Cat From The Mat

A Womb with a View

When I was a young girl, my neighbor had a wild garden full of milkweed, which meant she attracted many caterpillars.   She would invite me to capture a few of them and bring them home with lots of milky herbaceous food, so that I could hold the space to see their transformation from one form to another.  Experiencing this metamorphosis, I waited patiently everyday for the moment that the Monarch would emerge from its chrysalis.  I was inspired when witnessing the adult butterfly finally spread its newfound wings of freedom.  It was also a reminder of how much time, patience, and discomfort it takes to shift into a new form of self. 

For an insect or amphibian, metamorphosis is a biological process of converting from an immature into a mature state, via cell growth and differentiation, involving distinct stages.  I experienced first hand watching butterflies going through four stages of change: from egg, to larva, to pupa, and finally to adult.  Humans too undergo such a transformation; however, the transitions that happen are not always so visible.  I wonder in which phase I am, as I grow more mature. 

Due to the many recent compounded losses, I have been learning to accept some painful realities.   I am adapting daily to many new normals.  Mourning my own breast cancer diagnosis and surgeries, I am still in the grieving process of losing an aspect of my femininity.  My mother’s death in the middle of it all was an unexpected blow to the maternal guidance that I once took for granted.  A late bloomer now in my fifties, I must become my own parent.  It’s time to grow up. And yet, one doesn’t not become an adult overnight.  Sometimes, never. 

In response to traumatic sadness, I am focusing my attention inwardly while I experience the process of metamorphosis.  It’s not so much an intention of shutting out the world; rather, it’s a need to find solace in my own nurturing cocoon.  In my convalescence, I am enjoying nutritious food, rest for my healing body and heart, creative endeavors, and support from loving friends and family, when in need of back up.

Technically a human being, I have been primarily a human-doer for most of my life.  I am good at trouble-shooting, anticipating options should the one at hand not be working.  I have accumulated many tools and have refined their use.  I am finding, however, that they are no longer enough to facilitate the change I desire.  Grieving isn’t a process of doing.  It’s one of acceptance, of being with what is.  And this is rather uncomfortable for me.

A chrysalis is an inactive stage.  The self-created womb is a rather compact container of nourishment while developing into a new manifestation of self.  There’s nothing to do in my safe haven of quietude but to be in the discomfort.  I embrace the many aspects of myself.  I cry.  I laugh.  I sing.  I am silent and still. 

Just like watching a caterpillar convert into a mature butterfly, I am waiting for my transmutation to come to its fruition, with compassionate patience.  I am no longer the person that I was.  And I am not yet the person I wish to be.  And so I wait in this chrysalis state, observing immeasurable progress that is revealed in ebbs and flows.  My yoga, meditation, and empathy practices provide an anchor during this painful transition.  I am learning that my vulnerability is not only a strength but is the only way to transition into my truer self.

Hoping to fulfill your greatest potential, in what stage of growth are you?  Are you at the beginning larvae stages of your quest?  Are you a caterpillar chomping on greener pastures?  Or perhaps you are now the pupa spewing the thread to form your own swaddled insulation in which to develop your wings.  Eventually the time will come for your creative juices to bust out of the cozy yet constraining confines of your chrysalis.  Are you truly ready to take flight? 

I look forward to when I can look back with 20/20 vision to see all of the steps that it took to spread my wings and gracefully soar.  Transformation is not easy and is rarely comfortable.  It is though inevitable if you wish to continue to not only survive, but to thrive in life.

Happy Metamorphosing!

 

Cat From the Mat

October 2019

Reframe The Membrane

My grandmother was an avid art collector. After her death, I received some of her favorite pieces. After fifteen years of these paintings hanging on my walls, I had the chance to reframe them.

A frame holds the creation that is painted on a canvas.  It contains an expression within. And the relationship between the outer and inner framework can give art a fresh look. With the guidance a talented framer, my artwork was transformed. Who knew that selecting new framework would give old images a new life?  (Before and after images, below)

 

 

As embodied beings, we have a similar relationship between our outer framework and inner workings.  The two impact one another.  Yoga is about finding the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic realms.  How I interpret the world dictates how I view everything around me.  Conversely, my subjective projection onto my environs reinforces what I am choosing to believe as true.  

