Cat From The Mat

Are you sleep-walking through life?

I love naps.  I'm a big fan of sleep.  I am highly entertained by the chaotic narrative of my very vivid dream life. My mind seems more interesting while snoozing than when awake. I wish I could sleep all day long.  It offers healing and the ability to process the events of the day. However, sleeping has an appropriate time and place.

When your foot falls asleep, you feel the pins and needles, before it goes numb.  But it's not dead.  A numb foot just isn't useful.  It takes some time for your appendage to become participatory again.  In fact, the process of getting your limbs back into action can be downright uncomfortable. So is the process of awareness. 

Consciousness has three main states: awake, dreaming, and deep sleep.  When you are asleep, you can be in a dream state or a deep dreamless one of awareness, which is different than death.  When you wake up, you are in a yet another state of mindfulness...one that you recognize as reality. But just because you are not asleep, doesn't mean that you are awake.

Sometimes life can get so overwhelming that you choose to numb yourself and remain unconscious.  It can feel easier to coast through the doldrums of a relationship than to rock the boat.  Or maybe you choose to be groggy in the safe routine of each day, like the Dunkin Donuts "it's time to make the doughnuts" commercial.

Being unaware definitely has its benefits.  You will be just fine.   Life will continue on as is, until it doesn't.  The question is whether you want a good experience while here or a great adventure.  Should you choose to accept the mission of an extraordinary and perhaps slightly uncomfortable life, what can you do to lift the fog of complacency?

For me, yoga helps raise my awareness.  Yoga doesn't necessarily mean the physical asana practice.  It can be anything which helps you check-in with yourself, like meditating, biking, cooking a meal, or enjoying a quality conversation.    Yoga is whatever helps lift the anesthetized veil and feel life fully.  With practice, the yogin becomes more skillful at flowing through each of these states of consciousness to become more sensitized while transacting with the outer world.  To recognize each level of cognizance in all realms is a tall order and a very rewarding one.

As summertime lifts the confines of your familiar schedule, it's easy to check-out.  It is also a time to stimulate your awareness and shake things up.  It gives the ripe opportunity to have great escapades of awakening amidst the sleepy heat of the season. Becoming aware means using all that you experience, so that no limb of life becomes dead weight.

Wakey, wakey!  Embrace the stimulating season to turn the good into great.  Enjoy the restful deep sleep while being fully observant in the world. Your dreams just might become your reality!

Cat McCarthy

NOLA YOGA

July/August 2012

Consumed With Artful Means

Consumed With Artful Means 

I recently watched a documentary film about American designers Charles and Ray Eames.  Over several decades, this dynamic married couple worked in multi-media including architecture, furniture, graphic design, fine art, and film.  They revolutionized furniture design.  The Eames chair is one of their most notable modern pieces of furniture and was ahead of its time. 

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When Charles Eames first designed his bent-plywood chair with Eero Saarinen as part of a MOMA competition, the work received notoriety.  But because it could not be easily replicated,  it was considered a "failure".  Charles persevered and later collaborated with his wife Ray to realize the quintessential Eames chair mass produced by Herman Miller, made first of plywood, then molded plastic, followed by leather variations on a theme.

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Ray was fine art painter and textile designer, while Charles loved the technique of making furniture and films as well as lecturing on their design approach.  Even though they worked in multiple mediums, this duo shared a common vision as artists, with two main pillars.   First of all, the act of exploring new terrain was considered the creation itself.  "Art resides in the quality of doing," said Charles.   The couple continued to promote the process of production as art.    Whether building a modern house to coalesce with the surrounding environment, editing a film to bridging people of different cultures, or solving the puzzle of creating effective wooden splints for the US Navy,  the Eames' pursued to link things together via a common thread of relationship.

Secondly, The Eames team embraced obstacles as a challenge.  "I have never been forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints,"  stated Charles. Therefore, restrictions lead to the creative path.  They limited their designs to simple, long-lasting, and affordable works of quality, so that their furniture could be mass produced and accessible to all.

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Working with welcomed constraints is also the process of yoga.   It's a constant practice of enjoying the limits of embodiment, with awareness of self-design.  The breath is the thread that sews the heart, mind, and body together in an exquisite tapestry of the human physical and energetic body.  Connecting the dots dictates the design, so the details do matter.  The more you can trace the link between the power of the baby toe all the way up to your head, the more you become aware of your innate intelligent blueprint.   The way you stand on your feet can determine the caliber of how you walk through life.   "Eventually everything connects - people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se," said Charles.

Yoga means "engagement."   It's about making those subtle and gross connections of your experience, which can make or break a pose, or even your perspective.  When you are in sync with yourself, you align better to our surroundings...to people, ideas, situations.  And yet, it is an ongoing effort.  The process of becoming more skillful and aware of your tendencies makes those mental muscles stronger.  The details are the intentional confines in which creative expression may flourish.  To quote my philosophy teacher Douglas Brooks,  "Clear boundaries, no limits."

As we jump into the limitless summer, cultivate your consciousness.  Design-build your life so that every interaction you have is economical and artful.  "Choose your corner, pick away at it carefully, intensely and to the best of your ability and that way you might change the world." - Charles Eames

Happy means on the mat,

Cat McCarthy, ERYT-500
NOLA YOGA
June 2012

The more I say goodbye, I say hello

As we move into April, we transition from the end of winter into the beginning of spring.  Myself, I am much better with starting than completing a project, better with “hellos” than “goodbyes.” Sometimes endings are seen as a death and therefore hard to accept.   According to Swiss psychiatrist/writer Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  The Kübler-Ross Model can be used for multiple situations where people experience a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, major rejection, end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, change in office environment, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well many tragedies and disasters.

Denial can be a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. It is a defense mechanism, so some people can become locked in this stage. Next, anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. Bargaining, the third stage, rarely provides a sustainable solution.  It involves the hope of somehow postponing an end or negotiating a compromise. Depression could then be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the inevitable, as a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that a person has begun to accept the situation.  This leads to the final stage of acceptance.  If you cannot accept something, then you cannot move forward.  It’s hard to endure an ending when you don’t see how it feeds into the next creative venture.  It’s through acceptance that you can take action and continue to evolve, rather than avoiding change or wallowing in a holding pattern. By finishing what you start, you can begin anew.

This is the perfect time of year to act, whether spring cleaning at home, shifting energy in your office, or ending a personal relationship to make space for the unknown next.    However, if you are in the midst of change (which ironically is the constant) and wish to be in different stage of grief, I invite you to accept where you are, not where you want or ought to be.  Not always the most palatable, it is the quickest way to process and move forward.  And ending of any kind sets the foundation for the next natural beginning. Conclusion of a cycle is the starting point of the next succession.

The fertility of spring offers the germination of previously planted seeds of intention as well as blossoming of potential.  When both the inner and outer environs are conducive for growth, then it’s easier to accept being at every stage of grief fully.  So what climate can you cultivate inside to foster compassion?  And what are the outer conditions that you choose to support your fullest potential to sprout inside?  Perhaps when you accept where you are, you might inspire others to do the same, while accepting where they are.  This is not a passive endeavor.  It takes active receptivity to be accountable.  Yoga provides this practice of skillful action and clarity, within and without.

Jump into your seedling self and encourage your seasonal intentions to take root and flourish. There are lots of ways to take action for yourself and amidst your communities.  With acceptance this spring, bloom where you are and thrive!

Cat From The Mat

NOLA YOGA
April 2012