oooh, this one’s a doozy y’all… and probably the most argued, discussed and practiced yama of the yamas. Ahimsa is our focus this week and it means the practice of non-violence.
Stating the obvious, don’t kill or cause bodily harm to other sentient beings… but ahimsa goes much deeper than that, and depending on your viewpoint can go super far into every corner of your life. As with anything, yoga is a practice of balance. What is appropriate for you, may not be appropriate for your neighbor and is up for debate, so approach this topic with an open mind knowing there is no ‘perfect’ answer.
- Practice Self Love – Undoubtedly you’ve heard your yoga teacher (or RuPaul) give you the spiel that unless you love yourself, you cannot love another. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. This goes as deep as the mind. If we speak violently and unkindly to ourselves, there is no doubt that we do so to others and with greater harm (potentially). Watch your thoughts this week and notice how you speak to yourself. While we may not think we would EVER speak that way to someone else, why are you the exception to peace being wished to all sentient beings? It starts with YOU. Be kind to yourself, and in finessing the practice you will be non-violent to others.
- Practice Compassionate & Kind Thoughts – It’s not enough to not kill people or hurt them physically, we must learn to be compassion and kind EVEN when we disagree with someone else. Martin Luther King never struck someone, Gandhi never killed anyone, Nelson Mandela prayed FOR his guards while in imprisonment and these powerful leaders made massive changes that have changed the face of humanity. Start practicing non-violence by practicing compassion and kindness towards EVERYONE and in your head first. This does NOT mean you excuse wrongful, harmful actions, but that you try to put yourself in their shoes, see the world through their lens and act out of understanding that they are flawed (we all are) and not out of retribution. Warning: This requires you be the bigger person, and often that alone is a life long practice. We recommend reading The Book of Joy for some helpful tools.
- Practice Consuming Mindfully– This one is always controversial :). What is mindful to someone might be harmful to someone else. The argument often comes up around Veganism. To be a Vegan would definitely assume that you are non-harming to animals, however some Vegans only eat copious amounts of unhealthy foods to supplement, causing bodily harm to themselves. Others believe that Veganism is actually more damaging to the planet… I have no opinion either way, only to say that this is personal to everyone, and the best way to make the best, non-violent choice for yourself is just to start consuming mindfully. Before you take a bite, make a purchase or do a deed, consider everyone that is a part of the cycle of this product or service. How are you thanking them for their part? How are they treated in the cycle? Is this aligned with your values. If we really take a moment to be mindful before we consume something, we can figure out if our actions are in accord with our personal definition of violence. The Jains, for example, sweep the floor as they walk and wear face masks so as not to even disturb/kill the tiniest bugs that share the planet with them…
- Practice Interdependence- If you are constantly aware that your choices will affect others, it will be harder to make violent choices. It’s easy to make harmful/ violent choices when you are unaware of how they will affect others. If we always view ourselves as a part of a whole and the ecosystem of humanity, we will (like #3) practice more mindful choices and consider the other in our actions and thoughts.
Here’s our cheat sheet. Comment with any thoughts!