Monthly Archives: September 2014

Persevering through Cancer Treatment

Perserverance is Key

If you look up the definition of Perseverance you will find it means: “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

When asked to think about strength and perseverance I immediately think of all of the patients I have cared for over the years. I have spent the last 11 years dedicated to the safety, treatment, and efficiencies associated with cancer care throughout the United States. I have both met and treated hundreds of people who are battling some form of this disease. One thing they all have in common, they manage to hold their heads high and push through whatever comes their way. I want to dedicate this post to all of the amazing, inspirational and strong people who are battling cancer.
The positive outlook and optimistic attitudes of these amazing people has inspired me more than I can describe. I chose the career path of Oncology so I could inspire people and make a difference in their lives, I didn’t realize that I was going to be the one who benefitted. I have learned so much and continue to be amazed at the strength and determination. I am in awe of the will to not only live, rather; truly thrive in the time they have left to make an impression in this world. If I had to make my own definition of perseverance it would be: Those smiling while undergoing cancer treatment. Thank you to all of you for inspiring me to persevere in life.

Courage Doesn’t Always Roar

Perserverance is Key

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

Have you ever had a yoga practice that was so wonderful and so freeing that you couldn’t wait to step back on your mat? And then the very next day you tried your hardest to move into the same poses you seemed to accomplish the day before, but it just wasn’t happening?

Sometimes I feel as if this is my weekly practice. Day to day my time on my mat changes.

Honestly, there have been many days that I have not wanted to step on my mat, let alone teach a class. Some days I struggle with being an instructor thinking that not being able to fully enter into certain poses disqualifies me from standing in front of my students. Some days I struggle with teaching because no one shows up to my classes.
After all, how am I supposed to teach if I cannot do? Or how am I supposed to teach to an empty classroom?

But then I think about moxie.

Moxie is one of my very favorite words. I’m not sure if it is the way it rolls off of the tongue or simply the construction of the word itself, but something about the word strikes me.
Used as a noun, moxie means to have vigor, verve, or pep. To be filled with courage and aggressiveness. It’s one of those words that comes back around to perseverance, about having steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay.

As a Holy Yoga instructor, I shy away from being aggressive on my mat because a yoga practice isn’t about intensity or bending myself into a pretzel in front of my students.
It’s about showing up.

Coming to my mat is never about perfection. It isn’t about the perfect pose or a full class. It’s about being courageous and simply showing up. Sometimes that means showing up to an empty studio, and using the time to grow my own practice by practicing my side crow, something I’m nowhere near close to teaching. Other times, it means sitting, meditating, and breathing rather than forcing myself or my students into poses we’re not ready for.
It’s about taking time to care for our souls and move our bodies away from an intense world that says you have to be perfect.
My Holy Yoga practice teaches me that I don’t have to be.
Showing up is enough.

Yoga is a practice, not a perfection. It’s about coming to our mats everyday in discipline with the want to practice. With the want to change.
When we persevere and practice through the obstacles–a crappy day, tighter than normal hamstrings, anxious thoughts–we produce hope that tomorrow will be better.
Hope anchors us, allowing us to breathe, move forward, and walk away from our mats changed–with a little bit of moxie weaved into our practice waiting until tomorrow comes.

Freedom

Perserverance is Key

In our culture, to follow your dreams seems more of a saying and well-wishing for others than an action. I wonder how often Americans actually consider their true desires in life. Do most people take time to understand the big picture of life? Or does our cultural expectations of college, career, family, house, and monetary successes automatically impede that vision? Maybe it is just easier to be told how to live?

I fell prisoner to the American way of working to live and striving for success until my opinion of success began to change. I graduated college and hold a BFA, BA in art education, and a MA in education. I taught high school art full time for five years as well as coached field hockey and catered. I had few precious moments of free time which were spent rock climbing and hiking with my dog. Over those five years I noticed my stress level was high, personality spun negative, and I had to work to find moments of happiness. The last year I taught was when I hit “rock bottom” something had to change.

I began to really think about myself as a person, my traits, expectations, interests, desires, and needs. I thought back to the person I was as a kid and a teenager. Always up for an adventure, unafraid of change, and often excited to make big changes. The outdoors was a place of comfort and the mountains felt like home. I began to recognize negativity was not part of my true personality and a trait I wanted to shed.

