Cat From The Mat



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

Follow Your Blissful Feet Through the Fire

"You must let go of the life you have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for you.  The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure."     
       Joseph Campbell

I have been on a journey for almost a decade.  Responding to the call for adventure, I chose to leave familiar terrain to explore unchartered territory, which has been both challenging and rewarding.  I've been wondering whether it's time to head back home to myself to complete that voyage.  

I just recently taught a yoga weekend workshop on Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the Hero's Journey.  The hero's path delves deeply into three main stages: the Departure from the known into the unknown, the Initiation/Fulfillment of the new world, and the Return back home.  Each time I present this theme, I focus on the warrior's choice of whether or not to leave perceived safety in order to venture into the dark and scary.  Putting yourself in unfamiliar situations brings more tools for fluency of self.  Yoga invites you to go to places that others might not have the interest, bravery, nor tenacity to go.  After all, courage is acting in ways that conjure up fear.

According to the monomyth, after the acclimation to the new world, the hero will choose to go back to the old one.  But the region to which he/she returns feels like a new place, because the warrior has evolved.  The environs might be the same, but the perspective with which the traveler interprets the world has shifted.  To quote French novelist Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

I encourage my fellow yogins to return back home after the road of trials and tribulations, because yoga is about being in the world…of mortgages, bills, marriage, parenting, family reunions, holiday parties, to name a few.  As enticing as it might seem to turn away from daily responsibilities, we learn through the ups and downs of life by participating in the shared social fabric.  What has recently dawned on me though is how hard it is to do that last stage…the Return.  This step takes the most courage of all and can be anything but comfortable.  

When an astronaut has been in orbit for a while, the re-entry back to earth is very fast, extremely hot, and often destructive.  The temperature on the command module's surface can climb up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  The vessel's heat shield is designed to melt and erode away from the module as it heats up, protecting the inner structure.  The atmosphere acts like a braking system on the spacecraft, while this ablative covering vaporizes and keeps the astronaut safe inside for a successful re-entry.


As you journey through life, that same friction and heat are needed for transformation to occur.  Change is not easy and yet inevitable.  The return back to home to yourself can seem scary and overwhelming, because that too might seem as distant as outer space.  Your feet might be held to the fire.  That's when the metamorphosis happens.  Dissolution often propels you into a new place of understanding, of expanded awareness, of empathy.   This journey of self-connection opens up your eyes to see an old familiar spot as a new dwelling.  It's a practice of both inner and outer exploration.

Is "home" a place from which you emerge and to which you return?  Is it just your physical surroundings or your identity to a location?  Maybe it's as simple as a feeling of ease, like that deep exhale right before you fall asleep.   If this is indeed a state of being, then you can feel at home in your own skin, no matter where you are.  In the words of Joseph Campbell, "The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, your nature with Nature.  The goal of the hero’s journey is yourself finding Yourself."

The yoga asana is how you posture yourself in life.  Home is the pose to which you keep returning back with a newly renovated seat for your soul.  Every internal and external journey brings new agency of how to see, hear, and taste the world, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Applying such accrued wisdom upon your return is what makes the abode of your heart even sweeter.  Like the destructive re-entry of the cosmonaut, your heart must break to open.

This year has been a very challenging year for many of us.   As 2014 comes to a close, there is the completion of projects, jobs, relationships, pursuits, or outdated perspectives.  It's been a process of wearing away old patterns to make space for the new.  Every ending marks a beginning.

As the season gets darker and colder, the holiday lights heat up.   Find the balance of how your inner landscape can match the outer world, while allowing the external fertile soil to feed your bright spirit within.   The hero's journey is only a step away and can take you distant miles further.  Home can feel far away, and yet it's on the other side of the door.  Enjoy the re-entry, because there's no place like ho-ho-hOMe for the holidays!

Happy Festivus! 



Cat From the Mat

December 2014