Cat From The Mat

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

The Hero's Journey... Back Home to the Heart

According to Joseph Campbell, the cross-cultural mono-myth of the hero's journey consists of three main stages: (1) the Call to Adventure/Departure, (2) the Initiation/Fulfillment, and (3) the Return.  This is a voyage that one embarks upon every day, whether choosing to make a shift in life, when taking a trip and returning from vacation, and even when practicing on the yoga mat.  I have just been away on a journey myself, traveling to teach to wonderful groups of yogins all over.  Here's what I am bringing back home with me upon my return. 

Departure: I was "called to adventure" when I flew to Miami, FL to partake in a week's worth of yoga as a student, which is always a luxury.  But this time it was different with my teacher John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga.   Due to recent allegations of his ethical misconduct,  I felt reticent to take this trip. However, it was only week one of my three week travels, and I wanted to see first-hand what this "mishagosh" was all about.  So I crossed that threshold and delved into the unknown, just as the archetype of the hero does.  Following one and a half days of practicing asana under unusual circumstances,  I made a very difficult decision to discontinue associating myself with Anusara, Inc.   This choice, coming after a decade of committing myself to a specific path, has brought me deeper into the unknown.  Over my twenty years on the path, I have learned that yoga cultivates an inner guidance and luminosity; allowing me to see better in the dark.  At first scary and continually very sad, this decision has brought me utter clarity.  It was apparent that I needed to step away from what has become familiar.  I have chosen to stand in my bright inner teacher...my heart.

Initiation: Stage two ramped up the journey into a new gear, one of ups-and-downs for the hero.  This part of the journey is marked by the "road of trials".  I flew to Houston where I taught at the Texas Yoga Conference with fellow national teachers of various yoga lineage backgrounds.   Riding an emotional roller coaster for the past week, I wasn't sure how it all would go, as the news of Anusara's unraveling was floating around on the yogic ether.  I didn't know how I was going to teach or what words would come out.  My theme of "Dancing with the Currents of Life" was apropos and perfect.  And dance I did.  I had a blast teaching to large group of kindred spirits who love yoga as much as I.  The welcoming energy made this initiation phase very fulfilling, and my teaching was clear and true as ever.  For myself, the few yogins "in the know,"  and for those new to an alignment-based asana practice, it was healing on many levels.

Fulfillment: My odyssey then brought me to Telluride, CO, where I taught a fun weekend workshop: "Being Vira: The Hero's Journey."  According to the myth, every step along the way challenges the hero to see if he/she can bravely serve for something more than just self-preservation.  Through perseverance, the hero gains more tools as a skillful warrior.  There's nothing like the scope of standing on top of mountainous terrain to gain perspective.  Besides hiking in Arches National Park in UT, exploring small towns with delightful names like "Paradox," and learning to dance with the snowy slopes on skis, I was once again embraced by a wonderful playful yoga community to test my skills of service.  As the hero acclimates to the bliss of the new world, so did I.  We entered into a poignant conversation of how to apply what we learn on the mat to the world around us, with courageous and truthful hearts.  Once the hero adjusts to this new world (which isn't hard to do in the majestic mountains of CO) and attunes to see better in the dark, it begs the question...should I stay or should I go?

Return: The final stage of journey is for the hero to choose whether to return back home or not.   In the philosophical foundation of the yoga that I love, the yogin always comes home to transform the old world with new perceptive.  It's not about escaping life or transcending being human.  This application of transmuting real and sometimes difficult situations into more nourishing ones is the practice of being in engaged in the world, one of participation rather than victimization.  That is the yoga that I practice.  It's about being comfortable being slightly uncomfortable, in unfamiliar darkness while conjuring up more inner light.  It's about taking what the world offers and co-creating your own narrative of mythic proportions.

So I return back home with a new found clarity and with a bright laser focus on my path of yoga.  I am excited about my next heroic phase of being a Hatha yoga teacher.  This year has already been so fruitful, and I anticipate that it will only increase locally, regionally, and nationally as I expand to include teaching internationally.

In the words of Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  I look forward to more expeditions which ultimately bring me back home to my heart with a new pair of eyes.   Happy Lenten season and see y'all on the mat!

Cat from the Mat
NOLA YOGA
March 2012