Cat From The Mat

Knee-Jerky and Trigger Happy

“People don’t make us angry. 
How we think makes us angry.” 
   -Marshall Rosenberg, NVC founder

What makes you angry? Who triggers you?  Do you know that moment your buttons are being pushed? Living in a constant stimulated state might be taking a toll on your nervous system and diminishing your life energy.  So why do it?  What does it all mean?

When triggered, my knee-jerk reactions surface.  This leads me down a path of frustration, irritation, and confusion.  Some people project anger onto others, placing accountability outside of oneself.  Others, like myself, operate by instilling guilt within.  “What did I do to warrant such behavior?” I ask myself.  Either way, it’s perpetuating a culture of shame and blame conditioning.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that it’s better to give myself a hard time in lieu of condemning others.  When I get upset and hold it in, it eats away at me, like a hollowing tree.  This unfortunately builds resentment, creating a further disconnect to myself and to others. 

Regardless of where the fault is placed, there is an assumption that someone is doing something TO me.  This immediately places the power outside of myself.  However, what if my triggers have little to do with another’s behavior.   Rather, the situation is a red flag letting me know that something inside of me is being ignited.  The other person just happens to be the messenger, reminding me that I have an intrinsic issue to sort out.

My training in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) has given me the tools to identify a stimulus from its cause.  My “buttons” are alive and well, already installed within.  When said are buttons getting pushed, it’s easy to confuse that stimulant person with the root of my emotional response.

Once able to keep those two distinct, I can choose to do the following steps:

1) I notice that I am irked and ask myself “What is that?”  This slows things down and allows me to pause.

2) I connect my identified, familiar feeling with what I am needing when I feel that way.  This gives me more understanding about what I value and ascertain whether a desired need is present or absent in this interaction.  Instead of getting stuck in the belief  “that person pissed me off,” maybe my anger is telling me that I need more consideration or care.

3) Once I get more clear and self-connected, I might genuinely become curious enough to hear what the other person is saying, without receiving any projections personally.  When I listen from that place, I can gather information and glean more compassion.   Easier said than done. 

Yoga is about relationship.  The quality with which you navigate your inner terrain can improve your engagement in the world.  Learning to translate judgments is a muscle that needs ongoing practice. 

Life offers many opportunities to decode your conditioning and update your previously helpful coping mechanisms.  At a time when more and more anger is being expressed (which might indicate an underlying fear, sadness, or anxiety), I invite you to excavate deeper with empathic ears. “Blame on you, shame on me” thinking can therefore become a new gateway back to yourself.  You might just find the gold in your familiar stimulus package.

Happy Septembering!

Cat From The Mat
September 2016

Ready, Steady, Grow

I was first introduced to downhill skiing when I was three years old, while in Switzerland.    Over the next four decades, I only had a few chances to revisit my snow legs.  From the lack of practice, I have never truly gotten the hang of it. However, I love to watch the fluid beauty of skiers who know how to intimately carve into the snow and waltz down the mountain.

Earlier this year, I was invited to teach yoga in Switzerland.  During my visit, I surprisingly found myself once again wearing a pair of skis, facing the fear of how to safely get down an intermediate level ski run in the Swiss Alps.   I had an excellent guide to show me the ropes, but negotiating the descent brought up the challenge of how to accommodate an ever-changing terrain.


My general understanding of skiing is simply this:  when I point my skis downhill, I pick up speed.  When I traverse and/or move up the mountain, I can slow down and even stop.  This makes me wonder about my relationship with the topography of life.

When things are moving along with velocity, how do I adjust?  If it’s moving too quickly, do I get taken along for the bumpy ride and perhaps feel disempowered?  Do I dig my heels in and refuse to move, to my own detriment?  Or can I find a way to tap into the pull of gravity while knowing that I have the capacity to regulate my own journey?  

Trust and security seem to be key factors.  When I can confidently handle the acceleration, I welcome the ups and downs.  Knowing that I have the ability to slow down, change direction, or even stop, helps me maneuver such mountainous relief with balanced participation.  This nurtures self-assurance and agency.

A yogin is someone who learns to ski along the territory within.  That prowess is also applied to the external world.  There are times to resist or halt, in order to regroup.  There are also opportunities where letting go to move quickly can be exhilarating and bring relinquished ease.  Ultimately, it’s a practice of knowing what any context demands, pressing both the accelerator and brake in optimal amounts.

In ski terms, a fall line is the path of natural descent from one point on a slope to another.  The journey of life can be just as uncomfortable, circuitous, and even treacherous.   Yoga invites you to carve your own trail with discernment.  In any season, I encourage your inner skier to hit the slopes and venture along the peaks and valleys, one inner ascent at a time. 

Happy Trails,

Cat From the Mat

June 2016

When Did I Become a Ma'am?

Years ago, when on-location for a film shoot in southern California, I was directing my crew through the walkie-talkie.  After completing a request, my production assistant responded by saying "Yes, Sir," followed by an apologetic "I meant Ma'am."  After a momentary pause and a giggle, my rebuttal was, "I prefer Sir."  Although it was a joke, I wonder if that term was too feminine for my producer persona within the male-dominated industry.  I valued respect but wasn't ready to embrace my ma'am-dom.
Cut to a decade later, now with a full head of silver locks (along with current colorful streaks of blue and purple), I'm noticing my reaction to this language again. When exactly did I become a ma'am?  Was it overnight or did it occur gradually?  Why do I still feel like a cheeky monkey when others might see my natural hair color before my youthful energy? 

In early February, we crossed the threshold into the Chinese Year of the Fire Monkey. Like Curious George, monkeys have an inquisitive nature. That, added to the element of fire, represents bold and bright authenticity to help illuminate any intentional direction. Born in a monkey year myself, I have already felt a surge of power, play, and curiosity as I delve into this new year with my fellow primates dressed as humans.

Based on a blog at, there are two mindsets that most humans assume: Fixed or Growth.  A person with a fixed mindset is usually set in stone, where his/her actions are based on being a success.  Therefore, the motivation is always one of proving oneself with an unsatisfied hunger for approval.  This 24/7 attempt to avoid failure seems exhausting and yet might be all too familiar.

Seeing conventional failures as lessons to be learned, a growth mindset focuses on learning.  The goal of succeeding is replaced with the process of discovery.  Instead of being motivating to prove self-worth, there's more room for creativity, wonder, and constructive challenge.  This mindset thus sees defeat as a lack of growing rather than being unsuccessful.  To me, this is a more healthy and rewarding way to live.

Are you open to learning or settled in your ways?  Are you growing or just getting older? Is your journey finished, slowing down, or is it just getting started? Yoga is about being adaptable, so that every situation you experience can be full of lessons and opportunities in which to expand your sense of self.  When you are more compassionate towards yourself, you can be more curious and compassionate with others. 

To celebrate this Fire Monkey Year, I encourage you to check in with your inner-ape and see how you wish to relate to your challenges and still manifest your fullest potential. As a full-fledged Ma'am and ongoing Sir these days, I do not wish to waste any more of my valuable time on self-doubt or undermining my sense of trust.  I hope to monkey around my inner terrain in more empathic ways, with childlike awe that I never want to lose.   

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."  Ralph Waldo Emerson


Cat From the Mat

February 2016