The 52: Lesson Nineteen — Ahimsa: What If We Were ALL Non-Violent?

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butterflyblueskyAhimsa. What is that, you might ask.  If you are a yogi, you would know.  But everyone benefits by understanding the depth of the word. ahimsa. It means non-violence.

If there is something we could all use more of in this world today, it is non-violence.  That and true unconditional love.

The path of yoga is abundant with all kinds of valuable lessons on leading a loving and responsible life. We learn ways to work with the body, the breath, the senses, the mind, and how to be in the world.  Ahimsa is one of those ways to be.  It is a Sanskrit word that means non-violence.  Most spiritual or religious writings have some kind of writing on this subject, whether they emanate from something like the Ten Commandments of Judao/Christian thought or Buddhist texts and others.  We are asked to practice nonviolence.

In the Yoga Sutras, the quintessential book describing classic yoga, ahimsa is the first of the “rules” for living found in the Yamas. It is about learning to be non-violent in all ways.  We are to remember that nonviolence is to be engaged on every level — in thought, word and deed, in all of our actions with others, with anything and everything in the world, and with ourselves as well.  This broad definition reaches a profound level. To even scratch the surface of ahimsa can lead to significant change and may take years (or some might say, life-times) to fully reach its goal.  It is a worthwhile effort.

Think about this. Not only should we not act in violence, or speak in violence,  we should  not even think in any way that could be deemed violent, abusive, hurtful, cruel, unkind, or damaging.  Try this idea on for size.  Think what would happen if we all engaged this behavior.  Bullying would end.  Boston and Newtown and 9/11 would never have happened, and this is only scratching the surface.  What about Syria, the holocaust, the demeaning of women in many cultures?  Child abuse, elder abuse, animal abuse would stop.  And we would even end our own habit of self denigration.

Think about it!

Thomas Alva Edison wrote this:

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.

Until we stop harming all other beings, we are still savages.

LESSON NINETEEN

NON-VIOLENCE

If we are to be lighter, happier and more loving, as is the intention in these 52 lessons, then it makes sense that we take inventory about how we are treating ourselves, each other, and the world around us.  If we are harboring thoughts of violence, even if only in our minds, then we cannot be functioning very well.  Sure, we can put on a face that pretends kindness while at the same time, festering within, are feelings and expressions contrary to that friendly face.  Or we might behave in ways that hide the self-violence of judging, demeaning and harming (maybe even hating) ourselves.  Violence is violence in whatever form it takes.

Many years ago, in my effort to do no harm and remembering the words of the great theologian and medical missionary, Albert Schweitzer, I was determined to do my best to avoid harming. I noticed there were some moths in my kitchen pantry.  Being clueless at the time, I thought they were clothes moths and wondered why they weren’t eating my wool sweaters upstairs in the closet.  I let them be.  It wasn’t long before I discovered the “other” kind of moth, the ones that like to invade the staples in the pantry.  They were everywhere.  In my flour, my grains, my cookies, my cereal.  My determination for “no harm” gave way quickly.  They were eating MY food.  They had to go, though I felt a measure of sadness in removing them.

So we all have definitions about what is construed as “violence,:  Let us explore this further:

  • Trying your best to remain objective and non-judging (in other words, act as an impartial witness if you can), think of feelings you may have that are violent and angry regarding your self and those around you.  Notice that these feelings are more than likely harming you just in the process of harboring them.
  • Take one or two of these thoughts and see if you can diffuse them and let them go.  Remember that everyone has challenges and that most people do the best they can to get by in the world. Who are we to judge them?
  • Try to “bookmark” any recurrent thoughts of violence or hatred that flow through your consciousness and then, with each of them, follow our earlier lesson in thought monitoring.  Note the thought.  Decide if it is constructive or damaging to you.  Make the conscious effort to delete or banish it, then replace it with something loving.
  • DO NOT use this lesson as a form of further self denigration!  This is about learning how you respond in life and trying to make positive changes so that you are more open to loving yourself all the time.

Most of us change in increments, in baby steps. Removing one violent thought, behavior, or act has an impact larger than you might realize.  Try it and let me know how it works for you.  I predict the very act of trying will lead to a lighter and happier YOU.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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About deannemincer

