Cat From The Mat

Follow Your Blissful Feet Through the Fire

"You must let go of the life you have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for you.  The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure."     
       Joseph Campbell

I have been on a journey for almost a decade.  Responding to the call for adventure, I chose to leave familiar terrain to explore unchartered territory, which has been both challenging and rewarding.  I've been wondering whether it's time to head back home to myself to complete that voyage.  

I just recently taught a yoga weekend workshop on Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the Hero's Journey.  The hero's path delves deeply into three main stages: the Departure from the known into the unknown, the Initiation/Fulfillment of the new world, and the Return back home.  Each time I present this theme, I focus on the warrior's choice of whether or not to leave perceived safety in order to venture into the dark and scary.  Putting yourself in unfamiliar situations brings more tools for fluency of self.  Yoga invites you to go to places that others might not have the interest, bravery, nor tenacity to go.  After all, courage is acting in ways that conjure up fear.

According to the monomyth, after the acclimation to the new world, the hero will choose to go back to the old one.  But the region to which he/she returns feels like a new place, because the warrior has evolved.  The environs might be the same, but the perspective with which the traveler interprets the world has shifted.  To quote French novelist Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

I encourage my fellow yogins to return back home after the road of trials and tribulations, because yoga is about being in the world…of mortgages, bills, marriage, parenting, family reunions, holiday parties, to name a few.  As enticing as it might seem to turn away from daily responsibilities, we learn through the ups and downs of life by participating in the shared social fabric.  What has recently dawned on me though is how hard it is to do that last stage…the Return.  This step takes the most courage of all and can be anything but comfortable.  

When an astronaut has been in orbit for a while, the re-entry back to earth is very fast, extremely hot, and often destructive.  The temperature on the command module's surface can climb up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  The vessel's heat shield is designed to melt and erode away from the module as it heats up, protecting the inner structure.  The atmosphere acts like a braking system on the spacecraft, while this ablative covering vaporizes and keeps the astronaut safe inside for a successful re-entry.


As you journey through life, that same friction and heat are needed for transformation to occur.  Change is not easy and yet inevitable.  The return back to home to yourself can seem scary and overwhelming, because that too might seem as distant as outer space.  Your feet might be held to the fire.  That's when the metamorphosis happens.  Dissolution often propels you into a new place of understanding, of expanded awareness, of empathy.   This journey of self-connection opens up your eyes to see an old familiar spot as a new dwelling.  It's a practice of both inner and outer exploration.

Is "home" a place from which you emerge and to which you return?  Is it just your physical surroundings or your identity to a location?  Maybe it's as simple as a feeling of ease, like that deep exhale right before you fall asleep.   If this is indeed a state of being, then you can feel at home in your own skin, no matter where you are.  In the words of Joseph Campbell, "The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, your nature with Nature.  The goal of the hero’s journey is yourself finding Yourself."

The yoga asana is how you posture yourself in life.  Home is the pose to which you keep returning back with a newly renovated seat for your soul.  Every internal and external journey brings new agency of how to see, hear, and taste the world, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Applying such accrued wisdom upon your return is what makes the abode of your heart even sweeter.  Like the destructive re-entry of the cosmonaut, your heart must break to open.

This year has been a very challenging year for many of us.   As 2014 comes to a close, there is the completion of projects, jobs, relationships, pursuits, or outdated perspectives.  It's been a process of wearing away old patterns to make space for the new.  Every ending marks a beginning.

As the season gets darker and colder, the holiday lights heat up.   Find the balance of how your inner landscape can match the outer world, while allowing the external fertile soil to feed your bright spirit within.   The hero's journey is only a step away and can take you distant miles further.  Home can feel far away, and yet it's on the other side of the door.  Enjoy the re-entry, because there's no place like ho-ho-hOMe for the holidays!

Happy Festivus! 



Cat From the Mat

December 2014