Ahimsa. 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.
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