January 20, 2012
Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence
We have begun a new series of teachings in classes this week. For the next 10 weeks, we will be focusing on and practicing with the Yamas and Niyamas. These are two of the eight limbs of Yoga, as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, and are found in other Yoga texts as well. We know that Yoga is more than something that we get on a mat for. It is also a way of living, a sophisticated system of thought and awareness.
Yamas are moral restraints, these are ethical guidelines that mostly pertain to our relationships between ourselves and other living beings and the earth. Niyamas are personal observances, or ways of balancing your personal practice. There are five precepts in each Yamas and Niyamas, for a total of ten.
This week we have been giving great attention to the first Yama, called Ahimsa. Ahimsa means nonviolence. We can consciously live our lives with compassion for all living things and our environment, as well as with love, acceptance, forgiveness, kindness, gratitude and faith. These qualities are all ways to practice Ahimsa.
We allow ourselves to practice Ahimsa when we cultivate and maintain states of nonviolence in our actions, speech, and even thoughts. There are also many ways in that Ahimsa is disguised.
To live a life free of violence, we must first and foremost find our courage, and balance any feelings of powerlessness.
As well stated by Deborah Adele; author of The Yamas & Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice; “Our ability to stay balanced and courageous has much to do with how we feel about ourselves. If you are critical of yourself, others will feel your high expectations of themselves as well. If you are light hearted and forgiving with yourself, others will feel at ease and joy of being with you. If you find laughter and delight in yourself, others will be healed in your presence.
Finding this love for all the parts of ourselves means we have to forgive ourselves. We need to trust suffering and trust challenge and trust mistakes; they are all what refine us when we don’t run from them.
Thinking we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. Nonviolence asks us to trust in the other’s ability to find the answer they are seeking. It asks us to have faith in the other, not feel sorry for them. Nonviolence asks us to trust the other’s journey and love and support others to their highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them.
There is nothing to fix or save in another; there is only the gift of listening.
Worry is another way violence gets masked ask caring. Worry is a lack of faith in the other and cannot exist simultaneously with love. Either we have faith in the other person to do their best, or we don’t. Worry says I don’t trust you to do your life right.
We learn compassion as we dissolve our personal version of the world, and grow gentle eyes that are not afraid to see reality as it is. We learn compassion as we stop living in our heads, where we can neatly arrange things, and ground ourselves in our bodies, where things might not be so neat.
Whatever we find ourselves engaged in, this jewel of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, asks us to step lightly, do no harm, and to honor the relationship we have with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves.”