Attachment and Letting Go

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I’m sad to announce, that this is my last week teaching at Village Green Yoga and River Tree Yoga until June. Truly, I will miss teaching and my community. You guys bring such light to my life through your dedication, compassion and humor. But it is only a month and I will be back to my regular schedule very soon. In the interim, I have arranged for some excellent subs. So keep doing your yoga and your practice will grow from the wisdom of others.

As I prepare to spend the next month in Berkeley helping my father downsize to a small apartment in a continuing care community, I reflect on what this might mean for him, as well as for myself.

Moving is difficult for everyone. I have read that it is one of the top five stressors in life. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like for my father who is 95 and has lived in his current home for the majority of his adult life. He has not only lived in this house for over 50 years, he also designed it himself. It is perhaps his finest work as an architect and is truly a masterpiece of contemporary architecture. It sits on a wooded lot in the Berkeley hills with sweeping views across the San Francisco Bay. Floor to ceiling windows and doors on all sides, beautifully decorated with antiques from Europe and Asia; it is simultaneously inspiring and comforting. He is deeply attached to his home and the separation will be difficult for him. I think perhaps it is part of his identity, and so the stress of moving will be compounded by the separation from a part of his self.

I must also recognize that this is the home in which I grew up, so I am not only dealing with his loss, but I am also dealing with my own. Once he is moved, I will need to sell most of his/our belongings and let go of the security of having a place to land in the Bay Area; a place to share with family and friends, a place which I have always referred to as home. It is a home that is much loved and will be deeply missed.

And yet I am reminded of the yoga teachings concerning attachment. Our attachment to the past, to things being as they were; our attachment to the desire for things to be different from how they are now; and our attachment to material things in general can all lead to pain and suffering as well as distracting us from our ability to reside in the direct experience of the present moment. At this point I will spare you a full dissertation on all of Patanjali’s Sutras which discuss non-attachment, and only lead you in their direction.

  • Sutras I.12,I.15, I.16 – explains that through non-attachment we consciously realize that attachment can create short and long term negative effects.
  • Sutra II.3 – notes that the causes of suffering include ignorance, egoism, attachment, repulsion and  fear.
  • Sutra II.7, II.8 – suggests that attachment is the consequence of pleasure as aversion is the consequence of pain.
  • Sutra II.39 – reminds us that persevering on the path non-covetousness leads to a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.

So, as I get myself ready for this seemingly Herculean task, I will hold fast to my yoga, the practice and the principles. I will remind myself that this too shall all pass. And that this is simply another step in the trajectory of my life. I am grateful to have lived in such a lovely home, grateful that my father has lived such a long and healthy life, and grateful that I have the flexibility to be able to help him in this difficult time.

I thank you in advance for your support and understanding. I look forward to seeing many of you this week, and send you wishes for a happy May.

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi

February Reboot – Intention Keeping

Happy February,

Actually, we are about half-way through.

How are you doing with those New Year’s Resolutions?  Not meaning to nag or anything, but this is just about that time where we are either congratulating ourselves on a job well-done, or kicking ourselves for not having more “stick-with-it-ness.”

So, first off, isn’t nice to know you are not alone in this.  Almost all of us set some sort of new intention at the beginning of the year. Some intentions are easy to maintain, others, not so. As we set those intentions we are envisioning a future where we are no longer plagued by this habit or that habit, or we see ourselves having mastered some amazing new accomplishment or skill.  Then, after a couple of weeks, the thrill of the challenge has worn off.  Now it just seems like just so much hard work.  How do we stay present with our intentions? As we work towards fulfilling them, where do we find the support for our resolutions?

Where?  Well, why don’t we look to our yoga sages. Way back when, Patanjali (~400 CE) suggested that our practice should be Sthira sukham asanam. (Patanjali Sutra, II.46).  In other-words, the posture/practice should be steady and sweet. On our mats we learn about developing a steady (sthira) practice, and a sweet (sukham) practice.  We learn not to push ourselves so hard we collapse in a puddle (puddle-of-go-asana) or pull muscles (strain-asana).  We also learn that we must put in the appropriate amount of effort so that we can actually hold ourselves in the posture, but gently.  Too little effort and we won’t get there, too much and we burn out.  We know it can be hard, and if we only focus on the hard (dukha), it is very difficult to maintain the steady (sthira) practice.  So, as we do on the mat, so to can we do with our New Years’ Intentions.  Honor the sweetness, the daily, moment by moment successes, stay steady, and resist focusing on what is not working.  In this manner, our intentions will become manifest.  Stira Sukham Asanam is a mantra not just for your mat, but for living your life.

