Cat From The Mat

You Have Arrived

In the fast-moving pace of our social media-filled world, it’s virtually challenging to exist in the present moment. And yet every time you receive a tweet, Facebook message, text or email, what is being asked of you is the valuable commodity of your PRESENCE.  Has yoga fallen victim to being a fast food commodity or is it still a practice that nourishes you?  That answer depends on how you step on to your mat and into your life.

I tend to operate at an inherently rapid pace, embedded in a participatory life.  A manifestor, I thrive being active, whether weaving a new perspective into a yoga workshop or on-location directing a non-fiction program.  The peril of being a go-getter, however, is that I often do not see the obvious.  When I move at such a fast pace, I become desensitized.  The desire to maximize life and not miss a thing, might be just what prevents quality.    Might you also be speeding through life?

My need to reach to any anticipated destination can often overshadow the journey.  When rushing on my Vespa scooter to go to yoga (to be ironically in the present moment), I miss the signs.  So when I came across this one the other day, I took note.  The sign declares, “Slow down, you have arrived.”  

Can you slow down?  The adage “Live in the present moment” can sound trite.  Of course, you only live in the moment.  How can you be anywhere else?  But the present is also where the past and the future meet.  Imagine that every instant is a moving seam between these two contrary complements, traveling through time.  Negating or whitewashing the past proves to be problematic if you are repeating the same patterns over and over, wondering why you find yourself in the same predicament, yet again.  If you only reside in the unforeseen future, then you get paralyzed by the worry of “what could be” or overwhelmed with “what might happen.”  By straddling both your informed past simultaneously as your envisioned future, then you are tasting the potency of the powerful present.  Life happens here.

But have you “arrived”?  When will you know when you are a success?  If you are always on the move, then perhaps you may never get there.  So where are you going?  The answer to this boils down to both motivating and hindering expectations.  The yoga practice invites you to be “here” and “there” concurrently.  Living the life you want and wanting the life you are living.  We do this by cultivating awareness.  Success is measured by noticing (always with a sense of humor) when you are not aware, rather than beating yourself up when you not presently getting the desired results. That sensitivity comes from slowing down in order to see more, feel more, and be more. 

I admit.  I have a hard time letting go of the past.  I also plan so far in the future for things that might never come to fruition.  When I slow down within my jam-packed schedule and take time to pause, I notice how splintered I have become.  Whether practicing asana, sitting for meditation, or trying to be calm while caught in traffic or in a heated debate, I find refuge in the gaps between my breaths…the bridge between the previous exhale and the next inhale.  This grants me tangible access to the current moment, which can be an elusive and on-going quest.  This is when I stop being stuck…in my past criticism, in my future angst....and am successfully present.

So what’s the rush?  Slow down, arrive, and welcome yourself.  What a relief to have been here the whole time!


Cat From the Mat

May 1, 2013

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