Cat From The Mat

The Hero's Journey... Back Home to the Heart

According to Joseph Campbell, the cross-cultural mono-myth of the hero's journey consists of three main stages: (1) the Call to Adventure/Departure, (2) the Initiation/Fulfillment, and (3) the Return.  This is a voyage that one embarks upon every day, whether choosing to make a shift in life, when taking a trip and returning from vacation, and even when practicing on the yoga mat.  I have just been away on a journey myself, traveling to teach to wonderful groups of yogins all over.  Here's what I am bringing back home with me upon my return. 

Departure: I was "called to adventure" when I flew to Miami, FL to partake in a week's worth of yoga as a student, which is always a luxury.  But this time it was different with my teacher John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga.   Due to recent allegations of his ethical misconduct,  I felt reticent to take this trip. However, it was only week one of my three week travels, and I wanted to see first-hand what this "mishagosh" was all about.  So I crossed that threshold and delved into the unknown, just as the archetype of the hero does.  Following one and a half days of practicing asana under unusual circumstances,  I made a very difficult decision to discontinue associating myself with Anusara, Inc.   This choice, coming after a decade of committing myself to a specific path, has brought me deeper into the unknown.  Over my twenty years on the path, I have learned that yoga cultivates an inner guidance and luminosity; allowing me to see better in the dark.  At first scary and continually very sad, this decision has brought me utter clarity.  It was apparent that I needed to step away from what has become familiar.  I have chosen to stand in my bright inner heart.

Initiation: Stage two ramped up the journey into a new gear, one of ups-and-downs for the hero.  This part of the journey is marked by the "road of trials".  I flew to Houston where I taught at the Texas Yoga Conference with fellow national teachers of various yoga lineage backgrounds.   Riding an emotional roller coaster for the past week, I wasn't sure how it all would go, as the news of Anusara's unraveling was floating around on the yogic ether.  I didn't know how I was going to teach or what words would come out.  My theme of "Dancing with the Currents of Life" was apropos and perfect.  And dance I did.  I had a blast teaching to large group of kindred spirits who love yoga as much as I.  The welcoming energy made this initiation phase very fulfilling, and my teaching was clear and true as ever.  For myself, the few yogins "in the know,"  and for those new to an alignment-based asana practice, it was healing on many levels.

Fulfillment: My odyssey then brought me to Telluride, CO, where I taught a fun weekend workshop: "Being Vira: The Hero's Journey."  According to the myth, every step along the way challenges the hero to see if he/she can bravely serve for something more than just self-preservation.  Through perseverance, the hero gains more tools as a skillful warrior.  There's nothing like the scope of standing on top of mountainous terrain to gain perspective.  Besides hiking in Arches National Park in UT, exploring small towns with delightful names like "Paradox," and learning to dance with the snowy slopes on skis, I was once again embraced by a wonderful playful yoga community to test my skills of service.  As the hero acclimates to the bliss of the new world, so did I.  We entered into a poignant conversation of how to apply what we learn on the mat to the world around us, with courageous and truthful hearts.  Once the hero adjusts to this new world (which isn't hard to do in the majestic mountains of CO) and attunes to see better in the dark, it begs the question...should I stay or should I go?

Return: The final stage of journey is for the hero to choose whether to return back home or not.   In the philosophical foundation of the yoga that I love, the yogin always comes home to transform the old world with new perceptive.  It's not about escaping life or transcending being human.  This application of transmuting real and sometimes difficult situations into more nourishing ones is the practice of being in engaged in the world, one of participation rather than victimization.  That is the yoga that I practice.  It's about being comfortable being slightly uncomfortable, in unfamiliar darkness while conjuring up more inner light.  It's about taking what the world offers and co-creating your own narrative of mythic proportions.

So I return back home with a new found clarity and with a bright laser focus on my path of yoga.  I am excited about my next heroic phase of being a Hatha yoga teacher.  This year has already been so fruitful, and I anticipate that it will only increase locally, regionally, and nationally as I expand to include teaching internationally.

In the words of Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  I look forward to more expeditions which ultimately bring me back home to my heart with a new pair of eyes.   Happy Lenten season and see y'all on the mat!

Cat from the Mat
March 2012