Cat From The Mat

The Overwhelming, Ever Changing, and Circuitous Path

I recently experienced Iceland…the land of Vikings, indescribable terrains marked by geological activity, and a unique home of Norse origin.  En route back from my European yoga tour, I stopped off in Reykjavik (which in Icelandic means “smoky bay”) to meet up with my husband for an anniversary trip. Off on an adventure we went in our rental car, with local krona currency, an ice-chest, and an exploring appetite.  Together we have driven through majestic mountain ranges of the US, played on hills of gypsum, and have traversed fresh lava fields.  However, nothing quite compares to the exceptional environs of Iceland! 

Overwhelming destinations: I had one of those speechless moments when I saw the gargantuan glacier the feeds into the Glacial Lagoon in the southeast region of the country.  From the highway, the frozen flow of water was colossal and awe-inspiring, which only enlarged as we approached the enormity of the tip of the iceberg.  Its immense presence made my eyes jump out of their sockets, adding to my gaping maw.  

My response reminded me of how often I can feel overwhelmed.  Some challenges in life may seem insurmountable at times.  It’s easy to become paralyzed, not knowing how to move forward.  Yet, small, tangible steps bring me closer to my destination without focusing on the final goal.  As I approached the glacier and took my first stride upon the delicate, breakable ice, I tread lightly.  An environment like this commands respect.  How insignificant we are in contrast to the big wide world in which we live!  And yet, the steps we often take are huge…to us.

Ever-changing typography: Our daily itinerary took us through diverse territory, from green-covered volcanic moonscapes, to exploding geysers and steaming hot springs, to productive farmland and windy sandstorms at the beach.  The sheep population has learned to live in both lush and barren land, finding food in all situations.  The quest for the yogin is to also find the nourishment in every encounter, whether palatable or not.  Resiliency is not only the key to survive, but it’s an important tool to evolve as beings.  Being adaptable to what is around you requires an abundant perspective and luckily lots of opportunities to practice.

Circuitous routes: One local suggested we hike up the mountains to find a gem of a hot springs river.  We set off for what we thought would be an easy jaunt.  However, with the short daylight hours and confusion of where the path originated, we started our trek later than expected.  As we began our ascent, we noticed fellow hikers descending, looking refreshed from a hike and soak.  Each person indicated that we were not too far away from our destination.  But every time we turned a corner revealing river steam ahead, the path would then lead us further away from our intended target.  The lesson seemed painfully obvious…that just because the path seems to be taking you in the complete opposite direction of your trajectory, doesn’t mean that you are not staying the course.  After about two hours, we finally made it to the river frustrated and exhausted, but happy to finally jump into the hot bathing river, even if only for a quick well-earned dip.

 The return down the mountain went much quicker.  We had no flashlights and had to hurry before the sun set.  In Iceland, outside of the major towns, there are no highway lights to guide the way.  This can be disconcerting when trying to find your destination in the dark.  But this blackness is what allows for the colorful Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) to be seen.  

Yoga teaches us to generate luminosity to see amidst the dimness within and without.  It’s an ongoing cultivation of awareness.  When you always know the way, you are less inclined to open to the unknown.  As you approach the winter solstice on Dec 21st, the longest night of the year, you are invited to generate more inner brightness, to match the holiday lights wrapped around the trees, houses, and store fronts.  If Icelanders can find cheer amidst long winter nights, lava-field sheep can find feast over famine, then I encourage you to find levity along your path in life.  It may be overwhelming, ever changing, and circuitous, but the trail is unmarked, unspoiled, and unbelievable!


Happy Holidays!


Cat From The Mat

December 2013

Good Grief

It's Halloween, which is considered the Celtic New Year.  Samhain (pronounced "sow-in") is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the darker half of the year.  It's a time of looking back with appreciation and assessing all that has transpired.  It's also a time of seasonal transition, as we segue into longer nights and shorter days.  Whether beginning a new year, relationship, or phase in your life, in order to move into the next thing, an ending is inevitable.  Endings mark beginnings.  They involve stages that we must go through and cannot skip, in order to set the scene for the next creative endeavor. 

