Cat From The Mat

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

Renovate Your Soul

"Operation Declutter" has been the theme of 2012 for me.  It's been a year of change and re-evaluating life on many levels.  But the one area of life that has needed most of my attention has been the spaces in which I live.  It's amazing how much stuff I have accumulated over the years, while still being mindful of not hoarding what I do not need.  And the impetus of this purging came from the desire to simplify and beautify my abode, in a quest to make it current.  Renovating space takes time, with a few steps involved. 

Step one: You must first bring everything to its basic form.  Once you get down to the substructure and see clearly what is there, you can then decide whether you are standing on solid ground or upon a house of cards.   By removing that old carpet or linoleum, you might find beautiful wooden floors or perhaps termite-ridden and rotten beams.  Until you excavate, you don't know what is holding you up.  Similarly, your inner dwelling is in need of constant inspection.  When your body does not feel secure, it holds on to unnecessary tension, which can uproot you.  It's that fight-or-flight response, known as the sympathetic nervous system.  Yoga however navigates within the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system.  When you feel at home in your own skin and anchored inside, then you can relax. Your bodily systems can run smoothly.  Every time you practice yoga, you digest life.  You fortify your foundation, so that you can see what is and is not working within the studs of your own inner architecture.

Step two:  Once you establish a solid foothold, the purging can then commence.    Choosing what to keep and what to get rid of is a creative process.  You might not even realize how much history you are holding on to.  As I methodically went through each room, every closet, and all of my files, it dawned on me that although I had "moved on," I was still stuck in the energy of the past.  I chose to throw away my many antiquated VHS copies of films I produced/directed.  I shredded old letters and donated lots of memorable books.  Some of my earliest IKEA furniture was put on the curb.  (It's amazing it lasted this long!)  And I finally tossed out products with past due expiration dates.  And it all felt so liberating.  It's the same clarity and space-making on the yoga mat, that feeds more freedom. 


The Sanskrit word "aparigraha" translates as "non-grasping."  However, often is it defined as "non-attachment."  And the truth is, you are attached to that which you value and desire.  The things you choose to retain still have worth.   When weeding out my closet, I had to make a choice about a winter coat that I had worn all the time and loved. I was attached to it.  However, it was of more importance to me that my neighbor’s kid wear could wear it this winter, so I happily gave it away.  I was able to appreciate what it had to offer, while not being bound by it, like spotting a four-leaf clover and not picking it.   I enjoy the idea that its usefulness will continue on.  Whether with a jacket or a relationship, can you appreciate value without clinging, even enough to let it go?


Step three: Now the beautification begins.  Reconfiguring the furniture layout can make a room feel new again.  With fewer possessions and more space, you have many possibilities.  A fresh coat of paint and streamlined reorganization can update all residencies… in your heart, mind, and body.  As we move into the dark and fertile fall seasonal, there's room for germinating potential.   The yoga invites you to choose what is significant and what is superfluous, while conjuring up more luminosity to see what is truly beneath your patterns.  That interior clarity is empowering.  Throughout the remainder of the year, you can instill what's beneficial and nourishing while you renovate your soul and design the life you want.

Happy Autumn,

Cat McCarthy, 500-ERYT