Cat From The Mat

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

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 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


July/August 2012