Burnout and Stress, Health, Personal Wisdom, Writing, Yoga

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 60

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 60

I woke up last Saturday with a full list full of things to do.  Yoga and Writing were not on that list.

They called me powerfully, however.  The house was quiet, no one else was home or awake. It was morning. All these have become my Cues. They tell me that it is definitely time for yoga and writing. The next thing that is supposed to happen is a behaviour loop – I do my yoga and writing, and the Reward is that I feel much better.

That is how habits are formed. That is what I was looking to do! Cue, Behaviour, Reward. Do it often enough and TaDa! – a habit is formed. I have been delving into the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is a book by Charles Duhigg. It is a powerful book that I am thoroughly enjoying.  It explains many of the essentials of why we have habits, how they are formed, and how we can change them.  The sections on organizations and cultures are even more interesting than those on individuals!

In The Art of Joyful Living, Swami Rama says that we do not teach people how to Un-Learn things – and we should!  I would agree with him. While we are told to break our bad habits, and told to make new habits, no one is teaching us how, or explaining why it is so darned hard. There is actually science behind it; from modern western science, and way back to ancient yogic traditions, among others. This stuff is teachable. Since it is also learn-able – I am trying to learn it. It was part of the point of this challenge. Can I make didactic learning work for me in real life?

I would say my reactions to a day that I was not ‘supposed to do yoga,’  indicates the Challenge has been a success!  I can hardly stand to have a ‘free’ day, without Yoga and Writing.

I have been so grateful for this challenge!

by Tama Cathers, sometimes yogi, sometimes writer, always an investigator.


photo credit – shutter stock









Car Shopping Made Easy

Car Shopping Made Easy – What I have learned about car shopping

My beloved minivan died 2 days before our trip to Springer Mountain Georgia for the start of a week-long section hike on the Appalachian Trail.  It was clear that I needed to buy a new car.  Quickly.  I learned a lot of simple things that are helpful to know. I hope you find this helpful.


1) When to buy a different car.  A different car is needed when the yearly repairs on the old car are more than the yearly payments on a new car. I know that may seem elementary, but it really helped me decide on not repairing my old car.

I started the year knowing my car needed $3000 of repairs. As this happened just after tax season, I knew I had spend $2000-3000 on repairs the year before. It was only when I did the math that I realized I should have replaced the car last year.

A different car would cost $3600 over the year.  This car needed $3000 of work before it died on the side of the road in March. It had the rest of the year to accumulate other new repair needs, over and above the $3000 we started the year needing.


2) Whether to send to salvage, sell or trade in. I have long been a fan of selling my old cars. You it’s a little hassle, but you generally get much more money from selling.  However,  I couldn’t even drive this vehicle.   I could get $1000 =/- $500 on trade-in (if I could drive it), and $400–$1200 to send it to salvage.  Since repairing the first problem, the radiator at $1600, would only allow me to see if the second and new problem, the transmission at >$3000 was bad, I decided that my old car was going to salvage.

It’s well worth pricing out salvage.  I called several local salvage yards, and two 1-800 salvage options.  I was quoted $400 by all but one: Peddle, one of the 1-800 yards offered me over $1000!


3) How to choose a vehicle:

Choose 3 to 5 most important features.  The science is that the more expensive the purchase, the fewer features we should consider. Our minds work best this way.  For an explanation, Read Blink by Malcolm Gladstone. (This is one of the best read I have ever had, entertaining too.)

I had these features on my list:

  1. Minivan.  I had selected good gas mileage as a primary feature previously, and ended up with a car.  I found I was quite unhappy without a minivan. This time I only included minivans in my selection.
  2. Mechanically Sound,
  3. Comfortable Seats. I drive a lot and get sciatica from long distances in many car seats.
  4. Lowest cost per miles. I drive – a lot!
  5. Heated seats – we live in the north.


4) Next, I found an equation to help me select between the myriad of choices in mileage and cost.  This is the Big Equalizerfor me.  It made everything else simple!

Cost/ Miles Ratio:

Take the expected remaining miles you think you can get out of the car and divide the cost by that number. For example, I said I expected all minivans to give a total of 200,000 miles.  I subtracted the miles on any candidate vehicle from 200,000 to get miles left in the candidate car.  Next, divide the cost of the candidate vehicle by the miles left. Compare cars – Lowest number wins!

a) Miles Expected –  Odometer Miles = Miles Remaining.                                                       b) Cost divided by Miles Remaining


Ex: Car 1 – 45,000 mile car for $16,000.