As I searched within I realized it was time for a big change. I decided I could change schools and see if that helped or I could resign and go rock climbing for a year. I contemplated what I would need, created a budget, and considered the difficulty of traveling for a year solo.

I then committed to my decision told my family, friends, and employers I was going to rock climb for a year and live out of my car. I have learned greatly from that experience about who I am, how simple life can be, and found my definition of success.

I do plan to hold a career again although, not as an educator. I do not desire a family with kids, but I do desire to grow old with someone and of course multiple dogs. I do not desire a large house to fill with gadgets and things instead I would love a small cabin in the mountains built with simplicity, style, and eco friendly. Everything I own fits in my Subaru Impreza wagon and when I stop traveling I do not intend to acquire much more.

I know it will take constant self-evaluation, desire, and drive to not fall prisoner of our cultural norms when returning to the working world. However, I refuse to live to work and strive to continue living my dreams and making choices aligning with the person I am. I truly believe when we leave this world we should be capable of saying “I have lived my dreams.”

Deconectarse

“Desconectarse”… meaning– to let go of the things that are inhibiting you from being who you should be.
Perserverance is Key

When coming up with ideas on what to write I usually get inspired by a teacher, a class or something going on in my life.  Rarely am I able to be ‘given’ a topic and the words flow.  That’s just not how I work.  This time was no different – this time the Universe stepped in and said, “OH! I’ll give you something to write about.”  When I heard the topic was, Letting Go – it didn’t take long for all the reason to do just that, to appear. This week, this month has been a trying one – my yoga practice has been on full force but not in the way I would have traditionally imagined.  I haven’t really practiced, my life has been an uphill climb between work, projects, friends, people and just the sh*t that God gives you to remind you how strong you are.  Practice yoga? Where would I find the time, at least right now?  On a recent trip to LA, I stopped by Cafe Gratitude and as I paid for “I am Grateful Beet Juice” and I am Eternal Raw Greek Salad Wrap” the cashier asked me if I wanted the daily question.  Well, I had never heard of this so of course I said, Yes!  The question of the day would become my mantra for all the days to follow, “What will you give away today?”

Perserverance is Key
What will I give away? Is that material? Physical? Metaphorically? She said it could be anything – I thought about it for a moment and all the things I had been dealing with that day, all the traffic I encountered getting to LA, my injured knee, my overall dissatisfaction with how my life looked at that moment and I said, I give away frustration.  To be honest it wasn’t the moment that I said it that I felt it leave my body but when I said it again and realized that that was my answer that I felt this weight shift.  Frustration like anger, like jealousy, like greed, like poison – ONLY and always only will affect the person that feels it.  When I made the decision to ‘give away’ my frustration for everything, that was the moment I let go.  I let go of trying to control a situation or its outcome, I let go of how my being, my peace, my person felt and how it had become entangled in something that was clearly out of my control.  I gave it away because the only thing I can control is me.  I gave it away because it didn’t serve me any longer and it was this angel at Cafe Gratitude that would remind me of that.

What will you give away today?  A mantra that you can ask yourself every morning, or maybe when you feel the world spinning out of control.  A lot has happened this month in my life and every day I’ve had to ask myself this and get back on track.  This is my yoga right now.  It’s not an asana, it’s not so much a meditation but a conscious decision to keep moving forward and let go of anything holding me back.

To Eat or What Not to Eat – That is the Question

Perserverance is Key

Eating healthy is a constant topic of debate. Should every thing be organic? Is it better to be a vegetarian or go the route of the Paleo? Do I drink almond milk or dairy? Do I need to be gluten free? With all of the diet fads continuously sweeping through our culture it can be hard to say “I am a healthy eater” without the fear of someone turning around and telling you differently.

It is hard for me to believe every human should eat the same diet. Our country alone has so many different landscapes and climates if we were all to live off our land our food sources would differ greatly. I will not go into detail or preach a specific diet in this blog. Rather I hope in sharing my eating habits it will spark an interest for you to do your own research and decide what is right for your body and family.

