Ahimsa – non violence

 

“But of course!” I hear you say. “No one should be violent!”

Ahimsa is one of the first and most important of the yoga moral guidelines for how to act in society. (These are called the Yamas and Niyamas.)

At first it seems obvious, and almost needless to have this as a guideline, because “of course we shouldn’t be violent!” It should go without saying!

But the concept of Ahimsa is a little more subtle and the more we delve into it, the more we realise that we do still (often unknowingly) commit little acts of harm to others and ourselves in daily life.

 

Little harmful acts

I’m not even going to go into the obvious violence which we all avoid (99.99% of us anyway). However, there are little ways in which our thoughts and actions can harm others as well.

I am by NO means a saint in this area. I have noticed that since becoming a mum, that my emotional buffer zone is soooo much thinner, and I often snap and say snide things to my husband. These are definitely little harmful acts! Can you relate?

Just like our actions and words, our thoughts can also be a source of harm to others, even if we don’t speak them out. Any form of judgemental or unkind thought is, in a way, a little bit of harm sent to the individual to whom it applies. Hands up if you catch yourself having these thoughts…. 🙋‍♀️

Gossiping, as benign as it sounds, is an age-old way to harm someones reputation. That fun bit of gossip therefore also takes you away from living a life in alignment with Ahimsa. 

Perpetuating cultural beliefs that cause discrimination and disenfranchisement to others (even indirectly, and even if you are not the one doing the discrimination), is also a harmful act. Often we don’t even realise this! This is true for views we may hold (sometimes subconsciously!) about particular groups in society, and even sometimes about ourselves! (E.g. older adults being ‘ageist’ and women putting down other women as ‘bad drivers’). 

Can you think of any examples in your mind/life?

I know this can be a painful exercise….!

 

Ahimsa for yourself

You are also a living being who deserves love and care. This makes Ahimsa a subtle and complicated thing to live by fully! It is often a balancing act of caring for others as well as ourselves!

One very pertinent example in my mind right now is parents being caring to themselves as well as their children. Parents can harm themselves unwittingly by forsaking their own needs for sleep, good nutrition, exercise and a social life.

Without adequate self-care (the absence of which could be seen as self-harm), parents aren’t as able to care for their children in a kind, happy and patient way. As the old saying goes “happy mum, happy baby!”

Parenting aside, there are lots of little ways in which we harm ourselves:

Drinking too much too regularly…

Not addressing the work stress that is creeping up on you…

Saying ‘yes’ too often when that particular ask will thwart your own needs.

Forsaking your own need to exercise!

Or pushing too hard during exercise so that you get injured…

…Can you think of more that are relevant for you?

 

Beating yourself up!

Now, once you have identified how you are harming yourself, the tricky thing is to not beat yourself up about it! (That’s also violence to the self!)

This is DEFINITELY my problem. I beat myself up about things All THE TIME.  This is something I have to work on.

If, like me, you need to take better care of yourself, try to recognise the ways in which you deserve more care, try not to judge or criticise yourself, and think about how you can take actionable steps to achieve this.

(Maybe you need to ask others for more help with your responsibilities!)

 

Food and Ahimsa

Some people apply the principle of Ahimsa in the way that they eat food. Ahimsa is often equated to vegetarianism or veganism, in order to do less harm to animals and the planet. I think this is a noble act, as it requires people to choose others’ wellbeing over their own.

Personally, I don’t walk that path, as I recognise that for my own health (therefore non-violence to my own body), I need the nutrients found in animal products.

HOWEVER, the way in which animal products are sourced and consumed can be done in a way which causes less harm. I.e. Only consuming local, non-factory farm options and making a concerted effort to not contribute to plastic packaging with the foods you buy.

In fact, this applies to all types of food, animal or plant! 

 

Balancing act

So, far from a simplistic view of “not being violent”, living fully in Ahimsa is a complicated balancing act. It requires a lot of careful introspection, as well as very conscious efforts to choose the actions which cause the least harm to others and the planet, but which also help YOU not to harm yourself either! 

Does that make your head spin when you read it? 🥴

Well, it’s a constant balancing act for us all, and we are all learning and evolving constantly. So, be kind to yourself if you feel you have a long way to go on this path…

Let’s practice this!

This week try to pause or a few seconds before you respond to someone/something/anything. And think…. “how can I respond in a way that will result in the least harm around me?”

Also…

I invite you to pick a few ways in which you can care a bit better for your own body and soul this week.

Maybe that’s doing a yoga class, having a bath, or perhaps not drinking wine…

(You may need to get someone else on board to help you with this!)

❤️

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings today. 🤓 Please feel free to add your comments below!

Love,

Jolanthe x

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