AHIMSA: Yama of nonviolence
Non-Violence. In a perfect world we may not need to learn about non-violence it would just be a way of life. However, we live in a world of checks and balances, so must we learn to adjust and keep moving forward. In Yoga, the 8 Ethical Guiding Principles are called the Yamas and Niyamas. We will explore the first principle here: Ahimsa.
What does it mean to be non-violent? Surely it means being nice to everyone in every situation possible, right? Yes and no. Being non-violent means not only not harming someone else but yourself as well. And its deeper than not punching someone in the face or acting out against another. The subtle ways we tear ourselves down, beat ourselves up - these are ways in which we are violent to ourselves, unconsciously and viciously.
Violence toward others is easy to define. It's the crimes we commit against ourselves that are the true works of violence. And it happens 100x/day, unconsciously. When we have negative self-talk, that is violence toward the self. When we say, "I shouldn't", but do it anyway, that is violence (and blasphemous) to the self. When we dismiss our own feelings and emotions to save another, this is violence to the self. When we are in a yoga pose and want to "show off" what we can do but our breathing becomes labored and difficult, this is violence toward the self. And so on and so on... Most destructive are the thoughts we hold about ourselves. Some, if not most are unconscious and if we shed light on those, we can see just how violent we are to ourselves. The things you secretly say to yourself, things you would never say to a best friend create stress and damage to the body and make us sick.
We have habits. Some habits are good for us, such as feeding the body, bathing and getting enough sleep. Some habits though, like having caffeine to wake us up, eating wrong foods or even smoking are ways we tell our bodies we are not worthy of self care. Self care is a conscious, mindful way of Ahmisa. When we take care of ourselves in thought and deed, our body responds in kind - it's called good health. Unfortunately we have learned most of our habits from an early age, through watching elders and the world around us. Habits can change though. We must replace our negative habits with ones that serve our higher good. It's not easy, but it can be done with practice.
Being present and mindful of our thoughts and actions is the only way we can achieve Ahimsa. Protecting oneself without causing harm to another. Being more loving and compassionate with oneself in all situations takes practice. Mindful practice. And tons of patience. Being kind to yourself takes practice, and isn't that what life is about? Practice. Practice Practice.
Notice when a negative thought enters your mind. Acknowledge it and replace it with a positive thought that nourishes your spirit and it will nourish the mind and body as well. Simply being aware of our negative thoughts starts the journey of Ahimsa. Practice being kind to yourself and the world will be kinder to you. Try it. I dare you.