The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.” -The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings

2013 has been a year of dissolution for me.  Things that had been working, or just hobbling along, finally reached a tipping point.  Radical revision has been required, something with which I struggle.  I like consistency and routine to keep me anchored.  Yet, life has a way of uprooting us all.  Yoga is the practice of being comfortable being slightly uncomfortable, especially during shifts.  Change is the constant.  We are always in a cycle of adjusting and readjusting, whether at the beginning, middle, or end of any situation.  This often takes time and doesn't occur overnight.  Are you cognizant when you are in a transition?  Can you appreciate the discomfort, knowing that transformation is afoot?  This is a honed skill of the yogin.

Throughout the year, foundational tectonic plates have been moving beneath my feet.  I have been grieving…the death of loved ones, the end of long-standing friendships, and breakdowns in health, to name a few.  In the book "On Death and Dying," Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explains that there are five stages of grief.  She hypothesizes that when faced with the impending death of someone or something, we experience the sequence of: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  To miss any of these stages is to not completely move through the sorrow.  However painful and downright unpleasant, the act of experiencing each part of the cycle fully is the quickest and most informative way to process shifts in our lives.  This can carry us to a new starting point with a profound and iterative understanding. 

We practice these five stages every time we step onto the yoga mat.  We are invited through the full cycle in each and every pose.  In fact, when we conclude each class with the corpse pose (savasana), we embrace an ending, the ultimate act of letting go…acceptance.  It is from this disintegration that we reintegrate and move back out into our lives with a fresh perspective. We begin anew.

As we transition from fall into winter, we savor the fruits of the harvest while planting seeds in the dark.  The death of the ripe fruit contains the seedling for the future generation, while fostered in the fertile soil of change.  This requires constant cultivation and attention.  There seems to be a change of consciousness in the autumnal air.  What are you holding on to so tightly?  What would you like to release into the ether?  How would you like to design your life, so that your losses can fuel your growth?  I myself am looking forward to what's next.  I don't know exactly what it is.  But having practiced letting go thus far, I feel more prepared.  Good grief, I'm ready!

Cat From The Mat

Oct/Nov 2013

Wall To Wall

In crossing the threshold into my 45th year of embodiment, I have been “OTG.’’  Not “open to grace” nor “on the go”…but rather, “off the grid.”  In hopes of recharging my battery, I recently took some much needed down time, sans cell phone.  While residing in my social media-challenged hermitage, there was limited wi-fi.  What a treat to retreat!  I am though reemerging in the world with accrued restful sleep, new insights, and an appreciation for fortification.

Every birthday you celebrate adds another layer of experience that surrounds you.  You collect these yearly concentric circles like an encasement of knowledge.  In yoga, there are similar lampshade-like sheaths of awareness called “koshas.”  They range from the most outer physical coat to the most sagacious inner one of intuition.  Inside all of them is your highest and brightest self.  However, if you stay mainly in one kosha or only identify with one covering as “you,” then you limit yourself. 

If you have an injury or a health issue, you can start to recognize yourself as your ailment.  Do you find yourself saying, “I am so inflexible that I can’t even touch my toes”? Do you complain about always being tired or too busy?  Do you resign yourself to the fact that you are and will always be stubborn?  These declarations constrict the possibility of transformation or the thrill of breaking your own rules 

Boundary is not the issue at hand.  Partitions are not bad per se.  Screening is often needed to measure whether another person has earned his/her access inside.  The real predicament is whether the barriers are ultimately confining and compounding or permeable and expansive.  Are these protective layers of armor meant to keep others out or to keep you safe inside?  

Regardless of purpose, each relationship you choose helps you grow.  It’s in connection with others that you learn more about yourself.  The rub of conflict can propel you to develop understanding, and to evolve.  You cannot undo the past.  There are no do-overs in life.  But you have the opportunity to recursively begin anew in every moment.  

Yoga invites you to hit the reset button every time you step onto the mat.  The more familiar you become with your outermost physical existence, the more curious you are in exploring the subtle body.  The skillful yogin traverses all sheaths of consciousness like porous walls and to fluently straddle the various layers of self…from outside in and inside out.  If you have been regrouping in your fort, I urge you to eventually come out and play in the world.  This practice promises all sorts of adventures with your many selves, within limits and beyond!


Cat From The Mat
Aug/Sept 2013