Cat From The Mat

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

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 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
March 2012

A little bit country, a little bit rock-n-roll

The universe is made up of energetic pulsation.  This term in Sanskrit is called "spanda."  Light, sound, and your breath are all are manifestations of this movement.  The vibration of your body at every level, physical and non-physical, has a profound influence on your ability to attract positive experiences. The higher your vibration, the more of a magnet you become as a result of the thoughts you hold in your mind. How you think of yourself, talk to yourself,  and feel about yourself will have an impact on the vibration you are creating and thus attracting more of.  Your connection to self determines your connection to the world.  If you are angry with yourself, then you see the annoyances around you.  If you practice compassion with yourself, then you might become more forgiving of others.  Consider that what you are putting out to the world is perhaps what you are attracting.

St. Valentine's Day is known for the celebration of connection- relationship to self and amorous relations with another.  Candy hearts, chocolate, valentine cards, and flowers are gifts presented on this day to express love.  In Greek, there are many names to describe types of love.  The term "Agape" means unconditional love. It refers to a general affection or deeper sense of "true love."  Whereas, "Eros" is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. February 14th commemorates both the cooling comprehensive  "agape" and the heated lustful "eros."

The surrounding physical world can be defined by two vibrancies: the fiery "masculine" and the grounding "feminine" (not to be confused with male and female genders.)   A masculine encoded energy is intense and tenacious.  It has a direct and narrowing focus, like the sunlight.   In contrast, moonlight is receptive and reflective of the sun's rays.  This is the affirming feminine encoded energy.   The world moves with both of these expanding (feminine) and contracting (masculine) codes, as do we.   If your dog is about to get hit by a car, you jump into an explosive protective moment of action.  And yet, when at home cuddling with your pet, it's more appropriate to be calming, nurturing, and soft.  Each of us is a melange of both.  So which energetic code is your dominant one?  And which one can you develop more?

This relationship to both your masculine and feminine self is the practice of yoga on the mat.  Align with your energetic preference while cultivating its opposite, and you will foster inner balance. And when you are steady inside, you are more skillful in relationship to others.  But this equilibrium doesn't mean 50/50, even-steven.  Stability might be 51/49, 70/30, or even 99/1.  When dining with your loved one, you don't divide the check down the middle to the penny.  Sometimes you pay, sometimes you are treated.  One night you do the washing up.  Another night, the dishes are done for you.  Becoming skillful in partnership is an exchange of give and take.  Together you find equipoise.  However, it's easier to first start the practice within.  

In the words of 70's singing siblings duo Donny and Marie Osmond, be a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll.  Honor your co-mingled masculine and feminine energies and offer your country rockstar self to the world.   You just might attract the unconditional, passionate love on the stage of your own heart and star in your own TV show called "Ecstatic Love."    

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cat McCarthy
February 2012