Was one of your intentions to start or deepen your meditation practice?

Last month I gave you that handy-dandy illustrated guide to meditation.  This month I have a little video for you.  This one is on the scientific benefits of meditation.  I’m so glad this came across my desk when it did, as I was just in the middle of writing a review of the recent research on meditation.  Now I can just encourage you to watch this short video.

On a different note, I’m off to Hawaii on Friday for 10 days of sun, surf, hiking, and relaxing.  Mark and I have even included a side trip to Oahu for some yoga and music at Wanderlust.  I have arranged subs for all my classes, they are pretty amazing, so take this opportunity to experience their unique teaching gifts.

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi

 

Two Weeks in India – Two Millennia of Indian History & Philosophy

Found this lovely statue lying almost buried on the side of the road.

What do you get when you take a handful of meditators, mix them with three teachers and put them in Northern India on the banks of the Ganga River?

An experience of a life time and a deep exploration of the roots of Eastern wisdom, spirituality, meditation and yoga.

I have been studying yoga for years.  I have been practicing yoga and meditation for years.  I have read the Bhagavad Gita, The Ramayana, the Sutras of Patanjali, and many more texts central to the world of yoga.    In fact, I have even read most of these books several times and always I learn and grow from the experience.  I have even felt familiar with these texts.  But it was not till I traveled to India, that they really came to life for me.

I went to the source of the Ganga River – Devi Ganga and bathed in her waters (brrr).  I joined pilgrims on their trails to shrines and pujas dedicated to Vishnu, Siva, Krishna, Hanuman and others. I sat in the same cave where Arjuna and his brothers rested after their battle in the Marabarata.  I was even served coffee by a Sadu in that same cave as he told us of his practice of meditation and Brahmacharya.  I meditated in the cave of Vishnagupta of the Shankara lineage.  The Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita are now vibrantly alive for me in so many new ways, it will take months for me to be able to unravel and fully absorb these learnings.

I spent hours meditating and practicing yoga.  I explored the towns of Rishikesh, Uttarkashi and Gongotri, and shared their streets with monks, beggars, holy men and holy cows, scavenging dogs and prankster monkeys.  Yes, of course I drank lots of chai and ate lots of curry.  Oh, and I spent hours on the roads of India – which is, in and of itself, an adventure.

There are so many stories to tell and wisdom to share – give me time and space and it will come.  In the interim, I wanted to let you know I am back, teaching full time, available for privates and will be restarting the Meditation Circle next week.

Meditation Circle:  Thursdays at 7:00,  Village Green Yoga.  Join us every week for an hour of guided meditation, pranayama and community support.

Speaking of meditation, maybe you are wondering if you should try it.  Well, according to several scientific studies, meditation is good for the brain as well as for the heart, body and spirit.  Yoga Journal recently published a review article that has done an excellent job of summarizing the most recent findings, click here to read their article.

 

 

With great gratitude and prayers for peace & well-being for all beings everywhere,
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

 

 
Shalom & Namaste
Diana Bonyhadi
Kharmabellayoga.com

Ahimsa – Taking Care of Yourself & Others

Ahimsa

The first leaf on the first limb of the 8 limbed tree of Yoga is ahimsa.
Ahimsa roughly translated means to “do no harm”.

When Patanjali set out the eight limbed path of yoga sometime between 100 BCE and 100 AD, it appears that his intent was to tersely codify the previous 4000 years of yoga wisdom.  He did a very fine job of it.  Laying out in short simple verses (sutras), the wisdom of yoga as it had been taught until that point.  He stated that there are 8 limbs on the tree of yoga; yamas (personal practices), niyamas (community practices), asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) & Samadhi (ultimate enlightenment).  

