Friday, July 8, 2011

Ahimsa- non-violence

This week in my classes we've been talking about Ahimsa, one of the Yamas (restraints) from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.  Ahimsa (non-violence or non-harming,) is a restraint that is seemingly easy to comply with on a day-to-day basis.  We generally don't go around town hurting people, or doing random violent acts.  However, Ahimsa deserves a closer look.  We do things all the time that we know cause harm to ourselves, such as eating junk food, drinking alcohol, spending too much time at the computer, (I'm guilty!) or not exercising enough.  We subconsciously have negative thoughts running through our brains much of the time, directed toward other people, situations, or even toward ourselves, and these thoughts take their toll on us.  Repetitive thoughts create patterns in our brains, which, like a rut created in a dirt road by the repeated passage of vehicles, can be hard to get out of once we fall into them. How can we live a less violent, more yogic life?

I believe the first step is to become aware of these patterns, actions, and thoughts, and see what negative affects they have on us.  If I am constantly thinking that I am not a good person, that I'm unworthy of love or intimacy, or that I bring little value to the world, then my attention is focused in a negative place, and I am missing out on much of the joy of life.  I am creating a violent, unloving reality for myself, and for others around me.  When I notice that this is happening, that this is my current truth (Sat,) and I reconnect with Spirit, which is pure consciousness, (Cit) and choose to identify with my Ahimsic, non-violent nature, then I can change my thoughts to ones which are more harmonious and in alignment with Nature and Spirit.  That's when I'll get that "hit" of feeling that life is good, and feel the bliss and joy (Ananda) of living a yogic life.

Yoga is simply the invitation to align our thoughts and actions with the highest and best parts of ourselves in order to honor Spirit.  In order to take that action, we must first move out of a place of ignorance (Avidya) and identify those thoughts and actions that are not aligned with Ahimsa.

How can you practice Ahimsa on your yoga mat?  It's easy.  Notice what actions, positions, poses, etc. make you feel the best, and notice which ones cause discomfort or pain.  Make a point of doing poses that are nurturing to your body and spirit, in addition to the ones that challenge you and push you to your boundaries.  When practicing those challenging, difficult asanas, be sure to use good alignment principles to stay strong and integrated, so that you are not causing harm or injury to yourself.

Ahimsa off the mat is often more challenging.  Start by being the witness to your thoughts, words, and actions.  Look for the good in every person and situation, and consciously shift your thoughts toward ones that do not cause harm to yourself or others.  Do something nurturing for yourself (or for a loved one,) and see how great you feel.  You'll want to keep doing more!

Next week, Satya!  (Truthfulness.)
We are One,

1 comment:

  1. What a great perspective, Cheryl. Your post is very timely for me. I'm reading a biography of Gandhi, so I've been closely considering ahimsa in my life. Thank you for sharing!