New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year

I am just back from 3 weeks in Mexico feeling refreshed and ready to embark on the New Year.  I admit to being a sun-aholic.  I love hanging out on the beach, playing in the water and living practically full-time out of doors and being warm the entire time.

I believe it is incredibly important to determine what nourishes you spiritually and physically and to make a commitment to setting aside time to recharge yourself.  Vacationing is certainly one way to do that, but we don’t always have the time or the resources to wander off to the retreat of our choosing.  But we can set aside time each week, and even each day to nourish our bodies and spirit.

Take some time to figure out what makes you feel good.  When do you find yourself smiling, both inside and out?  When do you experience a sense of contentment and well-being?  What gives you joy? Make a list, put it some place you can return to easily.  And then you have your own handy pick-me-up protocol.  Here are some of the things I do regularly that keep me happy, grounded and smiling.

  • Daily yoga & meditation
  • Walks in the woods and along the beach
  • Listening to music and having my own private dance party
  • Sipping tea, wrapped in a warm blanket and reading a book
  • Hanging out with my friends – perhaps with a glass of wine in hand
  • Spending time with my husband and kids
  • Cooking and gardening
  • Teaching and studying yoga

Okay, so there you have it, you know my list of nourishments.  I wonder what you will put on your list.

Good News – I am starting a new Tuesday Evening Slow Flow yoga class in West Seattle at Limber Yoga on February 5th at 4:30pm.

Come Check it out.  I am super excited to finally be teaching in West Seattle, and Limber Yoga has a great open light filled space, fully equipped with all my favorite props.

Happy New Year, may it be a year of joy and blessing and good health for you and all those you hold dear.

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi

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Why I didn’t set any New Years Resolutions

Summary
This blog is too long.  You are too busy to read all of it.  Here’s what you need to know:
Give up New Years Resolutions – set a single word intention instead.  Carry it every where with you.  Use it to realign your life and allow you to be more present.  Take ten minutes every day for yourself and let the intention seep into your pores. Wait, Stop, you are too busy for that – never mind.

Happy New Year!

This year I thought I would throw out the tradition of setting New Years Resolutions and replace it with setting a New Years Intention.  My goal was to distill my hopes for the year into a single word that I could paste to my computer, mirror, desk and other such assorted places.  A word that would call me back to the moment and remind of what I want to embrace in 2013.

Choosing the word/intention wasn’t as easy as I thought.  I mean if it was to become my mantra for 2013, I’d better choose pretty carefully.  But of course there is always that problem of over-thinking.  What the heart puts forward is usually right, even if my brain wanted to do an override.

On Sunday, as I was listening to a free jazz concert at Seattle First Baptist Church (Sunday Jazz Vespers – first Sunday of every month)  my intention rang out.  Enjoy!  I had toyed with words that were similar: chill, relax, smile, cherish, relish, but when “enjoy” popped through I knew it was right.  There I was in a great old Seattle church listening to some really good jazz.  It was wonderful. But as often happens, my mind would wander and I would find myself thinking about what I had to do this week.  The music would fade and for a few moments I would no longer be there.  As the mantra enjoy crept back in, I would return my attention to the moment and immediately I was happy, thrilled in fact to be sharing this moment with my husband and loving the music.

My goal for 2013 is to bring more joy to my life.  Or maybe a better way to say it is, I want to take time to truly enjoy my life and all the beauty that surrounds me.  I have a wonderful family, amazing friends, I live in a beautiful place and I have the best job in the world.  On top of that, there is so much to see and do here in Seattle and on this great planet.  So why not enjoy it?  What keeps me and so many I know from feeling truly happy?  I am too busy.

I posted this link on my Facebook page and I encourage you to read it.  The author Reggie Ray reminds us that most of us are so caught up in our busy-ness that we lose our ability to simply enjoy the moment.  This really struck a chord with me.  How often do we find ourselves rushing from one programmed event to the next, telling ourselves and everyone around us how busy we are.  Busy-ness has seemingly become a badge of honor.  “Hi, how are your?  I am super busy, how about you?  Yep me too, you should see my to-do list…” I think that it is this busy-ness that has gotten in the way of our simply enjoying the moment.   We run from one thing to the next, each event important, but each losing its value as a result of our obsession with doing so much all the time.  It gets so bad that we find ourselves unable to stop.  And even if we do stop, we are busy planning how we will get the next thing(s) on our “to-do” lists done.