200,000- 45,000 = 155,000.   16,000 divided by 155,000 = 1.032


Car 2  – 73,000 mile car for 11,000

200,000 – 73,000 = 127,000.  11,000 divided by 127,000 = 0.866


Car number 2 is a better deal.

This ratio gave me a number to really compare which deal was the best one, based on mileage.  I felt supremely confident erasing all the vehicles that fell over 0.108


5)  I selected the make and model by driving 2 cars. They were a type of car I had previously had, but I wanted to compare their comfort to my most recent car. They had so many more bells and whistles, I really wanted one of them to work. Plus their Cost/ Miles Ratio was fantastic!


6) After test driving these two brands, it was easy to simplify my search – these two were not nearly as comfortable. Out the window they went!  I was now down to one make/model!

I just had to find the one car I would buy.


7)  I went to 2 dealers and felt no pressure, in fact I had fun.I moved through the buying process with ease, having the 5 parameters and 1 calculation in my pocket. It really made life simple.  I had lots of good options, knew what I wanted, and was calm and confident.

I admit to one mistake. I did not thoroughly peruse my number one feature – mechanical soundness.  I was in such a hurry to get to Georgia, I skipped the step of taking your potential vehicle to an independent dealer. Unfortunately, my new car had a bad fluid leak. Fortunately, it was covered under the drive train warranty, and the company fixed it.  However, it is a lesson to not skip steps.

I hope this article was helpful!


by Tama Cathers – Confident Car Shopper, brought to you by MATH!

Photo Credit – Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons

Parenting, Writing

A Soup of Falls

 A soup of falls


Oh, the beauty of a simple clean life.

All tidy and clean…


Instead, I generate a chaotic mess

a soup of falls – from grace, and into grace.

Bicycle wheels litter the ground of my life’s front doors,

spilled there, no doubt, when the sun fell last night,

shattering the horizon with a burst of stars.

In the peeking dawn, some strange cosmic peacocks must weave the mess of bikes and toys into wind chimes and whirly gigs,

unfathomable tangles of hurry and nonchalance.


The tangle melts by noon

into sticky pools of candy juice,  tears of joy, and puppy dog goop.

At 3 pm, colorful jungle chickens must sweep in,

a panoply of full color, cleaning all the debris up….

I step out to pick up children from school, ready to step

from sane spot to sane spot,

but it all looks fine – by then.


I rush off in a chariot, driving like fire, a phoenix ignited,

late,  then return

in a swirl of notes, paper and pencils, apple cores,

and daytime stories.

Bags are dropped, shoes fly off,

grass and leaves walk in and out,

filling the house with traffic, all afternoon.

Temperatures soar inside – food is cooked, spilled, and cleaned,

eaten or licked off the floor, dependent on your species and age.


Cooing like doves,

a calm ocean washes through from 7 to 8.

Homework – my life preserver – who knew!?

Dusk is running feet, bicycle races, skinned knees, bedtime stories,

followed by lovers kisses, if the stars align,

if the bed can be dug out from the clothing,

if the engine still has some fuel,

if she can tolerate the explosions,

of forming new universes,

of sparks shooting out of her head,

rocking the universe, body dissolving.


Finally, under the stars, I tuck myself away saying

Tomorrow will be a new day

I won’t be tired, I wont

spill Malt’o’meal on my business top

nor have dog’s try to lick it off while pretending

the seriousness of adulthood.

I won’t forget,

I won’t be late…


The mockingbirds sing, knowing that is a lie –

tomorrow it will be another

amazing grace.



by Tama Cathers  4/23/18

Burnout and Stress, Health, Personal Wisdom, Writing, Yoga

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 28

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 28

 Here we are at the end of the first of two months of yoga and writing. I can tell you first off, that I am ever so grateful that I set the challenge up for 2 months. One month is clearly not enough.

A challenge is definitely a correct term. Every day, I have had to corral myself to do the most important things first – yoga and writing. I’ve witnessed in myself the tendency to go off track, over and over again. Gently and compassionately, I bring myself back on track saying, “Nope, you have to do your work first.” Because of this attitude, I have been much more efficient throughout my days. By forcing myself to do the things I have to do first, my attitude remains one that is focused on getting the essentials done.

We all likely know the adage ‘Do the Important Things First,’ but like me, we slide off that path. Bringing ourselves back takes work, but it pays off.  I feel proud each day about what I have done. I feel trust in myself, that I can fulfill my promises to myself.

