Cat From The Mat

Sculpt Your Own Path

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

This February 14 will mark one year since I resigned my licensing agreement with Anusara, Inc.  It was an empowering and clear day in the middle of the mayhem in Miami when I made my choice to no longer promote my offerings under the brand of Anusara Yoga.  In fact, it was the best Valentine's Day gift I have ever given myself!  (Second runner-up was when I graduated to a big girl bed in my 30's after a decade of an aging futon.)

Thinking that I was operating within an egalitarian horizontal model (where the seat of the teacher shifts from person to person), I found myself practicing deference, however still within a vertical hierarchy.  The guru-based top-down model is antiquated at best.  I define the term "guru" as a principle, not as a person.  A guru is anything that helps you recognize your inherent greatness.  Listening to my dignified teacher within, I chose to resign from old-school Anusara Yoga (to which I had been committed for over a decade) and to honor my own path.
This though begs the question: if you are surrounded by so many guiding voices, then what does YOUR inner teacher truly sound like?  Extrinsic voices are only effective if they guide you back home to listen and believe in yourself, especially if it differs from the status quo.  The tools you need already reside within.  Intrinsic experiential wisdom is the loudest and clearest voice of all.
ImageAs we segue from the Chinese Year of the Water Dragon to that of the Water Snake, we shift from the tumultuous properties of water to a more reflective, fluid nature of the serpent.  A snake sheds its skin, letting go of that which is no longer needed to prepare for the newest version of itself.  Every time we practice yoga, we are shedding light on that which needs to shift and be healed so that we evolve in every moment.  This year offers immense potential of creative expression and subtle gestation that may take some time to unveil.  Trust in your intuitive abilities, as a way to honor your discerning inner guru.
Happy Chinese New Year, Happy Mardi Gras, and Happy Valentine's Day!
Cat McCarthy
February 2013

The Event of a New Year

Before crossing the threshold of a rather tumultuous 2012 into the possibility of this new year, I attended an art exhibit at NYC's Park Ave Armory called "The Event of a Thread."  
According to artist Ann Hamilton, her exhibit was inspired by two main things: sewing and storytelling.  The practice of stitching is one of crossing threads in such a way that they become connected in relationship with each other.  In a rather lofty yet welcoming space, Hamilton has created the dynamic movement of a central silk curtain, connected to overlapping strings above the driven movement of nearby swings.  These swings move in tandem with the others and cause the silk to dance.  Hamilton is successful in creating a space where people felt roomy while feeling the impact of one's actions on another, from having your swing moved, initiating the random oscillation of material, to just sharing a common place in which to get lost.

You can ride the pendulum of a swing or repose on the wooden floor looking up at the dreamy flowing curtain. From surrounding brown paper and twine gift wrapped speakers, one can hear an intimate broadcasted voice of a live reader.  

Being read to is a narrative loom.  As a child, I remember my grandmother reading to me Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories or Grimm's Fairy Tales, as I closed my eyes and opened up my ears.  Leaning into her as she recited, I could feel the vibration of her words while being transported to another time and place that each story demanded.  I would fall asleep inside the stories and then wake up the next morning back in my own perception of reality.  My imagination became the connecting thread.
As you transition into 2013, you exercise the ritual of writing upon the blank slate of a new year.  You are the story you tell yourself.  It's easy to focus on what you have failed to do the prior year.  More exciting though is envisioning the narrative that you want to tell.  Like a worn out sweater, 2012 is done with. Instead of throwing that piece of clothing away, you have the chance to take the leftover relevant threads and reknit the next version of your sweater, your life.  You don't need this ritual of New Year's to do such a thing, but culturally it's an agreed upon date when we can all reset, start fresh, and fabricate again.
Yoga invites you to hit the reset button, to sew and sow again.  The Sanskrit term "Svatantrya" means self-sovereignty or self-weaving.  "Sva" implies self.  "Tantra" is a paradoxical term that defines both a tool upon which to expand, as well as one upon which to deeply enter into woven relationship.  What are the strings from your old garb that are still relevant to incorporate into your new year?  And what are the new fibers you wish to add into the tapestry of 2013?  You can always unravel the pattern of your current narrative and recount the chronicle you wish to reveal this year.  Every moment is the first of January.

The title of Ann Hamilton's installation comes from a knitting book where it's explained that the crossing of any thread is considered an "event." So make this year of putting your intention into action as an application of self-mastery.  When you deliberately design the pattern you wish to be, the web you weave is a beautiful manifestation of how you choose to engage in life, rather than just a "stitch 'n bitch."
Happy New Year!  To 2013, a year of artful possibility and expression...cheers!
Cat from the Mat
January 2013

Change is 
the new black

"entropy (noun), as in life is a struggle against entropy: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse; disorder, chaos."

This year has been entropic, to say the least.  For many, 2012 has been full of dissolution...divorces, deaths, decluttering, physical injuries and paralyzing outcomes, unprecedented destructive weather, and unexpected deterioration with countries and even closer to home within yoga communities.  And we still have a month to go! 

The law of entropy states that nature is in a continual state of disorder.  Change is the constant.  The human body breaks down.  Computers becomes obsolete.  Possessions get recycled.  Old businesses get replaced by new ones.  Nothing stays the same.  So what are you going to do about it?  You can either get with the program and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances, or you eventually become inert and perhaps antiquated.


The concept of embracing challenges as catalysts of transformation is great in theory.  Doing it however is another story.  I too have had many changes this year, which all have been indications that I need to expand beyond my self-imposed limitations.   I find change to be difficult.  I was raised in the same city,  in the same house, and attended the same school from kindergarten through 12th grade.  It was only this past year that I finally moved my belongings out of my childhood bedroom, much to my parents delight.  Living on the same block in New York City for almost 20 years with familiar neighbors proves that I like rooted consistency.  As a professional yoga instructor and filmmaker, I have been trained to shift on the spot and respond to what is needed in the present moment. However, in my personal life, I'm not so proficient in life's revisions.  So it begs the question...when does too much stability become a barrier?


As things dissolve, I evolve.  Breakdowns indicate movement and growth.  What might appear as an unpalatable situation could perhaps be the perfect thing that brings me to the next chapter in my journey. Yoga is the practice of engaging in the world fully.  My yoga training has given me tools to transmute hindrances into help, while speeding up the process of accepting the unforeseeable.  The more I practice, the quicker my turn-around time. It's always a welcomed challenge, although never easy.

Participate in the turmoil, without wallowing in it.  Be in that big pile of dirt while keeping your dignity in tact.  Savor the exhaustion of experience, without taking life too personally.  If you sport this attitude over the holidays, you might like your perpetually new outfit.  After all, change is the new black!

Happy Hanukah, Christmas, Kwaanza, Winter Solstice, and Festivus for the rest of us!


December 2012