Cat From The Mat

The Urge to Purge, Shred, and Shed

The first of November signifies the Celtic New Year called Samhain (summer's end).  Besides honoring how one's lineage has brought you to where you are now, it is also time to clear out the old and bring in the new.  The deciduous trees are shedding their leaves, releasing that which is vital to replenish the next growth cycle.  In the northern hemisphere, this type of "fall cleaning" is a strategy to appreciate that which you have been given, that which you want to keep, and that which you wish to release.  

My spring into summer into fall purge has been long overdue.  Like shifting tectonic plates that create friction while resetting any foundation, I have been reorganizing my space, my schedule, my beliefs, my expectations, to name a few.  In shredding over two decades of filed tax papers and documents that I didn't realize I had been storing, some questions have been raised.

How is it that I have been holding on to so much without even knowing it?   In what ways might I still be clinging to the past that prevents me from moving forward into the future?  Which aspects of my history are a significant part of my identity and which parts are holding back who I wish to become? 

Yoga is the practice of becoming adaptable.  It's an invitation to loosen up my tight grip while finding compassionate ways to move around obstacles.  Yet, after 20+ years of practice, I still find myself in moments of being so attached that I can get stuck. If only I could feed my self-limiting ideas through the cross-cutting shredder to lighten my load.

In the physical body, we experience similar stagnation.  Within our Central Nervous System, there are two branches commonly known as Fight & Flight (sympathetic response) and Rest & Digest (parasympathetic response).  However, there's a third component that connects both, which is Freeze.  When an animal is attacked by a predator and is unable to fight or flee, he/she can feign death and freeze. Once the attacker leaves the frozen prey, the defrosting can begin to shake the event memory out of its body, known as a discharge.

People often respond to situations by doing a mix of flight, flight, and freeze.  I once had my latest iPhone taken out of my purse while getting onto the subway.  I noticed immediately and without thinking, I went straight into Fight mode.  I followed the perpetrator out of one subway car into the next yelling at him to give me back my phone.  Luckily, he did not put up a fight, dropped my cell phone, and fled the scene.  For about fifteen minutes after the event, I was vibrating with all the life force that I mustered up for self-protection.  This expulsion was the discharge of the memory, which could only happen when I returned back to a feeling of safety.

When we human choose to freeze as a protective maneuver, there is suppressed energy.  If feeling under attack, we might brace ourselves to endure the experience by stopping dead in our tracks.  However, it's vital that it is followed by the thawing release.  Otherwise, it might take up residency in the body and become an eventual habitual issue. 

I invite you to inquire about any holding patterns you might be clenching, out of familiarity or familial obligation.  Besides your own coping mechanisms, your ancestors have passed on emotional DNA through generations.  Perhaps these patterns have been squatting in the building of your body, not paying rent, and even preventing more current habitants of moving in.  

Bracing doesn't imply support.  So dismiss any belief systems that no longer serve you, whether yours or inherited.  Remove any outmoded expectations that might free up the flow, under honorable discharge.  In the words of author Alan Cohen, "It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful."  At this time of Hallowmas, find the significance in all that you choose to remove and remain.  It just might shed some light.








Cat From The Mat blog

November 2016

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