So, ahimsa – do no harm – is the very first thing we must strive to do as yogis.  It makes sense.  Every spiritual/philosophical path I know embraces this philosophy.  But in yoga, the goal is not only to save random spiders from their doom and avoid taking swords up against our neighbors, but we are also encouraged not to commit harm against ourselves.

This is difficult.  We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages about how thin we should be, what cars we should drive, what knowledge we should have, what clothes we should wear, etc. All this in order to be happy.  So it is no surprise that many of us beat ourselves up trying to fit ourselves to this commercial image of what we are supposed to be, all with varying degrees of success.

This dissatisfaction with how we look or feel, may be what got us to yoga in the first place.  “If I just take that class, I will loose weight, get better muscles and maybe that nagging ache in my back/neck will go away.”

In mind my, there is nothing wrong with this.  Whatever gets you in the door and on the mat is good.  But I do worry about negative self speak, and not listening to the cues our bodies are sending us. Practice Ahimsa – do no harm – to others or yourself, through your actions or through your speech.

I read somewhere that we process over 60,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, the majority of these thoughts are less than complementary.  It turns out that we are experts at self criticism.  I know from experience that while I am pretty good at being kind to others, I am pretty rotten at being kind to myself.  I frequently hear all those would’ves should’ves.

Thus the trick really is to practice ahimsa with our selves.  When you go to yoga, listen to what your body needs.  Don’t push yourself too hard just to get that firm butt and those strong biceps. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those, but not at the sake of physical or spiritual injury.  Don’t try to do some else’s practice.  Don’t try to do more than you are ready for in the moment.  Yes, push your boundaries, but don’t hurt yourself.  Be kind and compassionate and loving with yourself.  And then from that foundation, you will find yourself expanding and reaching farther than you ever could from a place of self-criticism.


Shalom & Namaste,

Diana Bonyhadi

Great News at Kharma Bella Yoga

Great News at Kharma Bella Yoga

Yoga Wall: Come check out the new addition to the Kharma Bella Studio.  We have installed a yoga wall.  Book a private session and experience the amazing benefits of working with a rope and wall system for enhancing your asanas and healing your body. Just drop me an email, or give me a call, and we’ll get you set up for your introduction to the wonders of the yoga wall.

Speaking of Privates:  I highly recommend them.  They are great for tuning up your practice, exploring poses deeper, or working at a more therapeutic level, that can only be achieved when working individually with your teacher.  Privates are also great as an introduction to yoga.  If you know of someone who has been hankering to try yoga, but is worried about going to a class of Gumby bodies and feeling left out, this is a great and safe way to discover yoga.

Radio:  I have signed on to co-host a radio show on Mondays at 1:00pm on 1150AM  KKNW.  (I know, this is big news. It took a real leap of faith for me.)  I am joining the wonderful Ajayan Borys of Effortless Mind Mediation on Mind Matters Radio.  Together we will be exploring the intersections of yoga and meditation and all things glorious about your mind, spirit and body.  Tune in next Monday to hear about the first yama, Ahimsa (non-violence) as I discuss the many (obvious and not so obvious ways) this weaves through our lives and our practice.

Music:  Here is a treat: The Toure-Raichel Collective: Wonderful acoustic music. Check out this link, and maybe even attend their show April 28th at the Triple Door.  Thank my son Ben for the link.

Classes continue to fill and expand. Be sure to arrive with enough time to get signed in and settled in, so you can fully enjoy your wonderful self in class.

Happy Spring,
Shalom & Namaste,

Diana Bonyhadi

Living Sutra I:33 – Life with Joy and Balance

May I be happy. 


May I be peaceful. 


May I be safe from harm. 


May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. 


May I experience ease and well-being in body, mind, and spirit.

Today has been perfect, and I am only half way through.  I attribute it to my morning meditation on Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33.

maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
Tranquility of thought comes through the cultivation of friendship, compassion, joy, and impartiality in spheres of pleasure or pain, virtue or vice.