So for 2013, I will embrace joy.  Joy in the moment. Joy in doing less.  Joy in not multitasking.  I am reminded of the Tasahara monk who spoke of the joy of dish washing.  Now dish washing can be a drag, especially if I spend the time washing dishes thinking about what I am to do next, and next after that and so on.  But if I harness my awareness to the dish washing itself, then I can enjoy the feeling of warm water, silky soap and squeaky, clean dishes.  Even the sense of completion when the dishes are done. And so it goes with all things.

Being present in the moment enables us to find more joy in whatever we are doing.  And if it turns out that as we become more fully present, we realize that what are doing brings us no joy at all, then at least we have attended carefully enough to know we must create change.  We learn to identify that which brings us joy and that which brings us pain.  With this knowledge we can then make choices that will enable us to gather more joy into our hearts and to let go of those actions, commitments, activities that simply contribute to our busy-ness and not to our fulfillment.

To those of you who are now firmly convinced of my polyanna-ness, let me acknowledge that I know most of you are householders, as am I.  Householder is a term used to recognize our need to work and maintain a home/family.  We all have jobs and burdens to carry, and families who need us. Our workloads may be heavy, the kids may be tiring, our parents my be challenging, but that is our life.  The question is how do we live our lives and  not just pass through them.

For me it has always been through yoga and meditation.  But this year I plan to up the ante and embrace joy.  What will you do?

Questions to ponder:

  • How much of my life is consumed with busy-ness?
  • How present am I in my daily actions (e.g.driving, walking, bathing, working, playing, resting)?
  • How often do I simply stop and rest for 10 minutes without trying to do anything?
  • Could I set aside 10 minutes for myself on a daily basis?
  • Did I set some resolutions for 2013?  What do they have in common?
  • What single word could I choose as my intention for the year?

 

Happy New Year

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi

Meditating in Difficult Times

The most common reason people say they don’t meditate is that they can’t find the time.

Imagine you actually have found the time and you’re feeling pretty good about your meditation practice.  You are committed.  Some how you found a way to set aside 10, 20, 40 minutes a day a few times a week to meditate.  You didn’t think you could do it, but you did, and you are enjoying the benefits of your practice.

And then life throws you a curve ball.  You thought your life was busy before, but now it is outrageous.

Welcome to my life.

I am a full-time mom.  I teach yoga part-time.  I am involved in several volunteer projects, and I have a home and yard to maintain.  I practice yoga and meditate daily.  My plate is full, but somehow I get it all done – usually.

Then comes the holiday season.  My daughter is a ballet dancer, so there is a lot of shuffling to and fro for Nutcracker rehearsals.  Add in the holiday decorating, present preparation, cooking projects, and shopping.  Add in a workshop or two, and my plate begins to get very full.  Breath, practice, meditate, I remind myself.

But the world continues to conspire against me.  Two weeks ago, I got an early morning call from my 92-year-old father that he has had a stroke and is in the E.R. As he lives in Berkeley and I live in Seattle, I found myself spending a lot of time on the phone trying to figure out care options for him.  Breathe, practice, meditate, I remind myself.  Turns out he didn’t have a stroke and is released from the hospital after two days.  Still weak and unsteady, but no longer in need of hospital care. Unfortunately, he falls three days later and needs to go back to the E.R.   Clearly I can’t manage the situation from afar, and thus an unplanned trip to the Bay Area is required – immediately. Breath, practice, meditate, I remind myself.

I called Alaska Airlines and bought a last-minute ticket.  I scurry around and find folks to cover my classes.  I dash out to the store and stock up on frozen meals and fresh fruit for my kids to eat while I am gone.  I write out to-do lists for them.  I send notes to neighbors asking them to watch out for my kids.  Pack a bag and off I go.  I spend 4 days in Berkeley taking care of my father; dressing his wounds, helping him find new patterns for life, talking to doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, buying medical supplies, setting up care, oh, and did I mention trying to be a good mom to my kids back at home….

Now I am back, playing catch up.  But through it all, my meditation and yoga has saved me.  Yes, it was modified.  I practiced 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, wherever I could fit it in.  And it did make such a difference.  Meditation on the plane made the flight go more quickly.  I couldn’t get up and meditate and do yoga in the morning before I needing to care for my father, but I could fit it in when he rested, before I spoke with the doctors, after I made meals or just before bed.  Whenever and wherever, and always it helped me to be clearer, calmer, more energetic, compassionate and patient.

