Cat From The Mat

The Disease To Please

Do you care about what others think and accommodate their desires before yours?   Do you take responsibility for things that are not yours to take?  Do you have the disease to please those around you?

Over the past 20 years, as part of my yoga practice, I have done of a variety of trainings on how to live a more skillful life.  A primary theme that comes up often is the power of choice in taking responsibility for where you are.  Don't suit the life others want for you; rather choose your life.  Your perception of the world is your reality.  To shift your view, in turn creates a whole new realm.  To be the author of your experience is empowering and exciting, and it requires constant attention.

If an adjustment in perspective has a supportive environment, then there's no dissent.  Inner change can feel organic.  However, when this endeavor is surrounded by external expectations that are often at odds with how you envision your life, the task is harder.  There's the rub.

I grew up in the south, where people are friendly and frequently indirect.  I was raised to be a good girl, which I was.  The social context upheld a desire for me to fit in and to not make waves.  However, from the get-go, my innate tendency has been one of questioning.  There was discord between what others wanted for me and what I wished for myself.  In order to persevere, I would acquiesce.  As I got older and moved to new environments, that learned behavior would still crop in my decision-making.


Living in New York City has helped unleash my direct self, albeit blunt at times.  Those urban environs have affirmed a candid attitude.  Of course, being diplomatically truthful is a skill that takes practice.  But I still wonder.  Just because the context validates me, am I still being a people-pleaser?

The flip side of authentic self-expression is being accountable for how you "land" on others.   Can you be proficient in speaking your truth (inner dialogue) while taking responsibility of how you are being received (outer dialogue)?  There can be a disparity between the two.  You might either take too much liability for the lack of communication or you can lose yourself in deference.  I have been on both sides of this slippery slope.

I invite you to ponder this paradox of life.  It's a constant embrace of listening to your inner voice while considering feedback from others.  Learn to accept the fact that you might care what others think, without self-diminishment.  Find that appropriate balance.  After all, we live in relationship.  This is yoga.  

On the mat, you practice holding complimentary contrasts in poses, so that you can become familiar with engaging in a world of friction.  You hopefully in turn become more fluent in the art of difficult interactions.  You connect, you shift, and you thrive…at work, at home, inside and out.  How you relate to the diversity within, will inform how you handle a multiplicity of perspectives.  Begin with integrity, with self.  Welcome to your seat…the way you posture yourself in the ebb and flow of life.  There are no do-overs, just do-betters.  (*pleasantries not included)

Cat From the Mat
May 2014

For A Wild Ride, Mind The Gap

The Chinese lunar calendar breaks down its 12-year cycle, represented by different animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order.   Each animal sign merely indicates how others see you or how you choose to present yourself.  According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead.  Water can help Wood grow. Wood can help Fire burn. Fire can burn into Earth.  Earth can cover Metal. Metal can hold Water.  After last year's Water Snake, we have just crossed a threshold into the beginning of the Year of the Wood Horse.  

A Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good thingsA horse likes to move and take action. Its energy is free spirited, wild, willful, as well as intuitive.  Under its strong influence, there is no middle ground, as it holds true to principles.  According to the Chinese zodiac, the time for pondering and diplomacy was in the watery snakelike movement of 2013.  The Wood element is about reaching onwards and upwards, planning ahead.  Like bamboo, both its strength and flexibility help it seek growth.  Often in life, when change and expansion are needed, there can be a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point addresses that breach between intention and fruition.  The book explores how epidemics spread, from topics of disease to lowering crime rates to fashion trends. Gladwell highlights the patterns found in the "tipping" of any outbreak.  He investigates how some great offerings never make it past the gate, while others flood our pop culture.  The issue at hand is how to traverse the chasm between a good idea and its manifestation.  This takes skill in action. 


This success of any action is connecting the necessary ingredients in a specific sequence, while knowing what is missing from the recipe.  According to studies, when something "tips," it happens quickly.  This is not to say that out of the blue something sticks.  For change to occur all of sudden, there is a lot of preparation that helps to pave the way, to propel movement, and to contain the shift.  

In the yoga asana practice, some poses seem to just appear one day, like the methodical tilting into an inversion.  But all of the preliminary work on the mat has paved the way for the posture to become the next organic step.  All of that preparation holds what is to come…whether sticking handstand in the middle of the room, receiving accolades for hard work, or holding the space to stay humble as a celebrity or public figure.  Without the initial priming to embrace the flip, then there's no containment for the next phase.  If you practice going upside down every day, regardless of success, then the mental, physical, and emotional groundwork is being laid.  And at some point, doing the inversion becomes the new normal…the tipping point.  

If you are anticipating an overturn this year,  consider  that your precursory efforts are needed to securely embrace change.  Your water serpent self then might be ready to gain land legs and begin to trot, canter, or gallop in the intended direction of your year.  When this happens, it will occur quickly, so hold on. 
To 2014, a year full of wild rides… Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Wood Horse!

Cat From the Mat
February 2014

Freshly Squeezed OJAS

It's a new year.  A time for new beginnings, new intentions, New Year resolutions.   It can also be a time of ramping up and revving the engine, assuming your gas tank is full and you have had a tune-up over the break.  But if you feel like you "just made it through the holidays,” then perhaps you could benefit from some freshly squeezed OJAS. 

Ayurveda (the science of yoga) defines the three necessary ingredients for vitality: a healthy body (Ojas), innate intelligence (Tejas), and energy levels (Prana).  Balancing these essential forces is the key to your longevity and resiliency.  Tejas is the discernment of your body and mind, which directs your use of energy, like your thoughts and how you process life. Prana is useable energy, known as your life force.  Your oxygen intake is an example of how prana feeds your system, not to mention how food enriches.  And Ojas is the glue that binds together your heart, mind, and body.  

 

Ojas is a Sanskrit word that means "vigor."  It is the fluid of life.  According to wikipedia, "Ojas is the ultimate refined result of digestion, metabolism, absorption and assimilation. It is a wholesome biochemical substance that nourishes all body tissues and has a direct influence on the nature and quality of physical, mental and emotional life.  Depleted ojas can result in weakness, fatigue, and a compromised immune system."

 

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.  Daily stress zaps your energy, if you do not take time to replenish.  Do not, however, confuse self-care with self-indulgence.  Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then apply it to others. You will have more to offer, from a place of abundance.

Thus far, I've been fortunate to have copious amounts of energy.  Growing up, I could have been one of those kids on a leash.  Whether traveling to teach yoga or a filming on-location, I often find myself voyaging from one place to another, one project to the next.  I get so involved in the creative process that I forget to fill up my reserve tanks.  When I am out of gas, I am not as effective as I might be.  And this past year, I found myself deficient in vim and vigor.

Yoga builds ojas, tejas, and prana.  It also helps sustain homeostasis on physical, mental, emotional, and energetic levels.  So if you are feeling run-down or needing more nectar in your life, consider ways to recharge.  Your yoga practice is whatever helps you connect inside, whether asana, meditation, biking, running, dancing, cooking, singing, laughing, sleeping, to name a few.  Identify what nourishes you and take care of yourself.  Find ways to make life juicier, drinking in more ojas.  It's not just for breakfast anymore!

 

Happy New Year!

Cat From The Mat

January 2014