I believe these days to eat healthy is to make a conscious and disciplined effort to stay away from processed and packaged foods high in preservatives and added chemicals, which means taking the time to read labels. I try hard to stick to the outside of the grocery store. I barely venture down the isles except for pasta, beans, and rice. It can be difficult to keep the nostalgic food cravings at bay. Just think how tasty an Entenmanns crumb cake with coffee, or a giant bag of Lays sour cream and onion chips, or even the super cheap and unhealthy Kraft mac and cheese would be. However, anytime I have caved I have regretted it feeling sick and a major lack of energy after eating. Plus the taste just isn’t the same.


For the past year I lived out of my car and my tent on a yearlong climbing trip. I had a two-burner stove and a small cooler. I spent on average 40.00 a week on food and ate well in my opinion. There are certain foods I will not eat unless they are organic due to the absorption of pesticides and refuse to buy anything containing high fructose corn syrup. They say in moderation high fructose corn syrup is fine, yet it is in everything (bread, chips, jelly, peanut butter, juice, granola bars…)

I personally do not eat much meat, but will have chicken or turkey once in awhile. I try to be very disciplined with my eating habits and have noticed the more fresh fruit and raw veggies I incorporate into my meals the more energy I have. As a very active person it is important for me to consume a large amount of calories and to be conscious of my protein intake. In the research I have done plant based protein is the easiest for the body or my body to process. Below are some of my go to foods;
Snacks
Humus and veggies
Cheese and Avocado
Almonds
Trail mix
Full carrots not baby carrots (the skin holds most of the nutrients)
Fruit
Dried cranberries no added sugar
Dried mangos no added sugar!!

Breakfast
Eggs and veggies
Breakfast burritos eggs, veggies, cheese, potatoes, beans, baby spinach
Oatmeal with peanut butter, fruit, and honey
Organic yogurt with granola

Lunch
Veggie sandwiches with apple and cheese slices
Peanut butter and jelly
Almond butter and jelly
Avocado, humus, and cheese sandwich
Quinoa salad
Pasta salad with oil and balsamic vinegar not mayo

Dinner
Quinoa, black beans, and veggies
Black bean tacos
Pasta with veggies, garlic, and olive oil
Quesadillas with cheese, veggies, black beans, and quinoa
Rice, beans, and veggies

I also substitute most oil and butter with coconut oil
Feel free to check out my personal blog to see the recipes for these. If you enjoy meat you can always add meat to any of these meals. www.yrofclimbing.blogspot.com

If you have a family with kids you may be surprised at how much they enjoy this style of eating. I find it amazing how many kids love raw red bell peppers, carrots, and raw green beans as a snack! A lot of times if kids see their parent enjoying a snack they become curious and desire it as well. A logbook of what you ate during the day and noting what your energy level was like at different points of the day can be a huge aid in the process of what is healthiest for your body.
Trying to make a shift to a healthier eating habit can be difficult and frustrating. Just be open to different ideas and willing to try don’t worry about picking the right fad diet consider more what is right for you.

Perserverance is Key

Perserverance is Key

I have been re-reading The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Svatmarama, I love diving into classic texts again and again because each time I read them something new sticks out. This time in chapter one what stuck out was Swami Svatmarama insistence that perseverance is one of the traits needed to bring success to the yogi. I have found this true not only in my yoga practice but in all of my relationships.

Perseverance has been such a key role in my marriage. Being able to move through challenges, continue to show up for each other and strengthen our skills of communication, patience and compassion lets us come out of the challenge even stronger and more on fire for each other than before.

Perseverance has also been a key role in my relationship with my yoga practice. I am able to show up on my mat or my cushion (even when I am too busy or I don’t want to) and work on my skill of connecting to Grace, to my breathe, and to the innate goodness inside of me. Practicing my connection to these during hard times makes them easier to connect to during good times and helps me stay more centered during both. Making time to practice every day a priority has been so beneficial to every area of my life. I do a handstand almost every day. If nothing more flipping upside down makes me very happy and empowered. I also make a point to sit for at least 5 minutes in the morning or at night.
I practice and teach Ansuara Yoga, a style of yoga with a big emphasis on alignment. An area I have been working on in my asana practice has been stability in my knee placement. Second toe, middle of the ankle, knee and hip socket should be held in one line. I am a pretty bendy person by nature and if I am not focused my feet will turn out and my knees will knock in. This is awesome if I want to wear out my knee joint and ligaments quickly. Which I don’t! Since this is not what I want I have to really use my awareness and discipline to watch my placement, use my muscles (especially gluteus) and track my knee in line with my second toe. Yes it is tedious (although I love nerding out on alignment) but boy does it make a difference in how my ankles, knees, hips and even my low back feel. Being able to notice that I am coming out of alignment and putting in the extra effort to hold myself in good alignment takes such perseverance and is so totally worth it, in my opinion.

