Ahimsa - Non-violence

Welcome to my first blog entry! I have to be honest and admit that ever since this whole ‘blog’ thing came out years ago, I’ve always thought about doing one.  I would dream up in my mind all the stories and wisdom I would write about.  I would have this grand plan to put my words out there and it would be witty, smart, funny and inspirational.  But, the idea of being judged or hearing other’s negative opinions (because why would they be positive, right?) paralyzed me.  Fear.  That little word held so much over me.

Recently, I’ve been delving into the Yamas and Niyamas, so much so that I’ve starting to theme my classes around them. So, what are they? The Yamas and Niyamas are found in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, essentially a handbook to yoga philosophy.  They are guidelines for how to live a well-rounded, well-lived, joyful life.

The 5 Yamas (Restraints):

Ahimsa – Non-violence/Non-harming

Satya - Truthfulness

Asteya - Non-stealing

Brahmacharya - Non-excess

Aparigraha - Non-possessiveness

 

The 5 Niyamas (Observances):

Saucha – Purity

Santosha - Contentment

Tapas - Self-discipline

Svadhyaya - Self-study

Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender

During the blog-writing process, I’ve been focusing on the first Yama: Ahimsa. Ahimsa is not just about non-violence in the obvious ways of physically hurting someone, but in the more subtle areas of our life.  How do we speak to ourselves? How do we speak to others? How do we respond to ourselves when we make a mistake? How do we treat others and ourselves when we are out of balance?

Ahimsa says the first guideline for a joyful life is to be kind to ourselves. I am the biggest offender of this one. I might be a certified yoga teacher, but I’m still learning. When I say something to others that I regret or think sounded stupid, I’m not kind to myself.  In fact, I’m downright mean. My internal dialogue kicks into gear, telling me how ridiculous that sounded or how completely wrong I was. Why am I talking when I don’t make sense or have the facts? That negative voice also rears it’s head when I have someone proofread my writing. They point out the grammatical or punctuation errors and my mind goes into a tailspin of not feeling smart enough. I am really hard on myself when I feel I’ve made a mistake.

We tend to have a filter when it comes to other people - constantly compassionate, kind, and encouraging. But, every once in a while we hit a wall. We break.The facade crumbles causing us to say something negative to someone we love, when deep down we don’t truly mean it.  How we treat ourselves begins to bleed out into how we treat others. Even though I am aware of this negative mental pattern, it continues to happen right in front of me. Why?

Ahimsa says that any sort of violence (physical, mental, emotional) always stems from some level of Fear.  To quote a line from “The Yamas & Niyamas,” by Debora Adele, “If we are to begin to address these fears, we need to know the difference between the fears that keep us alive and the fears that keep us from living.” 

Boom. 

Something as simple as being afraid to write a blog stemmed from a fear that is actually keeping me from living a full life. A fear that seems so little and petty when I look at the big picture, but has profoundly kept/prevented me from moving forward and sharing my thoughts and knowledge with others. So, kindness is the next step.

I’ve been practicing Ahimsa, this kindness, with myself.  Being encouraging as soon as those negative thoughts creep in, telling me that I’m not good enough/smart enough/funny enough to put my thoughts and feelings out there for others to see.  Now, I have begun to tell myself that maybe something good came from that “mistake.”  When I write something and someone critiques it, I tell myself that they are helping me become a better writer.

We all have something to offer.  I have something to offer. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of allowing fear to keep me from living no matter how small or large the item might be.

I am seeing my thoughts and actions more clearly now. I feel like I can see fear and push past it. I calculate the risks and potential rewards and then I dive in knowing certain aspects might be very difficult, but it’s worth it. Putting my thoughts, opinions, feelings, and stories out there scares the crap out of me, however, the reward and accomplishment I get out of doing it is now stronger than the fear of writing a blog.

Who knows where this blog will take me, but wherever it does, I hope that someone is able to relate to my story, and perhaps, not feel so alone.  Maybe I can convince someone to show compassion to another. Or inspire someone to make a different (and more difficult) choice that would better benefit them in a positive way.  So many people have wonderfully written words, marvelous advice, and extremely entertaining stories, I just hope I can contribute in some small way.  Whatever it may be, I want to thank you in advance for being a part of my journey.

Thank you for reading my first blog entry.

Laura