AHIMSA Cultivating love and compassion for all living beings
" People ask me what my religion is, I tell them , my religion is kindness “
His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama
Patanjali’s classical text the Yoga Sutras describe the nature
of the mind and ways to control it's restlessness based on physical
( yoga ) and mental ( meditation ) practices.
Yoga is not a religion, neither is it just a weekly practice of exercises,
or a look at what I can do but a way of living, by bringing it into our daily
lives we can seek joy found in the experience of the Self as our
The Yamas and Niyamas of the Yoga Sutras are 10 ethical living principles
that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family and our community.
Through practicing Patanjali’s guidelines we can try to find balance when the
world around us is in turmoil and our ethics questioned and patience tested.
Something that I hold close to my heart and is very important to me
is the practice of compassion and non violence to all living beings.
This practice is known as Ahimsa, one of the 5 Yamas of the Yoga Sutras.
Ahimsa is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons we have from
Patanjali’s sutras, the practice of non - violence and suffering to other
livings beings and to ourselves.
It teaches us to show consideration and be mindful and by
consciously not bringing harm to others, through
action or speech, we are actively bringing about peace for ourselves
and for our world.
This includes verbal abuse, gossip and passive aggressive behaviour
such as judging and criticising others
which it can be very hurtful and damaging.
Ahimsa is also about non - violence to the self as we can be
self critical, find ways of self sabotage and behave in ways
that create self harm to ourselves not just physically but
emotionally and mentally too.
Supression of the emotions can lead down the road of depression,
anxiety and self harm. It can also incur and unhealthy need to
please others, feed co-dependent relationships, and have debilitating
effects on our well being, also affecting our relationships with others.
Do we like anger? Most of us don’t, it can be frightening but
it can empower us and be useful too. When you are angry,
adrenalin causes your body to prepare for ‘fight or flight’,
giving you energy and making you feel tense. Releasing this
energy and tension is good for you, but it can be difficult
to do so in ways that are constructive.
I try to avoid confrontation and have of dislike for arguments, preferring
a more diplomatic peaceful approach but this can also lead to non - resolution
and grumbling resentments of thoughts and feelings unheard and un-acknowledged.
I've also been guilty of letting my anger get the better of me as have we all
and have observed how upsetting and draining this
energy can be.
Beating yourself up with guilt is not helpful either as this is damaging
and another form of violence to the self.
We are human after all and we are allowed to be angry.
So, how do we stay centered when the world appears to be in chaos, with corruption and wars, greed, vanity and increasing narcissism with people seeking fame, material wealth and celebrity lifestyles ?
Even in our Yoga class we can bring suffering to the self as we judge ourselves for not being strong or flexible enough, perhaps over stretching and forcing limbs and muscles to extend too far, as we try to keep up with our neighbours instead of listening to our bodies signals, our inner voice.
So here we are, practicing our yoga and striving for universal peace and when something we read on Facebook upsets us, what do we do ? Do we ignore it and turn it inward into apathy and hope it will go away ? Are we practicing Ahimsa by not getting involved ? Or do we let it smoulder internally which will eventually make us unwell. We might think it’s just too big, we cant change anything, whats the point in getting upset ?
The things is, we have to remember that anger is an emotion, just like grief, it is energy in motion, which will pass given time and space. Anger can ignite our passion and through this we can develop changes that can be for the greater good of all.
Anger is the fire in our bellies that is Pitta dosha , it’s rajastic action in nature and gets things done ! Without doing anything positive to change things it can become Tamasic, heavy with inertia. Directed in a positive way, this energy can in fact bring about transitions and changes for the better as long as we can direct this energy in a compassionate, non violent and peaceful manner with positive resolution.
We need to learn how to channel our frustrations and anger into an energy that will cultivate positivity when we act or re-act as we protest against the injustice and disorder that unbalances our inner sanctum.
How do we do this ? How do we manage this fiery energy and fuel it in a positive and productive outlet without losing control ?
There are ways in our daily lives that we can practice a more peaceful and compassionate lifestyle which will also enhance our own well being. Adopting a cruelty free diet such as being vegan is a very good step towards contributing to a non violent lifetsyle and walking gently on the earth.
Choosing your battles and letting go of the dramas of the dead past is another way we can bring ourselves peace. By living in the present moment, knowing that the past is gone, the future hasn't happened yet and that every day is a new chapter.
We can also draw awareness to the self and bring serenity every time we come down onto our mat and set our intentions with our yoga practice. Each time we come into our own space, become aware of our breath, our limbs, our movements, we are in fact tuning into our essential self, like finding a favourite channel on the radio. When we return to that space each time our minds and bodies remember and settle to a state of calm and well being.
It’s not always easy, I know. Life does have a habit of challenging us, but time and time again no matter what challenges I may be dealing with in my personal life, when I return to the mat it’s as if something washes over me like a wave, a sigh of relief, a release, a letting go.
The regular discipline of my yoga practice encourages me to focus on my movements, my breath and it’s in that space of Dharana ( concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness ) the practice of focused attention, that the frustrations and anxieties of my active mind can settle, and for a time be forgotten as the peace transcends and transforms those agitations into possible solutions and ways of dealing with them.
Of course thoughts will persist and may float up to the surface but that’s ok, acknowledge them as through this process we may find solutions to deal with difficult situations.
So through the regular practice of yoga and meditation we can shake off the heaviness and apathy that is Tamas, transcend and channel the firey Rajas into positive actions without violence to ourselves or others and attain the harmony, peace and clarity that is Sattva...