Many times, we fail ourselves over and over. That results in losing that belief in ourselves. It is easy to come to not trust yourself. Choosing a difficult, but doable, task, and then succeed, helps renew that faith in ourselves.

I engage this challenge only on the days I don’t work outside the home. That means the days available are sometimes quite limited. However, I have only missed two days; one – for tax preparation, and one this week due to being in a work funk:

I missed yesterday. I decided that preparing a budget, and shopping for hiking gear for our Appalachian trial hike next week, took precedent over writing and yoga.  I spent most of the day at my computer. I felt restless. I was poorly attentive. Sometimes I was anxious and uncomfortable in my body. All day I plugged away at crunching numbers, then later, presenting them poorly. All day I was feeling – not great

I now know that these tasks did not deserve precedent. Clearly skipping my commitment was a mistake. It was not a devastating mistake, but regardless, it made it clear that nothing takes precedent over the thing that has precedent.


Today, I got up and went down to do my practice. The week had been full of work, so it was my first day on the mat all week. I found that today was the first day that I was disappointed my time was up, and I had to leave the mat. Like a cool science experiment, I wasn’t ready for ‘my lab’ to end.

It felt GREAT! I had missed it so much!

This is what I have been looking for; the day I feel something is out of alignment when I don’t do my practice. That is how you know you are starting to form a habit.  I recently read that it takes 28 – 256 days to form a habit, I only need to go another 3 to 230 days for it to be set. Yay!

What have been the other challenges and benefits? First, I have found resources within me. Without a teacher leading me, I have found my own practices. This has been particularly rich.

One day, I decided to do all the sun salutations I had easy access to. There are about 5-6 in my folder. For each one, the first time I looked at it and did it, I thought “well – this is stupid!” the next time, I wobbled through the salutation, while realizing there was some point or value to this particular exercise. The next several times, I let go and dove into the lesson in the practice. Not only did I have a great work out, but I got to see the pattern of my own resistance. I could note how it played out every time – even when I was aware of it!!! Fascinating. Really!

Next, I was left to form my own yogic rest and meditation. I had a very old memory of being lead through a meditation where I felt my brain.  In my shivasana/yoga rest, I felt through the parts of my brain, finishing with sending energy through my crown chakra. Afterwards, I walked around for two days feeling like I had a crown of light radiating from my skull. It was slightly weird, and a little embarrassing, but fortunately no one else could see me glowing!  I ended up making a new guided meditation, which I have used several times since then.

Additionally, I found I can acknowledge that I am too tired to lead myself, and can elect to use videos to substitute for an outside teacher. They are also helpful to review the finer points of techniques, or wording. Altogether, I am able to follow my curiousity and learn so much more.

As far as writing -I have written 8 blog articles, 4 meditations, 3 stories, 2 poems, in addition to journaling, and -hey! -getting our taxes done!

I have been studying how we form habits, how we break old ones, and this challenge has supported my studies, and vice versa. We are our own laboratories, just waiting for our curiosity! It’s well worth going inside to play!


by Tama Cathers

Photo Credit: Myriams-Fotos Pixabay

Burnout and Stress, Health, Personal Wisdom, Writing, Yoga

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 5

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 5

Since starting this program, I have felt incredibly productive.

I have also struggled with the challenge, and worked to sabotage my own efforts. I will call any sabotaging of my efforts to form these new habits “My Saboteur.”

I felt so productive the first day, that I stayed up – late. I was up until 2:30 a.m. working on a must-do project, then several add-on projects.

I woke up after 5.5 hours sleep, and wondering how I was going to get through the day? I don’t work well on less than 7 hours of sleep. I am usually functional for as long as I slept. I should have had only 5.5 hours of productivity.

During this second day, I focused on doing what I promised to do, and then what needed to be done. At the end of the day, I hadn’t run out of energy. That was quite odd. So…. I stayed up until 12 a.m.! Gar!

The third night, my husband stepped in, reminding me to go to bed, at about 10 pm. However, I kept chatting, saying I really did not feel tired. I was amazed at the energy I had! When I did hit the sack, it was difficult to sleep.

The next morning, the fourth day, I could barely drag myself out of bed. I got my duties done, including my yoga and writing, but then I fell apart, including a long nap.

Today is the fifth day. I am still logy, but not as bad as yesterday.  I am able to move through my morning, with focused concentration.

