I find yoga helpful as I navigate life. The Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali lists guideposts to follow to lead a decent life and achieve self-realization. Within this text, 8 limbs of yoga are described, and among them is a set of ethical disciplines, or yamas. The first yama is ahimsa.
“Ahimsa. non-violence (or non-harming). It is more than a negative command not to kill, for it has a wider, positive meaning, love.”
-B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga
Ahimsa is one of my favorite tenants of yoga philosophy. I personally try to live by the idea of Ahimsa. What does that mean?
Ahimsa is a practice. A practice of kindness. A practice of finding love for yourself, even when that little voice in your head is critical and negative. A practice of finding love for others, even when their actions frustrate you or make you angry.
“Violence is the outcome of fear, selfishness, anger, and lack of confidence. Non-violence is respect for others; it is a state of mind.”
– Geeta S. Iyengar in Yoga a gem for women
Making the act of kindness a practice has been fulfilling for me. I look at the bright side instead of looking for doom and gloom and defeat. I smile and see love in others. I am gentle and forgiving to those around me. Instead of moving forward with fear, I try to move forward with love. Instead of getting angry, I try to see from the other person’s point of view and what got them to the place that led to their action and then speak with compassion.
I continue to practice living my life with the attitude of kindness, or ahimsa. I don’t always get it right, and when I don’t, I practice compassion for myself, knowing that I can begin again in each moment and try again.
What about you? Is there an area of your life that you can practice kindness? Start out with just one thing, and notice if you feel better by acting with compassion, love, and forgiveness. Then, perhaps, you might be compelled to try it again. And again. It’s a practice.
May you have peace within,