Cat From The Mat

At the Risk of Sounding Rid-Icarus

"Find life experiences and swallow them whole.  Travel. Meet many people.  Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys.  Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."
~ Lawrence K. Fish 

The Greek myth of Icarus is about taking flight and striking a balance between compliance, complacency, and hubris.  As one version of the story goes, Icarus' father and master craftsman Daedalus designs a labyrinth for King Minos to imprison the Minotaur monster.  After infuriating the king in helping cohorts escape this prison, Daedalus finds himself held captive within his own creation, along with his son Icarus.  Fleeing by foot or by sea are not options from the island of Crete.  Daedalus therefore decides to escape by air, making two pairs of wings out of feathers and wax for the two of them.

Before leaving the island, the father warns Icarus not to fly too close to the hot sun or too close to the humid seawater, for both extremes will destroy his wings.  The young boy is elated by the newfound freedom and soars into the sky towards the bright sun.   The heat melts the wax of his wings, and as expected, he falls to his death into the sea. The typical moral of the story is to be wary of the demise that comes from being too self-assured.  However, often lost is the other message: if you aim too low in life then you might not reach your highest heights.

How high will you fly?  This is the over-arching theme of Seth Godin's book "The Icarus Deception." He argues that the main difference between creating a commodity versus art is the presence of risk.  Art is a risky business.  If you do not allow vulnerability, then perhaps you are playing it safe.  But that doesn't mean to fly recklessly high.  The goal is to express your greatest potential while not getting in your own way.

Are you a creator or a consumer of life, or perhaps a mix of both?  I think it depends on how much your heart is involved.  Being vulnerable can be scary.  It's an extrinsic expression of an intrinsic strength.  Contentment is about leading a fulfilling life that still has room in which to explore both the known and the unknown.

British actor Patrick McGoohan traded in his James Bond-type popularity by taking a huge leap in creating The Prisoner, a TV show so ahead of its time that only a select audience "got" at the time.  Musician David Byrne walked away from his Talking Heads rock star status in order to live up to his dreams, rather than up to his fans' expectations.  Both "successful" artists wanted to continue to push their passionate edges and carve out unmarked paths.  This takes courage.  To me, delving into uncertainty seems less scary than living a predictable life.

Yoga is a practice of integrating your curious mind, empathic heart, and intelligent body.  It invites you to live a skillful, artful, and meaningful life.  If you don't establish a strong self-connection, then you might be pleasing everyone but yourself.  And if you do not feel connected to those around you, then you have lost the common thread that ties our humanness together.  

As Seth Godin suggests, "Fly closer to the sun.  Become naked and vulnerable in front of those you give your art to, and seek connection."  Like Daedalus and Icarus before you, create your own myth.  Take risks.  Take flight.  See where your wings bring you, in the glorious pursuit of life.  

Happy Flying!


Cat From The Mat

May 2015



To build up, dismantle first

To expand, contract first
To attain clarity, allow confusion
To become civilized, first live in the world
The balance of all things is in their opposites.
The truth points in both directions,
thus the clenched fist holds weakness within.
And the open hand offers the hidden power of suns.

     - Haven Trevino, from The Tao of Healing



Have you ever felt cornered by a decision?  Do you feel often stuck in a cycle of behavior that no longer works?  Do you wish to find a release from entanglement that originally felt comforting and even desirable?  Perhaps it's time to practice the art of letting go. 

There is a trap designed to catch animals too smart to fall for an ordinary ploy, known as the Monkey Trap.  According to Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “a monkey trap consists of a hollowed out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through the small hole. The hole is big enough so the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped — by nothing more than his own rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it.”   

This trap is a great metaphor of how to appreciate something without having to possess it.  Or to  value someone without clinging.  The way to escape the monkey trap is to simply let go.  Easier said than done.  This by no means is a passive endeavor.   It takes action to relinquish expectations that you hold on to so tightly.  In fact, it can feel quite scary. But has the discomfort of clutching to the familiar become more of a hindrance than the fear of release?  

Yoga is a practice of questioning your deeply engrained patterns on physical, mental, and emotional levels.  Just because something is habitual doesn't mean that it's beneficial.   "Aparigraha" is the Sanskrit term for non-grasping.  If some behavioral defaults no longer serve you, then it's time to loosen your grip of assumptions, situations, and perhaps relationships.  

Before you can blossom into springtime,   you must first have ample space in which to germinate and grow.  As you move from winter into the next season, there is an opportunity to clear out.  Spring cleaning is a way to free up stuck energy and to recognize that which you treasure without feeling bound by it.  An open palm is more receptive than a clenched fist.  

Your monkey mind can chose to either hold on to the tangible treat inside the trap or to loosen the grip in hopes to find other nourishment.  You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em, with various options in between.  A full spectrum is within your reach.  Your choices might help the fabric of your life to have less static and be more cling-free.

Happy Spring Equinox!

Cat From the Mat
March 2015

Full of Yourself

February is National Heart Month and offers all sorts of festivities, from Valentine's to Mardi Gras Day, celebrating US presidents as we segue from the Chinese year of the moving Horse to that of the healing Sheep.  Change is what happens when an obstruction is removed.  That tectonic-plate-feeling shift in 2014 has laid a foundation upon which to build this New Year, as if obstacles have been dismantled or highlighted in order to choose another path that flows.

As much as I do not subscribe to the Hallmarkian coupling promotion of Valentine's Day, I do agree that relationships are integral.  The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for the ones you have with others.  And self-care is the source of it all.  While loving alliances may contribute to your needs, it's your job to take care of yourself and to meet your own needs. But why is taking care of YOU often looked upon as shameful or self-centered?

In English, we have two words that are at opposite ends of the spectrum:  Selfish and Selfless.  Both are judgments.  Being selfish is considered bad, while selflessness is looked upon as good.  This implies an all or none scenario, while neither option is helpful.

Why would losing your sense of self in order to put others’ needs first be regarded as ideal?  It may negate your own needs, which is often rewarded.   Equally out of balance is feeling guilty for taking care of yourself.  One extreme disconnects you from others, while the other creates separation from self. 

I prefer the term that Marshall Rosenberg (founder of NVC, Non-Violent Communication) uses, which is "Self-ful."   It gives being "full of yourself" a new twist…one that promotes fulfilling your own sense of nourishment, so that you can care for others without denying your own needs.  This to me is at the root of any connection, inside and out.

I encourage you to exercise your heart this Valentine's Day.  Do something that you may never think of doing, in promotion of Self-fulness. Feed your own needs and consider that this restorative agency could make you more resourceful and resilient in partnership.  You might even inspire others to self-connect.  Be full of yourself and take relationships to a new level!

Here's to 2015...a year of good health, healing happiness, and salubrious self-care! 

Cat From the Mat

February 2015