Monday, February 22, 2010

Reframing Mefisto

I’ve been thinking about the concept “reframing” in the last couple of months. I found a cool site that goes into detail about why we should be aware that we need to reframe things from time to time. The authors tell us that “To reframe, step back from what is being said and done and consider the frame, or 'lens' through which this reality is being created. Understand the unspoken assumptions. . . that are being used.”

Before I get to how I’ve brought this idea to the yoga, indulge me in a little story about my cat Mefisto. Whose name is now Totoro. Let me explain.

Mefisto came to me as a stray kitten about a year and a half ago. She was completely feral. Despite the fact that I’m pretty good working with cats, she remained the most skittish housecat I’ve ever known. Possibly, she had a traumatic childhood. Whatever her problem is, I can’t get it out of her. She’s cagey that way.

Due to the fact that she was adorable and mostly black and a little bit of a temptress, I decided to call her Mefisto. Mefisto, by the way, is the devil that comes to entice Dr. Faust into exchanging his soul for a life of fame and fortune. The offer is so tempting that Dr. Faust says yes. Brief happiness and then eternal suffering await the poor doctor.

It’s a story of epic proportions, and what a name for a cat. But do you really want the feline version of Satan in your house? After a year went by, my Mefisto never calmed down. Not only did she remain shy with strangers, she wouldn’t let me touch her except when she was eating. The only form of communication she engaged in with me was opening the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, one by one, over and over again.

It gradually dawned somewhere in my stupid head one day that I was doing her a disservice by naming her after Satan. I took a shy, feral kitten and named her after the devil and was surprised she didn’t socialize properly? Oops. (And don’t get me started on the whole Orientalist “Other” conversation! Edward Said would be so ashamed.)

Time for some re-framing. The “frame” I had hung around this little cat was that she was exotic, dark, enticing but ultimately unobtainable. In the last month or two, I have been trying to think of a more appropriate name. Then, one day, I saw her sitting on her haunches, all cute and chubby, gazing at me with that quiet cat look, and thought she looked just like the creature in Mayazaki’s anime film My Neighbor Totoro.

In the film, Totoro is a good creature. He/it comes in and helps the children in the film. They don’t really understand him or where he comes from; they just accept his magical presence. Hence, I now have a cat named Totoro. Much cuter name, much more fun to say. Try it! TO-to-ro!

So, at long last, how does this all tie into yoga? Although I continue to work on stamina in the class, I have made progress in individual postures. Last week I decided to reframe Standing Bow, whose mere name strikes fear into my heart. Now, it’s just called Breathing Posture :-) All I have to do is breathe and try it. If I fall out, it doesn’t matter—all I’m doing is breathing and trying it. And you know what? It works! I can stay in it longer, I can kick harder—more often than ever, the pose just comes together for me, and I finally “get” what the teachers mean by “kicking and stretching being equal and simultaneous!”

I know that breathing is all we ever have to do. But sometimes we have to work actively to reframe things and get over a hurdle.

And guess what else? Totoro has really “opened up” the last couple of months, too! She has become much more vocal, and she is letting me pet her much more often. Not just when it’s dinnertime, either:- )

Feline Totoro!


bikramyogachick said...

Ok, you are quickly becoming one of my favorites to read along with Hannah Just Breath and Lock the Knee. You are so insightful, write with beautiful fluidity and I love your stories! I'm learning new words :)
You write with color like Hannah, and like dancing J, you always relate everything back to yoga.
Just wanted to send you some yoga dork blogger love! **hugs**
Kitty is adorable. I'm sure she was living up to her name and will now calm down even more with her new and improved name!
Now for me to rename Half Moon. I hate that posture!

Yolk E said...

AW! Big hug right back. That comment meant the world to me, really :-) I can't believe I was in the same sentence as J and Hannah! I am so glad to be part of this blogging community... really.. even if I don't get any more "followers" knowing that y'all read is all I need!

hannahjustbreathe said...

I have a kitty with tuxedo coloring, too!!! Although my cat is an 18 pounder who can barely roll onto his back...

I really like this post and this idea of reframing. Especially because I think yoga is all about breaking whatever frame you're in and reconstructing it in a new way.

The Missus said...

Beautiful post... Interested in writing for us over at the Bikram 101 blog?

catherine said...

I love this, the reframing! I feel so awkward sometimes, when I try to convey to others the power that (I believe) words hold, and they look at my arcane little head like there are monkeys dancing on it...

Sending more yoga dork blogger love! :)

Yolk E said...

Aren't tuxedos just the best? Is there a cuter cat? If so, I haven't found one! :-) Thanks for the support!

Missus, isn't the blog primarily for those doing the challenge? I'm actually not :-( BUt email me if you would like to talk about it!

Catherine, those people are crazy! Hahaha. Words have so much power. I could go on and on... Yoga dork blogger love being returned! :-)

poeticalsurfer said...

Hmm, from Prufrock to reframing to Totoro - electic & profound; I wondered what you were going to do when you grew up... since I'm not a yogi (can I say that on this blog?) or, maybe I should say, not currently yogi, I send dork surfer poet love.

lz said...

That's fantastic that Totoro has been opening up recently! Love the name and the your meaning behind it. The intention we give something can be so significant - isn't it incredible how a little reframing can manifest such positive results?

Yolk E said...

Thanks, P.S.! :-) Of course you can say you're not a yogi (yet!). I was just reading another yogi's blog who said that at 59, his surfing and life in general has improved with his taking up yoga. So it's never too late!

And yeah, Lz! Those positive results can be so powerful and meaningful.