing is to just keep moving. Release yourself from the pattern of freeze.

Please contact me to learn more about the Fear Paralysis Reflex, or to find out if other things could be added to your practice to help you.

 

Masgutova Method Moro Reflex Protocol

If you do not have a practitioner near you, Svetlana has some resources available on her website for the full protocol. These are designed to be done with two people. Parents’ Guide to MNRI has this reflex outlined in it. https://masgutovamethod.com/estore/featured/parents-guide-to-mnri

Another way you can practice Moro somatically is to go into extension with all of your joints, having your arms out diagonally away from you, mouth open, and then slowly come into flexion with all of your joints.

Repeat this a few times.

 

Cross-Body Connection

Cross your legs. Cross your arms, then turn your palms toward each other and interlace your fingers. Now rotate your hands back towards your body until they are on your chest. Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Breathe deeply. Hang out here.

 

Somatic Release–Green Light, Red Light, or Trauma Reflex protocol

I recommend finding a Hanna Somatic or other Somatic practitioner near you if you can. If you do not have access one, you can try the book, “Somatics”. You can also email me and set up a personal video coaching with a support document that will walk you through some of the exercises that you can do on your own.

Thomas Hanna’s book “Somatics”: https://www.amazon.com/Somatics-Reawakening-Control-Movement-Flexibility/dp/0738209570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529702490&sr=8-1&keywords=somatics

Find a Hanna Somatic practitioner:

http://hannasomatics.com/index.php/find_a_practitioner

Please note: This is not a completely comprehensive list of practitioners who have finished the certification, only of those who maintain membership with this particular association. I also find that there are others who have not finished the certification, or who have done another somatic training, but are still very good practitioners. Note that I have not finished the Hanna Somatic certification. I use a variety of methods, including what I have learned from Hanna Somatics, but believe that the method is very valuable. The principles form the basis of my work.

 

For any of the movement or body methods listed above, I can do video coaching and create a support document for you. Please email me at kara@wellnessbasedhorsemanship.com if you are interested in more information.

 

If you find that you need more help shifting perspectives or with the emotional side of wellness and growth, my mom does phone sessions with mental wellness coaching and life coaching. Please email her at brita@wellnessbasedhorsemanship.com for more information.

Mindfulness

Slowly Developing Consistency and Finding Meaning in Patterns


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Consistency has been a theme that has continued to come up for me recently, with instructors, horses, bodywork clients, and in my personal life.

Consistency is not just something I didn’t have, it’s something that I was actively fighting for a long time. When I had to enroll in a program that was largely based in or required a lot of consistency, I balked, and tried to put in as much variety as possible.

Recently I’m finding value in consistency–for growth, stability, balance, wellness, efficiency, and for patterns.

Patterns are developed for a reason. Methods of bodywork, horsemanship, or riding often use patterns for teaching, developing, or balancing. They are crafted over time for a specific purpose. Somewhere along the way I became quite convinced that everyone’s method (even those I highly respected) absolutely needed to be changed. While I still believe that everything can be improved upon, I was often challenging and fighting against fundamental patterns which worked really well.

I’m especially thinking of my somatics (human and equine) practice here. Thomas and Eleanor Hanna didn’t just randomly decide to put a bunch of movements together in a random way or random order. I’m just starting to get an inkling of understanding of how each movement pattern is truly meant to balance and release someone from a mental-emotional-physical reflex response… and how useful the sequence truly is. It balances the opposing movements in the body, and essentially frees the whole person. I feel like I have a lot of apologies to extend to my Hanna Somatics instructors (or really any instructors)…. Oh what grief I must cause. Or perhaps they just go “silly Kara, she’ll figure it out on her own eventually…” and doodle about their day.

It’s refreshing to find that all the things I’ve learned have meaning.

As I’m attempting to bring more consistency into my life (and sometimes doing a better job than other times) I find that my horses and I are starting to breathe more. We can count on something. I can expect certain things to happen in my day and not be exhausted by constant decision making. I also find that in consistency, things are being built on–they’re developing and improving. My yoga is getting better, my somatics is getting better, my bodywork practice is improving, and my horses are getting a little more clear on some of those things I’ve jumped around with.

I have not at all mastered consistency, or patterns. I have a long way to go. I’m just starting to realize their value and truly appreciate the wisdom others have shared with me for what it is.

 

For this post, I’d like to extend a special thanks to Carol and to Jillian Kreinbring (who turned my lesson into what I needed–consistency and a dash of humility–instead of what I wanted), and a warm appreciation to all of my instructors–thank you all for your patience with all of us students.

Bodywork

Making Epsom Salt Wraps Even Better


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epsom salts

One of my favorite self-care rituals for minor aches and pains or tight muscles is to wrap the area in towels that have been soaked in warm epsom salt wraps. But while sitting with an epsom salt wrap, I don’t just sit there and get on my phone.

A big part of releasing and restoring functional movement is awareness. Our minds and bodies are so connected. When we are present and mindful, we are able to notice small pains and do something about it before it becomes a problem–it is so wonderful to be able to take care of ourselves in this way. Being present and mindful can do more than just help us prevent injury.

When I put my epsom salt wrap on, I take slow, deep breaths, letting my exhale out all the way. (Note that it’s best if you use a dry towel around the wet one for insulating the heat.) I notice the feeling of the warmth on my skin, of the wrap hugging the area. I take a few moments to quietly notice what I can in that area of my body. I purposefully relax into the position I’m in, smiling softly to myself. I slowly try to soften the area that I’m noticing–if I cannot, I at least imagine a softening and relaxing, or imagine breathing into the area. The more I relax, and the more the area in the wrap relaxes, the more I notice and allow, and the more I ask it to soften. I do what I can, and thank myself for taking the time to take care of myself.

I usually replace the wet towel with a new one a few times as it gets cold, making sure that the water is still somewhere between room temperature and too hot.

Once I take off the wraps, I let the area relax for a moment, continuing to breathe slowly and notice any sensations. I begin to move the area–in this example, I’ll use my foot.

I might bring my foot more towards my head, and then more towards the floor, very slowly. I might move it slowly left and right. I notice if there’s a direction that’s easier to move my foot in, and then I slowly take it in that direction. From there I slowly relax all of my muscles, allowing the foot to glide back to neutral. I might do this same movement a couple more times, and then find a new direction or movement that feels easy. It might involve a combination of ankle, toe, and foot movements–it might even involve the leg. Whatever it is, it’s very, very slow, and focuses on relaxing the muscles slowly so that the foot gently glides back to neutral.

I spend several minutes like this, somatically releasing the area. Then I take my hands and softly offer what feels good–sometimes, it’s simply resting my palms on the area, breathing into it and noticing any sensations, asking it to relax more. Other times, it’s gently stroking. Sometimes it’s softly pressing up and down the region.

While enjoying this time for myself, I might also reflect on what caused this pain in the first place, or what movements contribute to more pain so that I can be mindful of that in the coming days. Whether or not you’re sure of what happened, I always spend more time in the next coming days softly releasing my muscles, usually through somatic releases like the ones I described above.

 

Enjoy trying out this lovely self-care routine. If you like it, love it, or have any questions, let me know! 

 

Take care,

Kara