Deanne Mincer has been a long time student of religious and spiritual studies. For many years, she was a practitioner of yoga and in the late 1980's she was drawn to share her enthusiasm by becoming a yoga teacher. Her certification, from the Himalayan Institute, was a comprehensive two year program including the study of anatomy, diet, nutrition, Ayurvedic medical practices, the methods of teaching hatha yoga, the science of breath and the study of raja (the royal path of yoga) philosophy. She has taught yoga, meditation, and spiritual classes for more than twenty years. In the mid 1990's she became a follower of Siddha Yoga where she experienced a spiritual awakening called shaktipat and her teachings took on a new and freshly informed understanding. As Deanne continued her studies, she learned level one in Reiki and also sutdied with Henry Grayson, Ph.D. where she refined her work with muscle testing and the complex of energy healing methods Dr. Grayson has developed for use with his patients. Dr. Grayson's work is illuminated in his books, Mindful Loving and Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind. Deanne teaches group and private classes in yoga as well as stress reduction programs and meditation in many forms (sitting, walking, whirling, meditation in action, and "sleeping" meditation called yoga nidra). She has developed methods of using yoga in treating those with life threatening diseases as in the programs she designed for Gilda's Club and Friends in Deed in New York City. She was a consulting producer on an alternative health program for CNBC's Alive and Wellness, and she has demonstrated yoga on network television. Deanne created the audio DC, Inner Light Yoga with Deanne Mincer and she has spoken widely and demonstrated meditation in many venues. Deanne is an enthusiastic and joyful teacher. She is known for the keen interest she takes in her students' physical and spiritual development. She stresses that each student should work at their own pace in a non-competitive and caring environment. You can read some of the comments her students have shared in the Tesimonials Section of this site. Her teaching is grounded in her own steadfast spiritual awareness - that each of us is a being of eternal light and love and that we can all come to knowing this truth for ourselves. She is eager to help guide you on this joyful path of body, mind, breath and spirit.

6 responses »

  1. Hello Deanne, I think this is one of the most important posts yet. I’m still not sure about the moths, but will try to remain open (same goes for carpenter ants).

    I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at yoga.

    With love and namaste,

    Vivian

    • Hi Vivian, I did feel sad about those moths, but none of my natural products worked.  They had to e ‘bombed.”  Just the word is violent!   With love and namaste, Deanne

  2. Hi Deanne,
    sorry I missed last night. I needed to have a quiet evening after dental surgery and I needed to be reminded of that.

    I love this post and I am wondering now about those moths too. I had them at my old house – to which my mother brought the moths up from Richmond. I am thinking though, is getting rid of them being violent? What if we don’t hate them, just can’t have them eat our food stuffs? There is violence in nature that is part of the way of the universe. Animals eating animals, birds eating fish, frogs eating bugs, bugs eating bugs… The moth wants to eat our food. Can we get rid of the moth, kill it without feeling violent toward it? Is this different from human to human violence? I think it might be.

    If I see a spider in my house, I can think, he isn’t doing me any harm. I can share my home with it. But if something comes along and eats my food or eats at my house, I think I don’t want to coexist with this being. Could the universe be OK with my thinking?

    I have another struggle. I enjoy watching the cardinals, finches and woodpeckers feeding at our bird feeder. I don’t mind the bluejay having some bird seed too. But now the crows come – five to seven at a time and they take over and pig out on the food. I am having trouble tolerating their presence when I’d rather they go away. I think, I did not buy bird seed to feed you! I am trying to take a breath and be patient with them, and wait to see if the other birds are patient too, waiting for the crows go on their way. So, I buy bird seed more often… I can do that. But there are times, if I had a BB
    gun…

    Namaste,

    Susan

    • Hi Susan,
      I am sorry it has taken me a little time to get back to you. I have been performing apology rituals to the moths. (Just kidding.)
      I very much appreciate your comments. I have several thoughts on all of this, some of which I elect to not include in the blog post as it may throw people off if they are not used to the concepts.
      I am fine with the moth decision, by the way. I felt they posed a danger to us if we unwittingly act the foods they infested. Not good. Protecting my family became mor important.
      But also — I believe that the world is maya, so this was just a part of the dream.
      I also believe that I am not the “doer.” It is the ego that disagrees with that statement.
      I also believe that everything happens with purpose (even in the dream) and that all unfolds with divine consciousness.
      I believe too that, while in the body, non-violence and other ethical practices emanating from yoga, makes being in the world a lot easier, even if it is a play.
      Now, as to the birds: It has taken me bit of time to come to terms with favoring certain species. I like the same ones you like, except it took a long time for me to accept the blue jays as they destroy the nests of the other birds, and eat their eggs and even the newly hatched. I used to dislike them for this normal behavior. The crows are so smart; I have favored them, even if they are little pigs at eating the food. I still mourn the crow that was disabled and died, leaving feathers and its body right near my front door. I had seen that it could not fly anymore and its partner hovered around it. that partner, by the way, still comes here, all alone.
      So now I let the birds be the birds and work it out without imposing myself into their activities (though sometimes I still want to).
      It’s lucky you don’t have a BB gun. THAT would be violent.
      I love these little conversations.
      I hope your teeth are good.
      xoxo and namaste,
      Deanne

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