I toyed with titling my blog, “Searching or Ahimsa,” and that is exactly what I’ve been working on the past few months. Quite literally, ahimsa means “non-violence” or “compassion” and often we apply that to mean that we shouldn’t harm others, which of course is common sense…right? But what about ourselves? We can apply ahimsa to ourselves, which was something that I hadn’t really considered before. I imagined it as something that only applied to my interaction with others.
(A little background, in the yogic tradition, ahimsa is the first of 10 ‘yamas’ in the eight limbs of yoga as presented by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The yamas are a series of ethical guidelines, similar in nature to the Ten Commandments.)
I think most people are in agreement that non-violence and compassion towards others is ethically very important. But how often do we contemplate the violence we inflict upon ourselves? Think about how many times we let negative thoughts pervade our minds? That inner dialogue can be harshly critical, “I’m not good enough,” “I suck at (insert item here),” “I’m too fat.” We also practice violence towards our physical bodies by not getting enough sleep, eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, smoking…oh, there’s a myriad of ways.
Once I started grasping that I needed to start living a more yogic life (and not just in the sense that I regularly practice asana, which is only one small part of the bigger picture), I became more aware of the ways in which I engaged in destructive thoughts and awareness has been the first step. It’s been about a month since I’ve been actively practicing ahimsa and I continually notice subtle changes in the way I have been treating myself and how I mentally treat others. I feel like it’s made a major difference in my frustration level. Hanging onto those negative thoughts are really destructive and I have no space in my life for that.
I’m sure practicing ahimsa will be a lifelong endeavor, but it’s a challenge I’m more than willing to live with.