Finding your Sva Dharma
Diana's article for the OC Register published Feb. 15, 2013
original article here
By DIANA CHRISTINSON / GUEST COLUMNIST
About a year ago I was asked by a friend why I didn't surf and my immediate answer was fear.
The fear of not being a strong enough swimmer, of not being able to control the conditions, or not having enough breath when I really needed it, but most of all the fear of the raw and awesome force nature packs behind a powerful wave as it hits the beach. It's a strange sensation, as I feel so connected to the water whether I am on it, in it or just listening to the white water as it comes ashore in the aftermath of the same powerful wave I am so fearful of.
My 20 years of yoga practice have taught me to surrender rather than struggle and stay in the flow. Yoga has given me breath and core strength for what would seem to be the perfect foundation for learning how to stand up and ride a wave, yet my fear continues. It's confusing. Water is my home. How can I invite it in to where I live? I am encouraged by a Sanskrit term in traditional Indian culture, sva dharma, meaning "self path," or really, "your path." When the pull is strong and the passion is clear, humans naturally understand and follow their sva dharma.
The film "Chasing Mavericks" is a story inspired by famous big-wave surfer Jay Moriarty. Moriarty started surfing when he was 9 and began training to surf the big waves at Mavericks in high school. In the film his mentor, long-time surfer Frosty Hesson, trains him to not surf big waves, but how to survive them. During part of the training, he asks Jay to write an essay on fear. The most powerful, inspiring part of the movie was Jay's response and what he was truly afraid of.
He lived his sva dharma. Despite the danger of facing off with a 20- to 80-foot wave at any moment, he is drawn to the big surf by something he has found inside himself. Heeding this internal path, he finds the courage and allows his passion to show him the way. In the film, Moriarty challenges the universal question, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" For me it raises the question, "What am I willing to fail at in order to succeed?"
Modern life has a way of forcing us out of our comfort zone. It may be a small, simple task, speaking the truth or making a difficult decision. You do not have to ride a 40-foot wave to practice courage. Courage is found in the little corners of our lives – the daily business of working and loving. Poet and author Annie Dillard reminds us to bring our passion and courage into every minute and hour of the day: "How we spend our day is of course how we spend our lives."
I'm still scared of the water but my friend and home is calling. This is an opportunity to step out to practice courage and passion. Today is a great day for surfing.
With spring comes the transformed growth of imagination
Diana's OC Register column published March 21, 2013
original article here
DIANA CHRISTINSON/GUEST COLUMNIST
Spring begins – the day was perfectly balanced with the night on March 20, the vernal equinox. For us living in Southern California, the changing of the seasons are subtle.
The chill has lifted and we get out sandals and put our Ugg boots away until next fall. The city streets and hiking trails are alive with the colors of spring flowers and the smell of fruit trees in bloom. The whales are migrating south, and the mocking birds begin their night song. I am waiting to see my first caterpillar of the season.
Caterpillars represent more than the coming of spring; they symbolize transformation and the possibility of metamorphose.
The caterpillar, a creature closest to the earth and chunky, literally transforms into a beautiful flying creature. The transformation of the caterpillar is a biological miracle with a message.
With my limited knowledge of insects, I always imagined the caterpillar in the cocoon transforming bit by bit, growing wings and butterfly antennas. But the metamorphosis of this creature is much more miraculous. Unlike mammals, the insect world transformation is almost alien or other-worldly. The caterpillar once in the cocoon starts to disintegrate into a pile of mush and decay.
While still a caterpillar, unique cells called imaginal cells show up in the caterpillar. The caterpillars' immune system thinks they are enemies and fights them off. The imaginal cells continue to grow like crazy, multiply and eventually take over. Cells start to cluster together into groups that resonate at the same frequency, passing information from one to another. One cluster becomes the wings, another cluster becomes legs and another antennae. Research professor Lincoln Brower reports, "And so the transformation of metamorphosis goes. ... Nothing like this happens in vertebrates – ever. It's a phenomenon of insects and it truly is a miraculous biological process of transformation."
What makes the imaginal cells miraculous is that while within the caterpillar they were not caterpillar cells, nor were they butterfly cells. They "imagined" themselves. "The term imaginal cell is given to those formative, embryonic cells embedded within the caterpillar which imagine and create the butterfly," according to Deanne Bedar, author of "Imaginal Cells: A Metaphor of Transformation."
The imaginal cell inspires us to believe in transformation and to imagine.
The equinox brings vibrant colors and smells. Seeing the first caterpillar will remind me of the Einstein quote, "Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."
What is coming? What is possible? The caterpillar's message, what can we imagine for ourselves?
– Diana Christinson is the director and instructor at Pacific Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Dana Point. She received her master's degree in psychology and has combined her deep appreciation for Eastern philosophies, mythology and meditation practices with the Ashtanga yoga system.
"The Tao turns the tides and changes caterpillars into butterflies.