The last one on that list is the most important.  I am not a saint.  I get tired and overwhelmed and frustrated.  All of us do.  We are all just trying to do the best we can with what we are given.

So if you are kicking yourself because you have let your practice slip, stop kicking.  Instead take 5 minutes sometime today, just to stop and breathe.  Nothing big, just that – breathe and be.  Maybe you will find another 5 minutes later on when you can stretch or do an asana.  The important thing is to give yourself that time and to notice how you feel afterwards.  That is meditation.  That is yoga.  That is healing.

Before I close, I want to say a few thanks:

  • To my yogi friends/teachers who covered my classes at the last-minute – you guys are the best.
  • To all my students for being the best and most understanding students ever.
  • To my friends here and in the Bay Area who kept checking-up on me and supporting me.
  • To the guy on the airplane who gave me a ride home at 11:00 at night.
  • To the staff at Alta Bates Hospital for taking such good care of my Dad.
  • To the doctors and nurses and therapists who have been so helpful and informative.
  • And to my wonderful husband and kids for being so loving and understanding.

Shalom & Namaste
Happy Chanukah
Diana Bonyhadi

 

P.S:  How do you like the falling snow?

Facebook – What’s the Point?

 

Warning this may not seem to have anything to do with yoga.  And then again, if yoga is all about being present and aware of everything we do, and how we do it, and if we are trying to live on the eightfold path…. then this has everything to do with yoga.

Did you notice that I have not been on Facebook for a while?  It’s true, sometime back in July, I decided to give a give Facebook a wide berth.

Perhaps it was due to spending some time with my friend Gail Hand, author of the recently published guidebook to Facebook entitled: Are You SURE You Want to Post That? This is a great little book, providing essential guidelines on what is appropriate to post on line.

Her book got me thinking about what I was posting on Facebook and why.  I had begun to notice that Facebook had become a repository for self-marketing, self-aggrandizement, basic to-do lists and/or manifestations of discontent:  “Buy my product, pat my back, I did so many errands today, I won X, or my work is killing me and politics are crazy.”

And before I knew it, I couldn’t think of a single reason to post anything to Facebook.  I mean, did folks really want to see my pictures of summer hikes, my gorgeous children, or the 22 pounds of berries I picked and made into jam? Was it necessary for me to clog up the pages of Facebook with announcements of my upcoming classes and workshops.  Or was anyone really interested in knowing where I went or reading my thoughts on reality, consciousness or esoteric musings on the nature of the planet?

And so I gave up Facebook.  Didn’t even open that tab for close to two months.  And I am sorry to say I didn’t miss it.  Nope, no withdrawals symptoms here. Periodically it did cross my mind to anti-up and use the FB to do a bit of marketing (self-aggrandizement), but that seemed selfish, so I kept the tab closed.  And then there were those moments when I wanted to know how my kids were doing, but that struck me as voyeuristic, so I picked up the phone and called them instead.

Did I save time? Probably, because once you check your status, and all your friends’ statuses and look at everyone’s pictures, an hour (or two) can easily pass you by.  I did notice that the amount of time I spent in front of my computer screen decreased, which I think is a good thing. Did I miss reading everyone’s posts?  Surprisingly, I did not.  I don’t know if I missed anything really important, but the world seems to have gone on just fine without me. Did I feel better/more superior for not “doing” Facebook?  Thankfully, No. Did anyone notice that I wasn’t posting or responding to post on FB? – I don’t know, and I kinda sorta doubt it.

So not only could I not find a reason to post, I also could not find a reason to read, scan, peruse, or sleuth about in the bowels of Facebook.  The longer I stayed away, the harder it was to consider going back. But as you can see, this is all written in past tense, so go back, I must have.

It was at the beginning of this week.  I don’t know how it happened.  But somehow, the tab popped open and I stayed to look.  The good news, the fantastic news, is that the first thing I saw was a lovely comment on the beauty of the planet, then an inspirational picture of my good friend and fellow yogi, followed by an announcement/invitation to a cause I really care about. Facebook showed me beauty, gave me inspiration and made me smile.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a reason to contribute a post that would not fall into the category of bragging, marketing or kevetching.  I still can’t answer the question “why post?” without the answer boiling down to “come see the cool things I am doing or thinking about” and that still sounds like showing off or bragging to me.  But maybe that is ok.

In this busy busy world where computers and cell phones are a way of life, Facebook is now an important marketing tool and a social connector.  Yes, it can be a vehicle for simply sharing the tedium of one’s life, or it can be a vehicle of inspiration and change.  As with all things, the choice will be our own.  And it will be up to each of us to answer the question: what am I posting and why does it matter?

