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

Practicing Yoga and Forgiveness

In the Jewish Tradition, this past week and weekend were the holiest of Holy Days – the Days of Awe.  For 8 days, Jews the world over, participated in a period of reckoning. In preparation for the Jewish New Year, we have spent a week looking back over the year and doing a little personal housekeeping.  We our paid off our debts, reconciled our promises, and made amends.

We spend quite a bit of time focused on the following phrases.  They are simple and profound.  Just a couple of sentences which encompass just about everything.

For all the things I have said or done consciously or unconsciously which may have caused pain and suffering to others, I am sorry, please accept my apology.
For all the things I have said or done consciously or unconsciously which may have caused pain or suffering to myself, I am sorry, please accept my apology.

There you have it.  An acknowledgment that even when we don’t mean to, we can do things or says things that are hurtful.  I know this one pretty well.  I have a tendency to open mouth – insert foot.  I have the best of intentions, but sometimes things just don’t come out the way I envisioned and people get hurt.  I am sorry, I really didn’t mean to.  Or sometimes my commitment to honesty gets in the way.  I know, not everyone needs to know how I really feel or think about something.  I am sorry.

Then there are those time when I fail to speak up about the things that are really important – politics, the environment, community issues, etc.  Sometimes, I fail to say or do what needs doing/saying.  For those moments of omission, I am sorry.

Now for the big one.  For all those times when I hurled unjust judgments and recriminations at myself, I am sorry.  I know I must be willing to give myself a chance to be human, and therefor fallible.  I must let go of all those “would’ves and should’ves” and just let the past be the past.  This is so hard, I really want to be a better person. I hate screwing up.  But I have to be willing to forgive myself.  We all do.

In yoga, we strive to stay in the present moment and connect with the interconnectedness that we are.  We move and breath, hopefully linking our breath with the movement, to assist the brain in settling in to the present  We practice asana and pranayama so we can sit in mediation, focusing and releasing the thoughts, slipping into the eternity of the here and now.  And it is a challenge.  That is why Patanjali in Sutra 1:14 states that “the practice becomes fully grounded with we attend to it over time, without a break and with earnestness.”  In other words, keep trying, don’t give up, and do this practice with care, and effort.  Be serious about it.

So, yea, I know I make mistakes, we all make mistakes.  We are human.  The trick is to keep trying and  to pay attention to our thoughts and deeds.  Try to not to hurt others or ourselves.  This is the essential practice of Ahimsa.  And next year when Yom Kippur rolls around, maybe the sorry-list will be shorter, and maybe it won’t, but if we will keep trying to attend and be earnest in the effort, the world will be a better place.  And that’s what its all about, isn’t it?

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