Cat From The Mat

Don't just do something, Stand there

Isn't it funny that we ask our fellow human beings, "How are you doing" rather than "How are you being?"  For most of my life I have been a human-doer, where my be-ership has been somewhat secondary.  I'm a pro-active person, and I love to make things happen.  However, when I am confronted, I get busy.  My "something must be done" default kicks in.  Just because I am distracted with doing doesn't mean that I am actually getting anywhere.

My tendency has been to jump into the gumbo of life and figure it all out amidst the thick roux.  This year, I am marinating in the broth of clarity and self-connection.  2015 was a very tumultuous yet fertile year, so it's time to repattern.  This takes patience and stillness.  I have to remind my busy, fast-moving self that just because nothing appears to be happening on the outside, doesn't mean that things are not shifting within.  When a snake eats, it appears still.  Yet on the inside, it is digesting, so much is occurring.  As a human being, I too need motionless time and space to assimilate life.  From a fixed clear stance, I can move forward with more ease, laser precision, and economy of effort.  Then my favorite well-warn path of manifesting can begin!

As I embark upon a fresh slate of the new year, I am not so interested in what specific resolutions I wish to install in my life.  As much as I love concrete details,  I am already setting myself up to fail by not crossing off all the items on my endless To-Do list.  Instead, I am placing my focus on the intention beneath any resolutions.  That way, the dreaded term "failure" isn't even on the table.  For example, if I want more rest in my life, I can resolve myself to a schedule of daily naps.  But what if I miss one day? Will I then be unsuccessful in my set plan of action?  What if I could have a plethora of ways to gain more rest…like meditating, listening to nourishing music, or going to bed earlier?  This gives me options and more innovative approaches besides that single method.

I grew up in a very creative family, where I inherited the genes for singing, languages, travel, visual arts, and humor.  My father was an avid audiophile.  We had quadrophonic speakers projecting music throughout the house 24/7.  My mother was a graphic artist, from whom we learned to not only draw and intuit composition, but we were encouraged to use our imagination.  We made thoughtful gifts, rather than to just buy them.

I still appreciate being a creator, and not just a consumer.  I love to make something out of nothing, whether a yummy meal, a dark comedic film, a connection in a different culture, or a yoga workshop about how we are rewriting our own narrative each time we step off the yoga mat and back into the world.  For the new year, I prefer to manifest qualities of being, rather than just being productive in completing a chore with a finite end.  

The strategies we choose are designed for survival.  And at any given moment, we have met and unmet needs, even within an inhale and exhale.  This is the chaotic dance of life that keeps us going.  So shift your depth of field and look not to the tasks at hand, but rather keep on your eye on the more profound desires below the surface.  Besides the basics of food and shelter, how will you feed your need for Trust, Self-expression, Adventure, Intimacy, or Contribution, to name a few?  One tactic is just one way.  What if you had several hundred game plans to get your human longings met?  What a grand design you could manifest in 2016!


Happy New Year!




Walking Into Walls

It's 6am, and the alarm across the room is going off.  My strategy is that if I place my iPhone far away from the bed, I will not hit the snooze button and roll back asleep.  I travel often and sometimes wake up not knowing exactly where I am.  However, this time, I am staying in a familiar location, knowing the bedroom's geography well enough to see in the dark.  

In a stupor, I find the relentless chime and turn it off, in hopes to then empty my morning bladder. Rather than flicking on the sobering overhead lights, I decide to use the more subtle natural light cast by my smart phone. Making sure that it's bright enough, I look at the LCD and then immediately turn towards the bathroom and BAM, smack dab into the wall!   Not half-assed but full-faced, my nose cushions the impact.

Completely stunned, my first thought is "who put the wall in my path?" Now rudely awoken, I flip on the overhead lights to see that I missed the bathroom doorway by one foot. I never thought I could actually walk into a wall...until it happened.

My nose swelled up, and I developed a headache that wouldn't go away, even with the rarity of taking several Advil. Best case scenario, I had fixed my deviated septum.  Worse case, I had broken my nose.  Alas, neither.  It made me think though.  How often am I walking into walls when believing them to be doorways?

Have you been walking into a situation that has limits, whether obvious or not? Are you moving through thresholds that seem beneficial which end up being conditional and detrimental? And when might your perceived barriers turn out to be the perfect thing to be happening?