I wonder in what ways I too can shift my frame of mind and get a more current outlook on life.  Within the solid structure of my physical body, I have the chance to transform outmoded beliefs or habits into current ones.  So how might I reconfigure my antiquated thoughts?  I believe that it takes slowing down, awareness, and most of all, choice.

“I thought I was so healthy. I became a vegetarian at age twelve.  I have always been physically active.  I have been practicing yoga over the past 25 years...and still I have cancer? I don’t even take aspirin.  How can’t be happening?!?!?  This was my reaction upon my cancer diagnosis.

Now that the shock, confusion, anger have worn off, I am left with a mix of utter sadness and immense gratitude.  Acceptance is first needed in order to gain an updated lease on life.  I am trying to rebuild a new infrastructure in which to embrace my perception of self.   

Who am I now? Who do I want to be?  What can I release as far as expectations or assumptions about myself, others, and situations? Can I consider my cancer to be a gift with no return receipt? 

I am currently grieving the loss of many things in my life.   One of which is selling my anchoring childhood home of 50+ years.  It is a difficult yet necessary practice of letting go and moving on.   It has forced me to find inner stability, no matter where I live.  I want to feel at home in my own skin, down to the permeable membrane of each cell.  I am discerning what to hold on to and what to release.  

Like a picture frame, my inner and outer healing bodies embrace my self-expression upon the complexion of life.  As we shed our layers of clothing this summer season, what can you release?   In what ways can you reshape your held beliefs to reflect the most current version of your adaptable and artful self?  This is what makes yoga an inside job.

Happy Summer Solstice!

 

Cat From The Mat

June/July 2019

Secure Your Valuables

 "We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”  ~ Ellen Goodman  

We are encouraged to focus on what we want to accomplish in the New Year.  This can set up disappointment, since putting the attention on the outcome can overshadow the intention embedded within any desired resolution.  Before looking at any strategy of doing, it’s first helpful to focus on one’s quality of being, which might determine how actions unfold. What do you value moving forward?

After a dark and tumultuous 2018 full of illness, death, and grief, I am embracing this new year with radical self-trust.  So for the first time ever, I chose to spend New Year’s Eve/Day quietly alone and in silence.  I am starting to find solace in the peace and quiet, as I mourn. 

In the fall, I attended my first silent meditation retreat.  Amidst the sunny and temperate desert environs of Joshua Tree, CA, I immersed myself in silence, known as “mouna” in Sanskrit.  I was worried that I might be uncomfortable within the quiet boundaries set.  And surprisingly, I took to it like a duck in water.  I appreciated the luxury of quietude, while I focused on my inner more subtle experience.  In fact, I felt somewhat resentful once the silence was lifted as I flew back home to the very noisy environs of New York City. 

Since the age of three, I have been fortunate to explore the world.  When I carried out my Fulbright scholarship in 1991, I traveled extensively around Europe.  As a Eurailpass holder, I slept on overnight trains.  To protect myself from unwanted thieves, I would sleep with my passport and money tucked on the inside of my clothing while embracing my backpack. The concept of “better to be safe than sorry” provided some ease.  However, it also set up a climate of attachment and mistrust.  This scarcity sentiment continued through my life as my housing upgraded from moving trains to hostels to hotels with lockable safes.

The meditation retreat housing not only lacked any safes but there were no keys to lock any of the doors.  At first, I decided that I could acquire peace of mind by stashing my “valuables” in my suitcase and secured TSA lock.  After a day or two of constant meditation, my anxious attitude began to loosen its grip and slowly my need to protect my belongings lifted.  As I got deeper into my practice, I had the epiphany that what I truly value can never be stolen.  

Circumstances can change.  Our homes might be engulfed in a fire or drowned in a flood.  Relationships may fade.  Someone might abscond with another's cell phone, wallet, or sentimental items.  The body breaks down as we age and eventually decomposes.  What is left is one’s spirit, which is not measurable and also cannot be taken away. 

Some of my “valuables” are dignity, integrity, and authenticity.  The only way that I can be robbed of my values is if I give them away at my own expense.  My qualities reside deeply inside and are not determined by others or external factors.  

In this new year, I encourage you to identify what it is that you value about yourself.  Starting from that vantage point, how you choose to express your attributes will show up in any and all resolutions.  Your valuables are therefore always safe, whether under lock and key or being generously shared with the world.  

To a happy, healthy, and humorous 2019…cheers!

Cat From the Mat

January 2019