Today we celebrate Nurses Day, and honour these hard working care givers who help to minimise our suffering as best as they can. This brings us once again on our path to minimise suffering. Pantanjali presents us with basic guidelines to live a fulfilling life that will minimise our personal suffering and benefit society. These are known as the yamas. There are five different yamas, but today we are going to focus primarily on Ahimsa, the prac
tice of non-violence.
The practise of non-violence can be looked at from the physical perspective of not inflicting physical harm upon
you, or upon anyone else, but this is just the tip of the ice berg. It is important to see that while we need to become aware of our own harmful behaviour, it doesn’t simply mean that killing or taking a neutral stance to harmful behaviour is enough. Ahimsa works on many different levels: the physical, the energetic, the emotional, and the mental. If we can succeed to be constantly vigilant of ahimsa on each one of these levels, then it is said that we would not need to learn the other practices of yoga because all the other practices are subsumed in it. P
ticing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love. So let’s look a little more deeply at Ahimsa from a personal perspective and then from the perspective of society.
Self: In order to practice Ahimsa, we need to observe how we function on a physical level and how that affects us. When we practice our yoga asana we need to ensure that we are pushing ourselves to the point where the body is benefiting and being challenged in a loving and encouraging way. When we eat, the food we choose should be benefiting the body, not creating harm. The time we choose to sleep also needs to be taken into account. Are we sleep deprived or are we sleeping too much? Every daily action needs to be observed with a wise eye.
Others: In practising Ahimsa, we are also ensuring that we minimise the amount of harm inflicted upon others. Adopting a vegetarian, vegan approach is one way of cultivating a more non-violent lifestyle. Something as simple as smoking around others, speeding on suburban roads, leaving your belongings in a space where people are vulnerable to them, is violating Ahimsa. Check that your actions come from a selfless space with the intention to act with love.
Self: The best way to tap into our energetic body is best done through things such as exercise that moves the energetic body. In yoga, practising Pranayama stimulates the energy body helping to cultivate good energy. Our thoughts throughout the day need to be watched due to the fact that they can have a dangerous energetic affect on us as well. Judging ourselves with harmful, demeaning thoughts is no good for our energetic body. It weighs you down, and exhausts your efforts by nullifying the benefits they bring about.
Others: It is often said that if you have nothing good to say about someone, then say nothing at all. I like to think of that in terms of Ahimsa as well. By judging people and putting those down, we close ourselves to the prospect of loving these people, and serving them as best we can. On a purely energetic level, those around us can often feel when they are being thought of with hate, judgement, or cynism. This can be changed by simply watching our unnecessary harmful thoughts towards others, and open ourselves to getting to know the beautiful and probably misunderstood person we have encountered. Easiest way to stop harmful thoughts is to notice when they happen and adopt a less judgemental attitude to those around you.
Self: We are often so quick to dismiss emotions that plague us, always masking it with smiles and falsities that we cultivate throughout the day to hide from the emotions that we have been trained to believe as bad. If we could start to look at emotions as being neither good nor bad, we would stop suppressing emotion and allowing it to fester toxically within us. By allowing our emotions to be observed with loving intention we open our minds up to understanding ourselves a little more honestly and lovingly, and more importantly we begin the journey to letting go of our attachment to our emotions.
Others: By allowing others to be emotional and understanding that it is just a part of who we are as humans, and a part of ourselves that simply needs to be controlled, instead of having us control it, we would be more able to be tolerant of other people’s emotional outbreaks. More importantly we could probably be of more assistance to others if we stopped running away from their emotion.
Self: In the lower mind we feel a pressing need to have order, control and perfection. When we lack these things, we feel flustered and criticise ourselves for it. Besides being too hard on ourselves we adopt a violent approach by trying to get everything done in impossibly short amounts of time. This is violating ahimsa as it means that we stress, we become agitated, we become completely unbalanced. Then we wonder why we burn out. Practise Ahimsa by letting go of the need to complete absolutely everything immediately, but rather compiling honest lists of what can be done within the time you have, and then take action to complete it as best as you can.
Others: If we exert our stress and need to conquer a world of things on to others we also inflict harm upon their mental bodies by catapulting them into a stressful state of mind. We could however, encourage them to be creative instead of perfect in their tasks and help them to cultivate a more honest outlook on what can be done within limited time. By honouring our own immediate capabilities to complete everything, we can assist others in doing the same.