There are five Yamas, each embodying a philosophical pillar of yoga. Each month, Yoga-Cise will publish a blog elaborating on these Yamas and how we can become better at incorporating them into our lives.
September has been chosen as the month to reflect on Ahimsa. Ahimsa, in yoga, means non-violence.
On the surface, non-violence appears to be straightforward. Interpreted literally, it means to refrain from acting in a violent way. However, the true depth of the meaning is in the intricacies of what it means to be violent—toward ourselves and toward others.
Violence toward ourselves becomes most apparent when we pause to take a look at the inner dialogue we have on a regular basis. How do we speak to ourselves? Are we overly critical, are we consistently showing ourselves loving kindness, or are we maybe somewhere in between?
Think about the first things you tell yourself when you wake up in the morning. Your inner dialogue might be more negative than you even realize. Are you condemning yourself for not getting something from your to-do list done the day before? Are you stepping on the scale and feeling defeated when the number is not what you wanted? Are you putting yourself down for waking up later than you planned to? If any of these things ring true, you are allowing yourself to begin the day from a place of self-violence—and this place has the power to impact your mood and your thought processes for the rest of the day.
Instead, consider using the morning to practice loving kindness toward yourself. What would it look like if you woke up in the morning, looked in the mirror, and pointed out one thing you love about yourself (mind, body, or spirit). How might your day be different if you reflected on all you accomplished the day before rather than what was left over for you to do?
The morning can be a great place to start becoming mindful of our thoughts because we are essentially waking up to a clean slate. Choose to let your first thoughts of the morning be positive ones. Practicing loving kindness in the morning can also allow us to be more aware of the inner dialogue we have for the rest of the day.
As with personal non-violence, violence toward others extends so much further than the simple act of physical aggression. Consider, for example, how easily we place judgments on other people. We judge people’s clothes, their jobs, their parenting styles, their skills and abilities, their interests. We do this without even realizing it. Most often, we judge because what we see in others is different than what we see in ourselves.
I believe we have all placed judgment on someone else’s interests, beliefs or views because they are different than our own. Through this judgment, though, we forget one very simple and important truth. We all live within our own subjective, personal realities.
Each decision, thought, and experience that we have occurs within our own frame of reference. Your beliefs are engrained in who you are because of your personal reality. Even your best friend, who might seemingly believe in all of the things you do, has their own personal reality that causes them to think differently than you.
By placing judgment on others, we neglect the fact that their experiences of the world, their reality, is just as credible as our own. We also don’t allow any space to learn from them and their reality. We choose to believe that our reality is the correct reality—when in truth, it just feels that way because it is ours.
When we allow judgment to reign free, we shut out some of the light in our own hearts and replace it with darkness—or an inability to connect to others more deeply. Therefore, choosing non-violence toward others requires us to monitor our thoughts, recognize when we are placing judgment, and choose to let it go. We can choose, instead, to find a common ground. To replace judgment with loving kindness and to find a way to connect with those different than us moving forward.