First, do no harm
Ahimsa is the yogic practice of ‘do no harm’
How about me, not harming me?
Ahimsa is first and foremost associated with the philosophy of vegeterianism (something I haven’t yet achieved – but I am a fervent follower of MeatFreeMonday….)
But really Ahimsa extends to all aspects of our lives. Do no harm. It’s a simple idea, what am I doing? Does it hurt another person/animal/being or even the planet. It’s pretty easy to follow too, most of us don’t go around trying to hurt others, usually we do our best not to hurt people, we recycle and we make conscious decisions in the interests of all concerned.
I for one don’t set out to hurt anyone, I make decisions taking the interests of all concerned to heart. I recycle (a bit) and generally I’m a good person.
On a recent workshop one of my teachers began to speak of ahimsa and how important it is in her life. Do no harm I thought, cool, I know this stuff. Then she began to speak of how it is impossible to practice Ahimsa when you are harming yourself. What? Where did this come from? Isn’t it enough to worry about everyone and everything else? How can I now be expected to worry about this too?
The more she spoke the more sense it made. She spoke of how previously she always pushed herself through the pain of the challenging postures and would end up damaging her body. Or how the decisions she made about who to spend time with would be to her detriment because she didn’t want to hurt others by refusing and so she’d hurt herself by accepting.
This workshop was a couple of weeks ago now and I’ve had some time and space to integrate the full impact of Ahimsa from my own perspective. The subject has been at the forefront of my mind over the past couple of weeks and I’ve been playing over how it shows up in my own life.
I’ve realised that I’m not always very nice to me. In fact, I’m sometimes downright mean and hurtful to me.
This relationship with ourselves is the most important relationship we will ever have. There is no other person in this world who spends as much time with me as I do. There is no other person in this world who has to answer for my behaviour. To live with the decisions I make and yet I find myself making decisions based on not hurting other people. I feel too bad to say no to an invitation that is not in my best interests because I don’t want to hurt someone and then I hurt myself by not being in a place of integrity. I find myself doing things with resentment, and I ask myself, why do it at all if it is not coming from a place of loving kindness? If I am not respecting my needs?
So what to do about it? Honour ourselves.
Before accepting an invitation, ask yourself if this is in your best interests.
When you can’t quite get into a posture, don’t beat yourself up about it, be grateful for where you are, no injury is worth 30 seconds on the mat.
What health choices are you making for yourself? Are you feeding yourself in a way that is harmful or healthful?
Imagine you are your best friend, what would you say to her in a situation? Would you push her to do the posture? Would you force her to attend? Would you tell her to forsake her needs for theirs? Probably not.
Be your own best friend. Imagine what you would tell her to do. Then do that thing.
Be kind to you.
Practice Ahimsa and first do no harm, to you. Then see how simple it is to do no harm to everyone and everything around you.
One small step at a time Beautiful Souls.