I welcome your thoughts on this.  How do you “use” Facebook?  Why do you use Facebook? How much time do you spend on Facebook?  And anything else you think is important to consider when choosing to go to or post to the big FB.

Have a great week

Shalom & Namaste,

Diana Bonyhadi

The Freedom of Summer is Good for Your Soul

I love summer time!

School is out for almost everyone.  The kids are off to summer jobs or enjoying the luxury of sleeping in.  Mornings are slow and calm.  This parent has a lot less driving to do and a lot less nagging.  No more homework, no more projects, no more school related meetings.  The sun has even popped out once or twice this month, and I went to my second outdoor summer concert this week.

Summer is the time to slow down, refuel and reconnect.  Almost everyone will take some form of vacation, whether it is a weekend of camping, a trip to the beach or maybe even something longer and more adventurous.

Many of us will have a bit more time to be with friends and families enjoying picnics, sightseeing, concerts, camp-outs, barbeques, and bonfires,(with marshmallows and dark chocolate of course).

Taking time off from our regular routine not only allows us respite but it also provides us the opportunity to reconnect with our deeper selves.  We get the extra moment for reflection, we get the extra moment for play, we get the extra moment for love.

I wish we could have summer all year-long.  It’s not that I am lazy (I might be, but that’s not the point), it’s just that I think people would be healthier and happier if we all embraced the value of summer throughout the year.

So, to all my friends and yogis, I wish you a summer full of:

  • rest
  • music
  • dancing
  • sunshine
  • friendship
  • good books
  • fresh berries
  • corn on the cob
  • walks in the moonlight
  • strolling along the beach
  • hiking in the woods
  • family
  • bonfires
  • meditation
  • YOGA

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi

 

Thanksgiving – Begining a Practice of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Our to-do lists are full, as are our shopping lists.  We will spend a significant amount of time this week cleaning and cooking, and preparing to welcome friends and family into our homes.  We may even travel to join our friends and families in near or distant locations.  This is the time of year when we as a culture sanction taking a few precious moments out of our busy schedules to open our hearts to gratitude.  And we do it in community.  Perhaps we all become yogis on Thanksgiving.

I believe that gratitude is the foundation of yoga.  We start our practice with intention setting and we finish it with gratitude for the practice and our teachers.  We strive to cultivate the niyama of santosa (contentment) on the mat by letting go into each of our asanas; accepting and rejoicing in each asana for the strength and energy it brings to us.  We seek to be present and content for each moment and for each breath during our practice. And finally, we bring our hands together in Namaste in recognition and gratitude for the divine spirit which lives and breaths in all of us.

But once we leave the studio, and move beyond the mat, shouldn’t we also seek to build a mindfulness practice of gratitude?  Medical studies from such esteemed institutions as the Harvard Medical Center note the health benefits of engaging in a practice of mindulness meditation.   Indeed, such practices have been shown to reduce the effects of stress related to chronic health concerns, and loss of loved ones.

The question then, is where and how to begin.  Why not this week with Thanksgiving?

As you prepare for the holiday, take time to note the beauty around you. Notice the red and yellow leaves as they fall to the ground.  Take a moment to be consciously grateful for friends and family. Remember those moments of joy shared with different family members.  Appreciate the bounty in the stores, the truckers who delivered it there and the farmers who brought it forth from the earth. Open your heart with gratitude for the artists who bring beauty to our eyes and ears; for the activists and foundations who provide shelter and services to those in need; and the for physicians who bring healing.  The list can go on and on.  Be thankful for each moment of life, the beauty that surrounds you and the kindnesses you experience.

Lest someone should accuse me of polyannaism, let me state that there is no denying that these are difficult times we’re living.  Challenges of hunger, poverty, racism, sexism, exploitation and yes death are a part of our daily existence.  The goal though, is not to descend into to pain of these experiences.  The understanding gained from practicing mindful gratitude keeps us from getting lost in the loss of freedoms and life.  So even when you are stuck in traffic, late for a meeting, low on blood sugar, or suffering from illness or the loss of a loved one, you can still allow gratitude to soften the moment.

Breath in, look around and remember many wonderful moments in your life and community.  Practice santosa and gratitude, both on the mat and beyond.
Happy Thanksgiving
Shalom & Namaste,

Diana Bonyhadi