Cat From The Mat

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

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