I think one of the biggest “ah-ha’s” I have had over the past few years is that perseverance and discipline leads to freedom and happiness. That is ultimately always my hearts deepest yearning, however I didn’t understand in order to have that freedom and joy I had to cultivate steadfastness and discipline. It is that pulsation, we have to have both. Now I know that if my marriage, my practice, my work, whatever it is doesn’t have as much joy as I want I need to sit down and figure out how I can refine my discipline so I can experience the other side of that pulsation. I want to add, that life isn’t all joy, there are bad situations but if I use my disciple I can always make the situation better.

As I write this I am in my backyard looking at the beautiful flowers that are so vibrant as a result of the crazy rain storm we had last night. Another example of perseverance, the flowers made it through the storm and as a result of enduring that challenge are even more beautiful and vibrant. I hope if you are struggling in any area of your life you will remember that enduring a challenge while holding steady to your intentions will eventually lead your back to joy and freedom. Success on and off the matt is determined by your perseverance like Swami Svatmarama writes in The Hatha Yoga Pradipika.


Hope you have a terrific day.

The Calm Before the Play

The Calm Before the Play

I love being productive. I feel satisfied when checking things off of my To Do list. But I wonder. Do I wear my exhausting productivity as a badge of honor? Am I keeping myself distracted so that I don’t have the time or space to address bigger issues? Might busyness equate with feeling important?

Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection addresses how we interpret exhaustion as a sign that we are doing well, while putting naps on the back-burner. Brené says, “If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” She has collected data over years of research proving that play, calm, and stillness are key ingredients of a meaningful life, as illustrated below.

The Calm Before the Play

“Play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation,” writes Brené. Play is purposeless, on purpose. Through play, we can find joy and satisfaction in any work we do. Ironically, we become even more productive.
Brené defines Calm as “creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.” Calmness requires recognizing when we are being triggered, taking a moment to pause, then choosing how to respond. Breathing is the best place to start this process.
“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question,” explains Brené. Meditation is also this practice of holding a space of judgment-free presence.
In a recent lecture I attended, holistic doctor Deepak Chopra prescribed sleep, meditation, and yoga as a solid recipe for health. These endeavors are highly effective. A little bit can go a long way. He pointed out that as a culture, we drink stimulants in the morning to wake up then pop a pill at night to fall asleep. No wonder we are deprived of well-being.
I’ve been practicing yoga for over twenty years. Compared to recently deceased grandfather of yoga BKS Iyengar (1918-2014), I am a newbie on the path. My initial access to yoga was through the physicality of asana. It not only kicked my butt and reconnected my heart-mind-body; it opened up my eyes to a world of awareness. My consistent and cumulative years of practice have taught me that in order to be more conscious, I need to slow down, do less, and be more. Easier said than done.

The Calm Before the Play
As far as my mileage on the meditation cushion, I am not as well-seasoned. My human-doership far excels that of my human beingship. But when I do find time to sit, I find spacious solace. Besides being thoroughly entertained by my relentless thoughts, nothing really happens during meditation. What matters is that which occurs from having meditated. I notice that I don’t speed through life as much. It’s like a really good savasana for the mind. How I do love my siestas!
Brené Brown encourages us to create a list of practical things that make our lives work, called the “ingredients for joy and meaning” list. The items might include relaxation, exercise, healthy food, time off, quality visits with family/friends, cooking, dancing, singing, or walking the dog without your cell phone. Then compare it with your usual To Do list. You might be surprised in how little downtime you schedule in a day, how much sleep-debt you have accrued, or maybe how disparate your doing and being have become.

The Calm Before the Play

Carve out more time to rest, to play, to practice yoga/meditation, or to just breathe mindfully as you enjoy moments of dynamic stillness. Shift the intention of your To Do List from completing future tasks to qualifying your daily choices in the here and now. To do or not to do…that is seldom the question.

Cheers,
Cat

Cat From The Mat
September 2014