Ganesha is the elephant-headed Hindu deity who represents thresholds, where we transition from one place to the next.  In India, he is placed at the front doorway.  He is known as the remover of obstacles, as well as the placer of them.  You can choose to embrace the challenges and find the gem hidden within and the bowl of sweets at the end of his trunk.  Or you may continue to walk into walls offering the same lesson over and over again.  Also known as Ganapati, this "big elephant in the room" offers the chance to practice shifting perspective.  Barriers can be physical, mental, or emotional.  And Ganesha invites you to see them both as a hinderance and a help, depending on your point of view.

Turning obstacles into opportunities and transmuting breakdowns into breakthroughs is a main component of the yoga practice.  This endeavor can be anything but comfortable.  Thresholds are not about "shoulding" your way through that which is expected, but rather choosing to venture into the unknown or the scary. This takes courage, trust, and loads of self-connection, and sometimes the occasional aspirin. 

According to the pagan tradition, Halloween is the transition into a new year.  The fall season reminds you to collect all the fruits of your year's labor and the lessons learned, holding on to those illuminative lessons as you segue into the darker season.   When you ascertain if and how to move forward, you can plant those seeds of wisdom into the fertile autumnal soil. 

If you feel like you keep being confronted by the same hurdles or repeating situations, perhaps you are not quite ready to shift just yet into what's next.  Patience and presence are both needed to get a clear message.  Walking into walls can help you emerge quickly from a sleep state.  The harder the hit, the more impactful the message.  Enjoy the wake up call, whether it's a solid construction or a spacious doorway.  You choose the benefit of both, as a trick and a treat.

Happy Halloween and All Saints Day!

Cat From The Mat

November 2015

I Learned Empathy From My Dog

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there."    - Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

I've never been one to cry in public.  I always felt embarrassed, as if showing signs of weakness.  For me, the mere act of crying is not unlike vomiting.  I cannot make myself do it.  It just happens.  And when that faucet turns on, I never know for how long it might be running.   That, mixed with breaking down in front of others, would send me into protective retreat mode.

When I was younger, I would go off and cry in the privacy of my bedroom, hiding my self-expressive tears in the sound absorbency of my pillow.  That way, no one would hear a thing.  Yet somehow, my black standard poodle Mulligan always knew.  He inevitably would come find me, letting me know that he was there.  Perhaps he just needed more sodium in his diet, but this fluffy spirit would gently lick the tears from my face.  It was soothing to be understood and supported with no exchange of words.  No pity, no hampering, no judgment.   My dog offered his silent presence and witnessed my vulnerability.  This was my first taste of empathy.

Empathy is a gift.  However, it is not something we learn to cultivate in our culture.  Being empathic does not involve advice giving, comparing, fixing, one-upping, sympathizing, discounting, or analyzing.  It's a process of holding an empty space in which to foster connection and trust.  It's a practice of being present with another.

Imagine being attached to a large rubber band as you cross a bridge to visit another person's world.  This tether keeps you anchored in your own emotional realm while having the flexibility to venture afar.  On this exploration, you also bring your passport to help to maintain your own identity, which can often go astray.  The challenge is to not absorb yourself in the other person's story, nor to insert your ego by taking charge.  It is a tool to help you and others find empowered clarity outside the field of right and wrong.  Empathy is simple, and yet it's anything but easy.  So why is it challenging to do? 

In a society full of blame, shame, and moralistic judgment, it takes practice to carve out an exchange of empathy.  You can master asana as well as the other limbs of yoga.  But if your inner terrain and outer environs are not in alignment, then the physical practice is just another form of exercise.  

When you need compassion, then you are in no position to offer it.  It's the oxygen mask analogy of first giving yourself support so that you can be supportive of others.  If you feel heard and seen, then you can genuinely be present with what's going on, rather than "shoulding" things to be a different way.

For me, “Operation Self-Care” has been in full swing this year.   Over the past decade, inadvertently I lost a part of myself. In the name of generous service, I had been focusing on others' needs at the expense of my own. I wore myself down.   If this at all sounds familiar, I encourage you to pause and ask yourself:  What can I do to take care of myself in order to set the stage for more empathic dialogue in my life?  How might I foster more compassion in my conversations?  How do I fit into my own narrative?  

I'm happy to say that I am healthier on the empathy diet. I have re-tasted what Mulligan fed me long ago and of what my subsequent dogs continue to remind me along the way.  Acknowledging my emotions, I savor every chance to connect inside and outside.   Whether I am crying or observing another's tears, I now consider any display of vulnerability as an indication of resilient strength.  This intrinsic and extrinsic dialogue has created cellular shifts, which is the true benefit of yoga.  You can do all the physical poses on your mat, but how you posture yourself in life determines your perspective.  You choose, one lick at a time.

Cat From the Mat

August/September 2015