a deeper looking at ahimsa
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
We’ve all heard this rhyme growing up and the simple truth is we all know it is false. Arguably, words can cause the most harm and damage in our lives. That is why it is so critical to be mindful of how and what you say. The words you speak have the undeniable power to cause harm or to do good. Gossip, bullying, negative self-talk, perfectionism are all examples that at one point or another have hurt us.
Pantajali presents us with the five Yamas in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras. The Yamas gives us five ethical precepts, which gives us the basic guidelines for living a life of fulfillment and that will also benefit our society. The consequence of not following the Yoga Sutras is simple and clear – we suffer, society suffers and this will continue to happen until we make a conscious decision to live a different way.
The Yoga Sutras gives us the 8 Limbs of Yoga – most complete overview of a yogi practice and lifestyle. The first being; Yamas, basic ethical guidelines for living our life; Niyamas, basic precepts for living our personal lives; Asana, the physical yogic practice that most are familiar with; Pranayama, breathing exercising; Pratyahara, conscious withdrawal from which nourishes us (withdrawal from the senses); Dharana, concentration; Dhyana, meditation; and Samadhi, self actualization or union with the Divine.
Pantajali does not imply that humans are “good” or “bad”, but that if we choose a specific behavior we will reap those specific results based off of our choices. The Yamas have five subcategories with the first being Ahimsa or “nonviolence”. Ahimsa does not only refer to physical actions, but to our thoughts and words as well. What we think to ourselves, say to our selves or others can be just as damaging as causing physical harm. Our words have the ability to become the manifestation of great power and great harm.
To practice Ahimsa requires great determination, self-awareness and mindfulness of each moment. Ahimsa is not just about nonviolence per say, but it is the practice of compassion. So if viewing Ahimsa as nonviolence is overwhelming, change your view to compassion.
Embracing a life of compassion will not happen over night but it will happen. Here are some acts of compassion that you can start to embrace in your life and assist you in your practice of Ahimsa.
Practice kindness – Be kind to everyone in your life from your children to the mailman. Be especially kind to those who are not kind to you. Responding to them from a place of love will overcome their unkind words/acts. Remember the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” – same theory here. Violence will not be overcome by more violence.
Live Sustainably – Reuse, repurpose, upcycle! By reusing all of those glass jars and containers instead of throwing them in the trash. Recycle what you can’t reuse. Create compost piles in your backyard and use that beautiful compost to enrich your garden full of your organic vegetables, fruits & herbs. If you cannot grow your own garden invest in your local organic CSA (Community Support Agriculture). Not only are you supporting a family, your investing in yourself and your reducing your carbon footprint because your veggies are traveling only a few miles verse thousands of miles.
Practice Peace – Be tolerant of those who think differently than you or those who get under your skin. Remember you are in them and they in you. Find that common ground. When you become frustrated or annoyed – remember to breath, breath deeply and find your center. Be fully present when someone is speaking to you and allow him or her to be fully heard. Reach out to other like your mom, dad, friends and family members you may not be in contact with regularly.
Love your Animals – Adopt those sweet animals from your community’s shelter instead of buying from a pet store or breeder. Those lovable dogs, cats, bunnies deserve a loving warm home instead of being on death row for no other reason than not having a home. Volunteer your time at your local shelters and bring awareness to your town about adopting. Go vegetarian, vegan, or at least reduce the amount of animal based products you consume on the regular. Not only are you supporting life, compassion and love but you are also embracing a healthier lifestyle for yourself and your family members.
Give more Hugs – Because who doesn’t love a good hug?
Anndrea is a Wellness Professional | Counselor | Yoga Teacher who works with individuals who are ready to embrace change and a life of wellness. She is the founder the practice and lifestyle blog halcyon-wellness.com