What interesting stuff is going on! I can clearly see the work of the My Saboteur here.  It tries every avenue to divert me from these two simple tasks!

I realized that if I were truly treating this challenge as important, say as important as a job, then I would have behaved very differently. As I pondered this choice, and pointed my finger at My Saboteur, I found it interesting that the goal to stop this life change (yoga and writing) showed up so quickly, and so hugely.

Now, my tactics have to change, in response to the situation.  This will be quite an interesting challenge!

by Tama Cathers


Photo Credit: 412d5bfeac8b2dd17343fa56c9762ed0–dark-magic-fantasy-magic-dark.jpg





Writing, Yoga

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 3

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 3

Today, I followed my TriYoga Video. I did not want to think. I wanted to be guided. This goes along with the two books our household is immersed in: Essentialism (Greg McKeown), and Bright Line Eating (Peirce). Both books clearly outlay how having too many choices is problematic.

Essentialism draws attention to the overwhelming insult on our choice making centers, and the need to eliminate the non-essential items from our lives, so that we have more time to invest in what is most important to us.

Part of our discussion around Essentialism, was about what IS most important for our lives. For this I will refer you to a 3rd book, with great exercises to illuminate you on your most important items: Becoming an Resonant Leader Workbook, (McKee, Boyatiz, Johnston). Having done that work, and feeling pretty clear about what is important to me, I was drawn to an obvious problem in my life. While I am saying that Yoga/Fitness and Writing are most important in my life, right after Family, I am not engaging in them as a regular practice. That is how we developed the challenge we did, for this month. It is clear, however, that having fewer choices is beneficial – and I want to be the one making the choices. If I don’t make the choices about my life, other people/events do.

Bright Line Eating is clear about the psychology and physiology of choice making. Being a biologist, I love that. I am more motivated when I understand the why of something, rather than just being told what I should/should not do.

Today, however, I just wanted to be told what to do. That was my way of simplifying my choices.

Eliminating choices; that is hard.

Sticking to a plan of action; that is even harder.

Bright Line Eating talks about eliminating choices as well. It is one step on the pathway to automatizing healthy habits. I am all for that.

Based on this, I have decided to expand my commitment, from 4 weeks of Yoga and Writing to 8 weeks. I am curious to see if this will become more automatic, and what revelations I have by routinely doing the things that are most important to me, and doing them first. I can tell this will be a challenge, worthy of trying, a challenge worthy of me.


by Tama Cathers

Photo Credit: iced soap bubble 1958650_1920 rihaij@yahoo.com

Burnout and Stress, Health, Personal Wisdom, Yoga

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 2

This Month’s Challenge: Yoga Practice & Writing, Day 2

Today, while I was doing my yoga practice, I was writing yoga lessons as well. It’s not a bad way to write lessons.  However, it is not a good way to practice yoga.

In our busy fast-paced world, I am used to multi-tasking. All the time. Everywhere. This type of yoga practice suits that model; getting two things done at a time. However, it is my deep belief that we all need real down time. Not only that, but the purpose of yoga is to slow and still the mind and body. How can I really do that while jotting down notes, thinking of cues to say, or ‘breathing slowly-really quickly,’ so I can move on to the next pose? I can’t!

What I really want and need are those times of bygone days, where I had the slack time to do nothing, even stop thinking. Just sit on the porch and hear the wind, birds, or watch the steam rise from the cup. These are the breaks we need. Yoga is a way of feeling like we are actively doing something, yet giving ourselves that important time to ‘do nothing.’ We give ourselves permission to ‘do nothing’ by doing ‘something.’


In my reading yesterday, I was reminded of how willpower works. We have about 15 minutes of decision making before needing substantial recharging; that is all decision, they all tax our willpower store. Delete the email, respond now, save it for later. Eat the donut now, or get an apple. Finish typing or take a break and go to the water cooler and bathroom. You can see how checking 30 emails might use up or whole store in one sitting. Then you go to the water cooler AND eat the donut.

I was also reminded about how having firm plans help us conserve our willpower. I am struggling to make that plan to accommodate my goals of writing 1 hours and yoga / exercise 2 hours. I know I can’t do it without a frame work. This is how decisions and habits can help and guide us. This is why we make clear agreements. This is why we schedule. This is why we do the important things first.

Without some framework, this is also why we fail to put the most important things first. Why we are exhausted, taxed, and have just enough poor self control to eat those donuts. God! I don’t even like donuts! But after a day full – i.e. full of decision – I might eat one any way.

by Tama Cathers