There are 4 words that stand out for me in this sutra, and they are:  Metta or maitri (lovingkindness); Karuna (compassion); Mudita (joy); and Upeksha (equanimity).  Patanjali places these words in balance with their opposition.  Yes, in difficult situations and with difficult people it is especially important to cultivate joy, compassion and equanimity.  But what really resonated for me today, was the importance of living fully in the moment, aware of the need to bring joy, compassion, kindness and balance into all aspects of my life.

 
Thus, I started today’s class with the prayer/chant above.  We then moved into a practice that allowed everyone to deepen and yes, sweat.  We did vinyasas, we did the sagital series, we did arm balances, head stands and more, but the best came at the end.

Because our focus was on staying happy, and peaceful, and practicing compassion, everyone slipped gracefully into Svasana.  I could feel the room melt.  The pranayama practice and the meditation happened effortlessly.  We were all breathing together.  Breathing in to a place of peace and joy.  There a a tangible sense of letting go and letting in.  It was truly a moment of blessing.

And then after class, I got to totally yoga-geek-out with my good friend Pat.  We played with hand-stands and arm-balances and jump-throughs.  I still have yet to master lifting up into a handstand with legs together but we got awfully close.  And again, I think it all worked so well, because I came to it from a place of Mudita/joy, and Upeksha/equanimity.  I left the need to “conquer/master” and just went to have fun with some cool and challenging asanas.  And it worked.

 
Later in the afternoon, I got to romp in the woods with my dog.  The air smelled so good, and the leaves were just changing colors.  because I didn’t stress out about my to-do list, I was able to get that one more thing in.

So, I just wanted to let you know that, yes, today it worked.  Starting off with a meditation on balance and joy and compassion, can and does make a difference.

Now it is off to feed kids, make dinner, run errands, drive kids and teach again.

Have a great day

Shalom & Namaste,
Diana Bonyhadi

Aparigraha – Living in Balance With My Computer

One who perseveres on the path of noncovetousness gains deep understanding of the meaning of life. (Patanjali Sutra, 2:39, trans. B. Bouanchaud)

 

Aparigraha, one of the yamas of the eight-fold yogi path is frequently defined as the path of non-covetousness, or a letting go of the desire for possessions. The yamas are the personal restraints, and in this abundant consumer-driven society, aparigraha may be one of the hardest yamas to practice.  I mean it is easier to practice saucha (cleanliness) by taking a shower everyday than to practice aparigraha when it comes to wishing for nice soap and fluffy white towels to go with that shower.

Anyway, the things is, my computer is causing me so much frustration, that I am experiencing just the opposite of aparigraha.  I  WANT a new computer.  I NEED a new computer.

I am so used to being able to sit down at my computer and write whenever I want, and then be able to upload it whenever I want.  I like being able to check my email several times a day, and to read the news online. I have gotten so used to having my computer as a regular part of my leisure and work day, that as it fails, I am driven to a state of frustration and distraction that is unnerving.

I am even I am having difficulties feeling compassion for my computer.  At first I would quietly do a restore when I saw a blue screen.  Then I would do a defrag.  Then I would do a virus fix, and then all would be well for a while.  Good computer, thank you computer.  But now after several months of this and a recent check to the computer geek squad, the dang thing is still failing and running hot.

So, the question is, how do we find balance between our wants and our needs.  Clearly I need a functional computer.  And, I am lucky to have this computer.  But…it could be better, faster, more reliable… And this is when we (or least I am) forced to re-evaluate the equation of time, money and peace of mind, and the practice of aparigraha.  I don’t want to be driven by my desire for a cool new computer.  But at the same time I don’t want to waste time and money and personal energy on technology which causes hours of frustration and loss of money, not to mention a lack of personal clarity.

Aparigraha is about learning to let go of our need for possessions.  And in my mind it is about bringing a personal  awareness to our sense of entitlement and neediness.  Maybe I will go out and get a new computer.  Maybe I won’t, but the very fact that I have spent time and energy considering the question of need vs. want brings me, I hope, one step closer to practicing aparigraha.

Perhaps, if we all stopped to pause before engaging in that next purchase decision, we would all be further along the road to living our yoga beyond the mat.

 

Shalom & Namaste

Diana Bonyhadi