Ahimsa

Ahimsa

Kindness in Action

Ahimsa is is the first of the five of Patanjali’s yoga yamas. It is commonly translated as nonviolence. I prefer to think of it as kindness and it begins with how we treat ourselves. Were we to hear the playback of how we speak to ourselves, chances are we’d hear judgment and recrimination. In truth, few of us would dare to be as unkind to others as we are to ourselves. This this precept, the foundation for all of yoga, is that we be kind.

Any thought, word or action that prevents us from growing and living freely is one that is harmful. Period.

What We Think Matters

The Buddhist say that when we suffer, two arrows fly. The first arrow is the event. This relates to the injury we suffer. The second arrow is our reaction to it. In Mindful Embodied Therapy we explore the edge watch for that second arrow. Pain is not the same as fear.

To create a life of compassion requires courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. It stands up to it, fully aware of feeling scared. To live the fullness that life is offering, we have to build dual consciousness. To be vulnerable and strong, scared and worthy.

This brings us to our edge where ahimsa invites us to explore vulnerability. Get curious about how you respond to discomfort. What thoughts or sensations arise? Do you tighten and resist? Or do you soften and release? Notice how much choice you have.

Cultivate Compassion

Being guided by nonviolence doesn’t mean that we no longer feel strong emotions such as anger, jealousy, or hatred. It means learning to see through a compassionate lens. Paradoxically, when we welcome our feelings of anger, jealousy, or rage rather than signs of spiritual failure, we begin to understand the root causes.

Underneath these feelings, we discover a much stronger desire that we all share – the need to belong and to be loved. It is impossible to come to this deeper understanding if we bypass the tough work of facing our inner demons. When using this precept for personal growth, it is helpful to ask “Are my actions, thoughts, and deeds fostering the growth and well-being of all beings? Self-included?”

Thanks to Donna Farhi for inspiring this definition from her excellent book
Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit.

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